No smoke without terror
But one British Muslim isn’t having it. A former member of Al-Muhajiroun, who once raised funds for the extremists and called for the murder of British citizens, writes in The Observer:
By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.
The whole article is worth a read, because Hassan Butt blames Islam and the ideological pursuit of the Caliphate for instilling fear and pursuing violence and murder. He acknowledges that such acts of terrorism ‘have validity within the broad canon of Islam’, and insists that ‘Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims’. Quite so, quite so. Islam is the problem. The problem is Islam. We look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers, and those who adhere to the Qur’an’s medieval worldview are guilty of arrogantly propagating the most vicious sectarianism on earth.
But it would appear that ex-terrorists are as zealous with their objections to practising terrorists as ex-smokers are to their former peers.
Cranmer wrote a few weeks back on the objections in grade-one listed cathedrals to compulsory no-smoking signs. Now the deans of the English cathedrals have accepted with great reluctance and under protest the advice that they should conform with the smoke-free signage law. All signs must read: ‘No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises’. They must be A5-sized, and display the no-smoking symbol at least 70 mm in diameter. Places of worship and church and parish halls will have to display the sign in a prominent position at every entrance.
The legal advice is that the Health Act 2006 has no exemption for churches, though a concession has been granted of a review in three years’ time, when churches could lobby that the signs are unnecessary. However, the Ecclesiastical Law Society has suggested that churches and cathedrals might safely ignore the new signage regulations on the grounds that it is reasonable not to put up a no-smoking sign in a sacred building in which no one would consider smoking.
The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2007, made under the 2006 Act, require a no-smoking sign to be displayed in a prominent position at each entrance to smoke-free premises. The duty to ensure compliance with the signage regulations is imposed on ‘any person who occupies or is concerned in the management of smoke-free premises’: Health Act 2006, section 6(1). Under section 6(5), failure to comply with the duty is an offence punishable with a fine of up to £1000. But subsection 6 offers a defence for a person charged with this offence. He or she must show that he or she did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the premises were smoke-free, or that compliant no-smoking signs were not being displayed, or ‘(c) that on other grounds it was reasonable for him not to comply with the duty’.
If, by accepted convention, no one would consider smoking in a church, it may reasonably be suggested that it is reasonable not to put up a no-smoking sign in a church or cathedral.
The Act goes on to provide, by section 6(7), that if evidence is adduced sufficient to raise an issue with respect to such a defence, ‘the court must assume that the defence is satisfied unless the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that it is not’. Which local-authority environmental-health officer will have the temerity to prosecute a PCC, a priest, or a churchwarden in such circumstances?
Cranmer is a lover of liberty, and exhorts churches and cathedrals to ignore the new signage regulations. But although he is not instinctively in favour of blanket bans and pervasive prohibitions, this one evokes a degree of sympathy.
For as long as Cranmer can remember (…and that is quite some time…), smokers have consistently displayed bad manners toward non-smokers. The clothes of the innocent have been made to smell, their eyes to smart, and their throats to tickle. And the guilty party rarely, if ever, sought the permission of the victims. Even the question ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’ always presumed a negative response. In the 19th century, smoking was permitted only in certain specific places and in certain company. If it had stayed that way, the demand for a ban would always have been weak. But once people started to smoke anywhere and everywhere, resentment festered, and eventually boiled over to demands for this revenge. So if Britain’s 10 million smokers had not abused their position for decades, they would still be free…
..free to join the 50,000 who die of cancer each year, or the 70,000 who die of heart disease and strokes caused by smoking. It is estimated that six million people have been killed in the past 50 years, and that is an undoubted moral issue. With the hardest smokers being the working class of the North-West of England, Labour has hit its heartlands. And with the Treasury taking in tax about £4.10 of the £5.50 each packet of cigarettes costs, it is potentially depriving itself of more than £8bn a year. The costs to the NHS of treating smoking-related diseases are estimated to be £1.5bn a year, so the Government will need to find £6.5bn to plug the shortfall.
Unless, of course, smokers continue to exercise their God-given free will, and choose to smoke.