Friday, November 30, 2007

Cristina Odone: a carol service ‘too Christian’ for church?

As the UK is judged to be becoming increasingly secular, so the ‘ownership’ of Christmas is frequently becoming an issue of dispute, and multi-faith carol services are on the rise. And these, of course, may not contain anything which people of other faiths and none may find offensive. At least that is the assertion of the Royal Commonwealth Society after it barred a prominent Roman Catholic journalist and commentator from attacking intolerance towards Christians at its annual carol service.

While Cranmer is more than a little perturbed that the singing of Advent carols should be considered a multi-faith occasion at all (since the Incarnation is unequivocally concerned with the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, which other faiths refute), he is more incensed that this gathering was to be in a church – St Martin in the Fields – yet the message had to be ‘suitable’ for followers of minority faiths, atheists, agnostics, diplomats and politicians.

Cristina Odone had been asked to write a brief speech on ‘opportunities for all’ that could be ‘political and controversial’, and so she developed the theme of secular intolerance towards believers of all faiths, from the British Airways worker suspended for wearing a cross to the Muslim schoolgirl banned from wearing the veil – distinctly multi-faith and PC, you might think.

But not for the Royal Commonwealth Society, who said her words were not appropriate ‘because the congregation would include people of little or no faith who would be upset’. Instead, she was asked to read a passage from Bertrand Russell, a militant atheist, irrespective of upset this might offend her or other Christians.

And so Ms Odone has pulled out of the event, accusing the society of demonstrating exactly the kind of intolerance she had planned to criticise. Communicants a readers may decide for themselves, for here follows the full text of her speech deemed possibly offensive to those attending a Christmas church service:

’I wonder what the Christian children at Portree Primary school in Skye would say about equal opportunities.

Their local authority had forced them to drop the word "lord" in the grace before meals, as it was deemed offensive.

I wonder what Shabina Begum would make of equal opportunities. She was the young Muslim girl who took her school to court when it banned her from wearing the veil.

And what of Nadia Eweida? Does she think this is a country of equal opportunities? She was the woman, you may remember, who learned the hard way that a Christian may not wear a crucifix when working for BA.

When it comes to expressing their faith, this country's believers have found that opportunities are blocked. Whether it is the boss at work or the head at school, the local authority or the chattering classes, people of faith know that their worldview is under siege, and their allegiances under suspicion.

To parade this allegiance by wearing a cross, a cap or a veil is red rag to the secularist bull. For these God-bashers, it doesn't matter if you belong to the Christian majority or the Sikh minority.

Their beef is with any belief system other than their own Godless one. For them, it is not enough to exclude those who do not subscribe to their soulless scientism or their one-dimensional rationalism. Pariah status is only the first step in the punishment they mete out to those who refuse to follow their lead. There is also mockery - in public as well as in private; and outright hostility.

But ultimately nothing short of censorship will do. Secularists may criticise religions as oppressive, dogmatic and self-righteous, but this is precisely how they themselves act. They have moved to introduce bans: wearing the hijab is forbidden, ditto the use of the word Christmas, ditto the cross, and countless other symbols of belief. And we have the atheists' Newspeak, a poisonous drip-drip that tries to brainwash us into seeing people of faith as idiots, despots, bigots.

What little opportunity believers have to bear witness to their faith is being quashed. If you are black or gay or female, your plea for equal opportunity is met with respect, and your campaign is applauded by supporters. But not if you are a believer.

In a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo. The only opportunity we have is for silence.’

Stuart Mole, the director-general of the Royal Commonwealth Society, insisted that they needed ‘to be mindful of the congregation, which will probably include quite a few drawn by the occasion and by the carols but who do not hold a deep (or even a shallow) faith’.

Well, the British Commonwealth includes Muslim countries, so when will Mr Mole insist on a multi-faith Eid Service in Regent’s Park Mosque? And when will he instruct the speakers at such an occasion that nothing from the Qur’an may be quoted in case anyone be offended? And why should the secularists freely propagate their hopeless gospel of materialism while the Church is silenced into timidity? Why should the pursuit of prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence, be lauded, while believers in the Lord Jesus Christ cower in passivity and retreat.

It is a topsy-turvy world indeed where expressions of faith are banned from a Christmas carol service because secularists might be offended; where the naming of Mohammed Bear results in imprisonment; where a small piece of jewellery results in losing one’s employment. With so much suffering, poverty and loneliness all around, it is time to consider the real meaning of the Incarnation during this Advent season.

Cranmer calls on the invertebrates in the Church of England to inform the Royal Commonwealth Society that Christmas carols are not merely a good sing-song on a par with ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush’, and to remind them that their patron is Her Majesty the Queen, who is a devout believer herself and swore to uphold all the foundations of the Church of England at her coronation.

And Cranmer calls on the ecclesial authorities of St Martin in the Fields to cancel this service on the basis that it is too secular for a church.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Islamic Reformation begins

The BBC reports that ‘British Muslim leaders are to tell mosques to reform and modernise in a government-backed attempt to prevent extremism’.

Thankfully, there is no appeal to Sola Scriptura, but instead an attempt to syncretise certain Islamic principles with the prevailing post-Christian, secular-Enlightenment context:

Four major Muslim organisations say they want mosques to sign up to a community watchdog with powers to launch spot checks on standards. The body has been two years in the making amid difficult negotiations. The draft guidelines published on Thursday are the most significant step yet by Muslims to regulate UK mosques.

Following the July 2005 suicide bombings, ministers asked Muslims to come up with ways to preventing extremism. One key recommendation was the creation of an independent community-led body to modernise more than 1,500 mosques. Critics say many mosques fail to adequately serve local communities. Ministers believe mosques could be important in marginalising extremists recruiting young Muslims. Two years on, the proposed Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) says it has come up with minimum standards for Islamic institutions.

Key standards
The standards include counter-extremism programmes, community relations schemes, support and proper conditions for imams and greater condemnation of "un-Islamic" activity. Mosques will also be asked to let more women and young Muslims have a say, while Minab wants spot check powers to make unannounced visits to check standards.

Yousif Al-Khoei, one of the plan's joint architects, said there was unprecedented determination to make the body work: "It's going to be quite a challenging task that we are embarking upon because this is something that has not been done before," said Mr Al-Khoei, a leading Shia Muslim. "We are four different groups from different backgrounds and we believe we have managed over two years of hard negotiation to come up with something that will work."

The government is a key supporter of the body and has been pressuring Muslim leaders to get it up and running. Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said it was government's job to support mosques rather than tell them what to do - but she urged them to grasp the opportunity. "The constitution and the standards being published today are a positive sign," said Ms Blears. "It shows that Muslim communities want to make the changes that will build community cohesion and ensure that mosques are playing a role at the heart of communities. Strong mosques positioned at the centre of community, and effectively governed, will be better able to withstand attempts to hijack them by certain groups supporting violent extremist interpretations of Islam."

Mr Al-Khoei said he wanted to underline that the body was entirely independent, including a decision not to take core funding from either the British or foreign governments. "Many people in the community will be suspicious and may fear the government wants to take over mosques. If we all work together then no government will have the will or the power to do so."

And Cranmer thinks this has to be worth a chance. In particular, the move towards establishing minimum standards in the training of imams shifts the system towards a professional scrutiny and accountability. And it may even move towards academic degrees and the three years required for ordination in the Church of England, or the five in the Church of Rome.

One can live in hope, and let that hope keep one joyful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Archbishop of Cant

So many have asked Cranmer to comment upon the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent comments to the Islamic magazine Emel on the evil of the United States of America, and he can add little to the observations of the excellent Melanie Phillips (from whom he also borrows the title of this post):

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has managed to distinguish himself with yet another set of mind-blowingly silly remarks which effectively offer himself up to the enemies of civilisation as a one-man own-goal weapon of mass self-destruction. In an interview with the Muslim magazine Emel he once again cast America as the enemy and attacked the west while sanitising the Muslim world.

According to the Archbishop, the ‘crisis in Iraq’ has been caused by America's misguided sense of its mission in the world, that it had lost the moral high ground since the September 11 attacks and that it should provide aid to Iraq, stop exploiting its territory and demilitarise it.

We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That's not working. It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources in to administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did in India, for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example.

It is hard to envisage a more ignorant set of comments. For sure, many grievous mistakes were made after the fall of Saddam. But the comparison with the British Empire misses the point. America is not an imperialist nation — quite the opposite. It did not go into Iraq to accumulate territory or colonial power but because it believed that America and the free world were threatened by Saddam and by the terror-exporting states that surrounded it. Its whole democracy-promoting doctrine is based on the idea that this is the best way of defending the free world from further attack. Yes, America failed to think through the situation on the ground and made a series of grave strategic errors. But you would never think from Dr Williams’s remarks that the terrible war that has raged has been for the freedom of the Iraqi people and that significant progress is now being made — that the Iraqi people have voted in free elections, that Iraq’s tribal leaders have now turned their faces against al Qaeda, that the violence is decreasing, that thousands of Iraqis are returning to their homes in a free Iraq, and that the Iraqi people themselves are behind the transformation of their society — and that none of this would have happened without the American action in Iraq.

Although Dr Williams does not reportedly describe himself as a pacifist, he simply appears to be against all war: He described violence as a quick discharge of frustration adding:

It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else. A lot of pressure around the invasion of Iraq was 'we've got to do something, then we'll feel better'. That's very dangerous.

But war to defend free societies is not ‘a quick discharge of frustration’ and to describe it as such is offensive. You would also never think from his remarks that millions of Christians around the world are being persecuted and murdered by Muslims. He made not one mention of this, describing instead the political solutions offered by the Muslim world as not the most impressive.

Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury describes a jihadi campaign aimed at conquering the Christian world and subjugating it to Islam, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents around the world. Instead he said he was surprised that the small Christian community in Pakistan was seen as ‘deeply threatening by an overwhelming Muslim majority’, and he condemned the Israeli security wall that cuts Bethlehem in two.

Of course. Never mind the fact that the people who persecute Palestinian Christians are Muslims; the Archbishop’s Pavlovian reflex is always to blame the Israelis instead. And just in case we might have missed the fact that his main target was the civilisation he represents, he observed that there was something about Western modernity that really does eat away at the soul.

Well yes, there’s a lot that’s soulless about western modernity. One of the main concerns is the way in which the principal custodian of the British soul, the Church of England, has helped destroy it over the years by selling the pass over the defence of Christian values and going instead with the flow of the secularism that Dr Williams so reviles.

With defenders of western civilisation like this, who needs enemies?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tony Blair: Politicians who ‘do God’ are 'nutters'

This is not the most eloquent of explanations of why British politicians do not ‘do God’, but it is not a wholly inaccurate assertion. Only now, liberated from the burdens of the Office of Prime Minister, is Tony Blair prepared to talk about his faith, which he reveals was ‘hugely important’ in formulating policy and making decisions during his decade at Number 10.

He is perhaps right to observe that Britain regards religion with suspicion, provided, of course, that that religion is not Islam, for which there appears to be tacit respect among MPs, and its adherents in Westminster are afforded considerably more latitude than Christians. But the extent to which Christian MPs refuse to talk about their faith because it is ‘personal’ is permitting a very public and potentially destabilising fusion of secularism and Islam to fill the vacuum. Their silence is contributing to the growing perception that the Church is irrelevant, and their apparent shame is undermining the nation’s Christian foundations as the faith is marginalised. The Mosque of England is supplanting the Church of England, and no-one in public life dare challenge this for fear of being accused of ‘racism’.

If Mr Blair ’takes a Bible with him wherever he goes and habitually reads it last thing at night’, why should that be an embarrassment? At least he leaves his Penguin edition of the Qur’an on the shelf. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury once again remains silent, and it is left to the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu, to affirm Cranmer’s theses that those ‘who would dismiss faith as nothing more than a private affair are profoundly mistaken in their understanding of faith’. And the Bishop of Rochester, the Most Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said: “A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values. If Blair had been able to relate this vision to his policies, we would have had more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad."

Cranmer rather doubts that.

It transpires that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor advised Mr Blair not to reveal his intention to convert to Roman Catholicism during his last visit to the Pope. The whole story may be read in The Telegraph, and Cranmer is becoming increasingly bored with it. If Mr Blair is still considering crossing the Tiber, His Grace wishes he would just get on with it, and go. The wonder is that Rome is prepared to receive him, since he will have to acknowledge publicly the authority of the Church’s teaching and, presumably, repent of much of the vehemently anti-Christian legislation he introduced when he was in power. The man is a hypocrite and a fraud, and the Church of England will be purged by his leaving. In truth, it was ‘doing God’ that would have rendered him a nutter, for he was born one.

And now that he is a Middle East messiah peace envoy, and he will be hard pressed to resolve anything in that region if he insists on separating politics from religion.

There is no true religion that does not speak of politics: they are fused. It is only in one’s personal devotion, when one kneels in submission to the Lord, when one seeks his holy face in humility and with a soul thirsty for righteousness, that all earthly matters melt away, and terrestrial politics is revealed for the fraud that it is.

And there are, thankfully, some politicians who are prepared to talk openly of their faith, whatever the consequences. Frank Field, Ann Widdecombe, and David Burrowes come to mind. And if Mr Blair wishes to avoid talking about his Lord for fear of what other may say, he might just consider:

‘Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord… but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God’ (2Tim 1:8).

‘But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven’ (Mt 10:33).

‘For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels’ (Mk 8:38).

Not even conversion to Rome can halt the judgement of God

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turks accused of killing Christians go on trial

Imagine an EU country in which Christians walked down the streets in fear, attended church at their peril, and feared for their lives and those of their families. Imagine an EU country in which one could be kidnapped and tortured for daring to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and where that torture consisted of being tied to a chair, stabbed repeatedly with a knife in the buttocks, testicles, stomach and back, and having fingers and toes sliced like a cucumber; where one dies the agonising death of a thousand cuts before your tormentors from hell mercifully slice your throat from ear to ear, virtually decapitating you.

This is not some middle-eastern Islamic fundamentalist country tyrannically presided over by a mad mullah, but a country that professes the virtues of secularism, practises democracy, preaches the tolerance of the Enlightenment, and aspires to join the Christian community of nations known as the European Union. The country is Turkey, which Jack Straw is insisting must be admitted to the Union to prove that 'Christian and Muslims can live together'.

The victims (true martys) were Tilmann Geske, a German father of three; Necati Aydin, a church pastor and convert from Islam; and Ugur Yuksel, who was also a Turkish convert. They were all members of a Protestant missionary group and were murdered in a Bible publishing house while they were holding a Bible study class. The trial has now begun of the five men, all aged 19-20, who stand accused of the crime.

As heinous as this crime was, it is by no means an isolated incident. Over recent years, priests and other Christians have been attacked and harassed, churches have been fire-bombed, and journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead by a 17-year-old for daring to mention Turkey’s mass killing of Armenians in 1915. Hatred towards Christians – who constitute less than 1% of the population - has been actively cultivated and is directly linked to the resurgence in nationalism. And Turkey's 99% majority Muslim population was achieved how, precisely? Constantinople in 1914 was 50% non-Muslim, and Turkey as a whole was about 24% non-Muslim. What does Jack Straw think happened to all those non-Muslims - Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Levantines of every description?

This trial is being seen a test case to assess Turkey's willingness to tackle growing signs of religious intolerance which is seeking to eradicate the last Christians from the country. But while the resentment festers and the hatred continues to be spouted by the families of the accused, the wife of one of the victims, whose children are said to remain inconsolable, talks of forgiveness: "It's not these five young men I am asking to be punished,” she said, “But the mentality behind them."

Yet this mentality is engrained in the Turkish psyche, which remains suspicious of any Christian missionary activity. Pushing hard for EU accession, Ankara has legalised missionary activity and relaxed legal restrictions on the opening of new churches, but the rise in Westophobia continues apace. Canon Ian Sherwood of Istanbul’s Anglican church observes: ‘You live in a world of shadows, looking over your shoulder all the time. There are certain historic sensitivities one should respect in Turkey but this is also a country that professes to be a secular democracy and yet innocent individuals are persecuted for pursuing what they would be allowed to do in any other free society.’

Indeed. But Turkey is not free, and Turkey is now led by a man who as recently as 1999 declared: ‘The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...’

All of which sounds like an excellent strategy for EU accession.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Government pays for exemption from the effects of its own legislation

Roman Catholic adoption agencies are pursuing a legal lifeline that will allow them to continue to operate under the Sexual Orientation Regulations. In accordance with their beliefs, the agencies have a preference for placing children only with heterosexual married couples. But the Regulations make it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation when providing a service, and so face being forced to place vulnerable children with homosexual couples.

Some Roman Catholic agencies have already closed rather than betray their tradition or compromise their moral beliefs, but 12 agencies have applied jointly for a Government grant of £250,000 to investigate ways of surviving under the legislation. The grant, which will pay for legal advice, was recommended by a committee set up by the Government to investigate the agencies' concerns.

Jim Richards, chief executive of the Catholic Children's Society, has confirmed that this is Government (ie taxpayers’) money and it will enable the Roman Catholic Church to explore possible ways of circumventing the SOR legislation.

This intrigues Cranmer.

The Government passes a law. It then establishes a committee to look at the specific implications of this legislation for a faith group. This committee decides that Government should fund the exploration of exemption from the law (which some will inevitably view as evasion of the law). While Cranmer has great sympathy for the position of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter, he cannot quite grasp the concept of the Government funding groups which seek exemption from its legislation: the taxpayer funds the formulation of legislation, and the taxpayer then funds faith groups which wish to be exempt.

Wait ‘til a few vocal Islamists cotton on to this little scam. O, hang on:

Terrorist activities outlawed…unless they are in the pursuit of jihad?
Incitement to violence outlawed...unless Muslims demand the Pope's death?
Religion-hate speech outlawed…unless it’s in the Qur’an?
Expressions of homophobia outlawed…unless it is an article of faith?
Wife beating outlawed…unless it is Shari’a compliant?
Corporal punishment in schools outlawed...unless performed by an imam?
Sexual discrimination outlawed…unless it’s a men-only mosque?
Treason outlawed...unless Muslims demand the death of the Queen?
Blasphemy law is rendered obsolete…unless Mohammed is the target?

Now there is precedent for Government funding the exploration of faith-group exemptions from the law, Cranmer thinks the humble tax-payer is about to be taken for something of a ride.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cranmer’s Celebratory Pulpit No.VII

Cranmer is delighted to reward his communicants with an open pulpit today.

It has been two months since he his last expression of benevolence to his readers and communicants, and a new threshold has been passed which is worthy of commemoration. Yesterday, His Grace’s ‘traffic’ (for he believes that is how readers and communicants are termed in blogspeak) exceeded 700 unique visitors in a single day. Cranmer is read by around 3,500 people each week, and his busiest month to date was (bizarrely) August – traditionally the quietest month – which drew 15,853 unique visitors.

In celebration of this traffic update, and in perpetual commemoration of the spiritual liberation afforded by his own pulpit experience with the Provost of Eton, Dr Henry Cole (illustrated above), His Grace is pleased to host another ‘Cranmer’s Pulpit’ for communicants to raise whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns they do so wish…

…intelligently and eruditely, of course.

And if communicants are in need of focus, Cranmer has a few things on his mind: firstly, the impressive Danes are to be given a second referendum on the euro, simply because they obviously gave the wrong answer the last time they were consulted. Cranmer wonders if they say ‘yes’ to the euro this time if they will be given an opportunity to withdraw a few years later. Teleology abounds.

He has also been pondering Cherie Blair’s thoughts on religious discrimination agains women. The BBC reported this a few weeks ago, noting:

…she rejected the notion that Islam was innately discriminatory towards women by suggesting that the use of Sharia law in some Muslim countries went against the true precepts of the faith: "It is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands or that their evidence should be devalued, as it is in some Islamic courts," she said. "It is important for judges and political leaders to remind everyone that the philosophical purpose of the Sharia is to protect and promote human welfare."

Rather like her husband, the poor woman evidently does not know what she is talking about, and invariably stops short of calling for female cardinals and popes. But it is of incidental interest to Cranmer that in the BBC’s reporting of this story - which was manifestly about how religions discriminate against women - there was not one mention of the gender inequalities manifest in the Roman Catholic Church. This was certainly covered by other media outlets, but in true biased BBC fashion, there was not a word uttered against the teaching that ‘only a baptised man validly receives sacred ordination’.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ruth Kelly forced to vote for Bill condemned by the Roman Catholic Church

The Opus Dei representative to Her Majesty’s Government is about to face a distinct dilemma. It transpires that Labour MPs will not be given a free vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and therefore Ruth Kelly, as a member of the Government, would be obliged to vote for the Bill under a three-line whip.

Traditionally, members are given a free vote on issues deemed to be a matter of conscience, but this appallingly amoral government considers that such issues should be determined not by the collective moral wisdom but by the politics of power. Labour’s Roman Catholic MPs have a particular dilemma insofar as they will defy their church if they vote in favour of the bill.

The legislation regulates animal/human embryo hybrids, allows new cloning techniques to eliminate life-threatening inherited illnesses and updates rules around the use of embryos. It also includes recognition of same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. Under the Bill, there would no longer be a need for a father before providing IVF treatment. The Bill also states that where a lesbian couple have engaged in a civil partnership, both will be entered as the legal parents. And two men will be able to apply for a parental order to become parents of a child conceived through a surrogacy arrangement.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, ever at the forefront of such criticism, has said that the Bill is ‘profoundly wrong’ because it subordinates the rights of the child to the desire of the women: ‘The bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child's need for a father when considering an IVF application, and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF. This radically undermines the place of the father in a child's life, and makes the natural rights of the child subordinate to the desires of the couple. It is profoundly wrong.’

The Pope has made clear the manner in which Roman Catholic politicians are to participate in public life. As Cardinal Ratzinger he issued ‘Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in Political Life’, which leaves one in no doubt as to how Mrs Kelly must vote. But will she obey her Cardinal and Pope or her Whip and Prime Minister?

Mrs Kelly's adherence to the extremist Catholic Opus Dei sect has been the cause of previous controversy, specifically when she was Communities Secretary. She was criticised by gay rights groups for refusing to answer when asked if she believed homosexuality was a sin. And she managed to delay the Sexual Orientation Regulations - rules to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services – while consideration was given to a possible exemption for Roman Catholic adoption agencies.

Cranmer’s hunch is that she is likely to absent herself from the Chamber, and will be away ‘on Government business’.

And, incidentally, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said this on the matter:


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

‘Mega-mosque’ Muslim arrested for threats to Christian politician

The Muslim group that wants to open a giant £100 million mosque in London and is intent on 'winning the whole of Britain to Islam' has suffered a slight set-back. A man who placed an ‘obituary’ on YouTube of one of the leading opponents of plans to build what will be Europe's biggest mosque near the London Olympics site has been arrested by police. The video - ‘In memory of Councillor Alan Craig’ - featured the leader of the Christian People’s Alliance party, his wife and two daughters, and was added by a man calling himself abdullah1425.

To the strains of Elvis Presley's ‘Always On My Mind’, the video began with its title words: 'To God we will all return'. It featured a boxing scene with an Asian punching an opponent to the ground before ending with the message: ‘The mosque will be built in time for the 2012 Olympic Games’. When it was uploaded to Youtube, there was a web link from the Abbey Mills mega-mosque website to abdullah1425's YouTube mini website, where he identifies himself (doh!) as Muhammad, 23, from Stevenage, Herts. It also had links to material relating to Tablighi Jamaat.

In one comment to another user posted on the site, Muhammad said: ‘Jihad starts from the moment your mother gave birth to you’. Police have taken a statement about the video from Cllr Craig. The man behind the posting has now been bailed to return to a police station in Hertfordshire. Commenting, Cllr Craig said: “This incident now seems over. I will not be intimidated by threats of any kind as important issues about this mosque have to be addressed in an open and fair fashion. This whole episode has exposed the reality that some Muslims accustomed to using either violence, intimidation, or the threat of violence are linked to the idea of this mosque.

"I cannot say it often enough: the proposed mosque will be bad for London, bad for the community and an invitation for the propagation of separatist and fundamentalist Islamic ideas. Up to now, Mayor Ken Livingstone and the Labour establishment have turned a blind eye to the real nature of the organisation behind the mega-mosque. I hope they will look more seriously at them now."

Mr Craig represents Canning Town South ward in Newham borough, where he has the support of many Muslim residents in the area in his opposition to plans for the ‘mega-mosque’ at Abbey Mills, near West Ham tube station, which will have a 12,000 capacity. It is being proposed by the Islamist group Tablighi Jamaat, whose previous adherents include Glasgow airport bomber Kafeel Ahmed, shoe bomber Richard Reid and the July 7th bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer.

The Christian People’s Alliance is Britain's first political party of Christian Democrat inspiration and carries the support of sister parties across the European Union. With three councillors in London, the party has run twice for the Greater London Authority, in 2000 and 2004, winning votes both times from 100,000 people in the capital. As well as backing from cross-denominational church leaders, the CPA carried support from leading members of other faiths and business figures. There are some who assert that even if this mosque is built, it will not stand for long.

Cranmer detects the stirrings of a slight 'clash of civilisations'...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The first British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary

Cranmer rejoices today on this most happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of the wedding of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, told the congregation: "Today we celebrate not only a marriage but the relationship between monarch and people of which also that marriage is a symbol: a relationship in which we see what levels of commitment are possible for someone upheld by a clear sense of God’s calling and enabling, and the corresponding vision of the worthwhileness of this national and international family that is the Commonwealth, which has been the recipient of such unswerving service.

"So before we complain too loudly about a world of disposable relationships and short-term policies, a world of fracturing and insecure international bonds and the decline of trust, we should remember today that we have cause for thanksgiving - thanksgiving that God has made human beings capable, against all the odds, of reflecting his own completely costly and self-giving commitment to his world; that the gift of marriage makes this capacity visible in our world; and that, in the lives of the couple with whom today we join in celebration, that bracing, renewing and hopeful vision of faithful generosity has been for 60 years set so clearly before our eyes.

"May it be so for many more years."

Amen and amen. The Archbishop paid generous homage to his Monarch, adding: “(I)t also means that we can give special thanks for the very public character of the witness and the sign offered to us by this marriage and what it has meant to nation and Commonwealth over the decades."

The milestone is not merely a symbol of the relationship between the people and their Monarch, but the embodiment of a life of devotion to the Lord which has been blessed with longevity. To recognise Her Majesty’s ‘unqualified commitment’ is to acknowledge her vocation – a word rarely talked of these days – and ‘the creative faithfulness that secures the trust, love and prayerful support of millions’.

God save the Queen!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Taxpayers fund Islamic 'virginity fix' on the NHS

Cranmer has discovered why he is still awaiting his knee replacement (indeed, his whole body reconstruction), and why one of his closest friends died of a heart attack while he was in a 6-month queue for a heart bypass, and why some cancer patients can't get new drugs, others are left lying in urine-soaked sheets, and still others have to be virtually blind before they begin to qualify for sight-saving treatment.

Women in labour are faced with over-subscribed maternity wards, while others seeking an abortion are given a do-it-yourself kit and sent home. For many, their hospital experience is miserable and painful, or they leave having contracted MRSA in a worse state they when they were admitted.

And is it any wonder when the NHS opts to fund priority surgery like this?

Yes, the British taxpayer is paying to restore virginity, so it’s not only Mary who is ‘ever virgin’. The NHS is far too PC to analyse the religion of those who seek this ‘virginity repair’, but by race they are immigrant or British-Asian, and it is reported that the vast majority of these are Muslim.

Cranmer often wondered how suicide bombers acquired as many as 72 virgins in Paradise, yet now it is revealed how the concept of Islamic re-virginisation can create perpetual virgins in order to satisfy the ever-increasing number of these ‘martyrs’ for their cause.

And before Communicants berate Cranmer for exaggerating the case (for he knows that taxpayers have only reportedly paid for 24 hymen reconstructions complete with ‘a capsule of an artificial blood-like substance’), it is the principle which rather irks him. This is still £96,000 of taxpayers’ money (presumably still increasing) which has been used for cosmetic deception; for cultural concealment; for the restoration of the false ‘honour’ of a family name in order that future spouses and in-laws may be satisfied that Nadia and Aisha were actually virgins on their wedding night.

Since when was this the purpose of NHS funding?

It has nothing to do with physical or psychological health, and everything to do with social regression driven by Islamic fundamentalism. According to Isabelle Levy, an author who studied the issue for her book Religion in the Hospital, young Muslim girls are ‘modern and they have adventures like other Europeans - which never happened in the past. But on the other hand, fundamentalism is spreading and these girls are getting sent back to their countries of origin to marry. And they will be rejected if it is found out that they are not virgins.’

Well, what a shame. They made their bed (or rather, unmade it), and so they should lie in it.

It is all so reminiscent of Jesus’ objections to the outward show of religion, and the importance of a pure heart. What sort of women and families are these who are prepared to establish a sacred marriage union that is based upon a lie from its inception? They can't fool God, not even if that god is Allah.

And Cranmer would like to know if all those girls who choose to retain their virginity through traditional means (ie abstinence) are entitled to a cash alternative from the NHS?

But of even greater theological concern to Cranmer is the question relating to the 72 virgins in Paradise. Now he has established how these may have the appearance of being ‘ever virgin’, and how the perpetuation of this façade is acceptable to many Muslims because of family ‘honour’, we may begin to understand how the hundreds and thousands of male suicide bombers may credibly look forward to an eternity of de-flowering. But what do female suicide bombers hope for? Assuming it not to be an eternity of lesbian bonding, how does one restore the virginity of a man?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Necessary Doctrine

The following is an extract from His Grace’s annotations to The King's Book, which was the popular title for ‘A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man; Set Forth by the King's Majesty of England’ (1538):

To know how we obtain our justification, it is expedient to consider, first, how naughty and sinful we are all, that be of Adam's kindred; and contrariwise, what mercifulness is in God, which to all faithful and penitent sinners pardoneth all their offences for Christ's sake. Of these two things no man is lightly ignorant that ever hath heard of the fall of Adam, which was to the infection of all his posterity; and again, of the inexplicable mercy of our heavenly Father, which sent his only begotten Son to suffer his most grievous passion for us, and shed his most precious blood, the price of our redemption. But it is greatly to be wished and desired, that as all Christian men do know the same, so that every man might acknowledge and undoubtedly believe the same to be true and verified, even upon himself; so that both he may humble himself to God and knowledge himself a miserable sinner not worthy to be called his son; and yet surely trust, that to him being repentant God's mercy is ready to forgive. And he that seeth not these two things verified in himself, can take no manner of emolument and profit by acknowledging and believing these things to be verified in others. But we cannot satisfy our minds or settle our conscience that these things are true, saving that we do evidently see that God's word so teacheth us.

The commandments of God lay our faults before our eyes, which putteth us in fear and dread, and maketh us see the wrath of God against our sins, as St. Paul saith, Per legem agnitio peccati, et, Lex iram operatur, and maketh us sorry and repentant, that ever we should come into the displeasure of God, and the captivity of the Devil. The gracious promises of God by the mediation of Christ showeth us, (and that to our great relief and comfort,) whensoever we be repentant...we have forgiveness of our sins, [are] reconciled to God, and accepted, and reputed just and righteous in his sight, only by his grace and mercy, which he doth grant and give unto us for his dearly beloved Son's sake, Jesus Christ; who paid a sufficient ransom for our sins; whose blood doth wash away the same; whose bitter and grievous passion is the only pacifying oblation, that putteth away from us the wrath of God his Father; whose sanctified body offered on the cross is the only sacrifice of sweet and pleasant savour, as St. Paul saith: that is to say, of such sweetness and pleasantness to the Father, that for the same he accepteth and reputeth of like sweetness all them that the same offering doth serve for.

These benefits of God with innumerable other, whosoever expendeth, and well pondereth in his heart, and thereby conceiveth a firm trust and feeling of God's mercy, whereof springeth in his heart a warm love and fervent heat of zeal towards God, it is not possible but that he shall fall to work, and be ready to the performance of all such works as he knoweth to be acceptable unto God. And these works only which follow our justification, do please God; for so much as they proceed from an heart endued with pure faith and love to God. But the works which we do before our justification, be not allowed and accepted before God, although they appear never so good and glorious in the sight of man. For after our justification only begin we to work as the law of God requireth. Then we shall do all good works willingly, although not so exactly as the law requireth by mean of infirmity of the flesh. Nevertheless, by the merit and benefit of Christ, we being sorry that we cannot do all things no more exquisitely and duly, all our works shall be accepted and taken of God, as most exquisite, pure, and perfect.

Now they that think they may come to justification by performance of the law, by their own deeds and merits, or by any other mean than is above rehearsed, they go from Christ, they renounce his grace: Evacuati estis a Christo, saith St. Paul, Gal. v., quicunque, in lege, judificamini, a gratia excidistis. They be not partakers of the justice, that he hath procured, or the merciful benefits that be given by him. For St. Paul saith a general rule for all them that will seek such by-paths to obtain justification; those, saith he, which will not knowledge the justness or righteousness which cometh by God, but go about to advance their own righteousness, shall never come to that righteousness which we have by God (Rom. 10:1-4); which is the righteousness of Christ: by whom only all the saints in heaven, and all other that have been saved, have been reputed righteous, and justified. So that to Christ our only Saviour and Redeemer, on whose righteousness both their and our justification doth depend, is to be transcribed all the glory thereof.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Islamist group challenges David Cameron

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a radical Islamic political group active in several countries in the Middle East, South and South East Asia, Central Asia and Europe. The group was established in the 1950s in Jerusalem and is widely considered to be the original voice of the Palestinian cause. The group is proscribed in most countries in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and Europe. But as the Islamic world turned against them for plotting against various Arab regimes, many sought refuge in Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom, where they were granted asylum in the belief that national interests would not be harmed by the religious and political activism of the group. Denmark and Germany have since changed their minds, and banned the group on the basis of its anti-Semitic propaganda.

David Cameron has been demanding that the group be proscribed in the UK, but this Labour government, so intent on cosying up to the Muslim vote, is refusing to budge. There is, they say, ‘no evidence’ to justify such a draconian course of action. And so the UK is just about the only country on the planet where this group does not merely operate; it flourishes, and is at complete liberty to spout its vile message.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir is intimately related to groups like the Al Muhajiroun, and shares the ideology of the Al Qaeda and other religious terrorist groups. Their grievance is that the Ummah needs a Caliphate in order to unify Muslims globally, and which will resolve all disputes and conflicts. While there is no direct evidence of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir having taken recourse to violence to achieve their aims, there is no doubt that individual members have advocated such, and rendered vocal, ideological and even material support to jihadi terrorist groups.

There is also some evidence to suggest that after the Iraq war, many of its members have become disillusioned with the non violent tactics and have been advocating a more pro-active approach. Many of its splinter groups, including the Al Muhajiroun of Britain and the Akramiya and the Hizb-un-Nusra in Central Asia have called for a ‘more active’ involvement in the struggle against corrupt Islamic regimes and the hegemonic Western powers.

Yet this is still insufficient for HM Government, with whom Hizb ut-Tahrir is indeed pleased. But not with the Leader of HM Opposition. In an open letter to Mr Cameron, they say:

We have become accustomed to matters of security being cynically played by you for political point scoring. Your persistent call, with no evidence, for the criminalisation of Hizb ut-Tahrir and other Muslim groups and thinkers illustrates many things.

Firstly, you mislead the general public who expect their leaders to produce well informed arguments based on evidence. The complex issues that have created today's security environment have been reduced by you to the single issue of Islam's political ideas and its adherents. You, like Tony Blair and George W Bush before you, simply seek to divert any responsibility for creating today's security environment away from western government policies in the Muslim world.

Secondly, it confirms your party's credentials as an anti-Muslim party, who care little for community relations. You expose the promotion of a Muslim to the Shadow Cabinet as a veneer for your actual policies, by silencing her views on these matters (such that she utterly contradicts what she had argued for over two years) and by having her stalked in her brief by one of the most hawkish MPs.

Thirdly, the trail of your argument can be traced to various right wing neoconservative think tanks in Washington, via their sister organisations in the UK. It is well known that you have self declared neoconservatives in your front bench team and we are aware that some of your senior staff have been sent to Washington to consult with these people on these matters. These same people who have advised you on the matter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, also call for the bombing of Iran (as they called for the war in Iraq), the withdrawal of Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights and the termination of your relationship with the Conservative Muslim Forum (recently described by one supporter of yours at the Heritage Foundation as a flirtation with Islamic extremism). Such views merely illustrate the fragility of the so-called principles of freedom and tolerance that you claim to believe in.

You prefer to ban ideas rather than debate them. You believe that voices that confront the policies of this country in the Muslim world should be silenced. Your views on non-violent groups like ours simply reinforces the belief in the Muslim world that this war on terror is not about preventing violence but preventing Muslims from living in their lands according to their way of life - Islam - and seeking to impose your systems on them. This is a recognised pattern that we have seen under repressive regimes in the Muslim world.

We are willing to debate any of these matters with you in a public forum. The cowardice of making your accusations in Parliament - where you enjoy the cover of legal protection - is telling. Your persistent call for a ban and the censoring of debate and discussion on important issues, suggests to me that you would not accept this offer, because you have no arguments and no proofs to bring to the table. However, our challenge stands regardless.

Dr Abdul Wahid

Chairman UK Executive Committee
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain

Cranmer has a few suggestions for a response to this, which must be forthcoming, and which should also be publicly disclosed.

Mr Cameron should agree to a debate (conducted in writing), and the Conservative Muslim Forum , Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti (the Conservative candidate in Gilligham), and Baroness Warsi should all leap at the chance to publicly support their Leader in this, voluntarily, enthusiastically, with no compulsion whatsoever. The unified response of the Leader with these prominent Conservative Muslims would constitute an impressive riposte. The content should be based on thorough research and empirical evidence (with which Cranmer is prepared to assist), and eschew completely all historical generalisations, political misconceptions and theological ambiguities.

The focus should be the group’s deeply flawed ideology. Since this is the tool by which they recruit and exploit teenagers and young adults, it must be countered by discerning the inconsistencies and innate contradictions in their beliefs, which are abundant. The most obvious is their insistence on the founding of a Caliphate by non violent means, yet the revolution required to usher in the Islamic state would cause much bloodshed, and such a model could only be held together by further bloodshed. Hizb ut-Tahrir has no grounded theories on statecraft.

Mr Cameron should network with intelligence organisations in other countries; Germany and Denmark in particular. A sense of the group’s European strategy must be acquired and analysed. If the Conservative Party’s demands were consistent with the actions of other EU member states, it will make Prime Minister Brown appear ‘weak’ on terrorism, and ‘isolated’ in Europe.

As the Shadow Chancellor basks in the glory of his recent award, he should probe the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how Hizb-ut-Tahrir is financed in the UK. Do they receive donations from charities or individuals? Do these charities conform to the criteria laid down by the Charities Commission, or are they propagating a political ideology at variance with the stated aims of the charity?

And finally, Mr Cameron should acquire examples of Hizb-ut-Tahrir propaganda. Their publications and other audio and video materials speak for themselves, and manifestly incite hatred. The group should be asked to explain what it sees as the logical consequence of the message it preaches, and to justify the implications for national and international security. In particular, Mr Cameron should focus on the divisions within the UK’s Muslim communities that the group exacerbates.

All of this will raise public awareness through a strong intellectual campaign, and expose the ideological hollowness of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir agenda. And, as a very useful consequence, Mr Cameron will project an image which will put Prime Minister Brown somewhat in the penumbra. Mr Cameron thereby highlights the undeniable reality that the Muslim communities need politico-religious activism and leadership to address and articulate their genuine grievances. The Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not the solution; like the MCB, it is a part of the problem.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The EU: a ‘model’ for the world

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called for the EU to be a ‘model power’ for the world. He wishes to see the EU enlarged further to include Russia, North Africa, and Middle Eastern countries, and he also advocates the early entry of Turkey. The Union should then use ‘soft and hard power’ to safeguard democracy, including military intervention in places like Darfur, to help solve problems of unwanted migration. He sees the Union as the means by which environmental damage may be mitigated, and religious extremism and terrorism may be eradicated.

But it is his assertion that the EU should be dedicated to free trade that interests Cranmer, for the free market is associated with the dog-eat-dog mentality of the Anglo-Saxon world, and this is quite at variance with the social vision of the Union’s founding fathers. This theme was taken up recently by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who asserts that the free market should not be Europe's 'creed'. He wants a Europe that would see ‘untramelled capitalism pushed far down the political hierarchy to be replaced by a focus on cultural and spiritual issues with more than a hint of European protectionism’.

For the UK, the EU is about economics, trade, the market, and wealth creation; on the Continent, it is about social policy, cultural identity, and spiritual values. It is the unresolved tension between the Protestant work ethic and Roman Catholic social doctrine that brings Europe, as M Sarkozy observes, to a ‘moral and political crisis’. It lacks coherence, has no stated goals, and manifests no discernible purpose.

The EU model which Mr Miliband wished to promulgate is not the French model, and neither is that of Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc., etc. It may be shared by Denmark or Sweden, but they barely register on the scale of European consciousness. The French president is of the view that ‘Europe can only be Europe in the eyes of all men if she defends spiritual values and civilisational values’. He goes on to say: ‘The word protection should be not be outlawed; we must be able to protect ourselves as much as others do.’ And so the EU ‘model’ has a default setting to Socialist Catholicism, or Catholic Socialism, and this cannot coexist with the antithetical Protestant doctrine of free-market economics. They are mutually exclusive philosophies: the one must be subsumed to the other. The only model that results otherwise is that of Babel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is Israel about to concede Temple Mount?

According to Rafiq al Hussaini, a senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader differs from Yasser Arafat ‘only in tactics’:

Both entered into peace talks in order to gain as much as they could and give away nothing. Abbas' senior adviser added: Had we managed to keep Jerusalem, the Jewish state would not have risen in Tel Aviv.

Abbas rejects Israel as Jewish state and demands undivided Palestinian control of Temple Mount, among a host of other concessions.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice decided on 5th November to set a date for the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland she has been promoting. It will take place on 26th November, even though her talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Israeli and Palestinian leaders uncovered assent on only one small point: both sides agree that the event need not be preceded by accord on all the core issues of the dispute.

In setting the date, Rice made the best of Palestinian intransigence on six major points. The noes she encountered in Ramallah are disclosed as:

1. The Annapolis declaration will include Palestinian recognition of Israel - but not as a Jewish state.

2. The boundaries of the future Palestinian state will follow the pre-1967 War lines with minor adjustments through territorial swaps. A few hundreds of square meters may be offered on the West Bank in return for areas in central Israel, not the Negev.

3. Palestinian sovereignty over Temple Mount, the holiest shrine of the Jewish people, must be undivided and include the Jewish place of worship at the Western Wall.

4. The right of return for 1948 refugees is absolute and non-negotiable.

5. The future Palestinian state will enjoy full sovereignty, including its air and electromagnetic space and underground resources, such as water.

6. Negotiations after the Annapolis conference must be concluded by Aug. 2008.

The Palestinians chose that date because it coincides with the Republican Party's primary for electing its presidential candidate and bid President Bush farewell.

Notwithstanding the Palestinians' inflexibility on all the core issues of the dispute, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is determined to attend the conference declaring that Israel has at last found a partner for peace talks and without the meeting, the Middle East will plunge into catastrophe.

A partner for peace?

Only on their terms…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why British politicians don't 'do God'

Cranmer occasionally needs a day off, for life can be replete with a plethora of pressures and multitudinous demands, and (frankly) sometimes he just can’t be bothered. Today is such a day. Dragging his ashes out of bed this cold, damp morning was a monumental feat, and as he sat before his computer, he gazed upon his keyboard with a heavy heart. Does he pour scorn upon EU corruption and fraud and 13 years of unaudited accounts, berate the Home Secretary for her incompetence, or question HM Leader of the Opposition on how many people he actually expects to vote for higher council tax in his referendum gimmick idea. Cranmer prayed, but answer came there none. Neither a whirlwind nor a fire inspired him with the words to write; not even a still small voice. He could have left his readers and communicants with an open pulpit, but he usually does so when there is an occasion to celebrate, and there is no such occasion. And he does not feel like celebrating in any case. While he attempts to find the river of delight to refresh his weary soul, he leaves you with Fraser Nelson’s thoughts on why British politicians don’t 'do God’:

When Alastair Campbell famously declared that “we don’t do God” he was speaking not just for his master Tony Blair, but for British politics in general.

It is a strange squeamishness which goes way beyond the separation of church and state. There is in British politics an unspoken understanding that religion should not feature at all, in any way (save for the Islamic question, which has its own dynamics). While God is invoked in almost every major American political speech, the Almighty seems unwelcome in the mother of all parliaments.

Even those who are religious keep it quiet. The Catholic MPs who gather for the House of Commons service on Ash Wednesday normally clean their foreheads pretty quickly before heading back to the House.

The British political system has no equivalent of the Christian Democrat parties which are everywhere in Europe. While America can be divided for months over the issue of gay marriage or civil partnerships, it is passed without a whisper in Britain.

Take the decision by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to adopt a child from America. Why did he have to go abroad, it is asked? Two statistics explain why. Fewer than 300 children under the age of 12 months are put up for adoption in Britain each year. Each day 500 abortions take place. Unwanted babies tend not to make it to the maternity ward in a Britain where one in four pregnancies now ends in abortion. So parents who want a newborn must go abroad.

Good luck to the politician who makes this point. There is nothing more toxic in British politics than being seen as a religious nutter: it devalues anything that an MP says on issues that are seen as religious themes. But for all this, the House is full of very religious people who have learnt not to use religious language in debate.

Tony Blair was perhaps the most religious occupant of 10 Downing Street since Gladstone and his speeches were peppered with biblical allusions which could be detected by journalists, like Matthew Parris, with an eye to recognise them.

Gordon Brown never tires of talking about his “moral compass”, which he was apparently given by his father, a Church of Scotland minister. When the Prime Minister visited the Vatican, he handed the Pope a collection of his father’s sermons. These words from a pulpit are the closest Mr Brown has to a personal credo, although he knows better than to admit it.

His friends say his religious upbringing led to his rather messianic approach to politics, which he talks of as a moral crusade aimed at fighting poverty, helping disadvantaged children and the Third World. The Conservatives’ main line of attack is to say that he is doing none of those things. Perhaps the most influential campaign of the year has been that conducted by Iain Duncan Smith and his Centre for Social Justice. The pro-marriage “broken society” critique is now the most powerful Tory weapon. And it is one which grew out of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, formed because it believes that Labour policies are fuelling poverty by encouraging mass dependency with 14 per cent on benefits.

This annoys Mr Brown so much that at the last Labour Party conference he blew his cover. “No Bible I have ever read says: bring just some of the children,” he fumed, to puzzled silence from the floor. It went down badly: spinning the word of God was a novel technique even for this Government. But we had a brief glimpse of how religious ideals remain a motive force in Westminster – albeit in a country where religious debate has been closed down.

As so often, Alastair Campbell wasn’t being quite straight. They do do God. But almost no one is willing to admit it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

David Cameron on the UK’s ‘moral collapse’

Cranmer just loves it when politicians turn to moralising. It strengthens the hand of those clerics who dare to politicise, and challenges directly the naïve assertion that religion and politics ‘do not mix’. It has become common parlance in Conservative circles that morality, like religion, belongs to the private sphere, and politics belongs to the public. It is therefore no business of the state to have either a religious or a moral stance on issues that are essentially private and subjective.

But as the leader of HM Opposition demands tougher sentences for rapists, he talks directly of the ‘moral collapse’ in the UK. He says: ‘Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's okay to force a woman to have sex.’ Cranmer is aghast at this statistic, which is unsourced, but if it has foundation it is certainly, as Mr Cameron observes, ‘an example of moral collapse’.

But his solution is profoundly flawed. He call for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence. And he also demands a ‘widespread cultural change’ because society has become increasingly ‘sexualised’ over the past decade - during which time it has become ‘cool’ to treat women as sex objects. The three focuses should be, he suggests, conviction and sentencing, victim support, and changes in attitudes to women.

Sadly, he has either missed or purposely ignored what Jack Straw and his Ministry of Justice have recently concluded, and that is that pornography is profoundly harmful to society, and that there is now ‘a substantial body of mutually corroborative evidence of the harm of effects of extreme – or other – pornographic material’

The research reaffirms previous findings that there is ‘clear and consistent’ evidence that ‘exposure to pornography puts one at risk for developing sexually deviant tendencies, committing sexual offences, experiencing difficulties in one’s intimate relationships and accepting rape myths’.

In light of this authoritative research published by the Ministry of Justice, the director of Mediawatch-uk, founded by the late Mary Whitehouse, has written to the chairman of Ofcom’s Content Board, saying: ‘Ofcom has certain statutory obligations to protect members of the public from harmful material, as set out by Parliament in the Communications Act 2003. Failure to respond to the new evidence of harm could put Ofcom in breach of the law if it fails to take proportionate action to remove pornographic material from the airwaves.’ He also called for the revoking of al licences granted to satellite, cable, terrestrial and broadband television channels.

Yet nothing can be done about the internet, which is the most immediate source of unregulated pornography for young boys. Will the Ministry of Justice attempt to legislate in this area? Not likely. Will Mr Cameron propose tighter regulation? Even less likely, for this is deemed to belong to the private realm, and what one does alone in one’s bedroom is no business of the state…even if there is a causal link to sexually deviant tendencies, rape, or other sexual offences.

So while the politicians increasingly moralise in their private vacuum, it is down to the nation’s religious leaders to politicise in the public realm. At least then the sins of omission committed by one party may be complemented by the direct interventions of the other.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Conservative candidate calls for ‘revolution’ in Pakistan

Forget the bloodshed, loss of life, untold pain and incalculable suffering that might ensue, the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidate for Gillingham has called for revolution in Pakistan to overthrow General Musharraf.

This is quite at variance not only with the stated position of HM Government, but also with the Conservative Party’s rather more cautious and responsible official policy on the matter, which is that General Musharraf should grant free and fair elections and release political detainees following the recent violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.

Yet Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti can’t be doing with this sort of tedious diplomacy and political moderation. This is jihad, pure and simple, and ‘there is no other option’, he said. Mr Chisti will, of course, continue to sit back in his comfortable armchair in the Garden of England and ponder the next step of his meteoric political rise.

He does not appear to realise that General Musharraf has been a steadfast ally of the UK in the ‘War on Terror’, and is presently confronting his own home-grown terrorists with their illiberal Islamist creed. Of course, none of this excuses the General’s actions, and Cranmer places him and his regime at the remotest boundary of acceptability, not least because of his accommodation of pro-Taliban and pro-al Qaeda movements. But while he has undoubtedly given succour to Islamists, he has simultaneously constituted a bulwark in the prevention of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into their extremist hands. At his core, General Musharraf is a moderate – at least in religious, if not political terms – and this is of great importance in an era of increasingly aggressive assertions of religio-political Islam.

But none of this matters to Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti, who never supported the ‘War on Terror’, opposed the Iraq war, and supports the irredeemably morally-compromised UN. He professes to be a close friend of Benazir Bhutto, and apparently they talk ‘every day’. As a result of their conversations, he declares: ‘We have decided the concessions made by Musharraf are not enough’.

We have decided? The astonishing arrogance and pomposity of the man is astounding, yet it is consistent with the strident tone emanating from the ascendant Conservative Muslim Forum, which has already demanded that Conservative policy must conform to their particular brand of Islam. Among their policy demands have been that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons, the Party should cease its support for Israel, a compulsory history curriculum in schools should give ‘full recognition to the massive contribution that Islam has made to the development of Western civilisation’, and preachers who advocate a rejection of democracy and its institutions should not be denied entry into Britain. They even support al-Qaradawi’s message of ‘gay-hate’.

All of this has gone unchallenged by the Conservative Party leadership.

And now a Conservative candidate is articulating the Salafist creed of Islam, which, like Wahhabism, is concerned with political supremacy and the restoration of a golden age in Islam. But while Wahhabism asserts a notion of divine right, Salafism adopts a form of egalitarianism that deconstructs any notions of established authority within Islam. It takes a more Protestant approach to authority, asserting that all Muslims are equally qualified to return to the original sources and speak for the divine will. By liberating Muslims from the antiquated traditions of the Islamic jurists, Salafism has contributed to the real vacuum of authority in contemporary Islam. It purports to heed the values of modernism and to come to accommodation with the West, including the principles of democracy, liberty, and respect for the nation state and their constitutions.

By advocating revolution in Pakistan, Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti is articulating an Islam which is fundamentally centred on power and the assertion of power. And he is being consistent with Salafist Muslim apologetics by invoking the logic of necessity or public interest to justify this course of action, at the expense of moral imperatives.

It is utterly irresponsible of a prospective Conservative MP to be inciting violence and bloodshed by urging the people of Pakistan to rise up in revolution. And to portray Benazir Bhutto as the rightful saviour of the nation is to ignore the fact that her name is also synonymous with corruption. Mr Chisti should be working towards uniting British Pakistanis around the Conservative cause, not stoking damaging divisions by advocating the Bhutto cause. He really ought to consider that not all British Pakistanis support Benazir Bhutto, not all denounce General Musharraf, and not all desire to civil war in their heartland.

And his incitement to revolution is all the more unacceptable because this man is supposed to be an adviser to David Cameron on race issues. He seems remarkably unsuited to such a role, manifesting, as he does, a self-absorbed, intolerant, undiplomatic, and unconciliatory arrogance. But will the Conservative move against him? Demand an apology? Force him to toe the Party line? Threaten him with deselection?

Not a bit of it - simply for fear of being accused of being racist.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest we forget

This Remembrance Sunday, it is appropriate that the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is not only a time to remember those who gave their lives in conflicts past, but also those who continue to give their lives in conflicts present.

But Britain's campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have consigned so many of Britain's finest to unnecessary deaths. Recent investigations have revealed a catalogue of MoD failures. Indeed, of the 254 who have died, 88 of these were found to be the result of friendly fire incidents or equipment shortages, prompting claims that the Ministry of Defence has been negligent of its duty of care to servicemen and women. And that is only taking account those deaths which were followed by inquiry or inquest.

One would think that this Labour Government would feel some sort of moral obligation to honour the Military Covenant, which demands that, while our finest and bravest men and women in the military risk their lives in combat, the least the nation can do is to ensure that they are properly equipped. Yet the Government has displayed a complete lack of preparedness for the scale or consequences of the two conflicts. It ought to be a cause of very great anger that our service men and women are not only dying for lack of body armour, but also for lack of armoured vehicles, air conditioning, medics, and hydration tablets.

And it ought to be a cause of very great anger indeed that the Government wastes countless billions of pounds on futile and ineffectual policies while starving the MoD of the cash it desperately needs. But then Labour has never been the Party to trust with the defence of the Realm.

So while we honour those who fell in ‘the war to end all wars’, let us not forget those who continue to fall in today’s wars. And let us also not forget where the ultimate responsibility lies.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Integration of Muslims ‘must go both ways’

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, insists in The Daily Telegraph that Britain must adapt to Islam as much as Muslims adapt to British culture. Integration should not only be about immigrants learning English, but the British should learn from Islam on such issues as (he specifies) homosexuality, sex before marriage, adultery, women’s modesty, marriage, child rearing – because ‘everybody can learn from everyone... Some of the Muslim principles can help social cohesion’.

Indeed, Dr Bari, but so can the Christian ones. The problem for Dr Bari is that the ‘Muslim principles’ for social cohesion also include oppression. While Muslim women purport to view the hijab as liberating, it is alien to the West; while Europe has abandoned capital punishment, Islam views it as an imperative – hanging, beheading, or limb amputation. His response to the question ‘Is stoning ever justified?’ is ‘It depends what sort of stoning and what circumstances.’

Did you read that? It depends ‘what sort of stoning’! What’s that about? The size of the stones? Pebbles only permitted at some stonings? No women allowed? No children? From the leader of an organisation representing 500 other Muslim groups, the response is alarming.

And yet Dr Bari insists that it is the British Government that is ‘stoking the tension’, and demonising Muslims in the same way as Hitler did of the Jews. That is the precise parallel he draws. He ought to visit a few Muslim countries – Iran springs to mind – and he might just gain a better understanding of Nazi parallels. In his view, the suspicion of Islam and Muslims is not justified: “There is a disproportionate amount of discussion surrounding us,” he says. “The air is thick with suspicion and unease. It is not good for the Muslim community, it is not good for society."

So when the head of MI5 claims that there are 2000 people involved in terrorist activity and children as young as 15 were being ‘groomed’ to be suicide bombers, this should not arouse our suspicion. And neither should it be talked about, for it is not good for the Muslim community. And further: “Sir Salman Rushdie should never have been knighted,” he says. “He caused a huge amount of distress and discordance with his book, it should have been pulped." And yet he is of the view that mosques can go on selling extremist literature because they are 'separate businesses' from the mosques themselves. Any potential 'distress' or 'discordance' here is distinctly secondary to the principles of the free market.

In Dr Bari's view, ‘suicide bombers are victims as well as aggressors’. He says: “I deal with emotionally damaged children. Children come to hate when they don't get enough care and love. They are probably bullied, it makes a young person angry and vulnerable. The extreme case could be suicide bombers, it is all they have … The people who become suicide bombers are really vulnerable." His solution is simply to hug a Muslim hoodie.

And the reason they are vulnerable is because ‘British foreign policy has driven Muslims into the arms of the extremists… Iraq has been a disaster, the country has been destroyed for no reason, that had an impact on the Muslim psyche.’

His passion is to integrate Muslim and British cultures, and he insists that the integration ‘must go both ways’. But Cranmer would like to go further, and ask Dr Bari what Islam can learn from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist cultures. If integration is two-way, please tell us what the Muslim community must learn from these religious communities, for they are all now part of what it is to be British. And while we're at it, perhaps he could expound what he thinks Muslims are learning from Judaism and Christianity, for there is nothing in his view of society that is not already given guidance in the Bible.

Dr Bari is himself an immigrant, and Cranmer is aghast at the arrogance and presumption of the man. The problem is not emotionally damaged children, but politically indoctrinated adults who are brainwashed into believing that their religion is the be all and end all of political objectives. If the UK is to be governed henceforth by the sensitivities of the ‘Muslim psyche’, the last 300 years of the development of democracy and liberty will have been in vain.

Cranmer has no objections whatsoever to Muslims or people of any religion or race coming to the UK, but it is their duty to adapt, syncretise, and integrate. If you do not like the UK, Dr Bari, please return to your rice and jute farm in Bangladesh.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The futility of making the unacceptable illegal

Rowan Atkinson had an excellent letter in The Times, on the theme of the proposed legislation to outlaw ‘gay hatred’, the essence of it being that an intelligent society can be left alone to police itself:

Sir, I have spoken to a number of gay friends who, like your columnist Matthew Parris, are a little perplexed by the Government’s proposal to introduce a measure to outlaw the incitement of hatred against homosexuals, proposed as part of the new Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. In announcing the measure, the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, declared that “It is a measure of how far we have come as a society . . . that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality.” Precisely so. “It is time for the law to recognise this.”

Why do we need a law to “recognise this”? Society seems to have recognised it pretty well and, as Mr Straw acknowledges, is working things out without any legislative interference from him. One can’t help thinking, with legislation of this nature, that the point at which it becomes politically possible for it to be enacted, is precisely the point when it becomes unnecessary.
It will be interesting to see exactly what words or actions the Government considers should be criminalised that would not already fall foul of public order or incitement laws. A worrying aspect of the initiative is that it appears to be infinitely extendable: witness the fact that the Government has invited two additional groups — the disabled and transsexuals — to “make the case” for the proposed legislation to be extended to them. I am sure that they could make a very good case, as indeed could all those who can claim that they cannot help being the way they are. Men, for example. Or women. Or people with big ears.

This “tick the box if you’d like a law to stop people being rude about you” is one way of filling the legislative programme, but there are serious implications for freedom of speech, humour and creative expression.

The devil, as always, will be in the detail, but the casual ease with which some people move from finding something offensive to wishing to declare it criminal — and are then able to find factions within government to aid their ambitions — is truly depressing.

Rowan Atkinson
London W1

If both Christians and homosexuals assert their ‘right’ to freedom of speech, then there will inevitably be disagreement. This is healthy, for it is the stuff of life. But the Government is intent on proscribing one in deference to the other, and this is not merely an infringement of the rights of one party; it is a manifest injustice. Homosexuals may not particularly like hearing from Christians that their sexual practices are deviant, and Christians may not like hearing from homosexuals that they are homophobic bigots, but that is what free speech is all about. It may indeed cause offence, but a law to protect people’s (over-)sensitivities is an abuse of the law. And, as Mr Atkinson observes, where should such laws stop? A law to protect people from being called ‘big ears’ may be something of a joke, but consider a recent survey which found that 43% of the general population (26 million people), have experienced prejudice on more than one occasion. Of those who have experienced prejudice:

36% of responds say it was is linked to their gender
34% to their age
31% to their ethnicity
26% to their body weight
19% to the way they dress
17% to their attractiveness/looks
17% to their class
15% to their economic status
12% to a disability
10% to their religion
9% to their hair colour
5.2% to their sexual orientation
12% other reasons

If the Government is intent on legislating for the smallest group of a mere 5.2%, then a fortiori should legislation be passed to protect the sensitivities of the blonde, the poor, the ugly, the fat, those who wear flared trousers, or those who went to Eton College.

And Cranmer has just found this nugget from Rod Liddle:

Under the Religious Hatred legislation, Islam must be afforded our respect as a valid and noble belief system. And yet at the same time, a Muslim who espouses one of its fundamental tenets - that homosexuality is wicked and a sin - might find himself banged up by the old bill for inciting homophobic hatred. And if I were then to say what I believe - that, partly because of its attitude towards gay people, Islam is a vindictive, bigoted and repressive ideology - then I might be banged up too. This is surely ludicrous.

Ludicrous indeed. And even moreso when one considers Leviticus 20:13 and the stance of the Roman Catholic Church. It appears that quoting Scripture on this issue, or advocating the teachings of His Holiness, may soon be against the law of the United Kingdom. And all because New Labour is intent on repaying its Muslim and gay constituencies, in the hope that they will continue their traditional allegiance.
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