Muslim defendants refuse to stand for the District Judge because they only stand for Allah
Well, they have denied using ‘threatening abusive or insulting behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress'. And their defence lawyer Neil Mercer told the court that they ‘were making a peaceful protest which the police allowed to go ahead on the day’. The ‘hell’ reference was because ‘they believe what these soldiers have done will mean they will go to hell’; it is an ‘eschatological statement of fact as they see it’.
Eschatology is a little-used defence in the courts of England, but it is evidently one to which Christians ought increasingly to turn. After all, if these Muslims may harass, threaten and insult because ‘from their theological viewpoint it is an unequivocal statement of fact’, then why should Christians not be able to articulate the ‘unequivocal statements of fact’ which derive from their ‘theological viewpoint’? And this might include inter alia the ultimate fate of Muslims (and all idolaters), the sexual practices of homosexuals, the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, and even the offer by the occasional teacher or nurse to pray for the sick and dying. After all, if Jesus is coming back in clouds of glory to destroy his enemies, it is the eschatological hope of believers that all might be saved, and such a salvation demands a confrontation of sin, sincere repentance and an acceptance of the Lordship of Christ.
And this might occasionally cause harassment, alarm or distress.
But, as interesting as all this is, Cranmer is profoundly disturbed (not to say angered and more than a little irritated) to read in the foreign press events in court which have received scant coverage in the UK, and which were omitted entirely from the BBC report of the trial.
It transpires that the defendants refused to stand when District Judge Carolyn Mellanby entered the courtroom. They insisted it was a ‘grave and cardinal sin’ to show anyone other than Allah respect by standing. And so a compromise was reached whereby they entered the court after the Judge, as they will continue to do so throughout the week.
And, further, the defendants were given an extra 20 minutes on top of their lunch break to go to pray at a mosque a few minutes' walk away.
And, still more, a separate ‘quiet room’ has been set aside for their regular prayer intervals for the rest of the week.
One wonders why they did not demand that the Judge stand for them when they enter the room.
There is absolutely nothing in the Qur’an about standing only for Allah: in many schools, Muslim pupils stand for their teachers, and doubtless Muslim members of the US press corps stand when the President enters to brief them and answer their questions: it is the custom of respect for authority.
The refusal of the defendants to stand for the Judge is a provocative contempt of court and should have been dealt with in the customary way, with threats of a fine or summary custodial sentence. There should have been no compromise, and Cranmer is utterly bemused by the ‘accommodation’ of the prayer requests, for, once again, there is absolutely no qur’anic injunction that prayer at any time of the day must be offered in a mosque; the prerequisites are for purity and cleanliness. The extra 20 minutes they are permitted for lunch and the breaks in the trial to accommodate their prayer times make a mockery of the English system of justice.
But that, of course, is their intention.
The travesty is that District Judge Carolyn Mellanby has fallen for it. By conceding that defendants may henceforth enter a courtroom after a judge in order that they do not have to accord respect to the judicial office, she has undermined centuries of custom and tradition: one should rightly respect and fear those agents of the State who carry the sword and who bring peace and justice to the world.
Judge Mellanby should have asserted the religio-political belief that everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.
The defendants may refuse to stand in an English court when the Judge enters because they only stand for Allah. But it is an ‘eschatological statement of fact’ that one day they will kneel before the Throne of Jesus Christ.
Not, you understand, that Cranmer wishes to cause any harassment, alarm or distress by imparting this 'theological viewpoint'.