Sunday, January 09, 2005

'The Continuing Collapse of Liberal, Democratic, Secular and Humanist Principles' in Britain

A letter to the Guardian from Salman Rushdie criticizing an article by Ian Jack. (HT: Watch)

Mr Jack comes perilously close to the currently fashionable Blairite politics of religious appeasement at all costs. He goes on: "The state has no law forbidding a pictorial representation of the Prophet ... but I never expect to see such a picture. On the one hand, there is the individual's right to exhibit or publish one; on the other hand, the immeasurable insult and damage to life and property that the exercise of such a right would cause. In this case, we understand that the price is too high." What condescending nonsense - and it's ignorant, too. I have before me many examples of the long Islamic tradition of pictorial representations of the Prophet ...

I am going to look around for a picture of the Big Mo. If I find one, I'll post it, for the amusement of all. Rushdie continues.

Do we have no principles of our own? The continuing collapse of liberal, democratic, secular and humanist principles in the face of the increasingly strident demands of organised religions is perhaps the most worrying aspect of life in contemporary Britain.

Apparently not, Salman. Last month in Manchester, two European MPs were attacked with "slurry", "muck", and manure (known to us Americans as shit) outside a high school where they were doing a radio show. The man said, "I am doing this in the name of Islam". (How long before a politician or critic is killed? Anyone taking bets?)

It's not just Muslims and Sikhs who are resorting to violence or threats to protect their religion. Christians are getting into the act.

The BBC executive behind the decision to screen Jerry Springer – The Opera last night fled his home with his young family after receiving death threats. BBC2 controller Roly Keating, his wife and their three young children left their house after a Christian group posted his address and telephone number on its website.

They fled on Saturday morning after security experts decided the threat to kill Mr Keating was credible. It is believed the homes of six other BBC executives were under guard last night following similar threats.

Some Christian groups deemed the show blasphemous because it contained numerous curse words and portrayed a diaper-wearing "Jesus confessing he is 'a bit gay.'"

Wait a second. I thought America was the Western nation overrun with intolerant, right-wing Christian theocrats? Wrong. American television routinely broadcasts shows that Christians consider blasphemous. On South Park a robe-wearing, bearded, cartoon Jesus runs a cable talk-show called 'Jesus and Pals.' When things get out of hand, he curses and has his expletives deleted. His producer even complains about low ratings.

British Christians are reacting to two reinforcing trends. First, an over-heated environment of religious confrontation. As Muslims and Sikhs grow more militant and defensive, so do Christians. Indeed, people are more likely to identify with their own religious groups in an increasingly sectarian atmosphere. A growing "to the barricades mentality." Second, government acquiescence to any demand so long as it is cloaked in religious terms.

These trends have only a few outcomes and none of them are pretty for the British. Being covered in shit will soon be the least of their worries.


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