Wednesday, May 13, 2015

British values...

There's a lot of mumblings among the chattering classes at the moment about the new Governments plans (or lack of concrete plans) on the subject of "radical Islam". Theresa May was on radio 4 this morning and gave a pretty unconvincing performance. She was trying to explain what David Cameron meant by "passive tolerance" and how we've all been too passive about tolerance for too long, implying that we should all get more aggressive about insisting on "British values" (to the point presumably of locking people up who don't have them?). The interviewer pointed out that surely different people would have different views about what our values should be, and, being permitted to express such differences of opinion was itself an important "British value". The whole conversation was horribly circular and this Government seem to have missed the point.

We don't need more legislation to ban certain opinions or break-up fringe groups, we need more freedom of expression on a level playing field and the protection of the law in exercising that freedom. We don't need to censor the voices of hate preachers we just need to be able to criticize and mock their philosophy in public WITHOUT being labelled "Islamophobic" or racist and therefore marginalised along with that minority of haters.

Societal values do exist but they are not set in stone and they change, we are witnessing a major shift right now, i.e. over the last 10-20 years religion has been forced to retreat (kicking and screaming) from it's privileged and institutionalised position and this is a good thing. There's still some way to go but mainstream religions like Christianity and Judaism can be successfully ridiculed and challenged when it's adherents do stupid or illegal things. Since the Catholic paedophile scandals came to light the public is much more aware that religion should not be above the law and clergy should not be sheltered from prosecution (like the rest of us) just because they hold one particular set of beliefs among a plurality of beliefs in the wider society.

The only exception to this trend seems to be the way we handle Islam; it's obvious that many people feel the same way about Islam now as our ancestors probably did about Christianity in the middle-ages i.e. they are scared to criticise it for fear of violence, this is not a phobia (i.e. an irrational fear) it's perfectly rational to fear death! There are two choices, either we try to ban/censor/jail the opposing voices or we hold the line for enlightenment values and allow the reformers to win over the majority with the alternatives, the former approach has often won individual battles but seldom the war.


Chairman Bill said...

So long as haloumi doesn't become a British tradition.

Steve Borthwick said...

CB, you shouldn't mock such serious matters with your cheesy one-liners ... ;)