“Armed police are present – maybe a simple accident but we may all be reasonably suspicious that this is another terrorist act.” Wyeweb June 3rd 2017
Well, now we know, it was a terrorist incident and it was pepetrated by Islamic extremists. I know that in Wye we are reminded by a blue plaque on the church wall what religious bigotry can do – we have our own murderous history of which to be ashamed so it should come as no surprise that one man’s beliefs are another man’s condemnations. If, as it appears, such strongly-held beliefs are part of a religious tradition at least a thousand years old and are nurtured in parts of the world that rational thinking has by-passed, then it behoves us to speak against those beliefs.
Perhaps, irony, comedy and derision should be suitable weapons against these warped understandings of life, death and the universe but, again, even that seems to offend. It has been part of the West’s enlightenment that artists and writers have used their skills to draw attention to the illogicalities and dislocated thought of these naive beliefs. Some of us grew up with famous cartoons by Hogarth who lampooned not only MPs but monarchs and bishops. We noted the sensible debunking of international affairs in Punch magazine. But the attack on the offices of Charlie demonstrated that even sketches of Mohammed would cause deadly offence. Salmand Rushdie’s Satanic Verses bought him a fatwah issued by a serious religious leader that immediately brought undreds of thousands of Muslims around the world into the streets – raising the temperatrure over a book that, in all likelihood had never been read by that religious leader.
How can one debate the morality of religious beliefs if even to do so may cause offence? Partly this situation is assisted by the supine position taken up by other religious leaders in the UK particularly. They feel, perhaps correctly, that an attack on one set of religious beliefs is an attack on all (major) religious beliefs. So there is an unholy alliance between the good, the bad and the ugly. The People of The Book, who are roundly condemned by one group are happy to consort with the same group that consigns them to the eternal fires of hell! Debate on the internet swings about direct, violent opposition to moderate explaination or interpretation of religious texts that precede the modern scientific revolution by sewven hundred years and more.
There is indeed an elephant in the room and it will trample to death many more people before it is recognised for the dreadful threat it poses. The UK is a secular democracy and it should be understood by all who wish to reside here. The hall mark of our democracy is it tolerance but, lest it be misunderstood, tolerance does have its limitations. We will not tolerate the abuse of our tolerance when that abuse is a wish to replace it with religious intolerance much exists elsewhere. We are the historical nursery of religious moderation that was born out of religious and civil war. The accompanying freedoms were hard fought and will not be delivered up lightly – even if children born here are indoctrinated.
Harun Khan, the Secretary General of The Muslim Council of Britain, issued this statement: