Today’s lesson cometh from the first Book of Life and poses the question, ‘If the stranger comes to dwell among us, is it too much to ask he respects us?’
No, don’t worry. I’ve just made that up and not invented some new-age religion. Nor have I come over all pious (although, when I go into my local café, people immediately look heavenwards and cry, ‘Oh G-d, it’s him again’).
Generally, though, I avoid religious debates, since they can easily become fractious. Moreover, my faith, whatever it is or isn’t, is my affair. So I refrain from being judgemental of anyone else’s – providing they don’t step on the toes of mine (or the lack of it).
That said, religions have historical and political aspects that impact on non-believers, too, and however tolerant our modern-day ideals, we are entitled to comment.
So, Francis I, the new People’s Pope, is already facing uncomfortable questions from some quarters.
Why, it’s being asked, didn’t this humble yet resolute man do more to combat the Argentine military junta’s ‘Dirty War’, from 1976 to 1983, when countless thousands disappeared?
And why is his sense of nationalism so ingrained, he refuses to acknowledge the legitimate self-determination of the Falklanders to remain British, as David Cameron reminded him.
Certainly, Francis has much on his papal plate, not least the child-sex abuse scandals some bishops, cardinals and members of the Curia wilfully kicked under the Vatican carpets.
That, however, is a pastoral matter, albeit with strong morality implications, and not related to pressing religious dilemmas – contraception, abortion, gay marriage and arcane, canonical disputes – that will test His Holiness.
The point is, whether the Catholic Church likes it or not, it is being held to proper account in the court of public opinion.
And Judaism, the precursor of Abrahamic faiths, has never been far from smears – spoken or written – for two millennia. But old-fashioned Jew-bashing has become passé; replacing it is an insidious, nouveau ideology that transposes the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Israel’, which is a handy cloak under which anti-Semites can hide their bile.
Like every democracy, Israel isn’t above criticism; but knock Netanyahu or Peres, not world Jewry any more than you’d rap Anglicanism for what the Coalition does in Britain.
Only a moron would buy into the slanders that, in a world population approaching seven billion, less than 14 million remnants of an ancient nation mainly dispersed by the Romans two thousand years ago, are somehow responsible for all global ills…from deicide and using blood of gentile children to sanctify Passover bread to today’s inane claims Jews caused all wars, capitalism and communism, aided and abetted by international freemasonry (which they apparently also control).
Meantime, that notorious, anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – invented by the Czar’s secret police at the dawn of the 20th Century – remains a best-seller throughout the Muslim world and its outrageous porkies accepted as gospel truth.
So, with massive population shifts from East to West, it’s no coincidence that crimes against Jews have risen exponentially, as blood libels and Holocaust denials spread to modern Europe, like Black Plague pustules. As columnist, Mehdi Hasan, noted in the New Statesman last week, ‘It is sheer hypocrisy for Muslims to complain of Islamaphobia in every nook and cranny of British public life, yet ignore the rampant anti-Semitism in our own backyard.’
Because, along with disdain for Western values, radical Islam transported its hatreds when droves of Muslims came to Europe seeking better lives. Yet, as exemplified by Britain, unlike waves of earlier settlers – Irish navvies, who built the railways and canals, Jewish tailors who clothed our backs, and black Caribbean public sector workers, all of whom recognised integration was the golden key to their children’s futures – fire-breathing Islamists demand the host changed to accommodate their warped distortion of a respected faith.
American academic, Lawrence Krauss, said he was shocked when recently taking part at a debate hosted by an Islamic group at a UK university to find men and women segregated.
The leading physicist and atheist threatened to walk out unless seating was reorganised – only to find himself accused of intolerance by angry members of the audience.
No such problems existed in a similar debate in Australia, he recalled, suggesting Britons were cowed by those eager to protest whenever they felt ‘their cultural norms not being met’.
Krauss said, ‘There is a segment of the Islamic community that is very vocal. But I think the notion that these cultural norms should be carried out within a broader society that not only doesn’t share them, but is free and open, is a very serious problem.’
In other words, raise a whisper of comment – e.g. the satirical Mohammed cartoons – and the hard-liners scream ‘Islamaphobia!’ and heads must roll…which they mean quite literally!
The problem is compounded by the politically correct lobby, usually of the Left persuasion and still wedded to the failed doctrine of ‘multiculturalism,’ which turns a blind eye to the extremists’ jihad against the democratic tenet of free speech.
Which is why Islam is off limits to legitimate debate. And why hate preachers, like Abu Qatada and the hook-clawed Abu Hamza ran rings round the British legal system with relative impunity for years.
It’s also why the Labour Party had only now been forced to suspend (again) its first Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed, for allegedly telling a Pakistani TV channel his 2009 conviction for dangerous driving – after a motorist in a parked car was killed by his Jaguar and a flurry of texts, sent and received moments before the crash, were later found on his cellphone – was all a ‘Jewish plot’.
According by The Times, which uncovered the interview, Ahmed fingered the ‘Jewish-owned Press’, for his light-rap, 12-week sentence, of which he served just 16 days.
No doubt this will come as a shock to Rupert Murdoch of News International, the Daily Mail’s Lord Rothermere and the Barclay brothers, owners of Telegraph Media Group, who, hitherto, never realised they were Jewish.
However, even if the accusation proves untrue – unsurprisingly, Ahmed denies it – it doesn’t absolve the outspoken peer from previous excesses.
For instance, in February 2005, Ahmed hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for a man who calls himself Israel Shamir, but is actually a Swedish arch anti-Semite called Jöran Jermas (Google him, as the noble lord should have done had he been a wiser man).
At the meeting – ‘Jews and the Empire’ – Shamir/Jermas claimed, ‘All the [political] parties are Zionist-infiltrated. Your newspapers belong to Zionists…Jews indeed own, control and edit a big share of mass media, this mainstay of Imperial thinking.’
And, even if Ahmed didn’t embrace the view Jews controlled the Press, he’d sponsored one of the most scurrilous supporters of the slur – and in the Mother of Parliaments, where decent politicians of all persuasions regarded such racist rants as anathema.
In any event, the Pakistan-born baron and property developer became no stranger to controversy.
In 2007, he lambasted Salman Rushdie’s knighthood, claiming the author had ‘blood on his hands.’ And last year Labour suspended the multi-millionaire amid reports he offered a £10M bounty for the capture of Presidents Obama and George W Bush, until an internal inquiry reinstated him.
Anyway, it would muddy the point that here, in the allegedly Free World, there is one religion in our midst we dare not discuss – however peace-loving its believers insist it is – and hold it up to the same, reasonable scrutiny we use to judge Christianity and Judaism.
So game over. Democratic freedom of speech lost.