Holy Smoke! The Politics Blogger gets religion

Dearly Beloved Brethren

People seem to be getting their knickers in a twist over the role of religion in politics in Brighton and Hove.

Feeling the heat at the moment is the Green Party over its decision to expel Christina Summers from the Green Group. It is a decision in the finest traditions of the Spanish Inquisition and the intolerance of New Labour. But none of the main political parties have a clean record on religion.

Labour seems determined not to offend male Muslims, a legacy of Iraq (sorry Flo, that four letter word just won’t go away). In a foolhardy attempt to attract disillusioned Muslim voters, it turns a blind eye to misogynistic tendencies of some Muslim ‘leaders’. In Bradford it was Muslim women who led the anti-Labour protest by voting for Gorgeous George Galloway in the recent by-election.

The Conservatives have amongst their ranks more evangelical Christians than the other parties, evangelicals who wish to deny women the right to choose, preach the headship of men in the family, and who believe that homosexuality is a sin. Having said that, the Tory Party has changed and cannot be compared to the Party of Intolerance that introduced Section 28 in the 1980s.

The Greens, on the one extreme, have Christina Summers and, on the other, Ben Duncan who they narrowly avoided electing as Mayor in Brighton and Hove. He would have made it a badge of honour to stop prayers at Council meetings. That would have been a far greater distraction than the vote of a single councillor with outdated, irrelevant and discredited views.

It strikes me as ironic that the only reason why anyone is talking about Christina Summers and her views, having made her a martyr and causing the Green Party such damage, is because of a shortsighted, foolish decision to instigate action against her. Nobody thinks that she was representing anything other than her own views.

It is about time that politicians took a more mature approach to religion, speaking truth when religions are intolerant or oppressive, and ignoring religion the rest of the time.

Here endeth the lesson. Good night and God bless you all.

In Praise of Sarkozy in condemning Head Scarves for Muslim Women

France is so much more mature in its dealings with Islam and women’s opression than Britain. In 2004 it reaffirmed its rigid separation of the state from organised religion. Conspicuous religious symbols are banned from their state schools. This includes Sikh turbans, Jewish caps and Muslim headscarves.

It is now having a full scale debate on Muslim women’s clothing led by none other than President Sarkozy himself. He has said that the full veils are not appropriate in France. Sarkozy and the French are not seeing this debate as one of religion but rather seeing the headscarf as an instrument of women’s submission and oppression.

This compares courageously with Barrack Obama’s recent speech in the middle east where he said it was “important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes Muslim women should wear”.

In Britain, our feebleminded political leaders are too cautious to ‘offend’ male Muslim leaders and are too desperate to get their unreliable support even at the cost of women’s oppression.

Teaching and the BNP

Members of the BNP and Combat 18 may not serve in the police force or prison service, but it’s fine that they can teach our children. Or at least that is the view of the General Teaching Council for England.

The GTCE has refused to write a clause into its code for teachers barring BNP members from working in state schools.

Amazingly, you can be a priest in the Church of England and a member of the BNP, although the CofE is considering a ban.

What is needed is a code of ethics for all public services and servants that enshrines rights and duties so that gender, racial, ethnic and other discrimination is outlawed, and that breaches of the code should result in the individual being permanently disbarred from public service.

That would go some way in dealing with the BNP and, at the same time, Islamic extremists.