The Times refuses to rest on its laurels.
Having set seemingly impossible standards of ignorance and dishonesty, the paper still strives to exceed them, as demonstrated by two articles run a couple of days ago.
One of them supports Rowan Williams’s assertion that Muslims make an invaluable contribution to British life, and he didn’t just mean those corner shops open at all hours.
A few years ago the Archdruid found a gap between performing shamanistic dances around Stonehenge and discharging his archiepiscopal duties to welcome the unavoidability of Sharia law in Britain.
This time he implicitly extolled the value of having 1,400 mosques in Britain, most preaching hatred for our civilisation. Ours, he explained, is an ‘argumentative democracy’.
Presumably this means we like to argue, and Muslims give us something to argue about. Or, in the Archdruid’s convoluted words, “It’s really important that we respect and try to understand diversity of conscience and belief and conviction in our environment. These are not just about what makes us British, they’re about what makes us human.”
I’ve commented before that the former Archbishop of Canterbury is a man of rather modest intellectual gifts. But here he outdid himself.
Williams must have been taught at the seminary that Britain is constitutionally and historically a Christian commonwealth. That’s a great part of “what makes us British”, while a priest has to believe it’s also much of “what makes us human”.
This doesn’t mean we should persecute those whose beliefs are different – we aren’t Muslims after all. Nor does it mean that we should be incurious about other cultures or creeds.
But elevating ‘diversity of conscience’ to the acme of virtue is guaranteed to debauch the historical core of our society, turning it into an aggregate of atomised, anomic individuals spinning out of control into a vast spiritual vacuum.
The other article is the editorial in the same issue, enlarging on the same subject.
The store is set early: “It is no business of the state to take a position on the content of religious faith… The limited role of government is to defend religious liberty and the freedom of worship and association.”
Obviously The Times either doesn’t know or chooses to ignore the easily verifiable fact that we have an established religion, and it’s neither Islam nor Druidism.
That’s why one of the titles borne by our head of state is ‘Defender of the faith’. The definite article should have tipped The Times that our government’s constitutional duty goes beyond just defending ‘religious liberty’.
Having demanded that we all refrain from troubling our little heads about theology, the paper then plunges into the troubled waters of Islamic apologetics. It quotes approvingly a Sunni imam who argues that the inferior status of women has no basis in the Koran.
Being neither a Muslim nor an Islamic scholar, I’m ready to acknowledge my misapprehensions on that score. I must have been led astray by some Koran verses, such as:
“Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please.” 2:223
“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.” 4:34
“A male shall inherit twice as much as a female.” 4:11
“[Forbidden to you are] married women, except those whom you own as slaves.” 4:24
“You may marry two or three or four women whom you choose.” 4:3
Interpreted from the height of Islamic scholarship, these and other such verses obviously establish equality of the sexes in every sense. I hope you’ll forgive my prior misjudgement. So silly of me.
“There are ugly currents in European society,” continues the editorial, “that depict Islam as a homogeneous force and Muslims as a threat.”
I’m not sure currents can depict anything, but then I’m not guided by The Times style manual. That aside, the anthropomorphised currents that “depict Islam as a homogeneous force” aren’t just ugly but ignorant – of the hysterical hatred between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam.
Having started immediately after Mohammed’s death, this heterogeneity is claiming thousands of lives even as we speak.
As to the currents depicting “Muslims as a threat”, I must admit I myself have been known to drift with those. My only excuse is some knowledge of history, a burden evidently not shared by The Times.
The briefest of looks at some of the world’s flashpoints over the last 20 years will show that most of those involved Muslims (and, incidentally, had nothing to do with Israel, which some ‘currents’ ‘depict’ as the sole reason for Islamic radicalism).
Specifically one could mention the conflicts between Bosnian Muslims and Christians, Côte d’Ivoire Muslims and Christians, Cyprus Muslims and Christians, East Timor Muslims and Christians, Indonesian Muslims and Christians in Ambon island, Kashmir Muslims and Hindus, Kosovo Muslims and Christians, Macedonian Muslims and Christians, Nigeria Muslims and both Christians and Animists, Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world, Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, Chechen Muslims and Russians, Azeri Muslims and Armenian Christians, Sri Lanka Tamils and Buddhists, Thailand’s Muslims and Buddhists in the Pattani province, Muslim Bengalis and Buddhists in Bangladesh, Muslims and Protestant, Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian Orthodox Christians in Kurdistan.
The impression is hard to avoid that Islam sooner or later finds itself at war with any neighbours it happens to have, a tendency that, until The Times editorial, I mistakenly regarded as threatening.
Then the ‘ugly currents’ are hit on the head (if they can depict, they must have heads) with the full weight of authority. The Times co-opts to its cause that great expert on religion Thomas Jefferson, who said “that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion…”
Suffering from a gap in his education, The Times writer doesn’t understand the reason for Jefferson’s remark, its true meaning and the context in which it was made. I’ll be happy to fill this gap.
Jefferson was a deist whose hatred of Christianity was only matched by his cordial loathing of England. His views on religion were greatly informed by Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, ostensibly preaching equanimity towards all creeds, except naturally Trinitarian Christianity.
Both Locke and the American Founders, including Jefferson, welcomed any kind of religious sectarianism because they correctly saw it as a way of removing an annoying religious check on the excesses of modernity.
The organic states of Christendom saw their duty in protecting not only the citizens’ property but also their spiritual health, which in those days was tantamount to guarding Christianity from heresy. Locke and the Founders viscerally hated the traditional order, and they correctly identified Protestant sectarianism as an effective weapon to use against it – divide and conquer.
In other words, tolerance, in the Lockean and Jeffersonian sense, means its exact semantic opposite: intolerance to Christianity and, by inference, to the previous centuries of Western civilisation.
This is a sentiment The Times clearly shares, embellishing it with a nice tint of ignorance: “There must be no religious test for… public office.”
But there is such a test, lamentable though some of us may think it is. The 1701 Act of Settlement prohibits a Catholic from becoming head of England’s established religion – and hence from holding the office of monarch.
But facts shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with a good story. And promoting the destructive power of ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ is the best story of all.