What have hoodies (hugged or not) got to do with Sayeeda Warsi's latest speech? The most annoying thing about yobs is the way they aggressively look you in the eye and demand respect. Of course they are the same people who will out of the blue say to a perfect stranger, "Who are you looking at?" They demand 'respect' not for having accomplished anything worthy of it, but for merely existing.
We tolerate all kinds of people whose dress taste is questionable, manners apalling and views objectionable. But we are not bound to respect them, or indeed anybody. It is a huge mistake, one made by Baroness Warsi, and unfortunately many others regarding religion, that we are entitled to respect. We are not. We are obliged to tolerate people's beliefs, but not to respect them. Nor is there any right not to be offended. Indeed, isn't it odd that anyone who believes that they are personally right with god and have a faith that is grounded in truth feels threatened by criticism?
Of course it is not quite as simple as that. Satire and mockery are powerful weapons (and often the only weapon open to the powerless). To have our cherished beliefs criticised is one thing, for them to be mocked quite another. However, religious satire has a good pedigree. When Luther was challenging the pope Protestant pamphleteers had a field day-the 'Whore of Babylon,' the pope as a crocodile and much much worse!
"Criticise our religion, but don't mock our prophet," is often heard. But fundamental criticism of a religion must necessarily concentrate on its founder. In Jesus' own lifetime the claim was made that he was the bastard child of Mary, who had allegedly been raped by a Roman soldier. Was he the Son of God, "the only way to the Father," "the only name by which we may be saved," "who holds the whole of creation together by the power of his word?" Or was this all an invention of the apostle Paul, and the Church Fathers such as Origen who put the Christian Bible together? Is Muhammed an "excellent example" and the recipient of Almighty God's word, which has always existed, uncreated, with Him? Or was he a bandit who invented scripture for his own benefit (and worse)?
"There is a plot against our religion!" Of course there is-many of the values of the modern world are antithical to those of the religious. The sincerely religious person, whether Jew , Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or Bahai faces many challenges and dilemnas. The Christian religion is a plot against all other belief systems because Christians proclaim that salvation is only available through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Muslim religion is a plot against Christianity because it declares that ascribing divinity to the Prophet Jesus is blasphemy. Indeed, Jesus will return as a judge at the end of time and break all the crosses-Jesus himself will destroy Christianity.
We are obliged to tolerate, but we choose who to respect. That is the foundation of a modern democratic country. It would help a lot if Sayeeda Warsi and others said that.
20 01 2011