Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Double standards and self-deception: Barack Obama on the Ground Zero mosque

A brief questionnaire...

1. Should the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero be

(a) allowed in the name of religious freedom


(b) prevented on the grounds that it is grossly offensive to those bereaved by 9/11?

2. Should the Catholic convent at Auschwitz have been

(a) closed down on the grounds that it was grossly offensive to Jewish Holocaust survivors


(b) allowed to stay in the name of religious freedom?

Would I be wrong in thinking that a broad swathe of liberal opinion would reflexively choose answer (a) to both questions?

True, not a few conservatives would offer a (b) in both cases. That, however, would arguably be less inconsistent since the parallel is not an exact one. The Nazis did not claim Auschwitz as a Christian project; indeed they were very happy to murder Christians there, not least one who perished 69 years ago today. 9/11, on the other hand, was of course the work of men who saw themselves as Muslims acting in the name of Islam - and the fact that they sacrificed their lives for this conviction might seem like reasonably strong evidence that they held it sincerely.

Barack Obama, however, supporting the Ground Zero mosque, thinks he he knows their minds better than they did:-

'"Al-Qaeda's cause is not Islam," he said, "it is a gross distortion of Islam"'

Apart from anything else, this is simply a cowardly way to argue for religious freedom. 'Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear' says the banner at Harry's Place (and whilst I'd rather not hear the gross dishonesty of pieces like this, I certainly don't want them banned). Religious freedom is a costly good. The cost would be a small one if it could be assumed a priori that all religions are just different ways of articulating a belief in motherhood and apple pie. They aren't.

And who made Obama an authority on what is Islamic and what is not? Undoubtedly many Muslims would agree with him about Al-Qaeda, and that is naturally very much to be applauded. But who will adjudicate between them and the many Muslims who take the opposite view?

9/11 was not the work of callow converts. Nearly all the perpetrators were born and bred in Saudi Arabia. So is Saudi Arabia a genuinely Islamic society or isn't it? Was the Islam these men absorbed from families and mosques real or bogus? If it was real, when and why did they stop being real Muslims? When they started drawing particular practical conclusions from the doctrine of jihad? That was a very bad thing to do and, to repeat, makes them very bad Muslims in the eyes of very many Muslims, but how did it turn them into non-Muslims, Mr President?

If his choice of a place of worship in Chicago is anything to go by, I'd say Barack Obama is a less than perfect Christian. If my church started putting material from Hamas into the parish magazine I'd protest, and if that didn't work I'd walk. What this doesn't do, though, is make Obama a non-Christian. Far worse people than him have been bad, but real, Christians.

It is widely believed among Muslims that 9/11 was not the work of Muslims at all, and that no Jews were killed because they'd all been warned to stay off work. Others believe that 9/11 was fitting punishment for America's crimes against Muslims. Are these non-Islamic beliefs? If they are, can Mr Obama assure us that none of these non-Muslims will be plausible enough to insinuate their way into the Ground Zero mosque?

Places of worship can be powerful symbols of reconciliation. The reconstructed Frauenkirche in Dresden is topped with a cross made in Britain by the son of an airman who took part in the bombing of Dresden. Reconciliation doesn't happen to order, though. If I was a Muslim wanting to build a mosque at Ground Zero, I'd wait to be invited.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do

'Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said bibles translated into Dari had been found.

'"Yesterday at around 0800 (0330 GMT), one of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all," he told the AFP news agency.'

I'm more or less at a loss for words over this. The BBC lives down to expectations: you have to get past the headline and the first four paragraphs before you find a hint that this is a story of religious intolerance (whether the Taliban actually fired the shots is virtually irrelevant in this respect - they want to claim the credit).

One word I hope I won't hear today is "Islamophobia". I won't be answerable for the consequences if I do.

Friday, August 06, 2010

ContactPoint: goodbye and good riddance

For me it was what they call a defining moment: the Blair government's response to the nightmarish death of little Victoria Climbie.

The state had all the power it needed to save this beautiful child's life, and access to all the knowledge it needed to identify her as being at risk. It failed her through the blinkered incompetence of its servants.

How, then, did the New Labour state react when confronted with its inability to make proper use of the power it had? Simple: by awarding itself more power. If it could not protect a child where there were multiple indicators of risk, the "lesson to be learned" was that it must invent a new Stasi to monitor and collect data on the millions of children whose parents, far from torturing them to death, were doing a far better job with them than the state could dream of doing. And all this data was to be centrally held, with security as good as the competence and integrity of the people using it - people like, well, like the ones who let Victoria Climbie die under their noses.

Thus was ContactPoint born. And now, after an outlay of £235m and, at length, a change of government, the whole thing's being switched off.

Which seems as good a note as any for me to come out on. If the admirable James MacMillan can do it, why should I skulk in the closet? Like MacMillan, on 16 May I voted Tory.

And on the day the plug was pulled on ContactPoint, non, je ne regrette rien. The state has been too long in the hands of those who believe it is the cure for every ill and can never have too much power.