Having missed PMQs yesterday I only heard about the extraordinary exchange between Charles Walker MP and the Prime Minister on Susan Hulme’s BBC radio 4 late night parliamentary round-up.
Many others have commented on this surreal episode, but I’m still trying to digest Theresa May’s ambiguous and, if I may say so, obscurantist response.
Here’s the dialogue, courtesy of the BBC:
Mr Walker, the MP for Broxbourne, had asked Mrs May: "When people make fun of Christianity in this country, it rightly turns the other cheek."When a young gymnast, Louis Smith, makes fun of another religion widely practised in this country, he is hounded on Twitter by the media and suspended by his association."For goodness sake, this man received death threats and we have all looked the other way."My question to the prime minister is this: What is going on in this country because I no longer understand the rules?”
Mrs May responded, saying: "I understand the level of concern that you have raised in relation to this matter."This is a balance that we need to find. We value freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this country - that is absolutely essential in underpinning our democracy."But we also value tolerance to others. We also value tolerance in relation to religions. This is one of the issues that we have looked at in the counter-extremism strategy that the Government has produced."I think we need to ensure that yes it is right that people can have that freedom of expression, but in doing so that right has a responsibility too - and that is a responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance to others.”
This mealy-mouthed mumbo jumbo about tolerance is on a par with Jeremy Corbyn’s “I oppose racism in all its forms”.
Several prominent journalists have been appalled at the way Louis Smith has been humiliated by the baying P.C. brigade, and I see his two-month ban by British Gymnastics as a very ill omen indeed. The BBC is maintaining its customary policy of impartiality in this matter.
I tried to watch the Home Affairs Committee hearing on Sharia Courts that took place the other day.
I got to the end of the first panel and gave up, but I might go back and give it another try later on. Yvette Cooper has taken Keith Vaz’s role and seems to have acquired some of his oleaginousness in the process.
What bothered me most was the way some of the committee seem to have taken an adversarial position against critics of Sharia courts.
On the all female panel were:
- Zlakha Ahmed MBE, Chief Executive, Apna Haq
- Shaista Gohir OBE, Chair, Muslim Women's Network UK
- Dr Elham Manea, Senior Fellow, European Foundation for Democracy
- Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All
I was familiar with Namazie as she is well known for her views on reforming Islam, and I recognised the verbose Shasta Gohir OBE as she was on TV on and off all day.
Dr. Manea spoke well, but was interrogated in a gratuitously hostile fashion by Chuka Umunna. The lady in black gave me the creeps. Sorry, but there it is.
Naz Shah, who, perhaps to save herself some embarrassment, stood down from this committee when they were addressing antisemitism, was back in action. Having been convincingly contrite over her own ‘ignorant behaviour’ she reverted to type by invoking human rights and freedom to follow one’s faith, in a mixture of passion and aggression.
Throughout this section I felt that all the contributors were dancing energetically on the head of a pin and that the fatal flaw running through the entire process was the failure to question the fundamental concept of allowing Sharia Courts in Britain in 2016.
Massive Islam-shaped elephant in the room.
The premise of the inquiry seemed to be that Islam has been accepted as part of the norm in Britain, no matter how antithetical, therefore we have to accept it in all its forms along with all the cultural baggage it brings with it.
This normalisation is deeply worrying to many of us.
You will have seen this.
Shafiq is a well known figure to regular viewers of the BBC’s Sunday morning religious programmes like SML and TBQs. He is very rude and finds it difficult to shut up. His description of the Gatestone Institute and the Henry Jackson Society as fascist and totalitarian showed an astonishing lack of self awareness, as did his inability to pronounce “Baroness Cox”, which repeatedly came out as Baronex Cox.
Did you see that Canada has passed a motion? A new anti-Islamophobia motion to be precise.
Some people might see this as progress. Theresa May might see that motion as Canada’s official sanctioning of taking a responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance to others.
I just see that motion as shite.