Sunday 8 June 2014

Giles Fraser jumps the shark

Giles Fraser (front), with Alan Rusbridger (back)

CiF Watch has picked up on a quite extraordinary lapse of judgement from former dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, Giles Fraser.

Giles, as you know, is now a Guardian editorial writer. He's also a longstanding BBC Thought for the Day speaker and is a regular panelist on Radio 4's The Moral Maze. 

Given that his latest article gives an insight into the way people like Giles think [including, perhaps, people at the Guardian and the BBC], I thought I'd better share it with you here. 

Giles isn't exactly known for his logic but this is bad even by his standards. Prepare to gasp! 
Michael Gove, the education secretary, is apparently at war with Theresa May, the home secretary, over religious extremism. Gove thinks that May deals only with its consequences – ie, violence – and not with its root cause. For Gove, the May approach is some endless and fruitless game of whack-a-mole, just dealing with the consequences of religious extremism and not its ideological origins. He wants to drain the swamp and tackle the celebration of extremism long before it issues in violence. His target is Birmingham schools. But why not the Royal Opera House?
Opera, like religion, is obsessed with violence, often against women. Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmelites – currently on a short run and broadcast live from the Royal Opera House tonight on Radio 3 – tells the story of a group of nuns during the French Revolution. Their convent is overrun by revolutionaries and desecrated. And the nuns are forced to choose between martyrdom and faith. By the end, all 16 sisters have been guillotined, defiantly singing the Salve Regina on their way to having their heads removed. The whole thing is beautifully presented, with minimal staging and extraordinary musical sensitivity. And the fact that Simon Rattle is wielding the baton will guarantee to pack in the genteel, well-heeled audience.
But I wonder if they would have turned up to an opera about Islamic martyrdom? Or been so enthusiastic in their applause if 16 shahida [suicide bombers] had chosen a violent death over conformity to their new and unsympathetic political/social norm? I bet there would have been walkouts. And I very much doubt that Rolex would have been a sponsor. 
Yet nobody complained that Christian martyrdom propaganda was being staged at one of our elite cultural institutions.
But isn’t this also a version of Gove’s religious extremism, too? 
Well, Adam at CiF Watch gives the bleedingly obvious answer to that question:
No, it is not!  
Obviously an act of self-sacrifice that harms no-one but yourself is completely different to an act of self-sacrifice that deliberately seeks to kill other people at the same time [against their will] - especially when that act targets civilian men, women and children. The first is purely suicide; the second is suicide PLUS intentional murder/terrorism. 

Really, it's too obvious to need explaining. 

Adam says the Guardian "jumped the shark" there. Well, Giles Fraser certainly jumped it. [He's now reputed to be praying to Orson in a spin-off newspaper].

"Giles calling Alan. Come in Alan."

Reassuringly, his article is being rounded trashed by the Guardian' online readers. There is hope for them at least, if not for Giles.


And talking of Poulenc and sacrifice, and while we are remembering D-Day, here's a touching 1943 song from the Frenchman.

The Loire carries off my thoughts
Along with the overturned cars
And the defused weapons
And the tears not rubbed away
Oh my France, oh my abandoned one
I have crossed the bridges of Cé.


  1. What about Polly Toynbee on the Sunday Politics then?
    “All the parties are being quite hypocritical about the profound problem of continuing to have faith schools I mean you have orthodox Jewish schools with extraordinary dogma being taught, and indeed very strict Catholic Schools with amazing dogma being taught and to somehow only get worried when it’s Islamic, when it’s Muslim schools, it becomes a problem.”
    I’m sure Polly agrees with Giles that the Protocols of the learned Elders of the Trojan Horse of Zion plot that was behind all those radicalised operatic Jewish fundamentalist suicide bombers.

    1. Well, that's typical. Some very wrong-headed people write for The Guardian and Polly and Giles are well-matched there.

  2. The BBC group all religious beliefs together when there are vast fundamental difference in tolerance to others within the religions. eg On the holiest day of the year when Jews are praying for their own salvation the story is told in the synagogues of Jonah who was commanded to go and save others and he was scolded for thinking others were not worthy of being saved. The Muslims have no such stories to tell .


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