By Daniel Finkelstein
Tu B'shvat. Latkes. Kinloss. Simchat Torah. The four questions. Viennas. Halacha dictates that you should affix your mezuzah on the right side of the door in the upper third of the doorpost within approximately three inches of the opening. Chrain.
If you are not Jewish my list will have lost you by now. Other people's religions are mystifying. The son of God - who came up with that one? The Eucharist - what's that when it's at home? Fortunately you don't need to understand any of the words with which I started this column. (Although I recommend finding out about latkes. And Viennas. Oh, and chrain.) If you insist on learning - because you think it might come up in a quiz or something - then by all means go ahead. But not on my account. All I really need you to do is leave me alone to get on with it.
And I don't doubt that you will. That's what I love about Britain. Our country is a very tolerant, quiet, modest, hospitable sort of place. We try and leave others in peace and expect to be left in peace ourselves. When a mass murderer is discovered in our midst, the neighbours still murmur with approval: "He kept himself to himself." You know what else I love? That none of you will have questioned my right to use the word "our" about this country, even though I am the son of immigrants naturalised not long before I was born. Imprisoned by communists and Nazis, expelled from their homes, seeing their relatives die, forced to start again with nothing, my parents found peace and freedom in this country. Because of its traditions and its culture. Because there is something precious about this place.
Now I'll tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like you to look after it. I'd like you to stand up for the principles that make this country what it is, even when it's mildly awkward to do so. And an awkward case has just arisen, as it happens. So I can test your resolve. Over in East Oxford, the Central Mosque wants to issue a call to prayer by loudspeaker three times a day. As the mosque's spokeman, Sardar Rana, put it: "The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions." He then added, without, I think, trying to be funny: "I don't think it would disturb anybody."
You can see why this is awkward, can't you? The first, and correct, instinct of the Englishman is to see if we can accommodate the request without any fuss. It is, however, hard to see how this is possible. With the best will in the world, the muezzin's electronically enhanced recitation is going to be an intrusion.
Yet I don't think it's enough to confine one's objection purely to the noise. Let me dispense with a couple of minor - but in my view incorrect - arguments about the call to prayer. There's nothing all that wrong with the words that would be recited. Apart from anything else it would be in Arabic. And yes, the muezzin will announce that God is great, but fortunately we are entitled in Britain to disagree. I don't accept either the idea that this call to prayer would create a Muslim ghetto. Nor would I fear such a thing. It is natural that Muslims want to live near each other anyway, just as Jews do. And that they will wish to live near the mosque.
These arguments are diversions from the important principle involved. And that concerns this country's status as a Christian country with an established Church. Perhaps you feel reluctant to use this argument - feeling it a departure from inclusiveness. Well, I don't think you should be reluctant in the slightest. Immigrants and their children in this country receive a fantastic deal. We are able to practise our religion in peace. We can openly enjoy our culture. Our colleagues tolerate our taking vacations on holy days and they even let their children be taught about some of our practices, which is most courteous, I must say.
In return I think it reasonable for us to show respect for the majority religion and for the established religious institutions. We could, after all, live somewhere else. We came here on purpose. And here we have a right to practise, but not to dominate the public space. We have the right to pray, but not to blare out our prayer across Cowley.
Let's say that the call to prayer, the sound of the muezzin from the minaret, is the most precious sound to you. You do not have to live in East Oxford. There are any number of mosques all over the world, loudspeakering away to their hearts' content. One of the reasons I support the existence of the state of Israel is that I feel there should be one place in the world where Jews can loudspeaker away. Although most of us Jews talk loud enough without a megaphone, so we can settle in Pinner.
Here, however, they have church bells. And the Queen is defender of the faith. Many members of the Church of England aren't very religious - my favourite Spitting Image joke involved a man knocking on a door and saying: "Jehovah's Witnesses here. Do you believe in God?" To which the man inside replied: "No, I'm C of E." But even among the less religious many marry in church and are buried in a churchyard. And religiosity isn't the only issue here. It's also culture. Why should the mild, gentle culture of the Anglicans not deserve the same preservation and respect as any other ancient culture? I regard the Jewish tradition as something I hold in trust for my children. What of the culture and sights and sounds of this country and its heritage?
I'm not calling for a retreat from the tolerance and mutual respect of this country. That's the last thing I want. I depend on it, don't I? It's just that I don't think tolerance and mutual respect come from nowhere. There's a reason why this country shows it, why we have fought for it, and died for it. I am just saying that if this country doesn't protect its own heritage and culture, how can I expect it to protect mine?
Britain's charming Muslims again
Women face prison for ignoring a murder under their own roof
Two sisters wept and their mother screamed abuse when all three were found guilty yesterday of turning a blind eye to the horrific murder of a young woman in their house. Sabia Rani, 19, was systematically beaten and abused by her husband, Shazad Khan, over three months at the home that they shared in Leeds. When she died she had 15 broken ribs and bruising over 85 per cent of her body and, according to a pathologist, looked like the victim of a catastrophic road accident.
Khan was convicted of her murder a year ago. Yesterday his mother, Phullan Bibi, 52, his sisters, Nazia Naureen, 28, and Uzma Khan, 23, and Uzma's husband Majid Hussain, 28, were all found guilty of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult under the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004. The judge told the family that they should be prepared for custodial sentences before they were bailed overnight to reappear before the court today.
As the jury delivered the verdicts all three women began wailing and shouting in the dock. The sisters hugged each other screaming "not guilty, not guilty" while their mother stood up and shouted abuse, slamming her hands down on the bench, before collapsing on the flooor.
Simon Myerson, QC, for the prosecution, had told the court that the young victim had been brought up in rural Pakistan. She married her cousin, Shazad Khan, in December 2002, but it was not until three years later that she came to England. She spoke no English when she arrived in Leeds as Khan's bride, five months before her death in May, 2006. She was kept a prisoner in a suburban semi-detached house in the Roundhay district of the city and was not allowed out unescorted. An ambulance crew found her collapsed on the bathroom floor of the house. Her bodily systems had simply given up, the prosecution said.
Mr Myerson said that each of the defendants must have known that she was in pain, and the cause of her suffering, but did nothing to stop it. Uzma Khan claimed in evidence at her brother's trial in January last year that the injuries were caused by evil spirits and black magic. Mr Myerson said: "It is not a question of faith. It is a question of evidence. No scientific report has ever stated that evil spirits could have beaten this woman to death. The evil spirit that beat Sabia Rani was Shazad Khan and Uzma knew that."
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that the defendants were among the first people in the country to be convicted of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. Malcolm Taylor, from the CPS, said: "Sabia Rani was the victim of horrific violence at the hands of her husband while her family chose to do nothing. "If families or other people with a duty to look after those who need protection deliberately choose not to do so, their neglect will not be ignored by the law enforcement agencies, and prosecution will follow."
Loony British health and safety rules trip up pancake race
A Cathedral pancake race that is part of a 600-year-old tradition has been stopped because of health and safety rules. The bell at Ripon Cathedral, which has rung at 11am to mark Shrove Tuesday since the 15th century, has signalled the start of the city's pancake race for the past 11 years. However, the event, in which children, traders, soldiers and even clergy compete, has been abandoned because of the amount of work needed to carry out risk assessments.
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev Keith Jukes, who helps organise the races, said: "We have looked at this and there are a number of reasons why it won't take place and a big reason this year is, sadly, health and safety. "Any organisation that runs an event has to go through risk assessments. The insurance companies demand it and in the end you have to work out whether it's a risk you take. "There is also the issue of road closures, which can be an expensive business." Bernard Bateman, one of the organisers, said it was also becoming increasingly difficult to find volunteers willing to help as marshals.
In past years, the event, part of a long tradition of pancake races in Ripon, was likened to a village sports day, a last chance to have fun before the solemn season of Lent. The race has been growing in popularity and even involved members of 38 Regt Royal Engineers, based in Ripon, who cook pancakes from a field kitchen outside the west front of the cathedral.
Mr Bateman, a councillor, said: "The main problem is health and safety. There are so many things to put in place to make sure the event can get off the ground. "We had hoped to make the pancake race as much of a tradition as the pancake bell and it's a travesty that it has been killed off. "Everyone involved in the race is a volunteer and at the end of the day fewer and fewer people are volunteering these days, and it's because of the paperwork that started off as well-meaning but has now gone overboard. "It puts people off helping. It's just one thing after another."
Jean Smith, 61, a resident of Ripon, said: "It's totally daft. Why should paperwork get in the way of kids having fun? We seem to hear it all the time now but it's bureaucracy gone mad." Ripon Cathedral traditionally used the "pancake bell" to summon penitents to church to be "shriven" by making confessions before the start of Lent.
A survey has suggested that two thirds of people in the country no longer mark the Christian tradition of making pancakes. Many are even unaware of its place in the calendar. Shrove Tuesday, which falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, is today. Pancakes have featured in cookbooks since 1439. The custom of flipping or tossing them is believed to have started in the 17th century. They are made from rich ingredients that include eggs and milk, which were used up in households before the 40 days of Lent during which only plain food should be eaten.
Leftist love of "unity" (Translation: Hatred of dissent) on display again
Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links
Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun transcribes a revealing interview that Jon Faine, an Australian Broadcast Corp. radio host, conducted with Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie. As background, Australia recently elected a left-wing government to replace the right-wing one that had been in power for more than a decade:
Faine: I want to expand our discussion to another aspect of media which I think is quite intriguing as the Rudd Government is about to start its first session in the parliament, and that is whether or not the media needs to go through a bit of a rethink, as it would seem, according to last year's election, the nation has. Have things moved on and have some of the staples of the media in the Howard era worn out their usefulness as we enter a Rudd era? . . . I'm going to talk in particular about columnists . . . and Bruce you have some notorious ones of your own? Although I'm going to here, stick my neck right out, and say I think the Australian newspaper has perhaps the most loyal band of Howard supporters amongst its current crop of columnists. And you have to wonder how they're quite going to adjust, and cope, and fit in when the people they are so well connected to, are no longer in office.Media criticism on the right usually centers on questions of balance--of opinion masquerading as news, and of opinion on the right being given short shrift. Media criticism on the left tends to be more authoritarian--the complaint, as in this case, is that the other side gets a forum at all.
Guthrie: Yes, I'd probably take issue with the word notorious Jon, by the way. I'd say notable rather than notorious . . .
Faine: But it's more the columnists [on the Australian], the sort of Christopher Pearsons and Janet Albrechtsens and Mark Steyn was the American columnist who was used in the paper yesterday and so on. And you think, well, it kind of represents the thinking that's out of step with the result of the election in a way, some of the material that those people are very much making their own and their own beat.
Guthrie: I guess it comes down to whether you think newspapers need to be in step with the Government?
Faine: Oh no, not with the Government with the electorates. . . . But within your newspaper, rather than asking you to speculate about other things, within your own newspaper, does the result of the election mean you rethink any of the component parts that make up your weekly diet? . . .
Guthrie: I think it's very, very hard to contribute a column on a weekly basis over a long, long period of time and so we're forever monitoring that.
Faine: Very interesting, so you're not going through a cleansing process?
Guthrie: Definitely not.
Presumably Faine would not argue that the election of a conservative government should lead to a purge of liberal commentators. Yet he seems to think that because one election went his way, the opposition no longer has a right to be heard. That's not exactly how a democratic system is supposed to work.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.