Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Australia: Religious freedom is a tricky thing

Rob Forsyth below thinks that Muslims must be allowed to follow their religious dictates even when they clash with normal Australian customs.  And if the Muslim custom does no harm why not allow it?

The answer surely is that we want immigrants from chaotic parts of the world not to bring their dysfunctional beliefs and customs with them.  We want them to learn our ways -- the ways that have made Australia an attractive destination for them. 

And the various attacks on Australians by Jihadis do tell us that imported Muslim attitudes are a serious problem.  We do well to ask Muslims for assimilation as the price for being here. 

Sikh customs, Hindu customs, Chinese customs are all fine and can  reasonably be accommodated -- because they do not bring hostility towards us with them.  It is precisely Islam that is the problem.  Sikhs, Hindus and Chinese do not attack us.  Some Muslims do.  All men are not equal nor are all religions

After all, Muslims can practice all the Muslim customs they like in the many Muslim countries. Why not go to one of those if our customs don't suit them? Malaysia is just to the North of us and it's not a bad place -- thanks to the large Chinese minority there

Two weeks have passed since the controversy over Hurstville Boy's Campus of Georges River College agreeing to a protocol allowing Muslim students not to shake hands with women.

A proper understanding of religious freedom suggests the school did the right thing and its critics are mistaken.  Freedom of religion is not just the freedom to believe but also, in the words of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),the freedom "to manifest [ ...] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching." In this case, if there is a way to accommodate the manifestation of the religious views of the young men, why shouldn't it be done?

The views in question may be strange even to mainstream Islam. But religious freedom never depended on the reasonableness of the religion involved. Nor is it any good to assert that giving in at this point is the thin edge of a 'sharia' wedge. Religious freedom is not absolute. It is, as the ICCPR asserts, subject to such limitations that are "necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others." No sharia.

But is it sexist? Maybe, but in itself that is not a reason to deny religious freedom. And having an agreed protocol manages the risk of misunderstanding and substitutes another gesture of respect.

Government schools are essentially secular institutions, but they are not secularist imposing an Australian version of a French hard line laïcité -- a core concept in France's constitution, Article 1 of which states that the country is a secular one.

The School need not be criticised, but like any religion, Islam certainly can be. The right to religious freedom is not the right to be free from criticism or even ridicule. Something often goes wrong when Islam is discussed. The left forget their abhorrence of sexism, and others can lose their passion for freedom.


Understanding the Front National

Why Marine Le Pen’s Front National is now the largest single party in France

The two things I often hear from supporters of the Front National are ‘something has to change’ and ‘France was better in the past’. They have a desire for change that is largely driven by a sense of loss, a negative reaction to the state of France today. Shopkeepers list the prices of common items – eggs, milk – observing how much more expensive they are now. Everything, even inflation, is seen as evidence of French decline.

Front National supporters’ concern with immigrants (particularly Muslim immigrants) is best understood through the prism of this sense of loss. It’s not primarily about racism. Rather, it is born of the sense that ordinary French people are not being recognised or prioritised by the political class. The immigrant functions as a figure of those who are being prioritised in their place. Working French aren’t being put first, so someone else must be. Les Français d’abord! – French people first – is an FN slogan, and the party has policies for prioritising native French. ‘There are homeless people in France too’, people say, ‘why not help them before helping Syrians?’.

For FN supporters, the immigrant is also the figure that is undermining French culture, through his unwillingness to respect the ways things are done. Immigrants don’t want to integrate; they don’t respect France. They are apparently the reason that the French no longer feel at home in France. Nous sommes chez nous (We are at home) is another Frontiste slogan, often directed against the immigrant blamed for their own sense of unease.

The roots of the Front National lie in the 1950s Poujadist protest movement against government bureaucracy and big business. Poujadism, named after its driving force Pierre Poujade, was grounded in the worldview and interests of the small business owner and shopkeeper, who was being squeezed by taxes, Parisian bureaucrats and large business interests. The small business owner was a prime constituency of Jean-Marie Le Pen (a former Poujadiste) when he launched the Front National in the 1970s. The party was for independence and hard work, traditional morality and family values. It was against state bureaucracy, welfare, Europe and big business, intellectuals, immigrants and homosexuals.

The Front National still has a certain grounding in the values and perspective of the small business owner, particularly in the southern and south-west regions. These are regions where, to a degree, old-style French community and ways of life persist. Front National voters here are not talking about some fantasy of being French: it is the way they are actually living. They are calling for the way they are actually living to be recognised and protected. It is this that gives the party a social base, and means that it is more grounded than other populist parties, such as UKIP in Britain.

From the beginning, however, the Front National was something of a catch-all for various left-behind elements in French society. In the 1970s this included monarchists who regretted the French Revolution and the founding of the Republic, anti-Semites and wartime collaborators yearning for the Vichy, and pro-colonialists who regretted the loss of French Algeria in the early 1960s. This basket-case element has grown over time, as the Front National has mopped up voters released by the crisis of mainstream institutions. It has taken former Communists, former Socialists, former Gaullists, the young unemployed and now even parts of the business class. Every institutional disintegration has meant more Frontistes.

Marine Le Pen, the Front National’s leader since 2011, has sought to distance the party from its past, acrimoniously jettisoning her father and embarking on a policy of dédiabolisation (de-demonisation). There is an attempt to broaden the appeal, to absorb the discontented of the nation. Front National is making rapprochements with the Jewish community and setting up groups in elite colleges such as Sciences Po. The Front National says that it is neither left nor right, and its policies include disparate elements from various absorbed constituencies: tax-cutting measures on the one hand, and social-state measures such as the 35-hour week on the other.

Its supporters seem to have an energy and conviction that outstrips those of other parties. You always see Front National posters in the most out of the way places: on bridges, ring roads, in mountain villages. The posters may be vandalised (Marine Le Pen often sports a moustache) but they are the only posters there. The vandals didn’t bother to put up rival posters of their own.

The question of being for or against the Front National has become the primary schism in French political life. People vote for it, or they vote against it: the other schisms have become less important. Marine Le Pen derisively amalgamates the names of the Gaullist and Socialist parties to ‘UMPS’. Indeed, in the 2015 local elections, the Socialist Party withdrew some of its candidates from the second round, in order to send its supporters to the Gaullists and prevent a Front National victory.

This was an unprecedented act. The governing party showed that it was prepared to sacrifice its own candidates, sell over its supporters. What really mattered was the defeat of the Front National.

This schism of pro- and anti-Front National is grounded less and less in political differences. While Gaullists have taken on Frontiste policies and language, the Front National has taken on Socialist policies. Instead, the conflict increasingly takes the form of a sheer political polarity, a sheer mutual opposition. The Front National is defined by being anti-mainstream, anti-establishment; the mainstream is defined as being anti-Front National. It is the mutual opposition that defines the integrity of both parties.

Currently, the Front National is the largest single party, but the combined anti-Front National vote is larger. This suggests that Le Pen will win the first round of the presidential election but lose the second. But who knows? Maybe Le Pen will succeed in uniting a greater proportion of the disaffected underneath her tricolore. Were this to happen, the contradictions within the party would come more clearly into view.


Fury at 'ignorant' BBC for questioning whether an MP should have worn an Ash Wednesday cross on her forehead in parliament

The BBC has been accused of being ‘dismissive’ of Christianity and lambasted for its ignorance after questioning whether an MP should have attended a parliamentary meeting with an Ash Wednesday cross on her forehead.

An item on the BBC Politics Facebook site asked readers: ‘Was it appropriate for this MP to go to work with a cross on her head?’

It was accompanied by a picture of Glasgow MP Carol Monaghan, a Roman Catholic, displaying the symbol made of ashes that is traditionally marked on Christian worshippers at church services marking the start of Lent. The Facebook post was linked to an article on the BBC website in which Monaghan is quoted as saying she is not ashamed to appear with the cross.

Acting Bishop of London Pete Broadbent tweeted: ‘Is it appropriate for people working for @bbcpolitics to be so ignorant about the Christian faith that has shaped this country?’ while former Minister Ann Widdecombe, a convert to Catholicism, said she thought the question reflected a ‘dismissive’ attitude and said it showed the BBC’s ‘complete ignorance’.

SNP Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham wrote on Twitter: ‘Is it appropriate for @bbcpolitics to even ask this?’

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘The Facebook post was meant to attract the audience attention and to encourage them to read the article.’


British police as judge and jury

The ITV police drama Broadchurch last week dealt a damaging blow to British justice. This expensively made, star-infested type of programme has a huge impact on those who watch it.

Beloved and respected actors in tense, enthralling stories influence viewers far more than any amount of news or documentary film. As the author Philip Pullman has rightly said, ‘Once upon a time’ is a far more effective way of getting into someone’s mind than ‘Thou shalt not’.

So I was appalled by a scene in the first episode of the new series – a high-impact moment just before the first commercial break.

The actors involved were David Tennant, a TV superstar since he played Doctor Who, Olivia Colman, a key character in the successful The Night Manager, and Julie Hesmondhalgh, for 15 years a mainstay of Coronation Street, as the transsexual Hayley Cropper.

People want to like these celebrities, and they want to be liked by them. Police often imitate what fictional coppers do on TV

This platoon of the glamorous, the earnest and the politically correct joined together to portray the investigation of a rape.

At least there was no attempt to pretend that the police still treat those who report rapes with dismissive callousness, something that stopped about 20 years ago.

On the contrary, Ms Hesmondhalgh’s character was caressed with endless consideration.

Mind you, this wasn’t one of those he-said she-said rapes where the complainant says there was no consent and the alleged rapist says there was consent.

This was a full-scale violent attack, with Ms Hesmondhalgh’s character covered in blood, bruises, scratches and cuts, and suffering from concussion.

So why on earth would a battered, blood-encrusted person, after being taken deadly seriously for hours, swabbed for DNA and the rest, suddenly ask the kindly, helpful, diligent police team: ‘Do you believe me?’

As far as I can see it was only so that David Tennant could say ‘Yes’. Later in the same programme, Olivia Colman’s character snapped at a colleague: ‘We always start from a position of believing the victim.’

These are words a police officer should never say. The police are servants of justice, not judges, let alone a substitute for independent juries. If they decide in advance that an allegation is true, they will not investigate the case properly because their minds are shut.

It was this misguided attitude that led to multiple police mess-ups, the worst of them being the ludicrous, inexcusable public persecution of Field Marshal Lord Bramall and the disgraceful treatment of the late Leon Brittan and his widow.

This has been the subject of a huge debate. It led to the excoriation of the police in a report by the distinguished Judge Sir Richard Henriques.

He says no judge would ever allow an alleged victim to be referred to in court as a plain ‘victim’ when there has been no conviction.

The police should do the same. But, partly because they have recently got much too big for their boots, and started to think they are judge, jury and executioner, the police don’t want to. They will have been pleased by this scene.

Julie Hesmondhalgh's incredibly emotional performance in Broadchurch

You may not care about this. But unless it is put right, every one of us, no matter how respected and apparently secure, is at the mercy of a false accusation and the ruin that can follow – think of the Dorset Fire Chief David Bryant, who spent three years in prison on the basis of an accusation of sexual assault. But the complainant was later found to be a fantasist with a history of mental illness.

Mr Bryant’s wife Lynn, who worked so hard to clear his name, has since died, probably thanks to the terrible strain of fighting a prejudiced justice system.

I have no doubt that the police ‘believed’ this horrible liar, and referred to him as a ‘victim’. Perhaps if they hadn’t, it might have crossed their minds to do the detecting that they are hired and paid to do, and that poor, devoted Lynn Bryant wore herself out doing.

All of us – and that includes TV scriptwriters and actors – have a duty to help put an end to this sort of injustice. Broadchurch has done a great deal of harm by endorsing police arrogance and folly.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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