St. Bartholomew’s Kirby Muxloe
The problem of course arises when views expressed in public are seized upon by the extremists who are all too prevalent in our present society. There is no doubt that there is a lot of vile and dangerous opinion around that leads to various groups – Muslims among them – feeling very vulnerable. A small minority of those made to feel vulnerable will want to respond aggressively in return. We then have the politics of division hardening rather than the politics of community and solidarity. As Christians, we want to defend the marginalised, the victim and the vulnerable. As Christians we may indeed find ourselves under attack at times for holding our faith as we do. As Christians we want to understand the different voices and communities among us. To learn and show respect, even as we invite people in respect to listen to us. Note: Only a small section within the Muslim community wear the full-face veil – and this has a cultural origin older than Islam itself. The Quran requires people to dress with modesty (hijab) – and this word is used to describe the scarves you will see worn – but it’s mostly agreed the burqa or niqab are not required by the Quran. The Bible says, ‘let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5) Best wishes,   Tom
Joking apart... Rowan Atkinson, the well-known comic actor, has written today that Boris Johnson made a pretty good joke, when he referred to Muslim women wearing the niqab, as looking like letter boxes. Many people might be inclined to agree – while others have been quick to protest and as I write there are calls from several sources for Johnson to be censored. There is talk of the Conservative party as pandering to Islamophobia. Meanwhile, although the circumstances are different, the Labour party has ongoing issues with anti-Semitism. Rowan Atkinson has long argued for the important principle of freedom of speech to be allowed to include the freedom to critique – and joke about – religion. In an ideal world, he has a good point. Freedom to hold a view, and to express it in honest and open debate is a fundamental right in our liberal democracy. Provided the views are not expressed in a way to incite hatred or violence, we need to be able to hold in tension all manner of volatile subjects like abortion, sexuality, immigration … and religion too. Boris Johnson’s words were mostly innocent and can be used to stimulate helpful debate, but occasional more colourful phrases have inevitably been seized upon in the media – as he must have known they would have been.