Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reflections on genuflections

Both Marcus and Mr Eugenides have linked to the bizarre story of Artur Boruc the Celtic goalkeeper who has been cautioned by the Procurator Fiscal for crossing himself at a Rangers-Celtic fixture at Ibrox.

While Mr Eugenides is quite correct to dismiss the touchingly naive notion that this was a simple act of religious devotion, he's probably wasting his time. I was going to make sarcastic comments about those who seriously imagine an issue of religious freedom is at stake here but on reflection I suppose the uninitiated really can't be expected to understand the primal sectarian animus that is the raison d'etre of Glasgow's Old Firm.

But there's still an issue pertaining to liberty, of course. It's the one that should be familiar to us by now; whether one should uphold the right of people to antagonise and offend the sensibilities of others.

Since I'm rather opposed to the modern notion that the over-sensitive have an extra layer of human rights, I'm inclined to agree with those taking issue with the Procurator Fiscal's action in this case, albeit for slightly different reasons. Boruc's right to genuflect at Ibrox should be defended on the same grounds as those newspapers who published the Mo-Toons - the content and intention being secondary concerns for those of us who believe in the priority of liberty.

The responses from some quarters have been depressing and pathetic. I've been imagining a more realistic and refreshing set of responses from all concerned. Rangers FC would admit that the 'root cause' of the offence lies in the fact that not a few of their supporters simply hate Catholics. The 'bhoys' along with their patrons in the Scottish Catholic Church would drop this cant about 'religious freedom' and combatting bigotry in Scottish football, turning instead to the path of recovery, which begins - as any alcoholic will tell you - by admitting that you too have a problem.

But this is a fantasy because we live in a country where someone can be secular, agnostic and almost completely indifferent to football, and will with all sincerity say he doesn't care what team his son grow up to support - as long as it isn't Glasgow Celtic. That's how deep it goes, people. I appreciate this is incomprehensible to those liberals who labour under the illusion that one's allegiances are always an outcome of one's own choices.

Update: Ruth Kelly pitches in:
"I must say I am surprised because this has traditionally been a country which has valued religious diversity - and cultural and racial diversity as well - and where there has been freedom of expression, both to express religious symbols but also other cultural symbols as well."
I must say I'm surprised that a Minister of the Crown is so poorly informed.

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