First from Simon Hoggart:
"People find wine rather intimidating, and wine experts even scarier."Eh? I like wine and find 'wine experts' ridiculous. Doesn't everyone?
And never one to disappoint, Our Maddy of the Sorrows on the whole veil thingy:
"Does it not occur to men opining on their sense of "rejection" at the niqab that it could be equally prompted by separatist lesbians?"Um, dunno - are they likely to? And this would be a Good Thing? And what's a 'separatist lesbian' anyway?
This intriguing thought has been woven into an argument about the tendency of all religions to practice some degree of separation to the fallen world. I don't know what this has to do with lesbians either but here's the bit anyway:
"The point is that within all religious traditions there are trends emphasising the corrupting influences of the world and how one must keep them at a distance. Catholicism and the celibate monastic tradition of Buddhism interpret this in one way. Salafi Islam interprets it in modes of dress and behaviour in public places. Since when has secular Britain become so intolerant that it can't accommodate (no one is asking them to like) these small minorities of puritanical piety?"Serious point. All religions - or rather the religious - seek to differentiate themselves from the world in various ways but the two expressions Maddy uses here have got nothing much to do with each other.
Adherence to dress codes, ritual and diets are features of all religions everywhere but have nothing much to do with asceticism and everything to do with custom and the social function of religion.
But it is only when the spirit of religious asceticism is very strong does it drive an individual to the cloister.
The latter complete retreat to the other-worldly piety of the cloister is open, as our Mads says, to Buddhists and Catholics. The innovation of protestantism was to abolish this option.
Public displays of puritanism are entirely consistent with this mode of religious expression and it's often struck me that Islam shares many features in common with Calvinistic protestanism.
Thing is, since both traditions have a tendency for the zealous to urgently impress on the community the necessity and possibility of everyone being a religious virtuoso, has it never occurred to Maddy & Co. to admit the possibility that - 'separatist lesbians', nothwithstanding (?) - just maybe, somewhere in the world, there are perhaps one or two for whom conformity to this particular social custom might not be entirely voluntary?
Which is not to say Maddy's article wasn't thought-provoking. For example, when she mentioned the "celibate monastic tradition of Buddhism", I realised that I was completely ignorant of the non-celibate tradition amongst Buddhist monks. Sounds a lot better - can you drink and stuff too if you join this tradition? You could sell me on the idea...