Saturday, November 11, 2006

Offensive illiberalism

Gordon Brown and the BNP, as Tim Worstall, Chris Dillow and Dave Weeden have rightly pointed out, are both guilty of this.

Following the acquittal of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett on charges of inciting racial hatred, Gordon Brown has, in typically New Labour fashion, decided what we need is more laws to protect 'mainstream opinion':
"Chancellor Mr Brown said: "Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country.

"We have got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes.

"And if that means we have got to look at the laws again, we will have to do so."
Charlie Falcnor joins in the carnival of illiberalism:
"He said there should be "consequences" from saying Islam is "wicked and evil"."
Chris asks that since Richard Dawkins thinks religious education is 'child abuse', surely he too would fall foul of any law that proscribed this?

Logically yes - but I suspect Chris imputes too much method behind this government's authoritarian madness. This government seems to have the idea that religion in general is a Good Thing that should be supported by publicly-funded schools and laws that restrict free-speech and so on.

But Dawkins would probably be safe because his hostility to religion is an equal opportunities affair. He would be allowed to say he thinks, which he does, that Islam is a 'wicked religion' as long as he quickly added "and so is Christianity and Judaism".

People who say religion is a splendid thing would of course be safe, along with those who say that they like Christianity, Islam or Judaism in particular. I'd imagine a problem would arise, though, if supporters of any of these start to explain why they prefer them to the others.

Christians, for example, who think God said His final word through his son and that therefore Mohammed is in fact a false prophet might find themselves straying into dangerous territory.

As might Muslims who think Christians are dangerous heretics for thinking that not only was Yeshua Ben-Joseph a prophet but in fact the very incarnation of God. And if either of them expressed these opinions particularly forcefully, they'd be guilty of preaching hate.

The problem this government has is that probably the majority of Christians and Muslims, if they are at all orthodox in their beliefs, actually think something along these lines because exclusivity is central to all salvation religions.

Indeed it might be the case that one of the reasons that Muslims are more likely to come to people's attention for this sort of 'religious hatred' is simply because they have not yet learned to publicly evade, deflect and obfuscate in respose to questions about what they actually believe - unlike the disingenuous Church of England and Roman Catholic clerics who pop up occasionally on our TV screens and in our newspapers. Whenever they're actually asked questions of a probing nature, that is - a rare thing indeed.

Gordon Brown's proposals are not just offensive to 'mainstream' liberal opinion, then - they are intellectually absurd. I for one am heartily sick of hearing about Brown's 'intellectual gravitas' and how many goddam books he reads. So what? He's either reading the wrong kind - or he doesn't understand them.

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