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Tuesday 14 February 2012

Dave And A God Whistle

One can imagine the cabinet meeting and agonising over how to keep up the appeal to the voters. The shine has come off Young Dave’s jolly good veto deployment in Brussels, there has been more bad economic news from another of those – admittedly next to useless – ratings agencies, and of course there is Abu Qatada yet again being very, very dangerous. Allegedly.

What the Coalition needs is a good old fashioned dog-whistle issue that will appeal to the kinds of papers which can sway opinion. With the Sun, or at least several of its hacks, in the mire, that means the Daily Mail. And there, the touchstone issue is that Christianity is under attack. But what if Cameron could broaden that to include all religions? And maybe get a non-Christian to spread the message?

By the happiest of coincidences, that is exactly what Sayeeda Warsi has done with a piece in the Maily Telegraph. The sole Muslim minister in the cabinet is heading a delegation to the Vatican, and making an appropriately bullish defence of religion, and Christianity in particular: “those who wrote the European constitution made no mention of God or Christianity” she laments.

And rightly so: there would have been many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Scientologists, Pagans and others who would have taken instant exception to anything that even hinted at a sole claim on religiosity – not to mention all the various flavours of Christianity that would project their own take on the scriptures onto any mention of that religion. This is a subject wisely left alone.

Moreover, Warsi’s assertion that there is a “militant secularisation” (just to make sure you don’t miss that, she says it twice) is baloney. She’d have been far nearer the mark had she said “apathetic” instead of “militant”. Secularism never did car bombings, assassinations, invasions, annexations, and of course crusades. I do hope Sayeeda remembers crusades. They featured lots of religious conflict.

And I don’t go with her assertion that “totalitarian regimes” means “targeting of organised religion”. Mussolini didn’t do that in Italy, nor Hitler in Nazi Germany (the saying “kuche, kirche, kinder” has a clue in it). Spanish currency during Franco’s reign referred topor la glorie de Dios” (by the grace of God). Salazar’s Estado Novo reflected Catholic social doctrine and papal encyclicals.

Sayeeda Warsi says she will be “fighting for faith”, but she has no need to. The constant stream of inflated stories asserting that Christianity is “under threat” is so much hot air, the result of faith groups playing a victimhood agenda. The established Church has a guaranteed place in the legislature. The head of state is also head of that Church. There is little point in fighting for something already thus privileged.

But it might get the opinion polls to turn upward, so that’s all right, then.

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