Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The war of the frogs and the mice

I opened the Grauniad today (yes, I am a Guardian-reading leftie) only to see yet another article on the national "controversy" about the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public. Tony Blair has been the latest to intervene in the debate, telling the CBI that although he is a "fan" of British Airways (he's a fan of all capitalist companies, sadly for the national debt) he thinks they should back down on trying to stop a worker, Nadia Eweida, wearing a small cross over, rather than under, her jacket. BA have already instituted a "review" of their uniform rules.

He's not the only one. Jack Straw said much the same thing in stronger terms last week, saying that he had to be in favour of the right to wear a cross because "he had always defended the right of Muslim women to wear a hijab" (unless, of course, they're talking to him). The Tories have jumped on the "issue", with Ann Widdecombe being her usual rabid self and calling for a boyctt of BA. Even the Liberal Democrats have chipped in with their twopenn'orth. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of the Church of England selling its shares in BA, in the same manner as it disinvested a few years ago in companies mnufacturing torture implements - having been attacked by members of his Church for flying on a BA plane. The racist newspapers like the Mail and the Express say this is part of a huge "politically correct" conspiracy against "English culture" (whatever that is!)

I hardly need to point out how absurd this all is. Were I Ms. Eweida's T&G shop steward I would of course take an interest in minor items of the dress code and have demanded a meeting with the managers to get them to stop being as silly as my fellow worker. But the matter should excite no interest beyond that. However, within a few days of Ms. Eweida, who refused to go to work, losing her tribunal claim for constructive dismissal the Prime Minister of Great Britain spoke about the matter to thye country's bosses' association; and everyone who is anyone in our moth-eaten Parliament has been shooting her or his stupid mouth off to the press.

I repeat, isn't it absurd? Not only religious organisations making such a huge fuss about virtually nothing, but politicians jumping on the bandwagon so enthusiastically. Do people really care? No-one I've met does. Once again we see politicians using religious issues to distract the public's attention from more important things, and thereby encouraging and giving credence to the maddest of religious sectarians. Though Ms. Eweida shouldn't have been excluded from work on the ground of her dress sense, it must be said that she is clearly barmy. She thinks that wearing a cross under rather than over her uniform is to "compromise her faith" so much that it is preferable to become unemployed. She says "I am not politically motivated or minded, I just follow the Biblical truth." Where in the Bible does it say one must wear a small cross above one's clothing? What Christian sect demands that its members werar a cross? Not even the Amish, though they prescribe every other aspect of the dress of the faithful. This whole daft affair is a veritable Batrachomyomachia of the soul!

It is sad, though alas not surprising, that the "debate" on religious dress codes has moved away from the important issue of the veil and the oppression of women and moved on to such trivialities. It is disgraceful that most commentators are militantly in favour of religious dress when is is a Christian who is being attacked, but suddenly turn all secular when Muslims are the subject of the attack. Thus even the most absurd little issue, having been magnified from molehill into mountain by religious nutters with the benefit of their friends in Parliament and the press, becomes a vehicle for racism, religious obscurantism, moral relativism, hypocrisy, political cynicism and all the rest of the old rubbish of the British political system.


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