Monday, 19 October 2015

Syria: bishops and politicians

Sometimes it is rather difficult to tell bishops and politicians apart.
The letter written by eighty-four of the bishops of the Church of England [here], leaked, we are told, out of pent-up frustration with a lack of response from the British Government, has one significant flaw in that its major premise - that Britain should take in fifty thousand Syrian refugees - seems not to be supported by the Christian Churches in Syria [here]
One might think that bishops would be more vocally concerned with the lamentable lack of concern shown by the governments of the West towards the suffering of the region's Christian minorities, a policy which has descended into farce, were it not so tragic, with the support from the U.S and Britain for 'moderate Islamists' in Syria, some of whom are affiliated to .... yes, Al-Qaeda. Presumably, a 'moderate Islamist group' will forgo the barbaric pleasure of burning down churches and beheading our brothers and sisters in the faith for the lesser and more constitutional thrill of closing down places of Christian worship and imprisoning 'infidels' on trumped up charges of 'blasphemy.'
But the bishops, although laudably voicing a concern for compassion and hospitality, have in their very curiously-worded letter,  given the clear impression of being concerned more with the plight of economic migrants than the re-establishment of peace and security and the support of brutally persecuted ancient Christian communities in the countries our governments have naively done so much to destabilise. In this regard they are, unsurprisingly to many of us, merely displaying their liberal-left secular attitudes. To use the phrase 'moral grandstanding' would be unkind, but not wholly inaccurate - we have a wholly appropriate college of bishops for the age of social media.

And how do we best deal with the undoubtedly unrepresentative but nevertheless growing threat of home-grown Islamic extremism? The Government's latest proposals are examined [here] by Douglas Murray, who has serious concerns about their possible effect: once again we are betrayed by our prevailing culture's genuflection to the disturbed and inverted values of triumphant social marxism. 
"... But the second thing that hasn’t worked in Britain in recent years is that government hasn’t managed to do those things that government should do. Not least in failing to use laws that already exist. For instance it is a crime to belong to a proscribed organisation. But this law has only been used on a couple of occasions, and it is demonstrably the case that there are people wandering around our streets who are well-known members of very-much banned organisations. Likewise it seems clear to me that while you may not imprison everybody who preaches against the state, there is no clear reason why we as a nation should pay people benefits to preach against the state. Most of the prominent hate preachers in recent years have been living off benefits and have not, to the best of my knowledge, been told that if they don’t get a job then the benefits will stop. If government wonders what really pisses people off – this is a very good encapsulation. 
This should be the simplest and most obvious idea imaginable: don’t give money to people who want to destroy you. But the government hasn’t succeeded in dealing with such people, and it isn’t clear that this new strategy will get them any closer. If some crazed Islamist preacher still gets all his expenses and bills paid for by the state then it’s a bit rich for the government to lecture people about who they should or should not have to speak in their events spaces. 
This is obviously an area of some difficultly which is why successive governments have struggled about in it. But it is a disturbing thing that when a problem arises it is so often free speech which is leant on rather than anything else. Why should the existence of crazy preachers treading just within the law cause the bar to be lowered on what constitutes illegal speech, or speech which attracts the attention of government? Particularly when we as a society are so obviously failing to meet such people with the laws which are already in place and the standards any sane society would try to apply. If the government wants decent laws to tackle the Islamists they could do far worse than revisiting and reviving our treason and sedition laws. These are laws which most states have had at some point, are tools which any state should have at its disposal if they want to survive and are obviously the area around which many of the people who are of concern to the government are moving. But instead it is speech and expression which is being leant upon. 
I predict that these disruption orders will have several effects. The first is the risk that they will trample over precisely the liberties our society needs to be most rigorously defending, scoring an own goal our society could do without. The second is that they will almost certainly end up restricting the speech of people not yet considered..."

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