Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


Life in Kabul, again

Mar 2nd, 2009 11:51 am | By

Paween Mushtakhel loved acting, and was very successful at it; now she wishes she had never discovered the stage.

In December her husband was murdered by unknown gunmen outside their home after defying months of telephone warnings to stop his wife appearing on television. “I killed my husband with my acting,” [she] says…She has spent the past three months in hiding, fearful for her life and those of her two young children. Her only option, she says, is to flee the country. She is not alone. There is an unease bordering on dread among many working women as the restrictions of the Taleban era begin to encroach again on the relative liberalism of Afghanistan’s cities. “The atmosphere has changed,” she said. “Day by day women can work less and less.”

Well god hates women, after all, so what do you expect.

Mushtakhel reels off a list of high-risk professions for Afghan women: serving in parliament, working for foreign aid agencies, journalism, medicine, teaching, performing as an actress, singer or dancer. The Taleban justifies its attacks on such women by alleging that they are a cover for immoral acts and prostitution. Western employers and managers concur privately that women Afghan employees have begun to resign rather face the risks…The murder of Afghanistan’s most celebrated female police officer, Malalai Kakar, in September was a grim milestone. It was followed by a stream of killings of women journalists, teachers and workers, including four Western female aid workers in the past year.

All in the name of justice, compassion and mercy, no doubt.



Once you eat the cake, it’s gone

Mar 2nd, 2009 10:25 am | By

Well which is it? Cherie Blair seems to want to have it both ways, or all ways. She says Christians are ‘marginalized in society.’

‘Everywhere you look today churches are being closed, Christians are often being marginalised and faith is something few people like to discuss openly.’…She added: ‘People used to suggest that Tony and George would actually pray together and that never happened of course.’

But why ‘of course’? If it’s worrying or upsetting or unfair that ‘Christians are often being marginalised’ then why is it ‘of course’ that Tony and George would not actually pray together?

The problem here is that there are very good reasons for citizens to be alarmed if their heads of state are praying together, because it would seem to imply that they are handing some of their duties and decisions over to a non-existent deity. But then that would be why ‘Christians are often being marginalised,’ too. If it’s true that Christians are being marginzalized, then that is at least partly because the rest of us think Christianity lacks rational foundations – but Cherie Blair seems to be at least partly aware of that when she says ‘of course’ Tony and George would never pray together. If Christianity were self-evidently reasonable, then why would it be a problem if Tony and George did pray together? She can’t have it both ways. She can’t pretend ‘faith’ is perfectly sensible and not worthy of being marginalized and at the same time treat as ludicrous the idea that Tony and George would pray together.

[Cherie] Blair said women were “virtually invisible” in the public face of Christianity and that its failure to recover from the social changes of the 1960s was one of its “fundamental weaknesses”. “Until the traditional churches fully resolve their relationship with the female half of the population, how can they expect Christianity to have a future in the modern world?” she asked.

Quite. So why does Cherie Blair expect the rest of us to refrain from ‘marginalizing’ (i.e. ignoring, dismissing, disagreeing with, mocking) Christianity? She doesn’t say, at least not in this piece. She doesn’t seem to be terribly reflective on the subject, frankly.



800 words, nothing too harsh

Mar 1st, 2009 12:53 pm | By

Nicholas Beale notes on his blog, ‘Quite a favourable review in the FT by Julian Baggini.’ The funny thing about that is that Julian said in his Talking Philosophy post that the FT rejected his first two drafts partly because they were ‘not sufficiently even-handed’ – which, when you compare the review to the TP post, clearly means not favourable enough. Yes it’s quite a favourable review in the FT, because the FT demanded a quite favourable review.

That’s funny in light of Beale’s post but it’s annoying in light of reality and justice. It’s annoying that media outlets commission reviews and then tell the reviewer what to say. It’s annoying that this book by Polkinghorne and Beale got a better review than it would have without FT nudging, especially in light of what we have seen of Beale’s way with an argument. I must be naïve, I thought reviews in responsible newspapers and magazines were supposed to be what the reviewer actually thought, not what the editors specified. I thought the reviewers were supposed to say what they found, not find what the editors told them to find in advance. Another illusion shattered.



A little warning

Mar 1st, 2009 11:49 am | By

Jeremy is going to move B&W to a different server this week (now you know why we needed the extra cache, just to make triply sure), so B&W may disappear for a day or two. Now you know this so you won’t turn pale and faint if it happens.



A little note from God

Feb 28th, 2009 5:59 pm | By

I jumped into the argument with Nicholas Beale, and – like several other people there, ended up surprised and a little shocked at his evasiveness, or shiftiness as Eric called it. NB said on Thursday about the putative Loving Ultimate Creator:

If a LUC exists then (s)he is unlikely to be incompetent and will therefore have some communication with the people (s)he loves. So if (s)he exists it’s reasonable to suspect that at least one of the major religions has a substantial core of truth.

I pointed out that the LUC hadn’t communicated with me, for one. He replied:

of course God communicates with you. But he doesn’t force you to listen or respond. That is freedom – and love.

I find that kind of thing annoying – downright rude in fact. No God does not communicate with me, and it’s presumptuous for strangers to tell me it does. Then of course what NB said is silly nonsense besides. I retorted, and got an even sillier response:

Surely you have heard of Jesus of Nazareth? A really fundamental difficulty that a lot of atheists seem to have is that they don’t seriously consider the possibility that Christianity is true…I’d hope that everyone on this blog would (at least on reflection) agree that if C is true then the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is a genuine communication from God.

No, I don’t. Even if ‘Christianity is true’ (and it’s not clear what that means) the fact remains that I have received no communication from God. It can’t be called a communication if I remain unaware of it and/or don’t believe in its validity. I don’t take the stories in Mark, Matthew and Luke to be anything other than stories with perhaps some traces of truth in them about what Jesus said. They’re words in a book; books can be wrong, they can be faked, they can be corrupted in transmission, they can be garbled. I don’t take some words in a book to be a communication from God, and I don’t think it’s sensible for anyone to take them that way – yet it proved to be impossible to get Nicholas Beale to deal with that question instead of a different one of his own choosing. He didn’t answer anyone else’s question either. Altogether it was not a very impressive performance.



The priority of morality to law

Feb 28th, 2009 11:42 am | By

Amartya Sen considers the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[T]he Declaration took the firm view that human rights do not depend on legislation for recognition. People have these rights simply by virtue of being human. The contention here was that the acknowledgment of a human right is best seen not as a putative legal instrument, but as an important ethical demand–a demand that everyone should have certain freedoms irrespective of citizenship, nationality, and location. Such a recognition would lead to fresh legislation rather than await it. The Declaration championed the priority of morality to law.

That’s useful – the idea that the acknowledgment of a human right should be seen as an important ethical demand rather than as a legal instrument. The ethical demand comes first, then the legal instruments are drawn up in accordance with it.

Such a recognition would lead to fresh legislation rather than await it. The Declaration championed the priority of morality to law. It constituted an open invitation to all to re-organize the world in such a way that the basic freedoms recognized as rights would actually be realized.

Yeah. It’s also an open invitation to all to notice places where that is not happening, and to make ethical demands about them.



Our strong intuition

Feb 26th, 2009 12:37 pm | By

What is ‘God’? Nicholas Beale offers one answer:

On the loving bit, philosophically I’m inclined to offer “Loving Ultimate Creator” as a defintion of God. That is clearly fundamental to Christianity and I think broadly consonant with Islam & Judaism. It offers a philosophical explanations for Anthropic Fine-tuning the intelligibility of the universe, the existence of objective morality and beauty, and our strong intuition that love is the most important and fundamental aspect of the universe.

Whose strong intuition that love is the most important and fundamental aspect of the universe? Who is the we in that ‘our’? Beale and Polkinghorne? Theists? Human beings in general?

I don’t know, but I know I have no such intuition. My intuition would be more that love is not an aspect of the universe at all, but rather an aspect of animal mental life. Yeah in a trivial sense that makes it an aspect of the universe, because that’s where it’s located, but the most important and fundamental aspect? No. Maybe Beale just means that as a grandiose way of saying important and fundamental to human beings…but that’s not clear.



Looking at pictures

Feb 26th, 2009 11:58 am | By

There are no atheists in CAT scanners – or are there.

Katja Wiech is a cheerful young German researcher who is fascinated by pain. She’s discovered many things—for example, when devout Catholics are given electric shocks while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary they feel less pain than atheists do when administered the same unpleasant treatment.

Mary; that’s interesting. Not Jesus, not God. (Showing people pictures of God is a little tricky of course. There are a few – that Michelangelo one of course, where God and Adam attempt to do a fist bump, and some medieval ones where God wears a mitre and looks eminently unSpiritual – but not so many that there’s a stock visual ‘God’ the way there kind of is a stock visual ‘Jesus’ [long hair, beard, blueish robe, pale unMediterranean skin, simpy look on face], so it would probably be hard to show subjects an unmistakable ‘picture of God’ whereas it’s easy with Mary. That’s iconography for you.) Mary is the intercessor, she’s supposed to be the forgiving one, the compassionate one – so is she more effective with pain? So is the effect more to do with the religious aspect or with the compassionate aspect? I wonder if the same effect can be induced with atheists via secular pictures if they are of the right kind. Pictures of Obama for instance? Mandela?

It would be interesting to know.



There is a part that is dangerous and ugly

Feb 25th, 2009 11:23 am | By

David Aaaronovitch heard ‘one of those fashionable voices that calls for more understanding of political Islamism and less confrontation’ on Start the Week on Monday.

The former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke, who has become a kind of Dr Dolittle of Islamist movements, was discussing his new book, Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution with Andrew Marr. Crooke’s point seemed to be that we in the West could learn a lot from Islamism, since it was, in some ways, morally superior to our fly-blown, materialist, individualist societies…Islamists wanted “a society based on compassion and justice”.

Oh do they. Then why is it that the first thing Islamists do is to kick girls out of school or tell women to ‘cover up’ or publicly stone to death a teenage girl who reports being raped? If they want a society based on compassion and justice, why do they go about it in such a stupid malevolent way? That’s not a straight question, of course, it’s heavy sarcasm. Of course Islamists don’t want ‘a society based on compassion and justice’ unless we change the meanings of ‘compassion and justice’ to mean the opposite of what they normally do mean. You might as well say the Nazis wanted a society based on compassion and justice, or that Pol Pot did, or that Milošević did. There is no justice in throwing acid on schoolgirls to bully them into staying out of school, or in burning down schools, or in locking up women, or in burying people up to the neck and then throwing rocks at their heads until they die. How dare he say such a disgusting thing?

Sure, Marr said, but what about the position of women, persecution of gays and the tendency towards blowing stuff up. “There is a part that is dangerous and ugly,” Crooke agreed…

But it is as nothing compared to the morally superior vision of a society based on compassion and justice. ‘Useful idiot’ would be a flattering description of Alastair Crooke.



Globalized, fluid, culturally impure

Feb 24th, 2009 11:57 am | By

Katha Pollitt read Johann Hari’s article.

[I]t would be nice to say that the world has learned what happens when freedom of speech and thought is subordinated to religious authority. In fact, the lesson seems to be the opposite: careful, you might hurt the feelings of the faithful. Oh, and they might kill you.

And, as Katha doesn’t go on to say but could have, since you hurt their feelings, it would be your fault if they did kill you.

Here on the American left we tend to see these incidents as gratuitous provocations by insensitive Westerners, and there’s something to that…The problem with that argument is that the same spirit of religious dogmatism backed by violence that shaped the protests against perceived Western insults operates, far more powerfully, in Islamic states–against their own citizens. In Iran and Pakistan, women have been imprisoned for protesting Sharia law. In 2008 Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a student in Afghanistan, our client state, was sentenced to death for the crime of downloading a report about women’s rights. Even in relatively secular Egypt, blogger Reda Abdel-Rahman was jailed and tortured for calling for an Islam that does not include Sharia.

Well…yes, but…well it’s still worse when those bastard Western secularists do it than it is when the authentic homegrown unWestern authoritarian bullies do it.

Appeals to the hurt feelings of religious people are just a dodge to protect the antidemocratic and retrograde policies of religious states and organizations. We’re all adults; we have to live with unwelcome expression every day. What’s so special about religion that it should be uniquely cocooned? After all, nobody at the UN is suggesting that atheists should be protected from offense–let alone women, gays, leftists or other targets popular with the faithful. What about our feelings? How can it be logical to say that women can’t point out sexism in the Bible or the Koran but clerics can use those texts to declare women inferior, unclean and in need of male control?

It can’t, but that’s okay, because revelation don’t need no stinkin logic.

The clerics fight so hard to control speech because they know they are losing minds and hearts. Twenty years after the Satanic Verses fatwa, it’s more than ever Rushdie’s world – globalized, fluid, culturally impure. The fanatics just live there.

And blow bits of it up at regular intervals. Let’s hope we can hang on to the bulk of the real estate. Long live the culturally impure!



Defamation of religion, part 327

Feb 23rd, 2009 11:16 am | By

The IHEU is continuing to do sterling work in separating racism from criticism of religion, currently in preparation for Durban II.

In January 2009, the working group reviewed new references to religious matters for the Durban Review Conference outcome document. We note with concern that several of the propositions contained in paragraphs 24 to 28 may conflict with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning Freedom of Expression.

The IHEU doesn’t link to the outcome document; I think this is it, in case you want to consult paras 24-28.

The IHEU continues:

The use of the terms Islamophobia and Christianophobia confuse and conflate opposition to religious beliefs with hatred of the believer. Criticism of any religious belief or practice is permissible within clearly prescribed limits under Article 19 of the ICCPR. It should not be equated with intolerance, hatred or violence towards Muslims or Christians.

Quite. A point whose importance is difficult to exaggerate, given the role that beliefs of all kinds and especially religious beliefs (which are clung to with a fierceness in inverse proportion to their reasonableness) play in human life. If we can’t oppose particular kinds of beliefs, we are well and truly stuck.

As a number of delegations have pointed out in debates in the Human Rights Council, Defamation of Religion is a concept that has no place in Human Rights discourse. We would add that criticism of a religion – even amounting to ridicule or “defamation” – has nothing to do with racism and has no place in the outcome document.

Quite, again.



The possibility of such disputes is endless

Feb 22nd, 2009 12:52 pm | By

Salil Tripathi takes a different view from that of Leicester Library in asking why the Statesman caved in to demonstrations by the ‘offended’ in Kolkata.

Two reasons explain this. One is the ridiculous section of the Indian Penal Code S 295 (A) — which allows anyone offended by anything to demand that what offends him should be banned…India is a multi-everything country with a billion people, and the possibility of such disputes is endless. And that’s where the second reason comes in: the failure of the state to protect rights. Muslims protesting against the Statesman are able to get away with it because of this failure. Anyone who can take umbrage, does; and his hurt feelings take precedence over others’ right to express themselves freely. Instead of protecting the right of free expression, the state defends the offended, thus circumscribing meaningful debate.

And that is a bad thing, not a good one. It is an interference with meaningful debate, not a glowing opportunity to show yet more ‘respect’ for all ‘faiths’ (and total disrespect for the absence of ‘faith’). It is not something to cheer or pat each other on the back for, it is a groveling craven surrender and an encouragement of ever more unreasonable demands.



The scriptures of all the major faiths are given respect in this way

Feb 22nd, 2009 12:27 pm | By

Crawl crawl crawl crawl crawl.

[S]ome Muslims in Leicester had moved copies of the Koran to the top shelves of libraries, because they believe it is an insult to display it in a low position. The city’s librarians consulted the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all religious texts should be kept on the top shelf to ensure equality…“This meant that no offence is caused, as the scriptures of all the major faiths are given respect in this way, but none is higher than any other.”

So libraries shift from being secular public institutions that make books easily available to everyone, to ones that make displays of ‘respect’ to all of the ‘major faiths’ and whose officials creep around on their stomachs in the effort not to ‘insult’ anyone or anything including a book and not to ’cause offence’ to anyone including the most neurotically hypervigilant offence-sniffing hair-trigger mewling whining sniveling bed-wetters within the city limits.

So what are they going to say when the same people decide it would be a good wheeze to get offended and insulted about all the books written by atheists and apostates and unbelievers and women and gays? What are they going to say when it becomes apparent that once you let people dictate public policy by claiming to be religiously ‘offended’ and ‘insulted’ there is no place to stop? What are they going to say when a gang shows up and tells them to have the Koran on a high shelf and no other books at all?

I suppose they will say ‘Wait just a moment while we consult the Federation of Muslim Organisations.’



Women and fundamentalism

Feb 21st, 2009 12:22 pm | By

Rahila Gupta points out the horrible ironies and tensions:

The fallout from the Rushdie affair was the widespread growth of religious identities at the expense of racial and gender identities. Secular anti-racists began to declaim, even reclaim, their Muslim identity. Muslim women increasingly adopted the hijab as a symbol of pride in their religious identity, not recognising or even accepting the fact that it set women back by placing the onus on women’s safety on their modest dress and behaviour rather than male aggression. The left displayed a reluctance to challenge reactionary forces within our communities because it might be seen as racist.

And goes on displaying – so we get people defending the archbishop of Canterbury’s reactionary embrace of sharia as something with great (if elusive) potential for…liberalizing sharia. In some other universe.

The state’s response has been divided to say the least: the “fighting extremism” agenda after 7/7 has seen the active wooing of so-called “moderates” (often linked to extremist organisations overseas) who may be moderate on the question of public order but certainly not on the question of women. This has led, for instance, to an explosion of religious schools and the growing acceptance that some form of sharia law should be accommodated within the legal system.

Exactly. It’s a dismayingly common trope to identify extremism with terrorism and moderation with non-terrorism, completely ignoring the ‘extremism’ of reactionary rules and punishments for women, gays, ‘apostates’ and unbelievers. Ian Buruma does this regularly. It’s a bad mistake. Just ask the women of Swat.



Fold the tents

Feb 21st, 2009 11:47 am | By

Volunteers no longer needed; volunteers can pack up blankets and canteens and waterproof hats and go home; cache is made; many thanks.

And don’t forget to take care of yourselves, and stay alive. Seriously now. I’m not kidding.



Elliott

Feb 21st, 2009 11:40 am | By

Here’s some horrible news. Elliott Grasett died of a heart attack on Tuesday. I was in his address book so a relative very kindly let me know.

I checked, and – he commented here that day. On Indulge me for a moment. There’s always something so poignant about that – you know – ‘Why I was just talking to him yesterday…’

Very sad. I always enjoyed his comments; they seemed to bespeak a sterling guy.

Christian Jago died more than a year ago. And I suspect that something major – death or disability or kidnapping or something – happened to Karl, who used to comment regularly and often (and amusingly) and who also emailed me a lot, and then stopped abruptly – and then his email address stopped working.

So take care of yourselves. Button up your overcoats. Stay alive.



Volunteers needed

Feb 20th, 2009 10:39 am | By

You know how you’re always wondering how you can help B&W? I have a way. I need volunteers. I have a big job, and doing it all myself is 1) massively tedious and 2) an impediment to doing anything else, like updating B&W and going for long health-giving walks and eating chocolate.

The job is just backing up B&W. I need to archive it, and there are a lot of pages. Nearly 400 articles, about 75 months of Notes and Comment, lots of In Focus, In the Library, Bad Moves, Quotations, the Guide to Rhetoric – and so on. If we divide it up it won’t be so bad. If lots and lots of you step forward it will be hardly anything at all. Email me, and I’ll give you an assignment. Love ya, mean it.



When God says jump

Feb 20th, 2009 10:31 am | By

What’s the problem with theocratic law? Why shouldn’t we clap our hands and dance around the room when archbishops and imams suggest or insist that we should or must make our pesky secular system of law conform to God’s will or a Holy Book or ‘divine justice’? Why would we not want to do that and why is it illegitimate to try to force us to?

Because, whatever they may tell you, nobody knows what God’s will is, nobody knows that there is such a thing as a Holy Book, nobody knows what the divine will is. There is no reason to think there is a ‘God’ – even if there is a ‘God’ there still is no reason to think so, and no way to know what it thinks is justice, or if its idea of justice bears any resemblance to ours or rather looks much more like injustice, or wanton cruelty for the sake of it. We don’t know, we have no way to know, there is no reason to think we do know, there are only claims, which are indistinguishable from claims that could be made by any con artist. If there is no way to tell such claims apart, then there is no reason to believe any of them, and certainly no reason to demand that anyone else believe them, much less to mix them up with the law. Law has to be transparent and on the record, not hidden and mysterious and attributed to a supernatural realm that we can’t get at, or to allegedly divine or prophetic or holy people who died many centuries ago.

Lee Smolin made a helpful point in his Edge comment on Jerry Coyne’s ‘Seeing and Believing’:

The basic ethics of an open and free society are to be prepared to defend what you believe with reasoned argument from public evidence, be prepared to change your mind, and be tolerant of diverse views on questions the evidence does not suffice to decide. Religious faith that promises great gifts in a mythical hereafter as the reward for adherence to unverifiable claims contradicts these ethics.

Law belongs in the realm where we defend our claims with reasoned argument from public evidence and are prepared to change our minds, not the realm where we are bribed and threatened by means of unverifiable claims.



It is a sin to brush crumbs onto the floor

Feb 19th, 2009 12:30 pm | By

Oh the vacancy of the religious mind.

Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful, according to a Vatican report which states that the two sexes sin differently…”Men and women sin in different ways,” Msgr Wojciech Giertych, theologian to the papal household, wrote in L’Osservatore Romano…Msgr Giertych said the most difficult sin for men to face was lust, followed by gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed. For women, the most dangerous sins were pride, envy, anger, lust, and sloth, he added.

Oh for godsake, who cares. Gluttony, sloth, lust, pride – mind your own business, why don’t you, and while you’re at it, why don’t you worry about moral failings that actually matter? How’s that for an idea? Why don’t you leave sloth and gluttony up to everybody’s mummy and daddy and turn your attention to cruelty and oppression and exploitation instead? Why don’t you stop straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel? Eh? Eh? Why don’t you work on your priorities? Why don’t you improve your moral sensitivities?

The Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican’s most secretive departments, which fixes the punishments and indulgences handed down to sinners, last year updated its list of deadly sins to include more modern ones. The revised list included seven modern sins it said were becoming prevalent during an era of “unstoppable globalisation”. These included: genetic modification, experiments on the person, environmental pollution, taking or selling illegal drugs, social injustice, causing poverty and financial greed.

Taking drugs! Genetic modification! Mixed in with social injustice and causing poverty. They’re hopelessly confused.



Rowan Williams pipes up again

Feb 17th, 2009 11:07 am | By

The archbishop of Canterbury seems to be incapable of taking in new information that is inimical to what he already wants to believe. Perhaps this is not even worth pointing out, in an archbishop – except of course it is, however obvious it may be, because archbishops in the UK unfortunately have a huge amount of temporal power and also a considerable amount of influence.

On the anniversary of the interview in which Dr Rowan Williams said it “seems inevitable” that some parts of sharia would be enshrined in this country’s legal code, he claimed “a number of fairly senior people” now take the same view. He added that there is a “drift of understanding” towards what he was saying, and that the public sees the difference between letting Muslim courts decide divorces and wills, and allowing them to rule on criminal cases and impose harsh punishments.

Yes of course there’s a ‘difference’ but that does not mean, and it is not the case, that the difference in question is between harmful and harmless or cruel and benign or harsh and mild or irrationally fundamentalist and sweetly reasonable. There is a ‘difference’ but it remains the case that letting Muslim courts decide divorces and wills is a way to treat women grossly unequally.

The odd thing is that Williams must have been told this. He must have been told it a thousand times, in the strongest possible terms. So why can’t he take it in? What is the matter with the man? Apart from the fact that he’s an archbishop, of course. What is wrong with him? Why is he so determined to persuade the great British public that unequal rights for women is quite all right as long as the women in question are ‘members of the Muslim community’?

However critics insist that family disputes must be dealt with by civil law rather than according to religious principles, and claim the Archbishop’s comments have only helped the case of extremists while making Muslim women worse off, because they do not have equal rights under Islamic law.

Well duh. So how does Williams manage to ignore what critics say for a period of twelve months? Has he eaten of the multicultural lotus, or what?

Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “He has started a process which is deeply dangerous, damaging to Britain and to Muslim women in Britain. It was a wicked move because it undermines the progressives and gives succour to the extremists. How does the Archbishop of Canterbury know, sitting in Lambeth Palace, that a woman in Bolton has volunteered to give up half her inheritance to her brother?”

I would love to know, but I doubt that the archbish will be explaining any time soon.