Tell them we’re overflowing with respect

Joan Smith nails the problem.

In the past, Catholics and Protestants took turns to slaughter each other as Sunni and Shia are doing now, but Christianity has to a large extent been secularised…At the heart of this process is an alteration in the status of religious texts…The idea that a single book written centuries ago has unique authority – in effect, a veto over all other ideas – makes no sense in societies where intellectual curiosity is valued and encouraged. Yesterday Inayat Bunglawala, assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, criticised the arrest of Ms Gibbons in Sudan and described it as a “quite horrible misunderstanding”. But during a public debate in London two weeks ago, he refused my invitation to condemn unequivocally the practice of stoning women to death for adultery. It had happened during the lifetime of the Prophet, he said, “so you are asking me to condemn my Prophet”.

If that’s what it takes, certainly. If ‘your Prophet’ commands or condones stoning women to death for adultery (or anything else for that matter) then yes.

Bunglawala is not the guy to turn to for reasonable views.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also said it appeared to have been a “quite horrible misunderstanding” and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested. There was no apparent intention to offend Islamic sensibilities or defame the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad, he said.

What if there had been? If there had been, should she then have been arrested? Should ‘defaming the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad’ or ‘offending Islamic sensibilities’ be a criminal offense under the law? It’s good that Bunglawala said Gibbons shouldn’t have been arrested, but his reason for saying so is not so good, and the fact that the BBC is still automatically phoning the MCB for the obligatory comment is also not good. The BBC still needs to expand its Rolodex.

Notice that the government still feels obliged (understandably under the circumstances) to keep saying with nervous urgency that it respects respects respects.

After the meeting with Ambassador Omer Siddig, Mr Miliband said he emphasised Britain’s respect of Islam and the “close relations” between the two countries. “The Sudanese Ambassador undertook to ensure our concerns were relayed to Khartoum at the highest level. He also said he would reflect back to Khartoum the real respect for the Islamic religion in this country.”

Uh huh. That’s not respect, it’s fear.

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