Well, the 831-word diatribe here, which I then cut down to 449 words in attempt to have it published in the Leicester Mercury, was, last weekend, printed as a ‘Letter’, having been editorially ‘toned down’ to 278 words, as follows (re-formatted as per print version):
I’ve often wondered what it is Baroness Warsi does – and it strikes me that she must have wondered herself.
Hence how readily she embraced her chance to fly the flag for Cameron’s UK vision all the way to the Vatican, where, in her Valentine’s Day speech, she said militant secularism “demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes.”
This paranoid allying of secularism with totalitarianism was coupled with repeated reference to the Pope’s state visit to Britain in 2010, and how successful and well received this was.
But she diplomatically avoided mention of the accompanying controversy and protest.
Moreover, she declined to pass judgment on instances of conflict between faith and public policy, genuflecting to someone who continues to evade the serious questions that she wouldn’t dream of asking him.
It’s not “aggressive secularism by stealth” the religious need fear, it’s religious conservative authoritarians.
There were important matters to discuss with Vatican officials the following day: climate change, international aid, Somalia. This did yield a joint declaration calling for an “immediate end” to violence in Syria, which I imagine will make all the difference.
When Warsi says: “For me, one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant”, this exposes her ignorance of what secularism is.
She further misrepresents secularists as, “… the anti-religionists, the faith deniers… attempting to remove all trace of religion from culture, history and public discourse”.
Secularism is not intolerant of any faith; but it rejects that privileged place, and automatic unqualified respect, that religious leaders and lobby groups carry in our political decision-making bodies.
Warsi has embarrassingly let down her country.
What to make of this prudish, sentence-to-paragraph-meta-morphing expurgation of my words? It seems that my direct criticism of Baroness Warsi was deemed unacceptable/unprintable. Maybe (though I don’t know, because I don’t live there) she is particularly revered in Leicester, where she made a lengthy (convoluted) speech at the University early last year. Interestingly, the Bishop of Leicester – a ‘First Person’ column regular – had had his own take on the big bad secular bogeyman issue published in ‘full’. Now, I’ve no particular beef with the Bishop of Leicester, but I can’t help but notice the careful propriety here, whilst providing yet another (intentional or ignorant, I can’t be sure which) mis-representation of secularism:
‘What if the spires and towers of our parish churches were removed from our cityscapes and landscape? What if every village no longer had an ancient iconic building at its heart? What if the mosques, temples and gurdwaras were removed from Leicester?’
What is this paranoid nonsense? That secularism advocates and agitates for the totalitarian demolition of these buildings? ( ‘But there is no general desire to see a secular State from which all signs of human believing have been removed.’ – Interesting use of the upper case ‘S’ in there.) Is this really how he perceives this? Or how he wants the Leicester public to perceive it? I’ve never come across or read any secularist, or atheist, who argues such – and I would bristle at such Taliban-ite proscription.
Despite the abettor-requiring token nod to (some of) Leicester’s other faith groups, the Bishop makes what is otherwise an all out appeal to the maintenance of establishment Christianity. With the Head of the Established Church due to visit the city (which she did, last Thursday) to kick her off her Jubilee tour, there was opportunity to appeal to a bit of good old royalism, and to make the further insinuation that patriotism is only valid when allied to faith.
But this is easily missed, being all very nicely put; diplomatically couched (Note to self: If you want to have another column published… ); subtly defensive; inoffensively on the offensive. One might wonder, what is the real concern here?