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As I wrote this post listening to RMC last week, the French were discussing the attack on US embassies in Libya and Egypt because of the American film Innocence of Muslims.

Most Muslims on the morning news show Les Grandes Gueules said the Muslim attacks were unwarranted although the film is deliberately provocative. Still, poor production values are no cause for offence (sarcasm alert), and most of the Middle Eastern countries have very low internet speeds, so it is unlikely that the protestors and agitators have even seen the film in question. Some of RMC’s callers said that the attackers were looking for any excuse to express their anti-Americanism. Note the date: 9/11.

Since then, violence has escalated outside the Middle East and with more targets than America’s  embassies. My condolences to those who have been injured and my sympathy to the families and friends of those who were killed in these atrocities. My prayers go out to all of them.

In Britain, two posts worth reading, including comments, can be found at Cranmer and Heresy Corner. Cranmer‘s concerns the American film. Heresy Corner‘s discusses a Channel 4 (C4) film, Islam: The Untold Story, which the station showed last month. C4 planned to show it again privately in their offices but have now cancelled the screening because of 1,000 complaints from the on-air broadcast.

The Innocence of Muslims is, according to Cranmer, not very well made. The Wikipedia entry for the film casts doubt on the identity of the man behind the film, Sam Bacile. There might not be any such person. Bacile may be the group of people behind the film. Or maybe not.

Islam: The Untold Story is another matter. Tom Holland is a historian who has carefully researched the life of Mohammed and Islam. The documentary came from his eponymous book. It seems, however, that a non-Muslim must not involve himself with an examination of Islam.

Never mind that several years ago the Muslim Rageh Omaar made a Lenten series about the life of Jesus Christ for the BBC, which was very good. In fact, it was so good that I thought Omaar might convert to Christianity as a result.

In the recent Coalition Cabinet reshuffle, Baroness Warsi, a Muslim, was named the new Minister for Faith and Communities. We do not know yet what that entails and why such a position is necessary.  After all, the various religions practiced in Britain are already organised and religious leaders organise interfaith activities at a local level up and down the country.

My concerns with a Faith and Communities post are twofold. First, it might have come from an international diktat — the EU or the UN.  It would be interesting to know what other countries have a similar minister.  Second, it puts faith under state oversight.

Whereas our established Church of England runs alongside the government and intersects in the House of Lords and with our Head of State, the Queen, this Faith and Communities position could start dictating what goes on in our churches. Gay marriage ceremony mandates spring to mind, starting with our established Church.

Dictating to churches was a Third Reich policy:

Although Nazi policy at first seemed to tolerate church autonomy, it soon became clear that official tolerance of Christian religious groups would last only as long as the churches accepted synchronization–the alignment of the church, along with other areas of society, with Nazi goals.

There is more at the link. This is a potentially dangerous precedent.

Another thing that’s interesting is that Muslims head our Faith and Communities as well as the BBC’s religious programming departments. What does this mean, if anything? It just seems unusual in a country where Muslims are clearly in the minority — between 2% and 4% of the British population, depending on one’s source.

Meanwhile, the controversy of wearing crosses and crucifixes continues. Earlier this month:

Landmark cases, brought by four British Christians, including two workers forced out of their jobs after visibly wearing crosses, were heard on Tuesday at the European Court of Human Rights, a judgement will follow at a later.

Despite previous pledges by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, that he would change the law to protect religious expression at work, government lawyers insisted that there was a “difference between the professional and private sphere”.

James Eadie QC, acting for the government, told the European court that the refusal to allow an NHS nurse and a British Airways worker to visibly wear a crucifix at work “did not prevent either of them practicing religion in private”, which would be protected by human rights law.

He argued that a Christian facing problems at work with religious expression needed to consider their position and that they were not discriminated against if they still have the choice of leaving their job and finding new employment.

“There are two aspects to this part of the argument. Firstly resigning and moving to another job and secondly there is clear and consistent jurisprudence that the person who asserts religious rights may on occasion have to take account of their position,” he said.

The comments which follow, the Telegraph attracting a number of vociferous atheists, equate a small cross with saying ‘Hello, I am an evangelist’. The mind boggles. The same people excused the wearing of hijabs and niqabs as they were ‘required’. In fact, they are cultural and not historic for many Muslim nations. Well, we shall see how well atheism fares in future in England, should Islam gain a stronger presence.

A week after Justice Eadie’s pronouncement, Liberal Democrat and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg nearly had a go at Britons who oppose gay marriage. He planned to give a speech which included these sentences:

Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once.

It is customary for some speeches to be released to the media prior to an event. In this case:

Mr Clegg’s comments about “bigots” were issued at 3pm yesterday and, within a few minutes, they were being widely reported on the internet. At 4.30pm, Mr Clegg’s office issued an email asking to “recall” the original statement, then sent a new version of the speech.

‘Bigots’ was changed to ‘some people’. Although Mr Clegg is an atheist, he sends his children to a Christian school.

A day after Clegg’s speech furore, the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, wrote an editorial defending Christian values:

… The interpretation of human rights laws cuts both ways: just as we have resisted gold-plating made in the name of religion, so we must resist spurious legal challenges against religion. Nor should we allow equality laws to open the door to moral relativism and reduce established religion to the equivalent status of any other belief. We should not be bashful about asserting that the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church have a greater role to play in the public life of our nation than the Church of Elvis or the Church of Scientology.

I believe that the Christian Churches have a unique position in British society and a particularly strong claim to be heard. We are a stronger country when we embrace the religious character of our nation, and when we champion what unites the British peoples across class, creed and colour.

We shall see what happens, although I’m not hopeful, but as Gregg at A Brief Encounter says:

Since I was a child I have worn a crucifix, admittedly under my shirt, t-shirt or whatever but occasionally it is visible. As far as I’m aware my wearing of a crucifix has never harmed another person so why shouldn’t people be allowed to wear one to work just as other people wear necklaces?

The fact that people have to fight for this right in the courts shows what a sorry, authoritarian state we are living under. Stalin and Hitler would be proud.

Just so.

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