We found this article in the Times most charming, and very wise. What a shame that we have to be steered in the right direction by someone like Daniel Finkelstein who is, to state the obvious, Jewish and a first-generation immigrant. We ought to have been thinking all this ourselves …
Tu B'shvat. Latkes. Kinloss. Simchat Torah. The four questions. Viennas. Halacha dictates that you should affix your mezuzah on the right side of the door in the upper third of the doorpost within approximately three inches of the opening. Chrain.
If you are not Jewish my list will have lost you by now. Other people's religions are mystifying. The son of God - who came up with that one? The Eucharist - what's that when it's at home?
Fortunately you don't need to understand any of the words with which I started this column. (Although I recommend finding out about latkes. And Viennas. Oh, and chrain.) If you insist on learning - because you think it might come up in a quiz or something - then by all means go ahead. But not on my account. All I really need you to do is leave me alone to get on with it.
And I don't doubt that you will. That's what I love about Britain. Our country is a very tolerant, quiet, modest, hospitable sort of place. We try and leave others in peace and expect to be left in peace ourselves. When a mass murderer is discovered in our midst, the neighbours still murmur with approval: "He kept himself to himself."
You know what else I love? That none of you will have questioned my right to use the word "our" about this country, even though I am the son of immigrants naturalised not long before I was born.
Imprisoned by communists and Nazis, expelled from their homes, seeing their relatives die, forced to start again with nothing, my parents found peace and freedom in this country. Because of its traditions and its culture. Because there is something precious about this place.
Now I'll tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like you to look after it. I'd like you to stand up for the principles that make this country what it is, even when it's mildly awkward to do so. And an awkward case has just arisen, as it happens. So I can test your resolve.
Over in East Oxford, the Central Mosque wants to issue a call to prayer by loudspeaker three times a day. As the mosque's spokeman, Sardar Rana, put it: "The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions." He then added, without, I think, trying to be funny: "I don't think it would disturb anybody."
You can see why this is awkward, can't you? The first, and correct, instinct of the Englishman is to see if we can accommodate the request without any fuss. It is, however, hard to see how this is possible. With the best will in the world, the muezzin's electronically enhanced recitation is going to be an intrusion.
Yet I don't think it's enough to confine one's objection purely to the noise.
Let me dispense with a couple of minor - but in my view incorrect - arguments about the call to prayer. There's nothing all that wrong with the words that would be recited. Apart from anything else it would be in Arabic. And yes, the muezzin will announce that God is great, but fortunately we are entitled in Britain to disagree. I don't accept either the idea that this call to prayer would create a Muslim ghetto. Nor would I fear such a thing. It is natural that Muslims want to live near each other anyway, just as Jews do. And that they will wish to live near the mosque.
These arguments are diversions from the important principle involved. And that concerns this country's status as a Christian country with an established Church. Perhaps you feel reluctant to use this argument - feeling it a departure from inclusiveness. Well, I don't think you should be reluctant in the slightest.
Immigrants and their children in this country receive a fantastic deal. We are able to practise our religion in peace. We can openly enjoy our culture. Our colleagues tolerate our taking vacations on holy days and they even let their children be taught about some of our practices, which is most courteous, I must say.
In return I think it reasonable for us to show respect for the majority religion and for the established religious institutions. We could, after all, live somewhere else. We came here on purpose. And here we have a right to practise, but not to dominate the public space. We have the right to pray, but not to blare out our prayer across Cowley.
Let's say that the call to prayer, the sound of the muezzin from the minaret, is the most precious sound to you. You do not have to live in East Oxford. There are any number of mosques all over the world, loudspeakering away to their hearts' content. One of the reasons I support the existence of the state of Israel is that I feel there should be one place in the world where Jews can loudspeaker away. Although most of us Jews talk loud enough without a megaphone, so we can settle in Pinner.
Here, however, they have church bells. And the Queen is defender of the faith. Many members of the Church of England aren't very religious - my favourite Spitting Image joke involved a man knocking on a door and saying: "Jehovah's Witnesses here. Do you believe in God?" To which the man inside replied: "No, I'm C of E." But even among the less religious many marry in church and are buried in a churchyard. And religiosity isn't the only issue here. It's also culture.
Why should the mild, gentle culture of the Anglicans not deserve the same preservation and respect as any other ancient culture? I regard the Jewish tradition as something I hold in trust for my children. What of the culture and sights and sounds of this country and its heritage?
I'm not calling for a retreat from the tolerance and mutual respect of this country. That's the last thing I want. I depend on it, don't I?
It's just that I don't think tolerance and mutual respect come from nowhere. There's a reason why this country shows it, why we have fought for it, and died for it. I am just saying that if this country doesn't protect its own heritage and culture, how can I expect it to protect mine?
Interestingly, the article drew 103 comments from Times readers. Is this a record? Whether it is or not, it certainly demonstrates how concerned ordinary British people are about our rulers' failure to demonstrate the slightest backbone when challenged - and I include in that, local councils as well as central government, all manner of council officials, civil servants and other jobsworths, as well as left-wing pressure groups, academic so-called "experts" and religious leaders.
The one religious leader that can't be included is the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who comes from Pakistan and has also put the rest of us to shame by his outspoken bravery.
Still, once in a while something good does happen. Following a campaign by David Cameron, Muslim extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi has been refused a visa to enter the UK. He supports suicide attacks on Israel, has called for the state of Israel to be destroyed, believes that homosexuals should be put to death and is said to favour domestic violence against women. Nice man.
Naturally the Muslim Council of Britain has accused the government of caving in to "unreasonable demands spearheaded by the Tory leader", and is blaming the "Zionist lobby".
Showing a capacity for sheer gall that would beggar belief from any other source, their spokesman Muhammed Sawalha said "Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit. These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world. We would have to go as far back as the medieval age when scholars were hounded and vilified in order to find a similar retrograde decision."
Some commentators have complained that David Cameron has espoused this issue purely to grab the populist vote. This is probably true. On the other hand, if this means he is reflecting the wishes of the majority of the electorate, then more power to him. We all know that the opinions of the electorate are not held in particularly high esteem on the other side of the House.
And if Muhammed Sawalha is all that keen to hear what the mullah has to say, I think it would be worth the government's while to pay his air-fare to whatever Muslim hell-hole al-Qaradawi is currently blessing with his presence. With a bit of luck he'd forget to come back.
Meanwhile in sunny Leeds, that other Muslim hell-hole, three women have been convicted for ignoring a murder under their own roof.
Shazad Khan had married a 15-year-old Pakistani village girl who spoke no English in 2002. Three years later he brought her over to Leeds, imprisoned her in the house, and systematically beat her to death over the next three months. When she died she had 15 broken ribs and bruising over 85 per cent of her body and, according to a pathologist, looked like the victim of a catastrophic road accident.
Khan was convicted of her murder a year ago. Yesterday his mother, Phullan Bibi, 52, two sisters aged 28 and 23, and his brother-in-law Majid Hussain were all found guilty of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult under the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004. The judge told the family that they should be prepared for custodial sentences before they were bailed overnight to reappear before the court today.
As the jury delivered the verdicts all three women began wailing and shouting in the dock. The sisters hugged each other screaming "not guilty, not guilty" while their mother stood up and shouted abuse, slamming her hands down on the bench, before collapsing on the floor. They found the verdict utterly unfair because, as one of the sisters had explained in court, the injuries were caused by evil spirits and black magic.
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