Does Baroness Warsi even know what ‘Secularism’ means?

The recent speech by the Tory Party co-Chairman, Minister without Portfolio and self-anointed defender of the faith, any faith, Lady Warsi (who was made a peer because she couldn’t win an election) on the dangers of ‘militant secularisation’ was pretty grim stuff. And naturally was welcomed vociferously by the Vatican. Here’s the relevant quote from the speech:

“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. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.”

Yes I hear that beeping too. It’s that familiar white noise one hears when one receives a Tory Straw Man Alert.

Warsi is not the smartest woman and her political career is defined by its spectacular ineptitude. She appears to solely owe her position to the need for the Tories to tick the ethnic minority box as they don’t want us to think they are racists anymore. Normally I wouldn’t even bother commenting. But it is offensive on so many levels that Mr Mambo just feels compelled to respond.

The speech firstly implies that ‘militant secularisation’ is a process being led by some group or party. It isn’t. People are just naturally losing interest in religion, thankfully, and the way our society is evolving is reflecting that. It’s a perfectly natural process, as over time we start to question the ludicrous assertions of religious teaching.

The misunderstanding of language is horrifying and I can only assume deliberate. If Warsi is opposed to ‘secularism,’ i.e. the separation of church and state (as that is all that secularism is, I’m afraid), then what is her preferred alternative? A religious state? A society can be deeply religious but also rigorously secular. The two are not mutually exclusive.

All secularism implies is that religion is kept out of the public sphere and people are allowed to make their own decisions about their faith and if they want to have faith at all. In no way does it deny ‘people the right to a religious identity’ as Warsi blithely and incorrectly asserts. Indeed quite the opposite. Secularism is the guarantor of the right to a religious identity in a religiously plural society.

The stuff about totalitarianism is so patently absurd as to be hardly worth responding to. I literally have no idea what she means when she says “they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities” (who is the they she refers to? Do the militant secularists have a club? Can I join?)  Genuinely secular societies are the most open and tolerant. They allow to people to practice their faith however they wish privately as they ensure it stays out of the political sphere. It’s as simple as that. Religious regimes are by their very definition totalitarian: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Warsi asserts that Christianity should retain its central role in public life:

“You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you should or could erase the spires from our landscapes”

Firstly no one is suggesting that Christianity is erased from our culture. It would be an impossibility in any case.

And Warsi, a Muslim, should be careful what she wishes for. If overtly Christian politicians started dictating policy, then Muslims might find things a lot more uncomfortable. Let us recall the words of the Pope (you know, the one who is apparently welcoming Warsi’s speech so fulsomely) in his infamous 2006 Regensburg Lecture:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”

I suppose you have to admire the honesty of the man. And Catholicism has never done anything as ghastly as “spread by the sword the faith”, has it………

When Tory politicians start talking about religion and morals my eyes always start to glaze over. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of having to endure lectures from a party of shaggers, expenses fiddlers and liars, it highlights how utterly divorced from reality they are. They want Britain to be ‘a Christian nation’ and they think that if they bang on about it often enough it will happen, and if it doesn’t then at least they can continue with the pretence.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam Flowers
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 23:21:00

    I don’t know which is the more ludicrous – her speech or Michael Gove’s plan to send a signed copy of the King James Bible to every school in the country!

    I do wonder if a Militant Secular Society should now be set up, just for the fun and spite of it!

    Reply

  2. Jim Denham
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 18:33:20

    Militant Secular Society? Sign me up now!

    Reply

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