I am a bit bemused by Trevor Phillips’ recent Telegraph interview. Here he is on people who knock religion:
“I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege. They’re in a world where there are a lot of very clever people who have a lot of access to the airwaves and write endlessly in the newspapers knocking religion and mocking God. The people who want to drive religion underground are much more active, much more vocal.”
It seems insulting to those who are genuinely unable to practice their religion freely to use such emotive language. Religious people, some of whom are also very clever I assume, have access to the airwaves too – and are happy to air their (often more than simply mocking) views about those of other religions or none. To say that your average atheist, or even your average militant atheist, wants to drive religion underground is absurd hyperbole.
He also says:
“Faith identity is part of what makes life richer and more meaningful for the individual. It is a fundamental part of what makes some societies better than others in my view.”
As an atheist I find that attitude pretty insulting – and I don’t think someone who is supposed to promote equality should say this.
Trevor Phillips seems properly concerned about homophobia. I can’t fully evaluate this statement:
“If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.”
But there is clearly some intersection between homophobia and Caribbean culture. However I find it hard to believe that absolutely ‘homicidal’ attitudes are condoned by official spokespeople for the church.
Here’s another passage.
“Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.”
This comes straight after the passage on Afro-Caribbean homophobia. Clearly there are Muslims who are doing exactly what TP claims, but it doesn’t seem remotely helpful to make such a strong assertion and leave homophobic Muslim preachers as the very obvious elephant in the room. I assume TP is concerned about Islamophobia – and he’s right to be – but being so breathtakingly selective isn’t going to help much.