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Excuses, excuses: Sudan, Tuam and Birmingham

Three examples of evasion, excuse making and moral relativism.  The most bizarre is taken from an article by Stephen Hough in yesterday’s Telegraph, in which we are urged to remember the horrors of the Inquisition before we condemn the sentencing to death of an ‘apostate’ in Sudan.  It then got worse:

We often take comfort in historical distance – another ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario. In an interview with the Times newspaper last week David Cameron described the Sudanese ruling as being out of step with today’s world. That may be true in the bleeding and the screaming and the finality of hanging someone, but what about modern forms of torture and abuse? Venomous comments on internet forums and blogs may not break bones but they can break hearts as they spiral out of control across the world’s millions of computer screens. Many who are condemning the Sudanese judge will themselves have put a verbal knife into those with whom they disagree, not to mention those families who have cast out their own children who are gay or transgender.

Abusing someone on an internet forum, even disowning one’s child, is not the same as a death sentence, and such acts are not condoned, let alone initiated, by the state.

The second example is Father Fintan Monaghan’s response to the horrific discovery of the bodies of nearly 800 babies and small children in a disused sewage tank.

Father Fintan Monagahn, secretary of the Tuam archdiocese, says: “I suppose we can’t really judge the past from our point of view, from our lens. All we can do is mark it appropriately and make sure there is a suitable place here where people can come and remember the babies that died.”

Emer O’Toole responded in the Guardian:

Let’s not judge the past on our morals, then, but on the morals of the time. Was it OK, in mid-20th century Ireland, to throw the bodies of dead children into sewage tanks? Monaghan is really saying: “don’t judge the past at all”. But we must judge the past, because that is how we learn from it.

Finally, here’s a passage from yesterday’s Guardian editorial on the recent spat between May and Gove:

“Mrs May thinks it is perfectly possible to hold extreme religious views without posing a threat to security, and is admirably sensitive to the dangers of looking like an Islamophobe by intervening in matters of faith.”

Jim Denham offers a fuller account of the Guardian’s coverage of the allegations about extremism in Birmingham’s schools, but the slipperiness of just that one sentence particularly struck me.

The writer gives the impression that anything short of ‘a threat to security’ is probably quite trivial – even if that means, say, believing that apostates deserve to die, and spreading that view.  (And many who do subscribe to that teaching would never condone, let alone participate in, terrorism.) There’ s nothing wrong at all in considering how to avoid even the appearance of anti-Muslim bigotry in the investigation, as long as the investigation itself is not hampered or compromised. But of course in some people’s eyes just about any criticism of Muslim beliefs and practices (including ones many other Muslims deplore) is denounced as ‘Islamophobia’.  And the Guardian’s coverage hasn’t done much to challenge that view, although some other papers seem to have erred in the other direction – see, for example, the Mail’s sensational headline about school closures, which must have caused unnecessary further worry for parents and children.