Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mayor's office gives thumbs up to Catholic-bashing

Last week at a “forum” meeting of London’s LGBT groups at City Hall, one of Ken Livingstone’s advisors, Anni Marjoram, said in response to a report back on a Gay Rights march in Poland (which noted that the antigay protestors on the side of the road included priests and neo-Nazis in equal measure) that it was “not surprising… especially given the Pope’ s history”. She went on to blame “the Catholic lobby” for stalling equalities issues in the EU parliament.

Later in the same meeting, she lectured that criticism of Islam “at a time like this” is “racist”. Quite how criticism can be “racist” based on when it is said, rather than on what is said, was never explained.

Now I don’t disagree with her estimation of the Catholic Church. I think it is spot on. What concerns me is the hypocrisy. That she can openly infer that the Pope is a Nazi and blame Catholics for holding back progress on social issues in the EU in one breath, but then denounce any criticism of Islam on similar grounds as “racist” is just jaw-droppingly absurd.

Of course, as we all know by now, the chief beef that the Mayor’s office has with gay campaigners is their denunciation of Dr Yusuf Qaradawi as “reactionary” on women’s and gay rights. Of course, no one has yet called him a Nazi – that clearly is a slur reserved for the Mayor and his staff to fling about.

Another thing which stirred Ms Marjoram’s ire was the description by George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association of Islam as “a barmy ideology”. At least Mr Broadhead is consistent and has said the same about the Catholics, and indeed Christianity in general.

I pointed out that in an interview with ‘Something Jewish’ magazine, the Mayor himself had made similar remarks. He had said that religion was “mumbo jumbo” which he had rejected in favour of “rational science”. He then went on to describe how some of his peers had been traumatised because they’d attended faith-schools where they were subjected to “brutality and beatings”.

Furthermore, he seemed to suggest that religion was a disease, when he said it was something he didn’t “suffer from”.

Again, as a strident secularist, I don’t disagree. But I don’t pick and choose which religions to criticise, nor do I choose to describe Mr Livingstone or Ms Marjoram as racists (or other types of bigots) for having a go at Catholics.

I can’t help wondering if Mr Livingstone would have been so upfront about his atheism – or would have chosen such a dismissive term about religion (“mumbo-jumbo”) if this had been an interview for a Muslim publication rather than a Jewish one. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he would. But would he have to face the pursed lips of Ms Marjoram the next day?


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