It is good to teach right and wrong, says Blears

26 February 2009

by Bill Bowder

"Moral clarity": Hazel Blears PA

"Moral clarity": Hazel Blears PA

Hazel Blears, Minister for Communities and Local Government, said on Wednesday that it was time that the whole community stood up for democracy, and told those who would reject it that they were wrong.

“There is a need for moral clarity, a dividing line rooted in our overriding sense of what is right and wrong,” she said. “There is a line when respect for other cultures is crossed and a universal morality should kick in.”

Ms Blears’s reaffirmation of values was in response to extremist religious groups that nurture violent attitudes. To challenge terrorism, the Government needed to build “a growing coalition of support”, she said. It wanted to “empower” new voices and support people standing up for shared values. It wanted to help communities have the skills, confidence, and resilience they needed to be part of the solution.

Cultural differences, or fear of causing offence, should not be allowed to cloud people’s judgement of what was unacceptably extreme behaviour. A statement from her office said: “A nervousness on the part of public policy-makers towards religion and culture . . . has led to a number of recent questionable judgements spawned by an overzealous commitment to political correctness.”

People who were leaders acted in the belief that they were protecting others from offence; but it was not always clear who they were protecting or from what. “A creeping tide of oversensitivity and intolerance is in danger of threatening religion’s legitimate place in the public sphere.”

Ms Blears said that the political-correctness pendulum had swung too far. “Worse, at times leaders have been reluctant to challenge absolutely unacceptable behaviour: forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or homophobia.”

Such “oversensitive approaches” to this kind of behaviour could alienate certain groups. “Prominent figures in faith communities have repeatedly said, for instance, that they are not offended by public manifestations of the Christian faith.”

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