THE GUARDIAN and the Telegraph both decided to
celebrate Easter with big stories about the Archbishop of
Cole Moreton, in The Sunday Telegraph, had a lot of
access - at least he got to travel in the car and produced for the
website some lovely videos of the Archbishop and Cardinal Vincent
Nichols visiting a day centre in Folkestone. But the guts of the
copy was concerned with picking over the two stories left over from
last year: homosexuality and money.
The money story was the more interesting one, Kremlinologically,
because Archbishop Welby's remarks suggest a real gap opening with
the Church Commissioners. He must know that there is nothing they
can realistically do about their very indirect investment in Wonga;
so it is odd that he should emphasise so much that it's their
problem, not his. Even Lambeth Palace is described as "their
You can see that this makes political sense, but I'm not sure
it's very edifying.
On the gay issue, he continued to circle around his earlier
remarks. "'What I said is that I have been in places where that has
been the reason given for attacking people,' he says. 'Now, as I
said then - and this is where there was misinterpretation - that
doesn't mean that you don't do certain things. That would just be
giving in to that kind of terror.'"
To this, Moreton responded with exactly the right qualification:
"To argue that you should not bless a gay marriage here just in
case it might cause a killing over there would be a kind of moral
blackmail, wouldn't it?"
Archbishop Welby replied: "It would be. You can't say, 'We're
not going to do X, which we think is right, because it will cause
trouble.' That's ridiculous."
It seems to me that the Archbishop, though absolutely clear and
right here, is missing quite an important twist. If you are an
intelligent person with a developed moral sense, you will
understand that it is ridiculous to say "We're not going to do X,
which we think is right, because it will cause trouble" long before
you get to the position of actually being able to say it. And the
obvious way to avoid this bind is to decide that we don't think X
is right after all - since if we did, we would have to make a
difficult choice. The argument from political consequences works
far more often in that indirect form than in the clumsy realist
THE GUARDIAN's long profile was based around ten or 15
minutes on the phone and a lot of background research. None the
less, I think it stood up to Moreton's, in part because there was
so little interview involved. If you really want to know what
someone is like, don't ask them on the record, and certainly don't
ask them about those policy questions on which they can say nothing
both honest and new. That's a game to play at press
THE actual news content of Easter coverage was all in The
Sunday Telegraph's examination of Islamist attempts to take
over Birmingham schools. If any significant part of this story is
true, it really matters, and makes the people defending the status
quo look silly at best.
It is true that these stories do nothing for community
relations, and feed a general suspicion of Muslims; but that's not
really the fault of the people or papers who report them
Andrew Gilligan has been chipping away at the story of a plot by
fundamentalist Muslim parents to take over schools in Birmingham
for months now, and he seems to have struck gold with some leaked
OFSTED reports on the schools causing concern.
"At Golden Hillock, five Christian students in Year 11 'have to
teach themselves' in one GCSE subject, religious education, because
the teacher gave all his or her time 'to the students who are doing
the Islamic course'.
"Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who 'is known
to extol . . . the stoning of homosexuals, anti-Semitic views [and
is] sympathetic to al-Qaeda', was invited to address students at
Park View, the inspectors found."
Sheikh Shady is apparently an Australian convert.
"Though all the schools are supposed to be secular, the
inspectors said they were not sufficiently welcoming to those of
other faiths or no faith, with students at Park View encouraged to
'begin and end each lesson with a prayer', and loudspeakers used to
'broadcast the call for prayer across the school'.
"The report added that the respected non-Muslim headteacher was
marginalised, and female staff at one of the schools were treated
in a 'rude and dismissive' way."
It is stories like this that explain why people are frightened
of "faith schools". Picking on the poor old C of E is merely a way
to evade the hard choices that they lead to.