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Lofty vision above the vicious squabbles

24 March 2017


Baroness Warsi

Baroness Warsi

WORD reaches me of a PR disaster in the making. Apparently, all of the dioceses have been instructed to come up with vision statements, three-word slogans that encap­sulate what they are trying to do.

This is an invitation to drivel or worse — the worst, I think, being the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham’s “Wider, Younger, Deeper”; perhaps they are trying to attract the crystal-methodist.

But there are some pretty good drivel contenders, too: Newcastle offers “Growing church bringing hope”, which is 33 per cent over the word limit, as well as clunky. You can rearrange the words in any order and they make as much or as little sense.

In Salisbury, they go for “Pray, Serve, Grow.” Apparently they’re playing tennis. No one has, as yet, got to the three words really meant by all of this: “Bums on pews”; nor, if you want to be high-minded, “Faith, hope, charity”.

For Llandaff, I would suggest “Not Jeffrey John”. But although this is snappy and clear, it may not be entirely true. The Guardian covered his rejection at length, and reported that it wasn’t the electors of Llandaff but the representatives of other sees who rejected him. “In a letter to John Davies, the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, currently the Welsh church’s most senior bishop, John said he had been told by a bishop present at the meeting of the electoral college that ‘a number of homophobic remarks were made and were left unchecked and unreprimanded by the chair’.

”He added that the only arguments made against his appointment ‘were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership — namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese, and that it might create difficulties for the future archbishop [of Wales] in relation to the Anglican communion’.”

Compare, for a moment, that vaulting, waffly ambition of the diocesan vision statements and the narrow, vicious squabbles of the real Church.


THEN turn to Baroness Warsi, who had an extremely interesting long interview in the Saturday Times.

She says that, after 9/11, “Muslims were seen as an indivisible block to be feared. Warsi saw no homogeneity even in her own family. One of five sisters, she explains: ‘Some of us pray so many times a day, some of us pray so many times a week. Some of us are inter­mittent hijab wearers, and some of us never wear the hijab. I’m the only one who’s worn a face veil, which I wore in Pakistan’.”

There, when she was travelling in her thirties, after leaving a failing arranged marriage and successful life as a lawyer, she realised how British she was: “She visited Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden ended up living. She now does an after-dinner speech routine on ‘when I could have met Osama but didn’t’. In the book, she laughs off those who claim she went for terrorist training herself. This ‘very, very late gap year’ made her realise two things: ‘I really didn’t need a whole plethora of clothes and potions and lotions that we all think we need. The second thing I realised was just how British I was.’

”She found herself asking: ‘Why aren’t things clean and orderly? Why don’t people queue? Why are women so badly treated and not protected?’”

What you might call the Warsi generation — middle-aged or younger Muslim women who have made professional lives in Britain — are going to be absolutely vital in determining the course of community relations in the future. They are not ideological, and they distrust ideological explanations, knowing that most people are more complicated: “She points out that of those who turn to terrorism, ‘lots of them have previous convictions’. Others suffer ‘alienation from families’ or have confused sexuality. ‘What makes a viol­ent terrorist or a jihadi are all these factors, and what do we do? We focus on one single ideology. If it’s not all ideology, it’s stupid to keep saying it’s all ideology’.”

One such woman who listens to The Archers is the most effective counterweight to any Muslim who listens to hateful propaganda on YouTube. Of course, it isn’t really sensible middle-aged women who are the target of that kind of thing: it is men who feel they have no place or use in the world.


IT IS YouTube (owned by Google) that has brought up the most interesting story of the week: businesses, governments, and even the giant French advertising agency Hava have all withdrawn from advertising there.

The newspapers (whose business model Google helped destroy) were all over the story, led by The Times and The Guardian, which claimed credibly that one Salafi preacher, who was banned from Britain as someone likely to promote acts of terrorism, had made nearly $80,000 from ads placed all unwittingly on his channel by the BBC, Boots, and Channel 4, among others.

Since the placement of advertisments is done entirely by unsupervised programs run­ning auctions with one another, the only re­­course of the advertisers is to withdraw from YouTube altogether.

This might finally be the pressure that causes Google to try to clean up the site — but that will be almost impossible technically, as well as politically.

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