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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Appeasers, resisters and a Sandalista Mass

Honestly, it wasn't just that I forgot the clocks were going forward. I'd been meaning for ages to pay an exploratory visit to my local Catholic church, and with 11 o'clock Mass substituting nicely for 10 o'clock Holy Communion it seemed clear that a suitable occasion had arrived.

I can't deny, though, that low expectations lay in large measure at the bottom of my procrastination. I also can't say that those expectations were exceeded. On this evidence the wasteland created by the trendy lefty interpretation of Vatican 2 is as dire as Damian Thompson says it is.

The church was full, mind, but that's no great achievement in a city as cosmopolitan as this one now is. A solitary parish priest is obviously grossly overstretched and, as he reminded us this morning, with blocks of flats springing up on every pocket handkerchief of empty land the parish is on track to double its population, recession notwithstanding. With a church packed to bursting-point with Africans and Poles, what chance is there that mission to the heathen natives will get a look in?

A special dishonourable mention must go to the music. It was like the drippiest variety of Evangelical happy-clappy with added Valium, a fitting counterpoint to the puke-green wall behind the altar. The fact that it was still being rehearsed at three minutes past eleven merely added insult to injury.

So it is with increased fervour that I join Damian T in his approbation of the Scots Catholic composer James MacMillan. He has proved that contemporary music need not contribute to stripping the liturgy of reverence and mystery - try his sublime Mass. And for good measure he has his head screwed on politically as well. Last week he laid succinctly into the editor of the Guardian over the paper's support for Islamism.

Support for Islamism? Some mistake, surely? You've been at the Melanie Phillips again, Grumpy, haven't you? What about this...

'It is also true that a document signed by Mr Abdullah [deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain] at a recent international conference is in many ways offensive, with sweeping threats against those who stand with Israel and a slip into racialised language in relation to the Jewish state.'

So far so good, but I reckon if I ask you to guess what the next word is you won't have too much trouble. Close your eyes, and read on when you've had a stab at it.

'But '

Well done! You'd certainly have seen it coming if you've already read this in the leader:-

'Hazel Blears, had decided to cut contact with the largest Muslim civil society group until its deputy general secretary, Daud Abdullah, was sacked - a perverse decision if the aim is building the broadest possible alliance to take on the extremists.'

So someone undeterred by anti-Semitic language from signing a call to Jihad on behalf of Hamas is an invaluable member of the anti-extremist alliance. To coin a Wodehousean phrase, this is vastly well. There seems to be genuinely no limit to what we may be enjoined to accept in order that still worse things may be warded off:-

'A month ago the Guardian revealed that the government was considering setting arbitrary criteria to define extremists, such as support for sharia law - an approach that would have branded many mainstream Muslims enemies of the people. Thankfully the idea was ditched [...]'

Get that: 'mainstream' Muslims think it is not extreme to call for the introduction of a parallel theocratic jurisdiction in Britain, therefore nobody else has any business thinking it is.

Can you imagine the Grauniad telling us that in the interests of building an alliance against the far Right we must take care not to alienate 'mainstream' BNP voters by telling them their views are extremist? Of course not - the BNP aren't nearly scary enough.

Continuing to scan the papers, Ruth Gledhill of the Times is admirably robust on Dr Abdullah. I agree with her that this quote from David T of Harry's Place is telling:-

'The exposure of one faux-moderate as an extremist creates a domino effect. You just watch for the statements of outrage, and of support for the poor maligned nutter, and you uncover their constituency.'

But then we come to Damian T's Torygraph colleague, the dashing trendy vicar George Pitcher. Barely able to contain his glee over Dr Michael Nazir-Ali's decision to hand in his mitre, he writes:-

'It is said he was disappointed not to have been made Archbishop of Canterbury, but in truth he would have been awful in that role; his comments on British Muslims alone, had they emerged from Canterbury, could have left blood on the streets.'

'Blood on the streets'. No need to ask whose blood, or who'd have spilt it. Dr Nazir-Ali witnessed how Christians were intimidated into compliance in his native Pakistan. Has he given up hope that a repetition of the process in Britain can be prevented? It would be tragic if he has, though this kind of official flannel from the C of E would make such a conclusion understandable.

'As we rejoice in the power of his Spirit,
may God grant us today the faith of the apostles,
the boldness of the prophets
and the strength of the martyrs.'

When the Society of St Francis included this prayer for Pentecost in its office book, published in 1992, being a Christian in Britain was still pretty much the same cosy business it had been for a couple of centuries. Seventeen years on, it begins to look as if the prayer ought to have that well-known warning appended to it: be careful what you pray for - you might get it. Personally, I don't have the boldness of the prophets or the strength of the martyrs, and I'm not at all sure I want them, thank you very much. But how much longer is meaningful Christian witness in this society going to be possible without them?


Stephen Hugh-Jones said...

This is for you, "Cyrus". I apologise to decent people who may read his blog; no doubt there are some. But he refuses to reveal his real name, so without even that start of a contact detail I have no other way of communicating with him.

And I have had enough of being lied about and smeared by a grubby little character assassin. His thoughts about God and himself may be fascinating. His thoughts about me are crap.

In mid-2006, the journalist Melanie Phillips wrote a piece in The Times in which, inter alia, she described minority rights as "the outcome of a systematic onslaught by the British elite against the country's own identity and values". I challenged that view in a letter to The Times. She replied, I counter-replied. And there I thought the matter ended.

Not so. In rushed "Cyrus", falsely accusing me of telling Ms Phillips, who is Jewish, that as such she was "not quite one of us". That is a plainly and crudely anti-semitic thought, and a thoroughly ugly one. And it was totally fabricated by "Cyrus", who then put it in my mouth.

I have never written, said, suggested, implied or even thought any such offensive absurdity. It is precisely and wholly the reverse of my beliefs. It has never crossed my mind even to begin to imagine that Britain's Jews may not be wholly "one of us". Of course they are "us", and only an anti-semitic nutter would think otherwise.

I do not believe any honest person could, even for a moment, have interpreted my letter to mean what "Cyrus" alleged. Ms Phillips, in her reply in The Times, certainly did not (and she, rightly, is not slow to challenge anti-semitism). "Cyrus" did--or at least claims he did.

I only learned of "Cyrus's" fabricated smear late last year. When I challenged it, pointing out its complete and ugly falsehood, and asked for an apology, any honourable man would have promptly said sorry and withdrawn the smear. "Cyrus" did not.

Far from it. Instead, he sat on his hands until mid-March, and then launched on his blog a grotesque diatribe against me of almost 3,000 words, adding sundry other ugly fabrications and distortions of his own sole making and putting these too in my mouth. Most of them were manifestly intended to support his original smear of anti-semitism.

And they are as utterly foreign to my beliefs as his original smear was.

I showed up the falsity of "Cyrus's" new, vast and vicious rant in an (alas, but necessarily, lengthy) answer on April 2nd. To this he has not yet, as of April 21st, deigned even to reply, let alone withdraw his multiplied libels.

They are still, in late April, visible on "Cyrus's" blog. The mechanics of his site ensure, conveniently for him, that my reply is hidden from readers, at the end of his diatribe, as merely the fact that there has been "1 comment".

I am through with this.

You, "Cyrus", are a liar and a fabricator of lies and, at best, deliberate, false and crude distortions. Since you appear to be a Christian (well, at least a church-goer), I commend to you a Jewish and Christian commandment, one that you plainly do not consider applies to you: "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

You are a coward. You are happy to smear my good name while you conceal your bad one behind a pseudonym--a faceless mask which you resolutely refuse to lift.

You are a hypocrite. You haven't even the courage of your own fabrications. Their whole thrust and purpose is to portray me as anti-semitic. Yet you have the gall to pretend that you haven't actually accused me of anti-semitism! You have, and you know it.

You are plainly well-educated, intelligent, witty and have an admirable prose style. Yet for what purpose do you use these gifts? Character assassination (not just against me either: God help it, even the poor old Church of Scotland turns out also in 2006 to have been "institutionally anti-semitic"!).

I am no longer asking for an apology. I am telling you. Take your filthy and totally unfounded smears against me off your site. All of them, back to the original one in 2006. And do it now.

If any decent people have read this far, I apologise again to them. I don't blame them if they wonder why I am making such a brouhaha about the smears of one anonymous blogger. The answer is this: any blog can go all over the net worldwide--and you try being accused, totally falsely, of anti-semitism, and see how you feel then. You will maybe understand how I do.

Stephen Hugh-Jones

SnoopyTheGoon said...


Stephen Hugh-Jones said...

Nearly six weeks weeks later, I am still waiting for the gutless character assassin who peddles his libellous filth from behind the pseudonym of Cyrus to withdraw it.

Come on, you grubby little smearbag.

29 May 2009

Stephen Hugh-Jones said...

now eight weeks later...

just what does it take to get a professional character assassin, liar, coward and hypocrite--that means you, "Cyrus"--to withdraw his lies?