Friday Oct 6th
Oh, dear....I do hope I got this one right. BBC (News 24) phoned and asked me to debate with a Muslim woman about wearing veils that cover the face, following comments by Member of Parliament Jack Straw. Well, of course, one is anxious to emphasise importance of religious dignity etc etc, but there are important issues here: faces matter - we can convey things by smiles and friendliness and a masked face is intimidating. The fact that each of us matters, that we are unique and unrepeatable, is part of the Christian thinking that underlies our ideas of community life and Parliamentary democracy. If followers of Mohammed really believe that women ought to cover their faces, they do need to know that for many of us this offensive and wrong: there is one God and Father of us all, and Christians do not believe that he asks his daughters to hide themselves in this way.
I tried to smile a lot and look friendly while I said all this, but it's a complicated debate.....also I wanted to say some much more important things, chief of which was that we hadn't yet an apology for the ghastly scenes at Westminster Cathedral where a mob was baying and shouting murderous threats when people went in to Mass....this was just unacceptable in our cathedral in our capital city. Well, the Moslem lady did say that she apologised for that, which was good, so maybe that's something achieved. I also said that I'm getting worried about where things go next....will Muslims announce that they are offended by the Cross on our country's flag? Or the Cross on my Rosary? (I held it up to deomonstrate). It's all getting a bit daft. We can live and work together, but we do need to stick to the Golden Rule, and also recognise that there is a specific Christian heritage in Britain, which gives us a concept of human worth which is simply central to our way of life.....
It's very important not to stir up angry feelings, or create tension when there isn't any need, so I hope I haven't made things worse all round. I keep thinking about the kindly Moslem who gave me a lift the other night, and indeed the sweet lady on the Tube who gave me her seat today (my feet were hurting terribly again - same shoes as yesterday as I hadn't had time to go home and change!). Plump, white, teenage boy sitting smugly next to her had obviously never been taught that it's polite to offer a seat to a grown-up who might need one.....
Back to a friendly office where, out of hours, I'm able to use a computer....can't get the bike home till 7pm so am seizing chance to write blog, deal with emails.
Jamie is at home, finishing his essay - I phoned to talk through the Muslim/veils issue with him. He said we should recognise there is something in the why-should-Jack-Straw-dictate-to-Muslims approach,which is important, too, of course, but he thought I was right to raise the other issues about freedom to get to Mass without being threatened.
Catholic Herald has an excellent leader re the Pope and the BBC. Have you sent in a letter yet??