For God’s sake, stop baiting the faithful

“The Dutch want to ban the burqa. It’s as good as a declaration of war on the 800,000 Muslims living in the Netherlands – and this is yet another conflict that Britain should not get embroiled in. Yet there are plenty of signs that this country is going Dutch. Britain’s believers have recently had to fight for the right to wear symbols of their faith, whether that be a burqa or a crucifix….

“Is it any wonder that Muslims principally, but other believers too, are getting a persecution complex? And is there any way we can prevent the inevitable backlash? Liberty and the British Muslim Initiative believe there is. Together with representatives of the main faiths, they are calling for supporters of religious tolerance to rally in Westminster Hall tomorrow night. Ken Livingstone will speak at the event, as will the director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, and veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent.

“I, too, am speaking at the rally; like the other participants, I fear the Dutch example. Like them, I believe that if instead of acting as the oppressor, the mocker and the bully, Britain would present itself as a land of tolerance where all faiths are treated with respect and all believers allowed to practise their faith, the most disenfranchised and disenchanted extremists will find themselves wishing to copy, rather than kill, Britons.”

Cristina Odone in the Observer, 19 November 2006