Towards the end of last month you might of happened upon headlines such as this one in the Daily Mail:
Christianity gets less sensitive treatment than other religions admits BBC chief
In my ongoing endeavours not to jump the gun, I wanted to find out exactly what Mark Thompson had said, and in what context.
Here is the video of the interview:
Following are some extracts I’ve plucked out from the transcript that are noteworthy:
Referring to blasphemy Mark Thompson says:
I think one of the issues is that not all but almost all people who have religious beliefs are realist about the belief. In other words, that they believe that their faith refers to things which have an objective reality. And so, for example, they regard blasphemy as causing objective harm. So it’s not just that a blasphemous statement or act would hurt their feelings or anger them because it went against their opinions; it would do actual objective harm. That offending of an act of sacrilege against the god head or religious figure, actually creates harm in the world as it were and might be as heinous or more heinous than harm to a human being.
The point is that for a Muslim, a depiction – particularly a comical or demeaning depiction of the Prophet Muhammad – might have the force, the emotional force, of a piece of a grotesque child pornography.
I was quite disturbed to read of the abuse meted out by Christians in response to Jerry Springer: The Opera
I received some phone calls from a chap called Stephen Green who ran Christian Voice. I had a number of not to say completely civilised conversations. Roly Keating got a slightly more alarming set of messages including a threat to, you know, to burn him and his wife and his children in their house. So there was some intimidation.
I wouldn’t for a moment argue that the majority of people who were upset about the idea of broadcasting it were people who were threatening violence, but it was little bit of that and a little bit of menace; in the end it was, you know, we had a security guy outside the door for a bit.
Next comes the now infamous AK47 quote, which was given against the backdrop of a reference to Salman Rushdie:
Well clearly it’s a very notable move in the game, I mean without question. “I complain in the strongest possible terms” is different from “I complain in the strongest possible terms and I’m loading my AK47 as I write.” This definitely raises the stakes. But I think there’s two or three things going on, so manifestly a threat to murder, which by the way is quite rightly a crime, massively raises the stakes.
And here is the quote that gave rise to the headlines of Christianity being treated less sensitively than other religions:
But I also want to say, though, a thing about religion. I think it is very different to talk about Christianity in the United Kingdom: a very broadly, literally established, but also metaphorically established, part of our kind of cultural built landscape. A religion which is actually for all sorts of reasons, in many ways a lot of our thinking about human rights comes out of the Christian tradition; I would argue, a broad-shouldered religion, compared to religions which in the UK have a very close identity with ethnic minorities, where, you know, it’s not as if as it were Islam is randomly spread across the UK population. It’s almost entirely a religion practiced by people who may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against, and where they may well regard an attack on their religion as racism by other means.
Thompson appears to be arguing that as religions other than Christianity are closely tied with ethnic minority groups, they deserve kid-glove treatment.
So, Christianity deserves harsher treatment because race trumps religion!
Thompson’s position seems less credible given his comments on secularism:
….it may be that the UK, which is a remarkably secular society – the underlying host culture is remarkably secular, one of the most secular cultures probably anywhere in the world….
So there you go.