It started as a religious discussion over the breakfast table at a private hotel.
Several months later, the Christian owners face ruin after a Muslim guest complained that she had been insulted. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are being prosecuted under controversial public order laws designed to target yobbish and abusive behaviour on the streets.
While everyone is making the economy the central issue in the run up to the next election an equally serious issue is going unnoticed; this government’s obsession with policing and micromanaging our lives. This story is a case in point.
A Christian couple who run an hotel in Aintree got involved in a religious discussion with one of their guests, who turned out to be a Muslim lady having treatment in a local hospital. Exchanges were said to be “warm”, the couple insisting they were simply defending their faith against remarks made by the guest. The lady complained to the police and the couple now face a possible £5,000 fine and a police record, as well as losing regular business from the hospital as a result of the incident.
I have to say that if you are running a business that depends on the good will of the public it seems the height of folly to be so forthright in your views as to risk your reputation and damage your livelihood, especially when the woman is a patient in the hospital on which you depend for 80% of your business; you are asking to make her a victim and you a villain. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) I am all for being “fools for Christ” but I don’t see anything in the Christian faith that demands foolishness. That having been said since when was it against the law to be foolish?
The issue here, however, is that the views we hold, the thoughts we have, our right to express them and the common and well-established principle that we all occasionally have to hear things we don’t like without being a girl about it are all under threat. George Orwell observed:
“Liberty is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”
The thought police don’t agree and, sponsored by the liberal agenda prevalent across parties today, they are all over us like a rash and they are showing an alarming bias.
You remember the story of the woman caught “in the act” of adultery who was brought before Jesus (John 8:3). The question often asked is, if she was caught “in the act” where was the man? In the same way, since this was a “discussion” why is only one party in the dock?
The newspaper reports, “It is alleged they suggested that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord when the guest challenged them about their Christian beliefs. The woman also claims that the couple, who vehemently deny the allegations and say they were simply defending their faith, described her traditional dress as a form of bondage.”
She said something, they said something, feelings ran a little high and the thought police ran to the defence of the perceived victim. But there is no victim, only an exchange of views, a disagreement and what used to be called, before the world went mad, “ a bit of an argy-bargy”. In political circles such exchanges, when they occur, are euphemistically labelled “a frank exchange of views”, everyone picks up on the sub text and moves on. Why is religious discussion treated differently?
It is because we live in a secular society and officialdom “can’t be asked” to bring wise and equitable judgement to these situations. In their efforts to achieve a “fair” and liberal society they have developed a vision of the future that sees religion effectively privatised. Influenced by such “fine philosophers” as Dawkins and Hitchens (that was a joke) they feel they can dismiss religion as socially insignificant, even dangerous.
The problem is that, notwithstanding the bad-tempered pronouncements of curmudgeons like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens et al, people have faith and express and practice it in a variety of ways.
Notably, both Islam and Christianity are evangelising religions so trying to privatise religions with declared society impacting intentions, and with those religions making up the greater part of the earth’s population, seems ambitious to say the least. I suppose the default position in that case is to placate the religion that is perceived to pose the greatest threat and oppress the religion that is little more than irritating and and inconvenient.
If these darling liberals are determined to defend the rights of Muslims to live and express their faith, sometimes in very offensive and threatening ways it must be said, they must defend the right of Christians to the same degree, even if they can be foolish about it sometimes.
I have said that both both faiths are evangelising religions but that has not always been true of Islam. In his book From Babel to Dragomans the orientalist Bernard Lewis writes of Islam as a conquering religion observing that:
“In traditional Islamic states, the business of government was carried on by two main groups, known as the men of the sword and the men of the pen. The former were the armed forces, the latter the civilian bureaucrats…the two together were commonly considered to be the twin pillars of the state…The Fatimids, for the first time in Islamic history, added a third – the Mission.”
Note that until the coming of the Fatimids mission was not part of the Islamic state. The Fatimids emerged in Egypt towards the end of the first Millennium (Christian calendar), following in the footsteps of the Abbasids whom they attempted to overthrow, and held that other branches of Islam had gone astray. Believing themselves to be the true heads of pure Islam (why does this sound familiar?), they followed the traditional policy of conquest and subjugation against other Muslim states. But the rest of Islam was bigger and better prepared and they resorted to the novel policy of mission.
It is interesting that one of the complaints made by the guest at the hotel was that the proprietors insisted that Islam’s founding prophet was a warrior. Perhaps not a wise thing to say to a paying Muslim guest who might take offense and her business elsewhere nevertheless quite accurate. Which raises the question, are they being prosecuted at least in part for stating, not a religious conviction, but an irrefutable historical fact? Is the state now insisting on a role in defining what is and what is not legitimate historical reporting?
This all leaves me, and I am sure others, in something of a dilemma when it comes to voting. On the one hand I don’t believe the alternatives to this current government are viable for all sorts of reasons (I might be persuaded otherwise). On the other, I am convinced that something must be done to stop this petty-meddling juggernaut before the freedoms we have for so long taken for granted, that our fathers fought and died to preserve, and that make our country great are totally taken from us.
Christian hotel owners face ruin after 'defending their faith' in row with a Muslim guest | Mail Online