Thursday, March 09, 2006
The estimable figure that is Jack Straw, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Shukran to Google Images.
How much 'respect' should we give religions? It's a question that is vexing the BBC, where arguments (on programmes like Radio 4's Feedback, last week) are raging as to whether Mohammad should always be called 'the Prophet'. The BBC itself appears confused on the issue, with its website sometimes adopting the prefix, and sometimes not.
By contrast, no such confusion seems to afflict the Foreign Secretary. The other day a friend of mine told me that he'd seen Jack Straw, on TV, not just using the phrase 'Prophet Muhammad', but actually following it with 'Peace Be Upon Him'.
Astonished by this, I telephoned the Foreign Secretary's press office and inquired. Had Jack Straw ever used the phrase 'Peace be Upon Him', after saying the words 'Prophet Muhammad'?
At first they tried to finesse the issue ('clearly use of such a phrase implies respect for all communities, but these things are a matter of individual choice'), but - after I rang back - they admitted the truth. Yes, the Foreign Secretary really did say, on British television: 'the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him'.
It's difficult to know whether this is comic, or disturbing, or both. Why should the foreign minister of a secular, mildly Christian country use this peculiar phrase? What's next? Is he going to start crossing himself when discussing church matters? Will he commence any discussions on Israel with the word ‘Shalom‘? Maybe he will slaughter a chicken before conferring with the new prime minister of Haiti.
Of course, we know he isn't going to do any of these things, because he doesn't feel the need to grovel to the Christian community, or appease the Jewish lobby. Yet for some reason he does feel the need to make this asinine and embarassing gesture towards Britain's 1.6million Muslims. Bless him.
Posted by sean at 9:46 pm