It’s a situation I’m sure most of us have been in. You book into a hotel (or order at a cafe, or similar venture) and get into a conversation with the manager, only to discover, to your horror, that they are most certainly not somebody you want to be talking to, but you’re trapped, with no hope of escape.
Perhaps they’ve spent the last hour (while you were waiting for your coffee) talking about how their business found its way into their hands only after a string of rich uncles and sneaky cousins
Perhaps they have a knife that they’ve been flicking open and closed, while hinting mysteriously at a past jail sentence.
Or perhaps they’re the worst, most widely-feared of this type of stranger. The religious-minded with a hankering to proselytise.
In this type of situation, I’m usually far too awkward to do anything but nod along meekly, or disagree politely, while my brain is racing through escape techniques (do I try and out-bore them? Claim I have a contagious disease? Set fire to my chair, and in the resulting confusion, run?).
I hadn’t realised that the solution was actually a lot simpler. I could call the police.
It’s from the Telegraph again, who headline the story as ‘Evil Muslims Get Good Christians Arrested For Being Good Christians’ [Note: Not actual headline. Us sceptics are getting smart to this 'libel' business now.]
I don’t have much sympathy for either side in this case. Two Christian hotel owners, in our very own Aintree, are being charged with a ‘religiously aggravated public order offence’ for offending a Muslim guest – apparently, they suggested that Mohammed was a ‘warlord’ (well, the husband is accused of saying this, but denies it) and that traditional Islamic dress kept women in ‘bondage’ (the wife admits saying this, though says she meant no offence). Neither point is terribly offensive (and neither point deviates far from the truth) but they’re somehow worth police involvement? Ok, Perhaps I do have some sympathy for the Christian hotel owners. But it ends there.
After all, until this incident, the hotel had a scheme whereby a local hospital recommended them to patients (this Muslim woman had found the hotel through this scheme), and the argument happened when the woman ‘appeared in Muslim dress’. While I feel strongly that freedom of speech should never be subservient to freedom from offence, it strikes me as slightly odd that a hospital, serving a spectrum of religious belief, would recommend a hotel ran by a couple of members of the Bootle Christian Fellowship (from the Daily Mail account of events), who were prone to starting faith discussions with those who they would obviously disagree with? I would have assumed the hospital would be a bit more, well, sensible. I too would be tempted to call the police if I were stuck in that hotel, I suspect.
Anyway, the Daily Mail and/or Telegraph (both papers merge into one) make sure that they don’t just point out the obvious silliness in this whole saga, but they add some themselves. They both finish by quoting from Mike Judge, spokesperson for the Christian Institute.
The Mail goes with the Christians-are-starved-for-attention angle:
‘We have detected a worrying tendency for public bodies to misapply the law in a way that seems to sideline Christianity more than other faiths.
whilst the Telegraph has the suitably-paranoid:
“There is a persecution of Christians and I think public officials are misusing the law in that way.”
I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is most certainly not a case of malicious persecution of Christians, although neither is it a suitable way to deal with a harmless disagreement. It seems to me to be an overzealous impingement on free criticism, which has been comically exaggerated by the anal bickering of adherents of rival doctrines each too self-absorbed to laugh at themselves like most people are.