Tuesday 20th February – The Sharia debate
Yet again, a mountain has been made out of a molehill, and the chief mud-slingers have been the media. The comments made by the Archbishop, one of the few making an effort to see things from the perspective of the ever-growing Muslim minority, were taken out of context of the speech itself and out of the wider context of culture and religion.
Sharia law is not an uncontestable set of laws. Sharia is just the name of the system, one that, in theory, should be fluid and constantly open to interpretation. I am not defending Sharia law, in its current forms it is fraught with mistakes. But the parallel I am drawing here is that while Sharia law cannot substitute this country’s legal system, it isn’t the case that it would demand women to wear the veil, a misinterpretation often perpetrated by the media.
Many newspapers did not even bother to qualify sharia law. The Times tried to define a 1400 year old law-system in fewer lines than a crossword, while The Guardian mentioned it once, in reference to the veil. We would never allow the legal system of the “west” to be defined by one extremely crippled instance, such as gross violations of human rights in Guantanamo Bay.
The Archbishop was naïve, his words inevitably fuelled the anti-Islamists. But regardless, the media made no effort to give a balanced account.
Before we cry havoc at what were merely one man’s words, we should put things into context. Sharia is not a fixed system. While it should in no way be a substitute to the laws of 500 years of British parliament, neither should it be shot down without consideration. That is the way of fundamentalists.
Wednesday 6th February – Britain’s cultural renaissance
My suggested five words for Gordon Brown’s ‘Britishness’ are “desperately needing a cultural renaissance”. Our neglect of the arts and creative endeavours has potential to drain our country of artistic talent, both as part of everyday life and mainstream entertainment. There simply won’t be enough of it. This neglect is primarily financial, but it also symbolises the government’s value, support and respect for artistic endeavours, which is dwindling fast.
Money has been cut from the Arts Council of England, as well as the National Heritage Lottery fund, which is responsible for aiding funding for many different arts groups. How the government seems to think this is acceptable is beyond me. I understand the need for effective management and productivity of resources, but this is not the purpose of what Tessa Jowell described as something similar to ‘redirection’ of government funds.
So where is this redirected cash going? Quite simply, to the 2012 Olympics. Whether you are a supporter of the Olympic bid or not, this is obviously wrong. To take away opportunities from people who can further our country’s long term cultural standing for the sake of a one off international publicity event simply cannot be justified.
Simultaneously as we learn of these developments we are told by the top universities in our country that creative urges are to be suppressed during the ages of 16 to 18 in favour of more ‘ideal’ subjects. I am all for suitable and substantial academic preparation but what ever happened to embracing one’s imagination and enjoying our studies? For those of you who are inclined towards Economics, History, French etc. then you have lucked out, the systems plays to your strengths and you can play it for all its worth. For those of you who thrive on Drama, Media and Food Technology but don’t want to rule out an academically based career, then be prepared to hit a very hard brick wall, as we all will if Britain continues to tread the path of anti-culture, ever further away from the beacon of light that is cultural renaissance.