by Jimmy Nicholls
Friday, 9
July 2021
Debate
15:09

Progressives still don’t understand Churchill

Comparing the former PM to Jesus and Mohammed misses the point
by Jimmy Nicholls
Who gets to decide what is British culture? Credit: Getty

Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, is an unusual choice for shadow minister of ‘community cohesion’. The MP is no stranger to controversy, having campaigned for George Galloway in 2012 — a seat that she would later go on to take herself — and making some suspect statements about Israel, suggesting that the nation should relocate to the US to save the superpower “some pocket money”.

Her stance on these issues should give context to her comments on the government’s proposed bill criminalising the vandalism of public statues. Her argument is that if the British government recognises the “emotional harm” caused by vandalism against statues of Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell, religious figures deserve equal protection — specifically, the religious figures of the Islamic religion.

There are “other figures that many people in modern Britain hold close to their hearts”, Shah said, listing Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses, among others. “When bigots and racists defame, slander or abuse our prophet, peace be upon him, just like some people do the likes of Churchill, the emotional harm caused upon our hearts is unbearable,” she told Parliament.

Given Islam’s prohibition on depicting its prophet, it would be facetious to suggest that there would ever be a statue of Mohammed in the manner of, say, Winston Churchill.

Some would wonder how necessary it is to legislate against an action that the vast majority of people are scared to do anyway for fear of retribution. The implication, therefore, is clear – Shah is trying to equate the statue culture war to blasphemy laws.

But there are also the broader flaws in Shah’s thinking about community cohesion. As she concluded her speech to Parliament, she asked: “When striking the careful balance to protect such emotional harms, can there and should there be a hierarchy of sentiments?”

The answer is simple: yes, all nations value some sentiments above others. That is what makes them nations, rather than separate individuals or groups living parallel lives in the same space.

Churchill is undoubtably more important to the British than the prophet Mohammed. Churchill is credited with saving Britain from Nazi occupation in the Second World War, whereas — to an increasingly unreligious country — the prophet Mohammed is one holy man among many. One is central to the British nation, and one is not.

Iconic, even mythological personalities are part of all national stories, which bind people together alongside other shared institutions: sports teams, cuisines, and even political arrangements. Certain intellectuals may try to complicate such matters, but modern Britain has pretty clear symbols of national pride — and Churchill is among the most popular. Comparing him to religious characters like Mohammed or Moses simply does not fit.

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Andrea X
Andrea X
11 months ago

I think that misses the point. You are still allowed to criticise Churchill, but if you show a cartoon depicting the prophet…
Shah was comparing apples not with pears (the author of this article is), but apples and a chest of drawers.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

You are still allowed to criticize Churchill and Mohammad, but show a cartoon saying men are men and women are women and you likely will be fired, Doxxed, threatened, checked out by the police anti-radicalization squad, and generally have your life wrecked. Apostasy is not what it used to be.

Andrea X
Andrea X
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Also, who the “progressives” supposed to be, again?

Peter LR
Peter LR
11 months ago

Surely bringing emotion into it is missing the point: people are angry about law breaking – the defacing or destruction of property. What’s annoying is that highly emotional people (like Naz Shah) think that their self-righteous superiority complex enables them to behave with impunity.

Stephen Rose
Stephen Rose
11 months ago

Comparison takes no account of discipline or category or historical context, it seems to stem only from current cultural obsession . This is the pin board or salad bowl approach of learning. I talk to young graduates who have heard of Beethoven, Voltaire, Henry Ford, Buddha but have no idea when they lived or what impact they had. It is stunning that they have so little sense of enquiry and that they reject so much as superfluous.
So much of the culture that I enjoyed growing up, pre supposed you knew something about historical, artistic, ideological, religious, philosophical, scientific context.I knew who Dostoevsky was and when and what, long before I read him. Even the popular cultural form of comedy when engaging in parody expected you to know of “The three musketeers” or the French revolution.That can’t be assumed now, if you want information, Wikki it! It depresses the hell out of me.

John Tyler
John Tyler
11 months ago

Sorry! Have I missed something? Are you suggesting Naz Shah is a ‘progressive’? I think not!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
11 months ago

Oh, the writings of the callow youth….

“to an increasingly unreligious country — the prophet Mohammed is one holy man among many.”
I just do not know how to even reply to such a idiotic statement. Maybe there is a tiktoc that can get down to this level of thinking and explain it why is a problematic thing to state.

That is a large part of today’s issues, the immaturity of the products of our secular-Humanist parochial school system where they are taught what to think, but not how to think, and history and classics, and classical thinking, is utterly re-written, or left out altogether. Neotany is not just newts anymore, but is the Western condition where adulthood now begins at about 26 now, where it was at 18 fifty years ago.

“and Churchill is among the most popular. Comparing him to religious characters like Mohammed or Moses simply does not fit.”

You are the only one to do that. If one says The world is losing too much of its greatness, the White Rhinos almost extinct, the Great Buddhas of Bamian gone…. One is not comparing them to eachother.