Opinion

Free Speech: Time for aggression

Time for some secular aggression.

From my primary school reader, comes the following morality tale.

A Bedouin on a journey through the desert camped down for the night, his camel tethered to a peg outside the tent.

‘I have limited your space of authority’ (Image: Ken Passley)

A while later, the camel pleaded, “Master, the desert air is cold. Can I put my nose inside the tent just to warm it a little?”

The kindly Bedouin decided to gratify the camel’s wish. Next the camel, meek as ever, proposed that his neck follow suit. The rest of the story is soon guessed.

After the incursion of legs, chest, hump and rump, the camel grumbled that there was not enough room for both.

Still vivid in my mind is the accompanying illustration – the astonished Bedouin sailing through the air from a powerful kick from the camel’s hind legs.

Anyone who seeks a graphic actualisation of this fable should visit Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, whose solitary dual carriage motorway into the interior is ritually clogged up by revivalist sessions of rival Christian campsites which litter the borders of that sole motorway into the interior.

The backup traffic for miles imprisoning travellers sometimes all day and night.

Efforts to move them to other sites have failed, and the average citizen finds himself or herself the dispossessed Bedouin of our fable.

If only the acquisition of such territory remained purely physical!

Cult of refuseniks

Alas, more lethally for society, such aggressions include the regions of the mind.

Such as when the Bishop of an East African diocese, obsessed with church mandated moralities, preaches, in a region half decimated by HIV aids, that the condom is in fact an instrument of Satan designed to infect its users with the very scourge it is meant to prevent, as God’s punishment for promiscuity.

Even in a purely theocratic state, there comes a point – surely – at which the state must restrict clerical interference in clearly scientific matters, most especially where human well being and survival are at issue?

But of course one envisages a social tent in which the camel has not yet kicked out the Bedouin.

But at least that cleric did not pretend to be a medical scientist, or practitioner.

What are we to make of a trained physician who refuses to treat a female patient unless her head is covered?

That cult of religious refuseniks appears to be waxing strong in the United Kingdom, sweeping even into the consultation room.

The British Medical Association further revealed that some of its Islamic holy healers would not touch any alcohol related diseases, such as cirrhosis of the liver.

What on earth has happened to the tradition of Jonathan Swift and other scourges of enthusiasm?

What, one wonders, do such doctors substitute, in an emergency, for alcohol based sterilizing fluids?

Boiling water, perhaps? My layman knowledge indicates that a swab of methyl alcohol effectively disinfects an open wound.

This same moral compunction is responsible, we learn, for the refusal of such doctors to treat alcoholics and wean them from their addiction.

Discrimination

As always, there are options. One: plaques can be issued by the Ministry of Health, affixed to appropriate clinics with the warning: “Unveiled Muslim women, lesbians, homosexuals and alcoholics are not permitted in these premises”.

They would share, for like-minded Jewish doctors, a section which reads: “This Clinic does not treat eaters of pork sausages, pork chops and bacon”.

Of course the Medical Association could simply remind such members of their Hippocratic oath, withdraw their certificates and retrain them for other professions.

As it happens, a judge from the state of Kansas USA recently provided us a lead in these matters.

Finding before him a group of religious zealots who had taken to disrupting the funerals of victims of the Iraqi war on religious grounds, he invoked the full rigour of the law.

The activists were not even protesting against the immorality of that war – quite the contrary.

Their gospel is that the war is divine punishment for America’s permissive attitude towards homosexuality.

Thus, the fallen in that war are recipients of God’s wrath, do not deserve even a decent burial, nor their families their private space of mourning.

These conscientious objectors therefore invade funerals with banners screaming “God is Just”, “God Hates Fags” etc. etc.

They heckle the priest, make catcalls at passing cortege and generally pile trauma upon trauma on the bereaved.

On Judgement Day the accused received a $12m fine. Pity it was only a civil suit.

The state should have stepped in and framed the charges under the hate laws of the land.

It is time that the worst construction is placed on all forms of discrimination that claim a divine mandate, especially those that transgress against the entitlements of others to a secular dispensation.

These zealots would have us believe that the needless deaths in Iraq are not the work of George Bush and his government but of sexual tendencies.

Faced with such mind pollution, you can only applaud the Kansas state judge, and invoke even scriptural exhortations for the rest of society: I have limited your space of authority. Go and do thou likewise.