What a sad contrast with Italy

Crucifixes and crosses are back in the news. You may remember the case of British Airways worker Nadia Eweida and the similar case of the nurse Shirley Chaplin.

Well, it now seems that this question – that of the right to wear a crucifix or cross at work – has been fought all the way to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and that our own Government has taken sides and is arguing against the right of the two women to wear crucifixes. The Telegraph has the story. I am not quite sure how the legal system works, but it seems strange that the Government should be involved in this, particularly when it is trying to save money. Why should the government be anything other than neutral in this?

This matter reminds me of a similar case in Italy about 10 years ago. A certain Adel Smith demanded that the crucifix on the classroom wall of his son’s school should be removed. Mr Smith is half-Scottish and half-Egyptian, but has an Italian passport, and is a convert to Islam. He became notorious for his campaign of vilification against the Catholic Church, and the crucifix in particular. There was a time when he seemed to be on every television chatshow. However, his campaign backfired, largely because most Italians, even if not religious, do not like being told what to do by people like Mr Smith, and they deeply dislike legalism of any kind. Mr Smith has recently been sentenced to five years in jail on a charge of forgery. The Union of Italian Muslims, which he headed, is supposed to have had not the many thousands of adherents that he claimed, but a mere two signed up members.

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One can read about Mr Smith and his campaign here (in Italian). Two famous Italians had this to say on the case, and I translate their words. One was Vittorio Feltri, a well-known journalist: “A guy comes into your house, settles into an armchair, helps himself from the fridge, uses your bathroom, and instead of thanking you for your hospitality, orders you to take that thing down from the wall. Whatever the thing is, it is up to me whether it stays on the wall or comes down.” The other was Umberto Eco, who said: “I invite Adel Smith, and other intolerant fundamentalists, to understand and accept the customs of the country of which they are guests.”

Pretty stern stuff from two leading cultural icons. As for the population as a whole, numerous Italians made a point of dusting down old crucifixes, setting up new ones, including, if memory serves, a huge three-metre-high one in the village of Ofena where Mr Smith lived, and proclaiming “Il crocefisso non si tocca!” (“Hands off the crucifix!”). Italians, you see, not only do not like being told what to do by lawyers, they also love their culture and want to preserve it, and the display of the crucifix is part of that culture.

Which brings us to the sad contrast presented by our own Government and intellectuals. If you had sat down and worked out a plan how best to destroy British culture, you could not do a better job than the Coalition is currently doing, or indeed the previous government did before them.

But maybe Mr Cameron and his friends should study the case of Adel Smith. And bear in mind the famous dictum of Chesterton:

Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.

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