On 7th Ocober 1968, I took part in my first Civil Rights march. A group of us bunked off school to march from Queens University to Belfast City Hall.We were stopped at Ormeau Avenue and we all sat down on the road.
I have often been told that Nick Ross led that march. Frankly I cant remember him. But he was an English student at QUB who later made his name presenting BBC Crimewatch. And he has become increasingly…conservative. A few weeks ago he outraged many people with what seemed to be a far too nuanced statement on Rape.
A few days ago he spoke of Catholic schools being “substantially responsible” for the Troubles in Norn Iron. This is the kind of nonsense that even the most bigoted of Norn Irons unionist community tend to avoid. As in most places…”faith schools” and indeed “non-faith schools” teach social and community responsibility which is USUSALLY to the benefit of all. Like most people, I am the person I am today because of the (mostly) influence of parents and education (Catholic).
It is also a simple fact that I learned the values of Republicanism and Nationalism at ” Catholic” school. And of course this is the main reason that nationalist parties will not push for integrated education. Unionists will not push for it either because of course so called SState schools promote defacto Protestant and Unionist values. And liberal unionists promote integrated education as an aspiration that Norn Iron will become a homogenous society.
Yet Nick Ross compares Catholic schools in Norn Iron with Muslim faith schools in Britain. And the implication is that these faith schools are in some way responsible for Islamist extremism.
In England it is ok to be anti-Catholic. Thats how the comedians on Mock The Week are hand-picked but it is not ok to be Islamophobic. Nick Ross completely missed the point. The parallels between Catholics and Muslims in English Society are not contemporary. They are HISTORIC….specifically in the period 1558 to well into the seventeenth century.
The focal point being the Gunpowder Plot…Guy Fawkes and all that.
Consider these parallels. England is a Secular Country. People would like Sharia-Islamist Law. These people include young English men who go abroad to fight in wars in Afghanistan and Syria. Or go to study in a madras in Pakistan. Back in England, they become involved in terror plots closely monitored by a security force which has infiltrated it.
Yet Modern Enland…whether conservative or liberal, whether Daily Telegraph reading or Guardian reading….is a product of the Whig Settlement that ended religious wars. The assertion of English Law over Roman Law….and in the sixteenth century they had people like Edmund Campion educated in a seminary on the continent and people like Guido Fawkes radicalised in Dutch Wars.
The suspicion that Catholicism was alien to the English character is at the heart of Modern England, including its supposed modernity which embraces Diversity. Occasionally the mask slips.