It is customary in many councils, assemblies and parliaments to begin the day’s business with prayer. This is traditionally prayer to God and many who are atheists or from other traditions deliberately absent themselves. As far as I am aware no Christian has asked for them to be removed from their political party for failure to pray.
Recently Councillor Malcolm Hey left the Portsmouth City Council chamber when Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo was asked to deliver an opening prayer. Mr Hey rejoined the meeting straight after the prayer.
This was too much for the Liberal-Democrats. Gerald Veron-Jackson, leader of the Lib-Dem controlled council has written to Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi calling for Councillor Hey to be thrown out of the Conservative Party.
Mr Hey, who is also a founder member of the Grace Baptist Church said, “I’m a Christian, not a Muslim, and I do not believe we are praying to the same god.”
He added, “Although I am happy to learn about Islam and visit mosques as an observer and have colleagues who are Muslim, it is different to participating and worshipping in the religion, the Gods we worship are very, very different.”
Yasin Rahim, of Muslim community group Wessex Jamaat, said: “It was our imam who Malcolm snubbed by walking out. “I think this is a serious issue here. The imam was invited by the mayoress – it was an invitation to the table of brotherhood and here he walks out.”
Part of the Lib-Dem leader’s argument is that he thinks that Councillor Hey’s action “has in my view put the lives of British troops and Royal Marines at risk.” The “religion of peace” clearly has the Lib-Dems trembling.
We must wonder whether the Lib-Dem leader would have called upon Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or atheist councillors who absented themselves from Christian prayers to be disciplined.
The only question to be answered here is whether this is political correctness or political expediency. You know the Lib-Dems, make up your mind.