Door-stepped by the Referendum

First, a word about the national religion, football.  Former Cardiff City manager, Malky Mackay, found himself in hot water last week when it was alleged that he had sent racist and homophobic texts to a pal.  He’ll shortly be sentenced to be boiled alive; or at least, banned from all football-related activity.

As a Gaidheal I have a vested interest in opposing racism, and I cannot see that a man’s gender orientation has any bearing whatever on his prowess as a footballer.  But have we really reached the point where malice can put private correspondence in the public domain and ruin a man in a day?

There is a clear issue.  In the world of football, what is the Unforgivable Sin?  If the said Mr. Mackay had merely said that all fundies are wankers he would be sitting today in the Manager’s chair at Crystal Palace.  But he touched Britain’s raw nerves, racism and homophobia, and for these there can be no forgiveness.

Yet it wasn’t this that really got me going.  That honour belongs to the contrast between the treatment handed out to Mr. Mackay and the treatment handed out to Mr. Luis Zuarez.  Mr Suarez bit an opponent’s ear.  It was a repeat offence, and it should have seen him banned from football for life.  Instead, he received a mere four-month suspension, secured a lucrative multi-million deal with FC Barcelona (themselves currently under a transfer embargo because of past irregularities) and, complete with teeth, is now laughing all the way to the bank.  In fact, he could be a bank.

The whole case is riddled with inconsistencies.  If a footballer has a nose-bleed he must leave the field in case he transmits HIV.  Is a nose-bleed more dangerous than a bite?  When Rangers’ Duncan Ferguson head-butted an opponent he was sent to prison.  When boxer Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, he lost his licence.  But in modern football it is obviously less important to watch what you bite than to watch what you say.

Let’s look for a moment at this word, ‘phobia’: once Greek, but now on everybody’s lips.  Homosexuals crying, ‘Foul!’ have managed to place homophobia in a more serious category of crime than ear-biting; and a Muslim has only to cry, ‘Islamophobia!’ to be sure of at least an abject apology.

The premise underlying all this is that ‘phobia’ means hate, but it does nothing of the kind.  It means fear.  Claustrophobia is a fear of confined spaces; agoraphobia means fear of open spaces.  Arachnophobia is fear of spiders.

In no sense am I homophobic.  I neither hate nor fear homosexuals.  But am I Islamophobic?  Do I hate Muslims?  No!  Do I fear the thousands of ordinary Muslims now living peacefully among us?  No!  But do I fear Islam?  Yes!  A resounding yes!  You cannot but fear Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, all with roots in Islam and all claiming to draw inspiration from the Q’ran.

Nor is it simply a case of radical Islam.  No Muslim country outlaws Christiano-phobia or Judaeo-phobia.  Nor can Islam ever be content to live as a minority under a non-Muslim government.   It is bent on world-domination; and so, of course, is Christianity.  The difference lies in the weapons we use.  Christ sent the church to teach the nations.  Islam mobilised its armies to conquer them; and with the emergence of Islamic State the world has moved beyond the era of underground terrorism to an era of traditional jihad spearheaded by a well-equipped, well-disciplined, well-led army.

I am no expert on Middle East affairs and can only hope that someone in the Foreign Office is.  But if common sense may be allowed a word, is it not time we stopped pouring arms into this theatre of permanent war?  This is what we have done in every crisis so far, arming those we thought were underdogs only to discover that those ‘poor suffering people’ quickly become aggressors themselves.  It’s all very well to say, ‘We won’t send troops, but we’ll give you weapons.’  Our weapons always fall into the wrong hands.  British troops on the ground would at least keep their rifles.  Instead, IS is currently slaughtering Christian ‘infidels’ with weapons which Britain and America supplied to the Iraqi army.

And then came Monday.  The BBC were televising a Referendum debate and, boy, did they want us to know about it.  They trailed it on Reporting Scotland, giving their very own production extended coverage at the top of the national news and then announcing that there would be comment and analysis in a special early edition of Scotland 2014.  Thanks for the warning, I said, and managed to avoid it all, including the analysis.  Once I learned that Allan Hansen, the distinguished Match of the Day pundit, wasn’t on the panel, there seemed no point in watching.  He would probably have told us (if I may paraphrase his most famous comment), ‘You’ll never win anything with Punch and Judy Shows’.  All in all, I found myself wondering how many BBC staff will be redundant once this bore is over.

But to my chagrin I was door-stepped by a clip: the one that showed Alistair Darling conceding that, yes, an independent Scotland could use the pound.  He was instantly overwhelmed by a cacophony of SNP derision.  Otherwise we might have heard his full reply, which was that, ‘Yes, we could have the pound, or the dollar or the rand or the rupee or the rouble or the yen or the pund’ (or words to that effect).

But by the end of his sentence my mind was away in a dwam, contemplating the extraordinary fact that we want to be independent of England but we don’t want to be independent of the English pound.

What does it say about us that the one English thing we want to hang on to is their money and their Bank?

And then to cap the week, it emerged that thirty-four Church of Scotland ministers (out of seven hundred) had spoken out in favour of a Yes vote.

This was the gobsmacking-est news of all.  Could these be the men who for two hundred years have been doing their best to dismantle Scotland’s Kirk and build a new one modelled on the Church of England?

There’s nowt as queer as Scots.

This article first appeared in the West Highland Free Press, 29th August, 2014