I am always reluctant to get involved in these arguments about the clash of civilisations because Western Values are nearly always represented by people who are fundamentally uncivilised: crazed rightists, Christian soldiers and outright racists. On the other hand, I am not given to liberal hand-wringing about respecting other people's beliefs and seeing everything in context. The people Wishart writes about should not be able to come to our country. If we can keep Ahmed Zaoui locked up we ought to be able to keep this lot out.
Fortunately, we have a draft statement on religious diversity to protect us from the hooded claw. Less than fortunately the 'evangelical community' is represented on the interfaith statement working group by Glyn Carpenter of the Vision Network. He is not very keen on diversity: "words like 'tolerance' and 'reasonable' can be very problematic." Tolerance and reasonableness towards the unfaith community is particularly difficult for him:
Education – some responses (from atheists/humanists) saying there was absolutely no place for religion/belief systems in schools, showed “special pleading” – without (probably) being aware that they were doing it. Atheism, humanism, and secularism, are themselves “belief systems”. Why should they automatically have priority place in state education when the largest belief system in the country is Christian? I said it would not be unreasonable to adopt something like the UK model (mentioned in one of the responses) which allocated a significantly larger portion of time in education to teaching Christianity compared to other religions. The notion of “impartial teaching” was also problematic.Of course, the cause of secularism is hardly assisted by the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) insisting, in its own submission to the religious diversity debate, that Rationalism and Humanism are belief systems. In doing so, the NZARH fell into a trap set long ago by the fundies. Now they have it on record that ours is just another belief, a religion without a god. Some of the more happy-clappy Humanists at the NZARH would like nothing more than to be thought of as high priests; for the rest of us, the NZARH position is disastrous: the fundies will point and say that we are just another competing religion.
So there we have it; clowns to the left of us and jokers to the right. I am not sure of the value of interfaith dialogue but at least it keeps them busy. Still, we can be sure of one truth: however much the People of the Book disagree with each other, they are united when it comes to despising us.