Helen Martin: Mosque hatred is ill-informed

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FOR a fleeting moment, I thought I was in America’s “Deliverance” country, where no-one has passports, inbreeding and narrow minds prevail, and anything that isn’t as familiar as apple pie is greeted with fear and suspicion.

But no, it really was Edinburgh, or to be precise, Newtongrange, Midlothian. A routine religious education visit to the Central Mosque in Potterrow by primary one, two and five pupils hit the headlines after 28 of the 90 children were withdrawn by their parents.

Their reasons included the belief that mosques preached hate, that the trip was an attempt to ram Islam down the throats of children, and even that there was some perceived link between the Woolwich murder of soldier Lee Rigby and the mosque in Edinburgh.

Predictably, the only organisation to come out in support of those parents was the BNP.

I find it disappointing and quite shameful that such ill-informed discrimination exists in our region today and that so many people actually want to remain ignorant.

It reminds me very much of the old distrust between Protestants and Catholics that used to be so 
widespread.

I still remember someone I’d known for years asking why somebody like me would have graven images in their house. Once I’d figured out they were talking about a Madonna and child carving, I asked them if they’d attended their kid’s nativity play. Yes, they had. Yes, Mary featured in it. But that was different they said, from having an ornament on the wall which amounted to 
idolatry.

That was in Glasgow in the days when folk really believed a Catholic could murder someone and be forgiven in Confession, that Catholicism was out to take over the world and brainwash everyone in it, and that all Catholics were card-carrying members of the IRA with a bomb under their trench coat.

I also remember much later being on holiday in the States and realising most Americans, because they knew loads of Jewish people as friends and neighbours, were unequivocally on the side of Israel against the Palestinians, who they regarded as Muslim and therefore alien. I pointed out there were blonde Palestinians, Christian Palestinians, Palestinians who wore Western fashion rather than a burka. They simply didn’t believe me because that wasn’t what they saw on US television. They wanted to hang on to their prejudices rather than lose them.

It’s easier to believe the Bogeyman is someone of a different, race, colour or faith than to face the reality that evil comes in all shapes, genders and creeds including our own.

If the Newtongrange parents who withheld their children from the trip really did so out of concern for their children’s welfare, it suggests they didn’t have much faith in the school or the teacher.

So why not try again . . . but this time include the parents in the invite so they can go along to “protect” their children, and more importantly learn a little about Islam for themselves?

Show stopper

POLICE have raided the £6 million rented mansion of former X Factor judge Tulisa, 24, having arrested her on suspicion of supplying drugs. That won’t harm her street cred nearly as much as being replaced on the show by superior judge Sharon

Osbourne, who is 61.

Find a remedy for GP contracts

WHAT constitutes a “decent salary”? At £89,300 with no after hours or weekend work, GPs are doing better than most, some might even say they are overpaid, especially when they can earn another £560 a shift from NHS Lothian to cover A&E departments.

But we can’t blame them. Labour presided over a change in GP contracts in 2004 which allowed the family doctor to earn more for working less. Who would refuse?

Since then we’ve had the shambles of NHS 24 and now 111 in England. There is only one solution which is to renegotiate, to put GPs back in charge of arranging co-operative shifts or employing locums for their own practice cover.

Old ways are not to be sneezed at

IT’S been an office joke for some time. Every time I go on holiday, I come back with a snotty bug.

The doctor finally joined the dots and suggested I may not be very good at travelling in hermetically sealed, metal tubes (be they buses, coaches, trains or planes) with air conditioning that just recycles everyone else’s germs.

We don’t have much choice with planes, but for everything else my sinus problems began when real old-fashioned windows that would actually open to let air in and bugs out disappeared. I can’t be alone. How many working days have been lost through modern transport design?

The fast lane to upset grannies

MOTORWAY lane hoggers and tailgaters are to be hit with higher fines. Put like that they sound like background extras from the Dukes of Hazzard, reckless dudes behind the wheel.

But the majority of lane hoggers may well turn out to be little old ladies, timid drivers or tourists who, with some justification, are confused by our motorways, especially those like the M8 which have traffic joining and leaving from both sides, and are terrified of moving lanes unless they must.

Steering a middle course used to be a safe option. I predict many tearful grannies will fall foul of this.