By Hwaa Irfan
In changing times, when the structures man has evolved over a period of time became normalized it was and has been established to be true, to the extent that when those very structures begin to falter like a domino effect, those who fully believe in those structures hold tighter to what is a changing paradigm.
Some of us need firm ground to stand on to be able to walk. Sometimes that firm ground can only take us in one limited direction, but we continue to walk on it because our life has been built upon it. When the road curves, or goes up hill demanding more of us we accept it as it is as long as it continues to be the same road. We may refuse to see the environment in which that road exists is changing, and so we hold even tighter to our perception of what that road should be. For people of faith the same can happen, and in doing so we become hardened and unable to see the beauty of the major highway in which our faith is taking us.
In this case, those who hold fast, who fear anything that questions their perception of reality, are those people without faith. They do not wish the ground they have walked for so long to change – it must remain the same, and anything that questions it to be reviled or denied. They have denied the wings that true faith can give them to walk the road least traveled, and will go to extremes to remove the major highway from their equation.
So it was for 64-year-old Christian Colin Atkinson , in the 21st century, the more liberal times one would like to believe, but a time that sometimes differs little from that of the Roman Empire. Atkinson faces being dismissed from his job with Wakefield District Housing, U.K. for his Christian beliefs, which in terms of work was practiced as a simple crucifix which Atkinson kept in the back of his van. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey fund the situation to be unacceptable, and is asking for Atkinson to be allowed to mark Easter by displaying a tiny palm cross in his work van. Other people of faith have also come out in support of Atkinson.
Niranjan Vakhaira, President of the Hindu Charitable Trust commented to the Daily Mail:
‘Everybody has the right to preach their own religion.
‘I don’t see how anyone can take offence at this cross, the employers are definitely in the wrong.
‘Every human being has the right to follow his faith, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody.
‘If it hasn’t harmed anybody then I don’t see the logic in telling him to remove it.’
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute commented:
‘I can’t see any problem at all in displaying this symbol.
‘I can’t see how this would offend anybody.
‘I really don’t think people should become so touchy about these things.
‘You have to respect other people’s feelings and beliefs.’
A spokesman for the Sikh Education Council commented to the Daily Mail:
‘We find it difficult to understand why an employer would terminate someone’s employment for having a crucifix in their vehicle.
‘We suggest the employer should rethink their actions in this particular case.
‘Sikhs believe in freedom of expression and freedom of belief with respect.
‘As long as what someone is doing is doing it with respect for other people we would support their right to practice as they see fit.’
Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus have come in support of Atkinson, along with his fellow Christians.
In the mind of the employer WDH, neutrality must be maintained, but if neutrality means being a hypocrite, hiding one’s belief then this is far from being neutral. Being neutral means being open, and accepting differences from person-to-person; not casting them into the melting pot of “the other” so that they can learn to feel ashamed, unworthy or become fanatical, while leaving secularists to become fanatical. In terms of the public face of WDH one can appreciate if they have a concern as to how others might react, but this just calls on those of faith to understand their faith more, and the genuine needs of their employers. If Environment Manager for WDH, Denis Moody who attacked the Daily Mail photographer for covering the story can hang a poster of Che Guevara in his office, and a Muslim admin worker can hang a verse from the Qur’an in windscreen of a car she uses for work, why cannot Atkinson keep a crucifix in his work van?
As mentioned in the Daily Mail, there seems to be a rank-and-file hypocrisy, with Atkinson being out and about midst the public. This may not have been the intention of WDH which has a policy of not displaying personal items in company vehicles, and advise managers the same when using personal cars on company work. But if the practicing of one’s faith comes with a promotion then all this kind of policy does is increase disrespect for authority.
In the case of Atkinson the complaint was set in motion by complaints from tenants about his crucifix, but surely what is important is Atkinson’s ability to do his job well. By bowing to prejudicial complaints that have no bearing on Atkinson’s ability to do his job, one is issuing a false sense of power, and control to those who surely have better things to do with their lives!
Tolerance does not come from inhaling, it comes from the ability to exhale, and with each breath to learn and understand that we all recognize our needs differently. One sometimes wonders if communism had succeeded what difference there would be to the democracy (a confusing notion admittedly) we have now!?
Fagge, N. “Muslims Give Backing to Christian Electrician Persecuted for Cross in Van.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378704/Muslims-backing-Christian-electrician-persecuted-cross-van.html