I'm not sure I know why I've always found it so difficult to agree with so reasonable a man as Tony Blair. Perhaps his fatal inability to think beyond the most powerful person in any argument - which is a strange Labour party trait; one of the few things he has in common with the rest of his party.
But I do agree with him about religion. Religion may be a force for disorder and war but, in comparison with secularism, it is a pussycat. And unlike secularism, religion carries within it at least a powerful demand for peace.
We are different from France. We don't usually interpret our liberalism in terms of secularism. Disestablishment, maybe. The roots of British Liberalism lie only partly in utilitarianism and radicalism; they also lie in nonconformist religion, and the tolerance which that implies.
We are able to distinguish, as we badly need to do, between good religion and bad religion.
All of which is a way of saying that I find the French aggressive secularism uncomfortable. It seems to me not to be quite human. It smacks just a little of the French Revolution. There is another kind of intolerance about it.
And tolerance, it seems to me, would lead us to understand a little of the sensitivities of those around us, and especially those who are basically on our side. They find pictures of the founder of their religion offensive and upsetting.
I'm not sure therefore whether another cartoon of the Prophet isn't playing into the hands of those who would like this to be a giant battle between Islam and secularism. That isn't a winning hand for our side.
I understand why another cartoon has been published. I understand why it has been republished. But as a British Liberal, I find it uncomfortable. Because if this is a battle against the jihadis - the most important priority is to win it for European values.
I don't have to choose between tolerance and satire, but - if I had to - I would personally go for tolerance.
Speedrail to the South (1967)
9 hours ago