August 8th, 2005


Fanatics like to be persecuted. It confirms them in their sense of their own importance, gives them publicity and draws disciples. And it proves what they were saying all along about the state being unjust and wicked.

The early Christians- who were fanatics of Al-Qaida-like intensity (the accusation that they were behind the burning of Rome in AD 64 is entirely plausible) courted persecution. Tertullian, who was as keen on martyrdom as any Islamicist, spelled out the logic, "The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed."

He was right.

The Blair government is responding to the current terror campaign by curtailing the human rights of Muslim extremists. It's a populist move, guaranteed to win the favour of the right-wing papers. As a liberal I'm against it. I think our respect for human rights is what makes us better than our enemy. But more than that, I think it's dumb.