Battle of words over Remembrance speech

The Rev John Hudghton
The Rev John Hudghton
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Buxton’s senior clergyman has dismissed claims that his Remembrance Day warning about the dangers to Britain’s traditional freedoms was an attack on Islam.

The Rev John Hudghton listed wars against the Kaiser, Nazi Germany, Japan and Communist China and Korea as examples where Christian non-violence had had to be suspended in the face of an evil which could only be confronted by force.

The Rector, who put his own safety at risk while serving during Northern Ireland’s Troubles by preaching against the misuse of Christianity by both sides in that conflict, also said:

“We have also seen many long years of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland where brutal acts against human rights and dignity were carried out against both serving personnel and civilians alike.

“Those who have served recently in Afghanistan know we are once again up against a very evil and cruel religion that causes women and minorities who do not toe the line to be oppressively and brutally treated.

“That is what some protesting, using the very liberties won through our forefathers’ sacrifices for this country, would subject us all to, even today.”

But Mike and Jeanette Murcott, of Buxton, who were among those in the large crowd at the Cenotaph paying their respects, said the words were an attack on Islam.

“The British Legion’s mantra is non-political, non-denominational and their aim is to reconcile,” said Mr Murcott, who claimed that the comments were inappropriate.

“They were insulting to Muslims and to decent and fair-minded people, and showed a lack of consideration and concern for those assembled.”

Mr Murcott pointed out that in World War Two, Britian’s victories in the desert war against Rommel were fought in large part by Muslim soldiers, with 36,092 volunteers killed or reported missing, 64,354 were wounded, and almost 80,000 captured.

Notably 30 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Indian service personnel during the war.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to those brave soldiers as well as to those Muslims who have served in our armed services since the Second World War and who currently serve our Queen and country,” said Mr Murcott.

“We firmly believe that the Revd Hudghton should retract his words and issue a sincere apology for the insult and injustice of his comments.”

But Mr Hudghton, said: “Let me be absolutely clear, in my address I purposely did not use the word Islam or Muslim. Having just spoken about Northern Ireland in strong terms I thought it was clear that it was the expression of religion that drives the Taliban and Al-quaida that I was referring to.

“If I was not clear enough in my address and if I have offended Muslims who reject and abhor the doctrines and methods of the Taliban then I sincerely apologise.

“I am sure that moderate Muslims and reasonable people would accept there is a vast difference between their interpretation and expression of Islam and that which advocates physical violence to achieve the oppression of women, the persecution of homosexuals, the suppression of other faiths including liberal and moderate Muslims.

“We are fortunate to live in a society where religious freedom is allowed.

“Sadly there are some societies and countries dominated by more strident expressions of Islam and other belief systems where that is not the case.

“It is these freedoms that we value and believe that all humankind as a matter of human rights should be allowed. Sadly the radical expression of religion that is expressed in Afghanistan by the Taliban and their cohorts by definition does not share in these values.

“I cannot find another definition for an expression of a religion that aggressively uses violence in this way and which recruits all manner of people, including children to carry out its heinous ends.

“Whether that religion be Christian, Hindu or Islamic I will always condemn it.

“Certainly when I served in Northern Ireland for three years I publicly preached this.”