THERE is a strange anti-religious hysteria going on. In this curious world, wearing a veil is sometimes tantamount to issuing a challenge to a fight. And so is wearing a cross.
Why are public signs of religious faith so offensive?
What the secular cultural elite seem to find most objectionable about religion is that it is able to express a powerful sense of faith. And that is sometimes seen as subversive in a society insecure about its own values.
We once considered one’s right to display religious symbols a freedom.
When did we start caring so much about whether someone was outwardly Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu?
Wearing a religious symbol gives notice to others, and awareness to yourself, that life has transcendent meaning.
There are always ways around silly restrictions.
Christians are forbidden to wear crosses in most Muslim-controlled nations but a contractor in the Middle East got around that problem when he asked a local jeweller in a Muslim country to make three gold fish necklaces.
Second century Christians used the fish symbol to avoid persecution when identifying themselves to other believers.
The Muslim jeweller, who had no idea of their real significance, later reported he was now making them for Muslims who thought the fish symbols fashionable.
Jewish groups have been campaigning to remove crosses outside the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz. They were placed there to commemorate a visit by Pope John Paul II several years ago.
But there is one cross at Auschwitz that will always stay.
It was etched on a wall in cell 21 by a Polish resistance army officer before his execution. It’s not a political symbol, but it is a statement, then and now, of hope.