Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 August 2015

Don’t mention the war Basil... or politics or religion

By Laurence White

Published 15/12/2009 | 09:00

One thing people in Northern Ireland learned to do over 30 years of hate-filled conflict was to avoid discussions on politics or religion, except with close friends.

Even mild mannered people can have very deeply held views on both politics and religion and debates on those issues can often turn nasty quite quickly.

Luckily, most of us will never have to undergo the same experience as a Liverpool hoteliers Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang, who were prosecuted for a hate crime after a Muslim guest complained about comments made by the couple.

What exactly was said is still unclear, but the couple face ruin as a result of the case. Whether the complaint should ever have ended up in court is a moot point.

It does seem that if a minority feels persecuted then the full might of the law is brought to bear on the suspected culprits. Yet extremists seem to get away with all kinds of intolerant language without any interference from the law. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the prosecution, the hoteliers must share some of the blame. They should know never to comment on religion or politics except in the most general of terms.

We expect hoteliers only to tell us local attractions, which restaurant to book and what the weather forecast is.

If we want to discuss any other topic we will ask a taxi driver.

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