Am I the only person who thinks Pussy Riot should have been jailed?
Published: 13:56 BST, 23 August 2012 | Updated: 01:22 BST, 24 August 2012
Am I really the only person who believes the Russian courts were right to jail the three members of the punk band Pussy Riot? Am I the only one who thinks their unauthorised performance of a ‘punk prayer’ at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, was a gross act of desecration? And am I alone in finding Western hysteria surrounding the singers’ conviction, a sickening exhibition of moral hypocrisy?
Consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks following last Friday’s sentencing of the three women to two years in prison. She claimed the ‘excessively harsh’ sentence was ‘not compatible with the European values of law and democracy’. Good to know that European ‘values’ now include blasphemy and sacrilege.
Jailed: Pussy Riot members, from left, Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, pictured at court in Moscow
And what of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s comment that ‘these ladies are showing spiritual leadership in times of great crisis and that is the job of true artists’? Funny, but I thought the job of a true artist was to shine a light on the sacred and not to ‘do dirt’ on it. And how, pray tell, is gyrating around the sanctuary of a Cathedral an act of ‘spiritual leadership’?
What’s more, I don’t remember too many ‘artists’ like Pussy Riot or Miss O’Connor, using their public platform to denounce the communist despots of the old Soviet Union. No, back then it was ‘American tyranny’ they were denouncing. Back then, their heroes were those, like Chairman Mao, who considered the concentration camp as the only place worthy of ‘true artists’.
Writing in Monday’s Irish Times, writer and musician Ian Maleney commented that people like Pussy Riot ‘want the freedom to do, say and think as they wish, without the undue pressure and influence of the government. It’s a basic civil right’. No, it is not, for even the great liberal John Stuart Mill believed that when such freedom ‘harms’ other people, it must be curtailed.
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Those who were harmed by Pussy Riot’s antics were not only the Russian Orthodox worshippers of Christ the Saviour, but, I suspect, most people who still believe in the sacred. The jailed singers claim they were entreating the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin. If so, why did they think that trampling on sacred soil was a good way to earn the Blessed Virgin’s favour?
Imagine, for a moment, that rather than invade a Christian church, Pussy Riot decided to perform their ‘punk prayer’ in a mosque. In such circumstances, do you think Western politicians, commentators or ‘artists’ would be queuing up to support them? Do you really think the politically correct High Command would be so vocal in its praise?
We, in the West, have become so immune to attacks on Christianity, that we can see nothing wrong with a bunch of punks prancing around the sanctuary of an iconic Cathedral. We defend their sacrilege by invoking freedom of speech and civil rights. No sympathy, of course, for those who were deeply offended by their actions, or for the rights of those who simply wish to worship in peace.
Why aren’t critics of Islam supported with similar zeal? Where are the ‘true artists’ when brave Muslim women take issue with certain aspects of their faith? Are they not also showing spiritual leadership in times of great crisis? As I say, moral hypocrisy.
My own view is that neither a church nor a mosque is a fitting place to make any form of protest. Both should be respected as places where the sacred has made its home on earth. It is there, on that holy soil, that worshippers believe they make direct contact with their Creator.
To use this space for anything other than worship is wanton desecration. Liberals who have become desensitised to the sacred may scoff at that suggestion. But for those who still regard certain places as hallowed, nothing can compensate for even the slightest violation.
Supporter: Singer Sinead O’Connor backed the punk group’s protest
The old woman agitated at the sight of children running across the altar of our local church, was not overreacting. For her, as for me, that altar represents what T.S. Eliot described as the ‘point of intersection of the timeless with time’. It is where Christ Himself is made present and, thus, where the promise of our salvation is fulfilled.
I cannot conceive of people using that sacred altar for political purposes. I cannot conceive of them squawking and jumping around the Sanctuary as a way of attracting attention to their cause. That is not spiritual leadership but, if anything, an assault on the spiritual.
There is nothing wrong with legitimate protest. But no cause, however great, can morally justify the desecration of holy things, for that is to wound those whose lives revolve around them. Then again, perhaps Pussy Riot and their supporters think worshippers at Christ the Saviour are simply collateral damage.
Sinead O’Connor believes ‘artists are there to push the boundaries’ and that, by ‘using music as a priesthood’, Pussy Riot have ‘made a very powerful artistic statement’. It is neither powerful nor priestly to desecrate a church and offend its congregation. In fact, I can’t think of a softer target.
Let’s hope their prison term will give them space to consider the difference between truly audacious activism, and that which requires no courage at all.