Miles Kington: How the Taliban met its match in Wiltshire

'Parking on the bus stop or leaving litter in the shelter should be punishable by stoning or execution'
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While people are in danger of being executed in Afghanistan by the Taliban for spreading Christianity, the top Catholic in Britain says that we British no longer have a Christian moral centre to our lives. Clearly the missionaries spreading the word out in the Middle East are tackling the wrong country – but which religious movement will respond to the British lack of faith first..?


Taken from the minutes of the parish council meeting of the small Wiltshire village of Courtney Pine, on 18 July 2001, Mr Beeton in the chair.

Chair: We come now to the village church restoration fund. We have received an appeal for help with the 17th century porch, which is in danger of collapse. Does anyone have a comment – Mrs Wylton?

Mrs Wylton: I think that we should do everything that we can to help. It's a lovely porch.

Chair: Thank you. Anyone else? Mr Yakoub Khan?

Khan: Yes, I have something to say.

Chair: I should explain to those of you who don't know that Mr Khan is a recently elected member of the council, though he originally hails from – where is it, Mr Khan?

Khan: Afghanistan.

Chair: Afghanistan, and has recently moved here into our village. So what are your feelings about the porch?

Khan: I think it should come down.

Chair: You think it is dangerous?

Khan: I think that the whole church should also come down. It is a blasphemous eyesore. It is an insult to the one true faith.

Chair: The true faith being..?

Khan: Islam, of course.

Chair: Yes, Islam. Well, of course I respect your point of view, Mr Khan, but I think that a lot of people here belong to another faith, namely Christianity...

Khan: Who? Who belongs to it?

Chair: Well, I do, for a start...

Khan: Do you really? Do you believe in God? Do you conduct your life according to Christian principles? Do you pray every day? Do you forgive your enemy, as Jesus says?

Chair: Well, no, of course not, but I go to church every Sunday.

Khan: Every Sunday?

Chair: Well, most Sundays. Maybe some Sundays...

Khan: Pah. You are not a Christian. You only go through the motions. You are not like the Taliban. With the Taliban, to believe is to act.

Chair: Is that why you suggested that dogs fouling the children's playground should be stoned to death?

Khan: Certainly. And their owners.

Chair: I have explained why that is not possible. It is against the law here.

Khan: Then change the law. The Taliban changes the law all the time.

Mrs Wylton: I must say, I have a sneaking sympathy for Mr Khan and the dogs. They are a perfect pest. We've tried big notices and we've tried fines and we've tried pooper scoops, and none of it works, so perhaps stoning would do the trick. Perhaps not to death, exactly...

Khan: No, it must be to death! Also for parking on the bus stop by the green and for leaving litter in the bus shelter! This should be punishable by stoning or by execution. But first, we must destroy the church, this terrible symbol of a dangerous faith that will undermine the morality of all of us...

Chair: What do you think, Rev Green? As our padre, I think that you're entitled to a say.

Green: Well, thank you. I've listened carefully to what Mr Khan says, and, of course, in Jesus's day there were no churches, so you could say perhaps that he wants us to go back to first principles! His ideas of revenge are perhaps a little Old Testament for us... an eye for an eye and all that.

Khan: I do not want revenge. The Taliban does not call for revenge. The Taliban calls for the rooting out of error and punishment .

Green: As a Christian minister, should I also be put to death?

Khan: Yes. I would like to propose that very much.

Chair: Well, before we move on to the main item on the agenda, which is the summer fête, I suppose that we ought to vote on this one first. All those in favour of the Rev Green being executed..? And against..? So, by eight votes to one, the padre lives to fight another day, and let's move on to the summer fête. Now, Mr Khan, I believe you have got some ideas about charging to watch public executions..?