Here is the controversial statement [emphasis mine]:
Scotland will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against
our people and those from many other lands. The pain and suffering will remain
forever. Some hurt can never heal. Some scars can never fade. Those who have
been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive.
Mr Al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one
that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is
terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die.
So, is this just another I'm-a-theist-and-I-assume-you-are-too statement aimed at those who give their god credit for all, and ignoring those who do not relate to it? Or is it something worse? Is this statement benign, or is it deeply disrespectful?
I'm going to have to go with disrespectful. Implying that al-Megrahi's disease is some sort of punishment for his crimes disturbs me for a few reasons.
First, what about all the people currently and throughout history who have committed crimes that were as heinous or even more heinous than those of al-Megrahi, who have gone on to live long, healthy lives? Where is the divine justice there? Are the families and loved ones of the victims of these unpunished crimes to believe that God did not see fit to punish the guilty person? Nice.
Second, there are a staggering number of moral, productive, upstanding members of society who are stricken with terminal disease every day. They are given the same "death sentence" as al-Megrahi. Does this imply that these people are dealt this illness and suffering as a result of some divine justice that is beyond our comprehension? After all, God works in mysterious ways... What a horrible idea to impose upon the families and loved ones of the terminally ill!
I understand the spirit of what MacAskill was trying to say; he was expressing that the man is going to suffer and die, his suffering is not something the judicial system imposed upon him, and it will not make a great deal of difference whether he does this suffering in a prison or at home. I get that.
MacAskill's choice of words was poor, though. It was not simply a metaphor to be glossed over. In my opinion, it was potentially hurtful to a lot of people who are already hurting over undeserved and unbearable circumstances.
Powerful people should choose their words wisely.