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Bishop Nazir-Ali warns that attempts are being made to give
Britain an increasingly Islamic character

Extremism flourished as UK lost Christianity

By Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester 06/01/2008

In fewer than 50 years, Britain has changed from being a society with an acknowledged Christian basis to one which is increasingly described by politicians and the media as "multifaith". One reason for this is the arrival of large numbers of people of other faiths to these shores. Their arrival has coincided with the end of the Empire which brought about a widespread questioning of Britain's role. On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of "multiculturalism".

This required that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority. Alongside these developments, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism. One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into "no-go" areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an "Islamic" character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer. Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker.

This is happening here even though some Muslim-majority communities are trying to reduce noise levels from multiple mosques announcing this call, one after the other, over quite a small geographical area.

There is pressure already to relate aspects of the sharia to civil law in Britain. To some extent this is already true of arrangements for sharia-compliant banking but have the far-reaching implications of this been fully considered?

It is now less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain.

The existence of chapels and chaplaincies in places such as hospitals, prisons and institutions of further and higher education is in jeopardy either because of financial cuts or because the authorities want "multifaith" provision, without regard to the distinctively Christian character of the nation's laws, values, customs and culture.

Not only locally, but at the national level also the establishment of the Church of England is being eroded. My fear is, in the end, nothing will be left but the smile of the Cheshire Cat.

In the past, I have supported the establishment of the Church, but now I have to ask if it is only the forms that are left and the substance rapidly disappearing. If such is the case, is it worth persevering with the trappings of establishment? Much of this has come about because of a "neutral" secularist approach which refuses to privilege any faith. In fact, secularism has its own agenda and it is certainly not neutral. It is perfectly possible for Britain to welcome people on the basis of its Christian heritage.

Christian chaplains can arrange for people of other faiths to have access to their own spiritual leaders without compromising the Christian basis of their own ministry.

Instead of this, the multifaith "mish mash" is producing a new, de facto, establishment as the Government attempts to bring particular communities on to its agenda for integration and cohesion, an agenda which still lacks the underpinning of a moral and spiritual vision. If it had not been for the black majority churches and the recent arrival of people from central and eastern Europe, the Christian cause in many of our cities would have looked a lost one.

At last it seems the Government may be waking up to the situation; to the importance of English as a means of communication, to greater integration in housing, schools, and leisure pursuits and in citizenship education. But none of this will be of any avail if Britain does not recover that vision of its destiny which made it great. That has to do with the Bible's teaching that we have equal dignity and freedom because we are all made in God's image. It has to do with a prophetic passion for justice and compassion and it has to do with the teaching and example of Jesus Christ regarding humility, service and sacrifice. Let us pledge in this New Year to restore this noble vision to the centre of our national life.
 
Michael James Nazir-Ali (born 19 August 1949) is the Pakistani-born 106th and current Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England. He holds dual Pakistani and British citizenship. Michael Nazir-Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan to Christian Punjabi parents but with a Muslim family background. His father had converted from Islam. He attended the Roman Catholic-run St Patrick's school in Karachi and began attending Roman Catholic services and identifying as Christian at the age of 15; he was formally received into the Church of Pakistan aged 20. Bishop Nazir-Ali met his wife, Valerie, who is English, in Cambridge. They have two sons, Shammy (Shamoun) and Ross, both now adults.

Bishop Nazir-Ali attended Saint Patrick's High School, Karachi, read economics, Islamic history, and sociology at the University of Karachi (BA 1970) and studied in preparation for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (1970). He undertook further postgraduate studies in theology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BLitt 1974, MLitt 1981), Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (MLitt 1976), and the Australian College of Theology (PhD 1983). He has also studied at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His particular academic interests include comparative literature and comparative philosophy of religion. In addition to teaching appointments in Australia and Canada, he has been a tutor in the University of Cambridge, Senior Tutor of Karachi Theological College, and Visiting Professor of Theology and Religious Studies in the University of Greenwich. He has been elected an Honorary Fellow of his colleges at Oxford (St Edmund Hall) and Cambridge (Fitzwilliam). From 1986 until 1989, while he was Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Co-ordinator of Studies and Education for the Lambeth Conference, he was Honorary Curate of Oxford St Giles and St Philip and St James with St Margaret

He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1976 and worked in Karachi and Lahore, and became the first Bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab (1984-86) — at the time, the youngest bishop in the Anglican Communion. When his life was endangered in Pakistan, Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, arranged for his refuge in England where he was an assistant to the Archbishop at Lambeth and assisted with the planning of the 1988 Lambeth Conference; he was General Secretary of the Church Mission Society 1989-1994 and concurrently Assistant Bishop of Southwark. He was appointed Bishop of Rochester, England in 1994, and in 1999 entered the House of Lords as one of the "Lords Spiritual" by virtue of his seniority in episcopal office. He will cease to be a member of the House of Lords upon retirement. He was tipped as a possible Archbishop of Canterbury but was passed over in favour of Rowan Williams.

Bishop Nazir-Ali is generally in the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, describing himself as "evangelical and catholic." He has ordained women, but opposes the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy and blessing of same-sex unions. Bishop Nazir-Ali has become a prominent spokesman for engagement between Christianity and Islam. He is frequently quoted in the press and has sided with conservatives in the Anglican Communion, particularly in their opposition to the recognition of gay relationships. He has advocated more effective integration of ethnic communities. As with Dr John Sentamu, the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York, he has been critical of the Canadian-originated concept of multiculturalism, urging that Britons take greater pride in their authentic cultural inheritance and that Britain and Britons take greater pains fully to integrate immigrants into the general community. He was one of the 'rebel' bishops who signed a letter against Rowan Williams' appointment of the Reverend Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003. The others were the Bishops of Bradford, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Exeter, Liverpool, Southwell, and Winchester. They are known to their opponents as the Nazgul.

In October 2007, he told the Daily Telegraph that he would not attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference because he would find it "very difficult" to be in Council with bishops who had consecrated Gene Robinson.

Bishop warns of no-go zones for non-Muslims
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones 06/01/2008

Islamic extremists have created "no-go" areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops warns today. The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church's only Asian bishop, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
   
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he compares the threat to the use of intimidation by the far-Right, and says that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christianity to be the nation's public religion in a multifaith, multicultural society. His comments come as a poll of the General Synod - the Church's parliament - shows that its senior leaders, including bishops, also believe that Britain is being damaged by large-scale immigration.

Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran. In an attack on the Government's response to immigration and the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores", he blames its "novel philosophy of multiculturalism" for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a "moral and spiritual vision". Echoing Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said that the country is "sleepwalking into segregation", the bishop argues that multiculturalism has led to deep divisions. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has accused Muslims of promoting a kind of "voluntary apartheid" by shutting themselves in closed societies and demanding immunity from criticism.

In the Synod survey, to be published this week, bishops, senior clergy and influential churchgoers said that an increasingly multi-faith society threatens the country's Christian heritage and blamed the divisions on the Government's failure to integrate immigrants into their communities. It found that more than one in three believe that a mass influx of people of other faiths is diluting the Christian nature of Britain and only a quarter feel that they have been integrated into society.

The overwhelming majority - 80 per cent - said that the Government has not upheld the place of religion in public life and up to 63 per cent fear that the Church will be disestablished within a generation, breaking a bond that has existed between the Church and State since the Reformation. Calls for disestablishment have grown following research showing that attendance at Mass has overtaken the number of worshippers at Church of England Sunday services.

Bishop Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam to Catholicism, was criticised by Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain. He said: "It's irresponsible for a man of his position to make these comments. "He should accept that Britain is a multicultural society in which we are free to follow our religion at the same time as being extremely proud to be British. We wouldn't allow 'no-go' areas to happen. I smell extreme intolerance when people criticise multiculturalism without proper evidence of what has gone wrong."

But the Bishop's concerns are shared by other members of the General Synod. The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, said that it was increasingly difficult for Christians to share their faith in areas where there was a high proportion of immigrants of other faiths. He believes that increasing pressure will be put on the Government to begin the process of disestablishment and end the preferential status given to the Church of England. "The writing is on the wall," he said.

Gordon Brown relinquished Downing Street's involvement in appointing bishops in one of his first facts as Prime Minister - a move viewed by some as a significant step towards disestablishment.

Last night, Mr Davis said: "Bishop Nazir-Ali has drawn attention to a deeply serious problem. The Government's confused and counter-productive approach risks creating a number of closed societies instead of one open, cohesive one. It generates the risk of encouraging radicalisation and creating home-grown terrorism."

See also
Muslim hyprocrisy
Church of England 'institutionally racist'
Silly bishops

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