Sunday, January 06, 2008
Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester has written an article in the Sunday Telegraph entitled Extremism flourished as UK lost Christianity. Some of the bits that have been highlighted include:
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.
The Bishop 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.
Obviously the media have picked up on the more controversial sections of his article, but he makes two important points:
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.
We often try to suggest that the agnostic view point is a nothing, but it has its own views and beliefs and they impact politics, education and other areas. He points this out with issues such as the erosion of chaplaincy units in hospitals.
His other key point is:
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?
The disestablishment of the Church of England is an interesting issue which has come higher up the agenda with the increased multi-cultural society and Gordon Brown's decision to relinquish Downing Street's involvement in appointing bishops.
In many way disestablishment would be a sad thing - there has been that relationship between church and state since the reformation - and it acknowledges the influence the Church of England had, and to some extent has on society.
But the Church of England doesn't have the influence any more, recent research showed that attendance at Catholic Mass has overtaken the number of worshippers at Church of England Sunday services. The link between the Church and State can also make the Church lazy - they are used to privileges that others don't get, they have influence which isn't necessarily deserved, disestablishment may make the church think and priorities harder, and become more vocal on issues.