For writing forthrightly about the transformation of significant areas of Great Britain--such as East London, for instance, as Robert Spencer reminds us today--Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has provoked GB's Islamic leaders to charge him with promoting ethnic "division," not to mention racism.
"It is clear from this latest racist and prejudice[d] article that he is determined to create unnecessary division and hatred towards Muslims," said Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, the country's leading Muslim youth organization. Nazir-Ali should resign for promoting hatred towards Muslims, he said.
Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the comments were of the type expected from the ultra-right British National Party, "not a responsible figure in the Church of England.""
Another MCB representative, Ibrahim Mogra, said Nazir-Ali "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," said Mogra, who is an imam in the city of Leicester, where Muslims account for 11 percent of the population, compared to the 3.1 percent national average according to 2001 census figures.
GB's non-Islamic leaders responded to the Bishop's concerns about no-go zones with doubt and dismay--about the bishop's statements in the Sunday Telegraph, not the no-go zones. Senior Conservative lawmaker William Hague said in televised comments he did not think the claims of "no-go areas" was factually-correct, while Nick Clegg, leader of the third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, said the comments were "extraordinarily inflammatory."
Today's Telegraph reports:
But senior figures from the Church of England have backed the Bishop of Rochester's remarks about faith and said Christians in predominantly Muslim areas could feel isolated and nervous about how to express their belief.
The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev John Goddard, said his colleague had raised serious questions about the role of faith, race and culture in British society.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, said it was becoming difficult for Christians to share their faith in areas where there was a high proportion of other faiths.
"Other faiths" plural? Poor, frightened Bishop Reade.
The Telegraph story continues:
Bishop Goddard said Christians in northern towns such as Blackburn and Burnley, where 95 per cent of the Asian population is Muslim, could find life difficult.
"I think they sometimes feel as though they are strangers," he said. "It is a question of how people of different beliefs work together. Of course, the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving."
Funny, how that "vast majority" fails to love peace quite enough to keep the peace, along with the civility that has traditionally been a hallmark of British society. Blackburn, by the way, is a city of about 137,000 people that is roughly 70 percent Christian with a very large Muslim minority--20 percent according to the 2001 Census. Burnley, with a population of almost 90,000 people, is roughly 86 percent Christian with a smaller Muslim minority--roughly 6 percent. (This more closely reflects Britain's overall Muslim population, which is only about 3 percent.)
Back to Bishop Goddard:
Endorsing Bishop Nazir-Ali's comments, he said: "Bishop Michael has raised these issues as a start of a debate which has serious connotations.
A long, long, long overdue debate.
"The seriousness is how do you enable people of different cultures, races and faiths to live together as one nation, that seems to be at the back of what he is saying."
Bishop Goddard said the increased wearing of the hijab in parts of Britain was a cultural rather than religious phenomenon.
He added: "So many tensions are driven by culture rather than faith. My hope is that we can work effectively across the boundaries of other people then faith can be used as a means to understand each other."
Tensions are driven by culture not faith? Poor, frightened Bishop Goddard. Someone should tell him that Islamic faith shapes Islamic culture. But of course that's another No-Go Zone in Merry Olde Englande--and beyond.