Jan 13, 2008

Extremism in Britain

Those are the words of the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali from his article in the British Telegraph. It is evident by its title that his argument is based around the notion that Islamic extremism is growing because Christianity is decreasing. The article avoids discussing why there is a growing increase of British people who consider themselves to have no religious affiliation at all. Instead, he is criticising the authorities’ public recognition of Britain as a ‘multi faith country’ by claiming that “the British [are] losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they [seek] to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of multiculturalism.”

The use of ‘newer arrivals’ suggests that this issue is about immigration as much as religion, if not more. Whilst he states that more people and newer developments (of Islam) are creating a “no-go” area, he is also paradoxically praising the influx of Christian immigrants – “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.” It seems that the current issue of immigration in Britain is swept under the rug as long as the ‘right’ kind of foreigners arrive. The Bishop, the only Asian one in his Church, is an immigrant who came to England from Pakistan. 

I agree that a segregated country will not be a prevailing country and that there are greater issues of isolated communities that need to be dealt with but the otherwise interesting article is tainted by his conclusion that tackling these problems “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.” By limiting qualities such as dignity and compassion to just the Bible, it excludes the larger population of agnostic Britons who don’t equate 'freedom' and equality with the influence of any religion. Therefore, isn’t he essentially fighting one kind of extremism with another? 

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