Dr. Nazir-Ali’s most famous and controversial statements concerned urban neighborhoods of the UK which have become virtual “no-go areas” to non-Muslims. The bishop has taken a lot of flak from the chattering classes, especially those within the Anglican hierarchy. According to today’s Telegraph, however, he’s not backing off from his assertions:
Bishop of Rochester reasserts ‘no-go’ claim
In his first interview since his controversial comments, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali vows not to be forced into silence
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, who received death threats for airing his views on Islamic issues, has vowed that he will continue to speak out.
His claim that Islamic extremism has turned some parts of Britain into “no-go” areas for non-Muslims led to fierce rows between political and religious leaders over the impact of multiculturalism on this country.
Those comments were followed soon after by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion that the adoption of aspects of sharia law in Britain was “unavoidable”.
The bishops’ views in The Sunday Telegraph sparked a storm of criticism and raised questions over the role of the Church in society but, most seriously for Dr Nazir-Ali, led to threats that he and his family would be harmed.
Yet, in his first interview since the sinister calls were made to his home, the Bishop of Rochester remains steadfastly defiant. He will not be silenced. “I believe people should not be prevented from speaking out,” he says. “The issue had to be raised. There are times when Christian leaders have to speak out.”
Threats were made warning that he would not “live long” and would be “sorted out” if he continued to criticise Islam.
Dr. Nazir-Ali originally fled from Pakistan to escape death threats from Muslims, so the irony of his current circumstances is not lost on him:
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However, it’s not the first time that his life has been endangered.
Shortly after being made a bishop in Pakistan — at 35 he was the youngest in the Anglican Church — he was forced to flee to Britain to seek refuge from Muslims who wanted to kill him.
He says that he never expected to suffer the same treatment in Britain and expresses concerns over recent social developments.
He continues to speak out, and is more concerned about the civilizational crisis within the West than he is with Islam itself:
“The real danger to Britain today is the spiritual and moral vacuum that has occurred for the last 40 or 50 years. When you have such a vacuum something will fill it.
“If people are not given a fresh way of understanding what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a Christian-based society then something else may well take the place of all that we’re used to and that could be Islam.”
Dr. Nazir-Ali is daring to give voice to sentiments that many thousands of his fellow Britons hold, but which are denied utterance by the rubrics of political correctness:
Just over a year ago Abu Izzadeen, an Islamic radical, heckled John Reid, the former home secretary, as he tried to deliver a speech on targeting potential extremists. “How dare you come to a Muslim area,” Izzadeen screamed.
There was widespread dismay at the outburst, but nobody had dared to try to suggest that these views were entrenched across the country until the bishop spoke last month.
In warning of attempts to impose an Islamic character on certain areas, for example by amplifying the call to prayer from mosques, he seems to have tapped into the fears of a large section of society.
Many Christians — not least some of the leaders of the major Protestant denominations — seem to think that Christian morality always requires the faithful to submit without resistance to any form of violence. Dr. Nazir-Ali, however, believes the time has come for Christians to stand up for what they know is right.
To many, he has become a champion of traditional Christianity and its importance to Britain at the same time as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been attacked for suggesting the adoption of aspects of sharia law is “unavoidable” in this country.
While the archbishop received widespread support from within the Church, Dr Nazir-Ali found himself isolated from his colleagues.
“I don’t court popularity. If I say something it’s because I think it’s important enough to say it. What I said was based on evidence, and that has been strengthened as a result of overwhelming correspondence.”
The moral cowardice that his been so evident of late within the Anglican Church is not lost on him, although he is circumspect about addressing it directly:
He wishes the Church would be more vocal on issues of multiculturalism and sharia law, but refuses to criticise his colleagues, although it is clear he is baffled by their silence.
“I can’t guess why they haven’t talked on the issue. I’m not responsible for other people’s consciences.” Is it due to cowardice? “You’d have to ask them.”
Above all he is opposed to the adoption of any form of sharia for Muslims in the UK:
“People of every faith should be free within the law to follow what their spiritual leaders direct them to, but that’s very different from saying their structures should replace that of the English legal system because there would be huge conflicts.” In particular, he points to polygamy, women’s rights and freedom of belief as areas in sharia law that would undermine equality.
There is a danger that the archbishop’s remarks could become a reality unless Britain quickly regains a sense of its Christian heritage.
“Do the British people really want to lose that rooting in the Christian faith that has given them everything they cherish — art, literature, architecture, institutions, the monarchy, their value system, their laws?”
As a Pakistani-born immigrant who has suffered racist abuse — he was called a “Paki papist” by Anglican clergy — he has gained an army of admirers who appear grateful to have someone brave enough to address controversial topics. He has vowed the latest threats will not change how he and his family live.
“The recovery of Christian discourse in the public life of this nation is so important. It’s that discourse that will allow us in a genuine way to be hospitable to those who come here from different cultures and religions.”
It’s ironic that a bishop of Pakistani and Muslim background should be the most visible defender of Christianity and British tradition.
Maybe it’s easier for someone coming in from the outside to see what we’ve got that’s worth saving.
Hat tip: TB.