Is ‘robust Christianity’ the antidote to Islamic extremism?
She is not simply a rebellious daughter, but an apostate who, under the principles of Shari’a, is unworthy of anything but execution. And she is fortunate in having such dedicated and devout brothers who are themselves prepared to carry out the sentence - in the name of Allah.
Yet the questions posed by Mr Lawson are not so much aimed at the Government’s response to such threats, or even that of the police, but at the total inadequacy of the non-response of the Church of England.
As ever, one might expect the Most Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, to articulate something of the nexus. His father was a Muslim who converted to Roman Catholicism, and thence Dr Nazir-Ali converted to the Church of England. Over the past 30 years, he has witnessed the dominant form of Islam in the UK mutate from the ‘pietistic, Sufi-orientated’ branch to the ‘militant and political’ - the same form of the religion that forced him out of Pakistan.
And he is in no doubt as to its source: ‘the British mosques had recruited people from fundamentalist backgrounds (who manifest) the chauvinist manifestations of Islam, a kind of ideology which affirms the will to power.’
Yet it is not Saudi Arabia which is to blame, and neither is it the British Government’s immigration policy, but the ‘the British people themselves’, because ‘there has been a catastrophic collapse in Christian-based morality and spirituality in this country over the past 40 or so years and that this has created a "moral vacuum" in society as a whole, which has been increasingly filled – at least in the minds of impressionable youth – by fundamentalist Islam’.
The Bishop highlights one salient fact: ‘…while Muslims make up no more than 3 per cent of the British population, there are now more Muslims who attend a mosque regularly than there are regular attenders in the pews of the Established Church. Fundamentalist Islam can hardly take all the blame for that extraordinary reversal’.
And it is to Islam that thoughts now turn when there is talk of ‘devout adherence’, ‘commitment’, or ‘submission to God’. And the theme is taken up by the pathologically porous media, eager to imbibe the latest spiritual fad in order to boost its viewing/reading figures, and gives rise to such myopic endeavours as that to be screened on Channel 4 this weekend – ‘Why I want to be a Muslim’ – or some such title. As if they would ever waste their cash on a documentary of the virtues of Christianity.
Dominic Lawson takes issue with Dr Nazir-Ali on one point, and he is right to do so:
“Here, as a leading figure in the Church of England, Dr Nazir-Ali is swimming in dangerous waters. Is it the British people who should be blamed for deserting, in their millions, the once-dominant Church of England? Or should not the Church of England look at its own performance and try to understand why it has lost such a vast proportion of its audience – at least as defined by regular churchgoing, rather than notional affiliation?”
But it is simplistic to conclude that the Christians necessarily take their faith less seriously. There is an increasing incongruity between the professed religious belief of Christians, and statistics which indicate a persistent decline in church attendance. In his book ‘Religion in Britain’, Davie notes the rise of ‘believing without belonging’, and rightly talks of the ‘unchurched’ rather than the secular. While the distinction is difficult for many to perceive (and certainly the manner in which some ‘devout’ Muslims perceive the ‘irreligious’ Christians), it would be more accurate to see this as a development in the expression of the Christian faith, rather than constituting its disappearance or diminution.
So all that is left is to decide what one means by ‘robust’ and what one understands by ‘Christianity’. While the Archbishop of Canterbury may interpret the demand as a call to be a more determined doormat, there are certain self-appointed prophets who would turn up their megaphones and offend the world with their sounding brass or their tinkling cymbals. The robust Christianity must be based on love, which, as any parent knows, sometimes merits a firm slap.