Government moves towards state-sponsored Islam
This is not a new development. Tony Blair announced such funding during his last days in office, to ensure the propagation of an Islam of ‘moderation and modernity’
He said the voices of ‘calm’ Islam had been hijacked by extremists, and highlighted such books as The Muslim Jesus as though it should join the Hadiths of Islamic orthodoxy.
It does not, of course, mention the Trinity, for that would be offensive.
The BBC has announced that now the Government is to fund a ‘board of Islamic theologians’, with Oxford and Cambridge Universities hosting debates on ‘key issues such as women and loyalty to the UK’. Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said it was government's job ‘to support Muslim leaders on controversial issues’.
Cranmer is not so sure.
He has no doubt that there ought to be funding to assist in the education and training of imams to reduce mosques' reliance on overseas ministers (usually Pakistani) who invariably understand little of British society, repudiate democracy, and rarely speak English. But the use of tax-payers’ money to fund a conference at the élite universities on ‘women and loyalty to the UK’ is fraught with difficulties.
This will not be a Lambeth, where every Bishop (well, almost) expects an invitation and has a right (most of the time) to attend. Who will these 20 ‘leading thinkers’ be? Who will select them? It is alleged that the board’s work will be ‘free of political interference’, but this is impossible for group in receipt of state funding: it will be as compromised as the Established Church, and it will be very difficult to persuade the recusants to comply with any emerging doctrine.
It is stated that the board's membership will ‘reflect the diversity of Islam and Muslim communities in the UK’.
So Abu Hamza, Hizb ut-Tahrir and MPAC are as entitled to their places as Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain? What Islamic ‘third way’ can be found to accommodate such a diverse gathering? By what voting mechanism will such diverse individuals formulate British Islam? And how will the orthodoxy be made binding?
Yet the Sheikh perhaps gives the game away when he says: ‘This board has to be something owned by us, driven by us but supported by government. We've made it clear that it's not for government to touch our theology or touch the way we train our people.’
And suddenly, with the language of supremacy, what they 'have made clear', the ‘them and us’ distinction, with the assertion of the possessive pronoun, one detects a hint, just a hint, of the Dar al-Harb giving way to the Dar al-Islam, and the Government becomes complicit in the construction of the Dar al-amn – the house of security – which it will be obliged to support in perpetuity. And God forbid that the British Government should ever presume to interfere with ‘our theology or touch the way we train our people’.