ConservativeHome: ‘Islam should become our state religion’
His Grace has long admired the author, Melanchthon, and so played along with the ruse and contributed a few thoughts.
But yesterday a second article appeared, without any ConHome disclaimer or author’s ‘personal capacity’ notification, in which Melanchthon denied that his proposal was anything but serious. He said: “Some of you appear to imagine my remarks to be satirical. I am quite serious about this.”
And His Grace began to mistake ConservativeHome for the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’.
Seriously, the proposal is wholesale: to replace Christmas and Easter with Islamic holidays; to have leading imams anoint the Monarch at his or her coronation (notwithstanding that Muslims do not ‘anoint’); Islamic prayers before debates in Parliament; imams instead of bishops in the Upper House; privileged slots on public service broadcasting; a compulsory short Muslim act of worship each day in state schools; and the incorporation into British jurisprudence of Islamic concepts of justice.
All of this, we are assured, ‘would be better than the way we’re going at the moment’.
It may indeed be superlative religio-philosophical sarcasm, but the denial is a satire too far and, on a site with the prominence and standing of ConservativeHome, quite in danger of leading astray the politically naïve and spiritually weak.
Whilst the author is unequivocal in his assertion that ‘Anglican Christianity is best’, he is apparently persuaded that it is Islam to which we must now look ‘to provide moral purpose to our politics and moral guidance to our people’.
This is because ‘our Establishment finds it impossible, any longer, to be respectful of Christian goals and morals’.
Melanchthon does not appear to be particularly enamoured of secularism as an option, and so proposes an ‘Anglicized form of Islam’ which would be ‘willing to compromise for influence (as Protestant Christianity did) by accepting that secular rulers would select its religious leaders’.
He appears to be unaware that Gordon Brown adjusted this arrangement and surrendered the Prime Minister’s power under the royal prerogative to choose diocesan bishops: it is now the Church which selects them (ie the Crown Nominations Commission and the Supreme Governor: ‘secular rulers’ no longer play any part).
And it would therefore be the mosques which would appoint imams, for it would be unacceptably discriminatory to deprive the mosques of the process which has been devolved to the Church.
The adoption of Islam, we are assured, would not oblige is to ‘introduce Sharia Law or forcibly convert everyone to Islam’.
Unfortunately, Melanchthon appears to know very little about sharia.
There is no ‘Sharia Law’, in the definite-article, upper-case sense of absolute unifying authority in the fashion of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. By opting for the extreme of forcible conversion, he might as well have talked of dismemberment or the stoning of homosexuals. But it is not these interpretations of sharia which would undermine centuries of Common Law tradition or human rights based on the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. We would be faced immediately with ‘moderate’ sharia, such as those proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury: marriage courts which would discriminate against the wife and daughters, or criminal courts in which the testimony of a woman or a non-believer would be considered less than that of a male Muslim.
Islam is about sharia and jihad as much as Christianity is about sacrifice and love. The West’s understanding of the Arabic terms is now inseparable from the crass media caricature, but theologically to talk of Islam without either is to talk of Jesus without the cross.
ConservativeHome proposes Islam as the state religion, despite a mere 4 per cent of the population expressing adherence to that religio-political construct, because they quite erroneously assert that ‘we haven’t historically needed most people to be Christians to have Christianity as a state religion’.
This is a bizarrely ahistorical assertion: there has not been a time in the post-Augustinian mission era in which Christians have not constituted a majority on these islands; even if that majority – measured at 72 percent in 2001 – is made up culturally-affiliated Christians.
The article points out that the Establishment ‘is already enamoured of Islam’ and ‘also hates itself and what it has stood for, with the unpleasant consequence that it has become virulently anti-Christian’. This is undoubtedly true, though some may prefer ‘fearful’ to ‘enamoured’. There is no doubt that the state has become anti-Christian in ways that it would not dare to be anti-Muslim. And so they conclude that 'we have reached the point where it would be better for Christians if they stood apart from the Establishment’.
So why have ConservativeHome not commissioned an article on disestablishment?
Why have ConservativeHome not commissioned an article on the need for the Church of England to acquire some teeth?
Why play along with the Establishment-media narrative of the demise and death of Christianity and the inexorable ascendancy of Islam, when such a proposal can only make Christians feel more hated by the Establishment than they already do?
It is one thing to challenge the idea that society is ‘secular’ (or atheist, materialist and agnostic). But it is quite another to argue that this justifies the rape of the Constitution and the abandonment of the foundation of those very liberties which have made us what we are. It is one thing to observe that the Establishment no longer finds inspiration in Christianity, but quite another to conclude that ‘the best alternative is Islam’.
His Grace attempted to engage the author, but he did not respond.
Islam is undoubtedly one of the great religions of the world, and there are profound strands of correlation between its precepts and the principles of conservatism.
But ConservativeHome appears not to grasp that Melanchthon’s vision is itself a fundamentally un-conservative proposal: indeed, it would constitute a most un-Burkean revolution in the state, more akin to the spirit of the French Revolution than to English traditions of organic reform.
The notion of ‘liberty’ for the Christian has a quite distinct theological lineage, not only from sin and the power of evil, but also in the Calvinist understanding of church governance – 'liberty from Romish hierarchies’. According to Burke, 'to preserve that liberty inviolate, is the peculiar duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons'.
When Locke published The Reasonableness of Christianity, he made observations on basic human equality reasoned from the Bible which are quite antithetical to those of the Qur'an. The love of one’s neighbour is central to Christianity, yet the few ayats in the Qur’an that mention love are a world apart in meaning from those of the New Testament. Allah’s love is conditional upon obedience to his precepts, and so we read: ‘Allah loveth not the impious and the guilty’ (4:107). Love is something Allah offers conditionally, while YHWH is love (1Jn 4:8), incarnate in Christ, and the command to believers is to love their neighbours unconditionally. This is antithetical to qur’anic teachings on love, justice and mercy, which exhort Muslims to love their co-religionists above the kuffar: ‘Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends’ (5:59); ‘Fight those who believe not in Allah or his Apostle, even if they are the People of the Book until they submit’ (9:29).
At the same time as Locke was concerned to examine the extent to which the state should coerce in order to pursue the moral good, Burke was among the first to observe that society is organic, and that change must be evolutionary, not revolutionary, consonant with social mores and sensitive to national traditions.
One does not, of course, need to believe in God in order to be a conservative: political activity may be pursued quite independently of God. But conservative philosophy is not independent of the belief in God. There is a distinct secular conservative tradition, but the inspiration of the Christian faith and the hope that it engenders have been at the heart of many conservative social reforms and its contribution to civil society: the faith has found its expression in the law and in the institutions of law-making in England to such an extent that the separation of Church and State would now be a distinctly un-conservative revolution fraught with complexities. And there is the very moot question of the extent to which politicians can legislate at all while ignoring the professed religious beliefs of the majority of those they seek to govern. Politics cannot be detached from religion when the body politic is defined by its religious history and identifies, even passively, with a particular creed.
Conservatism arises from the sense that one belongs to some continuing and pre-existing social order. This common life has traditionally been embodied by the geographical parishes of the Church of England, to which the majority of the nation, and the majority of Conservative Party members, still express allegiance: it incarnates the nation’s history, traditions, culture and prejudice. These, for the conservative, are the principles of social life which constitute an unwritten social bond – even a transcendental connection with the Church of England – Christ’s body in the nation. If there are obligations and allegiances which govern all earthly contracts, it is a small step from belief in a transcendent bond to belief in the transcendent Being who upholds it. For the conservative, there is a natural source of laws at least akin to the divine command, if not precisely that. These laws are underpinned by what may now be termed ‘natural justice’, and in the United Kingdom our understanding of that justice is shaped by the Christian faith.
It is not immediately clear why ConservativeHome carries an article which not only proposes a profoundly un-conservative constitutional revolution but also a traumatic social shift, or why Lord Ashcroft’s money has been used to commission it.
In the ConservativeHome exposition of their raison d'être, they refer to a number of shields, of which the sixth is 'faith'. It purposely stands at the centre of their banner design, and it is not just any faith which is represented, but specifically the Christian faith. They note: "Not all conservatives are religious but most conservatives are still affected by Britain's Judaeo-Christian inheritance. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reminds us of part of that legacy in today's Times:
"Christmas reminds us of a God who is completely committed to the weakest, who uses power only so that human life can be fuller, more peaceful and generous, who gives us the help we need to make our relationships stable and faithful – and who requires of us a complete honesty about ourselves, and gently, steadily, chips away our self-deceptions. Christmas tells us that our best instincts about human nature and what’s needed for a healthy world and society aren’t just things we’ve made up. They are rooted in the way the whole universe is shaped by God."In light of this, an article published on Remembrance Sunday which advocates the wholesale replacement of the Church of England with the Mosque of England is incongruous, to say the least. Judging by some of the comments, many found it offensive.
Would ConservativeHome commission articles promoting Marxist-Socialism over Conservatism, or the merits of Ken Livingstone over those of Boris Johnson, just to provoke debate?
If not, why is the state religion treated so flippantly?