Catholic Herald: ‘We cannot turn Muslims into traditional Britons’
One might therefore expect The Catholic Herald to view the plight of Islam with a degree of sympathy. But they seem intent on inflicting upon this minority religio-political system the very bigotries they accused the Protestant majority of inflicting upon their religio-political system in ages past (or present, if one heeds the opinion of Cardinal Keith O’Brien). It is not only perceived in the opinion of the paper’s editor-in-chief on Muslim schools, but also in articles like their review of God’s Continent by Philip Jenkins.
The theme is ‘the influx of Islam into a rapidly secularising Europe, its nature and its possible outcomes’. There is a cursory mention of what Christians and Muslims have in common – ‘belief in an omnipotent God who created us for a purpose, and requires of us a way of life and prayer in order to reach him (which) puts us into a minority set up against a consciously secularised society’. But then there is the difference: in Europe at least, Christians are in decline, perceived largely as harmless eccentrics, while ‘Muslims are seen as a dangerous invading force seeking to change our society, and ready to go to extreme lengths to achieve this’.
The problem is that recent legislation in the UK tars all religions with the same brush: ‘so the regulations and movements which seek to defend democracy against the threat of divine fiat spatter us both’. The Catholic Herald asks: ‘It is even alleged that controls applied to faith schools or sexual discrimination, use the fear of Islam as a foil to attack Christianity (and in particular Catholicism – which is a kind of backhanded compliment). Of course we do not have bombs in our hands. And that makes all the difference. Or does it?’ While (accurately) observing the problems associated with immigrating Muslims, they forget how equally-applicable the words once were to British Roman Catholics:
The Muslim community consists of immigrants often separated from society by language, culture or location. This may be in part their fault, but it is a common feature of all large immigrations. The children of immigrants find it difficult to overcome prejudices which bar them from even the first rung of the ladder; their lives seem meaningless and frustrating. Their defence is to deepen their immersion in their own group, and, in some cases, to define themselves by anti-social behaviour. But, add to this a religious ideology which makes this behaviour feel virtuous and you have a perfect recipe.
And the following is worthy of quotation at length:
Islam contains many schools, from the extreme to the rational, so it is not hard to find a justification which suits psychological need. Even the Koran, which may appear to provide a solid rock of certainty, is not so. There were several versions of the Koran as late as the 10th century, when the current version became canonical. And there are Muslim scholars of note, not popular with their co-religionists, who interpret the book and its doctrine in contextual and hermeneutic terms not dissimilar to modern scientific exegesis of the Bible.
The general, and more mature, members of the Muslim community may disagree profoundly with extreme doctrines, or accept their inappropriateness within the country of their adoption. But it is hazardous to give this a public voice, let alone to co-operate actively with the authorities in identifying the dangerous groups. I am reminded of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland. Nor have we helped in the past by giving safe havens to extreme voices, which still speak through the internet and elsewhere.
But Jenkins does see some hope. The further a Muslim community is from the Arab hinterland, the more likely it is to adapt to Western society, and the many attractions it has to offer. It will be a long process, but the Muslims are not in Europe for the short term, most of them will stay indefinitely. In fact, we might not want them to abandon all their values for those of the Babylon in which they now live.
Multiculturalism – in effect insulating different cultures in parallel – was never a good idea in our tight little island, and it has been replaced by the ideal of integration. But we have to realise that this does not mean absorption in the sense that we turn all the Muslims, and the many other immigrants we have, into traditional English people. We have to be ready to change too. The result will be a new mixture. Undoubtedly the fundamental basis of the rule of law and democracy will remain but our habits and our attitudes will be modified. And a characteristic of the new society will be that we value the diversity of traditions.
There will be limits of course and, while maintaining as wide a diversity as possible, the issues that threaten integration will need to be tackled sensitively, and often on a case-by-case basis. Refreshingly, Jenkins sees this as a potential opportunity for European Catholicism. In adjusting to change there will be a greater awareness of the roots of our traditional society, and no doubt a higher value placed on us as a creative and contributing minority. Currently there is an exaggerated respect for Muslim rights, born at least in part of fear. In the future, broader society may recognise that creative minorities have something to contribute to the whole. And creative minorities must acknowledge the rights of broader society to disagree with them.
Meanwhile, we might remember St Bernadette’s remark that the only thing she had to fear was bad Catholics. Living out our religion fully in all its dimensions is the strongest of all the arguments we can mount.
So is the only thing we have to fear ‘the bad Muslims’?
Cranmer can hardly wait for Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party’s Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, to reveal her thoughts upon these complex religio-political issues. As the first Muslim woman to sit in the Shadow Cabinet (or, indeed, any cabinet), she has a considerable burden of expectation upon her shoulders. She professes to believe in ‘greater equality’, yet she has used election leaflets which were hostile towards ‘gay rights’ and an equal age of consent. For her, the Islamic view of the family, society and religion are the pattern to which we must conform. Her actions speak loudly, and she has never said otherwise. She also advocates dialogue with the extremists intent on destroying us, and that must mean appeasement.
How Sayeeda Warsi will balance her belief in the innate superiority of Islam with a Party dominated by kafir in the land of the kuffar remains to be seen.