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History > 2008 > UK > Faith / Religions (I)




Conservative Anglicans

form breakaway church

in revolution led from the south

· New Hampshire's gay bishop was turning point
· Move marks power shift to developing countries


Monday June 30, 2008
The Guardian
Riazat Butt and Toni O'Loughlin Jerusalem
This article appeared in the Guardian
on Monday June 30 2008
on p9 of the UK news section.
It was last updated
at 08:38 on June 30 2008.


Conservative evangelicals representing half of the world's Anglicans launched a new global church yesterday, challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and vowing to rescue people from the forces of "militant secularism and pluralism" created by a "spiritual decline" in developing economies.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Foca, will sever ties with the main churches in the US and Canada, whose leaders they accuse of betraying biblical teaching. Foca architects will tomorrow go to the conservative evangelical church of All Souls, in central London, to discuss global Anglicanism and English orthodoxy.

Hundreds of disgruntled clergy, representing many Church of England parishes, will be in the audience and the speakers will include the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, and the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi.

Great swaths of Anglican provinces, including Africa, South America and Asia, are furious with their counterparts in the northern hemisphere, accusing them of being in thrall to contemporary culture, with the ordination and consecration of gay New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson acting as a turning point. The creation of Foca is a schism in all but name.

Outraged over the "false gospel" being promoted in the west, Foca pledges a return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, ignoring 21st-century additions and interpretations. It will train its own priests by sending them to hardline theological colleges such as Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and Oak Hill, London, and will insist on more orthodox practices in its churches.

There will also be a primates' council, comprising senior bishops and archbishops who attended the Jerusalem summit that led to Foca's inception.

At a press conference Jensen said they would bring "order to a situation of turmoil" and help to deal with "the chaos caused in the Anglican church through revisionist activities".

He added: "This [primates'] council gives the opportunity for this high-level group to consider matters calmly and to look into them, to see if drastic action needs to be taken.

"It's unusual, but the times we live in are unusual. The revisionist agenda, which we have seen come into fruition within the same-sex union, is a missionary one and it is going to spread its theological views as far abroad as it can."

They were ready to cross borders and boundaries to rescue parishes in distress, he added.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, said the group would develop a protocol to "spell out the process of how to become a member.

"It is for people who are convinced of what we have done and are willing to move on with us. Much of the UK and Europe are under the severe attack from these [secular and pluralist] forces. The church has diminished greatly."

When asked how far the archbishops were prepared to go to intervene, Akinola replied: "If you receive an SOS from anywhere in the world we will move in."

Akinola said the declaration would strengthen the church in the eyes of the Muslim community in Africa. "Before now, Muslims and Christians have been wondering what sort of church this was."

The US bishop David Anderson said the discussions in Jerusalem provided hope for traditionalists. He added: "At some point we will have our own province in North America."

The 300 bishops and archbishops who attended the Global Anglican Future Conference deny wanting to split from the 80 million-strong Anglican communion.

A formal schism would involve tortuous legal procedures over the ownership of churches and other properties.

However, in a statement, they said: "While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury." The rejection of Rowan Williams marks the end of colonial domination of the Anglican communion, shifting the balance of power to developing countries.

Details of Foca were finalised yesterday morning and the reading of the statement was greeted with standing ovations, spontaneous singing, hugging and tears of joy. One of those present said he thought the skies were about to open so the delegates could ascend to heaven.

The existence of another communion will have a profound impact on Anglican churches all over the world by providing disillusioned conservatives with a powerful network of allies overseas.

Late on Friday Jensen said the Americans "committed an extraordinary strategic blunder" in 2003 when they consecrated Robinson, because they thought there would be no consequences. "The consequences have been unfolding over the last five years. Now their church is divided; it looks as though there will be permanent division, one way or the other," he said.

"All around the world the sleeping giant that is evangelical Anglicanism and orthodox Anglicanism has been aroused by what happened in Canada and the United States of America. It was an act of folly."

There are already at least a dozen bishops, consecrated by African churches, who have the specific task of serving conservative US parishes.

The Archbishop of the Southern Cone, covering a number of South American countries, Gregory Venables, has provided a spiritual haven for the rebel US diocese of San Joaquin, California, and is thought to be in discussions to take in the diocese of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth, Texas.

Of the 300 bishops and archbishops who attended the Global Anglican Future Conference, around 200 are boycotting this summer's Lambeth conference, the once-a-decade gathering of the Anglican world's 880 bishops, in a snub to Williams's leadership.

There was no need to issue an ultimatum to the Lambeth conference, said Jensen. "The sheer existence of Gafcon poses a challenge to others in the Communion," he added.

The conservatives have blasted Williams for failing to discipline the Americans and Canadians.

Akinola accused him of leading the Anglican communion into a "state of turmoil and brokenness" and also appeared to accuse him of apostasy, something he later denied, to the relief of the conference organisers, who were also embarrassed when Akinola and other African archbishops did not condemn acts of torture against homosexuals.

There has been no response from Williams or Lambeth Palace, in spite of the abuse hurled at him, his office and supporters.

Conservative Anglicans form breakaway church in revolution led from the south,
G, 30.6.2008,






Williams accused

of leading church into crisis

· Nigerian cleric applauded for attack on archbishop
· Rebellion by Nazir-Ali a coup for traditionalists


Monday June 23, 2008
The Guardian
Riazat Butt in Jerusalem
This article appeared in the Guardian
on Monday June 23 2008 on p6 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 02:28 on June 23 2008.


A senior Anglican archbishop last night accused Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, of apostasy, manipulation and leading the church into turmoil, as a summit of traditionalists convened in Jerusalem with a mission to "rescue" the Anglican church from its liberal leadership.

The Rt Rev Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, called for a new "roadmap" for the 77-million-strong Anglican communion on the opening day of an eight-day meeting that threatens to upstage next month's Lambeth conference, the summit meeting of Anglican bishops held every 10 years.

In the latest blow to Williams's plans for Lambeth, the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, became the most senior Church of England figure to decline an invitation, joining a growing boycott movement by scores of bishops unhappy with the liberal agenda of some provinces of the church.

Most of the 280 bishops at the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon) have declared their intention to stay away from Lambeth, but Nazir-Ali's rebellion is the greatest victory yet for conservative African and American religious leaders opposed to gay priests and same-sex marriages.

In a speech last night, Akinola set out the conservative case with an excoriating attack on Williams. During an hour-long address, he criticised Williams for his "revisionist leadership" and for leaving the communion in an "unprecedented brokenness and turmoil".

To frequent applause, exclamations of amen and whistles, Akinola called on delegates to rescue what was left of the church "from the error of apostates". "We can no longer trust where some of our communion leaders are taking us," he said. Gafcon, he said, offered "fresh hope for a meaningful spiritual haven" for those who could no longer hold out and be "truly Anglican under revisionist leadership".

"We can banish the errors plaguing our communion, we will not abdicate our responsibility and acquiesce to destructive modern cultural and political dictates," Akinola told the 1,000 bishops, clergy and laypeople assembled, calling for efforts to "inaugurate and determine the roadmap" to a new Anglican future.

His address concluded a day of debate over the communion and Williams, who was described by the Archbishop of Uganda as a "burdened man" suffering "sleepless nights". Henry Luke Orombi said that although Williams was a personal friend and a godly man, there was a need to be decisive.

He praised Nazir-Ali for his "clarity, courage and boldness" and named him as a better candidate to lead the communion.

"I would have loved him to be Archbishop of Canterbury," he said. "There is need for such a man."

Nazir-Ali has repeatedly aligned himself with traditionalists, by opposing the ordination of gay clergy and blessing of same-sex unions, and will tomorrow give an address on the future of the Anglican communion.

He is the most senior Church of England figure to participate in the event and sits on the leadership team.

By favouring Gafcon over Lambeth, which will still attract more than 600 of the world's 880 Anglican bishops, he risks alienating himself from fellow clergy and could get a tepid reception when he attends next month's General Synod, the Church of England's national assembly and legislative body.

The Rev Colin Coward said Nazir-Ali's defiance made no sense. "It's a betrayal of collegiality and commitment to the communion. It's a more serious breach of conduct for an English bishop to boycott Lambeth than someone from overseas," he said. "He puts at risk his authority as a diocesan bishop. Why does he continue to associate with Church of England bishops, sitting with them in the House of Lords, but not go to Lambeth?"

Nazir-Ali's decision has been confirmed by his ally Chris Sugden, one of the English clergy attending Gafcon, who said the bishop had made his mind up as far back as October.

Williams is understood to be aware of Nazir-Ali's decision, but there has been no official response from Lambeth Palace.

Canon Giles Goddard, from Southwark, said Nazir-Ali's protest undermined Williams and the communion.

"He should reconsider his position. I don't see how he can continue to be a diocesan bishop if he behaves in this way," Goddard said.

Gafcon has laid bare the division in the Anglican communion.

The Anglican bishop in Jerusalem welcomed some of the Gafcon leaders into St George's Cathedral for a Sunday service. The Rt Rev Suheil Dawani said: "Throughout its history, the Lambeth conference has dealt with many difficult issues. At times these issues looked as if they might divide us, but they did not because we persevered in prayer and fellowship, together, with respect and patience."

    Williams accused of leading church into crisis, G, 23.6.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/23/anglicanism.religion






'I despise Islamism':

Ian McEwan faces backlash

over press interview

He defends fellow writer Martin Amis
against racist charge and condemns religious hardliners


Sunday, 22 June 2008
The Independent on Sunday
By Peter Popham in Rome
and Thais Portilho-Shrimpton

The novelist Ian McEwan has launched an astonishingly strong attack on Islamism, saying that he "despises" it and accusing it of "wanting to create a society that I detest". His words, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, could, in today's febrile legalistic climate, lay him open to being investigated for a "hate crime".

In an interview with Guido Santevecchi, a London correspondent for Corriere della Sera, the Booker-winning novelist said he rarely grants interviews on controversial issues "because I have to be careful to protect my privacy". But he said that he was glad to leap to the defence of his old friend Martin Amis when the latter's attacks on Muslims brought down charges of racism on his head. He made an exception of the Islamic issue out of friendship to Amis, and because he shares the latter's strong opinions.

"A dear friend had been called a racist," he said. "As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.

"This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on – we know it well."

McEwan – author of On Chesil Beach and the acclaimed Atonement and Enduring Love – has spoken on the issue of Islamism before, telling The New York Times last December: "All religions make very big claims about the world, and it should be possible in an open society to dispute them. It should be possible to say, 'I find some ideas in Islam questionable' without being called a racist."

But his words in the Corriere interview are far stronger, although they do fall short of the invective deployed by Martin Amis. He has said "the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order", and told The Independent's columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim, in an open letter: "Islamism, in most of its manifestations, not only wants to kill me – it wants to kill you."

McEwan's interviewer pointed out that there exist equally hard-line schools of thought within Christianity, for example in the United States. "I find them equally absurd," McEwan replied. "I don't like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others. But those American Christians don't want to kill anyone in my city, that's the difference."

But McEwan's specific irritation is reserved for those who find ideological grounds to condemn his and Amis's views. "When you ask a novelist or a poet about his vision regarding an aspect of the world, you don't get the response of a politician or a sociologist, but even if you don't like what he says you have to accept it, you can't react with defamation. Martin is not a racist, and neither am I."

Elsewhere in the interview McEwan serenely predicted the Balkanisation of the United Kingdom. "Great Britain is an artificial construction of three or four nations. I'm waiting for the Northern Irish to unite with the Irish Republic sooner or later, and also Scotland could go its own way and become independent."

Does the prospect disturb him? "No," he replied, "I think that at this point we should start to reflect on Englishness: this is the country of Shakespeare, of Milton, Newton, Darwin..."

    'I despise Islamism': Ian McEwan faces backlash over press interview, IoS, 22.6.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/i-despise-islamism-ian-mcewan-faces-backlash-over-press-interview-852030.html






Church attacks Labour

for betraying Christians

Strongest criticism of Government in decades

June 7, 2008
From The Times
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent


The policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have helped to generate a spiritual, civic and economic crisis in Britain, according to an important Church of England report.

Labour is failing society and lacks the vision to restore a sense of British identity, the report says in the Church’s strongest attack on the Government for decades. It accuses the Government of “deep religious illiteracy” and of having “no convincing moral direction”.

The report, commissioned for the Church of England and to be published on Monday, accuses the Government of discriminating against the Christian Churches in favour of other faiths, including Islam. It calls for the appointment of a “Minister for Religion”, who would act as the Prime Minister’s personal “faith envoy” and who would recognise the contribution of faith communities to Britain across every government department.

The 180-page report, seen by The Times,describes the Government as moral, but lacking a “compass” and reflects an attempt by the Church to carve out an effective role for itself in the 21st century as a provider of welfare for young and old.

The report was commissioned by the Bishop of Hulme, the Right Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Health, with the support of the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu.

The report comes only days after Dr Sentamu accused Mr Brown of sacrificing liberty for misguided notions of equality and of betraying new Labour’s mantra of “rights and responsibilities”. It shows the extent to which church leaders feel betrayed by the Government’s embrace of a secular agenda.

The authors find evidence of deep-seated hostility to the Church in particular, excluding it from important areas of policy and research – despite Mr Blair being one of the most devout prime ministers of the past century. They portray a Government committed to research into Muslim communities but barely interested in Christian involvement in Britain’s civic and charitable life.

This is in spite of what the authors describe as centuries of pioneering work by the Church in areas of welfare and social provision. “We encountered on the part of the Government a significant lack of understanding or interest in the Church of England’s current or potential contribution in the public sphere,” the report says.

Academics from the Von Hugel Institute at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, approached every Church of England bishop as well as more than 250 MPs, peers and academics. About 70 of the 106 diocesan and suffragan bishops responded. “Every participant in our study from the Church agreed that there was a deep ‘religious illiteracy’ on the part of the Government, especially on the local level, and that an increased tendency to centralised, mega-contracts in some government departments was bad for the whole of the voluntary sector,” they write.

In its strength of feeling it echoes the Faith in the City report of 1985, condemned by one government mininster as “Marxist” because of its criticism of the effects of Thatcherism on Britain’s inner cities. But, far from being a left-wing attack on a Conservative administration, this Church report found many of David Cameron’s policies to be more worthy of praise.

Outlining evidence of huge fault-lines in the relations between Church and state, they write: “The Government is planning blind and has no convincing moral direction.”

They set out recommendations designed to put the Church back at the heart of social and welfare provision, for funds to research the role of “theology” and “spirituality” as motivations in charity organisations and for the archbishops of Canterbury and York to set up a “Anglican Philanthropy Fund” to cash in on a new generation of potential donors.

    Church attacks Labour for betraying Christians, NYT, 7.6.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4083979.ece






5.45pm BST

Tony Blair:

I want to spend my life uniting faiths


Thursday May 29 2008
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Thursday May 29 2008.
It was last updated at 17:57 on May 29 2008.


Tony Blair today said he wanted to devote the rest of his life to promoting understanding between the world's religions.

The former prime minister recalled how his Christian faith gave him the strength to take tough decisions during his spell in Downing Street.

In his most detailed description of the central role of faith during his decade as prime minister, Blair said religion inspired him even when he thought he had little political support.

His remarks appeared in an interview with Time magazine on the eve of tomorrow's launch of his new Faith Foundation, which aims to increase dialogue and practical work between the world's religions, in New York.

Blair, who travels the world as Middle East peace envoy, as a £500,000 a year adviser to the investment bank JP Morgan and as one of the highest paid speakers on the global lecture circuit, said fostering interfaith dialogue was now his most important work.

"This is how I want to spend the rest of my life," he said.

Blair was wary of talking about religion during his time in Downing Street for fear of being seen "as a nutter", he told a BBC documentary last year.

Alastair Campbell, his former communications director, famously told an interviewer from Vanity Fair: "We don't do God."

The former prime minister, a committed Anglican since his days as a student at Oxford in the 1970s, converted to Catholicism after his departure from No 10 last year.

He told how religion helped him during difficult periods as prime minister, saying: "The worst thing in politics is when you're so scared of losing support that you don't do what you think is the right thing.

"What faith can do is not tell you what is right but give you the strength to do it."

In his Time interview, the former prime minister did not mention his most difficult period in office, the buildup to the Iraq war in March 2003 when he told aides that he would resign if he lost a commons vote authorising military action.

But he made the central importance of his faith clear when he said: "I think faith gives you a certain strength and gives you a support in doing a job as difficult as leading a country and gives you that strength and support."

In a rare comment about his faith during his time in Downing Street, Blair said in 2006 that he accepted that he would be judged by God.

"If you believe in God, [judgment] is made by God as well," he said. This was wrongly interpreted to mean he had sought divine approval for the Iraq war.

Blair will announce tomorrow that that his Faith Foundation, to be run by his former No 10 aide Ruth Turner, will bring together six faiths - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

He said the foundation would encourage practical work by religious groups to help tackle poverty and disease, and singled out the UN's millennium development goals as an important area.

His first target will be malaria, which kills around 850,000 children a year.

"If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria, what a fantastic thing that would be," he said.

"That would show faith in action, it would show the importance of cooperation between faiths, and it would show what faith can do for progress."

    Tony Blair: I want to spend my life uniting faiths, G, 29.5.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/may/29/tonyblair.religion







Violent Islam appeals to social misfits

The vulnerable young Jihadi recruits
will usually fail in their deadly missions.
But eventually one will succeed


May 23, 2008
From Times Online
Andrew Norfolk


It is the exclusive club that will accept almost anyone as a member.

To become a Western foot soldier of jihadist Islam, and in some cases its sacrificial, exploding lamb, requires no one to pass a test of intellect or psychological stability.

Numerous examples of would-be martyrs for the cause have illustrated that violent Islamism is a death cult that holds a particularly seductive appeal to the social misfit.

The ideology is easy to absorb. It paints the world in black and white. And it offers you a chance to belong.

For those born into Muslim families in the West, it is often a sense of dislocation that encourages the first step along a path that can lead to terrorism.

Unable to identify with the “old country” Islam and cultural practices of their parents, they feel equally alienated from the values of a host country that will, they feel, never fully accept them.

The non-Muslim convert to a militant interpretation of the faith may also have found himself searching in vain for a way to fit into a world where everyone else seems to be at home.

Whether Muslim or non-Muslim, such jihadist recruits in the West are usually aged under 35 and male. They are often both angry and confused, and thus ripe for selection.

Introduction to the God who will eventually require them to kill unbelievers comes to some via the internet; others are introduced to him by friends or preachers.

It can begin in the privacy of the bedroom, on the street corner, in the coffee shop, the mosque, the prison.

The world is a simple place, they learn. It is inhabited by only two types of people: Muslim and non-Muslim.

God’s intention, as revealed to his final prophet, Muhammed, is that Islam should reign supreme. When the Prophet’s example is followed universally, all will be peace, harmony and beauty.

The Islam of your parents, young Muslims are told, is a weak distortion of the true faith. Look to the Koran - or rather, the specific verses we select for you — and you will discover the truth: there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim.

Every Muslim worldwide is your brother or sister. When one is hurt, all are injured. The West is seeking to destroy Islam. It must be fought. The greatest glory for any true believer is martyrdom in the way of Allah.

Most Muslims worldwide do not subscribe to the salafi-jihadist creed and the vast majority of those that do will stop far short of turning themselves into human bombs.

Analysis of Western Islamist terror cells from America to Spain, Britain, Canada and Australia repeatedly emphasises the importance of the group dynamic.

A tight, collective bond is formed which provides identity, sustenance, reassurance and ultimately validation of the proposed act of terror.

The convert, however recruited, is more likely to be asked to act alone.

Nicky Reilly, it is alleged, has joined an infamous list that includes Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Dhiren Barot, a former Hindu who in 2006 was jailed for 40 years for conspiracy to murder.

It may yet be found to include Andrew Ibrahim, 19, who was arrested in Bristol last month after police allegedly found a hoard of bomb-making materials.

The zeal of the recent convert, or born-again believer, is not of course a trait exclusive to Islam.

New Muslims who embrace violence may be fired by a desire to prove their worth, but it is equally true that those selected for active duty have often proved to be vulnerable, highly-biddable individuals.

Nonsense is often spouted to suggest that every Muslim suicide bomber must have been brain-washed into martyrdom. In the case of some converts, however, such a word seems appropriate.

The consolation for their intended victims, and the security services, is that the very qualities that led to them being selected as expendable terror pawns seems also to increase the likelihood of their mission’s ultimate failure.

Lone wolf convert, willing to kill and die and coming to a shopping centre near you? Possibly. Likely to make a stupid or careless mistake in their planning or execution? Certainly.

It will be consolation for very few that sooner or later one of them will succeed.

    Commentary: Violent Islam appeals to social misfits, Ts, 23.5.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3994139.ece






12.45pm BST update

Schoolboy avoids prosecution

for branding Scientology a 'cult'


Friday May 23 2008
Anil Dawar and agencies


A teenager who was facing legal action for calling the Church of Scientology a cult has today been told he will not be taken to court.

The Crown Prosecution Service ruled the word was neither "abusive or insulting" to the church and no further action would be taken against the boy.

The unnamed 16-year-old was handed a court summons by City of London police for refusing to put down a placard saying "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult" during a peaceful protest outside the church's headquarters near St Paul's Cathedral earlier this month.

Police said they had "strongly advised" him to stop displaying the sign but he refused, citing a high court judgment from 1984 in which the organisation was described as a cult.

The summons was issued under the Public Order Act on the grounds that the sign incited religious hatred.

A file was passed to the CPS, which today told City of London police it would not be pursuing the boy through the courts.

A spokeswoman for the force said: "The CPS review of the case includes advice on what action or behaviour at a demonstration might be considered to be threatening, abusive or insulting.

"The force's policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice."

A CPS spokesman said: "In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which read 'Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult', was abusive or insulting.

"Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness, as opposed to criticism, neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression. No action will be taken against the individual."

The teenager's mother said the decision was "a victory for free speech".

"We're all incredibly proud of him. We advised him to take the placard down when we realised what was happening but he said 'No, it's my opinion and I have a right to express it'," she said.

Human rights activists were outraged when news of the police action against the teenager broke earlier this week.

A simultaneous demonstration on May 10 outside a Scientology office in London's West End featured protesters waving similar placards but the Metropolitan police did not confiscate them or issue any summonses.

Two years ago, the City of London police attracted criticism when it emerged more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology.

The City of London chief superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006.

Last year, a video praising Scientology emerged featuring Ken Stewart, another of the City of London's chief superintendents, although he is not a member of the group.

Scientology was founded by the science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1952 and espouses the idea that humans are descended from an exiled race of aliens called Thetans.

The church continues to attract controversy over claims that it separates members from their families and indoctrinates followers.

    Schoolboy avoids prosecution for branding Scientology a 'cult', G, 23.5.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/23/religion






Cardinal Keith O’Brien

attacks 'monstrous' human embryo Bill


March 22, 2008
From The Times
Ruth Gledhill and David Lister


The Government is heading for its biggest confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church to date over its controversial new laws which will allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.

A senior Cardinal condemned the plans as “monstrous” and of “Frankenstein proportion”.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien will use his Easter Sunday sermon to launch a scathing attack on the human fertilisation and embryology bill, describing the proposals as “grotesque” and “deathly”.

He will tell worshippers at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh: “One might say that in our country we are about to have a public Government endorsement of experiments of Frankenstein proportion – without many people really being aware of what is going on.”

In his sermon, the text of which was released today, he adds: “It is difficult to imagine a single piece of legislation which more comprehensively attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life than this particular bill.”

He will say: “If I were preaching this homily in France, Germany, Italy, Canada or Australia, I would be commending the government for rightly banning such grotesque procedures. However, here in Great Britain I am forced to condemn our Government for not only permitting but encouraging such hideous practices.

“This Bill represents a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life. In some other European countries, one could be jailed for doing what we intend to make legal.”

The Cardinal’s remarks come amid growing anger against the Prime Minister over his refusal to offer a free vote on the issue. At least one Catholic minister is understood to be considering his position as a result.

The failure to persuade the Government to grant a free vote on the Bill has caused a “tremendous amount of bad feeling” in the Cabinet, particularly between Geoff Hoon the Chief Whip and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, a devout Catholic, a source told The Times.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has urged the Government to allow a free vote on the Bill to respect the consciences of Catholic MPs. Senior Catholics in the Cabinet also include Defence Secretary Des Browne and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. Northern Ireland minister Paul Goggins is also unhappy about the Bill’s contents.

A delegation of Labour MPs, including some non-Catholics who have large numbers of Catholics in their constituencies, have been told they will be able to meet Brown to discuss a free vote but are still awaiting a date.

However, Jim Devine, the Labour MP for Livingston, who is a Catholic and a psychiatric nurse, expressed strong disapproval of the Cardinal’s remarks.

“I find the type of language used by the cardinal totally unacceptable,” he said. “This Bill could enable research into diseases such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. There is the distinct possibility that people could be helped by this research and I believe it’s important we go forward with it.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “This is not about ‘creating monsters’. It is purely laboratory research, and is aimed at increasing knowledge about serious diseases and treatments for them.”

At least one other senior religious leader also backed the bill. Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue, said Judaism was just as concerned at the sanctity of human life as Catholicism but did not condemn the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for medical research. Instead, it was to be “welcomed as a life-saving development that uses our God-given skills in the noblest of causes.”

During the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords, the Government imposed a three-line whip on Labour peers for each vote.

This ensured the failure of all six attempts to amend the Bill by those who had moral objections to its contents.

The Tories permitted free votes, however, as did the Liberal Democrats with the exception of the fatherlessness provision.

Normally, three-line whips are used only on key issues, such as when the Government faces a vote of no-confidence or a vital loss of tax revenue if a Bill is overturned. A free vote is traditionally allowed on issues of conscience.

There will also be attempts in the House of Commons – where the Bill will arrive any time after Monday - to use the legislation to liberalise the abortion law. The bill will provide the first opportunity for amendments to the 1967 Abortion Act in 18 years.

Earlier this month Jim Dobbin became the first backbench Labour MP to declare publicly that he is willing to defy a government whip on the Bill.

He told a pro-life rally in London that MPs opposed to the Bill were still hoping to persuade the Prime Minister to change his mind on the issues.

“If there is no free vote accorded by the Government I will be voting against this Bill,” said Mr Dobbin, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group.

“I will be pursuing this issue with the Prime Minister. It is my opinion that there is nothing party political at all about destructive experiments on human embryos.”

Three Labour whips - Tommy McAvoy, Tony Cunningham and Frank Roy, all of whom are Catholics - also have serious ethical problems with some of the contents of the Bill.

    Cardinal Keith O’Brien attacks 'monstrous' human embryo Bill, Ts, 22.3.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3597851.ece






4.45pm GMT update

Archbishop defends his sharia remarks


Monday February 11 2008
Louise Radnofsky
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Monday February 11 2008.
It was last updated
at 16:45 on February 11 2008.


The Archbishop of Canterbury today maintained his support for the possible use of sharia law to resolve some civil matters in a strong but brief defence of his controversial remarks last week.

"There may be ways of engaging with the world of Islamic law on something other than an all or nothing basis," Rowan Williams said this afternoon in front of the Church of England's 550-strong general synod.

Williams said he had not advocated "parallel jurisdictions" for the UK, but that he had wanted to make an "opening contribution" to the debate on the religious code. He received warm applause at the beginning and end of his speech from the assembled bishops, clergy and laity at the biannual gathering.

He said sharia law potentially offered "additional choices" for believers in resolving some disputes and transactions, but added that he recognised there were "sensitive questions" over issues such as women's rights and apostasy.

"There could be no 'blank cheques' in this regard," he said. "The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity."

Williams said some reports of his comments had been "a very long way indeed" from his original remarks. But he added that he took responsibility for "any unclarity" in his speech on Thursday and Radio 4 interview in which he said that the introduction of some aspects of sharia law in Britain was "unavoidable" and would mean Muslims no longer have to choose between "cultural loyalty or state loyalty".

He defended his right to comment on issues affecting religious communities, saying that he believed strongly that it was "not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues around the perceived concerns of other religious communities".

Officials told Williams last night that he should challenge the uproar over his comments as the general synod opened this afternoon. His speech was still being revised in the hours before the address.

The archbishop has come under heavy fire from some politicians and church leaders, and his predecessor Lord George Carey wrote yesterday that "his acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation". A few members of the synod have openly called for Williams' resignation.

But the prime minister today backed him as "a man of great integrity and dedication to public and community service". A spokesman for Gordon Brown added that the prime minister "understands the difficulty [Williams] is facing at the moment", though he said Brown "is very clear that British laws must be based on British values and that religious law, while respecting other cultures, should be subservient to British criminal and civil law".

After only a few minutes, the archbishop turned to other issues facing the Church of England, chiefly this summer's Lambeth conference, where Anglican bishops will confront theological divides that threaten to split the church. Some conservatives have already refused to attend.

Williams said he did not expect the conference to heal all wounds, and that he prayed "that we'll get the balance as right as we can". He went on to describe Zimbabwe as an example of the importance of maintaining unity in the communion and pledged his "profound support" for the new chief pastor in Harare, Sebastian Bakare. The Anglican Church there has repudiated the former Bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, who has been accused of inciting violence against opponents of Robert Mugabe.

Church commentators had expected the archbishop to receive a positive reception at Church House, Westminster.

One member of general synod said it would take an "immense amount of personal courage" for the archbishop to enter the room and lead the assembly in prayer.

Christina Rees said: "I am angry and frustrated at the way he has been treated. He has been vilified. Nobody is responding to what he said at the lecture, which was highly nuanced and complex, and delivered to a sophisticated audience."

The atmosphere would be tense, heightened and anxious, she predicted. "Everything depends on what he says and how he welcomes us. There is no way but up."

She was also disappointed that Williams' advisers had not done more to protect him and manage the backlash. "They are on salary to help him and I'm very cross because they've let him down."

    Archbishop defends his sharia remarks, G, 11.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/11/religion.islam1






7.30pm GMT update

Archbishop backs sharia law

for British Muslims


Thursday February 7, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Riazat Butt, Religious affairs correspondent


The Archbishop of Canterbury tonight prompted criticism from across the political spectrum after he backed the introduction of sharia law in Britain and argued that adopting some of its aspects seemed "unavoidable".

Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, said that giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system.

However, the prime minister's spokesman swiftly rejected the archbishop's comments, which were delivered in a lecture on civil and religious law at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Gordon Brown's spokesman insisted British law would be based on British values and that sharia law would present no justification for acting against national law.

"Our general position is that sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes.

"If there are specific instances like stamp duty, where changes can be made in a way that's consistent with British law and British values, in a way to accommodate the values of fundamental Muslims, that is something the government would look at."

The Conservative peer and shadow minister for community cohesion and social action, Sayeeda Warsi, also criticised the Anglican primate.

"The archbishop's comments are unhelpful and may add to the confusion that already exists in our communities ... We must ensure that people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law.

"Freedom under the law allows respect for some religious practices. But let's be absolutely clear: all British citizens must be subject to British laws developed through parliament and the courts."

However, some Muslim groups supported Dr Williams' views on sharia law, which sets out a broad code of conduct for all aspects of life, from diet to the wearing of the hijab.

The Ramadhan Foundation, an educational and welfare body, said the speech was "testament to his attempts to understand Islam and promote tolerance and respect between our great faiths".

More than 800 people were present in the Great Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice for the speech. A further 200 poured into the overspill marquee. Plasma screens were erected to ensure people could hear and see Williams clearly, and the audience was encouraged to introduce themselves to those nearby.

Williams said introducing sharia law would mean Muslims would no longer have to choose between two systems.

"If what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of diverse and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable."

He compared the situation to faith schools, where "communal loyalties" were brought into direct contact with wider society, leading to mutual questioning and mutual influence towards change, without compromising the "distinctiveness of the essential elements of those communal loyalties".

Earlier, in a BBC interview, he was more succinct. He said it was a "matter of fact" that sharia law was already being practised in Britain.

"It's not as if we're bringing in an alien and rival system; we already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land ... There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law as we already do with some kinds of aspects of other religious law."

He did not endorse the "kind of inhumanity" associated with sharia law in some Islamic states.

The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, warned last month that attempts were being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character.

"There is pressure already to relate aspects of the sharia to civil law in Britain," he said. "To some extent this is already true of arrangements for sharia-compliant banking but have the far-reaching implications of this been fully considered?"

The bishop, who is no stranger to controversy, also claimed that extremists have created "no-go" areas, which were too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter. He has since received death threats and was placed under police protection. He was unavailable for comment today.

    Archbishop backs sharia law for British Muslims, G, 7.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2254075,00.html






Bishop of Rochester,

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali,

faces death threats

February 2, 2008
From The Times
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent


The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, is under police protection after he and his family received death threats over his claim that parts of Britain had become “no-go areas” for non-Muslims.

The Bishop is also facing anger from the most senior members of the Church of England hierarchy for his comments on Islam.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has made Islam a priority of his archiepiscopate and set up a Muslim-Christian forum to promote relations between the faiths in 2006. One senior cleric told The Times yesterday: “The Bishop of Rochester is in effect threatening to undo everything we have done.”

The cleric said that some congregations in cities such as Leicester, where interfaith work was a priority, were increasingly wary of donating money towards this work. Church leaders in towns with a large Muslim population were anxious that relations with their neighbours were being undermined.

Dr Nazir-Ali was in India when staff at his home in Rochester took a number of phone calls threatening his family and warning him that he would not “live long” if he continued to criticise Islam. He has been given an emergency number at Kent Police, along with other undisclosed protection measures, and said that the threats were being taken “seriously”.

Speaking to The Times, Dr Nazir-Ali, who is on the conservative evangelical wing of the Church and is Britain’s only Asian bishop, said: “The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan, but I never thought I would have them here. My point in saying what I did was that Britain had lost its Christian vision, which would have provided the resources to offer hospitality to others.”

He said that this absence of a Christian vision had led to multiculturalism. “Everyone agrees that multiculturalism has had disastrous consequences, and that segregation and extremism have arisen from this.”

The Bishop said in an article in The Sunday Telegraph that Islamic extremists had created no-go areas across Britain where it was too dangerous for nonMuslims to enter. He said that people of a different race or faith faced physical attack if they lived or worked in communities that were dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.

Dr Nazir-Ali told The Times: “I have had 1,000 letters, and 95 per cent have been supportive. There is no point in being in denial. We have to face the consequences.”

The Bishop went further last night with an additional statement posted on his website. He said: “It has been asked what I meant by ‘no-go’ areas. I would wish to make it clear that I was not referring, as some have implied, to the situation which arose in some neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland some years ago which the authorities felt constrained from entering.”

He said that he was referring to a development reported by bodies such as the Commission on Integration and Cohesion last year and Trevor Philips, chairman of the Equality and Human Righjts Commission, more recently. The Bishop said: “This is the phenomenon that is referred to as ‘parallel lives’, ‘separated’ or ‘self-contained’ areas or communities.”

He said that Christian workers in some areas were unable to practise the full range of ministry “either because it is felt to be inadvisable or because of intimidation by extremist views and actions”. In addition, converts to the Christian faith found it “difficult or impossible” to live in certain areas. “This is too widespread a phenomenon to be ignored and deserves proper discussion and debate,” the Bishop said.

“I repeat what I said in an earlier comment, that I deeply regret any hurt and do not wish to cause offence to anyone, let alone my Muslim friends, but unless we diagnose the malaise from which we all suffer we shall not be able to discover the remedy.” Muslims should only be granted the right to broadcast a “call to prayer” from a mosque in Oxford if church bells are allowed to ring out across Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Christian campaigners said yesterday. Eddie Lyle, chief executive of Open Doors, the missionary agency that serves persecuted Christians, called for “reciprocity” from Muslim countries. The Rev Charlie Cleverly, Rector of St Aldate’s in Oxford, said this week that the proposal for an Islamic call to prayer from a mosque in Oxford should not be approved by the city council.

    Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, faces death threats, Ts, 2.2.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3292032.ece






Muslim Britain

is becoming one big no-go area

A bishop caused uproar last week
by exposing ghettos of Islamist extremism.
But Muslims everywhere
are cutting themselves off from society in other,
equally dangerous ways


January 13, 2008
From The Sunday Times
Shiraz Maher


Perhaps it had to be someone like Michael Nazir-Ali, the first Asian bishop in the Church of England, who would break with convention and finally point out the elephant in the room.

His comments last week about the growing stranglehold of Muslim extremists in some communities revived debate about the future of multiculturalism and provoked a flurry of condemnation. Members of all three political parties immediately clamoured to dismiss him. “I don’t recognise the description that he’s talked about – no-go areas and people feeling intimidated,” said Hazel Blears, the communities secretary.

A quick call to her Labour colleague John Reid, the former home secretary, would almost certainly have helped her to identify at least one of those places. Just over a year ago Reid was heckled by the Muslim extremist Abu Izzadeen in Leytonstone, east London, during a speech on extremism, appropriately. “How dare you come to a Muslim area,” Izzadeen screamed.

That picture is mirrored outside London. One of our country’s biggest and most deprived Muslim areas is Small Heath, in Birmingham, where Dr Tahir Abbas, director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture, was raised. With a dominant Asian monoculture, low social achievement and high unemployment, Small Heath is precisely the kind of insular and disengaged urban ghetto Nazir-Ali was talking about.

Reflecting on his experiences there, Abbas is critical of his peers who don’t stray beyond their area. “They haven’t seen rural Devon, a stately home or Windsor Castle,” he says. That refusal to engage with anything beyond the community is suffocating young Muslims by divorcing them almost entirely from Britain’s cultural heritage and mainstream life.

And their feelings of separation have been further reinforced by the advent of digital broadcasting, which has swelled the number of foreign language television stations in Britain, creating digital ghettos. Islamist movements such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (of which I was once a senior member) have been quick to spot the opportunities this affords them. In 2004 the group launched a campaign aimed at undermining President Pervez Mush-arraf by broadcasting adverts on Asian satellite channels, calling on the Pakistani community in Britain to “stop Busharraf”.

Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Leicester-based Muslim Forum, is unequivocal about the dangers such Islamification poses. “We have a cultural and social apartheid which fun-damentalists thrive off,” he says.

The point was underscored last summer when Kafeel Ahmed, whom I once knew, was arrested after a Jeep laden with explosives crashed into Glasgow airport. I think Ahmed was first radicalised in Cambridge, where I saw his views become increasingly intolerant, even though the city has a negligible Muslim population. After being exposed to the Islamist culture of separation and confrontation there, he didn’t need to be living in an actual ghetto. He was already sectioning himself off, by giving up his nonMuslim friends and eventually socialising only with those who shared his world-view.

It raises a compelling point that Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have largely tried to ignore: while the moral ambiguity of multiculturalism means Britain no longer knows what it stands for, our enemies are not just growing ever surer of themselves but are also winning the debate.

For almost three decades now, the witless promotion of cultural relativ-ism under successive governments means that our national identity can simply be reduced to the theme of a courtroom sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus – anything goes. Measuring the extent to which this ambiguity has affected perceptions within Britain’s already insular Muslim communities, Abbas told me he surveyed schoolchildren in Small Heath by asking them how many Muslims they thought lived in Britain.

“We had answers around 30m to 50m,” he says, with more than a hint of despondency in his voice (the true figure is 1.6m).

Moghal blames the mosques for this, saying: “They promote a conscious rejection of western values.” He has a point. In many places the prevailing attitude is that sporting a flowing Arab robe symbolises your religiosity while your piety is linked to the length of your beard.

Muslim groups have already reacted with predictable intemperance to the bishop’s comments. “Mr Nazir-Ali is promoting hatred towards Muslims and should resign,” said Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, while Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain said the church should “take serious action”.

Their anger vindicates him entirely and in many respects demonstrates that Nazir-Ali’s observations not only are valid, but don’t go far enough. The Glasgow bombings proved that the kinds of no-go area extremists are creating don’t always have to be physical locations.

Muslim attitudes are now so hyper-sensitive that anyone who dares to criticise Islam or Muslims has to think twice – and then some more – before doing so. Publishing a simple cartoon is enough to provoke a serious diplomatic crisis, the ransacking of embassies, mass global protest and at least several deaths.

But it’s not just nonMuslims for whom extremists reserve their hatred. After I wrote about the way British Islamists celebrated Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last month, a number of threats quickly appeared on the internet. “If I meet him I’m going to paste him in his face,” wrote Abu Junayd from Slough on a chat forum. Another commentator said I should “suffer severe punishments in this life and the hereafter”.

Their attitude springs from the Takfiri mind-set, which, in its most extreme forms, underwrites Al-Qaeda’s philosophy by suggesting that anyone who disagrees with Islamism (the extreme, politicised form of Islam) is a legitimate target for attack.

As if to emphasise the point, a statement released on a known Al-Qaeda forum last week specifically called for attacks on moderate Muslims in Britain. Citing the opinions of Muham-mad Ibn Alb al-Wahhab, whose followers are known as Wahhabis, it branded moderates as “aides of the crusaders”.

Seven years after the Cantle report first revealed the extent to which Britain’s different communities are living apart together, it’s still impossible to engage politicians seriously about the future of multiculturalism.

After being heckled by Izzadeen in Leytonstone for “daring” to visit a Muslim area, the home secretary told him: “There is no part of this country that any of us is excluded from.” The knee-jerk reaction to the bishop’s comments suggests we’re still a long way from realising that vision.

    Muslim Britain is becoming one big no-go area, Ts, 13.1.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3176455.ece






Muslim fury at top Tory's 'bigotry'

Calls for mayor to quit after leaked email
claimed 'mayhem with explosives' was Islamic policy


Sunday January 13, 2008
Caroline Davies and Jamie Doward

There were calls last night for a Tory mayor to resign after he accused Muslims of causing 'mayhem with explosives'. Robert Bennett, the Conservative mayor of Mirfield, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was branded a 'bigot' and unfit to hold office after sending an email in which he made a series of disparaging remarks about Muslims.

In response to an apparent request from the Huddersfield-based Ahmidiyya Muslim Association (AMA) to appear before the town's council to put their case for funding, Bennett emailed the town clerk to say: 'I am aware Islamic organisations are keen to promote a view that they are peaceful, forward-thinking individuals who wish to integrate into the British way of life.

'The policy of clothing the feminine population of Dewsbury in black sack-like clothing from head to toe, the occasional trip out to cause mayhem with explosives and the proposal that all those of homosexual persuasion should be killed by shooting or other means is adequate and practical testimony to the level of progress being made in this direction.'

Members of the AMA immediately condemned Bennett's views as 'appalling' and accused him of setting back 'our excellent community relations'.

'It's absolutely horrifying and incredibly offensive to Muslims,' said its president Munir Ahmed, who added he was puzzled because his association had not put in a request for funding. 'He should resign,' Ahmed said. 'An investigation should take place. His position is completely untenable as mayor of Mirfield town council. It's a civic position, a position of respect. He is making a general statement about Muslims that is appalling.'

Ahmed added that the association had been in Huddersfield since the Sixties, and its motto was 'Love for all, hatred for none'. It was because of the 'excellent relations' they had built up over the years that Kirklees and Huddersfield had not experienced the problems they have had in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, Ahmed said.

The Muslim Council of Britain also condemned the remarks as 'bigoted and unacceptable, considering his status as a public servant'. And the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) said the remarks were 'very narrow-minded' and that Bennett 'should resign or be removed'.

Bennett has shown no inclination to resign, but has issued a statement saying: 'I apologise for any remarks I have made which may have caused offence. I sincerely hope my comments will not undermine the important job of work that has to be done in building greater community cohesion throughout West Yorkshire.'

Meanwhile, just under 20 miles away, another councillor is engulfed in a similar race row. Elwyn Watkins, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, has come under fire for saying a local community group would not have had its funding slashed if it had been run by Asians.

Watkins, chairman of Rochdale township committee, was reacting to a decision by the Liberal Democrat-run council to cut funding for Syke Community Base, which provides a place for young people to meet after school.

In a leaked email to his fellow councillors, Watkins said there was a feeling locally that 'if Syke was Asian, then funding would not have been a problem and that Rochdale council does nothing for poor, white people'.

He added: 'Expect the BNP to be pushing at an open door in May' - when local elections will be held.

Rochdale's Liberal Democrat MP, Paul Rowen, defended the comments: 'Elwyn is not being racist. He is reflecting the frustration of the people he represents and is merely highlighting what could be a potentially dangerous situation for Rochdale - something we have managed to avoid in the past.'

    Muslim fury at top Tory's 'bigotry', O, 13.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2240101,00.html






Hardline takeover of British mosques


September 7, 2007
From The Times
Andrew Norfolk


Almost half of Britain’s mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values and has called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah, an investigation by The Times has found.

Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain. The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taleban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times.

The Times investigation casts serious doubts on government statements that foreign preachers are to blame for spreading the creed of radical Islam in Britain’s mosques and its policy of enouraging the recruitment of more “home-grown” preachers.

Mr ul Haq, 36, was educated and trained at an Islamic seminary in Britain and is part of a new generation of British imams who share a similar radical agenda. He heaps scorn on any Muslims who say they are “proud to be British” and argues that friendship with a Jew or a Christian makes “a mockery of Allah’s religion”.

Seventeen of Britain’s 26 Islamic seminaries are run by Deobandis and they produce 80 per cent of home-trained Muslim clerics. Many had their studies funded by local education authority grants. The sect, which has significant representation on the Muslim Council of Britain, is at its strongest in the towns and cities of the Midlands and northern England.

Figures supplied to The Times by the Lancashire Council of Mosques reveal that 59 of the 75 mosques in five towns – Blackburn, Bolton, Preston, Oldham and Burnley – are Deobandi-run.

It is not suggested that all British Muslims who worship at Deobandi mosques subscribe to the isolationist message preached by Mr ul Haq, and he himself suggests Muslims should only “shed blood” overseas.

But while some Deobandi preachers have a more cohesive approach to interfaith relations, Islamic theologians say that such bridge-building efforts do not represent mainstream Deobandi thinking in Britain.

The Times has gained access to numerous talks and sermons delivered in recent years by Mr ul Haq and other graduates of Britain’s most influential Deobandi seminary near Bury, Greater Manchester.

Intended for a Muslim-only audience, they reveal a deep-rooted hatred of Western society, admiration for the Taleban and a passionate zeal for martyrdom “in the way of Allah”.

The seminary outlaws art, television, music and chess, demands “entire concealment” for women and views football as “a cancer that has infected our youth”.

Mahmood Chandia, a Bury graduate who is now a university lecturer, claims in one sermon that music is a way in which Jews spread “the Satanic web” to corrupt young Muslims.

“Nearly every university in England has a department which is called the music department, and in others, where the Satanic influence is more, they call it the Royal College of Music,” he says.

Another former Bury student, Bradford-based Sheikh Ahmed Ali, hails the 9/11 attacks on America because they acted as a wake-up call to young Muslims. This, he says, taught them that they will “never be accepted” in Britain and has led them to “return to Islam: sisters are wearing hijab . . . the lion is waking up”.

Mr ul Haq, the most high-profile of the new generation of Deobandis, runs an Islamic academy in Leicester and is the former imam at the Birmingham Central Mosque. Revered by many young Muslims, he draws on his extensive knowledge of the Koran and the life and sayings of the prophet Muhammed to justify his hostility to the kuffar, or non-Muslims.

One sermon warns believers to protect their faith by distancing themselves from the “evil influence” of their non-Muslim British neighbours.

“We are in a very dangerous position here. We live amongst the kuffar, we work with them, we associate with them, we mix with them and we begin to pick up their habits.”

In another talk, delivered a few weeks before 9/11, he praises Muslims who have gained martyrdom in battle and laments that today “no one dare utter the J word”. “The J word has become taboo . .. The J word is jihad in the way of Allah.”

The Times has made repeated attempts to get Mr ul Haq to comment on the content of his sermons. However, he declined to respond.

A commentator on religious radicalism in Pakistan, where Deobandis wield significant political influence, told The Times that “blind ignorance” on the part of the Government in Britain had allowed the Deobandis to become the dominant voice of Islam in Britain’s mosques.

Khaled Ahmed said: “The UK has been ruined by the puritanism of the Deobandis. You’ve allowed the takeover of the mosques. You can’t run multiculturalism like that, because that’s a way of destroying yourself. In Britain, the Deobandi message has become even more extreme than it is in Pakistan. It’s mind-boggling.”

In some mosques the sect has wrested control from followers of the more moderate majority, the Barelwi movement.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities said: “We have a detailed strategy to ensure imams properly represent and connect with mainstream moderate opinion and promote shared values like tolerance and respect for the rule of law. We have never said the challenge from extremism is simply restricted to those coming from overseas.”

    Hardline takeover of British mosques, Ts, 7.1.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2402973.ece






Muslim women to curb terror


January 6, 2008
From The Sunday Times
Marie Woolf, Whitehall Editor


MUSLIM women are to be sent on leadership and assertiveness courses to help to prevent Islamic extremism.

In an attempt to stop young Muslims being seduced by Al-Qaeda, women will be sent on training courses designed for FTSE 100 managers to give them the skills and confidence to confront fanatics.

Amid fears that extremists are becoming more sophisticated in their recruitment, Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has concluded that a key way to stop extremist ideas further permeating Muslim communities is to give “the silent majority” a stronger voice.

She is to publish a good practice guidance document which will say that “resilient communities can only exist where women are playing a full and active part”.

Blears will tell local authorities to use part of a £70m government fund set up to combat extremism to pay for the courses in confidence building, communication and mediation skills.

Muslim women will be offered work placements with business leaders and top athletes to imbue assertiveness and leadership and help them to advance their careers. Funding will be available to set up local Muslim women’s groups to provide a “safe space” where they can discuss their concerns. The plan is likely to attract criticism from some Muslim men who will see it as a threat to cultural traditions about the role of women in society.

Blears believes that Muslim women have “untapped potential” to become a voice of moderation in communities targeted by fanatics. Half of all Muslim women have never worked and the government believes that improving their educational and job prospects will boost their influence.

A Whitehall source said: “Muslim women can have a unique moral authority at the heart of families as sisters, mothers and friends and must be supported to play a greater role in tackling extremist ideology.”

The plans have already provoked a mixed response among Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain accused the government of trying to turn women into government spies. “The government at first wanted our imams to act as spies on young British Muslims and now they seem to want Muslim women to do the same,” said Inayat Bunglawala, the council’s assistant secretary-general.

Shaista Gohir, chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Network, said: “It’s not about Muslim women becoming investigators, it’s about giving them a greater role in Muslim public life.”

Professional motivational firms will run role-play courses in which Muslim women will learn how to confront fanatics. Some of the courses will be run by actors who are expected to pose as radicals espousing violent jihadist arguments, whom the women will be taught to challenge effectively. Mothers will also be offered confidence-building courses to help them speak out if they see their children being wooed by extremist preachers.

The courses will help young women to have the confidence to challenge young radical men in debate.

The Home Office estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 British Muslims support Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The document, to be published this month, will express concern that extremists are targeting young people aged between 16 and 35.

“Extremists’ operation methods and use of technology are becoming ever more sophisticated. They are exploiting ungoverned spaces such as the internet, bookshops and cafes and using new media to put across slick and seductive messages,” a draft of the paper says.

“This is about giving the silent majority a stronger voice in their communities and equipping people with the skills and strength to withstand the messages of extremists preaching division and hatred.”

Muslims have three times the unemployment rate of the general population, with more than half economically inactive.

Additional reporting: Abul Taher

    Muslim women to curb terror, Ts, 6.1.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3137633.ece






A change in Muslims’ attitudes is inevitable


January 4, 2008
From The Times
Inayat Bunglawala: Commentary


Helping your children to find good marriage partners and to settle down and build stable family units is regarded in Islam as one of the most important duties of Muslim parents, and indeed all parents.

In recent years, though, there have been a number of cases where young women say that they have been coerced to marry someone when they did not wish to do so. Often it is seen by some family members as a mechanism by which additional members of an extended family can be brought into the UK.

It is crucial, however, that we are able to distinguish between forced marriages and the common practice of assisted marriages, whereby parents help their children to find a life partner but where the final decision is made by the young people themselves.

As many young Muslims will avoid mixing in pubs and nightclubs for religious reasons, their social circle may be small. Their parents should be able to help to introduce them to a wider circle through their own friends and acquaintances.

As good marriages are meant to symbolise the coming together of two families and not just two individuals, the parents’ concern should be perfectly understandable.

Still, some change in attitudes and mores among Muslims living in the West is inevitable. In the United States, for example, one of the most popular events at the huge annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America has been the “matrimonial banquet” where young men and women meet and speak with each other at a table for seven minutes before being rotated to meet other potential partners.

Clearly modelled on speed-dating events – although the organisers dare not call it that – even here parents often tag along partially at least to influence their children’s choice of marriage partner.

In the UK, leading Islamic organisations have made it clear that the Nikah (Islamic marriage) ceremony is effected quite simply by the two essential components of offer and acceptance. If a marriage offer is accepted without the free consent of either party then it is regarded as null and void. So it is important that forced marriages are not seen as a religious problem – this is a global human rights issue.

One of the best ways to eradicate this criminal practice is by education of young women with the emphasis on prevention.

Forced marriages are by no means peculiar to Muslim families. The Government’s Forced Marriages Unit say that they deal with 300 cases per year involving people from a number of countries and faith backgrounds.

Inayat Bunglawala is assistant secretary-general

of the Muslim Council of Britain

A change in Muslims’ attitudes is inevitable, Ts, 4.1.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3129015.ece




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