Why the Bishop of Rochester is right about 'no-go' areas for non-muslims in Britain
By MANZOOR MOGHAL, chairman of the Muslim Forum
Last updated at 10:26 07 January 2008
He has been condemned for making 'inflammatory' remarks, distorting the truth about our inner cities and 'scaremongering' against the Muslim population.
But, paradoxically, this reaction from the politically-correct establishment is an indicator of the weight of his case. If our ruling elite were not so worried that his views would strike a chord with the public, it would not have been so anxious to condemn him.
His statement about the dangers of the rise of radical Islam matches the reality of what people see in our cities and towns, where the influence of hardliners is undermining harmony and promoting segregation.
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As a Muslim community representative myself, I have often been concerned in the past about some of the comments of Bishop Nazir-Ali, who has built a reputation as one of the Anglican Church's few outspoken critics of Islam.
Yet in this case, I feel he is correct in highlighting the problem of cultural apartheid that is developing in some of our urban areas.
It is not good enough just to dismiss his opinions and hope that the whole issue will go away, for the failure to achieve real integration in our society is far too serious an issue to be ignored.
As he says, a key element of this failure is the sense of separatism that now grips too many Muslim communities.
However much his critics may sneer at his accusations, the fact is that the determination of some of my fellow Muslims to cling to certain lifestyles, customs, languages and practices has helped to create neighbourhoods where non-Muslims may feel uncomfortable, even intimidated.
Such anxieties can only be reinforced by the dominant influence of the mosques, which are often in the hands of fundamentalists and thereby promote a conscious rejection of Western values.
pervasive is this radicalism that in some mosques worshippers feel uncomfortable if they enter wearing a suit rather than the more traditional Islamic dress.
As the bishop says, this can only be a recipe for more social exclusion. Anyone who lives in British society should be grateful for the freedom and tolerance they enjoy. They should not seek to exploit this by demanding the universal acceptance of fundamentalism in their own neighbourhoods.
The heavy Islamic influence in parts of Britain amounts to a severe indictment of the dogma of multi-culturalism, which held sway in our public institutions since the early eighties.
Instead of promoting a sense of mutual belonging and shared understanding, this doctrine has sown the seeds of division and suspicion by discouraging allegiance to a unified British identity.
Instead, people from ethnic minorities and non-Christian faiths were urged to cling to their own cultures. The differences between creeds and races were to be celebrated rather than bridged.
But, as the Bishop of Rochester has pointed out, the malign consequences of this ideology can now be seen not only in the spirit of separateness that hangs over some Muslim-dominated areas, but also in the more devastating arrival of home-grown terrorism, which feeds on an aggressive rejection of western values.
Multi-culturalism was meant to build a unified society. "Together in diversity" was one its slogans. But instead it has achieved the opposite-promoting division and distrust-which has been exacerbated by Islamic extremism.
The horrors of the London Tube bombings in 2005 and the attacks at Glasgow airport and a West End nightclub can be blamed directly on this perverted version of violent radicalism.
After all, France and Germany have just as large Muslim populations as Britain but have not had the same problems with terrorism, and that is because their governments have never pretended that tolerating extremism is a social virtue.
Yet still, even after all the lessons of recent years, the Labour government has refused to abandon multi-culturalism. Instead it has merely presented this outlook under a new name, describing it as "multi-faithism".
Again, this is supposed to be the ideology that will bring us all together and combat extremism. So the Government is now pouring money into 'multi-faith' schemes, promoting Muslim schools, projects and community centres.
Only yesterday, it was revealed that Communities Secretary Hazel Blears is planning to spend part of her £70million budget for antiextremism on "assertiveness training courses" for Muslim women, the idea being that women inculcated with western feminist values will be in a stronger position to challenge the young male zealots.
Well, there is no evidence to support this idea. And in reality, it will only promote the feeling that Muslims receive special treatment, with the Government doling out cash because it is terrified of Islamic violence.
Home-grown terrorism seems to have its rewards.
s particularly depressing is that the Church of England has gone along with this fashion-for multi-faithism, partly as a way of shoring up its own position, partly as a vehicle for compelling Islam into accepting the embrace of the British state machine.
But it did not work with multi-culturalism, which has proved a battering ram against Britain's Christian heritage, and this new version will be no more successful, not least because there is no monolithic Muslim establishment to be dragooned into service for the Government.
Multi-culturalism has backfired spectacularly. The disturbing rise of the political far Right has been a direct result and I predict that the new incarnation, multi-faithism, will be just as damaging.
What we really need is not special treatment for Muslims and endless appeasement, but genuine equality. That is supposed to be the bedrock of our modern democratic society.
We should turn it into a reality before our society fractures even more.
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