Thinking Anglicans

My time of abstinence

This week’s View from Fleet Street in the Church of England Newspaper is by Riazat Butt. Reproduced here by permission.

My time of abstinence

Ramadan is upon us and, taking my cue from Tower Hamlets council, I’m asking you to be sensitive to my needs during this 30-day period of abstinence and restraint by refraining from publishing stories about gay bishops during the hours of sunrise and sunset.

In the month of fasting I can think of no better example to set than a complete avoidance of phrases such as openly gay and Anglican Communion in the same sentence, especially when ever one is stuffed to the gills already with stories of schism. A little bit of perspective and reflection is required here. There are 80m Anglicans in the world. There are more than 800m Hindus, more than 300m Buddhists and more than 1bn Catholics. The Anglican Communion is, much like Springfield, Illinois, a one-horse town.

I was minded of how bizarre the obsession with gay sex must look to the outside world when I spotted the excellent Stonewall poster — “Some people are gay. Get over it” — on the westbound District line service to Blackfriars. I am thinking of bulk ordering these t-shirts for my Fleet Street colleagues, bishops and archbishops. I am so over gay sex. Alas, the combination of gay bishops and journalists is a bit like competitive dieting. You see other people doing it, so you have to as well. Nobody wants to be the fat one in the photo.

But I would much rather write about other religions, about other stories, which is why I am launching this Ramadan appeal — to go on a gay fast — and I am encouraging others to join me. This month could prove to be one of Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Quakers instead. Don’t get me wrong — I love gay bishops and I think there should be more of them — I just don’t want to have to write about them all the time. There will be a day when someone’s sexual orientation won’t matter in a recruitment or selection process — just as it is in almost every employment field except religion — and homosexuality will be as normalised and wallpaper-like as hair colour or eye colour and will be greeted with, if anything, a shrug of the shoulders.

At this point someone — probably a conservative evangelical — will think that a homosexual imam would be stoned to death and wouldn’t make it past the initial telephone interview let alone have the top job at a mosque so why the constant mud-slinging at Anglicans?

Undercover Mosque, shown earlier this week on Channel 4, exposed the situation perfectly. I agree that attitudes need a complete overhaul, the way our mosques are funded and run needs serious scrutiny, the way Islam is taught at schools, in the homes, needs to be re-examined and that there needs to be greater involvement from women and young people in the day-to-day activities in places of worship and community centres. There also needs to be less reliance on government money and more independence.

Islam in Britain is not — as some bishops would have you believe — as established as the Christian identity. Nor is it as structured, prevalent or fixed. It is relatively young and fluid. There are Muslim communities — notably in Liverpool and Cardiff — that have been around for longer than the ones in Bradford and Manchester. There are only 2m Muslims. We are not taking over Britain — even if we are taking over the Premier League. Does the Manchester City buyout mean that the only good Muslims are the rich ones?

Attacking Muslims is easy because there is over whelming evidence to support the popular notion that Muslims are mad, bad and dangerous. It is harder to see beyond the bigotry and engage with flesh and blood individuals — the ones who get parking tickets, or take their kids to the park or like Coronation Street — because that would require moving beyond the conventional narrative and talking to someone who has everything in common with you and nothing. Somewhere in there, there is a lesson for us all.

Riazat Butt is the religion correspondent for The Guardian.

39
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
39 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
27 Comment authors
Ford ElmsErika BakerFather Ron Smithriazat buttRegenesis Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Go girl, go! I agree with you that relations with Muslims are the most pressing religious issue we have at the moment. Sadly, there is so little awareness of it that it rarely makes any kind of news and therefore finds little mention on TA. That means that we’re singularly ill informed about Muslims and respond to them from our own fears. I must admit that to me, as a liberal Western woman, a faith that is associated with the horrific treatment of women in Muslim countries, forced marriages even in this country, what appears to be random and harsh… Read more »

James Meredith Day
Guest
James Meredith Day

There’s much to be said for Riazat Butt’s writing, but for Butt to call the Anglican Communion the equivalent of a “one horse town” because it is smaller than major ones of the world’s religious traditions, is a most curious assertion, in part because amongst Christian denominations, churches in the Anglican Communion represent the world’s third largest grouping. Moreover, as current debates remind us, the Anglican Communion and its workings are looked to both by Rome and the Protestant Churches, more recently also by the Orthodox Churches, as pivotal for ecumenical relations, with the Anglican Communion’s traditional place of “middle… Read more »

MrsBarlow
Guest
MrsBarlow

Riazat, as a white male gay Anglican, can I say thank you thank you thank you and please keep this 30 day fast. We could all learn so much more about the world in which we live!

Pluralist
Guest

Channel 4 sometimes carries series hosting internal Muslim debates; how representative they are of all the conversation going on isn’t clear. There is no doubt that Saudi money into so many countries is poisoning the religion and its reputation, making extremism too easy. A more authentic and well bedded Islam is still seen in places, notably Bosnia and Kosovo, where it had a cosmopolitan confidence. In so many places, Islam has been taken over by a reaction to failed nationalism, following on from failed colonialism, and following on from a religion that once was a cultural leader but has since… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

What Erika said!

Leonel
Guest
Leonel

At Lambeth, delegates, first, and stewards, in their post-conference program, later, had a pretty good exposure to Muslim and Islam literacy. That was a good thing to notice. On the other hand, I am afraid the issue goes beyond Muslims and Islam and their place -or lack of it- in british life at present. Britain as a whole appears to suffer from deep economic, social cracks. Surely his is but one of them. And when was it the last time that the MSM turned its attention to anything actually relevant. Gay bishops sell more papers. I think Riazza is preaching… Read more »

counterlight
Guest

There is a lot of wisdom under that hijab of hers. All the exquisitely argued doctrine and theology in the world will never change the fact that we do NOT live in a world of abstractions. We live in the very messy confusing world of the concrete, and always will no matter how much we try to tidy things up by generalizing from the particular. As to the question, “are there any gay Muslims?” yes, there are. And they’re out of the closet, organized, and have their own congregations. The Muslim world is just as big and contentious as the… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Don’t get me wrong — I love gay bishops and I think there should be more of them — I just don’t want to have to write about them all the time.”

*LOL* Yay, Riazatt!

St. James
Guest
St. James

AT LAST, a much-needed word of sanity. Many thanks to Riazat Butt for her comments which are both perceptive and fair. In my own locale in North Carolina, I do not really have any contact with Muslims and do not think much about that issue. However, the southern part of the US is just brim-full of vigorous preaching and writing about the evils of “sinful” homosexuals – most of it is really over the top, and comes from people who do not know anything factual about sexual orientation other than what they are told in Sunday School. Otherwise they are… Read more »

Paul Davison
Guest
Paul Davison

I used to live in Springfield, Illinois, and it very unfair to say it is a one-horse town! There must be at least two. (Even if the Diocese of Springfield isn’t anything to cheer about.)

Paul Davison
now in Perry, Georgia

ettu
Guest
ettu

I prefer to see Anglicanism – TEC and Canada in particular – as analagous to a catalyst in a chemical reaction – important out of all proportion to quantity – accelerating a process and sometimes essential to it.

Una Kroll
Guest

Yeah Riatt. Me, I’m pro-inclusivity on all fronts and want to learn more about other faiths and as I live in a predominantly Muslim community am trying to do so through personal contact with a Sufi community and through the OU. Christians need to get themselves properly informed about other faiths. Your comments help. Una

Robert
Guest
Robert

Bravo, ettu! The same might be said of the progressive minorities in the USA’s Network dioceses.

Pluralist
Guest

The Unitarians have argued that their strong interfaith stance allowed them to have a function of bridge building, when others just made a longer suspension bridge that went over the top. It is interesting to see Anglicans making similar arguments, and I’m sure that others make even longer suspension bridges. In the end,the bridges get so long that they miss everything going on underneath.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I am a bit puzzled by this idea that Anglicanism is the third largest ecclesial body. It is in one sense ( assuming the Anglican Communion doesnt fragment) but looser groupings like the Lutheran World Fellowship or the Methodists outnumber Anglicans and probably the Reformed do as well. I also wish Anglicanism’s ecumenical credentials were better–how much was really achieved in the last century in practice?how far have the theological agreements entered the ecclesial blood-stream? I think the person who said of the bridge church that alas it didnt touch either side was probably right. The really puzzling thing surely… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

James Day: reading your comment, it does worry me that so much energy sometimes goes into making ourselves sound important as a body, into talking ourselves up as Anglicans. It can seem as if what we really care about is wielding social influence: proliferations of grand-sounding titles can add to that impression. Is not rather the story of contemporary Christianity in Europe one in which institutional religion as a whole has become unattractive? The strategy we need for the future might well demand something of a radical change of approach, surely? So, wouldn’t it do us good to be ignored,… Read more »

James Meredith Day
Guest
James Meredith Day

As per Fr Mark’s, Perry Butler’s, and Pluralist’s comments, yes there HAS been a contribution of consequence by the Anglican Communion to the enrichment of understanding amongst Christians, and in many places, across religious traditions, in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and cooperation for social good. We ought to be quite happy, it seems to me, about that, and it is folly to imagine that “invisibility” would enhance our role in serving the “ignored” of the world. Furthermore to attribute to me, as Fr Mark does, a concern chiefly with “social influence” is to err. On the ground, here on the… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

James Day: “why shy away from a measure of authority, and the huge responsibility it implies, if one has it?” Well, because we currently have a big problem with church leaders abusing authority, particularly with regard to discrimination against women and gay people. They make pompous statements which are illogical, unjust and unpastoral, but are shielded by the habit of deference to ecclesiastical authority from being held to account in the way any other leaders would be. Wouldn’t a more bottom-up, grass-roots accountable approach be better? And wasn’t sitting light to worldly power and influence always intended by Jesus to… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Interesting thread! Riazat Butt touches on a tender nerve here. The status of the Anglican Communion as a world player has been a significant theme in the present war and remains at the top of many key people’s agenda. Just how this collection of autonomous churches sees itself and is seen by others has figured prominently in much of the thinking behind the presenting issue. I would even argue that it has been THE most significant factor behind the words and actions from the ACO and Lambeth Palace. The long term plan to create a world-wide Anglican Church (albeit on… Read more »

riazat butt
Guest
riazat butt

Ciao from Roma!
@PaulDavison – I had to go to the semi’official opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Memorial Library. It was at the same time as the World Arm Wrestling Championships. Springfield was all, like, Abe this and Abe that. I think there is more to the AC than gay bishops but sometimes – ooh gotta go! A VIP just turned up x Back later

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Paul Davison: You mean the interchange of US 341 and I-75 isn’t some little one horse tank town truck stop?

At least it’s in the Diocese of Atlanta.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

‘Personally I doubt Canterbury will survive this debacle in a way that will inspire the respect and confidence that it has enjoyed hitherto. I strongly suspect that having failed to inspire mutual respect within its own house it will be treated as a spent force and the “middle way” will gradually break down as the churches spin off towards other Covenanted groups or the two “extremes”.’ – Martin Reynolds ‘Respect and confidence’ are attributes that Martin Reynolds seems to value as the primary characteristic of the Anglican Communion’s struggle for relevance in today’s world; whereas, as a spiritual force int… Read more »

Nom de Plume
Guest
Nom de Plume

Sorry for my ignorance, but what is the appropriate way to wish Riazat Butt a blessed/fulfilling Ramadan? Well, the proper words are missing here, but I hope the intention is clear.

We Anglicans are fortunate to have you reporting on us, Riazat.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

My Muslim coworkers tell me “Happy Ramadan” is fine. Fasting for them isn’t about repentance specifically, so it isn’t like saying “Happy Lent”. I think the Arabic translates as “Blessed Ramadan”. So, Ms Butt, Happy Ramadan!

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

So, has Thinking Anglicans followed Butt’s lead and shut down for the month? Surely we can think of something to notice other than gay sex and the Anglican Communion.

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Thinking Anglicans subscribers come here specifically to talk about the Anglican Communion. Some only about the politics of the Communion itself. Some only about their relationship with Jesus. Others about the Communion and the lessons that can be shared with the world, and the lessons that can be learnt from the world. Butt is free to take her Ramadan in the form that seems best for her, others can take their own abstinences in the form that seems best for them. She doesn’t have to visit Thinking Anglicans for a month, but we don’t have to cease to exist whilst… Read more »

Edgar
Guest
Edgar

As one who has spent my life in one horse towns and in some that didn’t even have a horse, I am not offended one bit Riazat Butt’s assertion that ours is a one horse communion. The best thing we could do as Anglicans, I think, is to get over our idea of self importance in just the same way, as she wonderfully points out, the world needs to get over the fact that there are gay people in almost every walk of life including the Episcopacy. I laud her fast. And, she is right: there are lessons for all… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Good post, Edgar.

Rev'd L J Roberts
Guest
Rev'd L J Roberts

Yes we are fortuante indeed to ahve found such an honest friend.

I too found Ms Butt’s pice challenging and a good wake up call to anglican complacency !

I live amidst a large muslim community and the sense of energy and vibrancy this Ramadan is striking and lovely to be around. (But unstated — ‘just’ an energy)

Thanks Ms Butt and “Ramadan Kareem !”

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I still wish Riazatt, or someone else here, would point me to an internet forum where Muslims debate these issues and where interfaith dialogue happens.

riazat butt
Guest
riazat butt

is anyone else on this thread hungry? I am, I could eat a horse.

Regenesis
Guest

You are absolutely brilliant! Anglicans around the world will be thanking God for Ramadan this year if you get your request for respect for the religious needs of Muslims. We need a 40 day break to regain our perspective. We’re like 5 year olds who have received way too much attention and are exhausted and cranky and looking way too spoiled.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“We need a 40 day break to regain our perspective.”

We have one every spring, and a 30 day one every fall, have been doing it for centuries. The perspective still looks the same, though. Might we not be taking it in the proper light?

riazat butt
Guest
riazat butt

Hypothetical question: if you were a cannibal which bishop would you eat and why?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Riazat – if you’re into eating Bishops – I’d try the women first. At least they have a quality of tenderness – and are a little more spicy.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Poor Riazat,
this Ramadan really is getting to you.
Can you imagine the tummy upset you’d have after eating any one of those rigid beasts?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Hypothetical question: if you were a cannibal which bishop would you eat and why?” I don’t know. The conservatives would be too tough and bitter. Besides they’d probably try to organize the meats to demand they get their own pot since they’d be tainted if they were boiled with the vegetables, and that’d ruin the flavour of the stew. The liberals would be too light and airy and not at all filling, and would want to get so many vegetables, other meats, and what have you in the pot with them it’d overflow and put out the fire. Is there… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford
“Is there a fine plump middle of the road one?”

Quite – we have no idea! It would be helpful if they made themselves known round about now.

Not sure about the light and airy liberals, though.
Just because you allow others their own journey and choices does not mean that your own is shallow. If anything, it could be heavier because you haven’t got the nice certainties other people appear to have.
Give me a liberal any day, someone who has wrestled with all aspects of life most days of his life, over the self satisfied who think they have it all sorted.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“it could be heavier because you haven’t got the nice certainties other people appear to have.” Quite! I think a basic difference is our attitude to this. I am extremely wary of people who are certain about the Truth. I am not willing to put my trust in what finite human minds think about God. I much prefer the Orthodox approach that happily acknowledges there are mysteries we just have to take on faith. The saints sleep in ther graves, but they still hear my prayers and interceed for me? Cool! I can’t understand how they can be dead and… Read more »