Sunday, 30 August 2009

The challenge of Islam

Updated Wednesday morning

Michael Nazir-Ali , who retires from his current post on Tuesday, has given his final interview, as Bishop of Rochester, to Martin Beckford at the Telegraph.

See Bishop of Rochester: Church of England must do more to counter twin threats of secularism and radical Islam.

However, he will be continuing to speak out on this topic, as evidenced by this announcement from a right-wing Washington DC think tank, the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

EVENT: Agressive Secularism, Multiculturalism, and the Islamist Threat
A Lecture with Bishop Michael James Nazir-Ali
.

As Jim Naughton notes at Episcopal Café in CANA and the coming campaign against Islam:

CANA is also announcing a new program on “the Church and Islam” led by Canon Julian Dobbs, formerly of the vigorously anti-Islamic Barnabas Fund.

See the CANA press release: CANA Announces the “Church and Islam Project” and the website The Church and Islam.

Update See also Bishop of Rochester to aid persecuted Christians in Islamic world by Ruth Gledhill.

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Comments

I think you need to take the anti Modern dissing of other religions and world views seriously. It risks getting out of hand rather easily, vs the Birthers and such persons...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 7:19pm BST

Given Christianity's long history of barging into the native lands of other religions, declaring their adherents "heathens" and "pagans" and, often, forcibly proselytizing them, I think it ill behooves any modern Christian leader to complain of an overly aggressive Islamic threat.

As for "aggressive secularism", perhaps it wouldn't need to be so aggressive if those like Nazir-Ali and the CANA crowd weren't so apt to reject secular knowledge that contradicts their long-held religiously based biases. Or if they weren't so quick to declare anyone who thought even a little differently from them--even fellow Christians--as beyond the pale.

If you wish to be tolerated, it helps first to be tolerant.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 7:21pm BST

This visitation is most unwelcome. Here where I live in Virginia, the local paper regularly gets anti-Islam letters to the editor. A couple of years ago the paper featured a page long editorial claiming that all Islam was radical. Of course, some of the same letter writers refer to our president as "HUSSEIN Obama," and many of these are also 'birthers.' The combination of ignorance, prejudice and rage is just plain scary. Many of you Im sure have seen the town hall screaming matches. I do think beneath a lot of the rage is racism. We've, alas, got lots of homegrown hate and rage - we don't need him coming to give it a veneer of respectbility.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 7:36pm BST

"We now have people in the US but not only there who believe things about God, about salvation, about marriage and about human sexuality that seems to be another religion" - Bp. Nazir-Ali -

In his Telegraph interview with Martin Beckford, the retiring Bishop of Rochester seeks further to excoriate the Anglican Church in North America with his out-dated and homophobic rhetoric about the LGBT community in the Church. His pathetic attempt to align himself with the two-strata Covenant movement may help him to retain some sort of dignity with his fellow conservatives in the Church of England, but will do little to help the Anglican Communion to face up to its need for an honest appraisal of gener and sexuality issues which cry out for compassion and justice.

Maybe this prelate will better occupy himself by dedicating his remaining years to his Christian brothers and sissters in Paskistan, whose need of his activism would help to assuage his scorn for the rest of us in the Communion who are looking for progress in the inclusive ethic of the Gospel

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 11:58pm BST

Didn't CANA used to warn us that if the Anglican Communion become known as "the church of the homosexuals," it would expose our African brothers and sisters to the murderous wrath of the radical mullahs? But now CANA itself says that "Islam represents and promotes a litany of human rights abuses, oppression and aggression" and vows to convert as many Moslems as it can.

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 12:18am BST

This makes me even more unhappy than their attitude to queer folk. Alarm bells always ring at 'so-called'. The last thing we need for peace, either abroad or in our own communities, is an attack on 'so-called' moderate Islam - pushing it into extremism. 'See, father, my mates were right - they have no respect for us...'

It is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Posted by: RosemaryHannah on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 8:43am BST

It is a problem to attempt to counter radical or fundamentalist religions with equally radical or fundamentalist thinking.

We see this in Christians who are so obsessed about winning the argument that they have hyperbolised Jesus so far that the other elements of God no longer exist or are subsumed into some totalitarian vision. (It is also a manipulative strategy to pretend to newly converted muslims that they are not guilty of polytheism and thus apostatic).

The testosterone pissing contests between various prophets/gods/messiahs/angels will not lead to victory. Rather all become discredited as they resort to unscrupulous and cruel strategies to garnish their own positions.

God is not bound to argue within or through their terms. The tearing down of the tower of babel, levelling of Sodom and Gomorrah, barring Moses from the Holy Land, distinguising Zion from both heaven and hell are examples where God not only is not limited to the parley of male ego's, but simply makes them irrelvant in the big picture.

Heaven and Hell are only small dominions within Creation, who have as the centre of attention two male ego's who only care about how much praise they receive. God's consciousness exists beyond both Jesus, Satan and all the other prophets and angels' comprehension. God also created and communicates with the feminine forces (even if Jesus and misogynistic prophets/priests don't). The team of females who brought down Satan and cooperated with Jesus' anointment will not give Jesus or his priests a new heaven or earth that is premised on their suppression and being abused. Consistently, they also will not cooperate with any other strand of any religion that is premised on sacrifices and abuse.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 8:48am BST

For some unknown reason, I regularly receive mailings from the Barnabas Fund. Where did they get my details? I somehow doubt they got them from Watch, Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church or Affirming Catholicism, all of which I belong to. Anyway, I have sent them an email asking I be removed from all their databases. I will wait to see what happens. Bit worrying though. What does the postman think?

Posted by: lapsang on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 12:11pm BST

I am not fond of Islam* (Arab culture and aesthetics are another thing). But the Anglican Evangelical fixation on the Muslim world as as enemy is scary, especially in view of the violent words (and perhaps actions) of ++Abuja towards Nigerian Muslims.

*full disclosure: I'm also not fond of the LDS, the different Baptist bodies, American Old Catholics, Sydney "Anglicanism," or saffron. There are many things I am not fond of; for a full listing, write me privately and I'll try to have a partial catalog ready by Christmas

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 3:29pm BST

One take on this new-old ramping up of the religious and culture wars, complete with more occasions of weaponized preaching by the vaunted Nazir Ali and others, is perhaps the obvious, simple answer to our pending CANA conservative Anglican question: Who is the next target on the enemy lists?

In a Rushdoonian tone, Nazir Ali is hostile to all the contemporary (and often quite democratic or progressive?) phenoms he wants us to gloss as 'secular.' This is not only sloppy ethics, sloppy theology, it is outright dangerous in a global village terrorized by any number of hot button sharp differences, including religious differences. Hostile to democracy and science, Nazir Ali will still no doubt use every available modern approach to treat any illness or injury he might happen to sustain, and use any scrap of state citizenship to wage culture-religious war on other citizens with whom he so frankly differs.

The low brow right wing scholarship habits in all of this are quite sad, yet also quite familiar.

Once we've done with targeting the queer folks, we're moving on loudly to target other big targets like modernity, science, citizenship, Islam ... are we there yet?

The whole realignment business is a surprisingly Rushdoonian, conservative believer assault on any and all global big tents. One set of big tents will be used as temporary leverage for asserting conformity and heightening fear or other deep tensions across differences, aiming to collapse another set of global big tent phenomena. Then, not all that much later, the big tents used as prior leverage (along with any citizenship leverage that might have been innate to them) will become the new targets, all in service of conformity and power to collapse, narrowing spaces.

Project this spin out, and the picture grows dark, indeed. A certain sort of conservative believer USA mega-church religion, writ large, globally, and enforced by just the sort of simplistic good/bad glosses the resigned Nazir Ali so loves to proclaim. A global repeat of religious and cultural lights, all growing dim, and then extinguished by this hostile, rigid religion that likes to call itself Anglican orthodoxy. This sort of religion nearly always fuels social-cultural distance, fear-mongering, and finally overt violence - in the long run - towards it condemned target groups.

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 6:29pm BST

Bp. Nazir-Ali ought to take note from a far more celebrated (yet humbler) Christian Apologist than his good self - Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis chose to go and talk to the Sultan, risking his own life in that enterprise. It was Francis' Gospel of Peace that prompted the Sultan to invite him to a meal with him, and to discuss the Peace of Christ that Francis brought with him. How the world needs the pacific intentions of a new Francis.

Perhaps if Bishop Nazir-Ali were a little more Muslim-tolerant, he might even be allowed back into Pakistan to preach the Gospel of Peace. Now that would really be an example to all lovers of Christ. Religious Fundamentalism of any kind is always contra to the message of the Gospel.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 31 August 2009 at 10:24pm BST

So painfully out of touch. The changes related to gay people have been accepted in the UK. They are only an issue for a small number of fanatics - yet he doesn't seem to realise this.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 12:35am BST

If only he would get over not having been appointed ABC, maybe Nazir-Ali would find some peace.


Posted by: Leonel on Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 2:02am BST

Just interested Cheryl, what is this extra-ordinary new religion you as espousing? It is certainly not Christian. And do you REALLY mean to imply that Jesus was prejudiced against women?

Posted by: Father Ed on Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 1:04pm BST

If people really are intent on refighting the sectarian wars of the 12th and 13th centuries (The Crusades), then count me out. I'll sit out this World War III with the secularists while Christianity and Islam bomb each other into oblivion. Unlike Dawkins and Hitchens, I won't be laughing. I'll be weeping over the radioactive ashes of Jerusalem.

Remind me again, how many liberal religious or liberal secularist suicide bombers are out there?

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 11:00pm BST

The Challenge of Islam should be a real and concrete warning that the extremism that has infested it can readily happen to Christianity, and the resultant fundamentalist society it breeds is anything but vision of heaven.

Wake up and realize it can happen to you!

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 12:02am BST

"He (Nazir-Ali) is also in talks with a leading theological college attached to a university - not Oxford - about accreditation for the courses he will be offering."
- Ruth Geldhill, Times on line -

(Will these courses be fundamentalist Christian?)

"The overall point is to enable countries and religious communities to agree on and then respect fundamental freedoms, freedom of belief and expression and freedom to change your belief. In terms of churches, I am very concerned that they should be strengthened to live in their very demanding contexts." - Bp. Nazir-Ali -

What Bp. Nazir-Ali should remember, is that civil freedoms are also involved - like the right to be part of the world-wide LGBT community, and the freedom to engage in faithful and committed same- sex partnerships. It is not only cultic religious freedoms that he ought to champion, but also freedom of the individual to be as God has created them.

Nazir-Ali's desire for Christian supremacy is probably one reason why he is being threatened by other religious communities. If he could repent of his outright criticism of the Muslim community he might be more able to preach the liberality of the Gospel - which he has been commissioned by the Church to share. (see Francis of Assisi)

Christ came into the world to save sinners - and that's all of us, not just Christians.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 1:01am BST

If Christ tarries, I think another 12 years of ignoring such warnings in England will prove whether Bp. Nazir-Ali is a true Prophet of God or just another noise maker. May God spare all our lives till then, though I pray the warnings are not ignored.

Posted by: Tunde on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 1:29am BST

Oh, I don't think he's a noisemaker; he's a dangerous nationalistic rabble-rouser posing as a Christian cleric.

The English heard too many such voices over the course of two world wars to be much impressed, and the rest of us have seen too many just like him leading the conservative "anglican" movement to be fooled.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 8:58am BST

'Oh, I don't think he's a noisemaker; he's a dangerous nationalistic rabble-rouser posing as a Christian cleric.

The English heard too many such voices over the course of two world wars to be much impressed, and the rest of us have seen too many just like him leading the conservative "anglican" movement to be fooled.'

What a foul summary of a Bishop in God's church who is prayerful, faithful, obedient and caring. As a priest in his diocese (and from a very different tradition) I have nothing bad to say about him. If every cleric were as God-centred and devout as this man the world would be a better place. And to those hinting at nationalism et al...let us not forget this is a Pakistani speaking who has a FAR better grasp of Islam than you do.

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 12:36pm BST

Oh great! Just when it looks like you've managed to finish one holy war, along come people wanting to start a different one.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 3:44pm BST

Yes, Ed, but possibly not a better grasp of what makes trouble and what does not.

Posted by: RosemaryHannah on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 6:18pm BST

The deeply worrisome thing about Nazir-Ali's piety - indeed a great many pieties on display among conservative Anglican realignment leaders/thinkers? - is exactly how their profound piety reinforces their patent abilities to do two very troublesome things.

One trouble nearly constant with Nazir Ali and others is a very bad habit (especially given Anglican traditions/precedents?) of dumbing down every hot button cultural or religious controversy. Things get simplified down, more or less to about USA fifth grade levels. Then all we get are inadequate glosses - about good/evil, right/wrong, Us/Them, Salvation/Doomsday. Christ Against Culture (See Niebuhr for starters?) is one trope, but it surely cannot be our only trope? Arranging course credit for such dumbed down conservative posturing is ironic, indeed, if or when it happens. Dumbing down is a bad habit. But wait. Here comes a second bad habit, worse.

We fairly constantly hear and see how scapegoating, targeting are preferred strategies for Nazir Ali and others active and prominent in the current conservative Anglican realignment. If anything this habit is even worse than being urged to be a dumbed down believer who can only think in faked, prefabricated cultural or religious categories and opposites.

In fact, we are all nearly constantly urged to bear false witness against the objects of conservative doubt, fear, scorn, scapegoating, and hostile targeting.

Now the situation has heated up quite a bit.

We're being asked to violate truth telling, among other centers of good believer value.

No doubt, truth is - Certain groups of global Islam are overtly hostile to cultural or religious differences or non-conformities. An intelligent modern guess is that replying with an equally dumbed down, hostile Christendom (massed, moblized in groupthink, armed, weaponized) is hardly just the ticket to peace, freedom, and more truth telling.

What sort of profound personal conservative religious piety, then, encouraged or reinforces these two near constant bad habits - for leaders like Nazir Ali, Robert Duncan, ... well it's a well known list of prominent conservative Anglicans indulging themselves in bad habits, publicly, without a hint of a qualm. Call conservatives to account? You get some wisecrack about Jesus: He's coming soon, so better shut down your brain as prelude to hardening your heart against the people now being targeted.

This piety bears greater and more careful intellectual investigation and ethical scrutiny, precisely because it is so repeatedly associated with bad habits.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 8:32pm BST

"As a priest in his diocese (and from a very different tradition) I have nothing bad to say about him."

Yes Ed, but perhaps that's because you both share a common Bigger Picture than mere differences of High vs. Low? You're both happy apologists for "The Gays (and their friends) = BAD!" (To wit, "what is this extra-ordinary new religion you as espousing? It is certainly not Christian": back atcha!)

I will join drdanfee in an "Alas. Lord have mercy"...

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 at 9:33pm BST

"What a foul summary of a Bishop in God's church who is prayerful, faithful, obedient and caring. As a priest in his diocese (and from a very different tradition) I have nothing bad to say about him. If every cleric were as God-centred and devout as this man the world would be a better place." - Ed Tomlinson -

Well, Well!

Believe it or not, Ed, this is precisely what may be said about Bishop Gene Robinson - except that Gene has not initiated a crusade of insitutional hatred of gays and liberals in the Church.

I am reminded of the character in literature: Mister Do-as-you-would-be-done-by.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 12:15am BST

"What a foul summary of a Bishop in God's church who is prayerful, faithful, obedient and caring. As a priest in his diocese (and from a very different tradition) I have nothing bad to say about him. If every cleric were as God-centred and devout as this man the world would be a better place. And to those hinting at nationalism et al...let us not forget this is a Pakistani speaking who has a FAR better grasp of Islam than you do. "

We're also familiar - far too familiar - with his propaganda ministers, Eddie-boy. Stop talking nonsense! He's no better than any other nationalist-isolationist-me-firsters out there. It's not a "foul" summary - it's an accurate one and you know it. That's what's so unforgivable about his slick little apologists.

Prayerful and obedient? He can't shut up long enough to be either in his never-ending quest of self-promotion.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 5:24am BST

I'm with JCF.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 6:53am BST

If I wanted to learn about Islam, the very last person I would ask is someone whose immediate family converted from Islam to another religion - it would be all too obvious that their perspective would be deeply hostile in consequence

of course, what is amusing - and again, typical of converts, is that he espouses a narrow and fundamentalist view of Christianity which has much in common with Islam's conservative wing, although he would be unable to see this.

Nazir-Ali is, in a single person, most of what is wrong with the Church of England, both personally (smug, self-promoting, dogmatic) and theologically (outdated, conservative, exclusivist). His departure can only be celebrated

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 5:51pm BST

Oh, and I suggest you look towards Liverpool Hope for accreditation, where the Rector is a known evangelical, and a colonial to boot.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 5:52pm BST

These comments about +Michael Nazir-Ali simply prove what a narrow minded, bigoted and uncompromising group of people you are. Unable to see any good in one whose theology differs from yours you simply resort to attacking the man. If you had actually met him you would know that he is neither smug nor self-promoting. Far from being outdated he is visionary enough to sit between various traditions and look to the pressing issues of our day.

Certainly I would not expect arch-liberals such as comment on here frequently to love his theology but your vitriol really does you no favours.

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Friday, 4 September 2009 at 9:58am BST

Father Ed

Not espousing a new religion. God and I had many discussions in 2001 and I made it quite clear that a new religion was not the solution to this planet's problems. It might somehow fluke its way work, and might even go wonderfully well by some miracle for a few hundred years. But then the whole set of problems of ego posturing and territory preservation would kick in.

Instead, what was required was to reform the existing religions. Jesus and his Christians have behaved no better than the other religions (witness the court determininations against Irish religious institutes in May 2009 as only one small example).

Rather, Jesus and all the gods and prophets of all the religions are to be held to account for some general principles that apply to all aspects of life throughout all creation. Any and every god, priest, or prophet is to be held to account for abuse done in their name. Whether that be Satan, Jesus, Hindu or some druid mystic with only 10 followers.

If Jesus and his followers don't like it, they can take it up with the God who created life on this planet and annointed guardians to protect it. If Jesus and his followers wanted to transgress the covenants of Zion and others that protect life, then Jesus and his followers can deal with the consequences.

There was discussion amongst angels when word got out that Jesus was going toe-to-toe with the Shekina. The clever ones asked how God felt, and when they found out God had told her to move with full force said "Jesus is screwed". Four years down the track both Jesus and Satan know that they should not violate the covanants that preserve life, and that the Shekina can not only take on either of them, but both of them at the same time.

Don't bother creating a new religion or worshipping her. Jesus and Satan are planetary guardians and she is a celestial guardian with no following of her own but ensures tha all guadians (including Jesus and Satan) behave themselves.

Don't like it? Too bad. Any and any path against the Daughter of Zion are paths to extinction. She does not care if Jesus and Satan are laughing stocks of the celestial consciounesses nor if their unrepentant followers are cut off from Creation so they can not spread their aggression further. Repent or perish applies as much to Jesus and his selfish followers as to anyone else.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Friday, 4 September 2009 at 10:40am BST

"Certainly I would not expect arch-liberals such as comment on here frequently to love his theology but your vitriol really does you no favours."

Neither does it coming from a man such as himself with his position downriver from London, and he should at least know better. Remember that "Arch-Liberals" such as myself probably aren't going to get much beyond this blogsite with our "vitrrol", but his gets in all the international papers!

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 4 September 2009 at 1:58pm BST

Ed: if you weren't so narrow minded yourself, you might realise that some of us simply don't agree with anything Nazir-Ali - or you, for that matter, believe in. I realise you may find this hard to believe, but some people don't like your religion or your beliefs and see no reason why we should compromise with such harmful opinions.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 4 September 2009 at 7:22pm BST

"Not espousing a new religion. God and I had many discussions in 2001 and I made it quite clear that a new religion was not the solution to this planet's problems. "

Yes, well, um, glad you could talk some sense into the old boy. (*backs slowly away*)

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 5 September 2009 at 1:49am BST

"Certainly I would not expect arch-liberals such as comment on here frequently to love his theology but your vitriol really does you no favours."

Let's take this in context, Fr. Ed. Below is a quote from the bishop:

"We now have people in the US but not only there who believe things about God, about salvation, about marriage and about human sexuality that seems to be another religion" - Bp. Nazir-Ali"

Now my problem with this is simple: this is not new. From my point of view, we have for a long time had people in England, but not only there, who "believe things about God, about salvation, about marriage and about human sexuality that seems to be another religion". They are called Evangelicals. Yet, for some reason, I have not found it necessary to demand that they change their beliefs so as to believe as I do, and I would think it a tragedy, and a faliure of our Christianity, if we somehow forced them out of the Church. Make no mistake, I believe many Evangelical ideas are in grave error, and my attitude towards them is not at all unlike the attitude of conservatives to the Evil Hell Bound Liberals these conservatives falsely accuse of selling out to society and believing nothing. Grievous error about matters of faith is at least as bad, if not worse, than no faith at all. So my issue is with the simple fact that conservatives, especially Evangelical ones, seem constitutionally unable to extend to others the charity and latitude they themselves have enjoyed for generations. I also don't trust them, never did, and as a gay person and non-Evangelical non-conservative, I am fed up with their misrepresentations and out and out lies, not only against me, but against any who dare to disagree with them.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 5 September 2009 at 2:08pm BST
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