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The Islamic Republic of Britain? A Personal Odyssey. PART TWO

Saturday, 16 October 2010  | Julian Holdsworth

The answer, in this writer’s view, is very often, yes, but beyond the word count of this article to justify such an argument.  However, I would like to add to the debate two further conversations that shed some light on these matters.  One, a cause for concern and the other a challenge.

My next two stops were with two old school friends, one of whom is a high court barrister and the other a denominational leader...

First, the concerns of a lawyer.

I have a school friend who works as a barrister in the Old Bailey in London.  He told me of how he was recently in conversation with a fellow barrister, a Muslim.  He asked him, “When you are in the mosque, do you know who the young radicals are or those within the mosque who are likely to drift towards jihadist agendas?”  “Oh yes, we know them, but we keep out of their way and don’t get involved”.  My friend asked, “So, given your defence of the British justice system in the work you do, have you told anyone at MI5 or the police about your concerns?”  The man’s response was startling.  “Oh no, we don’t do that within our community”.  Effectively, it would be the betrayal of a fellow Muslim.  My friend continued: “Do you see the contradiction of working for the British justice system on the one hand and failing to support it on the other?”  The man had no answer.

Therein lies the dilemma for the Muslim.  Loyalty to the community of Islam seems at times to be interpreted as more important than the defence of the potential victims of terrorism.  This is of great concern to those who fear for liberal democracies and ought not to be underestimated.  The power of group norms to silence those who are otherwise decent people is a well known social psychological phenomenon documented since the days of the Nazis in Germany.  And where group norms are reinforced throughout childhood, the effect is even stronger.  However, even this common scenario can quickly become a caricature that labels all Muslim communities as potential safe havens for terrorists.  If only, through passivity.  In recent times a Muslim father of a wannabe terrorist reported his fears over his own son’s increasing radicalism.  This may give hope that caricatures are often false.  Indeed, I wonder if we ought not to let this example shape our views of Muslims more than the predominant media-driven fears.  As Christians, we must join with those who protect many of the values of our democracy and resist all narratives that claim power and force as the means to change society.  However, we must not be those who are driven by the fears that pervade our culture, particularly in its attitude to Muslims. 

Second, the denominational leader. 

Another old school friend who had become a leading theologian in the Presbyterian church and is a committed evangelical sat me down for coffee.  I asked him about his views on immigration in the UK, particularly given the success of the right wing British Nationalist Party at the European elections.  His response was wise: Did I mean Islamic migration or East European?  Since I’d last seen him, more than two million east Europeans had come into the UK, far more than any other people group, albeit on European Union working visas and with no say in how the country is run. Was this a bad thing?  His response (as a Scottish Presbyterian!) surprised me: “Having 2 million more Catholics in the country may well be the key to revival of the church in the UK...” And then with a wry smile, “...or at least we could pray that way.”

Not a bad response for times when the environment of fear over immigration becomes shrill: pray that God would bring a great move of his Spirit amongst those who are entering the country and through them to the rest of the nation.  Maybe Islam and liberal democracy are sometimes competing philosophies, but let love drive us to our knees and to our migrant neighbour’s door.



John Davies
October 16, 2010, 8:45AM
Julian's last point is very important, prayer should be our primary response. The Bible is clear that sometimes God uses 'foreigners' to drive his people to repentance.
(See Is 28:11; 1Cor 14:21; Jer 5:15, etc.)
Alasdair Livingston
December 13, 2010, 10:32PM
Perhaps the Muslim onslaught is doing us a favour (without meaning to!) Just as the Gnostics in the 2nd-3rd centuries forced the Christians to work out and proclaim just what they believed, the rise of Islam may be forcing us to do the same. "Tolerance" has been touted, even in Christian circles, and the overriding virtue that we may have become shy of expressing the exclusiveness of our beliefs.

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