The Secret Islamicization of Britain?

This blog has not become a vehicle for conspiracy theories or religious hatred, but the title of today’s post picks up on something that is becoming a common media theme: the Islamicization of Britain by stealth. First we had stories about schools in the Birmingham area being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists in so-called Trojan Horse attempts to secure control; now we learn that many British supermarkets and fast-food chains are selling halal meat without labelling it as such. There is a feeling that this is not quite above board and many (including some Muslims) have expressed dismay that it will stoke existing fears and lead to further misunderstandings. The supermarkets and fast-food chains may have misjudged the public mood in their pursuit of profit, but have they unwittingly highlighted something that should concern us all and which has implications far beyond questions of how schools are run or meat is prepared?

You may remember that last year Channel 4 broadcast the Muslim call to prayer during Ramadam. At the time, many welcomed it as indicative of the religious pluralism that is now a mark of British society. Others were more neutral, wondering whether it was a sign of ‘special treatment’ hard to justify to other religious groups; a few were very hostile indeed. Today many would argue that while one can choose whether or not to listen to a broadcast, there is much less choice about where to send one’s child to school, and none at all about what one eats if the packaging/menu does not give the relevant information. So, it is not only the perceived underhandedness of this latest ‘scandal’ that is the problem, it is the lack of control and the fear it engenders. That feeds into all kinds of other fears — of State surveillance, E.U. bureaucracy, even the break-up of the Union. But it has an extra piquancy because, like it or not, many people in this country see Islam as an alien and often negative force. The activities of the Boku Haram in Nigeria, for example, are cited as just another instance of the cruelty and injustice many associate with contemporary Islam. Even as one objects that not many Muslims would identify with its aims, one must also acknowledge the reality of the sense of hurt and grievance people feel.

It is for Muslims to prove to the rest of the world that the behaviour of groups like Boku Haram is at odds with the teachings of Islam, but I think Christians also have a duty to ensure that there are no knee-jerk reactions of hatred and fear. The historically-minded may like to think back to the anti-Jewish movements of the earlier twentieth century and the importance of Christian defence of Jews. It wasn’t always what, with hindsight, one thinks it should or could have been, but without those instances of sometimes heroic courage and determination to see truth and justice prevail, things could have been much worse. We have a duty to protect our neighbours and see that they are not made victims of prejudice and fear. But we need to do more than that. I’d argue that it is not the secret Islamicization of Britain we need to worry about so much as the sometimes very public disintegration of social cohesion and concern that is becoming characteristic of Britain today. The banking and political scandals of recent years did not arise out of a vacuum. They proceeded from a selfish and immoral preoccupation with ‘what’s good for me’. They too were underhand. Maybe a forkful of halal meat could prompt us to do some serious thinking about bigger and more weighty matters — such as society itself and the ways in which responsibility and accountability are managed? I hope so.

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10 thoughts on “The Secret Islamicization of Britain?”

  1. Just a couple of further small examples. Until recently I worked at Harrods. Under the previous Muslim owner, Mr Al Fayed, there was a real sense of integration. The new owners, the Qatari Royal Family, seem much more inclined to prioritise their values. The popular pet shop has been closed down….why…a dislike of puppies/dogs. And a new staff chapel has been built…..but to my amazement the space is entirely Muslim, complete with segregation for the men and women. At last view there was not so much as a kneeler, crucifix, icon or candle to accommodate Christian members of staff.

  2. I don’t fear Islam or any other faith. Because they profess peace and love, not war or terror. Their culture might differ from our own, but it doesn’t threaten us, unless we are misled by hate propoganda propounded by those whose agenda is division, hate and a narrow nationalism which is selfish and self centred.

    I know that there are extremes in every faith group, and many Christian groups on the far right, propogate hate and prejudice against fellow Christians, let alone other religions, race or cultures. We all have a responsibility to speak out in defence of those who are being categorised by the hate mongers and to ensure that our society is welcoming to many who come as refugees seeking a place of safety, only to find themselves stigmatized or labelled as scroungers, spongers or illegals.

    The Christian voice is muffled by a media which seems concerned to help in the propogation of hate rhetoric and while our Arch Bishops and Bishops among many others have spoken out, they are drowned out in the cacophony of noise from those who shout louder and appeal to peoples fears, particularly when many in our own society have been reduced to penury, by the very group of idle rich that we’ve elected to rule us.

    Our local mosque has an open day next week, where they welcome the local community along. A Sikh Temple does similar things several times a year. Their people are a vibrant and lively part of our community and vital partners in interfaith work – something we celebrate and don’t denigrate. It’s by this sort of initiative in small things that community cohesion is built, we need to make more of this, and get it into the media to counteract that overwhelmingly negative noise from the hate merchants.

    I pray for a new Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to be the true witness to Christ’s love, power and mercy in the world, to preach a Gospel of renewal and reconciliation that melds all into God’s Kingdom and heals the divisions and changes hearts.
    Amen.

    • “…they profess peace and love, not war or terror. ” To deny the existence of a strong strain in Islamic/Koranic ideas to violence on behalf of spreading the faith – today as much as in early times – is naive in the extreme.

  3. The problem with adopting this method of slaughtering is that it is religious legalism. Only Muslims are allowed to carry out the process and authorisation processes. Muslim establishments are likely to be chose by firms as a matter of ease. Hence, it becomes a form of legalised positive discrimination toward Muslim men to the exclusion of women and all other men who have no faith or are of a different faith. Established long standing business links will break down in some cases. Also, slaughtering the animals by using knives causes ‘fear induced stress’, which results in a release of cortisone in the animal that stays there after death in the meat. This is then consumed by humans, causing an increase in aggression, a decrease of sexual desire and other related health problems. The RSPCA says slaughter without pre-stunning causes “unnecessary suffering”. It’s a retrograde step for the whole of our society (imho)

  4. Thank you for your comments. As I hope you appreciate, I do not want to get drawn into a discussion about Islam/halal meat/extremism since my argument has to do with social cohesion and the Christian response to some of the challenges posed by current media obsessions. That said, I must point out that I know comparatively few Muslims, but those I do know have always impressed upon me that Christians often misread Islam by applying to it the kind of blanket interpretation that is manifestly ridiculous when applied to Christianity. For example, I, as a Catholic, do not read the Bible in the same way as more Fundamentalist Christians. I don’t attach the same importance to the more obscure passages of Leviticus as some atheists assume I do. In short, what I believe and try to put into practice is probably light years away from what many people imagine. (Don’t even start me on some people’s weird ideas about nuns!) It is the same with Islam. We should remember that there is a wide spectrum of belief and practice. Furthermore, I would add that accusing others of naivety or religious legalism isn’t quite what I’d hope to see on this blog. Argue a case, say what you believe, but please do so courteously and don’t state as fact what amounts to opinion.

  5. A good deal of what is said about Islam now, was said about Roman Catholicism up until a few decades ago. I grew up on a council estate and northern England and there was a deep suspicion of Catholics on the estate. There has been considerable fears concerning RC Schools ‘indoctrinating’ children and let’s remember hospitals, residential homes etc. have had a tradition of serving fish on Fridays to cater for Catholics (in a manner very similar to the reasons given by supermarkets when it comes to Halal meat…).

    As for ‘The activities of the Boku Haram in Nigeria, for example, are cited as just another instance of the cruelty and injustice many associate with contemporary Islam….’ I can assure you Christians have committed similar atrocities over the centuries – not least the Roman Catholic Church. So please don’t paint Christianity and Roman Catholicism in particular as some goody-two-shoes separate from the harm religion can do when zeal, prejudice and self-interest marry up (though it is usually the latter motive that drives forward the worst excesses of religion – the former two just veil selfishness in piety!). Christians tend to have a very sanitised and self-flattering view of history (QED in the above post):

    e.g. “The historically-minded may like to think back to the anti-Jewish movements of the earlier twentieth century and the importance of Christian defence of Jews.”

    Let’s remember that in Poland in 1946 when Jews appealed to the Bishop of Kielce, Czesław Kaczmarek, to condemn attacks on Jews he refused, as did the Bishop of Lublin, Stefan Wyszyński. And if we look a little further back in history – rather than cherry picking instances of Christian tolerance, in the usual Christian way of looking for backhanded self-praise, we find centuries of Christian anti-Semitism that resulted in cruelty, torture and murder of tens of thousands of Jews – some championed by saints of the church and reformers alike (e.g. St Cyril and Martin Luther, respectively).

    So, sister, please stop this pompous self-praise of offering Christianity as the voice of reason and tolerance. Religion has no agency itself – it is what its followers want it to be. At present Islam is seen as extremist and violent – but much of Christianity’s history tells us it too thoroughly earned this appellation – indeed it was only when Christianity imbibed humanist and Enlightenment ideals that we see it change its spots… Though looking around the world (Bible Belt America, Sub-Saharan African, South America…) there is no reason to believe that if Christianity once again had the upper hand in social power and political polity, that it would make for fairer and more tolerant world, is there?

    • You have missed my point so completely and utterly, and shown le style est l’homme même so wonderfully true with regard to yourself, that I am delighted to let your comment stand.

  6. Going back to what I believe is Sister Catherine’s point – namely of social cohesion and the Christian challenge of responding to current media stories – I’m reminded of the statement attributed to Pastor Neimoller
    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

  7. I recently wrote to ten of the major supermarkets about the non-labelling and sale of halal meat. It seems everyone is selling it. All New Zeakand lamb is halal. The way to be sure of avoiding halal meat is to buy pork or buy locally produced meat from your nearest farm shop. Watch out for many take-aways too, who sometimes display the halal sign, but not in English.

    What I dislike most is the way the supermarkets are trying to have it both ways: trying to maintain profits while secretly playing the multi-culturalism game. They know that if customers were able to make a choice about meat, those profits would be under threat.

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