Friday, 30 May 2008

The Guardian: Williams must challenge Nazir-Ali

The editors of the new rightwing political magazine Standpoint knew they were on to a winner when they commissioned the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, to write for their first edition. As they drained their celebratory glasses of champagne at their launch party on Wednesday night, they would not have been disappointed. Mr Nazir-Ali's article neatly underlines the journal's own expressed intent "to defend and celebrate" western civilisation. The bishop, who was born in Pakistan, believes radical Islam poses a serious threat to western values; he regards multiculturalism as a fatal error into which British society has fallen through his own Anglican church's lack of moral leadership. He last grabbed headlines with an assertion that parts of some towns were no-go areas for non-Muslims. His latest article is partly a piece of internal Anglican positioning. The Lambeth conference is now just over six weeks away and is threatening to turn into the final showdown between conservative and liberal factions of the global Anglican communion. The bishop is a prominent supporter of the anti-gay African bishops.

But his article is also potentially much more dangerous: it reads like an attempt to frame the church's contribution to the debate on Britishness in the language of religious confrontation. The bishop's starting point is firm ground for most Christians (and plenty of atheists), what the Archbishop of Canterbury recently called the "inner deadness" of a greedy society. But he has a particular purpose in condemning the "moral vacuum" he detects in family breakdown and binge drinking. Read more
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