Church is not doing enough to convert UK Muslims, says bishop
By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 12:08 AM on 25th May 2008
Accusation: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali claims the Church of England is failing in its duty to convert British Muslims to Christianity
The Church of England was accused by one of its most senior bishops yesterday of failing in its duty to convert British Muslims to Christianity.
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said Church leaders had rightly shown sensitivity towards Muslims as part of efforts to welcome minority faiths.
But he said: ‘I think it may have gone too far and what we need now is to recover our nerve.’
Dr Nazir-Ali, who faced death threats earlier this year after saying that some parts of the country had become ‘no-go areas’ for non-Muslims, said that it was important for faiths to talk to one another without diluting their core beliefs.
‘Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith, and that is the basis for welcoming people of other faiths,’ he said. ‘You cannot have an honest conversation on the basis of fudge.’
The Pakistani-born bishop, who in 2002 was tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury before Dr Rowan Williams took over from Dr George Carey, was echoing concerns that many Church leaders are abandoning attempts to spread Christianity among Muslims out of fear of a backlash.
Members of the Church’s ‘parliament’ have now forced the highly sensitive issue on to the agenda of this summer’s General Synod – despite the efforts of liberal bishops to warn them off.
A private members’ motion calling on the bishops to clarify their strategy has gathered so many signatures of support from Synod members that it has leapt over others in the queue for the July meeting in York.
Synod member Paul Eddy, who tabled the motion, said that the active recruitment of non-believers and adherents of other faiths had always been a Biblical injunction on Christians, commanded by Christ himself.
But he claimed that many bishops were downplaying the missionary role of the Church and official documents often glossed over the requirement to convert Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or followers of other religions.
He warned that the central role of Christianity in Britain was being eroded, and by ‘allowing the rise of another religion in our country, all that Britain stands for is up for grabs’.
The row follows new projections from the independent Christian Research organisation that suggest numbers attending mosque on Fridays will overtake those going to church on Sundays by 2050.
And Dr Peter Brierley, a former Government statistician and expert on Church figures, has estimated that at least 50,000 Britons had converted from Christianity to Islam over the past decade, while the number of Muslims becoming Christians was negligible.
Senior Churchmen are jittery about discussing the issue publicly, especially so soon after Dr Williams provoked outrage by supporting the introduction of elements of Sharia into British law.
Mr Eddy said that he had received angry emails and telephone calls from opponents, including four bishops, leaning on him to drop his campaign.
‘Hang extremists’ call
Britain’s most prominent Muslim politician last night called for the return of the death penalty for extremists who urge the weak and vulnerable to carry out terrorist acts.
Labour’s Lord Ahmed spoke out as police continued to question an Islamic convert suspected of detonating a nail bomb in Exeter city centre. They have been told that Nicky Reilly, 27, who has a history of mental health problems, was brainwashed by Muslim radicals.
Lord Ahmed said: ‘Decent law-abiding Muslims are outraged that people who claim to be followers of Islam should prey on the mentally infirm and encourage them to murder people on a large scale. We should consider hanging for this type of crime.’