Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, says sidelining of Christianity is ‘common sense’
Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, defended Labour’s policy on religion after a report backed by the Church of England claimed that Muslims receive a disproportionate amount of attention.
She said it was right that more money and effort was spent on Islam than Christianity because of the threat from extremism and home-grown terrorism.
Ms Blears told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “That’s just common sense. If we’ve got an issue where we have to build resilience of young Muslim men and women to withstand an extremist message.”
She added: “We live in a secular democracy. That’s a precious thing. We don’t live in a theocracy, but we’ve always accepted that hundreds of thousands of people are motivated by faith. We live in a secular democracy but we want to recognise the role of faith.”
The Church of England bishop responsible for the report, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, said afterwards: “She said we live in a secular democracy. That comes as news to me – we have an established Church, but the Government can’t deal with Christianity.”
As The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday, the landmark report commissioned by the Church and written by academics at the Von Hugel Institute accuses ministers of paying only “lip service” to Christianity and marginalising the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, while focusing “intently” on Islam.
However Malaysia’s Prime Minister warned yesterday that Muslim extremism in Britain will grow unless the Government and society learn to understand Islam.
Abdullah Badawi claimed that the legacy of Britain’s imperial past has hampered its ability to appreciate its Islamic population.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the prime minister urged Gordon Brown to allow the country’s Muslims to live under Islamic law, but also said that they must prove their worth to society.
Mr Abdullah argues that the Government must do more to ensure Muslims do not feel discriminated against if it is to tackle the rise of radicalism.
“The failure to understand Muslims is driving a divide between the communities,” he said.
“Gordon Brown must encourage a better understanding because Britain must appreciate its Muslims.”
Mr Abdullah argued that Britain needs to come to terms with being home to immigrants from countries that it used to rule over.
“The British Empire expanded in Asia, everywhere, throughout the Muslim land, through the land of Hindus and the land of Buddhists.
“When they were ruling it was different because they wanted it to be peaceful and to keep it peaceful they had to use diplomacy.”
He said that Muslims in Britain were more likely to be radicalised because they feel ignored rather than due to religious reasons.
“Is it because of poverty, social unrest, deprivation, feeling discriminated against, thinking people don’t care much because of the colour of their skin?”
Mr Abdullah, who was talking on the eve of a landmark summit of world leaders, echoed the calls of the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year for Muslims to be able to live under sharia.
The Malaysian Prime Minister also acknowledged that Muslims must also play their part in proving their value as immigrants.
“If they want to be respected then they must do something for the community,” he said.
“They must not be a liability. They have to be an asset.”