The church fights back against Islamification
Lord Carey’s brave call to limit immigration is a timely defence of Christian values,
says Damian Thompson.
By Damian Thompson
6:28AM GMT 08 Jan 2010
We have had to wait decades for this moment, but it has finally happened. A leading British clergyman has said something sensible about immigration.
Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, this week signed a declaration by the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration calling for an urgent tightening of borders to stop the British population reaching 70 million by 2029. He also gave an interview yesterday in which he called for a tougher Church. “We Christians are very often so soft that we allow other people to walk over us, and we are not as tough in what we want, in expressing our beliefs, because we do not want to upset other people,” he said.
Tougher church … people walking all over us … controls on immigration: it really is not all that difficult to join the dots. Later in the interview, Lord Carey almost joined them for us, suggesting that there might be a “points system” based on respect for Britain’s Christian heritage.
Some of Lord Carey’s critics will accuse him of blowing a dog whistle to racists. That is nonsense. Lord Carey is a veteran anti-racist: he enjoys the sort of following among African evangelicals that Bill Clinton did among black Americans. But if Lord Carey were accused of whistling to Christians worried by the prospect of millions of dogmatic Muslims in Britain, then he would find it difficult to rebut the charge. Politicised Islam is at the forefront of his mind: he knows that Britain’s evangelical Christians are fed up with being told to develop ever closer ties with their Muslim neighbours.
These evangelicals see Muslim communities that are increasingly hard to distinguish from ghettos; whose young men are sympathetic towards Islamist insurgents; and whose elders enforce a Sharia law that bullies young British Muslim women at home and persecutes Christians abroad. (Nothing, not even the issue of homosexuality, has done more to damage the authority of Dr Rowan Williams in the conservative provinces of the Anglican Communion than his idiotic equivocation on British Sharia.)
Britain’s black and Asian Christian leaders will support Lord Carey in this controversy; many of them have seen Islamism at work in their home countries. Only one Church of England bishop has resigned his see in protest at Church leaders’ feebleness in the face of Islamism, and he is an immigrant: Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester. In contrast, the rest of the hierarchy, together with all the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales, still adhere to the old orthodoxy that immigration is by definition a glorious blessing because it “enriches” our culture.
In Europe, however, many Catholic bishops never really subscribed to that orthodoxy in the first place, and now they are talking openly about the coming “Islamification” of Europe. Yesterday, just as Lord Carey was issuing his own warning, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop of Prague, marked his retirement with a melodramatic prophecy. “Unless the Christians wake up, life may be Islamised and Christianity will not have the strength to imprint its character on the life of people, not to say society,” he said.
The Cardinal is right, but only up to a point. The Islamification of parts of Europe is indeed under way. As Christopher Caldwell says in his bookReflections on the Revolution in Europe, Muslims “vie for dominance” in Rotterdam, Strasbourg, Marseilles, suburbs of Paris and Berlin, Bradford, Leicester, the periphery of Manchester and east London.
Where Cardinal Vlk displays naivety is in his proposed remedy: he is optimistic that the Church can persuade the West to reject the empty secularism that has created a Europe-wide vacuum filled by people of another faith.
The message that “secularism” is the real enemy of Christianity is parroted by liberal bishops everywhere. Although they may be horrified by Cardinal Vlk’s talk of Islamification, they share his belief that the essential division in the world is between “people of faith” and rootless materialists. Pope John Paul II also subscribed to that world-view. But Pope Benedict XVI, significantly, does not. Benedict wants to convince secular-minded people that, in an odd way, they are already part of the Christian flock, because many of their ideals are rooted in the ethics of Christianity.
In other words, the Church’s respect for the dignity of the human person is broadly shared by those secular intellectuals committed to a free society. The Pope recognises this, which is why he has spent so much time talking to them; so does Bishop Nazir-Ali, whose friends include atheist thinkers whose respect for the West’s Christian heritage is far greater than that of Muslim community leaders or their multiculturalist allies.
In the long term, the future of Western civilisation can be secured only by an alliance between Christians and secularists against the totalitarian ideology of Islamism. That is a strange prospect; and even more uncomfortable is the realisation that Christianity’s survival as a mass movement may depend on something as prosaic as immigration control. But that is surely what Lord Carey is hinting at, and it is brave of him to do so.