Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Toxic Moonshine about Muslims

Lots of press hoopla about “no go areas” for Christians, comprehensively summarised on Simon Sarmiento’s news blog, here and here.
It is immoral, horrid and shameful to bear false witness — the Ninth Commandment refers. The Scriptures instruct Christians to live at peace with our neighbours, so far as in us lies. In my many dealings with Muslims in Slough, Wycombe, Chesham, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, including our few Muslim majority Church of England schools, I have always experienced courtesy and mutual respect. I have no idea what a no-go area would look like, nor would I want to. Buckinghamshire is a fairly conservative county, and, we do not really do radical “Multiculturalism” either. Sorry to diasappoint everyone, but there you are. I have, however, experienced some striking instances of hysteria aimed at Muslims:
  1. An opinionated gentleman at the University of Buckingham who knew almost nothing about Muslim history and banged on obsessively about it using some stuff he'd got off the Internet
  2. Hate mail here after I attended an Iftaar in Milton Keynes with Anouar Kassim
  3. Last year‘s scare stories about extremist literature in a Mosque in High Wycombe, which turned out to be disingenuous hufflepuff, cooked up by a silly right-wing think tank.
Of course there are a few crank Muslims. There are a few crank Christians, too. And crank atheists. My (Hungarian) mother told me all about Central Europe in the 1930’s, and the lies and stereotyping aimed at Jews. Hitler lied. Millions died. This stuff is dangerous, and it is easy in a stable and humane country like ours to underestimate the stakes when people start to play fast and loose with it.

8 comments:

Free to think, free to believe said...

I have to say that I've read the [offending] article in full and I think a couple, or even three, observations would be useful...

To start with, years ago on Radio 4 I heard a documentary which explained the natural desire and cultural practicalities that enabled immigrants from Pakistan to buy up properties around a specific neighbourhood - if they legitimately bought up a cul-de-sac then who would walk up it? And the documentary was that specific, in regards to Pakistanis.

So while I may well testify to so so-called 'no-go' areas, especially after visiting friends in Bradford and Leeds, I would also say that this aspect of the bishop's comment has been over played as we also have 'no-go' areas of our own. Where those of a different class wouldn't go, and from friends that I made in Newcastle and Durham - where the police would fear to tread...

I fear that the phrase 'no-go' areas has been taken out of context and overly politicized - why when we talk of 'no-go' areas in regards to those of an interesting minority we all react with shock when at other times, say of working class ghettoes that have been forgotten, we merely have a low level dread? One which is over-used as an argument for an ever increased police state.

The fact is that we have in the UK no-go areas for various folk - there are some estates where an immigrant would be risking life and limb and others where 'the host' society would feel 'discomfort' and then instead of trying to address these issues we try to put the lid on this reality rather than to open it up so we can try to resolve these issues as a whole.

The question I would ask is - Could we possibly address our 'no-go' areas as a whole and attempt to remember ALL our forgotten folk?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for trying to open up the subject of what these no go areas are supposed to be. I haven't a clue. I am aware of the pattern of ownership whereby families buy up nearby houses, often interestingly enough without mortgages, but one family member at a time until a cul de sac is filled. There are numerous examples in Slough of this kind of ownership. I remember Irish families who did much the same in Reading 20 years ago. People are actually allowed to buy houses in this country near their families. I and my clergy have walked up various of these cul de sacs in Slough, and I can assure you it's actually usually safe. Pakistani social and family mores tends to be rather more respectful and conservative than in some white cul de sacs I could take you down. And, of course, a fair number of Pakistanis in Slough are actually Christians, but that's another story.
Of course there is such a thing as violence and occasional extremism and lawlessness among Muslim youths — but not often on the scale there is among white youths. There are also one or two extremist adults out there. Talk of no go areas seems to me grossly inflated, however. Exactly as you say there are various social phenomena that could be described that way. If I went round to the Rangers ground at the wrong time wearing a Celtic scarf, I might well get hassled or beaten up. Would that be a Christian no go area? Police figures indicate your chances of being beaten up are higher, not lower, if you're Asian.
I have read +Michael's article and, whilst sympathising with a fair amount of what he asserts about UK Christianity, I can still not think of anywhere that could be described as a "no go area." There is a Jewish Eruv in North London, but it isn't exactly a no go area in the Northern Ireland sense. I think if I were sorting out no go areas, that's the side of the water I'd start...

Xico said...

Thank you Bishop for your witness. I wrote a quite provocative paragraph in my post last 07 jan in my blog.
I personally have a magnific and generous experience with muslim communities in Brazil, especially when we try to act jointly on social concerns.

Free to think, free to believe said...

I'm afraid my 'comment' rambled along so much I decided to post it...

It's here if you're interested -
http://stumblingtoheaven.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/a-responce-to-another-bishop/

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I had a very interesting experience as an urban vicar in Reading in the 80’s. The Council, enlightened souls that they were, decided to offer rehousing to a small number of families from West Belfast in Reading, including on a council estate in my parish. They all wanted to go home after a couple of months. But why? everybody asked. "Well," they said, "we can't stand the violence and bigotry." What they meant was that nobody back home would vilify their kids for talking the way they did (but what would people back in Belfast make of kids who spoke Reading? Don't know.), and that the streets felt safe, and family networks were strong — all better ways of life than secular Britain in the eighties.

Don't know the moral, quite, but you reminded me of it. I am not objecting to the language in itself. Were there "no go areas" in the popular sense of the term in Wycombe I would expect people to draw attention to them so that something could be done to put things right. I do hope all of us, whoever we are, become brave enough to open our eyes to the subtle and confusing reality that actually is on the ground. Reagan said "Don't be afraid to see what you see." And what I see is not anything remotely like a "no go area," and I'd like to keep it that way.

Free to think, free to believe said...

Well, I have heard that there are 'gated communities' in Wycombe...

The interesting observation I would make about 'no-go' zones is that each of our perceptions are going to be different - you may be the brave soul who would walk down any street no matter what it looks like and that's more than applaudable but what about souls who are not so confident?

How do we address folk so that we can empower them to feel safe/secure within themselves that they can also follow your path? And isn't this the real issue, at the bottom of it all - that we have to take people where they are and that can include folk who think they 'couldn't go down that street...' rather than saying that there are no reasons for them to feel that way?

It may not seem the most glorious path but don't you think if we can empower folk to be confident to go where they will wouldn't the world be a better place - as long as they don't tear down the gates, I suppose...

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for the inspired thought that the real no-go areas are posh places the public can’t go because they’re gated. There are one or two of those around South Bucks.

I really agree, I think. Claiming public space so that people can feel confident to be out there is a real issue for me. There’s a vicious circle where fear means people don’t go out so there’s no one on the street so it actually does become dangerous to be there, so nobody goes out. I know a historian would say there always were dangerous places to be out on the street, but I think we are more fearful and confused about this than back when I was a lad.

Free to think, free to believe said...

I think the growing nervousness of people for their own safety comes with the state demanding that it look after our safety as it also seeks to dissuade us from being responsible for our own safety.

Which goes back to your posting on the surveillance state in 'Spy vs Spy'...

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