UK: February 2, 2008. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, is under police protection after he and his family received death threats over his claim that parts of Britain had become â€œno-go areasâ€ for non-Muslims.
The Bishop is also facing anger from the most senior members of the Church of England hierarchy for his comments on Islam.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has made Islam a priority of his archiepiscopate and set up a Muslim-Christian forum to promote relations between the faiths in 2006. One senior cleric told The Times yesterday: "The Bishop of Rochester is in effect threatening to undo everything we have done."
The cleric said that some congregations in cities such as Leicester, where interfaith work was a priority, were increasingly wary of donating money towards this work. Church leaders in towns with a large Muslim population were anxious that relations with their neighbours were being undermined.
Dr Nazir-Ali was in India when staff at his home in Rochester took a number of phone calls threatening his family and warning him that he would not "live long" if he continued to criticise Islam. He has been given an emergency number at Kent Police, along with other undisclosed protection measures, and said that the threats were being taken "seriously".
Speaking to The Times, Dr Nazir-Ali, who is on the conservative evangelical wing of the Church and is Britain's only Asian bishop, said: "The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan, but I never thought I would have them here. My point in saying what I did was that Britain had lost its Christian vision, which would have provided the resources to offer hospitality to others."
He said that this absence of a Christian vision had led to multiculturalism. "Everyone agrees that multiculturalism has had disastrous consequences, and that segregation and extremism have arisen from this."
The Bishop said in an article in The Sunday Telegraph that Islamic extremists had created no-go areas across Britain where it was too dangerous for nonMuslims to enter. He said that people of a different race or faith faced physical attack if they lived or worked in communities that were dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
Dr Nazir-Ali told The Times: "I have had 1,000 letters, and 95 per cent have been supportive. There is no point in being in denial. We have to face the consequences."
The Bishop went further last night with an additional statement posted on his website. He said: "It has been asked what I meant by 'no-go' areas. I would wish to make it clear that I was not referring, as some have implied, to the situation which arose in some neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland some years ago which the authorities felt constrained from entering."
He said that he was referring to a development reported by bodies such as the Commission on Integration and Cohesion last year and Trevor Philips, chairman of the Equality and Human Righjts Commission, more recently. The Bishop said: "This is the phenomenon that is referred to as 'parallel lives', 'separated' or 'self-contained' areas or communities."
He said that Christian workers in some areas were unable to practise the full range of ministry "either because it is felt to be inadvisable or because of intimidation by extremist views and actions". In addition, converts to the Christian faith found it "difficult or impossible" to live in certain areas. "This is too widespread a phenomenon to be ignored and deserves proper discussion and debate," the Bishop said.
"I repeat what I said in an earlier comment, that I deeply regret any hurt and do not wish to cause offence to anyone, let alone my Muslim friends, but unless we diagnose the malaise from which we all suffer we shall not be able to discover the remedy." Muslims should only be granted the right to broadcast a "call to prayer" from a mosque in Oxford if church bells are allowed to ring out across Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Christian campaigners said yesterday. Eddie Lyle, chief executive of Open Doors, the missionary agency that serves persecuted Christians, called for "reciprocity" from Muslim countries. The Rev Charlie Cleverly, Rector of St Aldate's in Oxford, said this week that the proposal for an Islamic call to prayer from a mosque in Oxford should not be approved by the city council.