Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism Paperback – 13 Sep 2012
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Prominent evangelical churchman Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali gives his views on and solutions to the problems of aggressive secularism, radical Islamism and multiculturalism.
About the Author
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali holds Pakistani as well as British citizenship and was the first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England. He has studied, researched and taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Karachi, Cambridge and Oxford. Before becoming Bishop of Rochester, he worked as a priest and as a bishop in Pakistan, and was General Secretary of the Church Mission Society. He is now the director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue.
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I consider Bishop Ali as one of a few men in this world who has acquired a true grasp of Christianity (Anglicanism), Hinduism, and Islam and appreciate the differences in the cultures that each of these philosophies have produced. Hence I was interested in his latest book, mentioned above. He has not only lived in the environments mentioned but he has also studied in great depths the ideologies that have and will make a difference to all our lives in the future. Yet, I feel that, because of his ecclesiastical training, he still has the tendency to couch much of his controversial views with ecclesiastical political correctness, but on the other hand is as forthright as any clergy or politician I have ever heard in public in recent years. Too may are either too ignorant of the topic to dare to utter an opinion or are too politically correct in order to ensure their career.
Bishop Ali has contributed much to the understanding of the current dilemma Europe faces today and has in many ways has pointed to the solution in this book. It has become evident that the problem that faces the West is, "The retreat of the Judeo-Christian culture, and the aggressive resurgence of the alien Islamic culture that threatens to overwhelm it." He refers to the emergence of "aggressive secularism" accompanied with the aggressive indoctrination of "multiculturalism" and active and unrestricted emergence of "radical Islam." [Yet all this began after WWII with the formation of the European Union and their determination to unite with the Arab nations in order to establish their place in the world order again. This was because the Euro-Arab Dialogue and its subsequent effects, i.e., "political correctness," multiculturalism and "blatant appeasement" resulted. Thus the resurgence of Islam in Europe was brought on by the political, economic, and demographic planning and concurrence of the European Union in order to counter the pre-eminence of America dominance in world politics.]
But no one in the EU was aware of, or understood, the Islamic psyche of the Arabs who interpreted the withdrawal of opposition to religious, political, military or intellectual engagement as a willing capitulation of Western values to that of Islamic values, and so were emboldened to make greater demands as time passed. And that is exactly what has happened in Europe.
Bishop Ali has taken great pains to discuss Islamic ideology and their concept of Jihad and continues to stress that we should take cognisance of the differences between the meanings of "Muslims," "Islam," and "Islamism." [Also the confusion of the definition of a Muslim, a cultural Muslim and a renegade Muslim.] That we should recognise that there is considerable overlap of all these definitions. "A devout and pietistic Muslim can be influenced by extremist ideology, and Islamism certainly uses much in the fundamentals of Islam to argue its case. [There is also much confusion in differentiating of what some consider "extremist Islam" from what most Muslims would consider, "Quranic Islam."]
Despite Bishop Ali's intimate and academic knowledge of Islam he deeply believes in the possibility of creating a successful "interfaith dialogue" with Islam and other faiths. This is exactly the same approach taken by the members if the European Union that they would be able to influence the Arabic (Islamic) views. But no one in Islam has the authority to alter a single word of Allah as found in the Quran thus compromise in Islam is an impossibility. The only compromise that is possible is for the non-Islamic parties to capitulate to Islam just as has happened in Europe. Bishop Ali also suggested that changes could be affected by changes in the reform of Islamic education in particular in the Madrassas. This certainly would make a change for future generations but Madrassas have used the same format since they were formed centuries ago, and to alter that format is to ask Islam to alter its basis of Islam or the teachings of the Qur'an. Islam is unfortunately inflexible by the very nature of its construct.
However I fully agree with Bishop Ali that the only course for the salvation of the Western culture is for the revival and proper teaching of the Christian faith in all educational institutions so that we know our roots and our values and what is dear to us, our culture. We have to be strong in ourselves and also to be taught of what Islam is about and their ideology so that we know what we are countering. At the moment, the West have lost their identity and their respect for their own cultural roots and are lost. We need leadership that can renew our souls and belief values and want to defend what we value, our Judeo-Christian roots.
Michael Nazir-Ali, Triple Jeopardy for the West, Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.
At times, this book seems like a collection of articles (plus a book review); at times, it seems to be one of those books which have been very of-the-moment and timely when produced, but is now a little dated. It is none the worse for either of those things.
Because of the identity of its authorship, the reader knows he is in the hands of an orthodox Christian, and one who, because of his unusual origin and life-journey is in a unique position to instruct the still-predominantly white middle-class Church of England, and indeed, British Christianity as a whole.
Nazir-Ali makes a number of very valuable points, and particularly, fully accepts and acknowledges various things that the politicians, mainstream media, academia, and “liberal” Church leaders, either deny or keep quiet about: that aggressive secularism, Islamism, and multiculturalism are much the same thing – and tend to totalitarianism (p. vii); that secularism/atheism is a world-view/belief system, and in no way neutral (pp. x, 31); that ‘Britishness’ and British ‘values’ (“’thin’ values”, pp. 3, 9, 145) are not the same as Christian or Judeo/Christian values (p. xi); that all religious traditions do not produce the same results in society (p. xiii); that the monarchy, the national anthem, prayers in Parliament, bishops in the House of Lords, etc., are not just “tourist-friendly vestigial elements left over from the Middle Ages” (p. 5); that Church leaders utterly failed to resist secularism, the decline of Christian thought and observance, and the sexual revolution, when they arrived (p. 7); that ethics and values cannot be “freestanding”, divorced from belief in their (Judeo-Christian) source (pp. 12, 137); that the destruction of marriage, the family, childhood and fatherhood did not come about by accident, but were the result of intentional political engineering (pp. 21-2, 148); that school children are very much not taught the ‘upside’ of British history, or Britain’s contribution to the world (p. 29), or the role of Christianity in creating science, and originating the concept of individual freedom (pp. 167-8); that Christianity should not let any ‘culture set the agenda’ (pp. 40-1); the lack of impartiality on the part of the BBC regarding ‘euthanasia’/assisted dying (pp. 107, 110); that the secularisation of nursing and the health professions is maintained, if not created, by the legal system (p 136) (there are surely more).
Certainly, the unique contribution of Bishop Nazir-Ali is his knowledge and insight concerning Islam. His descriptions of the nature and development of Islamic law, the changes in Islamic thinking (particularly in our society) in the last few decades, and the nature of jihad and the Islamic sense of grievance, are probably unequalled, and probably, in parts, go over the head of some readers, because of their technicality, but are not less valuable for that (Chs. 5-7, etc.). He seems, in the end, to stop short of saying (as some do) that ‘the (true) nature of Islam is the problem’, saying that we can distinguish between Islam and “Islamist ideology” (p. 79) but elsewhere seeming to show how this ideology affects many/most Muslims in our world today. The good relationship that existed between Islam and British rule (in what is now India and Pakistan) may come as something of a surprise (pp. 72-73).
On the question of the nature and value of human life (“personhood” seems to be his preferred concept, eg. p. 115), the use of human stem cells, and the ‘end-of-life debate’, he has much of value to offer, speaking as he does, from a Christian perspective; his account of Mary Warnock and her book and ideas (Ch. 12) makes one wish that so much status and influence might not be awarded to such people, in our society. At times, he can seem rather over-optimistic and excessively hopeful: eg. how Pakistan’s Islamist ills may be removed (Ch. 8); the changes for the better which Christianity and Church schools can produce (p. 35, 37); the strengthening of ‘moderate’ Islam (p. 47); the “Cure for National Amnesia” (Ch. 13).
At times also, one has to admit, he does remind the reader of the old non-critical Christian theologian, eg. in his attitude to Darwin and evolutionism (Ch. 9), where he seems uncritically to accept the old myth about Bishop Wilberforce (p. 101). His approach to Theilhard de Chardin (Jesuit priest perhaps, but more of a New Ager than a Christian) also has a slightly old ring (pp. 27, 104-105). His reflection “It has always been a surprise to me why such high priority should be given to embryonic stem cells when, in fact, most effective treatments have been derived from adult cells …” (p. 114) perhaps shows a certain lack of insight into the motivations and values of some researchers (and the depth of human wickedness) – but, of course, he has had far more direct experience of scientists and ethical philosophers than such as I have had.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, above all, is a senior orthodox Christian who fully acknowledges the perilous situation (‘Triple Jeopardy’) that we are in – many do not – and by “we”, I mean the Christian Church, and Western society and civilisation as a whole; where others brush grim reality under the carpet, make light of things, and indulge in over-optimism, Nazir-Ali does not. If only such leadership could be found at the head of the Church of England (and others)! I suspect, actually, that he is able to do far more in his present role (Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue) than he would if things were otherwise.
John Thomas, November 2014