When, a decade ago, the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali was warning of Muslim ‘no-go areas‘, where sharia police stalk the streets and the real police fear to tread (and where Christians were threatened with arrest for handing out gospel tracts), he was vilified by politicians and rebuked by the Church of England. You couldn’t easily hurl ‘Islamophobe’ at him, not least because of his ethnicity and cultural heritage. His learning never seemed to count for much, but brown skin and Muslim forebears qualified him to pitch a tent in the national debate on multiculturalism, which, then, was no kind of debate at all, for its precepts were absolute and its prophets infallible.
Scroll forward a decade, and now no less a personage than Trevor Phillips, former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is sounding the very trumpet that Michael Nazir-Ali had been blasting till he was blue in the face. Apparently, many British Muslims are creating a nation within a nation. The solution, he avers, is a “muscular approach to integration“, which will demand, for example, such policies as “schools limiting the presence of any ethnic minority group to no more than 50 per cent.. It will mean strict monitoring of the ethnic composition of housing estates to prevent them becoming ‘ghetto villages’..” And you can’t easily hurl ‘Islamophobe’ at him, either: his ethnicity and EHRC dignity nullify such disgrace.
This is going to be interesting. Are we really to begin withholding housing from families if their religion/ethnicity has already reached the estate threshold? If small gangs of Muslims in Tower Hamlets are sufficient to harass and intimidate, may not 50% be far too high a proportion of the community? Who decides the workable integrative threshold?
And how may one legally restrict state-financed Muslim schools to a 50% intake of Muslims while state-financed Christian and Jewish schools are exempt and are permitted to use faith-based criteria in some circumstances? If oversubscribed Christian and Jewish schools are free in law to give a higher priority in admissions to children who are members of a particular denomination or who practise a particular faith, how will Trevor Phillips’ “muscular” approach to educational integration operate without falling foul of equality legislation? Imagine the new Schools Admissions Code:
2.8 With the exception of designated grammar schools, all maintained schools, including faith schools, that have enough places available must offer a place to every child who has applied for one, without condition or the use of any oversubscription criteria, unless the school already has 50% of its pupils who are Muslim, in which case they may turn Muslim children away.
We have sown the seeds of religious relativism and watered them from the streams of multiculturalism and equality. We reap a crop of intractable torments and indomitable sects. It is heartening when false prophets repent of their faults and failings, but we cannot be “muscular” in our approach to integration while the truth is met with unreasoned insult, or while we’re locked into a contract of social orthodoxy which insists that Christianity is synonymous with state-prescribed ‘British values’. Nor may we be particularly “muscular” when the nation’s keep fit classes may only be led by BME representatives.