The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church’s only Asian bishop, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
The Muslim Council of Britain today described his comments as “frantic scaremongering”, while William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said the bishop had “probably put it too strongly”.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the idea of no-go areas was “a gross caricature of reality”.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Bishop Nazir-Ali compares the threat to the use of intimidation by the far-Right, and says that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christianity to be the nation’s public religion in a multifaith, multicultural society.
His comments come as a poll of the General Synod – the Church’s parliament – shows that its senior leaders, including bishops, also believe that Britain is being damaged by large-scale immigration.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.
In an attack on the Government’s response to immigration and the influx of “people of other faiths to these shores”, he blames its “novel philosophy of multiculturalism” for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a “moral and spiritual vision”.
Echoing Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said that the country is “sleepwalking into segregation”, the bishop argues that multiculturalism has led to deep divisions.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has accused Muslims of promoting a kind of “voluntary apartheid” by shutting themselves in closed societies and demanding immunity from criticism.
Western values are not compatible with Islam. As a result, many Muslims form ghettos and engage in other forms of non-integration.
Hair-tricker sensitivities that have Muslim extremists respond to real or perceived insults with death threats, violent demonstrations, murder and terrorism, make it difficult or even impossible for non-Muslims to believe the claim that Islam is a ‘religion of peace.’ Therefore a high birthrate among Muslims, combined with high (legal and illegal) immigration figures, have Europeans and others worried about the Muslims in their midst.
In the Synod survey, to be published this week, bishops, senior clergy and influential churchgoers said that an increasingly multi-faith society threatens the country’s Christian heritage and blamed the divisions on the Government’s failure to integrate immigrants into their communities.
It found that more than one in three believe that a mass influx of people of other faiths is diluting the Christian nature of Britain and only a quarter feel that they have been integrated into society.
The overwhelming majority – 80 per cent – said that the Government has not upheld the place of religion in public life and up to 63 per cent fear that the Church will be disestablished within a generation, breaking a bond that has existed between the Church and State since the Reformation.
Calls for disestablishment have grown following research showing that attendance at Mass has overtaken the number of worshippers at Church of England Sunday services.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam to Catholicism, was criticised by Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain. He said: “It’s irresponsible for a man of his position to make these comments.
“He should accept that Britain is a multicultural society in which we are free to follow our religion at the same time as being extremely proud to be British. We wouldn’t allow ‘no-go’ areas to happen. I smell extreme intolerance when people criticise multiculturalism without proper evidence of what has gone wrong.”
But the Bishop’s concerns are shared by other members of the General Synod.
The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, said that it was increasingly difficult for Christians to share their faith in areas where there was a high proportion of immigrants of other faiths.
He believes that increasing pressure will be put on the Government to begin the process of disestablishment and end the preferential status given to the Church of England. “The writing is on the wall,” he said.
Gordon Brown relinquished Downing Street’s involvement in appointing bishops in one of his first facts as Prime Minister – a move viewed by some as a significant step towards disestablishment.
Last night, Mr Davis said: “Bishop Nazir-Ali has drawn attention to a deeply serious problem. The Government’s confused and counter-productive approach risks creating a number of closed societies instead of one open, cohesive one. It generates the risk of encouraging radicalisation and creating home-grown terrorism.”
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Bishop Nazir-Ali appears to be exercised by what he perceives as the decline in the influence of Christianity upon this country, but trying to frantically scaremonger about Islam and Muslims seems to us to be a rather unethical way of trying to reverse this.
“He talks about the rise of ‘Islamic extremism’ but fails to mention how some of the policies of our government and especially that of the United States in the Middle East over several decades now has clearly contributed to this phenomenon.”