Criticism was mounting yesterday over “scaremongering” comments by a senior Church of England bishop about how parts of Britain had become no-go areas for non-Muslims.
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, blamed multiculturalism for segregating religious groups and said non-Muslims faced a hostile reception in places dominated by the ideology of Islamic radicals.
He wrote that the integration agenda pursued by the government lacked “a moral and spiritual vision”, and he condemned the failure to give priority to the established church, which he believes has led to a “multi-faith mish-mash”.
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The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said the bishop had not produced any evidence of “no-go areas” for non-Muslims, a notion he described as “an extraordinarily inflammatory way of putting it”.
“There is a legitimate debate to be had about the meaning of multiculturalism. But to suggest that non-Muslims are not able to enter into a particular area seems to me to be a gross caricature of reality.”
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.”
A communities and local government department spokesperson said Britain had a “proud” tradition of different communities living together side by side.
William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, told Sky News’s Sunday Live programme: “I’m not sure where these no-go areas are, I don’t recognise that description.”