Although many people are now secular, with the steady increase of world-wide immigrants into the UK roughly 170 religions are now represented. While Christianity is still the main religion, according to the results from the UK Census back in 2011, Islam was the second largest with about 3 million worshippers. But that was five years ago and since then, of course, there have been large numbers of mainly Muslim refugees arriving in Britain from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries in the grip of war and more arrivals who are ‘economic migrants’ from various countries in Africa and elsewhere who are just looking for a more prosperous life than their own country can provide.
They certainly can’t be blamed; in their position we should probably do the same. But why, it might be asked, haven’t the rich Gulf States, and in particular Saudi Arabia, not avoided the loss of so many lives in the Mediterranean and opened their doors to people of their own faith? They mumble and shuffle their feet while the world tears into Europe for not taking in more immigrants and doing enough for them.
Why Europe? Because after the Second World War, we signed the 1951 [European] Refugee Convention. Over the past several decades, another 142 states have signed on to both this and the 1967 Protocol which extended the Convention to refugees from around the world. Noticeably absent from the list were the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Instead Saudi Arabia has reportedly responded to the growing number of people fleeing the Middle East for western Europe by offering to build 200 mosques in Germany.
So, while countries such as Australia, Venezuela and the USA have taken refugees, and there has been a shaky treaty with Turkey to hold more in camps, in the main, the refugees and migrants head for the closer, if dangerous to reach, European Union. According to European Law (the Dublin Regulations), refugees are the responsibility of the first member state they arrive in, but recently this law has collapsed because Greece and Italy can’t cope with the vast number of arrivals on their coastline. So most of the refugees, who in any case prefer to live and work in the northern, more prosperous countries, just move on through the European Union. And this they are able to do because the Schengen Agreement means that, once within its outer border, they can travel without being stopped throughout most of the EU.
Over recent years, the numbers have been increasing. In 2013, 60,000 reached European shores and in 2014 some 130,000 arrived. Then, in 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany opened her heart and told the world that all refugees were welcome. Naturally, they took her at her word so that by the end of last year more than a million refugees (and migrants) had poured into Germany. But because of this huge and sudden flood, several Eastern European countries are erecting barriers across their borders or considering laws against immigrants, and it seems that the European Commissioners are unable to handle this crisis.
Germany is not the only country the migrants are desperate to reach. Scandinavian countries are also favourites, as is Britain. However, our country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, so having passed throughout the length or breadth of France, they are finally stopped in Calais to huddle in what is called the ‘Jungle’ although it has to be said that many are finding their way into Britain due to our lax border controls.
So refugees and economic migrants, mainly Muslim, are continuing to pour into Europe and will still do so for many years to come, both from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan and African countries. Germany now has the greatest number of migrants with France close behind, although Sweden and Denmark are both tipped to become the first Muslim countries in Europe. But could Britain take this place by default?
Britain seems desperate to appease our Muslim residents. In 2006 an Act of Parliament was passed against Racial and Religious Hatred which created an offence in England and Wales of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their race or religion, including ‘Islamophobia’, a hatred of Islam and its followers in speech or deed. This year there have been a number of arrests for Islamophobia but none, as far as I can see, for Christophobia (hatred of Christianity) or ‘phobias’ of other religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism.
Over the years there have been many anti-democracy, anti-British, anti-Christian demonstrations and marches by Muslims which have been scarcely (or never) mentioned in the media. We are told that all religions must be treated equally, but it would seem that in practice some religions are more equal than others.
Abu Hamza, the former Imam of Finsbury Park mosque who arrived in Britain from Egypt in the 1970s and first attracted attention by his hate-filled comments after the 9/11 terrorist attack, was finally extradited to the USA in 2012 after years of taxpayer funded legal wrangling. By contrast Paul Weston, the Chairman of the political party Liberty GB, was arrested on suspicion of racial harassment in April 2014 after quoting a passage about Islam, written by Winston Churchill in 1899.
Anjem Choudary, a spokesman for Islamic extremists in Britain over the last 20 years and who in one speech in 2013 set out his ambitions for the Muslim faith to ‘dominate the whole world’ was finally jailed in September 2016, although only for five years.
In May 2016, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools told Nicky Morgan that children in Islamic faith schools in Birmingham, Bradford and Tower Hamlets in east London were said to be at risk of being influenced by [Islamic] extremists, including in private unregistered faith schools. In November 2014, Nicky Morgan the education secretary, warned that all Faith Schools must actively promote fundamental British values, such as tolerance of other faiths and lifestyles. In July 2016, Sir Michael Wilshaw once again warned that children in Birmingham were still not being kept safe.
Nor have children been kept safe in Yorkshire where at least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. In spite of three inquiries over the years, neither the local police nor the council would take action to stop the abuse for no reason other than that the perpetrators were predominantly Muslim Pakistani men and the victims predominantly white – as the Casey report concluded last year, they allowed the abuse to continue as they did not wish to be called ‘racist’.
One piece of good news is that our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has confirmed that, in spite of political correctness, she supports Christmas. But it would be more helpful for Christianity if the Church of England and the Catholic Church supported their own faith.
In 2015, a full Islamic prayer service was held during what is thought to be the first ‘Inclusive Mosque’ event to be held within the Church of England, in the St John’s Church, central London. The vicar, the Rev. Cannon Giles Goddard, a prominent liberal cleric, invited he congregation to give thanks to ‘The God that we love, Allah.’
While ancient Christian churches and communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa are being destroyed and Christians both there and elsewhere in the world are being persecuted and violently killed by Islamists, Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church, disagreed that ‘It is not right to identify Islam with terrorism.’ Responding to a question about the killing on July 26th 2016 of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest in France by Islamic supremacists he said ”It is not right and it is not true.’ He continued “I think that in nearly all religions there is always a small fundamentalist group,’ and referred to Catholicism, saying ‘We have them. If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent.’
However, in September 2016 the Catholic Archbishop of Vienna added his name to the growing list of prelates who are now beginning to recognise that the ultimate aim of many Muslims is the conquest of Europe. In a Sunday Mass, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn warned that “Europe is on the verge of forfeiting its Christian heritage,” noting that this loss, which is already being felt, is “not only economic, but above all human and religious.” The Viennese Cardinal asked the large congregation gathered in Saint Stephen’s cathedral church: “Will there be an Islamic conquest of Europe? Many Muslims want that and say: ‘Europe is finished,’” he said.