Indiana Jones, Da Vinci and the Koran

Raiders Of The Lost Ark Government Warehouse newEvery now and then, I read a really interesting story and I think to myself, “You know, the minute someone covers that story in the New York Times or it shows up on National Public Radio, then all heckfire is going to break loose.”

That’s what I thought when people started sending me links to the following Asia Times essay by the famous reporter known simply as Spengler. The headline provides only a hint of the content: “Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code.”

Thanks to a reader, here is the link to the Wall Street Journal article that sparked the Spengler piece. And here is some of Spengler’s take on this mysterious stash of Koran manuscripts that may actually exist in Europe:

The Da Vinci Code offered a silly fantasy in which Opus Dei, homicidal monks and twisted billionaires chased after proof that Christianity is a hoax. But the story of the photographic archive of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, now ensconced in a Berlin vault, is a case of life imitating truly dreadful art. It even has Nazis. “I hate those guys!” as Indiana Jones said.

No one is going to produce proof that Jesus Christ did not rise from the grave three days after the Crucifixion, of course. Humankind will choose to believe or not that God revealed Himself in this fashion. But Islam stands at risk of a Da Vinci Code effect, for in Islam, God’s self-revelation took the form not of the Exodus, nor the revelation at Mount Sinai, nor the Resurrection, but rather a book, namely the Koran. The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1982) observes, “The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Koran in Muslim belief is not the Bible, but Christ.” The Koran alone is the revelatory event in Islam.

What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals. …

There are, in fact, “variant copies” of the text of the Koran, evidence that the text evolved over time. If this story is accurate then what the press is sitting on is a bombshell, a giant chance that modern methods of “textual criticism” may be applied to the holy book of Islam (echoing several generations of similiar work on the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament).

The Spengler story passes along all kinds of juicy details about the mysterious archives. That’s interesting, but that’s almost beside the point. The real story is how Muslim authorities would respond to a wave of critical scholarship about the Koran. And the other story is the flip side of the same topic: Will Western governments decide that this kind of scholarship is — in the case of Islam — a kind of hate crime? Might the contents of the archives just, well, kind of vanish into the secret vaults and stay there?

The movie hook (photo) is obvious:

The story thus far recalls the ending of another Indiana Jones film (Raiders of the Lost Ark), in which the Ark of the Covenant is filed away in an enormous warehouse, presumably never to be touched again. The Muslim world will continue to treat Koranic criticism as an existential risk, and apply whatever pressure is required to discourage it — albino monks presumably included.

I am reminded of something a scholar told me more than a year ago in Oxford. Try, he said, to find a course at a major, secular British university focusing on textual criticism of the Koran. Then compare this number with the same university’s course offerings applying these methods to the Bible. Then do the math.

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Checkmate! (an update, no correction)

800px CheckmateThe iconoclastic chess genius Bobby Fischer – one of the most unique public figures of the Cold War era — lived a bizarre life that blended astonishing victories with mysterious choices that, to others, looked like intentional failures or lapses of judgment or something. You can read all about that in the New York Times obituary for Fischer, simply by clicking here.

I mean, try this passage on for size:

In 1999, in a series of telephone interviews he gave to a radio station in the Philippines, he rambled angrily and profanely about an international Jewish conspiracy, which he said was bent on destroying him personally and the world generally.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he told a radio talk-show host in Baguio, the Philippines, that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were “wonderful news,” adding he was wishing for a scenario “where the country will be taken over by the military, they’ll close down all the synagogues, arrest all the Jews and secure hundreds of thousands of Jewish ringleaders.”

See what I mean? Now, you might, after reading that, want to ask a question that sounds something like this: “OK, where in heckfire did that guy go to church?”

As it turns out, the obituary by reporter Bruce Weber provides an answer and here it is:

… (Fischer) tithed the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960′s. The church, now defunct, followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. For a time, Mr. Fischer lived in Pasadena, Calif., the church’s home base, or nearby Los Angeles, where he was said to spend his time replaying chess games and reading Nazi literature. There were reports that he was destitute, though the state of Mr. Fischer’s finances was never very clear.

First of all, I think there is a missing word, or even a phrase, in that reference to tithing. Shouldn’t that be that he “tithed to the Worldwide Church of God”? Also, I wonder if the Times should not have said something like, “he tithed one tenth of his income” to, etc. I grew up Southern Baptist and, thus, am very familiar with the concept of tithing and lots of other people know all about that term, as well. But is it the kind of term that a reporter can use with no explanation at all, in a mainstream publication? Just asking.

But there is a more glaring problem in this passage.

The problem is that the Worldwide Church of God still exists — click here.

Now it is certainly true that this unique flock — which critics called a “cult,” not a “fringe church” — has changed a great deal since its infamous days under the leadership of radio preacher Herbert W. Armstrong. It’s pretty easy to find out what happened, with the church evolving closer and closer to the evangelical Protestant mainstream. Google works.

But it’s one thing to say that a church has changed. It is something else to say that it is defunct, especially when it isn’t.

Correction, please. (Tip of the hat to reader Mark A. Kellner

UPDATE: Well, the Times didn’t do a correction, but there has been a quiet edit in the online version. Click here to see that it looks like this now:

At the same time, he tithed to the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960s. The church followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

And in the latest version of the paragraph, the word “to” has appeared after the word “tithed.” Hurrah. But, hey, what about the status of the church today? Does that matter?

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Jews without God

atheist Reporter Manya A. Brachear of The Chicago Tribune had a fascinating story on her hands: a young Jewish movement that does not worship God. Brachear’s story began this way:

When Rabbi Adam Chalom stands before the Sabbath flames and sings the Hebrew blessing to welcome Shabbat, there is no mention of God.

Chalom believes there are no prophets. He preaches that only hard work yields miracles. And until science unlocks life’s mysteries, his most honest answer to why people are here and where they go when they die is, “I don’t know.”

God has nothing to do with it.

Interesting, huh? Brachear notes that the movement, Humanistic Judaism, reveres culture and ethics rather than God. It sounds like more than a few Christian congregations I know of.

To put the movement in context, Brachear gave readers this helpful statistic:

Chalom contends that the integrity and emotional resonance of Jewish traditions are what appeal most to American Jews. According to the American Jewish Identity Survey of 2001 by the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about half of the 5.3 million Jews in the United States identify themselves as “secular” or “somewhat secular.”

Alas, an interesting story line and a helpful use of statistics were its only valuable traits. Otherwise, the story was rather shallow and uncritical.

For one thing, Brachear’s story had an obvious Biblical analogy: the story of the molten or golden calf. I think she should have asked Rabbi Chalom whether he saw any parallels between his movement and that of the Jewish people waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain top. For example, does he think that his members are worshiping a molten calf and if not, why not?

For another thing, Brachear’s story was uncritical of Chalom’s theology. While it’s difficult for a reporter to question an educated religious figure, Brachear defers to Chalom in a pre-Watergate era sort of way:

– Chalom says that his movement is “keeping people Jewish.” Really, how so?

– Chalom does not believe in God. Why not? Does he consider himself an agnostic or atheist?

– Chalom never mentions that God establishing a covenant with the Jews is the very foundation of the three great monotheistic religions. How can he overlook this fact?

Look, Brachear likely was under time restraints with this story. She probably didn’t have much time to report and write it. But the fact that a Jewish movement proclaims independence from God is a big deal. How about waiting a day or two to report it out?

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School prayer and a young atheist

school prayerChicago Tribune staff reporter Nara Schoenberg had a fairly solid profile last week of an Illinois teenage atheist who is, with her father, legally attacking the state’s “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act” as a violation of her rights. The teenager, Dawn Sherman, is the focus of the story, and the reporter uses Sherman’s personal story to explain one side of the separation of church and state debate.

The problem Sherman and her father have with the state law is that they believe it is “heavily suggestive in the direction of prayer because of the title of the act.” A federal judge issued a preliminary order prohibiting Sherman’s school district from observing the prayer/moment of silence time, which is hardly the end of the legal story, but it is a pretty significant victory.

Much of the story focuses on the daughter’s interaction with her father and how that personal relationship has affected this legal drama. Even the headline of the story — “The atheist’s daughter” — works with the idea that Dawn Sherman is not her own person. She is her father’s daughter:

Asked directly if the lawsuit is an effort to please her father, her co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, who has challenged hundreds of local religious symbols in recent decades and engaged in several high-profile legal battles over the separation of church and state, Dawn doesn’t hesitate:

“No, it’s entirely about me and my rights.”

“You have to know Dawn’s personality,” Rob Sherman says, having joined his daughter halfway through the interview. “Dawn’s personality is, ‘Don’t mess with Dawn.’”

“I’m very enthusiastic about my rights,” Dawn says with an angelic smile.

By focusing on Dawn’s relationship with her famous atheist father, the reporter is able to flesh out Dawn’s beliefs and motives in challenging this law. It is natural for supporters of this law to view plaintiffs like Dawn as mere tools of politically charged adults so it is appropriate in one sense to flesh that idea out and allow readers to make their own conclusions:

One way they have diverged: Dawn sings religious music in the Grace Episcopal choir. She loves the music, she says, and the words don’t bother her because she doesn’t attach much meaning to them. Her father says that singing in a church wouldn’t be his choice, but he doesn’t stand in his daughter’s way.

In terms of balance, the story focuses heavily on the arguments and view points of those who oppose this law. And that is OK as long as equal space is given in a reasonable time to the other side of the debate. The story of the challenger will generally make for better stories like this, but there are ways to write compelling articles that highlight the other side of the coin.

Reporters should always ask, when someone claims their rights are violated, where the source of those rights are. If it is the Constitution, which is often the case, it is important to identify whether the Supreme Court has declared that the Constitution does indeed protect those rights. In this case, the story only quotes the district court’s statement that the law is “likely unconstitutional” and fails to do any research into whether the law falls within the boundaries established by the only court that matters in cases like these.

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Becoming Bobby Jindal

OmOne of the nastiest campaign tricks in recent memory was the Louisiana Democratic Party’s attempt to derail the candidacy of Roman Catholic Bobby Jindal by quoting — out of context — statements he’d written about Protestantism. The thing I remember about the attacks is that Jindal seemed surprisingly theologically literate for a politician. Jindal explained his adult conversion from Hinduism in the New Oxford Review and the Democratic Party quoted some of it to give the impression that Jindal was a bigot. I know it’s Louisiana and all, but that’s cold.

Robert Travis Scott, writing in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, has a really interesting and well-researched story on Jindal’s religious conversion. It also has a really weird angle, although I think it works: what Jindal’s Hindu relatives in India think of his conversion. The gist of the piece is that Jindal’s conversion was aided by the open-mindedness of Hinduism combined with the lack of a significant Hindu presence in his home state of Louisiana:

His relatives’ perspective reflects a tolerant side of a religion that for thousands of years has survived philosophical transformations, rebellious counter-religions and numerous sects, only to claim them all in time as part of the infinitely flexible cosmos of Hindu faith.

“If you find and see that you get more peace of mind, more solace, in that religion, then why not change religion?” said Jindal’s uncle Subhash Gupta, a practicing Hindu. “In India, many people change to the Christian religion. And I can understand that some people maybe find Christian religion more satisfying to their needs.”

One of the religious aspects that Scott gets is that Hinduism is sort of an umbrella for differing belief systems. But I’m not sure that he accurately portrays the variety contained within Hinduism. India is officially secular but overwhelmingly Hindu. For the most part religious minorities are tolerated by Hindus. However, Hindu nationalists — who control some of the regions of India — are violently opposed to religious conversion and persecute Muslims and Christians. Not all Hindus are equally tolerant, in other words. But for a feature in a mainstream newspaper, Scott does a great job of introducing readers to some of what distinguishes Hinduism:

Jindal’s parents, Amar and Raj Jindal, are practicing Hindus and emphasize that they are monotheists. Hindus say they believe in one God, who also takes the form of a trinity.

In addition, Hinduism recognizes thousands, and by some counts millions, of deities who are considered incarnations, or avatars, of the one God, sent to Earth to right some wrong.

Few Hindus worship Jesus Christ, but they might easily accept the idea that he was an avatar. Or they might draw a parallel between their worship of various Hindu deities and the prayers that Catholics say to saints as couriers to God.

Scott describes various pieties, including choosing deities as personal guides to understanding spiritual truths and the reading of Vedas. Then he questions whether the variety of scripture in Hinduism and the lack of systematic theology influenced Jindal’s departure from Hinduism. Further, Scott suggests, Jindal may have never left Hinduism if it were practiced more widely in Baton Rouge:

Like his parents, Bobby Jindal grew up in a world in which Hindu religion was presented as a meaningful but broad-minded system of faith. But unlike them, Jindal did not grow up in a world where Hindu temples abound, where the home of almost every neighbor contains a small shrine and where typical conversations about weddings, food and social graces are laced with the vocabulary of the Hindu belief system.

The article limits its scope to how Hindus in India feel about Jindal’s conversion. It might have been interesting to have gotten more perspective from Jindal or other converts to Christianity — particularly to provide a bit more balance to Scott’s suggestions. Still, a very interesting article and much more substantive about Hinduism than we normally see.

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What is it about Mormonism?

the mormonsLast week’s Sunday New York Times Magazine had an article analyzing the Mormon religion and arguing for voters choosing a president without regard to his or her religion. “What is it about Mormonism” was written by Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and adjunct senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations.

I know Feldman’s a contributing writer for the magazine but I honestly think the piece might have found a better home in another publication. Or maybe it needed a rewrite or better editing. With not a single source for the story interviewed, the piece is essentially one educated man’s random thoughts and reactions to a religion he is not, presumably, a part of. It also seems to be a bit of a two-headed monster — either of its objectives would have been more than sufficient for a long-form essay of this nature.

Having said that, I do feel that there is a need for explorations such as this one about religion and public life. And Feldman’s piece, which I believe Mormons and non-Mormons probably have quibbles with, strikes me as earnest, largely respectful and well-intentioned. Most of my problems with the piece relate to how it incorrectly portrays Mormons, but the first excerpt I’d like to look at is about a broader issue:

Still, even among those who respect Mormons personally, it is still common to hear Mormonism’s tenets dismissed as ridiculous. This attitude is logically indefensible insofar as Mormonism is being compared with other world religions. There is nothing inherently less plausible about God’s revealing himself to an upstate New York farmer in the early years of the Republic than to the pharaoh’s changeling grandson in ancient Egypt. But what is driving the tendency to discount Joseph Smith’s revelations is not that they seem less reasonable than those of Moses; it is that the book containing them is so new. When it comes to prophecy, antiquity breeds authenticity. Events in the distant past, we tend to think, occurred in sacred, mythic time. Not so revelations received during the presidencies of James Monroe or Andrew Jackson.

This argument — all religions are equally implausible — seems to be rising in popularity in our multicultural postmodern milieu.

There are two problems that come to mind. One is that it assumes that plausibility of a religion is based solely on individual assertions of divine revelation. In fact, without going into a large discussion of all the different ways that people determine plausibility of a religion, that isn’t how it’s done.

The other problem with this argument is that it seems to approach the issue scientifically. In the 19th century, people attempted to classify religion as the genus and Christianity, Judaism, et. al., as the species. That is a great way to approach things if you believe either in rational truth to the exclusion of revealed truth or a complete separation of the two. But such secular, anthropological models are really only illuminating to those who reject such separation or exclusion.

In other words, people who reject Mormon tenets as ridiculous because it is implausible that God might reveal himself to man are only a subset of the larger population that rejects Mormon tenets. Some people who do believe that God reveals himself to man still don’t accept Mormon teaching. This “equal implausibility” model doesn’t carry any water for them.

Feldman’s piece then goes into a long discussion of Mormonism and secrecy. It argues that Mormonism’s secrecy originally came about because it was part of the theology — sacred temple rituals, et. al. — and also for protection from persecution. But he also says this:

Like Mormon ritual, much of Mormon theology remains relatively inaccessible to outsiders. The text of the Book of Mormon has always been spread to a broad audience, but the text is not a sufficient guide to understanding the details of Mormon teaching. Joseph Smith received extensive further revelation in the nature of sacred secrets to be shared with only a handful of close associates and initiates within the newly forming church.

mormons pbsLater Feldman writes:

What is more, what began as a strategy of secrecy to avoid persecution has become over the course of the 20th century a strategy of minimizing discussion of the content of theology in order to avoid being treated as religious pariahs. As a result, Mormons have not developed a series of easily expressed and easily swallowed statements summarizing the content of their theology in ways that might arguably be accepted by mainline Protestants. To put it bluntly, the combination of secret mysteries and resistance in the face of oppression has made it increasingly difficult for Mormons to talk openly and successfully with outsiders about their religious beliefs.

He pounds the secrecy issue hard but I’m not sure what we have here is a secrecy issue so much as a revelation issue and a systematic theology issue. I think that what is being interpreted as secrecy about teachings is really about the fact that when a religion has on-going revelation, it’s bound to be in flux and up for constant revision. What’s more, Mormon teaching allows for individual believers to systematize the theology for themselves within the larger teachings.

That’s why we have discussions here on GetReligion where one Mormon might discuss one teaching as particularly important while another Mormon might respond “not so much.” And a belief system that is not systematic is not one that will develop “easily expressed and easily swallowed” theological statements. That’s not secrecy so much as a different theological approach. For a culture so accustomed to traditional Christianity’s systematic theology, it might strike some as secretive but I don’t think that’s the fairest way to put it. These passages exemplify how this story might have benefited from more input than Feldman’s alone.

Having said that, the piece does have some very interesting tidbits about Mormon secrecy, such as their doctrine of celestial marriage, that is, polygamy, which was:

revealed to Smith as early as 1833 but never publicized during his lifetime and formally announced to the world only in 1852, eight years after his death. And there were other doctrines of similar secrecy revealed to Smith, especially in the years just before his death. “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret,” he is reported to have said in one of his last communications with his followers.

Feldman’s piece delves into the practice of polygamy (a topic so large that it could have its own 5,000 words) as a way of discussing Mormons and political life I was a bit surprised that for an historical piece on Mormonism and public life that he didn’t mention President James Garfield’s 1881 inaugural address. But he does attempt to show how Mormons have changed their civic engagement over time. He lost me when he indicated that being anticommunist means opposing civil liberties and minority rights.

JosephSmithTranslationStill, in response to his characterization of evangelical theology, Feldman writes:

Mormons were able to argue that they, too, believed in salvation and in the literal accuracy of the Bible. The difficulty was that in addition to the Bible in its King James Version, the Latter-day Saints had further scriptures with which to contend — the Book of Mormon, translated by Smith from “reformed Egyptian” and styled as “another Testament of Jesus Christ”; and supplements to various biblical texts known collectively as the Pearl of Great Price.

Feldman is trying to show the tension between Mormon and evangelical Christian beliefs. But he doesn’t quite see that the “problem,” as it were, isn’t just with the extra scriptures but also with the understanding of the Bible itself. On that oh-so-secretive web site, you can find their 13 articles of faith, one of which states:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

The Mormon view is basically that some original version of the Bible contained the revealed word of God but that omissions and alterations (related to when the Christian Church fell into the “Great Apostasy”) significantly changed the scripture to the extent that no translation is quite right. In the Mormon view, there is no adequate manuscript. Smith attempted to correct this problem with his revelatory translation of the Bible. You can buy a copy of his New Testament translation on Amazon, in fact. So Feldman’s contention that the scripture problem between evangelicals and Mormons is based solely in Mormonism’s extra scriptures doesn’t quite do justice to either the Mormon position or traditional Christians’ problems with same.

The piece ends with Feldman’s advice for how Mormonism can be better mainstreamed into American culture, but I’m not sure Mormons are asking for counsel, much less looking to further compromise.

For those readers who did make it through the piece, what did you like about it? How did it provide answers? What could have been improved? As has been done so well here over, remember to limit discussion to the journalistic in question. What, specific to this article, was good or bad?

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In praise of Santeria coverage

SanteriaA recent Miami Herald story on the Afro-Caribbean religious tradition Santeria is receiving high compliments from the Pagan-oriented Wild Hunt blog for avoiding sensationalism. The comments on the blog, which is run by Jason Pitzl-Waters, give a sense for what many misunderstood or less commonly known religious traditions feel when they are portrayed in the media.

Here are the first few paragraphs that give a good sense of the article:

Those who came to Oba Ernesto Pichardo’s fall semester course at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus expecting chicken heads, seashells and drum circles probably left disappointed.

The controversial, charismatic and enterprising Pichardo, a Yoruba priest and the country’s leading expert on Santeria, spent hours talking about the transatlantic slave trade, paraded in cultural anthropology professors and expected both Powerpoint presentations and 12-page research papers at semester’s end.

It was a different side of a man best known for having spent the last few decades fighting lawmakers and Santeria detractors. His most notorious tussle: with the city of Hialeah over sanctioning animal sacrifices in religious ceremonies. He won, earning the U.S. Supreme Court’s blessing.

The reporter’s lead is telling because that is probably what was expected upon receiving this assignment. The Wild Hunt gives us more good commentary:

No doubt some would argue with whether Pichardo (head of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye) is truly the “leading expert on Santeria” in America, but the story is very positive and is a nice change of pace from the “decapitated animals it must be Santeria” sensationalism one usually sees. It also hints at the fact that minority religions are slowly making their way into the traditional religion curriculum at Universities.

One could make the argument, as a reader of ours did who gave us a heads up on the story, that the article appears to “bend over backward” to “slavishly” avoid sensationalism. However, that is a challenge with any story like this. I would not necessarily expect hard-hitting questions for a professor or quotes from any religion’s naysayers in regards to stories on religion being studied in a university classroom unless it was indeed highly controversial.

The most obvious controversial aspect of Santeria — animal sacrifice — is addressed upfront and without a slant. The benefits and value of studying Santeria are also given adequate space. A reader is left to make his or her own conclusions. Perhaps I am being too easy on the reporter, and I am missing an aspect of the story. Those more educated in this area, please let me know your thoughts.

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No-go zones in today’s multicult Britain?

r1Here we go again.

Here is another example (click here for previous discussion of a similar case) of a major story from Britain that needs — somehow — to be confirmed at a level great than the voice of one person who wields great authority. Consider the lede in the Telegraph report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones:

Islamic extremists have created “no-go” areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England’s most senior bishops warns today.

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.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he 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.

There are several issues clustered in that passage, but here is the key one for me. For a decade of so, Brits have believed that the values often called “multicult” — multiculturalism is still the term in America — were of the highest possible priority. Clearly, some people are going to have doubts. As I heard in Oxford more than a year ago, the “multicult” factor is so powerful that it often trumps feminism and, at times, even the sexual revolution. People are worried on the left as well as the right.

Thus, we read:

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.

And there, you can see, is the key. Is there some way to actually confirm the use of sharia in Britain and its growth is specific regions? That is crucial. That has to be reported as fact, not opinion, or the story will just spin around and around in circles.

Who will have the courage to attempt to do that reporting, before Britain slides into a segregated society without a common rule of law?

On the other side, Muslims have responded. It is crucial that Nazir-Ali is a man who knows and understands Muslim life and culture.

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.”

You can see the cycle beginning, right there. What are the facts? Is sharia a factor, already? If there are no-go zones, what is the hard evidence of this fact? Will government leaders allow the facts to be reported.

So many questions. We need information, not clashing opinions — alone.

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