BRITAIN: Muslim group angered at Rochester bishop's claim of 'no-go' areas

January 7, 2008

The Muslim Council of Britain has described as "alarming" a statement made by Rochester Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali that some parts of the country have become "no-go" areas for non-Muslims.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper on January 6, Nazir-Ali asserted that "those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work [in such areas] because of hostility to them."

The bishop also criticized what he described as official policies based on "multiculturalism," which had led to people belonging to different ethnic and faith communities living as separate communities.

"Alongside these developments, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism," Nazir-Ali added. "One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into 'no-go' areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability."

Ibrahim Mogra, a spokesperson for the Muslim council, a group that condemns all terrorism, described the bishop's comments as "alarming." Mogra told Ecumenical News International, "To suggest that a handful of people are beginning to create such areas where nobody else can go unless they are Muslim needs evidence to back up such claims. If there is no evidence he can put forward then it boils down to simple scaremongering."

Nazir-Ali was born in Pakistan and has both a Christian and a Muslim family background. After ordination as a priest he worked in Karachi and Lahore, where he was consecrated the first bishop of Raiwind. He later moved to Britain, where he was general secretary of the Church Mission Society, before becoming bishop of Rochester in 1994.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph there had been attempts to "impose" an "Islamic character" on certain areas in Britain, "for example, by amplifying the call to prayer from mosques."

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats political party, also criticized the bishop's statements, describing his words as "a gross caricature of reality."