As folk who read my blogs will know, when it comes to the elections just over my focus has been on what has happened in my own neck of the woods (Southend for local council elections and Essex for PCC elections – which I have written about (check here and here)). There is a lot too going on, on a wider front, that is every bit as blogworthy and, pertinent to this blog, is the emphatic victory of Sadiq Khan (Labour) over Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) in the London mayoral elections. I have to confess I know too little about the two men and the issues they campaigned on to come to a meaningfully profound view based on a deep seated analysis. But my instinct leads me to a view that I prefer Sadiq over Zac. I don’t like the Tories, especially since they found themselves in unfettered power last summer and elements at least of Zac’s campaign appear to be racist; but I do like the idea of a (practicing) Muslim, a son of a humble immigrant, leading our premier city, and I like his approach to some of the key social justice issues, like homelessness. There is no doubt a down side and one of these may be his attitude to things to do with Islam.
I appreciate as with many of my blog postings there is a temptation to go off on all sorts of tangents and there is a danger of exercising finger on keyboard before brain and having not first ascertained the facts. As for deciding whether or not Sadiq is the right choice or will be a good or not good mayor, this is not the purpose of this blog (besides which the voters have given and will give again their verdict), although given his high profile and controversial predecessors (Boris and Ken) I will be surprised if he will NOT be involved in things that bother me when it comes to two of my main blog themes: social justice and culture wars. As for the one topic that I do want to touch on (Islam in UK life) and the one topic I want to elaborate on further – the widely differing perspectives of Christians I respect regarding Sadiq and his recent elevation, I will try to do so from a viewpoint of humility, sensitivity and balance. I also subscribe to a view that when family members fall out, it should be kept within the family and yet one cannot always sit on the fence!
Regarding Islam, as a Christian of an Evangelical ilk, I have no doubt that Jesus is THE Way and NOT merely a way, meaning anyone who says differently is, as a minimum, plain wrong. There is, however, a lot in Islam that I subscribe to and there are many people down the years, who are Muslim, that I have been proud to call friends and many others I have known who have considerably contributed to life in the UK. When I was a university 100 years ago, I was the only person in our Christian Union that went out of his way to befriend Muslims and that has been my approach ever since. I am proud of the fact that I am friends with the Imam and leaders of the local mosque and we work together to support the wider community. Yet I have concerns and have discussed these in my blogs – concerns that our liberal elite too often fail to get.
When it comes to Christians criticizing Sadiq because of his purported views concerning Islam, let me refer to an article by Christian Concern with the rather (maybe too) provocative title: “Londonistan with Khan”. In it, the writer raises a number of things that Sadiq has supposed to have said and done that give rise to concern, when it comes to his attitude toward Islam and British culture. Some of the points raised have not been, at least as far as I am aware, satisfactorily answered (anymore than those of Ken, his predecessor, concerning alleged anti-Semitism). That means, as far as I am concerned, the jury is out but, as for the article, its less than moderate tone raises certain qualms. While there may be problems when it comes to tone, I am more concerned to establish the facts.
Let me continue with a quote from Pete Broadbent’s Facebook Page: “It’s probably helpful to analyse why Christian Concern’s stuff on Islam is so wretchedly ignorant; (1) they’ve bought into the “dog whistle” rhetoric that the Tories used during the election campaign, which even Warsi condemned. (2) they can’t differentiate between different strands of Islam – there is an education job for other Christians in helping the churches understand Muslim diversity (3) they criticise him (ironically, given their own approach to legal cases) for being a human rights solicitor and defending people (!) (4) they don’t “get” London – there is a huge cultural divide between the metropolis and the rest of the country, which we need to address (and the author of the article attends an NFI church, not noted for their engagement with the culture). So, yes, it’s toxic, Trump-like and utterly ill-informed. I’m not sure that CC are capable of understanding why they are so far outside the Christian mainstream. I guess they think the rest of us are beyond the pale anyway. But they don’t speak for the Church at large, thank God”
I dare say Bishop Pete has looked into the matter more than I and, as I say, I need to do my homework before responding fully to the points he and Christian Concern have made. But I was rather shocked or at least surprised by his comment “I’m not sure that CC are capable of understanding why they are so far outside the Christian mainstream. I guess they think the rest of us are beyond the pale anyway.” While I was aware that Christian Concern is not everyone’s cup of tea, having read a lot of their “stuff”, I find I rather like them and in most of the cases they write about I happen to agree (check out my earlier blog articles on specifics), even after having checked out the likes of Pink News to find alternative perspectives. As for his “but they don’t speak for the Church at large, thank God” comment, my response is, sadly, that most of the Church do not know enough about the issues they do speak on to come to an intelligent view and I usually thank God when they do speak out!