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Secularisation is far more of a challenge to Christianity in England than is Islam, and yet by seemingly strengthening the case for secularism, the issue of Islam has moved centre-stage. I believe that England, or more widely the United Kingdom, has to decide between three possible responses to the growth of the Islamic community not only in numbers but also in self-confidence.

The first of these is communitarianism, which allows each faith community (or non-faith community for that matter) its own version of public space. This seems to be the road along which — at least in the judgment of some of his more careful interpreters — Archbishop -Rowan Williams would wish to travel. But communitarianism means the further disintegration of the cultural system of the nation as a whole. The phrase “the community” must signify first and foremost the national community, which is the form humanity has taken under Providence in this piece of earth.

Other communities within this greater whole need to “own” the overall public space, while simultaneously, no doubt, making a -distinctive contribution to it. For an immigrant population with a -peculiar (in the non-pejorative sense) religious and, in part, ethical system, that will take considerable energies of adaptation. It is, it would seem, unwise to deflect its members from that primary task. On the other hand, a distinctive contribution by Muslims will mean their maintenance of whatever in their own customs and practices is noble and of good report.

One important criterion of those qualities — nobility, good report — is congruence with the common law, whose name means: what is accepted in the King’s (Queen’s) courts as legal norms, which all other juridical instances must respect. Unfortunately, in recent times the effect of parliamentary statute (and European legislation) has been to elide certain norms that were based on the good custom and proper tradition of a Christian society. The constitution of the family by the heterosexual, monogamous household, and the invulnerability of -innocent human life from before birth until natural death, are no longer secure at law. On the second count, and to a degree on the first (monogamy aside), traditional Islam concurs with Christianity. The pertinent legal developments — which license abortion, civil partnerships between the identically gendered, and the withdrawal of basic medical care from the irreversibly ill — are unthinkable without the aggressive incursion of secular liberalism. Typically, secular liberalism finds it impossible to base rights discourse on anything other than the parity of each and all as they choose the way of life they prefer to follow, whether their preferences be well-founded in the objective moral order or not. Inevitably, this is a recipe for irresoluble quandaries in matters social: how should one adjudicate the preference of a feminist employer not to accept a polygamous employee?

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Lorna Salzman
February 19th, 2014
6:02 PM
This is another example of a believer mustering other believers behind the camel to promote the absurd and demonstrably false notion that morality can only exist through religion. This is not only patently false but a less than transparent expression of the growing fear of clerics at the continued progression of humanity towards secularism, the only system that can provide protection for religious minorities. This has been known since the Enlightenment as well as from the founding of the USA. Religious leaders wave the flag of moral degradation because they fear, rightly, the loss of their own church's power and control over human society. While articles like these are nuisances like gnats, they present no greater threat because the purpose behind them is quite clear. I enjoy watching religious leaders scramble to defend religion and castigate the so-called degenerate secularism that they fear. It indicates they see the handwriting on the wall and the direction of humanity as it finalizes the triumph of reason over superstition and the oppressive character of all religion.

July 29th, 2008
10:07 AM
The author either does not know Islam or chooses to ignore some unpalatable facts about it. Islam has no intention of sharing or finding a 'space' within the framework of any non-islamic society: the goal of Islam, as defined clearly in the Koran, the supporting ahadith and the sira (life of Muhammad) is an islamic world in which Sharia is the way of life and jurisprudence for all. The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (1990) signed by 54 Moslem countries affirms, in its Articles 24 and 25 that Sharia is to be the only determinant of crimes and punishments. This link includes both that document and the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, sponsored by the UN in 1948: Sharia is predicated upon the three inherent inequalities in Islam: between Moslem and non-Moslem, man and woman, and free man and slave. Sharia, and Islam, are antithetical to both Judaeo-Christian and secular concepts of Western societies. Why would any person, cognizant of these and other facts about Islam, wish to 'accommodate' Islam and thereby aid in the destruction of our humanely superior civilisation?

Hugh Eveleigh
July 9th, 2008
4:07 PM
An inspiring and thought-provoking article, closely argued and humanely based. As a non-catholic on-the-edge religious individual it may seem perverse but I agree with the argument and endorse its conclusion. Thank you Fr Nichols!

Athanasius of Alexandria
June 30th, 2008
10:06 AM
A splendidly rich and involving article, just as one expects from the Nichols quill. A light critique and something of a personal engagement with it is here, offered for your consideration:

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