Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Response to Lizzie Schofield on British Muslim "Integration"

Christian missionary, Lizzie Schofield of the Pfander Centre for Apologetics, cites snippets from Dame Louise Casey’s review into integration in Britain in a piece which Lizzie argues Islam is behind the lack of “integration” of Muslims in Britain:

“Though she doesn’t spell it out, Islamic theology is one of the major “factors at play” here. What is the link between integration and how Muslims interpret their religion?”

As a Christian missionary she signs off with a call to shoehorn the “Good News” (presumably she means Trinitarian Christianity) into this affair as a solution. In this piece, I will make a few points to assist people (including Christian missionaries like Lizzie Schofield and Beth Grove) to view this notion of "integration" with more nuance, introspection and consistency. Here's a key of the points to reflect on:

1. Defining terms; when we say "integration" do we mean "assimilation"?

2. Irony: Dame Louise Casey, Trevor Philips and Sid Cordle would not consider evangelical Christians like Lizzie to be "integrated" fully into British society and EU society!

3. Are Muslims "integrated": Thoughts from David Cameron, Dr Timothy Winter and anybody fair-minded who lives in the UK.

4. Does internet propaganda from the likes of Jay Smith contribute to some Muslims cutting themselves off from the rest of society?

5. What about the Orthodox Jews in Britain? Why is Lizzie not saying the same about this group?

6. Dame Louise Casey doesn't agree with Jay Smith propaganda against Islam either!

7. Discussing the Christian Reformation, Calvin's Geneva and the end product of the Reformation.

1. What is “integration”? Lizzie doesn't explain this buzzword!

The question is, is there really a problem with Muslims and integration in the UK? Lizzie is intent on believing Britain has a problem with Muslims and integration. Before getting into this, let’s focus on this amorphous term “integration”. Has anybody really defined it? Everybody has their own definition of whether somebody is “integrated” into British society as the term is vague. What does it mean? What is Lizzie calling for when she speaks of “integration”?

Rafael Behr hits the nail on the head on the problems around defining this word “integration” and the more sinister meaning it can take on - "assimilation"

...Anyone who tries to measure 'integration' ends up relying on definitions that are either banal (how many members of a minority speak English) or economically functional (how many have jobs). If politicians want something more profound - a convergence of behaviour towards shared habits and a limit on egregious displays of difference - the correct word is assimilation.

If we are to use the word assimilation rather than integration every religious community has a problem as the majority culture in Britain is secular. This would be a problem for Lizzie's group and ultimately mean they are not "integrated" into British society.

2. Ironic: Dame Louise Casey’s review would indicate Lizzie's colleagues are not “integrated/assimilated” into Britain + Trevor Philips' comments on Christians and "integration”

Dame Louise Casey’s words are problematic for a socially conservative Christian as in reality their stance on homosexuals rights would be deemed problematic in “mainstream” Britain thus viewed as a lack of “integration/assimilation” on the part of Lizzie and co. (ref. her colleague Jonathan McLatchie calling gay marriage “madness” and his view of the church-disciplining practicing homosexual Christians):

It is more straightforward to condemn criminal acts but more difficult to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into ‘grey’ areas along this spectrum – where one person’s arranged marriage is another’s forced marriage; where one person’s loving relationship is another’s coercive control; or where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia. We need an honest debate in society about this spectrum.

Trevor Phillips, somebody who may know a thing or two about “integration”, the former head of the EHRC, writes about British Christians who are trying to revive the Church as believing in a religion which is incompatible with modern society:

"I think there's an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society," Phillips said.

Another screech of inconsistency, Jay Smith's preaching partner, Sid Cordle teaches Christianity is not compatible with EU's idea of Human Rights

Upon realisation that Lizzie’s friends aren’t “integrated/assimilated” into Britain, I wonder if she would make the following statement about Christianity:

“It would be in everyone’s interest, surely, to find a convincing liberal interpretation of Islam, which would both unite Muslims as well as provide a neat solution to the integration problem?”

Lizzie would be looking for a liberal interpretation of Christianity right now or calling for Christians to switch to a new worldview, if consistent. One that allows gay marriage, sex before marriage, dating before marriage, abortion, no dress code for women etc.

3. But what about the Muslims? Are Muslims “integrated” in Britain?

Again, it depends on how you define the word. We’ve already seen Christians are being considered to be not “integrated” in Britain based on a certain definition. So, for Muslim also, it just depends on how you define the word, "integrated"

Dr Timothy Winter (Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad) of Cambridge University wrote a fascinating piece on the issue of Englishness and Islam. You should read it. He cites a poll which suggests Muslims score higher than the “general population” for indicators of Englishness thus providing robust argumentation Muslims are integrated based on those indicators:

In 2009, the Gallup organisation carried out the largest ever survey of opinions amongst British Muslims, to determine their position on various indices of identity and citizenship. In general the results were not surprising to the community’s leaders, although they occasioned some puzzlement in the popular press, which likes to see Muslims as a seething crucible of alienation. For instance, it emerged that 77% of Muslims identified ‘very strongly’ with the UK, compared to only 51% of the general population. 76% of Muslims expressed confidence in the police, compared to 65% of the wider public. Only 3% of Muslims felt that other religions were threatening their way of life, compared to a national British figure of 25%.

On these fairly standard citizenship indicators, then, our Muslim communities tend to score very highly, compared to the current British norm.

Here, David Cameron (the former PM) flips the script on all this “are Muslims integrated” malarkey after staying with a Muslim family in Birmingham. Dr Winter writes:

Listen to David Cameron, for instance, after his brief stay with a Birmingham Muslim family:

Family breakdown, drugs, crime and incivility are part of the normal experience of modern Britain. Many British Asians see a society that hardly inspires them to integrate. Indeed, they see aspects of modern Britain which are a threat to the values they hold dear – values which we should all hold dear. Asian families and communities are incredibly strong and cohesive, and have a sense of civic responsibility which puts the rest of us to shame. Not for the first time, I found myself thinking that it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around.

Cameron’s fair-minded words remind us that virtues are universal. Muslim communities should be true to their own social vision, because in doing so they can witness to a less individualistic and more spiritual form of life which England seems to have let go.

Notice Dr Winter’s subtle point of Muslims resonating with an older and perhaps now an almost bygone generation of Brits.

So there you go, all this Muslims don’t integrate stuff is all quite subjective but in reality on a reasonable definition of “integrate; Muslims do integrate!

In reality I don’t need to check studies or polls on this matter. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve seen different parts of the UK. Muslims do integrate. I think folks who say "Muslims don't integrate" either have an agenda, are unfamiliar with Muslim communities or have an unreasonable definition of “integrate” which is more correctly termed “assimilate”.

I’d suggest Lizzie to get out more. Up sticks and move into Tower Hamlets, the NorthWest or Birmingham. Go on Lizzie, go for it.

4. The minority of Muslims who don’t “integrate”, why is that? More irony, does Lizzie’s Pfander Propaganda rhetoric play a role?

Perhaps Lizzie missed Dame Louise Casey’s important comments about the perpetuation of Islamophobic rhetoric making some Muslims feel unwelcomed here (thus obviously contributing to those Muslims retreating in their communities where they feel safer and more comfortable)

5.25 .Media portrayal of events, issues and communities can also be key in keeping the population as a whole informed of issues they might otherwise be unaware of and influencing attitudes. It was put to us by some organisations in submissions to the review that negative media portrayals of Muslims in Britain were contributing to Islamophobic sentiment and a demonization and alienation of British Muslims, making some feel unwelcomed and blamed in particular for terrorist acts and a wider threat to British society.

I put it to Lizzie, her colleagues' rhetoric about Muslims is Islamophobic (see Jay's unproven and dangerous allegations against British Muslims at Hyde Park and Jonathan McLatchie portraying British Muslims as a fifth column pretending to be peaceful waiting to persecute Christians). Rhetoric which does put Muslims in danger as it has the potential to rile up the impressionable amongst the right-wing to attack old men and women wearing the hijab:

Islamophobic hate crime attacks, discussed later in this report, can be disproportionately targeted at women. This appears to relate to more visible and identifiable forms of cultural dress, such as wearing a hijab, veil, niqab or burkha [Dame Louise Casey]

In fact, stats show 20% of Muslim women feel unsafe in Britain. Lizzie may want to factor that into why some Muslim folks are living more insular lives.

Perhaps Lizzie would like to reflect on all this and the role of her colleagues in making Muslim women and old men feel unsafe in their own country – yep Britain is theirs too.

On top of this physical threat, if the person doesn’t have the language ability and comes from a poor rural area in Asia/Africa in which they have had little or no schooling it may be a bit presumptuous of us to ask them to go out and mingle!

5. But what about the Jews, Lizzie? Are they "integrated"? Why so silent?

Why is Lizzie not writing articles about how British Orthodox Jews need to drop Judaism and adopt Trinitarianism because they aren’t “integrating” into British society?

I wonder what Lizzie has to say about this:

Walking around Stamford Hill, it is the geometry of family relationships that you notice. There are groups of mothers uniformly dressed in the mandatory dark coats and long skirts, and wearing the wigs that are an obligation for married women, pushing prams, a handful of children in tow. There are groups of men, but seldom men and women together.

Modesty is paramount to the Haredi, and the mingling of the sexes is strictly regulated. Unmarried boys and girls will have little contact with the opposite sex outside their families. At concerts and wedding parties men and women will always be separated. A Haredi man will avoid making eye-contact with any woman other than his wife, and would never shake hands.

Among the Gerer, the more traditional will observe the rule that even husbands and wives should not be seen walking on the street together [Telegraph]

Note: I don't have an issue here with British Jews following these practices. Lizzie, if consistent may have an issue with all this. This begs the question, why is she not writing about Jews as well as Muslims?

You'd think Lizzie and her colleagues would have pounced on this snippet from the Independent about Jewish Orthodox councils in Britain:

Jewish Orthodox councils in the UK are “institutionalising marital captivity and upholding discriminatory religious laws” that victimise women and secular alternatives need to be introduced by politicians, according to an academic study being launched in Parliament.

6. Dame Louise Casey is at loggerheads with Pfander Films’ propaganda: Honour Killings

Jay Smith has been known to argue “honour” killings are due to Islam as part of his missionary propaganda over the years. I think Lizzie should be made aware of this. At least Dame Louise Casey has more honesty and knowledge than Smith to make this crucial point which is odd considering Jay Smith is often styled as an expert on Islam by his missionary colleagues. She also does away with the FGM and forced marriage myths (which I’m not sure whether Pfander Films has perpetuated in the past – I wouldn’t put it beyond Jay Smith):

7.19 Female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ based crimes are among the worst harms that some may try to justifying the name of religion when they are more clearly cultural choices connected very directly to countries or regions of origin. They jar even more heavily outside their place of origin not just because they are criminal acts under our laws but also because they are so clearly at odds with the human rights we value and have fought for. As such, they are sharp indicators of a lack of integration.

Dame Louise Casey offers more statistics which militate against other elements of propaganda against Muslims from Christian polemicists. Considering Jay Smith and his cohorts constantly intimate Muslim men as abusive to women it’s of extreme interest that the stats don’t reflect this. In fact, if we were to play off ethnicities and their proportional representation of faith we would conclude more Christian women are the victims of domestic violence than any other religious demographics. Note: White British according to the 2011 census were 64% Christian.

Data from the Crown Prosecution Service (for 2015-16) indicates that those prosecuted for domestic abuse were overwhelmingly male (92%), while 71% were White British and 74% aged between 25 and 59 years

Data collected by Women’s Aid, providing a snapshot of 128 refuges and 96 community-based services for the week 21 to 25 September 2015, show a different profile among victims of domestic violence who turn to services for help. White British victims made up 41% of refuge users, followed by people of Asian/Asian British ethnicity (18%) and Black (14%) victims. Community-based services showed a different profile: again, the largest group was White British, this time at 67%, followed by people of Asian/Asian British ethnicity at 9% and from Other White ethnic backgrounds at 6%...

If there was a Muslim equivalent of Pfander, they would ask "Lizzie, do you think Exodus 21:20-21
is inspiring some of these Christians to hurt women?" Exodus 21:20-21for those unaware is, in the view of the Trintiarian, a  text that shows the preincarnate Jesus allowed female slaves to be beaten severely as long as they got up after a couple of days.

7. Lizzie Schofield and the Reformation

Hmm, I’m awfully unconvinced  by the way Lizzie talks about reformations so simplistically. She speaks about the Reformation of Christianity as going back to the texts via the concept of sola scriptura. She then equates this to a Christianity which is more in-line with modern Western society.

Hold on Lizzie, the Reformation in the 1500s led to the Enlightenment movements of the 17th and 18th century. This proliferated a Deistic outlook and beyond this were the two products which our society is drowning in today; materialism and atheism. Hardly something to be proud of Lizzie! See here for more on the Reformation.

But again, lest we get ahead of ourselves let’s go back to the Reformation. Lizzie did disassociate herself from Martin Luther alluding to his “dodgy views” (I assume she was talking about his views on Jews) but what about the other guy who played a huge role in the Reformation, John Calvin? The Protestant idea of Sola Scriptura didn’t stop him from a setting up a theocracy at Geneva which punished people for not attending church and which promoted the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. Witchcraft was a capital crime, people were forced to attend church, women were jailed for arranging their hair to a certain height, fornication was punished and adultery carried the death penalty. That was John Calvin's Geneva.

John Calvin’s Geneva would have had Lizzie punished for something or another – I’d suspect it would have been heresy as she has made a few statements which would be deemed heretical by folks of theology.

Lizzie asked to think more deeply and meaningfully

The idea that the Muslims who don’t integrate are somehow leaning on Sayed Qutb's work is indicative of  how Lizzie is out of touch with Muslims communities in Britain!

Come on Lizzie, stop with the propaganda and the simplistic approach, let’s focus on a more meaningful discussion. How about we start with primary-level theology, do you fancy chatting about Islam’s pure Abrahamic monotheism in comparison with the 4th century idea of the Trinity? Let’s talk about it, it’s something which divides us.

Did Peter Believe in the Trinity?

The "Council of Nicea and the Trinity" Myth Refuted

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