News comes this week that Bishop Nazir Ali is resigning from his post as the Bishop of Rochester in order to focus on his work amongst Christian communities in Muslim countries. Nazir Ali commented in January 2008 that some areas of Britain have become “no-go areas for non-Muslims”, a claim challenged by Hazel Blears. Nazir Ali subsequently received death threats, and his personal security was stepped up, including armed bodyguards.
Now, I am not saying that one cannot disagree with Nazir Ali’s views on Islam in Britain – indeed many have done. Given that some of those involved in Muslim-Christian interfaith relations view Nazir Ali’s comments as raising tensions between communities, it is natural that many commentators publicly disagree with Nazir Ali. Others have praised his highlighting of vital issues, and his opposition to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for sharia law – a legal system which would primarily hurt Muslims.
The Anglican-evangelical group Fulcrum is one such group for whom interfaith is extremely important. Following Nazir Ali’s comments on no-go areas, Fulcrum posted a commentary by Ben White, who also wrote the controversial review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s Global Jihad.
Yet whilst criticisms and analysis of Nazir Ali and Sookhdeo are fair game for Fulcrum, things take a different tone when discussing Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah has of course called for death to Israel, death to America, the destruction of the West, considers Jews as the enemies of Allah, and glorifies Islamist martyrdom.
Here’s a compilation of some of his diatribes:
Nasrallah is the leader of Hezbollah, a jihadist group which murders Jews around the world.
Here’s Colin Chapman writing on Fulcrum about Nasrallah:
Sheikh Nasrallah is an incredibly charismatic and gifted orator who can hold crowds spellbound for hours (I have often watched him on television) not only by talking politics, but by expounding the Qur’an and communicating a very genuine Shi’ite spirituality.
Chapman also attempts to place Nasrallah’s vile comments about Israel within the context of “Israeli occupation” – a somewhat shakey argument which seems to ignore Hezbollah’s name and charter, the fact that Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, and Hezbollah’s suspected murder of Jews in Argentina in 1994.
Here Chapman has much in common with Ben White, who considers Hezbollah a nationalist rather than an Islamist movement, linking to an article in which Syrian Christian leader Elias Zahlawi encouraged his congregation to:
“Pray for the resistance, pray for Hassan Nasrallah. He is defending justice.”
Ironically, Fulcrum had nothing to say about reports that Hezbollah was using Christian villages as shields in its war against Israel. Colin Chapman and Ben White frequently write for Fulcrum about the Middle East. Chapman’s article on the Israel-Hezbollah war started off comparing Beirut with the Biblical account in Lamentations of the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapman’s is the father of modern UK Christian anti-Zionist movement, and his 1983 book Whose Promised Land? introduced Jewish power theories back into Christianity.
Ben White, meanwhile, has claimed that he understands why some peole are antisemites, and that Israel is to blame for two of the three causes of the rise of antisemitism in Europe. And, it was Ben White who provided Fulcrum’s coverage of the recent Israel-Gaza war.
Fulcrum has recently co-published with Guy Wilkinson a response to Melanie Philips’ article about Christian antisemitism and Islamism. Wilkinson reminds readers that in 2006 the present Archbishop signed a joint declaration with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel which included the words:
We reaffirm our belief in the rights of the state of Israel to live within recognised and secure borders and to defend itself by all legal means against those who threaten its peace and security. We condemn without reserve those who deny a place for Israel and especially those who engage in the evil work of seeking to bring about its destruction.
Given its efforts to improve interfaith relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims, and the Church of England’s rejection of those seeking Israel’s destruction, Fulcrum should really ask itself how its appreciation of writers such as Colin Chapman and Ben White is beneficial to Christian-Jewish relations. It should also ask itself whether those Christians directly affected by Hezbollah rule appreciate Fulcrum’s efforts to big up Hassan Nasrallah.