LONDON (Reuters) - Islamic extremism has turned some areas of Britain into hostile “no-go areas” for non-Muslims, a Church of England bishop said on Sunday.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Nazir-Ali said non-Muslims find it hard to live or work in these separate communities.
Muslim leaders and politicians dismissed the bishop’s comments as scaremongering and said there was no evidence to support his views.
The Pakistan-born cleric compared the hostility found in these “no-go areas” to the intimidation associated with some supporters of far-right political parties.
“There has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism,” the bishop wrote. “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.
“Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them.
“In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation.”
He added: “Attempts have been made to impose an ‘Islamic’ character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.”
The bishop warned that a “multi-faith mish-mash” without “moral or spiritual vision” was eroding Christianity.
There has been a wide-ranging debate over integration and radicalisation among Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims since four UK Muslims killed 52 people in suicide attacks in London in 2005.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken of the need to integrate communities better and isolate extremists from the moderate majority of Muslims.
A spokesman for his Downing Street office had no comment on the bishop’s remarks.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said Nazir-Ali was “talking nonsense” and had no evidence to support his views.
“This is irresponsible scaremongering,” an MCB spokesman said. “Where are these so-called areas that he’s talking about?”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the idea of no-go areas was “a gross caricature of reality”, while Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News the bishop had “probably put it too strongly”.