A senior Church of England clergyman best-known for his opposition to equality for gay people has been heavily criticised for making inflammatory comments about Britain’s Muslim community.
The Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, claimed in a newspaper article that parts of the country have become “no-go areas” because of extremist Muslims and suggested that mosques stop using speakers to broadcast the call to prayer.
The bishop has previously spoken out against the Sexual Orientation Regulations and civil partnerships.
He hit the headlines when he called childless straight couples “self-indulgent” for not procreating and his latest statements have brought him even more press attention.
A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said his remarks “would have been expected from the far-right BNP, not a responsible figure in the Church of England.”
Politicians have also criticised the bishop.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “to suggest that non-Muslims are not able to enter into a particular area seems to me to be a gross caricature of reality.”
Former Tory leader William Hague, who is now Shadow Foreign Secretary, commented on Sky News: “I’m not sure where these no-go areas are, I don’t recognise that description.”
Bishop Nazir-Ali is notorious with his forthright pronouncements on gay issues.
He called civil partnerships for priests as “unbiblical” and unworkable, even if they promise to remain celibate.
The only Asian-born bishop, he has a seat in the Lords, but he has regularly clashed with his fellow senior clergy and has indicated he intends to boycott this year’s Lambeth conference.
Held every ten years, the meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world has been a focus of discontent from traditionalists angry over the Church’s stance over gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The 14th Lambeth conference will take place between 16th July and 4th August 2008 in Canterbury.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who is an evangelical Christian, has said he would “find it difficult” to attend the conference if senior US clergy who consecrated openly gay bishop Gene Robinson were there.
“My difficulty at the moment is not with a particular person, such as Gene Robinson, but with those who felt it right to approve and to officiate at his ordination,” he said.
“Unless they are willing to say that what they did was contrary to the Gospel, and we all of us from time to time need to repent about what we have done wrong, I would find it very difficult to be with them in a council of bishops.”
Nazir-Ali also accused the American Anglican clergy of turning to aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism and not having proper regard for the Bible.
As many as 120 bishops will not attend unless the American part of the Anglican church repudiates its current accepting attitude towards gay clergy and relationships.
Conservative and liberal branches of the worldwide Anglican communion have been at loggerheads over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions ever since Gene Robinson, was ordained as a bishop in the US in 2003.