From time to time I go to Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, the home of what Gladstone called “the God-fearing and God-sustaining University of Oxford.”  For Catholics it is revered as the home of Cardinal Newman, that most human and subtle of converts, and for Protestants it is the place of the Martyrs Memorial to Bishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, who were burned at the stake.  But the last time I went there, I was confronted by a tall, gaunt man with a straggly black beard proffering Muslim tracts from a stall on trestles in the center of the city.  Two of them had provocative titles: “Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction?” and “Resurrection or Resuscitation?”  I selected these and asked him his price.  “They are free,” he replied, “but you can make a contribution towards the furthering of Muslim education in Britain.”  I gave him a tuppence, worth a little under five cents.  Given the nature of the cause, perhaps it was a little overgenerous of me.

As I continued on my way I thought to myself how offensive those titles must have been to truly committed Christians.  In the form of a cheap and derisive pun, they were a direct and mocking attack on the central event and the central doctrine of the Christian religion.  In Britain, where, despite the efforts of our government to curtail them, freedom of speech and freedom of religion still exist, the Muslims have every right to their stall and their vile literature.  What is more disturbing is that Christians are not able to press their views in the same way.  Any evangelists who set themselves up in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood to distribute literature denouncing the heresies of the Koran and the false prophet Muhammad would be “moved on” by the police, lest public order be disturbed.  The police do not have the power to do this, as the case of Beatty v. Gillbanks (1882) confirmed, and a determined evangelist could refuse to budge.  However, the Muslims might well assault the determined Christians, and the police have neither the resources nor the political will to protect them.  Local Muslim politicians would denounce this “provocation,” whereas Christian priests and ministers have nothing to say when Muslims proselytize in an offensive way.  The police would probably tell the Christians that they were obstructing the highway, and the local authorities would certainly not give them a permit to set up a temporary stall in a strongly Muslim area.  The Christians lose out because they are peaceable and because the authorities wish to appease a fractious Muslim population.  The Muslims also enjoy all the privileges afforded to alien minorities in a society that is uncertain of itself and where local government is often in the hands of leftists who hate Britain’s Christian traditions.

The pamphlets themselves were more reasonably worded than their titles suggested, but they referred to a mysterious Gospel of Barnabas, of which I had never heard.  I went out and bought a copy (published in New Delhi and also in Leicester) at an Islamic bookshop and later consulted more scholarly and accurate accounts.  The Gospel of Barnabas is a shameless Muslim forgery; the internal evidence shows that it could not have existed at the time of the early Church and was probably composed in the 16th century.  (There is no reference to it anywhere before this time, though the Muslims confuse it with the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, written by a contemporary of Saint Paul.)  It is meant to undermine from within the most distinctive aspects of the Christian religion and to reduce Jesus to the status of a secondary prophet whose main function was to pave the way for Muhammad.  The book that the Muslims peddle was translated from a manuscript in Vienna’s Imperial Library by the scholars Lonsdale and Laura Ragg.  The Muslims have cunningly stripped out the notes and comments it must once have had, and they have added utterly mendacious commentaries of their own.  The editors have the impudence to present this despicable volume to the world as a gesture of goodwill to Christians.

You would think that the leaders of the Anglican Church would denounce such an outrageous forgery and perhaps even remind us of the identity of the father of lies who must have inspired it.  Yet only marginal Christian groups and those suffering persecution at the hands of Muslims have spoken out.  The great majority of senior churchmen prefer to avoid all controversy and confrontation, even though the vigorous defense of their Faith against the Muslim heresy should be their first duty.

The one gallant exception is the Rev. Dr. Michael James Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester.  Born in Karachi, the son of a Christian convert, and formerly bishop of Raimund in Pakistan, Bishop Nazir-Ali knows far better than his fellow Anglican bishops what the Muslims are really like.  By contrast we find the Archbishop of Canterbury wringing his hands and stating that the doctrine of the Trinity is “difficult, sometimes offensive to Muslims.”  Why raise this point at all when dealing with the Muslims?  The Trinity is not intrinsically difficult to grasp.  Even the Irish came fervently to believe in it after the great Welsh missionary Saint Patrick explained it using a shamrock.  The important thing is never to accept that the Trinity is or can be regarded as a puzzle, for that leads to playing with formulae that invite speculation as to how one person of the Trinity proceeds from another.  Mysteries should never be treated as puzzles.  The archbishop would do better to remember that the violent Muslim conquests of the Middle East and the Balkans were facilitated by Christian schisms over the precise nature of the Trinity.  Now it is Britain that is at stake.

Why does it concern the archbishop that sometimes Muslims find the doctrine of the Trinity offensive?  His duty is to proclaim it regardless­—and indeed in defiance—of Muslim opinion.  Why does he not tell the Muslims bluntly that he finds the Koran offensive because it is a tendentious garbling of the elements of the Bible and a denial and downgrading of his own religion’s central doctrines?  It is his Christian duty to be peaceable and charitable to others and not to seek revenge or escalate conflicts, but this does not extend to avoiding confronting with requisite firmness those whose faith is at odds with his own.  Where the Muslims are concerned, it is time for the archbishop to fight the good fight, not to hold cozy ecumenical chats with Muslim leaders.

When the Muslims are running scared, either because of the public outcry against terrorism or because they fear the aggressive secularism of modern Britain, they will stress that they revere “Jesus” as a prophet.  When left-wing municipalities have tried to undermine the religious celebration of Christmas in institutions under their control, they are surprised to find that they are opposed by the Muslims.  Muslim behavior in this respect is self-interested; Christians will never get any such backing from them over Easter.  In the face of rising unpopularity, they speak of the “Abrahamic religions,” which, of course, includes the Jews.  It sits ill with the notorious antisemitism of the descendants of that wild ass Ishmael, whose hand was against every man, but British church leaders like its implied inclusiveness.  One of the British theologians countenancing this spurious rapprochement says in private that he does not believe that Abraham ever existed.  Why can’t these liberal “Christian” theologians in endowed university positions, who have devoted so much of their time to corroding the foundations of their own religion, be redeployed to undermine Islam?  Can’t their knowledge of Semitic languages, their skill in and penchant for undermining sacred texts, and their ruthlessly destructive powers of analysis be targeted on the Koran and on Muslim tradition?  What is the point of men who look at the mote in the eye of their own religion though magnifying glasses but are unwilling to observe and criticize the beam in the eye of Islam?  Christianity in Britain has two sets of critics: the Muslims and the liberal theologians.  As a religion and as a set of texts, Islam has no critics at all.

The archbishop’s other folly has been to suggest that the coming of sharia is inevitable in Britain.  It is difficult to know exactly what he meant by this, since he is incapable of speaking with any degree of clarity and is always restating his views in a new muddled way that contradicts his initial muddle, but he was a fool to have expressed any opinion on the subject at all.  Sharia in fact already exists in Britain in the same way that rabbinical courts exist; they can grant a get, a Jewish divorce, or settle disputes within the Orthodox Jewish community by arbitration.  No one from outside interferes.  Indeed, unless it is contrary to equity or the public interest, even most secular disputes can be settled by arbitration.  It is often better, faster, and cheaper than lawyers and British courts.  It is widely used in the shipping industry to settle claims.  If that is all the Muslims want, they already have it, just as they are permitted to operate Islamic financial institutions that, in theory at least, do not charge interest on loans or pay interest to depositors.  Likewise a Muslim who wishes his children to inherit his estate in keeping with Islamic principles—for example, so that sons inherit considerably more than daughters—has merely to write his will in line with them.  After causing an initial uproar, the archbishop later implied that this is what he was referring to all along.  But that was not the impression he gave at the time.

Will he one day approve of a state that forces Muslim British citizens to use sharia and Muslims to draw up their wills in conformity with it?  Will he want to prevent aggrieved heirs from contesting a will made under sharia, perhaps acrimoniously, perhaps even speaking of temporary insanity, if they feel that it was made under duress from the Muslim community?  Will he want to exempt Muslim men who have obtained a Muslim divorce from obtaining a civil divorce before they can remarry?  At present, Jews may find that they have a valid religious divorce but cannot legally remarry because a financial settlement has not been reached in the civil action.  Catholic spouses can be divorced in a civil action without their consent, but in the eyes of the Church, the Catholic will still need a proper annulment.  If a Catholic doctor were to refuse a patient an abortion and decline to refer her to a doctor who will do it, and the patient dies in consequence, he can be charged with manslaughter.  In such a world, why should the practices of the Muslims be afforded a privileged status?

Does the archbishop want Britain to fragment into separate committees, each with its own code of personal law, and to see the primacy of the English Common Law and British statutes undermined because that is what the Muslims demand?  The archbishop now says that he does not, but is this not the most reasonable interpretation of his original woolly statement?  What is he going to say now that Somali Muslims’ sharia courts preside over cases of criminal violence and award compensation to the victim (who may well be a non-Muslim), to be paid by the perpetrator’s community in return for the victim not pressing charges?  What is he going to say about the way British sharia courts settle cases of domestic violence in secret to stop a badly injured wife from going to the police?  What will happen if there is a murder and the victim’s relatives are offered blood money, as happens in Muslim countries?  Is the maintenance of the Queen’s peace to be treated as irrelevant?  Are we to discard the idea that a crime of violence is a crime not just against the victim but against the social order?

The continuity and supremacy of the English Common Law has long been part of Britain’s identity and implicit constitution.  It is already being eroded by the willingness of Britain’s politicians to sign international treaties that then take precedence, something the United States has wisely avoided.  Is what remains to be cast away to appease the Muslims’ impudent demand for sharia, a demand that reflects their potentially treasonable adhesion to the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims, rather than to the country whose citizenship they hold and whose privileges they exploit?  How can we tolerate the fragmentation of our laws to appease those who claim that theirs come directly from that which they call Allah?

Michael Nazir-Ali, the bishop of Rochester, has spoken out concerning those Muslim districts in England where Christians are subjected to intimidation.  Muslim converts to Christianity have had their houses attacked, and churches and Hindu temples are both at risk.  When the victims complain to the local bishop, he is not willing to defend them and indeed does his best to hush things up.  In the end they may be driven out by the Muslims who will then enjoy the religious apartheid that is their ideal.  The native people who flee the area are then denounced by the liberal media as being the ones at fault.  The bishop of Rochester has been sent death threats by Muslims and is under police protection; that is the Muslims’ way of showing that Islam is a religion of peace.  He has also been denounced by the Canterbury clique, for they know that the archbishop’s priority is Christian-Muslim “dialogue.”

The other great appeaser is Prince Charles, who is next in line as Fidei Defensor.  Back in 1994, the Prince declared that he wishes to be known not as “Defender of the Faith” but as “Defender of Faith.”  Since the Jews have not criticized the present arrangements and already say their own prayers for the Queen as head of state, and given that it is unlikely that the Prince wishes to be the defender of Britain’s numerous idol worshipers, it is clearly one more case of appeasing the Muslims.  Will the Archbishop of Canterbury accept Charles’ abandonment of the religion of the church of which he will nominally be the head when he takes his Coronation Oath?  Does Charles really think that all faiths are the same, and does that sameness cover, as Linus says to Charlie Brown, “Christian Science and Melanesian frog-worship”?  Does the Prince think that all faiths are equally valid?  Given his long and adulterous affair with Camilla, the wife of Mr. Andrew Parker-Bowles, it is difficult to understand Charles’ concern for pleasing the Muslims, whose sharia would have punished him with a hundred lashes, stoning, or beheading.

I hope I have not been unfair to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is described by those who know him well as a pious, kindly, and gifted man.  But he must learn the virtues of clarity and silence.  I appreciate the fact that English may not be his first language and that the Welsh are a voluble people, but that is no excuse.  Likewise, my attack on the Muslims does not apply to all British Muslims, most of whom are not fanatics and simply want a quiet life.  The problem is that Britain’s Muslims have a high “nutter factor”; the proportion of them who are intolerant, fanatical, and obsessed with their own interests and supremacy is far higher than that among Britain’s Christians, or indeed Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, and Bahais.  The great sin of the majority of Muslims is that they will not distance themselves from and denounce the crazies in their midst with sufficient ferocity and vigor.  Christian appeasement makes this problem much worse.  It is time that Christians firmly match the Muslims in their willingness to engage in religious controversy.  If they do not, they will go under, and so will truth, toleration, and freedom.

In the town where I live, the Muslims have been granted permission to build a four-million-pound mosque on prime land, which was donated to them by our socialistic local council at the expense of the taxpayers, most of whom are not Muslims and many of whom are antagonistic to Islam.  The Muslims of the town are penurious and will not be able to raise that kind of money.  They will almost certainly have to ask some Saudi foundation for the money, and the Saudis will only pay if the local Muslims agree to allow the new mosque to be a beachhead for Wahhabism.  When completed, the silver dome atop the mosque will be higher than all the churches in the town.  It is a metaphor for our times.