Carey: Bad, bad dhimmi!
British Muslims reacted with anger yesterday at an attack on Islamic culture delivered by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
Muslim leaders said his claim that moderates had failed to condemn suicide bombers was totally unjustified, and rejected his assertion that Islam, over the past 500 years, had displayed a “strong resistance to modernity”.
In a public lecture in Rome on Thursday evening, Dr Carey had also criticised the “glaring absence” of democracy in Muslim countries and said Islamic culture had contributed “no great invention… for many hundred years”.
Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicester, said Dr Carey’s statement was “disastrous” for relations between Christians and Muslims.
“He has fallen prey to the campaign tactics of racists in this country,” he said.
As to the suggestion that Muslim leaders were not doing enough to criticise terrorists, Mr Moghal said it was “nonsense”.
“We condemn suicide bombers, we go on radio, on television, we have made statements. What more can we do?
“We cannot be responsible for the criminal actions of others – they are not under our control. The former archbishop has got it wrong.”
Dr Zaki Badawi, regarded as a moderate voice in Muslim circles who has been consulted by Tony Blair on a number of issues, said he was “quite upset” by the comments.
“I think Dr Carey made a rather unfortunate statement at a time when there is about to be dialogue between Muslims and Christians in America,” said Dr Badawi, principal of the Muslim College in Ealing, west London.
He said that Dr Carey’s view of Islam was historically inaccurate and failed to recognise that the West had undermined democratic revolutions in Iran and Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The speech also omitted any mention of the British Empire, which colonised Muslim countries, said Dr Badawi.
He added that the West’s recent dominance of technology was more to do with geography and development than religion.
“I have great affection for Dr Carey but it is unfortunate he delivered this lecture,” he said.
Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was swift to dismiss the former archbishop’s words, denouncing them as “myopic”. He said: “Frankly, one is dismayed by Lord Carey’s comments.
“One is surprised to find Lord Carey recycling the same old religious prejudice in the 21st century.”
Ahmed Versi, editor of Muslim News, said: “We hope that the current Archbishop Rowan Williams – who is very different – will condemn these views.”
But Lord Carey defended his speech yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.
“It is meant to provoke a reaction. In the same way I look at the West and Christianity and am equally critical,” he said.
“I’m looking at the way we build stereotypes of each other and the way we must transcend this and I think that a person looking objectively at the entire speech – five and a half thousand words – will see there’s a balance there…
“So to twist it as an attack on the Islamic world would be far too simplistic and sadly it does suggest how polarised the world is at the present moment.
“The positive is that I believe we can do more together. Two great faiths, Christianity and Islam, working together against extremists on both sides. That, in fact, was the thrust of my message.”
Dr Carey’s remarks came just before his successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, leads talks between Christian and Muslim scholars in New York, which start on Monday.
Although Lambeth Palace would not be drawn into a reaction, the Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, attempted to calm emotions.
He said: “Sometimes opinions will be expressed robustly in either direction; if this can be handled with maturity and mutual respect, understanding can be deepened and our dialogue can emerge strengthened.”
Dr Carey received encouragement from the leader of an organisation which supports Christian missionaries working in Islamic countries.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Fund, said that Dr Carey’s lecture had taken “great courage”.
“He has spent years establishing dialogue with Islam. Now he recognises that the core of Islam must be radically changed if there is going to be any change in their attitude towards suicide bombing and so on. This is a departure for the Church,” he said.
“He is going to get a lot of flak from the Muslim community, who will feel that he has betrayed them, and from the liberal wing of the Church of England who will feel that he has stepped out of line.”