Michael Gove, our favourite minister, offered an eloquent piece in the Spectator; he laments the demise of political clout Christianity once enjoyed, the established Church as defender of the faith has fallen into ruin and its creed now seen as “a mind-narrowing doctrine.”
Whilst this isn’t much of a surprise for Muslims, for believers to complain of their own situation is just as pitiful – Muslims continually fail to articulate the service that Islam affords the dispossessed, sick and needy. Where is the chorus of Muslim ethicists who deplore the dismantling of the NHS or the policies of austerity that have, in the opinion of foremost economists, not only caused misery to the poorest amongst us but also restricted the growth of GDP by up to 10%?
If fact-telling has been the several manifestos proffered by Muslim groups, not one has stoutly positioned itself as sharing the intuitions of the country; instead demonisation in the media, the CTS bill, the Prevent strategy and Palestine seem to be the most revolutionary interests their imaginations can muster.
Our inability to act as socially in tune has played some part in allowing the country to be privy to a narrative that makes out centres of the Muslim faith to be spaces for ghettoisation and radicalisation, whereas the reality is that many continue to serve the disadvantaged, those who under Conservative policies have found themselves in need of warmth and food. And in the same way that Gove writes off the beneficial services provided by the Church, the Muslim community (and others) has provided much the same. To borrow from Gove, the lives of most clergy and the thoughts of most mosque-goers are not occupied with agonising over sexual morality and the nebulous idea of an Islamic state with a caliphate but with living fulfilling godly lives and aiding others to do so. The greatest irony of Mr. Gove perhaps is in his lamentations of Christian charity that when people who were open and proud of their Christian faith wished to help others — in education, in social work, in prisons and in hospices — their belief was somehow seen as an ignoble ulterior motive sullying their actions. Yet Gove and his neo-conservative friends treat Muslims with the same contempt charging them with ‘entryism’ at every turn.
Whilst relativism might be the orthodoxy of the age, Muslims hold that any one set of beliefs might be more deserving of respect than another if the belief is cogent. But Gove’s suffering the Holy Spirit of Non–Judgmentalism might be valid if not undermined by foolery of sending the King James version of the Bible to schools in the land; he sent what he believes to be the revealed word of God, yet every version that preceded the King James did not include the key doctrine of Christianity – the Trinity. In fact, the verse upon which the variance between Islam and Christianity rests was interpolated into the KJV.
It seems that Gove has finally realised that proclaiming adherence to a faith where others do bad things in its name might be challenging – ‘generations of dead white males used to cow and coerce others is particularly problematic.’ Yes, welcome to our world where only a generation or two of a few extremists has managed to galvanise an entire narrative that demonises the overwhelming majority of the Muslim faithful. But Gove’s reference to genuine Christian faith demonstrates his ability to differentiate between the claim of the culpable fanatics and those who humbly accept their own shortcomings and attempt to do good.
Indeed Christianity might encourage us to look beyond tribe and tradition, but it is undeniable that Islam has been most progressive in this field. What is fascinating is that Mr Gove’s Christianity hasn’t spurred him on to meet with his Muslim neighbours and actually understand them but he has instead acted as tyrants and dictators who attempt to set sections of society against one another by scapegoating a particular group. Poignantly, senior bishops from the Church of England have publicly criticised Gove’s government for this very act.