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Anglicans, axes, mosques and Muslims

October 27, 2010

A trinity of tabloid headlines, all saying pretty much the same thing, with The Mail as the instigator, and The Express and The Star quickly following.

Of the three, the Express headline stands out as the worst, not only because of the certainty with which it states a Church Diocese has been axed, but also because of the words ‘Muslim influx’.  The word ‘influx’ was used a couple of days ago by The Mail when it described the potential devastation of the ConDem cuts on poorer families, and it hasn’t decreased in offensiveness between then and now.  The Express article appears to contain a lot of text from the Mail, and also repeats some of the figures used.  Those numbers have been discussed on the British Religion in Numbers site, here (thanks to Atomic Spin for the tip).  It’s also worth remembering that it’s the Anglican Church in the spotlight here, so figures won’t include other branches of Christianity.

When The Express indulges in churnalism, it likes to add a few embellishments of it’s own, highlighted here by Minority Thought.  This story is no different.  While The Mail and The Star have stuck to their usual anti-Muslim theme, The Express goes further:

Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers could be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation.

The 1.5 million Muslims living in the UK make up about three per cent of the population.

But according to Religious Trends, a statistical analysis of religious practice in Britain published by Christian Research, even Hindus will soon come close to outnumbering churchgoers.

The forecast to 2050 shows churchgoers in Britain declining to 899,000 while active Hindus will have doubled to 855,000 and the number of active Muslims will have risen to 2.6 million.

Not content with a simple anti-Muslim bias, the have chosen to include Hindus among the influx.  It seems their capacity for bigotry is expanding.

I don’t want to dwell too long on any of these stories, because a simple search reveals a statement from the Ven David Lee, the Archdeacon of Bradford.  He says that the speculation of the national press is premature, and provides a link to further information about the Dioceses Commission review, which began in autumn 2009 and doesn’t mention Muslims, or Hindus or any other religious group as a factor, although it does say the Dioceses of Peterborough and Ely have undergone review as well.  I’m not sure why the tabloids haven’t felt the need to spread panic about that, though I can’t help but wonder if it’s because Peterborough isn’t controversial enough.

The Archdeacon says in his statement:

The Dioceses Commission will publish its recommendations on December 9th to begin a 6 month period of public consultation ending on May 9th 2011.

There will be ample opportunity to participate. The Dioceses Commission has made a point of not releasing any information about their recommendations before December 9th. Various understanding and conjectures are in circulation but we have been asked to wait and discuss the actual recommendations when they are released. The process will not be rushed and there are several stages of further discussion and debate after May 9th.

The most important bit of information is contained towards the end of the Archdeacon’s post, where he is clear that no churches will close.

Helpfully, the review group said that they are prepared to think ‘out of the box’ if that will help the Church of England look to the future. Not a single church will be closed as a result of these proposals and it may be that through finding new ways of working together and/or a reconfiguration of Dioceses, a larger proportion of our resources will be released for ministry in the parishes rather than tied up in central support structures.

The Archdeacon includes links to stories from The Yorkshire Post (noticeably free of any mention of Muslims, or ‘white flight’ as referred to in both The Express and The Mail) and The Telegraph and Argus (emphasising the denial of the national’s reports).

What is clear, from looking further afield than The Mail, The Star and The Express, is that the Dioceses Commission has been conducting a review as part of it’s duty under the ‘provisions of the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 ‘ which came into force on 1st February 2009.  It doesn’t appear to be anything at all to do with Muslims (or Hindus for that matter) and this seems to be a spin applied by the newspapers to embellish their speculation.  They backed it up with quotes from ‘an insider’ who obviously wasn’t willing to put their name to the expression, ‘white flight.’

What was most shocking about the whole thing was the choice of wording in the headlines.  Words such as ‘axe’, ‘mosques take over’ and ‘Muslim influx’ are specifically intended to shock and provoke, and also intended to target one religion and pit it against another.  I’m an atheist, so religion means very little to me.  However, those headlines have provoked a response from me, albeit restricted to writing a mildly irate blog post.  What effect could they have on people that really believe the rhetoric of the press about ‘Islamisation’?

If you’re interested in the actual stats on different religions, the British Religion in Numbers site is highly recommended reading.  Thanks again to Atomic Spin.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 8:19 pm

    the anti-muslim bias demonstrated in the tabloid press is disgusting. I know it sort of breaks my task (reading other paper’s headlines) but thank you for this.

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