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We need to tackle BOTH Muslimophobia AND Christianophobia

4 December 2017

Today the media is awash with stories about the extremist organisation Britain First, whose videos were retweeted by President Trump. Barnabas Fund wishes to put on record that we totally reject the ideology of this organisation and explain why it is so wrong.

Although the organisation claims to stand up for Britain’s Christian heritage, it should be noted that Britain First was created by splitting off from the BNP (British National Party), a far-right, pro-white, political party in the UK.  The members of Britain First did not leave the BNP because they disagreed with its ideology; they left because they believed the BNP to be corrupt and because of the BNP’s ineffectiveness at winning seats in elections. Britain First engages in “street patrols” to try to enforce its ideology, a tactic similar to that used by some Islamists. Far from standing up for Britain’s heritage as it claims, in fact Britain First significantly undermines it.

The UK was the first country in the world to begin to establish human rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There are seven important aspects of freedom of religion that have developed in the UK over the last five centuries:

Freedom Year achieved
to read the Bible in public 1547
to interpret the Bible without government interference 1559
of worship 1689
to choose or change your faith or belief 1689
to preach and try to convince others of the truth of your beliefs 1812
to build churches, synagogues, mosques etc. 1812
from being required to affirm a particular worldview or set of beliefs in order to hold a public sector job or stand for election various “Test Acts” requiring this were abolished between 1719 and 1888

This heritage of freedom of religion spread out from Britain to countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and many others around the world. It is one of the most important parts of Britain’s heritage. However, Britain First have policies which significantly undermine this heritage of freedom. For example, they state that they wish to:

  • “Disbar followers of the Islamic ideology from holding public office” i.e. introduce a new “Test Act” (issue 7 in our list above).
  • “Introduce a comprehensive ban on the religion of ‘Islam’ within the United Kingdom. This ban will include the prohibition of…religious publications (such as the Quran, Hadiths), the operation of mosques, madrasas and ‘cultural centres’ and the public preaching and / or teaching of Islamic scriptures and doctrines” (issues 3,4,5,6 above).
  • “Anyone found to be promoting the ideology of Islam will be subject to deportation or imprisonment” (issue 5 above).

However, we also need to say that it is NOT just Britain First who are undermining the UK’s heritage of freedom of religion. There is increasing Christianophobia in the UK, coming from a variety of sources.  In the last few years we have seen a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer claim in court that, in the context of modern Britain, quoting from the King James Bible in public must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter; we have seen attempts to enforce government registration and Ofsted inspection of Sunday schools; and in the last general election we saw several major media outlets, including the BBC, Buzz Feed, The Daily Mirror, The Independent and The Spectator, either asking Christian candidates overtly theological questions or claiming that, because they held Biblical Christian beliefs such as believing in miracles or Christian marriage, they were “unfit” to hold public office. We need to tackle BOTH Muslimophobia AND Christianophobia.