Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has warned that a soft-touch approach to Islam might usher in a ‘new tyranny’.
Speaking after US president Barack Obama’s speeches to the British parliament and US state department, the Bishop, who is director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, said that a ‘romantic’ attitude towards the Arab uprising and sharia law could create a tyranny of the majority.
He said, ‘President Obama referred several times to the desire for democracy among the demonstrators, but is this enough? Democracy can lead to a tyranny of the majority.
‘Unless there is a strong charter of liberty that safeguards the rights of women and non-Muslim communities, democracy on its own may prove to be a chimera.
‘There needs also to be a commitment to one law for all and to equality under the law. The retention in Egypt of sharia as the sole basis for law cannot be a good omen for the future of such equality’.
Bishop Nazir-Ali also spoke of a ‘dhimmi mentality’ — a subservient attitude developed towards Muslim rulers by Christian, Jewish and other communities that were allowed to survive, but under heavy restrictions, in the Muslim world.
He said, ‘It has sometimes been held that the West’s response to events in the Muslim world betrays a similar mentality, brought about by fear. Was the president’s speech an example of this?
‘Has the Arab Spring been as non-violent as the president claims? Certainly there are many in the Middle East who want it to be — and to remain — non-violent. But the Copts whose churches have been burned, whose young people have been killed, and whose women have been abducted, will hardly see it that way.
‘Obama should not be misled into thinking that this is some kind of Gandhian or Martin Luther King-like movement’.