PRINCE CHARLES will fly into a bitter religious row today when he arrives in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance between Muslims and Christians. The Prince of Wales will tour Pakistan to support President Pervez Musharraf’s policy of “enlightened moderation”, and encourage a better understanding between the country’s Muslim majority and its beleaguered Christian minority.
His itinerary will include meetings with the country’s senior Christian leader, Anglican Bishop Alexander John Malik, who is caught in the crossfire between leading members of his own flock and Islamic fundamentalists over the marriage of his daughter Nadia to the son of a prominent Muslim family.
Nadia, one of Pakistan’s most glamorous models, and her husband Danyaal, a doctor, married in August in an opulent Lahore cathedral wedding led by her father, and attended by the country’s “Lollywood” film and fashion set.
I looked her up. For a cleric’s daughter, she’s hot.
Bishop Malik’s critics claim his daughter had converted to Islam and married her husband in a traditional Muslim wedding before attending a Christian blessing ceremony. Rival bishops have called for his resignation and claimed he has betrayed his flock. Leading Muslim clerics say the church ceremony is an insult if Nadia had converted to Islam, and that her Muslim husband was wrong to agree to a Christian blessing.
Last week Nadia denied she had converted, but agreed both families had struggled to accept an inter-faith marriage. She and her husband have since moved to Glasgow from where she told The Sunday Times she was relieved to be out of Pakistan.
“We’ve been very lucky because we’ve managed to move away. Discrimination would have caught us if we’d continued to live in Pakistan. It happens to every mixed couple because both communities feel betrayed, especially the Christians because I’m the bishop’s daughter and I’ve married a Muslim,” she said.
Which brings us to something I’ve had open since last Saturday (and it’s a good thing I kept it lying around):
In all the hoo-ha about veils and crosses there has been a detectable vein of hostility to religion of any kind. Not that one religion is the same as another in any case. The Prince of Wales cannot be a defender of faith in the abstract, because faith has content, it is a belief in something. Some things are not fit to believe in: Nazism obviously, or witchcraft. As for Christianity, it is still a persecuted faith, and not just in rare cases. This was brought home to me by a 100-page dossier called Persecuted and Forgotten? compiled by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Right through the alphabet, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the lives of Christians are being made difficult, or brought to a violent end. Last November, in Zhaoxian in Hebei, China, for example, officials rounded up deacons training to become priests, deprived them of sleep and put pressure on them to sign a form accepting ordination by a government-controlled bishop instead of one in communion with the Pope.
Things a lot worse are happening in China, despite new Regulations on Religious Activities, promulgated in March 2005, permitting “normal” religious activities. To the authorities, “normal” means controlled by the state. Anything else is “delinquent”. So state oppression is sanctioned and mob attacks on Christians are left unpunished.
In Pakistan, a notional ally of Britain’s, “there are hundreds of poor and simple souls who have had to endure small and great indignities and humiliations just for living as Christians in a Muslim environment”, according to Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore. “My own experience has been that in the first years of the new millennium there is a growing tide of religious intolerance and hatred,” he says.
I think the reason I didn’t post this then was because I got to this line:
I am not quoting this judgment as any condemnation of good Muslims. A case history included in Persecuted and Forgotten? shows that persecution comes from bad men, or at least men who decide to do bad things.
and got irritated. That’s utter crap. Persecution comes from everyone with bad educations, not just “bad men”. Black people were persecuted here through the 1960s and you can’t tell me that everyone in the South is “Bad Men” (unless you’re in Europe, which explains why they’re all so derisive of the South, because that Explains It All, apparently, in which case this is all moot). They were ignorant and raised a certain way, and as Mark Steyn commented in this video interview (part 2 with Michelle Malkin (still the butt rock?), it wasn’t long ago that everyone in Pakistan got the same eduction as your average English kid, and as this kept pointing out about Salman Rushdie’s grandfather’s Pakistan, it used to be an okay place.
So sorry, good Muslims. You’re none of you off the hook.
Yusuf Said, a former buffalo trader from Sangla Hill, 80 miles from Lahore, Pakistan, gave an interview to ACN this March recounting the terrible consequences of an argument over a game of cards. Mr Said’s opponent demanded money that he did not get. Later he accused Mr Said of burning pages of the Koran (a crime theoretically punishable by life imprisonment under the country’s blasphemy laws).
Despite Mr Said’s vigorous denials, a crowd gathered, demanding he confess. He spent the night sheltering with a Muslim friend. The next thing he learnt was that a mob of 3,000 had rampaged through the town, burning the Presbyterian and Catholic churches, schools and a convent, and killing two people.
That sounds like a lot of Bad Men in that town of Good Muslims.
Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, Mr Said turned himself in to the police, still protesting his innocence. Over the next two weeks he was moved from police station to police station four times, and tortured.
Somewhere a reporter’s head just snapped up, “Sorry, what about Bush?”