Sunday, 31 October 2010


I wrote the following review for the Methodist Theological Journal The Epworth Review it is appearing in this quarter's edition which is out tomorrow

Patrick Sookhdeo

The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission

(Issac Publishing 2009 £? Paperback)


ISBN 978-09787141-5-4

There is a debate in contemporary Evangelicalism on the attitudes that should be taken towards inter faith encounter and dialogue, particularly with Muslims. This book is a polemic for one side of this argument. As someone who is involved in friendships with Muslims this was not an easy book for me to read because Sookhdheo predominantly speaks of Muslims impersonally and negatively. The book, despite assertions to the contrary in the final paragraph, promotes fear and discourages people from taking the step of seeking dialogical relationships with Muslims. Prominent evangelical institutions and individuals who have sought to do so are criticised.

Sookhdheo claims to engage Islam as an advocate for the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. However the book often reads more as an attempt to co-opt the vulnerability of the persecuted church for an agenda that appears heavily influenced by right wing North American fundamentalist Christianity. There is a need to bring the experience of the persecuted church to the table of dialogue and through recent evangelical involvement in Christian-Muslim dialogue initiatives in the UK this has begun to happen with some success.

There is a powerful and noble evangelical missionary tradition of serious and loving Christian engagement and sharing with Islam and Muslims, that includes the likes of Constance Padwick and Kenneth Cragg. Little of this tradition is behind The Challenge of Islam, which appears to draw more upon Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ thesis for its inspiration than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone interested in how evangelical Christians might help contribute to responding positively and creatively to the challenge of Islam to the church in the 21st century would do better to pick up Roland E Miller’s Muslims and the Gospel or Richard Sudworth’s Distinctly Welcoming.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Great news today - the West Midlands Police Authority reported last night that the police will be removing the surveilance cameras targetted at the Muslim communities of Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. I blogged on this issue here and here this summer and have been involved in supporting the campaign to have the cameras removed. Local Councillor Salma Yaqoob has a fuller report of the meeting and analysis of the decision and what it means here.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


I went to see the recently released film Journey to Mecca at the IMAX cinema in Birmingham the other week with Annie. We really enjoyed it as a beautiful cinematic experience and as an opportunity to get close to the amazing spiritual experience of the Hajj, with some great insights for the non-Muslim into the spirituality of the pilgrimage to Mecca and I would encourage Christians to take the opportunity to go and see it to get a better understanding of the last of the five pillars of Islam. However I am also aware that not all my Muslim friends are enthusiastic about the film or its particular spin on the life of Ibn Battuta. For a very different approach to Ibn Battuta's journeys and an exploration of the diversity of Islam both in Battuta's time and our own try watching the BBC Four 3 hour documentary by Tim Mackintosh - Smith on Battuta's travels that is available for download here. Whatever the truth about Battuta's life is (and it does appear that the JTM film takes some liberties on that account) do take time to be cinematically immersed in the experience of the Hajj and take yourself down to the IMAX - it's worth the £8.

Monday, 4 October 2010


The corollary of the Big Society is the smaller state. If you talk about the small state, people think that you are Attila the Hun. If you talk about the big society they think that you are Mother Theresa
David Davies MP

It was good to see a large demonstration against the proposed cuts in public expenditure in Birmingham City Centre yesterday, my preaching engagement however, didn't allow me to attend with the mid day start. I have recently seen examples on the ground where community projects are facing serious pressures due to the cuts already taking place, never mind those coming in the October spending review. An excellent Asian women's project that I visited the other week that works with women with learning disabilities and is housed in a Methodist Church is already feeling the pinch, as is a Community Cafe in another Methodist Church in the same area.

Meanwhile a clearly orchaestrated campaign to get parts of the church on board with the 'Big Society' initiative as a neat veil to the dismantling of public services is taking place. Baroness Warsi addressed the House of Bishops in the Church of England recently and articles have appeared from Tory Ministers on the Big Society in the Roman Catholic weekly The Tablet. Moreover, the Church of England and the Church Urban Fund have sought to engage with the ConDems 'Big Society' initiative through the proposed Being Neighbourly project, with a multi-faith element included. This I believe is seriously misguided for a number of reasons, not least in the way it seems to be proposing that the Church of England act as the conduit for monies that are supposed to have an interfaith remit. The bizarre and embrarrasingly possible scenario of a Muslim-Sikh initiative -for instance - requiring church sponsorship before it can be considered for funding is almost colonial in its arrogance. The CofE seems to be excited by being 'taken seriously' by Government, failing to recognise how they are just being used as the sweetner for the proposed attempts to dimantle the welfare state and public services and how reverting to such a privilaged position is in detriment to the church's mission and the gospel.

Thankfully other parts of the Church in England have been concerned to highlight the damage cuts will do to society and to the most vulnerable especially. Church Action on Poverty and the Quaker's Joeseph Rowntree Foundation have highlighted their concern for those most vulnerable and presented some alternatives. However no one from the Churches appears to have questioned the whole ratianale for cuts. An excellent Q & A on why cuts are unnecessary can be found at Red Pepper magazine and the Trade Union Congress has produced an informative booklet.

A Trade Union Sponsored campaign Coalition of Resistance is a good place to start for those Christians and people of other faith concerned to resist the human sacrifices being proposed to the false god of the market and want to join with others in resisting the cuts and organising for a just society more akin to the Biblical principles of Jubilee - where no one has too much and no one has too little - and the radical vision of redistribution of wealth lived out by the early church. Theologian and Activist Ched Myer's work on Sabbath Economics from the US is another excellent resource for exploring what might be a Christian response to economic injustice that takes grassroots community organising seriously unlike the pseudo localism of the Big Society.