Former Archbishop of Canterbury is ruffling British cultural and religious elites by warning against uncontrolled Islamic immigration that threatens Britain’s ”very ethos or DNA.”
“The idea that Britain can continue to welcome with open arms immigrants who immediately establish their own tribunals to apply Sharia, rather than make use of British civil law, is deeply socially divisive,” Lord Carey warned in a January 7 Times of London op-ed. “The last thing any of us want is ghettos. And while we don’t expect groups to assimilate, there must be a willingness on their part to integrate with the rest of British society.” Carey was appointed to his former position by Margaret Thatcher and, in retirement, has sometimes offered a corrective to the left-leaning proclivities of his successor, Archbishop Rowan Williams.
In America, as in Britain, left-leaning religious groups, most recently the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals, are urging more liberalized immigration laws. In Britain, the stakes are higher, with proportionally much higher levels of Muslim immigration, creating pockets of urban culture where Islamic mores prevail. Carey has joined a coalition of British parliamentarians urging sharper controls on immigration. But somewhat unlike the parliamentary group, the former head of the Church of England and the global Anglican Communion is specifically urging that immigrants affirm Britain’s democratic heritage.
Citing the monarchy, Parliament, the judiciary, the Church of England, and a free press, Carey lamented that “some groups of migrants” are “ambivalent about or even hostile to such institutions” because they embody the Britain’s “liberal democratic values.” He specifically exampled a proposed antiwar Islamist march as evidence of the dangers that “extremists pose to British society.”
As in America, where left-leaning religious elites deride any concerns about immigration as xenophobic, Carey has been widely lambasted in Britain. And he stands virtually alone as a senior churchman public urging more careful immigration, with an eye to Islam’s potentially dangerous growth.
In a recent BBC radio broadcast, Carey shared his desire for a “country that values its Christian heritage and democratic standards and all that this country has fought over.” He also asserted that Britain needs a “tougher church” as “Christians are so very often so soft” and “allow other people to walk over us” because “we don’t want to upset other people.” Britain’s retired senior archbishop declared Christians must be “more outspoken.” The Christian and Jewish idea to ‘welcome the stranger” must be affirmed, Carey said. But uncontrolled immigration could allow Britain to be “destabilized” and the creation of “ghettoes.”
“Too often in recent years the call for a rational debate on mass migration has degenerated into name-calling and charges of racism,” Carey bemoaned in his newspaper op-ed. “Even the campaign for Balanced Migration, which I have supported, representing cross-party politicians, has barely been heeded by party leaders who have run scared of the issue.” Britain should “welcome the contribution of both economic migrants and asylum seekers to our lively cosmopolitan culture.” But uncontrolled borders that permit “new communities whose values are sometimes very different, even antithetical, to our own,” will stretch “almost to breaking point the enormous reserves of tolerance and generosity of the British people” and could damage Britain’s “future harmony.”
Carey warned that irresponsible immigration policies policies would facilitate support for the far-right British National Party and “otherwise decent people supporting modern-day fascism.” In somewhat veiled critique of the current British government, Carey noted the Prime Minister has emphasized “shared values” such as “tolerance, fair play, pluralism.” But Carey retorted that those traits are not uniquely British and the nation must also look to “language, institutions and our shared history in valuing what it means to be British and what we could lose if the make-up of our nation changes too rapidly.”
“It is my firm view that our society owes more to our Christian heritage than it realizes and to overlook this inheritance of faith will lead to the watering down of the very values of tolerance, openness, inclusion and democracy that we claim are central to all we stand for,” Carey warned. In his radio interview, he rejected any specific immigration policy against “non-Christian populations,” which would violate Britain’s “generous spirit.” But he did urge immigration policies that favored immigrants who affirm British “values.”
Other religious voices have responded negatively to Carey. Bishop of Lincoln John Saxbee, the Church of England's immigration spokesman in the House of Lords, demanded a "more nuanced" approach from Carey. "Christians across the country work hard to generate a culture of hospitality rather than hostility towards those who come to live, work and worship among us,” Saxbee was quoted as saying in the Independent of Ireland. "I am sure Lord Carey would not want to do or say anything which might make our task more difficult in that respect," he harrumphed.
United Reformed Church clergy and social justice activist Vaughan Jones was quoted by Ekklesia as more explicitly deriding Carey’s stance. "Crude, populist and simplistic comments like those of the former Archbishop add nothing new or helpful to the debate,” he sniffed. “The migrant is not a stranger to the church to be accepted or rejected at our convenience. We are brothers and sisters within a transnational and interdependent global community which transcends the Archbishop's narrow and outdated nationalism.”
Traditional Religious Left voices simplistically distill immigration law as simply a question of “hospitality.” Lord Carey, with more nuance than his ostensibly more sophisticated critics, seems to understand civil law’s supreme obligation to safeguard society.