same old show

So Michael Nazir-Ali, the Church of England's bishop of Rochester, has been receiving death threats, and is under police protection, because he recently claimed that there are parts of Britain that are “no-go areas” for non-Muslims. There is one noteworthy aspect to this story, and that’s the bishop’s personal history: he was born into a Christian family in Pakistan — his father having converted from Islam — and originally came to England because of threats to his and his family’s well-being in his native land.

In other respects, this is all too familiar a story, with everyone in the story playing their accustomed parts with what appears to be the enthusiasm of actors who have spent the last fifteen years in a never-ending production of Phantom of the Opera. You could even turn it into a medieval morality play, or a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta:

BISHOP HARMONY (tenor): Everyone in Britain can get along, if they just follow my simple guidelines for reconciliation.

Enter BISHOP PLAINTALK (baritone): Not so fast my friend: there are areas of our cities where Christians dare not tread.

BISHOP HARMONY and MS. BIENPENSANT (soprano): Oh no! You will undo all our good work!

Enter SHEIKH INTIFADA (bass): You have insulted Islam! You must die!

(The Sheikh departs in wrath.)

BISHOP HARMONY and MS. BIENPENSANT: See what you’ve done, Plaintalk!

Enter THE CALIPH OF MODERATION (baritone): Sheikh Intifada does not speak for all Muslims; we are a religion of peace.

Suspended from a wire, MISTER PRIME MINISTER (countertenor) is lowered from the rafters: We in the government regret intemperate speech. We will do all within our powers to restore order.

BISHOP PLAINTALK: What did I say? I am sorry if anyone was offended by my mild words.

Enter SIR DAWKINS HITCHENS-HARRIS (basso profundo): Harrumph! Religion poisons everything!


And so it goes. Man, am I tired of this. Can we get rewrite?