The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was a decrier of Islam. He described its followers as “wolves and tigers to all other nations”. Yet 250 years later, his 21st-century followers are pitting their time, energy and money into fighting Islamophobia.
A new project set up by the Methodist district of Sheffield in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Sheffield aims to “challenge Islamophobia, racism and divisive politics” in the region. It has won a £75,000 grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to fight extremism, after recent electoral successes by the BNP and rallies by the English Defence League.
However, the initiative has caused unease in some conservative Christian circles, with some demanding that the two leading Christian denominations should instead be challenging what they describe as the “Christianophobia” of modern-day Britain.
One conservative blog, Cranmer’s Curate, asked: “Is not ‘Christianophobia’ as great – if not a greater – problem now in British society than ‘Islamophobia’, and of more immediate concern to Christian organisations such as the Sheffield Methodist District and the Diocese of Sheffield? What about the situation faced by Christians in the public sector suspended or fired from their employment simply for offering to pray with clients or for saying ‘God bless’?” It goes on to attack the churches for “preaching politically correct morality to the community rather than the gospel”.