[Left: the Rev being militant and street. Right: the Rev being spiritual, fluffy and deeply interfaithed.]
EDL Extra comments on the Reform Magazine book review, 'Exhilarating account of interfaith engagement', by Sally Thomas, Jan 24th, 2011. A review of the Rev Ray Gaston's book, A Heart Broken Open: Radical Faith in an Age of Fear. (Comments are in red.)
Mother Teresa’s prayer: “O God, break open my heart so that the whole world may fall in,” became profoundly relevant for Ray Gaston as his stance against the invasion of Iraq and his deepening engagement with Muslim friends and colleagues intertwined. [Ray Gaston does not love ‘the whole world’! Far from it! The list of his ‘enemies’ (a favourite word of his IslamoTrot mate, and leader of No Respect, Salma Yaqoob). For example, Gaston almost definitely despises the EDL, the BNP, the Conservative Party, all right wingers, fox hunters , patriots, the white working class (unless they’re left wing), neocons, neoliberals, Zionists, Israelis… the list will be as long as the hate list of any right winger or member of the EDL. So he should stop painting yourself in pious colours and also stop using quotes from Mother Teresa.
It is clear that Gaston simply had to 'engage’ with Muslims when he worked in Leeds. He had no choice – he was surrounded by them. However, it is also clear that this entirely accidental placing with Muslims has led to his deep love of that hateful and violent religion - Islam. Or perhaps he’s just found an InterFaith niche to fill.]
Ministering in a part of Leeds with a large Muslim population, he felt its vulnerability in the face of rising public mistrust of Islam following 9/11 and the run up to the Iraq war, and so organised regular peace vigils and non-violent protests with Ghandi’s mantra in mind: “be the change you want to see in the world”. [Not one of Gaston's Muslim mates, even if they did attend his ‘peace vigils’, would have been a true pacifist. Very far from it. They were against a single war. Or, more correctly, they were against any war in which infidels had ‘invaded’ an Islamic country or in which they fought against Muslims. Muslims are not known to be against the wars in the Sudan, in Somalia, in Thailand, in the Philippines, or in any other place in which Muslims are killing non-Muslims. Indeed many Muslims are not that bothered when Muslims kill Muslims, as they do in the hundreds almost every month; especially if the Muslims being killed belong to a different sect of Islam. As for Ahmadiyya Muslims. Very many Muslims (millions of them!) would love to see that Islamic sect utterly annihilated.
So at all those demos and vigils in which Muslims played at being pacifists, or just plain anti-war activists, they were only displaying Islamic taqiyya made flesh. Gaston seems to have fallen, big time, for the lies of his lovely and peaceful Muslim friends.] Invitations to “break the fast“ with Muslim friends during Ramadan felt like tokenism if he did not actually share the fast – which he began to do, dedicating time each day to prayer and to studying both the Qu’ran and the Bible and discovering new spiritual strength as he did so. [Did he also read the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. 'every day'? Or are his InterFaith inclinations entirely dependent on which religious group badgers him the most at InterFaith meetings or on which one politically inspires him (e.g., Muslims)?] With reckless courage he journeyed to Iraq with a Muslim friend and was humbled and overwhelmed by the experience. [Bring back (another) Saddam Hussein, eh? As long as we get the kuffar out of Iraq.] One of the great strengths of this book is the stories of the people he encountered there − people who suffered appalling horrors yet whose faith sustained them. Ray tells their stories with a rawness that draws us in and opens our hearts too. These are living stones shouting aloud. [What?]
His conclusions are insightful and challenging. Ray believes God’s historic plans for Ishmael should not be ignored and that the Abrahamic faiths need to act as prophetic correctives upon each other. [Muslims quite simply believe that the followers of the other Abrahamic faiths should become Muslims – they should ‘revert’. If they don’t, they deserve to be despised or even killed. That’s what a ‘shared Abrahamic background’ means to most Muslims.] He asks: “How might we present to Muslim friends and dialogue partners the challenge of Jesus’ way of the cross in a way that is not an imperialist attempt to convert others to Christianity but a gift to enable Islam [submission to God]?” [‘Imperialist’? Has that anything to do with the 1,300-year-long history of Islamic imperialism? Or is Islamic imperialism a good thing to Ghastly? You can tell that the Rev Ray Gaston is a Trot of kinds when he uses Marxist words like ‘imperialism’. Not that forms of expansionism have never existed. But why does he allow the huge Islamic imperialist empire to get off the hook? Indeed Islamist imperialism, along with Islamic da’wah (proselytising), is still going strong – mainly at InterFaith meetings!] This is the story of a man’s engagement, though, as Annie Heppenstall says in her chapter on sisterly solidarity, it urges us all “to go deeper into Christianity through daring to go deeper into Islam”. [What the f*** does that mean? Does it actually mean anything or is it an InterFaith soundbite?]
For anyone new to interfaith engagement this book is a stimulating read, and for those for whom this is a well-trodden path there is inspiration from this picture of grass roots, exhilarating, radical Christianity. [‘Grass roots’, ‘radical’, ‘imperialism’ and ‘protests’? Is this about religion or about radical Trotskyism? Is InterFaith itself profoundly Leftist? We know that many aspects of Methodism and even Anglicanism are (at least at the top). And we most certainly know that the Rev Ray Gaston is a fervent Leftist and and even a No Respect activist. Once he even attempted to become a No Respect councillor!
So is InterFaith, or the InterFaith faith, a double kind of entryism? An entryism into Anglicanism and/or Methodism, as well as into other more blatantly political movements?]
*) Sally Thomas is a minister with the Inner Manchester Mission Network