According to the head of the British government's Equality and Human Rights Commission, Muslims are integrating into British society better than many Christians. Commission chairman Trevor Phillips (pictured) accused Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more militant than Muslims and more likely to complain about discrimination, arguing that many of the claims are motivated by a desire for greater political influence. Mr Phillips, who is a Salvationist from a strong Christian background, says that fundamentalist Christians are holding increasing sway over the mainstream churches because of the influence of African and Caribbean immigrants with "intolerant" views. In contrast, Muslims are less vociferous because they are trying to integrate into British "liberal democracy", he said. "I think there's an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society," Phillips said. "Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy. "The most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian." However the chairman of the expressed concern that people of all faiths are "under siege" from atheists whom he accused of attempting to "drive religion underground". In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph ahead of a landmark report on religious discrimination in Britain, he said the Commission wants to protect Christians and Muslims from discrimination, admitting his body had not been seen to stand up for the people discriminated against because of their faith in the past. Mr Phillips warned it had become "fashionable" to attack and mock religion. Mr Philips cited the example of atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins. Mr Phillips also said faith groups should be free from interference in their own affairs, meaning churches should be allowed to block women and homosexuals from being priests and bishops. At the same time, he told churches and religious institutions they had to comply with equality legislation when they delivered services to the public as a whole, and he attacked hardline Christian groups which he said were picking fights - particularly on the issue of homosexuality - for their own political ends. He said that all religious groups should obey anti-discrimination laws because they are charities providing a public service. Senior clergy, including Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, have attacked equality laws for eroding Christianity and stifling free speech, but Phillips said many of the legal cases brought by Christians on issues surrounding homosexuality were motivated by an attempt to gain political influence. Phillips said that the Commission is committed to protecting people of faith against discrimination and also defended the right of religious institutions to be free from Government interference. The Church of England is under pressure to allow openly gay clergy to be made bishops, while the Catholic Church only permits men to be priests, but the head of the Government-funded equalities watchdog said they are entitled to rule on their own affairs. "The law doesn't dictate their organisation internally, in the way they appoint their ministers and bishops for example," he said. "It's perfectly fair that you can't be a Roman Catholic priest unless you're a man. It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque. "I'm not keen on the idea of a church run by the state. "I don't think the law should run to telling churches how they should conduct their own affairs."
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