By Daniel Martin
Christians are more militant than Muslims in complaining about discrimination, the head of Britainâ€™s equality watchdog has claimed.
Trevor Phillips said Muslims are better at integrating into society, while Christians often complain about bias for cynical political gains.
Mr Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, blamed the increasing influence on mainstream churches of African and Caribbean immigrants with â€˜intolerantâ€™ views.
In contrast, he said Muslims â€˜are doing their damnedestâ€™ to develop â€˜an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracyâ€™.
He added: â€˜I think thereâ€™s an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face â€“ 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.
â€˜Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and theyâ€™re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.
â€˜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.â€™
Senior churchmen, such as former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, have attacked equality laws for stifling Christianity.
However, Mr Phillips said many of the legal cases brought by Christians over homosexuality were motivated by an attempt to gain political influence. He told the Sunday Telegraph: â€˜I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think the argument isnâ€™t about the rights of Christians. Itâ€™s about politics.
Religious differences: Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has in the past attacked equality laws for stifling Christianity
â€˜There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I donâ€™t really think exists in this country.â€™
But Mr Phillips, who was brought up in a Salvation Army background, said he could â€˜understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siegeâ€™. â€˜Thereâ€™s no question that there is more anti-religion noise in Britain,â€™ he said.
He also said equality laws should not apply to the internal organisation of religious groups.
â€˜Itâ€™s perfectly fair that you canâ€™t be a Roman Catholic priest unless youâ€™re a man,â€™ he continued. â€˜It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque.â€™
Tory MP Philip Davies suggested Mr Phillips was attempting to â€˜take the spotlight off his domestic difficultiesâ€™ at the beleaguered body. Home Secretary Theresa May has vowed to reform the organisation after a report branded it a costly failure.