Bishop of Liverpool raises funds for mosque
The Bishop has accepted the invitation of a Muslim friend to become patron of a mosque renovating project. 8 Brougham Terrace is a crumbling house in Liverpool. Apparently, it constitutes the vandalised remains of Britain's first mosque, and plans are afoot to restore it to its glory.
Cranmer is not quite sure what the ‘glory’ should be of a derelict semi-detached house, with filthy whitewashed façade, its rotten front door covered in graffiti. It is probably not much different now from what it was in 1889, when, it is claimed, it was founded as a mosque. But the restoration is to cost £2.4m (yes, that’s right, and this must make it the most expensive semi-detached house in the country - Sarah Beeney could doubtless do it for a tenth of the cost...), and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are apparently contributing to the funds. The project is also soliciting funds from the British government, and it is undoubtedly to this end that the Bishop was co-opted onto the committee.
The mosque’s founder, one Abdullah ‘William’ Quilliam, was what may now be termed a ‘fundamentalist’ Mohammedan. He was a one-man mission. He not only printed his own Islamic newspapers, he confronted the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, with the reality of ‘Christian atrocities’. He wrote: ‘An American explodes a bomb in the crowded streets of Constantinople and slays innocent women and children and, because he calls himself a Christian he is extolled in England as a hero and as a patriot! An Afghan fights for his fatherland in the Khyber Pass, and because he is a Muslim he is denounced as a traitor and a rebel.’
This reasoning, not dissimilar from the tedious Islamist mantra spouted today, apparently makes him a ‘courageous man’, and his example therefore worthy of the patronage of the Bishop of Liverpool. The Right Rev James Jones admits that being asked to take up the cause presented a ‘theological challenge’, but ‘he was compelled by Quilliam's example’. He said, “One of the challenges in today's world is concentrating on the best examples of each other's religions and finding common ground. Quilliam was a man who did a huge amount of good work that all religious leaders should appreciate and the campaign to restore his institute is worth supporting, both nationally and locally.”
Theological challenge? How does the Bishop understand St Paul’s exhortation not to eat meat offered to idols (1Cor 8)? The passage deals with issues of spiritual contamination, believing that eating such meat places Christians in fellowship with (and they were thus defiled by) a false god, a demon, to which the meat had been offered. Christians would even eat meat in the pagan temple, and the new or sensitive Christian, seeing this (and perhaps having recently rejected that false religion), would suffer a weakening of his conscience or his faith. In extreme cases, he or she might even return to the false god and be lost (v11).
However ‘legal’ the Bishop’s support for the mosque may be, and however ‘right’ it may be for his conscience, the more important consideration is the potential adverse effect of his actions on fellow believers. This takes precedence. Paul's conclusion is that he would never even give the appearance of compromise if it would harm a brother in the faith. In this era, with an increasingly militant form of Islam on the ascendancy, the Bishop might have considered this ‘theological challenge’, not least because his actions are those of a dhimmi, and there will be much rejoicing in some Islamist quarters of the subjection of such a senior figure in the Church of England.
So Cranmer would like to suggest to Bishop Jones that he seek reciprocity. He should invite his Muslim friend to join the committee which raises funds for the restoration of Liverpool Cathedral. And then see if this Muslim friend will also solicit funds from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. If such projects are good for community relations, and this is the sincere objective of the Muslims, why should it be Christian leaders who are helping to build mosques, and why should the cathedrals be appointing Muslim community workers? Let us have a few Muslims helping to restore the ecclesial fabric of our nation, and let us see Christians employed by the mosques to facilitate 'community relations'.