First Church opens in Qatar
When it comes to building churches in Arabia, there are so many conditions for planning that one wonders why anyone would bother to navigate their way through the tedious bureaucracy. According to Umdat al-Salik (a manual of Islamic law certified by Al-Azhar as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy), a church building may not be higher than or as high as any mosque, so no steeples are permitted. They are forbidden to bear images or symbols, so no crosses or the sounding of bells. It is gracious that they permit a door in order that worshippers may enter.
When 5,000 faithful flock to Our Lady of the Rosary to celebrate its historic consecration, they pray no one will notice. Fr Tom Veneracion, the priest, is right to be worried about a backlash. He says: ‘The idea is to be discreet because we don't want to inflame any sensitivities.’ Many Muslims have branded it an ‘offence’, and a politician has called for a national referendum to determine its fate. Doha's Al-Arab newspaper has said: ‘The cross should not be raised in the sky of Qatar, nor should bells toll in Doha.’
Contrast this with developments in Oxford.
Cranmer has previously reported on the rise of the minarets amidst the dreaming spires, and on the demands to sound the call to prayer. But now local Muslims want to build a minaret which is to be taller than any church spire.
As Nadine Dorries MP notes:
’There must be half a dozen or so journalists who could be described as 'leading' in their field. Last night I had supper with one who is a household name and TV personality and would be the first name on many peoples lips when asked to name an writer whose views they respected on the issue of Islamist fundamentalism.
‘I had no idea that England was far more important to the Islamists than America - following on from 9/11, I thought it would be the other way round.
‘I suppose it stands to reason that here is the home, the mother country of the English language, of world finance, of law and innovation, and some of the most famous universities in the world.
‘Symbolism is everything to the Islamist in the midst of a Jihad, the holy war we are silently engaged in.
‘Apparently, the minaret of a mosque, which will be built in Oxford, will stand taller than the dreamy spires.
‘Standing taller is all that matters, it’s the most important thing. Symbolic.
‘To the Islamist, America is a Johnny come lately, it's England that matters.
‘Whereas anyone walking by may not even notice the towering height, casting a shadow over a dreamy spire, to the Islamist it represents a triumphant call to arms.
‘And the passer-by will think it’s just another innocent call to prayer.’
Quite so, Mrs Dorries, quite so