:: Peoples Time Online ::
An invitation to a distinguished Muslim scholar to preach at a eucharist service in an Oxford church on Sunday has triggered complaints from traditionalists.
Monawar Hussain, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for services to interfaith relations and the community, will deliver a sermon at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, following a request from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson.
The move has been denounced by Archbishop Cranmer, a conservative Anglican blog authored by Adrian Hilton. He said he failed to understand how an imam delivering a sermon at a eucharist service would respect “a sacred act of divine worship which is supposed to be conducted according to the rites and formularies of the Church of England”.
The diocese of Oxford has received 12 complaints about the sermon as a result of Cranmer’s blogpost, only three of which come from the local area.
In a statement endorsed by the university, the diocese said Hussain was “most welcome” to speak following the eucharist. It added: “Monawar is not the first person from another faith community to be invited to preach the university sermon. His presence on Sunday reflects the strong commitment of the church, university and other faith communities to interfaith engagement.”
Hilton acknowledged Hussain’s “manifestly sterling work in the promotion of religious and racial harmony, and good relations between persons of different faiths and racial groups”.
But as Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of God, nor in the resurrection, Hussain “will deny by his presence in the pulpit the very body and blood of Christ commemorated by the eucharist”, Hilton wrote.
He suggested the C of E was now “open to people of all faiths and none, and that we can look forward to a series of heretics, blasphemers, idolaters and unbelievers” preaching from Anglican pulpits.
Hilton told the Guardian that the diocese of Oxford’s statement that Hussain’s would “follow” the eucharist service was “not as billed”, which suggested a change of plan since his blog was published. “If he is speaking as an addition to the service, I have no problem with that, but the publicity says he is giving the sermon.”
Hussain, who is Muslim tutor at Eton College and the founder of the Oxford Foundation, which promotes religious and racial harmony, said: “There are many different voices in all our traditions. Some Muslims might not be happy at my presence at the church.
“So I’m not surprised [at the objections], but there are so many more Christian friends who are pleased I’ll be there. We need to be building trust and working together.”
Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham, said objections to Hussain’s sermon were “ridiculous”.
The Oxford Foundation had done “pioneering work to help with community integration, both locally and nationally. [Hussain] is absolutely one of the good guys. His work has been fundamental in deepening our understanding of Islam and combating the threat of terrorism in this country. He is promoting a charitable and wise interpretation of Islam against a fundamentalism ideology,” said Wilson.
“As long as it is plain who he is and what his faith affiliation is, I don’t think it’s reasonable to object to one of the leading faith figures in the area being invited to give an address in a Christian church.”
Interfaith engagement was “a measure of the kind of society we need to be: respecting one another’s differences, honouring one another as the people we are, and also communicating with each other”.
In January 2017, a row erupted over the inclusion in an Anglican service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow of passages from the Qur’an read in Arabic by Madinah Javed, a 19-year-old Muslim student.
Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, called for those responsible for the invitation to be disciplined.