Bishop backs Muslim prayer call

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

The Bishop of Oxford has rejected another senior clergyman's fears that broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer in East Oxford could create a "no-go area" for non-Muslims.

The Rt Rev John Pritchard backed plans for the call to prayer in Oxford - splitting away from controversial comments made by the Anglican Church's only Asian Bishop, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, of Rochester.

Bishop Michael said attempts were being made to impose an "Islamic character" on communities, creating no-go areas where people of different faiths would find it hard to live and work.

But Bishop John said: "I want to distance myself from what the Bishop of Rochester has said.

"There are no no-go areas in this country that we are aware of and in all parts of the country there are good interfaith relationships developing."

Leaders at Oxford's Central Mosque, in Manzil Way, are considering asking for planning permission to issue the call to prayer from the mosque - and Bishop John said he was "very happy" with the move.

He said: "I believe we have good relationships with the Muslim community here in Oxford and I am personally very happy for the mosque to call the faithful to prayer in East Oxford.

"Faith is a very important factor in the lives of 80 per cent of the world's population and a public expression of that faith is both natural and reasonable."

Bishop John said practical issues over the number of times the call went out, the volume and whether a trial period would be required would need to be ironed out but said in principle it was "entirely reasonable".

He said: "I would say to anyone who has concerns about the call to prayer to relax and enjoy our community diversity and be as respectful to others as you would hope they would be respectful to you."

He added: "I sympathise with those who find any kind of expression of public faith intrusive, but I think part of being part of a tolerant society is saying, 'I don't agree with this but I accept it as part of my responsibility as being part of a diverse community'."

Bishop Michael told the Sunday Telegraph that non-Muslims faced a hostile relationship in places dominated by the ideology of Islamic radicals.

He used the amplification of the call to prayer as an example of how an Islamic character was being imposed on certain areas and said this resulted in alienating young non-Muslims.

An application for planning permission for the call to prayer at Oxford's Central Mosque has not yet been submitted.

Sardar Rana, a spokesman for the mosque, said he was "100 per cent sure" people would like the call to prayer when they heard it.

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