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Church ‘deeply distressed’ by ‘Qur’an offence’, says Bishop

27th Jan 2017

Nadine Osman

The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane has said he is “deeply distressed” at the offence caused by the reading of a passage from the Qur’an in a Glasgow cathedral

Rev David Chillingworth, who is Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, spoke out following an Islamophobic ridden backlash over the reading of verses from the Qur’an at St Mary’s Cathedral on January 6.

Rev Kelvin Holdsworth invited local Muslims to a service on the feast of the Epiphany. Student Madinah Javed read the chapter of Maryam, which describes the story of Jesus (Christ)’s birth to Maryam (Mary).

Holdsworth described the reaction to the recital as “the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered”. It also features the Islamic version of the Nativity, which says Jesus is not the son of God and should not be worshipped. Holdsworth said the Qur’an reading was part of efforts to build relationships between different faiths and were nothing new.

He wrote on his blog: “It has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered.”

“We’ve received Islamophobic and other hate-filled messages so graphic and some of them so obscene that we eventually called the police, whom I have to say, have been excellent at supporting us.”

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, called on the Church to “repudiate this ill-advised invitation and exercise appropriate discipline for those involved.”  Police Scotland confirmed it was investigating the offensive comments directed at the cathedral and said it “did not tolerate any form of hate”.

A spokesman confirmed to The Muslim News they are “investigating reports of offensive comments made towards St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow and inquiries are ongoing. Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate and encourages all communities to work together to ensure no-one feels threatened or marginalised.”

Writing in his blog on January 9 Nazir-Ali called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to “distance the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion from this event” but failed to condemn the Islamophobic attacks.

The cathedral also received offensive messages from online platforms, which are being investigated by police.

Rev Chillingworth said the church is committed to its interfaith work. He also said he regretted abuse targeted at the cathedral, “Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. ..those judgments must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context. They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate.”

“The Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community. In response to what has happened at the cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations. Our intention will be as a church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect,” said Rev Chillingworth.

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