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Muslim prayer at Gloucester cathedral

Cathedral spokesman reports the recitation of the Shahada was part of a multi-fath cultural exhibit held in the cathedral cloisters, and not part of

Concerns an English cathedral has followed the lead of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow in authorizing readings from the Koran in Christian worship are misplaced, a spokesman for Gloucester Cathedral tells Anglican Ink.

The recitation of the Shahada, the Muslim call to prayer that states in Arabic, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”, was offered at the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity in Gloucester this week was part of a larger interfaith art exhibit and did not take place in the context of worship, the cathedral’s director of communications reports.

“Gloucestershirelive,” a local news website, released a story on 17 Jan 2017 entitled “Muslim call to prayer at cathedral sparks debate, explanations and a deleted Facebook post” reporting the event. It reported the imam of the Masjid-e-Noor Mosque in Gloucester recited the call to prayer at the start of a multi-cultural exhibition at the cathedral.

While the exhibition was well received, the newspaper noted: “[I]t also provoked criticism in some quarters, with some calling it inappropriate and even questioning why a ‘different God’ should be allowed to be worshiped there. Gloucester Cathedral also took the step of deleting a Facebook post on the call to prayer after the comments got heated.”

One commentator on the cathedral’s Facebook page wrote: “My ancestors built this cathedral and to allow a practicing Muslim pray to another God is insanely naive. What did you think it would do? Encourage them to convert? This is why England is on the down slide. Culture and Race have nothing to do with the first commandment as God made all races and he cares about souls only.”

In addition to the Muslim call to prayer, the opening of the multi-cultural event included Buddhist chanting, Rastafarian drumming, Hindu dance, a Klezmer band, Gospel choir and ‘pagan’ rock band. Thirty-seven portraits of individuals representing Gloucester’s disparate faith community from Druids to Zoroastrians, will also be unveiled as part of the exhibit.

Comparisons to the Glasgow cathedral Koran reading were misplaced, the cathedral’s director of communications, Theo Platt said.

“It is important to stress that neither the art exhibition nor the gathering on Saturday afternoon took place in a sacred space but were held in the Cathedral Cloisters and Chapter House. Furthermore, the launch was not in the context of worship. We took the decision to remove the video from Facebook because despite a majority of positive comments, a few people used it as an opportunity to post inappropriate comments which were offensive,” Mr. Platt said.

The Very Rev. Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester, said: “The community event here at Gloucester Cathedral on Saturday was to launch an art exhibition, ‘Faith’. The exhibition portrays a number of individuals’ stories and gives a glimpse of who they are as people of faith.”

“The exhibition promotes religious understanding. Over 1,000 people from different Gloucester communities attended to share and learn about each other’s spiritual practices and traditions.”

“Whilst the Cathedral’s primary purpose is as a place of Christian witness and worship, it is also a place for all people – everyone is welcome, whatever their faith or background. We are proud to be holding the exhibition and would encourage everyone to visit to learn more about people of different faiths,” the dean said.

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