Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First Church opens in Qatar

The authorities in Doha have permitted no cross, no steeple, no bell, and not even a sign to indicate what the building is. And that is the reality of Islamic suppression of churches. While utterly reasonable Muslims assert the Qur’anic injunction that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’, it is quite a different story where the Wahhabi expression of Islam is dominant, and where the kuffar are obliged to comply with Islamic rules which govern religious expression.

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


Blogger botogol said...

His Grace wants to have his cake and eat it.

Which is the correct approach: that of the Doha, or that of Oxford?

18 March 2008 at 08:57  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Botogol,

What is the point of having cake if one does not eat it?

18 March 2008 at 09:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anybody actually doing anything to stop this nonsense in Oxford?

A comparison between church bells (perhaps on a Sunday morning!) and the Muslim call to prayer (a human voice and statement of belief artificially and greatly amplified) several times a day is ridiculous.

What about noise pollution? What are the local authorities doing?

Are the Church authorities so totally pathetic? (OK, that is a rhetorical question, I know the answer is yes)

This is before we get to the comparisons with how Christians and churches are treated in Muslim countries.

18 March 2008 at 10:03  
Anonymous br. jonathan said...


Someone needs to dive into the psyche of the native English to figure out why they're seemingly indifferent to the cultural rearrangement of their environs.

18 March 2008 at 20:28  
Anonymous Martin said...

15,000 - not 5,000 - attended the inaugural Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Doha. There was no room for all the people and many had to follow the Mass outside in the compound grounds where TV screens were erected. How desperate these people must have been to have their own church at last.

Br Jonathan is right. Why are the English so blase about their cultural heritage and so blind to the difficulties faced by Christians in many Islamic countries? Perhaps they just don't care...

18 March 2008 at 21:20  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
i hope you listened to the R4 program on islam and science and how islamabads university treats its nobel prize winner, with a gaging order for four years !!

whilst some thinking was certainly very interesting including the calculation of the speed at which heaven is moving away from earth and pointing out that there is no bookshop on islamabads campus but 5 mosques.

the oxford situation only highlights the problem of integration , science and learning. It as though the great muslim clerics are not only in a battle to try and bring together the many sects of islam , but also in danger of not being able to look at their religion and ask if it has any problems.

in the uk we have to debate against agnostics and athiests , that debate does not exist in muslim countries.

of course we know where the athiest position leads , what is unclear is where the muslim position will lead or if its request for further legal rights are justified or dont make a cultural mongroul which niether side can identify as from its own .

I am mystifyed as to who the victory will be awarded to when the minaret does rise taller than the oxford spire , the non believers , the muslims or the christian church.

it may welcome in the agnostic/liberal age fully or it may lead to indegestion and a bad attack of wind.

all i can say for now is if that debate is insoluble , then the division should not progress further. the dangers of losing the state religion are as bad as gaining an untested/undebated rival.

i am reminded of the medical problem of "sores" these usually occure where somthing that creates friction rubs against a weak skin , causing inflamation and then wound. we appear to be in the phase of rubbing i can only hope that clear advice is given to stop a full blown sore occuring .

19 March 2008 at 00:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just one bone to pick with your facts, Your Grace. In absolutely ALL Muslim dominated, dominated being the operative word here, any public display of Christianity, any public discussion of its merits, any sign, cross, bell, procession, missionary activity etc is considered fundamentally offensive to Muslims. I seriously doubt there is a Muslim country in the world where Muslims make up a decided majority where to do any of the above is to bring the violence of tender & offeded sensibilities down upon ones head. I don't think it has anything to do with Wahabbism. It has everything to do with the ratio of Christian to Muslim.

PS for those who cry "double standard" over the opposition to towering minarets and call to prayer here in the West. These things have nothing to do with equality and everything to do with triumphalism and dominance. The status quo in the West regarding religious expression has no equivalent in Muslim lands. Muslims here are free to promote their religion in public without restriction. They can clearly mark their places of worship and even pray out in the open. What is happening here is an attempt to upset the equality of the current situation and establish the Muslim model where only Muslims are free to fully express their faith without restriction and all other faiths become dirty offensive secrets swept into dark corners for fear of giving offense or showing ingratitude to the oh so tolerant and generous victor.

We should not rest until such attempts to undermine religious equality and freedom in the West are abandoned completely.

--Anglican Peggy

19 March 2008 at 04:25  
Anonymous mickey said...

Your Grace,

Just saw this headline on the Mail website and thought of you:

"Sleepy Cornish village kept awake by 700-strong party of Muslims broadcasting 5am call to prayer by loudspeaker"

Is there no corner of this sceptred isle .... ?

19 March 2008 at 20:01  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Anglican Peggy
Go to Indonesia if you want to see some interesting and beautiful churches.

23 March 2008 at 10:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wasn't talking about churches. If that is how it came across then I am sorry. I am talking about public expression, ie worship, proclamation, evangelism, open debate, displays of pride in the Christian faith etc. I am well aware that there are some Muslim countries that allow the construction of churches. Yet they are all regulated, to the various standards of that particular country, in order to avoid any design or outward apprearance that seems uppity in the face of Muslim dominance. As far as the expressions that I listed above they are either banned totally or under some kind of restriction even in Indonesia. In no, I repeat, no Muslim dominated country is Christianty or Christians born and converted, free from regulation and restriction.

As for Indonesia in particular, this country is moderate in its treatment of religious minorities not because it is a paragon of Islam but because of its history and the cultures that were in place before Islam. Bhuddism and Hinduism had a footprint there before Islam and when Islam arrived there it has already passed through many advanced cultures and absorbed their benefits.

I think it is illustrative that the place in the world where Islam is both dominant and the least influenced by other cultures is in Saudi Arabia. That is pure & original Islam for you. Not the pragmatic result that eventually came to Indonesia which was the product that eventually came after conquest of many peoples and extensive contact with the remnants of previously successful empires as well as with the ancient wisdom of other great religions.

--Anglican Peggy

24 March 2008 at 03:28  
Blogger shiva said...


I recall a few years ago that there was an attempt to blow up these churches one Xmas eve with the worshippers inside

And by the way I witnessed the burning of 26 churches in Situbondo, East Java


27 March 2008 at 06:58  
Anonymous Yusuf Ilker said...

I agree that there are several restrictions in several Muslim countries towards the religions other than Islam. But it is wrong to generalize this as many other Muslim countries have availed all the freedom to those non Muslims. For example we should not forget that the Greek Orthodox Church, Suryani Church, Armenian Church are centered in Istanbul where is one of the major cities in Turkey a country whith its 75million population that are %98 sunni Muslims. Again Jews are living in peace in Turkey since over 550 years. And Turkey was the head of Islamic states till recently (1925 when Khalifat was outlawed by the Turkish Republic established in 1923). Or take Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Tunis, Bosnia, Azerbaycan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Endonesia etc etc. There are many Muslim states where the Muslims have utmost respect towards others. Besides you can not see such rude and outragious caricatures about the prophets of other religions in Muslim countries where it is quite the oposite and like an epidemic now in Europe to make fun out of the Islamic Prophet and insult the Muslim comunity.
So please do not exagrate the facts and don't generalize the issues, of course if we want to continue to co-exist in harmony in a better word that integrated with all its differences.

16 July 2008 at 17:07  

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