Queen to visit British mosque for first time
THE QUEEN will go to a British mosque for the first time this summer as part of an effort to celebrate religious and cultural diversity during her Golden Jubilee.
The visit to the Islamic Centre in Scunthorpe will be one of a number of goodwill gestures that the Queen and other members of the Royal Family make to non-Christian groups, from Hindus and Jains to Zoroastrians and Buddhists.
Some Christians warned, however, that the Queen risked diluting her role as supreme governor of the Church of England and defender of the faith. Apart from the trip to the Islamic Centre, the Queen will visit a Hindu temple in London, a Jewish museum and a Sikh gurdwara.
The Duke of York is to attend a Baha'i reception and the Earl and Countess of Wessex will visit a Jain Temple and a Zoroastrian thanksgiving service. Another senior member of the Royal Family will attend a Buddhist gathering later in the year.
The events, details of which will be announced this week, have been organised with the help of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, which represents Britain's historic faiths, and government ministers.
The Queen and other members of the Royal Family are already attending a number of Christian events during the Jubilee, the highlight of which will be a service at St Paul's cathedral in London on June 4.
The Queen is determined to show that non-Christian as well as Christian groups have a central place in society. Her efforts follow a concerted effort by the Government and church leaders to improve relations between the faiths.
Nevertheless the Rev David Phillips, the general secretary of the Church Society, which represents Anglican evangelicals, warned that the Queen's visits to minority faiths may give out misleading signals. "These groups are only a small percentage of the population and there is a danger that the message given out will be that all faiths are equally valid, which is contrary to what the Queen is sworn to uphold as monarch," he said.
"If all she is doing is finding out about other faiths, that is one thing. But she should be very careful that she does not compromise her coronation oath to safeguard the Christian faith. If it is a matter of being involved in some form of worship service, she should think very hard."
The Prince of Wales, who is launching his own multi-faith campaign this year, has already declared his intention to reign as "defender of faith" when he becomes king. In a move described as complementary to the Queen's programme, the Prince last month held a summit at St James's Palace for Britain's religious leaders to counter a "dangerous" breakdown of tolerance in society.
He will make public their proposed solution on the eve of the Queen's Golden Jubilee address to Parliament this month, flanked by a cardinal, two archbishops and the Chief Rabbi.
The Queen and the Prince will also both be involved in a special event at which young people will discuss the relevance of their religious beliefs. A number of little-known faiths are likely to benefit from higher profiles because of their involvement in the Queen's Jubilee visits.
The Baha'i faith, which was founded in Iran in the 19th century, has only about 6,000 adherents in Britain, according to estimates.
The Jains, who trace their history to Vardhamana Jnatiputra, an Indian mystic whose traditional dates are 599-527BC, has about 25,000 to 30,000 followers.
Zoroastrianism, which was founded by Zarathustra in Persia around 1500BC, has between 5,000 and 10,000 adherents, while Buddhism has between 30,000 and 130,000.
©Copyright 2002, Daily Telegraph