Five Imams were invited to Southwell Minster for tea and a guided tour of the cathedral in an interfaith meeting.
Dr. Musharraf Hussain Al Azhari OBE, DL, CEO and Chief Imam of the Karimia Institute in Nottingham wrote to the Rt Revd Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood, in December requesting the visit ‘to meet the Bishop and see the Minister, with the purpose of introducing the Imams to the Anglican Church hierarchy, the liturgy and church administration, as part of their interfaith development.’
Director of the Karimia Institute, Asif Ali, arrived at 10.30 with four other Imams – two having recently left Syria because of the unrest – and were welcomed by Bishop Tony, who is an active member of the Interfaith Meetings for faith leaders in the wider Nottingham area - and Jacqui Jones, Canon Precentor.
Bishop Tony said: “We want to continue a good personal relationship with our friends in the Muslim faith; we work together carefully and have a common concern for the marginalised.
“This year Dr Hussain and I will be encouraging faith leaders to continue to respect each other’s integrity and work together to serve the community.
“This visit wouldn’t be happening today if we didn’t have good relationships.”
The mosque-based Institute – one of the largest in the UK, with over 60 employees - has been serving the community for the past 24 years through prayer, a 24 hour radio station, two nurseries, three associated mosques with youth clubs, a magazine and a burial society.
Speaking on behalf of the visitors,Asif Ali, who is an RE teacher with a theology degree, said: “It’s important for us to understand how other religious communities operate. We are having a short tour, looking at the architecture, religious books, the hierarchy and structure of the church.
“The Anglican Church has been established for 600-700 years. Muslims have only been here for 60-70 years, so we can look at how we might grow and the difficult times we may face.
“There are a huge amount of similarities between the two faiths, and we want to follow good practice.”