Difficult Questions



Around 70 people, mostly Bradfordians, gathered at Bradford Cathedral on 31 March for ‘Difficult Questions’. We had the idea and it was organised by Cathedral colleagues partnering with Touchstone, Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity and Bradford Council for Mosques. 

Our aim was to encourage more inter faith interaction and find out if not asking each other real questions was getting in the way. Reflecting a strong partnership, we had seven on the panel: Raficq Sehgal and Maulana Sajid (Council for Mosques), Revd Dale Barton, Dr Barbara Glasson, Anjum Anwar (Blackburn Cathedral), Nuzhat Ali and Dr Phil Lewis (University of Bradford).

The first question was a good scene-setter - a Muslim child withdrawn from a nursery session when a Bible story was being read by a local vicar, was this the right thing to do Islamically? Our imam reassured us that it was OK to hear Bible stories. This was just one question about coexistence. Another questioner was concerned about introduction of shari’ah law in Britain, was it a Muslim agenda? Again the imam assured us that Muslims weren’t seeking to enforce shari’ah, it was for internal use in the Muslim community.

But it was not just about the questions, we heard about an inter faith gathering (second Tuesday each month) where people of faith pray for the wellbeing of the city, with the next taking place at the Council for Mosques’ Khidmat Centre.

One of our colleagues asked, perhaps tongue in cheek, whether more inter faith marriages might help. Revd Dale said that he would not recommend it for his parishioners as he encouraged them to live out their own faith. There was much recognition of difficulty and sensitivity here, although my colleague Anjum referred to the Forum’s inter faith marriage guidelines.

 Sadly there isn’t space to explore other questions about: negative stories about each other, how do we speak about each other, how do we get good stories into the media, how Islamic traditions can challenge clan politics and the need for strategic Islamic leadership.

But we are thinking about further conversations and have spawned a similar event which we hope to hold in Leeds Cathedral on 9 September.

Many thanks to those who hosted, organised, sat on the panel and joined us on the day.


Julian Bond

Director, Christian Muslim Forum







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