The Church Cat is a Practical Cat

The Church Cat is a Practical Cat
by Rose York  (Feb. 2006)


This is a brief account of something that happened at my church last year. Our retired Men’s group arranged for an Imam to speak on Islam, at an open meeting which I attended.

The Imam opened with his version of a Brief History of Islam in Britain which was a direct crib from a particular TV programme. So far, so not very impressive. Then he explained how all Muslims emulate Mohammed in all things, even down to the preferred method of trimming the finger nails.

Question time began and an elderly man asked why Muslims hate the Jews so. The Imam denied that they were hated, but held that the behaviour of Israel was responsible for “everything”. The elderly man disputed something the Imam said about Israel in 1948.  He had knowledge of events he had himself lived through.  The Imam was obviously not used to being contradicted and had no respect for this man’s experience.


Then I spoke, asking the Imam whether the animosity towards the Jews was not as a result of the emulation of Mohamed, who hated Jews and killed many personally. He was not pleased and asked me what I had been reading. An on-line Qu’ran, I replied, with Hadith attached.

 “No ,no,” he said,” this is rubbish.”                  
What about the about the massacre of the 600 Jews of the Bani Quarani. I asked?
He went into a heated description of the war at that time, and how the deaths were justified.

I asked about Asma Bint Marwen. He pretended he could not understand what I said. When he explained that she was the poetess who offended Mohammed so that he ordered her murder he said “There was no such person, no such event, and no such hadith. There is a lot of rubbish on the internet and you have been reading lies put about by medieval Christian scholars which were still being repeated. I am an Imam and I tell you that there is no such hadith!!!!”


At which point our vicar stood up with his own well studied translation of the Qu’ran and read out Sura 9. “This book is so full of violence”, he said, “How do you deal with it?”

The Imam said, “What translation have you got there? Ah, that one, (the Penguin Dawood translation) that’s not a good one. The Qu’ran is very difficult to translate…. Blah blah… original Arabic… blah blah, Have to be very careful etc etc.”


I broke in to make the point that the on-line translation of the Qu’ran etc I use is on the website of an Islamic publishing house whose credentials are that they have a bookstall in the Regent’s Park Mosque. His reaction was that these misinterpretations in translation were all a Saudi plot, and were it not for the Holy City he would spit on them. I didn’t get a chance to ask what the Saudis had to gain from this, or what his opinion on the doctrine of taqyyia was when he turned to the next question.


He then told one woman that the reward of 72 virgins in paradise for suicide bombers was also a mistranslation and misinterpretation, and told a clergywoman from another church (who asked what chance in the future for women clergy in Islam and their role generally) that women had different but not unequal roles. I don’t think it was an argument unfamiliar to her, or an argument that carried much weight with her.


Another curate spoke to him. I dare not tell you this mans background as it might identify him, but by training and heritage he is well equipped for this task. Suffice to say, that in the most brotherly and Christian manner, he did not allow the Imam to get away with any more.  He asked whether he could come to the Imam’s Mosque to preach.  The Imam said that a non Muslim would not be allowed to pray or preach in the Mosque but that the curate could come, and standing in the same spot where he, the Imam had stood to lead, could give a talk.  The curate said he would like to do so and that they should talk further. 


We broke for coffee and while I was talking to one minister I looked round to see where the Imam was. He had apparently slipped outside, to his car, to make a phone call, to have a crafty cigarette perhaps, or maybe to get the “better” books we had been promised.

Anyway, he didn’t come back.


Time has passed and the Imam has not replied to any of the curate’s messages, suggesting tea and a longer talk.  One of the Retired Men has a friend who runs a similar group in another town.  The same Imam is to come and talk there.  This was mentioned at a meeting where my friend was taking minutes.  “Are you going to take Rose?” she asked to much laughter.  No, but the curate is going to be his guest. 

I wish I could be a fly on the wall.


Somewhere in England.


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