Imam Monawar Hussain, founder of The Oxford Foundation and the Oxford Council of Faiths, brought community leaders from across Oxford together to hold a service bringing together people from different faith traditions to show how Oxford’s communities are united against extremism.
The service demonstrated how well people of all faiths in Oxfordshire can live in harmony and denounce extremism and hatred. Reading and reflections were led by: The Rt Revd Bishop Colin Fletcher OBE, Acting Bishop of Oxford; Jon Rowland, President, Oxford Jewish Congregation; Jawaid Malik, Muslim Community; Davinder Singh, Sikh Community; Dr Gyan Gopal, Hindu Community; Dr. Stephen Vickers, Baha’i Community; Stayadasa David Waterston, Buddhist Community; Professor Graham Upton DL, A person of no faith; John White, Chair, Oxford Humanists; Penny Faust, Chair, Oxford Council of Faiths; and Imam Monawar Hussain himself.
During the event, an open letter to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was shared, which challenges, in detail, IS’s assertions with an interpretation of the Quran that reflects the opinions of the overwhelming majority of Sunni scholars over the course of Islamic history. Through the tireless work of The Oxford Foundation, led by Imam Hussain, the letter has 126 signatories – all Muslim preachers or community leaders from every corner of the world.
Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson said: “This event is timely, necessary and wholly appropriate to the perilous times the world faces. The threat to us all posed by aggressive and intolerant extremist views, which ignore other perspectives and do not even consider the sanctity of life, must be met by solidarity from those of all faiths and none. This event has the potential to provide a really powerful message of firm support for the values of peace, acceptance of diversity and respect for all, whatever their background. Thank you to those who have made it happen.”
Letters of support for the event were received from all Oxfordshire MPs, including David Cameron, Prime Minister and Witney MP. Letters were also received from: Tony Stratton, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire; leaders from both Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council; Cllr Mohammed Niaz Abbasi, Lord Mayor of the City of Oxford; and numerous leaders of political, religious and community groups from around Oxford.
Imam Monawar Hussain set up Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Legacy Fund for East Oxford, a named fund managed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation. The fund supports vulnerable and disadvantaged people in East Oxford. One of the fund’s key aims is to support charities that demonstrate partnership working across faiths and cultures.