Removal of the Qur’an from sale in SPCK bookshops: possible repercussions in the Middle East

by
07 December 2006

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From the Revd Dr Julian Cummins
Sir, — I resigned as a Governor of SPCK because I opposed the decision to transfer the 23 bookshops to the St Stephen Charitable Trust (SSG) (News, 1 December). I feared the worst, but felt that SPCK should be given the chance to prove me wrong.

The decision to ban the Qur’an from SPCK bookshops undermines the nature and purpose of SPCK. As a Christian priest, I bought and read the Qur’an with respect. I believe it is essential that we build our understanding of other faiths, and that we show the greatest respect for their sacred writings. If we are economically dominant — as we are in the UK — we should use our facilities to expand understanding of other faiths.

SPCK has run bookshops across the world for well over 100 years. They have been open to theological and religious exploration. They have been a joy to visit. That is why I became a Governor of SPCK five years ago. Those principles have now been undermined at their fundamental roots.

I believe the transfer to SSG was a gross error. I opposed it as strongly as I could. The deed has now been done, and the next step must now be determined. It is time for the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, Chairman of SPCK, to come up with a credible plan for the future, and to ensure a reversal of the SSG decision.
JULIAN CUMMINS
50 Lane End
Pudsey LS28 9AD

From the Revd Michael Leverton
Sir, — Log on to SPCK’s website at the moment, and alongside the Society’s logo, prominently displayed, are the words “Improving understanding between Christians and Muslims”, in reference to the Feed the Minds project Peacemakers.

How, I wonder, can this objective be credibly pursued if SSG, the new paymasters of the Society’s bookshops, have decreed that the Qur’an will no longer be stocked?

In my time as an SPCK bookshop manager (Canterbury 1979-92), I relished the trust the Society placed in all its managers and staff to make sensible decisions about what and what not to stock. I and most others of my colleagues took the view that Christian knowledge was not best served by ignorance of other faiths, and hence included their sacred texts in our stock. Our necessarily limited holdings of such material could in no way be seen as privileging Islam or any other faith over Christianity, as the SSG’s spokesman seems to fear.

I hope we are not witnessing the end of SPCK’s tradition of open, inclusive, broad-spirited bookselling. But I fear the worst.
MICHAEL LEVERTON
All Saints’ Vicarage
100 Derby Way
Stevenage SG1 5TJ

From Canon George Moffat
Sir, — The simplistic connections that SSG’s website makes concerning Bradford’s massive social and religious changes cannot go unchallenged.

Cities are not locked in aspic. This one, from being the queen bee in the wool world, woke up to find the world changed and changing. Employment, the middle classes, and money fled to other places on the planet. This city, along with others, suffered from what Stuart Reid refers to in The Tablet of 2 December as the consequences of “mis-government, colonial guilt, and globalist greed”.

Islam is not the cause of that.

In Bradford, the Church and Christians are responding imaginatively to a speed of change only equalled in the mid-19th century with determination, prayer, and a deep sense of divine mission. The classic Anglican emphasis on the incarnation is mirrored throughout in grace-filled lives faithfully and sacrificially realised.

The level of the theology on that website is a disgrace to the great tradition of Orthodoxy, but worthy of the old B-movies popular with some.
GEORGE MOFFAT
1 Selborne Grove
Bradford BD9 4NL

From the Rt Revd John Brown
Sir, — I am dismayed by the decision of the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and SPCK not to stock the Qur’an in future.

This will not go unnoticed in Muslim communities elsewhere in the world, and especially in the Middle East. I pray that there will be no repercussions affecting the sales of the Bible. For many years, Bibles have been for sale in the Christian bookshop in Bahrain, and at Bahrain international airport; also (unless things have changed since my time) carols will be being broadcast there over the loudspeaker system.

There are bookshops in Kuwait, the Emirates, and Oman where the Bible is readily obtainable; and we shall no longer be able to object to the confiscation of Bibles at the entry points into Saudi Arabia.

Of course, SPCK has never promoted any religion other than Christianity, but it has helpfully ensured that information has been available. At the same time, I am pleased to read that SSG Charitable Trust will not refer to non-Orthodox Christians as “misguided”.

I once had to ask Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus to order the removal from sale of a book including the Anglican Church as among a number of “heretical” Churches such as the Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists. He obliged, but it is still a fact that, in regions such as Cyprus, seminarians and lay people are taught that Anglicanism is a serious heresy and even non-Christian.

I do regret this merger of SPCK and SSG, and hope that there will be some serious dialogue with the Orthodox trust and its Texan director.
JOHN BROWN
Formerly Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf
130 Oxford Street
Cleethorpes
Lincolnshire DN35 0BP

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