ST DEINIOL’s Library, Hawarden, founded in memory of the Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone, wants to raise £1.25 million during his bicentenary year (News, 23 January),.
Nearly half that sum — £500,000 — has been earmarked for an Islamic reading room and multifaith quiet room. The Library also wants to expand its recently established religious-education resource centre.
The plan was announced at the launch of a bicentenary programme in London last weekend. The move to create a dedicated space for Islamic study, and increase the stock of Islamic material, was faithful to Gladstone’s spirit, the Warden of St Deiniol’s, the Revd Peter Francis, said. Though an ardent Christian, Gladstone read widely in the texts of other faiths. “If he was alive today, Gladstone would have recognised the importance of encouraging a wider knowledge and understanding of Islam.”
The project is already proving contentious, Mr Francis said this week. After an interview on the BBC Today programme, he had received a number of “intemperate emails”. Although the library expects to employ an assistant librarian with expertise in Islamic material, who could possibly be a Muslim, the aim was primarily to inform non-Muslims about Islam, he said.
Chester University runs a foundation degree in Muslim youth work. Its Centre for Victorian Studies is jointly hosting with St Deiniol’s an international conference on Gladstone in July.