St Deiniol’s seeks £1¼m

29 January 2009

by Margaret Holness, Education Correspondent

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.

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