When she ascended the throne, millions of Muslims still lived under British rule. Later, Elizabeth II appealed for tolerance in a multi-religious society.

Elizabeth II and the Muslims
"To be there for our fellow human-beings"

When she ascended the throne, millions of Muslims still lived under British rule. Later, Elizabeth II appealed for tolerance in a multi-religious society. She was the first British queen to visit a mosque

It was a story too good not to be true: in 2018 genealogists from the British nobility's Burke's Peerage claimed to have discovered that Queen Elizabeth II was descended from the Prophet Muhammad. The researchers pointed to the Moorish princess Zaida, a descendant of the founder of the religion, who fled to the court of Castilian King Alfonso VI in the 10th century, became a Christian and bore the ruler a son.

One of his descendants is said to have later married the Duke of Cambridge, an ancestor of the Queen. Historians view this version with scepticism but, in the Islamic world, it caused a flurry of excitement. Some, of course, thought it was a hoax to revive the British Empire.

The Queen's death has also generated a wave of sympathy in Muslim countries. There, too, the major newspapers have paid their respects to the long-serving monarch with her impeccable lifestyle and stoic sense of duty.

 

Only countries like Syria and Iran preferred to take the opportunity to recall the outrages and deceptions of British imperialism, topics Elizabeth II mostly managed to avoid during her 70-year reign. When she ascended the throne in 1952, millions of Muslims still lived under British rule. The Empire may have been on its last legs, but it was still able to flex its claws.

From the last throes of Empire…

In 1953, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown in a coup engineered by British intelligence and the CIA – London intended to retain control over the nationalised oil industry. Three years later, Britain, along with France and Israel, even went to war with Egypt because Cairo laid claim to the Suez Canal on its own territory.

However, the young queen no longer had the political influence of her great-great-grandmother Victoria, under whom the empire reached its zenith. History had merely assigned Elizabeth II its courteous winding-up. By 1971, the last Islamic countries in the Gulf had gained independence.

Instead of sending British soldiers eastward, Muslims now came to Britain, especially from the Indo-Pakistani region. Today, some three and a half million live on the island, one million in London alone, which has a Muslim mayor. And whether or not the Queen was descended from the Prophet, "Muhammad" ranked number one on the list of given boys' names for the fifth year in a row in 2021. There are, however, still issues with fundamentalist groups that are said to control entire neighbourhoods and many mosques.

…to a multi-cultural society

In its message of mourning last Friday, the Muslim Council of Britain gratefully recalled Elizabeth's visit to the Scunthorpe mosque in 2002 – the first visit to a mosque by a British monarch. Islamophobes had previously vandalised the premises, smashing the windows.

The Muslim Council also included the Queen in their own prayers, which is highly unusual in the case of a deceased non-Muslim who was also head of the Anglican Church.

After 9/11, hardly a Christmas address went by without the royal appeal for tolerance in a multi-cultural society. "Discrimination still exists," she lamented in 2004. "The need to be there for our fellow human beings is far more important than any cultural or religious differences."

Nonetheless, as recently as June 2022, the Centre for the Study of Islam in the U.K. noted that the Queen did not rate highly among young Muslim Brits.

Charles, Prince of Wales (centre) meets students during an interfaith reception at Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, on the third day of his tour of the Middle East with the Duchess of Cornwall, 18 November 2021 (photo: picture-alliance)
Islamophile Charles III: back in 1993, Prince Charles declared that Islam was a "part of Europe". Moreover, the successor to the British throne has even learnt Arabic, amazing his hosts on a visit to Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque by reciting verses from the Koran. “Islam today can teach us a way of understanding and living in the world that Christianity itself has sadly lost"

Her son and successor, Charles III, can already score points with his Muslim subjects. He is considered a pronounced Islamophile and has even learned Arabic, amazing his hosts on a visit to Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque by reciting verses from the Koran. As long as 29 years ago, Prince Charles declared at a speech in Oxford that Islam was a "part of Europe". "Moreover, Islam today can teach us a way of understanding and living in the world that Christianity itself has sadly lost."

That the heir to the throne converted to Islam during a trip to Turkey, however, remains nothing more than a rumour.    (KNA)

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