A village vicar will be delivering a distinctly non-Christian message in his church next week – on Islam, the Koran and Sharia law.
The Rev Dr Stephen Laird has organised a four-week course at Blean Church to address anxieties about the country’s fast-growing religion.
He is honorary lecturer in religious studies at the University of Kent, where he is also Anglican chaplain, and says he has long been interested in Islam.
The Rev Dr Stephen Laird outside Canterbury Mosque
He said: “I increasingly realised that people in church were asking about other faiths but particularly Islam, for obvious reasons in that it often makes the headlines.
“Our society clearly has anxieties about Islam but it is important to think about the anxieties which exist within the Muslim community itself too and see society from its perspective.
“There are actually similarities in the Anglican and Islamic faiths with both suggesting that people should live lives that fit God’s plan for humanity and both have a strong sense of what’s right and wrong.
“Both Christians and Muslims share concerns about the excesses of British society, including the misuse of drugs and alcohol, for example.
“The fact is that there are millions of honest Muslim people living their lives and making a contribution to society which you don’t hear about.
“At Blean church we will usually do an autumn course and normally it is something to do with the Bible or church history.
“The fact is that there are millions of honest Muslim people living their lives and making a contribution to society which you don’t hear about" - The Rev Dr Stephen Laird
“But this time together we decided it would be quite a good idea to have a more detailed look at Islam. The Blean congregation is broadminded and curious and many of them want to learn about other faiths.
“We have a mosque not far from the church and I and its leader Raschid Sohawon have together on several occasions spoken to groups.
"And just a stone’s throw from the church is a university with a very international community and hundreds of practising Muslims.”
Dr Laird hopes there will be up to 30 people attending the course, which is in four 90-minute sessions on Tuesday evenings starting next week, culminating in a final more open debate about Islam today in British society.
The course is also open to non-members of the congregation and anyone interested in attending should call the church office on 01227 763373.