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Prophet Muhammad referenced in Rochdale Council’s traditionally Christian civic prayers

By Jeremy Culley

Ground-breaking steps are being taken by Rochdale Council in including the Prophet Muhammad in their civic prayers.

The prayers – a traditional Christian address delivered before each council meeting – were nearly abandoned five years ago, but have now been extended to include reference to Islam.

But a motion to continue with civic prayers, put forward by their fellow Lib Dem councillor Rosemary Jones, was passed in April 2008.

Councillor Sultan Ali, Cabinet Member for Strengthening Communities, said: “This is something which symbolises the mutual respect and support between faiths which exists in Rochdale.

“I hope people take it in the spirit it was intended.”

The move is markedly different from the intention of former mayor Robin Parker to ban civic prayers at Rochdale Council meetings.

At one stage Liberal Democrat councillors Alan Taylor and Irene Davidson, then leader and deputy leader of the council, refused to enter the council chamber until after the prayers had been read.

And Rochdale is not the only council to have changed its approach to civic prayers this year.

Edinburgh City Council announced in June this year that it would stop holding civic prayers at council meetings and would instead introduce ten-minute ‘Pause for Reflection’ sessions.

While in Brighton and Hove, Mayor Bill Randall has labelled 2012 ‘multi-faith year’, with leaders of different religions – including Rabbis, Buddhists, Muslim imams and Christian priests – set to take prayer sessions at council meetings alternately.

At last week’s full council meeting, Cllr Ali placed on record his thanks to the chaplain to the current mayor for making reference to the Prophet Muhammad in the opening prayers.

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