The concept of this new initiative is to establish a colloquium between Muslims and Christian clergies to discuss topics in applied theology, generate a conversation based on prior study and reflection and to deliberate on common problems facing the people of faith in the modern world.
The subject for this year was ‘Freedom of Speech and its Limitations’. The group examined the concept from historical, legal, theological and social dimensions from the viewpoint of both traditions.
The meeting was convened by Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour and Chris Hewer and was made up of five delegates from both faiths, who in addition to their pastoral duties also work as university lecturers and writers.
The issue of blasphemy and the treatment of the blasphemy rules from an historical, theological, political and social angle were also discussed which at times led to heated exchanges and criticism from both sides and were described by the participants as frank, honest and productive.
The Tabletalk group members retain their membership for a period of five years. This is to help the continuity of experience and understanding, ensuring that unity of purpose is maintained. Each session started with a ten minute instinctive talk by a Muslim and a Christian member to encourage further discussions.
The main objective of these sessions was to find common understandings on the meaning of freedom and the balance between the rights and responsibilities of individuals and states with regards to freedom of speech especially when religious values and sacrilege are a reality.
During the meetings, Muslim and Christian delegates held their daily prayers. Christian delegates were invited to sit behind the respective Muslim congregations. The Christian group also held a separate Christian prayer time within the Islamic Centre.
Origianally published on Issue 5, March 2013
Islam Today issue 65 (Special Issue) is dedicated to the interfaith work undertaken by the Islamic Centre of England over the past few years.