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Gone but Not Forgotten - Islam's Roots in Britain.

Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, England, is the final resting place of some of the some influential men and women of the nineteenth century. Tucked away amongst these memorials to the great and the good are three of largely forgotten pioneers: Baron Headley, Marmaduke Pickthall and in an unmarked grave - William Henry Quilliam.

Although very few recognize their names today, in the nineteenth century these men were responsible for a religious revolution, which shook the British public to its core. They were aristocratic Christians who made a choice, which inflamed Victorian society. They converted to Islam and changed the face of Muslims faith in Britain.

Pickthall's greatest achievement was to translate the Quran into English. Perhaps this has been the most important translation of the Quran into English that has ever been done. Pickthall embraced Islam at a time when to be a Muslim was to be seen as a traitor to your country and the focus of the hostility. In the press he was charged with treason, and he certainly was put under surveillance. He rebelled against his parents by changing his religion, which broke his mother's heart.

Through the personal journeys of their still surviving relatives, we can discover just what these men achieved and how their legacy live on today. My impression on Islam sat within post 9/11 thinking and emphasis around fanaticism. But finding out about Marmaduke changed all that - suddenly Islam became so much more. So just what did these Victorian pioneers do to make Islam more acceptable to a society that condemned it and are there any lessons for British Muslim today?

Today Liverpool is the home to nearly 25 thousand Muslims. Liverpool's largest mosque was built in 1965, so it would appear that this Muslim community is relatively new to this city. But far from it. A century ago Liverpool was a flourishing port and Muslim sailors from India and the far East would have been regular visitors. In fact, just three miles from today's thriving mosque there are traces of entire hidden history of Islam in Britain - echoes of a community that faced many of the same problems as Muslims today and which may hold some of the solutions.

Brougham Terrace is a rather faded house in a Liverpool suburb, where this forgotten story of Islam begins. Although this house does not look like much now, in the nineteenth century, this was the first mosque in England. In 1889, the house was bought by a man named Abdullah Henrique Quilliam.

Quilliam was a Victorian gentlemen but he was also a Muslim convert. He was a religious innovator, who wanted to change preconceptions of Islam at a time, when society found it frightening and alien - and it was here, in this building, that he set about doing it. Quilliam established this not only a mosque but as a flourishing Muslim institute with its own printing press and an orphanage. It was a centre of Islam not just for Liverpool but for whole of Britain. It is an achievement that some Muslims believe holds the keys to the future of British Islam. Abdullah Qulliam really is a role model - he was ahead of his times; he is the blueprint in many respects for how we should hope to continue as a Muslim community.

Transcribed for "HIBA" by Faiza Rizwan - volunteer for HIBA

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Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 25, 2019
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