Church bookshops stop selling Qur’an

Britain’s oldest chain of church bookshops is to remove the Koran from its shelves because it believes it is “inimical” to Christianity. The decision not to stock any non-Christian holy text has been taken by SPCK Bookshops, formerly part of the 308-year-old Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In practice, the Koran is the only text affected because those of other religions such as Judaism and Hinduism were rarely stocked by the shops, which are located near many British cathedrals or in their precincts.

The new policy follows the society’s sale of a majority stake in the chain on November 1 to the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, which is tied to the Eastern Orthodox church. “Stocking books which are inimical to Christianity, which without question the Koran is, could well create the wrong impression among some that we endorse the belief systems of other religions as equal or viable alternatives,” said Mark Brewer, the Texan lawyer who chairs the trust.

The stated aim of the trust is to take the bookshops back to the missionary roots of the SPCK and reverse the advance of Islam and secularism. The new approach is likely to offend some in the Church of England who promote a more accommodating approach to Muslims, but echoes recent calls by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, to recover Christian values.

Sunday Times, 3 December 2006