Is Prince Charles a Convert to Islam?
by Daniel Pipes
In a 1997 Middle East Quarterly article titled "Prince Charles of Arabia," Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman looked at evidence that Britain's Prince Charles might be a secret convert to Islam. They shifted through his public statements (defending Islamic law, praising the status of Muslim women, seeing in Islam a solution for Britain's ailments) and actions (setting up a panel of twelve "wise men" to advise him on Islamic religion and culture), then concluded that, "should Charles persist in his admiration of Islam and defamation of his own culture," his accession to the throne will indeed usher in a "different kind of monarchy."
All this comes to mind on reading an article titled "Charles Breaks Fast with the Faithful in Muscat" in today's Dubai-based Gulf News, which reports on some of Charles' activities during his current five-day visit to Oman:
June 21, 2004 update: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei will award Prince Charles a $50,000 prize chosen by an international jury set up by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies for his contribution to understanding Islam in the West during a London ceremony on June 24. He is the first non-Muslim to receive the prize established in 1992. Other winners have included Youssef Al-Qaradawi, Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda, and Adnan Mohd Zarzar.
Dec. 18, 2004 update: Prince Charles put himself in the middle of an Islamic theological issue that again could suggest his conversion to Islam – for if that is not the case, then on what basis does he opine on the Islamic law requiring that apostates from Islam be executed? Jonathan Petre of London's Daily Telegraph reports on a private summit of Christian and Muslim leaders at Clarence House on this topic sponsored earlier in December by the prince. Apparently, however, he did not get the results he hoped for, with one Christian participant indicating that Charles was "very, very unhappy" about its outcome. That may have been because the Muslims at the meeting resented his public involvement in this topic.
July 14, 2005 update: And what does the good prince have to say about the murder by Islamists of 55 in London a week ago? He put fingers to keyboard and produced "True Muslims Must Root Out The Extremists" for the Mirror:
Comment: This sounds to me like the same apologetics churned out by the Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamist bodies.
Aug. 2, 2005 update: At the funeral of King Fahd in Riyadh, the Associated Press reports, "Non-Muslims were not allowed at the ceremonies." So far as I can tell, Charles did not attend the ceremonies. (There surely would have been a press uproar if he had.) We can conclude that whatever his inner faith, he is not presenting himself as a Muslim in public. In brief, he is not a Muslim at this time.
Sep. 4, 2005 update: Prince Charles revealed in a letter leaked to the Daily Telegraph that he had strained relations with George Carey, then archbishop of Canterbury, over his attitude toward Islam. Particularly contentious was his expressed intent, on becoming king and supreme governor of the Church of England, to ditch the centuries' old defender of the faith title and replace it with defender of faith and defender of the Divine. The letter reveals the archbishop's reaction.
According to royal aides, Charles did not much respect Lord Carey's views and the feelings were reciprocated.
Oct. 29, 2005 update: "Prince Charles to plead Islam's cause to Bush" reads the Sunday Telegraph headline. The text by Andrew Alderson tells how the prince of Wales
Apparently, he "wants Americans - including Mr Bush - to share his fondness for Islam."
Nov. 2, 2005 update: That Daily Telegraph article cited in the previous update made the rounds, perhaps even to the White House. In any case, George W. Bush had a little zinger ready for the good prince in his welcome for him and Camilla at the state dinner:
Charles did not reply to this comment, limiting his response to projects for the underprivileged and fond memories of Winston Churchill.
Nov. 3, 2005 update: Ali Sina proposes a reason for Charles' attraction to Islam, suggesting that he may be tired of democracy: "Does he secretly envy the Islamic system of government where the rulers have absolute power and can even impose morality on their subjects?"
Nov. 5, 2005 update: Sharp-tongued Julie Burchill asks in "What's not to like about Islam if you're the Prince of Wales,"
She then answers her own questions, much as Ali Sina does:
Nov. 13, 2005 update: Charles' efforts to promote Islam does his mother no good in Al-Qaeda's eyes. In a just-reviewed videotape, the organization's number two, Ayman al- Zawahiri, calls Queen Elizabeth II "one of the severest enemies of Islam" and blames her for what he calls Britain's "crusader laws." In addition, he criticizes British Muslims who "work for the pleasure of Elizabeth, the head of the Church of England" and ridicules them for saying (his words, not theirs): "We are British citizens, subject to Britain's crusader laws, and we are proud of our submission . . . to Elizabeth, head of the Church of England."
Jan. 19, 2006 update: As patron of the Festival of Muslim Cultures, which its website describes as a national celebration of "the rich cultural and artistic expressions of the Muslim peoples," Charles will be visiting Sheffield soon. He will tour an exhibition there, "Palace and Mosque: Islamic Treasures of the Middle East," that launches the festival. The prince is said to be keen to see the exhibition. He will also meet school and community groups and watch a performance by a group of Muslim women and girls.
Jan. 26, 2006 update: The Prince of Wales expressed his pleasure today at the progress in the UK of Shar'i banking products at a conference in London to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Development Bank: "I am certain that with the support of the Islamic Development Bank my charities will be able to increase their efforts to address the challenges we face in Britain's cities and help those younger British Muslims who feel they have little or no stake in society to play a fuller part in the country's affairs by promoting community and entrepreneurial development."
Mar. 21, 2006 update: Charles weighed in on the Muhammad cartoon controversy, telling an audience of more than 800 Islamic scholars at Cairo's Al-Azhar University in what the Times (London) called a "serious, impassioned 30-minute speech" that "The recent ghastly strife and anger over the Danish cartoons shows the danger that comes of our failure to listen and to respect what is precious and sacred to others. In my view, the true mark of a civilised society is the respect it pays to minorities and to strangers."
Mar. 25, 2006 update: As the first Westerner ever to address the Al Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Charles (as was the case in December 2004 – see the update above) chose to give Muslims some advice about modernizing their religion. Note the "we" in the following quote: "I think we need to recover the depth, the subtlety, the generosity of imagination, the respect for wisdom that so marked Islam in its great ages." He also said Jews and Christians should learn from Islamic teachings:
Oct. 31, 2006 update: There's been a strong reaction to a Kuwait News Agency report that "Prince Charles Tuesday said that the world problems could be resolve by following Islamic teachings, as Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood." But a look at the speech in question, to the Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, finds no such statement. All Charles did was to quote the Koran in a favorable way in the context of a new-agey-style discussion of the Planet Earth:
Nov. 6, 2006 update: Umree Khan reports in the Guardian, "Why Muslims love the royals," on the Muslim response to Charles and his family:
May 13, 2007 update: The American Trains Magazine carries an article in today's issue, "Truly special guests ride the rails," about Charles and Camilla training from Philadelphia to New York City on the special cars belonging to Bennett Levin. On board, the article informs us, "Charles hosted a roundtable discussion with six Philadelphia experts on the subject of urban renewal." And who should one of those "experts" be but the notorious Kenny Gamble (aka Luqman Abdul-Haqq), seen prominently talking to the prince?
May 26, 2007 update: The BBC has announced a forthcoming world premier performance. Sir John Tavener's major new work, The Beautiful Names will be introduced on June 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Westminster Cathedral. The BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bĕlohlávek will join forces with the BBC Symphony Chorus and Westminster Cathedral Choir.
Program notes by Tavener spell this vision out in greater detail. Tickets are on sale for £24, £20, £16, £12, £8. Oh, and the work was commissioned by HRH The Prince Of Wales."
July 11, 2007 update: From a speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's "Spirit & Life" Exhibition at the Ismaili Centre in London:
Nov. 27, 2007 update: Two points of note in a Times (London) article by Alan Hamilton, "Whirling dervishes' star turn caps Prince's homage to Islamic mystic."
Dec. 16, 2007 update: Princess Diana was also close to conversion to Islam. Of course, there was Dodi Fayad, about whom great debate exists. But before him, she was involved for two years with Dr. Hasnat Khan, in what appears to have been a more substantial and serious relationship. Here is how Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman characterized it in 1997 in "ce Charles of Arabia":
More details have just emerged about her possible conversion to Islam, via an interview with Khan's father, Abdul Rasheed Khan. Some excerpts from an article in the Sunday Telegraph by Massoud Ansari and Andrew Alderson:
According to Monckton, she and Diana
Comment: It seems that William and Harry were quite close to becoming "the first heirs to the British throne with a Muslim stepfather."
Jan. 14, 2008 update: Lots of news from the inquest into Princess Diana's death where Paul Burrell, Diana's butler, is in the witness box.
First, Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, had harsh words for her daughter's relationships with Muslim men, and Diana in turn intended to break with her over this, a British court was informed. Burrell reported on a conversation between the two six months before Diana's death. Kydd "called the Princess a whore. She said she was messing around with effing Muslim men and she was disgraceful and she said other nasty things." Diana responded by vowing never to speak to her mother again.
Second, Burrell told about Diana's plans to marry Hasnat Khan.
In contrast, he did not have "the impression that Dodi Fayed was 'the one' in her life although he described the relationship as an 'exciting time' for Diana."
Mar. 4, 2008 update: Hasnat Khan has spoken up and, as paraphrased by the Daily Telegraph, indicated that he was introduced Diana's two sons, Princes William and Harry. Khan said that if he and Diana "had married he would not have expected her to have converted to Islam. His only concern would have been which religion to bring up any children they had."
Feb. 9, 2010 update: "Prince Charles wowed by whirling dervishes at celebration sponsored by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani" reads the title in the Asian News. Some details:
Mar. 16, 2010 update: On a visit to Poland, Charles took the highly ususual step to visit the small wooden Tatar mosque in Kruszyniany, chatting to the imam there, and sampling some traditional Tatar foods, including pirogue pierekaczewnik.
June 10, 2010 update: Charles says the West must learn environmental policies from Islam. In an hour-long speech on "Islam and the Environment" at Oxford University's Sheldonian Theatre on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, reports Rebecca English of the Daily Mail, "the heir to the throne argued that man's destruction of the world was contrary to the scriptures of all religions - but particularly those of Islam." He "spoke in depth about his own study of the Koran which, he said, tells its followers that there is 'no separation between man and nature' and says we must always live within our environment's limits." He also said:
The newspaper story, by Gordon Rayner, adds a touch of local color: "All of the women at the reception were dressed head to toe in black, wearing a traditional shaila on their head and an abayya covering their body. … All of the men in the room wore a traditional white thobe from neck to foot, with a ghitra on their head secured by a band called an igul."
Comments: (1) Curious that the prince would travel the whole way to Qatar for something as minuscule as the launch of the Qatar-UK Alumni Network; that he did would seem to confirm either Qatar's prowess in Great Britain or Charles' affection for the Middle East, or both. (2) To see the connection between learning Arabic and conversion to Islam, see my lengthy blog at "The Arabist and Islamist Baggage of Arabic Language Instruction."
Aug. 20, 2013 update: Off on a little tangent: Ezra Levant notes that Justin Trudeau, the new head of Canada's Liberal party, attended the Surrey Jamia Masjid in British Columbia during the evening prayer wearing an Arab jalabiya and while there took part in the prayer service, complete with the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith. Meanwhile, his wife Sophie "recently posed for a picture with Trudeau's mother, Margaret, in honour of Mother's Day. And in that photo, they were both wearing the Muslim hijab hair-covering. Why would you do that on Mother's Day - a secular holiday with no Muslim or ethnic characteristic to it at all? Why add in the Sharia element?" Oh, and his senior policy adviser happens to be Omar Alghabra, an Islamist well known to readers of this blog.
Levant writes that despite these theatrics, he does not think Trudeau is a Muslim.
Dec. 18, 2013 update: In a surprise reversal, Prince Charles yesterday focused on the tribulations of Middle Eastern Christians at Islamist hands while visiting the British branches of the Egyptian and Syriac churches.
Comment: Has something happened to open Charles' eyes to the dangers of Islamism? If so, this could be an important portent for Great Britain.
Reader comments (204) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes