• Wednesday, September 28, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

EXCLUSIVE: “King Charles be defender of all faiths” 

NEW MONARCH: King Charles III (Photo by Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: BARNIE CHOUDHURY

SENIOR SOUTH ASIAN and Black leaders have urged King Charles to make sure their communities continue to have a strong influence on Britain’s future.

While he was a prince, the new monarch was outspoken on issues which concerned him.

They included highlighting the dangers of climate change, the benefits of organic farming, the perils of ignoring disadvantaged youth as well as promoting fairness and equality.

“We’re going to want King Charles to continue, as he has, to have a huge amount of respect for all religions,” said Perry Barr Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood.

“He has been very much engaged with all religious communities across the piece, and he’s had a very good attitude towards race relations and community relations.

“I’m sure he’ll want to keep that up and probably be more engaged in those communities than before.

“He has a different approach to issues, which would probably need more attention now.”

Khalid Mahmood MP at the presentation of addresses by both houses of Parliament to His Majesty King Charles III on September 13, 2022 (Photo: Twitter/@khalid4PB)

South Asian MPs, peers, imams and business leaders have paid tribute to the late queen, who passed away on Thursday (8).

They expressed their admiration for Queen Elizabeth, and many have told Eastern Eye that her son will continue to unite communities.

“He is a monarch with whom the Asian communities will feel welcomed and respected,” said Feltham and Heston Labour MP, Seema Malhotra.

Seema Malhotra

“I am sure that he will continue to invite these stakeholders to events with prominent policymakers and public figures in the UK, where they can be the voice of the Asian communities in the room.

“Like his mother before him, he will also have to engage with grassroots community groups from across the spectrum of thought and diverse backgrounds of Asian communities in the UK.

“I have been a long-time campaigner for equality in our public life and I am confident he will be a champion for a more inclusive and more equal Britain, confident in its place in the world and a force for change through a strong and growing Commonwealth.”

In a BBC interview, the new king acknowledged that he could no longer be as outspoken as he was as heir to the throne.

Patronage

King Charles also said he would have to cut back on being the patron or president of some charities and organisations.

In 2007, when he was a prince, he founded the British Asian Trust (BAT), a charity which tackles poverty in south Asia.

“Well, he’s not a politician, so he can only do so much,” said BAT trustee, Nihal Arthanayake.

Nihal Arthanayake
Nihal Arthanayake

“He has already shown his commitment, his devotion to issues that involve south Asian communities, the diaspora, and those countries where our ancestors, our parents, or grandparents came from.

“I’ve seen very closely his work with a British Asian trust, I have hosted events where he has been the guest.

“I have sat in a room with him or stood in a room with him and spoke to him beforehand, and saw the passion that he has to use his influence and his authority to raise the profile of issues that are happening in south Asia.

“So, in that respect, it’s very important that people understand his kind of admiration for south Asian culture, but also his willingness to engage with the conversations.”

Prince Charles with Arshana Sanghrajka, an expert in Jain temple architecture, during a tour of the place of worship on January 22, 2015, in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire (Photo by Ben Gurr – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

But the BBC Five Live broadcaster also warned that the new monarch would now be limited in what he could do and say publicly.

“I very much hope that he continues to be the founder and patron of the British Asian Trust, because I know how passionate he is about it.

“But the challenges that this country faces are ones that politicians have to deal with, not members of the royal family.

“They don’t have the power to do that.

“They’re different challenges, and they’re quite considerable challenges that ethnic minority communities face up and down the UK, without question.

“That’s going to take some strength, and previously when he was a prince, he talked about things that as king he won’t talk about anymore, because becoming the monarch comes with different realities.”

Influential king

Lord Simon Woolley, founder and director of Operation Black Vote and principal of Homerton College, Cambridge, advised the King on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lord Simon Woolley (Photo: LinkedIn)

The peer is clear that while the king’s role must be apolitical, Charles III can discreetly continue to influence race relations in Britain.

He revealed to this newspaper how a ruling monarch could intervene in politically sensitive or controversial issues.

“I’m telling this for the first time. During the Black Lives Matter protests, I also got a call from Buckingham Palace from the Queen’s courtiers,” Lord Woolley exclusively told Eastern Eye.

“The queen wanted a conversation with me about what we might do.

“For about six months, behind the scenes, we were preparing for a gathering.

“It wouldn’t necessarily be confronting structural inequalities, but it would be to convene a meeting that gave people a greater sense of belonging with what we were trying to establish.

“In the end, so something left field that put all that into the long grass.

“It was the fallout and breakdown of Meghan Markle and the royal family.

“Once that happened, if we carried on with what we were doing, it would have been seen like a fig leaf that we were doing things just because of that.

“But I can say categorically that Her Majesty the Queen, let it be known to me directly, that she wanted to use her convening powers, to give black, brown and white people that collective a sense of belonging in our society.”

Actor, Nitin Ganatra, who is an ambassador for BAT, told Eastern Eye that the new king is unlikely to remain silent on key concerns.

Actor Nitin Ganatra (left) with Prince of Wales during the British Asian Trust Dinner at Buckingham Palace in 2019 (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“He does genuinely care,” he explained.

“He’s very concerned about poverty, and women’s education, and girls being educated in India and Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

“Listen, I’m an actor for a living. I know, good acting and bad acting. I know what’s truthful and what is not, and I can I sense the genuineness every time I’ve met Charles.

“He could be a beacon of truth right now with the government we’ve got.

“If anyone did try to muzzle him, I don’t think they could, I don’t think he’d allow it.”

When he was a prince, the media wrongly speculated that King Charles would be the “defender of faiths”.

Faiths’ defender

But during his proclamation on Saturday (10), the new sovereign repeated the traditional pledge of being the “defender of the faith”.

Constitutional experts agree that this mean Britain’s official religion will continue to Christianity, and he will be the supreme governor of the Church of England.

In a previous interview, he had made clear that the late queen and he were clear that “the church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”

(From left) Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles and HH Pujya Muniji during an aarti ceremony at the Parmarth Niketan Temple, in Rishikesh, India, in November 6, 2013 (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

A senior imam in Leicester, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, has met King Charles several times.

He urged the monarch to do more to help all faiths.

“King Charles needs to help with, firstly, with legislation, and for us, he needs to add his voice to get an agreed and accepted definition of Islamophobia.

“Whenever something Islamophobic happens, we need it clearly under the law, and therefore, the appropriate punishment can follow.

“Without that definition, it’s difficult to pin down it.

“I have followed his work, and I’m very confident he will make a very good king.”

The royal couple at the historic 17th-century Badshahi Mosque in Lahore on November 2, 2006 (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

Several MPs told Eastern Eye that they were confident the new king would continue to champion south Asian communities.

The founder and president of Cobra Beer, Lord Karan Bilimoria, had previously told Eastern Eye about how the late queen embodied “service leadership”.

He predicted that her son would do the same.

Lord Karan Bilimoria

“We’ve got one of the strongest combinations of hard and soft power in the world,” explained the peer.

“The royal family is one of our strongest elements of soft power.

“I’ve seen this first hand in the way that King Charles engaged with interfaith matters, it’s a genuine passion of his.

“He’s very curious as an individual, very thoughtful, and that’s been demonstrated through his actions.

“He’s also been an amazing, great friend of India. He’s been there countless times and loves India.

“I think he will continue to be a champion for a truly diverse Britain.”

Other parliamentarians agreed with this assessment.

“South Asian communities are as much a part and important for the UK as everybody else and they have a right to expect their king to speak to them and to represent them,” said Labour MP.

Gareth Thomas (Photo by Dan Kitwood/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“I have no doubt that he and the wider royal family will continue to do that.”

He told this newspaper that the monarch would know what he needed to do.

“King Charles has got a good track record in that sense of doing that already (embracing Asian communities).

“Speaking to and welcoming communities from across the UK regardless of faith, colour, or background, and the monarchy is going to need to do even more of that.”

His colleague Valerie Vaz said, “I know King Charles, who has been active in supporting his mother’s work, will carry on in a similar way and the Asian communities will support him.

“King Charles has always been open to finding out about other faiths and communities and will I am sure continue to champion all the citizens of the UK.”

The MP for Slough, Tan Dhesi said, “As King Charles III takes on the responsibility for being our head of state, he will doubtless carry on these great traditions, bringing together international communities and our great nation.

Tan Dhesi

“Due to his longstanding work on faith, community cohesion and the environment, he is held in high esteem amongst minority communities.

“For example, when I met him recently and discussed about efforts for the National Sikh War Memorial in central London, I could see his great interest and knowledge come to the fore, with an excellent grasp of Sikh military history and heritage.”

The former chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he respected the king.

He suggested that the monarch would have to choose his battles more carefully in the future.

“It’s perfectly within the remit of a monarch to be able to express views that need to be expressed in a in a measured way, and they need to be,” said Nagpaul.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul

“There need to be boundaries between the role of a monarch and the role of those that are directly governing the country.

“He needs to make sure that he’s well briefed, and therefore, many opinions aren’t made on a whim.

“It will really strip the personality out of the king, if he were to feel gagged that he couldn’t say anything that he actually believes in.

“It would be a shame if his convictions or his views could not somehow be channels because he has important contributions to thought leadership within the UK and more globally.”

Commonwealth head

The Commonwealth family meant a great deal to the late queen.

Sources have told Eastern Eye that her majesty was instrumental in ensuring King Charles would continue the tradition of being head of the Commonwealth when the then 53 countries met at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2018.

The honorary consul general for Uganda, Jaffer Kapasi, has met the new King on 14 previous occasions.

Jaffer Kapasi (left) with the Prince of Wales at a dinner in Kensington Palace

He said, “King Charles is so committed to the Commonwealth.

“If those countries are trying to become republics, they may not have that direct link with Britain in terms of heads of state level.

“They will not gain all the benefits of the connection with the royalty and when dealing with Commonwealth issues.

“For example, during the pandemic, the queen wanted to make sure that all the countries within the Commonwealth benefited or dealt with Covid in the way Britain was doing.”

Last year (30 November 2021) Barbados decided it no longer wanted the queen as head of state and became a republic.

There is speculation other Commonwealth nations will follow suit.

Uganda’s ambassador to Rome, Mumtaz Kassam, came to the UK when the then president, Idi Amin, expelled upwards of 60,000 Asians.

Ambassador Mumtaz Kassam (left) with King Charles at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Uganda in 2007

She returned to her country of birth to fight for land seized by Amin to be returned to those expelled.

Kassam told Eastern Eye “King Charles will have a huge challenge in trying to emulate her majesty’s work, but he will manage since he has been to many Commonwealth countries.

“He has a huge grounding on the type of work he needs to do to keep the work going, and he will be very good as head of the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth has huge challenges, and the union of the Commonwealth is important.

“I believe King Charles is well placed because of his own convictions are quite strong.

“What you may have to do more is to try to grasp the younger generation of Commonwealth countries to be more involved.

“For example, IT is a huge problem that the Commonwealth has been grappling with for many years.

“Perhaps King Charles could get more involved in having more exchange programs with Commonwealth countries because Commonwealth countries themselves do not have these exchange programs within the countries and the UK.”

Allegiances

Anti-monarchists have demanded that Britain becomes a republic for decades.

For owner of Café Spice Namasté, Cyrus Todiwala, who cooked lunch the queen and the late Prince Phillip during the Golden Jubilee, said this would be a mistake.

Cyrus Todiwala

“I think these people are not well informed,” he said.

“The monarchy is a great thing to have not many countries in the world can now say something like that, that we also have a monarch.

“The monarchy has always brought in huge amounts of revenue for Britain.

“I know there is this diehard group of people that think that the monarchy costs the exchequer a lot of money.

“But on the flip side of that the monetary attracts tourism like nothing else in the world as London becomes the epicentre.

“Thousands and thousands from all over the world pour into London, and they will be spending money in this country.

“People seem to forget that.”

So, if the new king cannot be as vocal as he once was, what are the alternatives?

“The new Prince of Wales, William, is younger,” said Nihal Arthanayake.

“He is from a completely different generation, remember, his father’s in his 70s, exposed to different ideas, different thoughts, different ways of seeing the world.

“It’s going to be quite interesting to see what he does, and how he does it and the things that he says.

“Let’s not forget his mother, the late Princess Diana, was incredibly vocal about issues.

“Her willingness to physically touch people who had AIDS at a time when so much discrimination against people who are HIV positive.

“By her doing that changed so many people’s perceptions.

“So, whether he’s his mother’s son or his father’s son, they’re on both sides, there is a record of getting aware of the world around him and not simply existing in an ivory tower.

“So that’d be interesting.”

For Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood, it is simpler than that.

“King Charles may not have any political power, but as far as I’m concerned, he has a huge amount of influence, and what I would like him to do is exercise that influence.

“We [MPs] swore allegiance to him as our king, and he continues to be our liege.

“Therefore, it’s important for him to look after the interest, and use wisely, those meetings he will have regularly with the prime minister.

“At least sometimes use that to point out better ways for her to help all the communities he reigns over.”

Lord Simon Woolley 

“He showed himself to be a supreme leader”

Soon after George Floyd was murdered in America, the Prince’s Trust invited me to speak to their trustees. I gave an impassioned speech, and I said they should use all their powers to be on the right side of this argument. Within an hour after that speech, I got a call from the prince’s secretariat saying that he would like to meet me. This was at the height of the end of the first summer of Covid when we were just coming out of lock down. So, I assumed a meeting would be on Zoom, and I said yes, this is my email address, let’s have a meeting. But they said Prince Charles just wants to meet you at his house for a 30-minute meeting. We meet not in his normal meeting room but on the first floor, which houses his apartment. There were about four or five of his team, and he just sat in front of me on two couches

with a cup of tea for the supposedly 30-minute meeting. He asked me what were the issues? I explained what happened in America has happened, and could happen again, here. It’s not just about the police. It’s about the infrastructure that persistently works against black and brown people. It needs to be acknowledged, and we need to do something and give them hope.  The meeting went over two hours and the prince wanted to hear what we could do about it. I’ll never forget it, because from that meeting we had several other meetings. We put in processes to raise millions of pounds in Bristol and for London and other places that’s ongoing.

The next year I got a call to go to Barbados with a prince’s team. My mother’s nation is Barbados, and it wants independence. The prince was going with the prime minister. The knives were out because how dare it wants to cut ties with the monarchy. The prince said, no, no, no, no. This is an idea that the people of Barbados have taken, and I want to respect it, and I hope that they stay in the Commonwealth where we can continue to be friends and support each other. So, there were two really big occasions where he could have turned his back, but he showed supreme leadership and took away the poison that could have been. Equally impressive was that he said that we have to acknowledge the atrocities that were borne by this country on the enslavement of Africans. There are still some uncomfortable questions the palace has to acknowledge and confront, but at least we’re in a much better place, where conversations can be had. 

Cyrus Todiwala – owner of Café Spice Namasté 

“Don’t make the greatest mistake”

King Charles respects every faith in this country, and that means everybody has an opportunity to practice their religion or whatever they believe in. We forget the amount of charities that have been established by the members of the royal family that help millions of people throughout the world. They have raised millions of pounds in this country and sent across to Asia during the pandemic, during the floods, and promoting education, giving help to poor people. All that the public don’t get to see.

We have a cultural, historic linguistic bond, and of course, trade, let’s not forget trade, commerce. Everything flows in and out. When it comes to higher education, we have students from the Indian subcontinent studying in this country at the moment. That wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have a common language. We know students come and gain knowledge and impart it back to their own countries, and they get something out of it. It will be the greatest mistake Britain makes if it abolishes the monarchy. People from all over the world come to Britain just to see Buckingham Palace and the changing of guards. Something the country has been doing for hundreds of years. We can’t stop that.

Lord Bilimoria 

“King Charles will make his own mark”

I’ve been very fortunate to have known King Charles over the years, and I’ve seen first-hand how he too has the same work ethic, the same sense of duty, the same service leadership and the late Majesty the Queen. She was only 25 years old when she ascended to the throne. King Charles has had one of the longest apprenticeships possible. During this time, he has been able to make his own mark as an individual, with all the wonderful initiatives that he started, such as the Prince’s Trust and the British Asian Trust. The king will be able to build on the queen’s legacy, so not only carry on with what she’s done, which is phenomenal, but he’ll have the opportunity to build on it in his own way, with all the experience that he has had.

Eastern Eye

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