Prince wants lottery cash to build mosques

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales has suggested lottery money should be spent on new mosques and Hindu temples in Britain. He also accused lottery chiefs in charge of the pounds 1.6bn fund to celebrate the millennium of ignoring its spiritual importance.

The Prince, who will inherit the role of defender of the Church of England, said Britain should use the millennium fund for buildings for all faiths, and not allow celebrations to collapse into "a giant, but essentially meaningless party".

He made the comments in Perspectives, the architecture magazine he helped to found. "We need to think more deeply about what the millennium means ... Everyone, whatever culture or beliefs, can have a stake in the process which the millennium represents.

"I would hope that a start might be made to help those faiths growing in Britain, but struggling to create places of worship, to erect buildings of real quality. This is one of those instances where millennium money may be able to build bridges across some of those divisions in Britain's society."

But his attempts to champion faiths other than Christianity have already divided religious leaders. Muslims are forbidden to gamble and many would be reluctant to accept lottery grants from the Millennium Commission, which would offend Islamic law.

Liaqat Hussain, a spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques, said the Prince had been ill-advised. "Gambling is haram, or forbidden, and it is prohibited to benefit from anything that proceeds from it, so lottery funds could not be used for mosques." But Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Imams and Mosques Council of Great Britain, commended the Prince's support, and said he believed religious leaders could make an exception to accept funds. "The Prince is striking a very important chord in the heart of all minorities who would like to be recognised as mainstream," Dr Badawi said. "Although we have discouraged mosques applying for lottery money, we would see this as money coming from the state and would advise communities to accept it."

The Prince's comments are also expected to spark a debate on the prominence of Christianity over other faiths in Britain. In recent years he has promoted the idea that other faiths are of equal importance, and described himself as a future "defender of the faiths".

The Church of England, one of the most outspoken critics of the lottery, has accepted grants for Church buildings. But it refused to comment on the Prince's remarks, and said it was a matter for the imams of the mosques as to whether they would accept financial support.

So far, the Millennium Commission has allocated pounds 336.5m for 306 projects. Yesterday it said it welcomed a debate on the best way to celebrate 2000 and denied it was oblivious to the spiritual aspect. A spokesman said: "We obviously welcome the Prince of Wales's contribution to this debate; we've had public consultations at every stage. We're already having informal discussions with many faiths on their feelings about the millennium."

The Prince has also called for lottery money to be spent improving inner cities and encouraging city dwellers to find new uses for redundant buildings that might help the poor.