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'The First Registered Mosque in the UK, Cardiff, 1860': the evolution of a myth

Gilliat-Ray, Sophie 2010. 'The First Registered Mosque in the UK, Cardiff, 1860': the evolution of a myth. Contemporary Islam 4 (2) , pp. 179-193. 10.1007/s11562-010-0116-9

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Abstract

This paper describes how a simple transcription error ‘created’ what appeared to be the earliest recorded mosque in Britain. Research in 2008/9 for a project about the history of Muslim settlement in Cardiff included a check of mosque registration data that revealed the origin of the factual inaccuracy. However, the paper does not simply concern itself with debunking the myth that has evolved concerning a mosque, said to have been registered in the Cathays district of Cardiff in 1860 (which in fact was not registered until 1991). Rather, it seeks to explore its contemporary resonances. The broadcast of the ‘first mosque in the UK’ story and its multiple repetition and embellishment has satisfied a growing need to articulate ideas about the longevity and legitimacy of Muslim settlement. As such it has created an important symbolic ‘space’ for framing contemporary Muslim experience in Britain. The paper contemplates the independent life that this myth has taken on, and the way in which its promotion has been useful for politicians, academics, tourism promoters, and indeed British Muslims themselves. However, there is an important contrast between the promotion of a story about a supposed historic mosque, and the lived reality of actual Muslim community building. The latter has much more substance— and ultimately more relevance—than the ascription of dates to buildings. It is the story of community struggle and achievement that the current Cardiff research is uncovering, and this paper argues that the debunking of the myth has provided an opportunity (and a responsibility) to disseminate awareness of the historic settlement of Muslims in the city.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mosque; Cardiff; History; Britain; Islam; Myth
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 1872-0218
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 06:50
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/38886

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