Prince Charles and Tony Blair are among leading figures to have paid tribute to one of the UK’s most influential Muslim clerics, Zaki Badawi, who has died.
He was principal of the Muslim College in Britain and called for Muslims to engage fully with life in the country.
Mr Blair described him as “a wonderful mix of spirituality and practicality”, while the prince said his death was “a blow personally and for the country”.
Dr Badawi, 83, collapsed and died after delivering a speech in London.
Following his election in 1984, he had served as the chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams of the United Kingdom.
The Muslim College in Britain was a seminary he founded to train imams and Muslim leaders in the West.
In the aftermath of the 7 July London bombings, Dr Badawi was consulted by the government on how best to tackle extremism.
Prince Charles said in a statement: “His brand of wisdom, scholarship, far-sightedness and above all humour has ensured that Zaki played an extraordinarily important role in the life of this country and amongst the Muslim community.
“His hard-won legacy will, I hope, provide a fitting tribute to a truly remarkable and warm-hearted man.”
Dr Badawi’s death came on the day of a major gathering of Christians and Muslims at London’s Lambeth Palace to mark the launch of the Christian Muslim Forum.
Dr Badawi had agreed to serve as an adviser to the forum and had been due to attend the event on Tuesday evening.
Addressing the gathering, Mr Blair paid tribute to the cleric’s “excellent work” which he had carried out during “a lifetime of service”.
He said Dr Badawi had been “a special person” and it was poignant he had died on the same day the forum had been launched.
Later, Tory leader David Cameron said: “Zaki Badawi’s contribution to the integration of Muslims in British national life will be remembered and his death is a great loss.”
‘Man of conscience’
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, who worked on inter-faith initiatives with Dr Badawi, said he was the “face and voice of Islamic dignity and tolerance”.
“He was a man of conscience and courage and I cherished his friendship,” Sir Jonathan added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, described Dr Badawi as a “uniquely effective interpreter of Islam” and paid tribute to Dr Badawi’s contribution to Christian-Muslim dialogue.
A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it was “shocked and saddened” by Dr Badawi’s death.
“Dr Badawi’s passing constitutes a major loss for British Muslims,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the MCB.
The editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, said Dr Badawi’s death was a “loss to all communities”.
“Dr Badawi was a great scholar of Islam and has made a huge contribution to the Muslim community. His devotion to inter-faith dialogue was unparalleled,” Mr Versi said.
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