Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies, New College, University of Edinburgh

Has anyone mentioned that Prince Philip is dead? Oh the terrible, terrible grief, the despair that we all feel. Every single person in the country is plunged into mourning. How will the nation cope without Prince Philip?

This is exactly the same as Ramadan, which coincidentally is just about to start. What were the chances of that, eh?

13 thoughts on “Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies, New College, University of Edinburgh

  1. For the great majority of the population, for who Prince Philip has been an ever-present figure for as long as they can remember, his death will effect no change at all. There might be a moment of sadness, but having never met or known him except through TV and other media, I doubt there is the great national outpouring of grief that Mona supposes is gripping the country. The Duke’s good works (his Award Scheme, for instance) will continue and prosper; and his image will continue to appear in magazines and TV documentaries, and I suspect that even now the presses are whirring away producing the commemorative colour supplements, pull-out sections (to keep and cherish), the souvenir booklets, and coffee table volumes of ‘Life and Times,’ ‘The Unseen Prince,’ ‘Behind Palace Doors’ etc etc (I won’t hold out for ‘The Bumper Book of Prince Philip’s Jokes, Gaffs and Accidental Racial Slurs,’ though that would be by far the most desirable book).

    Just spare a thought, though, for those of us who are NOT observing Ramadan. How shall we be able to channel OUR grief, or relieve our deep sense of loss….. ?


  2. A vanilla, token effort of a tribute you know all TFTDers will feel obliged to put on record.

    Though I am reminded of the well-worn joke that could be applied here:

    How do you know if someone is grieving over Prince Phillip’s death?
    They’ve already told you.

    Very much the same applies it seems for many self-important media figures falling over themselves to tell everyone about major events on Abrahamic religions’ calendars; while, of course, stressing it’s all about humility and self-reflection.

    It’s curious, as in my experience the Christians and Muslims amongst my friends and acquaintances tend to only discuss such things only if someone else brings them up, or it naturally arises as part of a wider conversation; the time I feel I have it shoved in my face to accept with automatic deference is when I scroll through social media – or listen to TFTD, of course.


  3. There seem to be two ways of marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, among those who want to.

    The first is to follow the traditional, protocol-bound route of official ceremonies: carefully timed and choreographed events, all according to the formulae laid down decades ago, and all underpinned by the rituals of established religion. For those taking part there must be the partial comfort of feeling “this is how it’s done; this is how we’re supposed to behave”. As Mona indicated this morning, the ceremonies of other religions can do just as well as the CofE in providing the structure within which people feel comfortable.

    The second is shown in the largely disorganised and personal reaction of individuals. Some of them resort to laying flowers and cards; others to sharing memories; others still to writing what the Duke ‘meant’ to them, whether or not they’d ever met him. We saw much the same dichotomy in the responses to Lady Di’s death.

    And how’s the traditional route going? There was an memorial service yesterday at Canterbury Cathedral, presided over by the AB of Cant himself and live-streamed, which apparently attracted a YouTube audience of…5,000. An ordinary broadcast Choral Evensong gets more than that. It will be interesting to see how many actually tune in to the funeral next Saturday at 3pm, and how many are cursing because their team’s kick-off time has been delayed by an hour or so.


  4. For most of the public around the UK and Commonwealth Prince Philip’s state funeral would have only have been seen on TV, so the losers will be the crowds of royal family fans who would have crowded the route to glimpse the famous in the following entourage and those who love the overstretched coverage on TV of such events.
    Prince Philip has only been a “constant presence” in my life in the same way that EastEnders and Coronation Street have – I know they are available but that doesn’t mean I want to know anything about them.
    The same goes for Ramadan – if people believe that their supernatural entity has told them to fast, then get on with it and don’t expect anyone else to be interested. And a whole month? What is wrong with just a week? A friend of my daughter who was always looking for attention decided to stop eating chocolate for a while but made the pledge for a whole year. Every time she came round we had to hear how it was going and how she was avoiding temptation. Yawn. Humblebragging in the extreme.
    If I made a big fuss about what I give to charity every year I’m sure people would find me most tiresome.


  5. Over the last few days, assorted clerics in the Established Church have claimed the late Duke as one of their own. However, even some of those professional religious have admitted the Duke questioned and challenged them on matters of faith, read extensively on the subject, and that he struggled with doubts on certain issues. The Duke was a plain-speaking man, not given to flights of fancy or wishful thinking and would never be fobbed off with trite or facile answers. But as the loyal spouse of the Head of the Church of England, he was never going to publicly admit to any wavering from the Establishment line.

    No one can look into another person’s mind and read the thoughts they choose to keep to themselves. It is unlikely we will ever know what the Duke would have said had he been free to openly declare his attitude to faith.

    In his younger years, the Duke was seen as a bit of a maverick, viewed suspiciously by stuff-shirted courtiers opposed to the slightest changes to royal protocol and tradition. The young Queen herself wanted to continue in the footsteps of her late father, whom she revered. Even in the staid nineteen-fifties the Monarchy began to be regarded as stodgy, old-fashioned, and hide-bound. The Duke, however, was a moderniser, and brought about change, not revolutionary change, but enough to bring the Monarchy into the twentieth century and prevent it from dwindling into insignificance as a mere curio from a by-gone age. Republicans may continue to see it this way, but they could have the Duke to thank for the Monarchy surviving thus far, despite fires, divorces, car-crashes, scandals, and Markle-style debacles.


    1. “prevent it from dwindling into insignificance as a mere curio from a by-gone age”

      I consider the whole lot of them as being entirely useless and parasitic. The inability of Betty to prevent the illegal prorogation of parliament proved that we need a proper constitution with an elected head of state. Not a bunch of hereditary dimwits who prance around with tiaras, swords and giant feathers in their hats as a substitute for achievement.


      1. Well, as Duke himself once said:

        “It is a complete misconception to imagine that the monarchy exists in the interests of the monarch. It doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people. If at any time any nation decides that the system is unacceptable, then it is up to them to change it”.

        And, so far, the nation has decided not to (apart from the experiment of 1649-1660; and look how that turned out). Unsatisfactory as a constitutional monarchy might be in some respects, I’m not convinced that a republic would be any improvement, especially if you consider the candidates likely to put themselves forward to be President.

        We may not think it’s much of a career to spend so much time and effort in opening things, being figureheads of charities, and generally representing the nation; but some of the royals work their backsides off at it, with not a tiara, sword or giant feather in sight. And the thing is that most of the people they deal with genuinely feel they’re doing a worthwhile job. The only time I’ve met the Queen and the Duke was at a charity function, and they didn’t come across as notably useless and parasitic to me.

        So we’ll just have to disagree!


      2. Do you really want an elected head of state? Have you already forgotten the Orange Buffoon?

        This is a discussion we have been having in Australia for years. I think it is safe to say that while a majority of people would accept a republic, there is no agreement on the form that republic may take. We currently have a Governor General appointed by the government who holds a largely ceremonial position and who does not involve themselves in day to day politics. The sort of person who becomes GG is not the type to seek elected office, but is happy to do the job if asked. Consequently we have had a number of eminent men and women from diverse backgrounds who have performed their duties well.

        The problem with a popularly elected president is that you will end up with a politician or worse. Google ‘Clive Palmer’ if you want to see who our first elected president will be if we go down that route.

        Unfortunately, our republican movement are seeking a referendum that asks only if we want to become a republic. They want to work out the details such as the form of the republic later. Sounds a bit like Brexit, doesn’t it?


      3. “It is a complete misconception to imagine that the monarchy exists in the interests of the monarch. ”

        Unfortunately the evidence says otherwise. We learned recently that the Queen gets advance access to any bills that may affect her. They are the only acts of parliament where she ever makes changes.

        “being figureheads of charities”

        I’ve got no objection to people doing charity work. Millions of people do. They don’t all get rewarded by palaces and privilege.

        “Have you already forgotten the Orange Buffoon?”

        And he was removed by the democratic process.

        We still have Trump-lite here in the UK. Like the real Trump he was elected by a minority of the population and the only statutory check on his power is the Supreme Court. Both expressed a desire to “reform” their respective supreme courts. Johnson has already begun inserting “no court may overrule…” clauses in acts of parliament, with not even a hint of opposition from any UK institution.

        POTUS is unusual in being both head of government and head of state. Most democracies are careful to avoid that. The UK PM has all the powers of a head of government and, thanks to the Royal Prerogative, all the powers of a de facto head of state. It’s precisely why we need a separate head of state, with democratic authority, to act as a restraint on an over mighty executive, especially one elected by a minority of the population (which is almost always the case here in the UK under the first past the post system).

        As to the quality of the candidates, I admit that we have to avoid making it a party political appointment. I also admit that the precedent in the UK is not good. About a decade ago we created local Police and Crime Commissioners. It was an ideal opportunity to create an apolitical local representative. The major parties immediately put up candidates and everyone voted dutifully along party lines, with the result that the office is now irrelevant. However some democracies (think the Republic of Ireland) manage to avoid this. It is possible.

        I happily recognise that this is all fantasy and that there is no appetite for constitutional reform in the UK. I’m also convinced that I’m right and the majority are wrong, and I don’t care how arrogant that sounds. It will take a major crisis under one of Lizzie’s idiot successors to make people wake up to the fact that they are not citizens but subjects.


  6. “If at any time any nation decides that the system is unacceptable, then it is up to them to change it”.”

    Hmm. How many times in living memory has the nation been given any say on the matter?

    I’m with Rev Peter on this – although given the choice between the monarchy or the CofE being diestablished I’d definitely go for the latter – the royals are mostly merely irritaing, whereas the CofE is deeply unpleasant and still far more influentiual than many believe.


  7. I’m in my natural habitat – sitting on the fence.

    On the one hand, having a notional figurehead outside politics and not occupied by the sort of sociopath that goes into politics for wealth/power is a good thing. On the whole I think that most of the royals seem to do a good job. Most of them seem decent human beings who have had the role dumped on them (without even a ‘moistened bint distributing scimitars’).

    Whether that job is worthwhile is another matter – if the royals went on strike, who would notice? And given that there’s apparently no money* for feeding poorer kids, NHS workers, teachers… can we really justify the amount paid directly and indirectly?

    Where I disagree with them is the cost/funding model. A considerable degree of “rightsizing” (as companies euphemistically put it) would not go amiss. What do Andrew, Edward and their kids actively contribute? let alone cousins and other extended members of the tribe. And who’s paying? we are!

    It’s often claimed that the royals bring money into the country, with tourism quoted as the prime example [not that Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, USA… seem to lack tourists through not having a monarchy]. If this is true (and I suspect that costs of security, protection… are conveniently forgotten) then why not raise a tourist tax (again other countries do this) to pay for them; similarly with arms trade deals — the percentage charged could be called a ‘royalty’ 🙂 This would effectively stop ordinary taxpayers subsidising these businesses.

    A little transparency on royal [and C of E] activities, duties, privileges and costs (direct and indirect) would go a long way to an informed public debate — so I guess it won’t happen!

    *despite Boris’s promises on the sides of buses


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