On May 21, 2014, Professor Ahmed, accompanied by his research team, headed to Magdalene College of the University of Cambridge to interview the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Lord Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012 and presently the Master of Magdalene College.
Dr. Williams, born in Swansea, Wales and educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, has been a key leader in interfaith dialogue between the Abrahamic Faiths for decades and, during his tenure as Archbishop, working to improve relations with the Muslim community through knowledge and compassion, such as raising the issue of the compatibility of Sharia with English law. His last major public appearance as Archbishop was a Christian-Muslim dialogue with leading Pakistani figures in the UK at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence, in October 2012 where Professor Ahmed gave the keynote address. At the dialogue, Dr. Williams, amidst a hectic schedule, graciously spent personal time with Professor Ahmed and his daughter Dr. Amineh Hoti, Director of the Center for Dialogue and Action in Cambridge, which Dr. Williams has always been a strong supporter of.
Since January 2013, Dr. Williams has served as Master of Magdalene (pronounced mawd-lin) College of the University of Cambridge. Magdalene College was originally founded in 1428 as Buckingham College and re-founded in 1542 as Magdalene College by Sir Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII. Among its alumni is the famous diarist of the 17th century Samuel Pepys, whose papers and personal library are housed in the Pepys Library, which abuts the beautiful and flowered garden of the Master’s Lodge.
Upon entering the Master’s Lodge for the interview, Dr. Williams led Professor Ahmed into his study where the walls were lined with scholarly books and his sister’s artwork. There was also a framed photo of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose 2011 wedding at Westminster Abbey Dr. Williams presided over.
During the interview, Dr. Williams, a paragon of intellectualism, compassion, and spirituality, discussed the need for knowledge and understanding for improving relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. He emphasized that the cornerstone of English identity is an openness and respect for others. At the end of the interview, Dr. Williams gave an inspiring prayer for the safety and success of Professor Ahmed and his team on their journey across Europe.