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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008, 13:10 GMT
Profile: Michael Nazir-Ali
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali
Michael Nazir-Ali was the youngest Anglican bishop in the world
The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, was born in Pakistan and has both a Christian and Muslim family background.

Dr Nazir-Ali, a former practising Catholic, was the first non-white senior bishop in the Church of England when he was appointed the 106th Bishop of Rochester in 1994.

He worked as a parish priest in Pakistan, became Provost of Lahore Cathedral and was consecrated the first Bishop of Raiwind.

When he was made a bishop in Pakistan, he was the youngest Anglican bishop in the world.

Dr Nazir-Ali is no stranger to statements that are likely to stir at least some controversy.

In 2000, he said married couples had a duty to have children, and those who remained childless were "self-indulgent".

Two years later newspaper reports emerged that he used to worship as a Roman Catholic at school, but was received into the Anglican Church at about the age of 20.

The revelations came at a time when he was in the running to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury - a post which eventually went to Dr Rowan Williams.

Double standards

More recently, he said the Prince of Wales could not become the defender of all the faiths in the UK on becoming monarch because of serious differences between various religions.

On the question of splits within the Anglican Church, he said it was almost inevitable because of disagreements over the roles of women and gay people.

He accused many Muslims of being guilty of double standards in their view of the world by seeking both "victimhood and domination".

On another occasion he touched on the subject of the Muslim veil, saying laws should be introduced to give some officials the power to lift the veil for security reasons.

In his 2006 Christmas message he said he feared that those in power would not see the dangers of extremism and would tackle the issue "pragmatically".

'Personal friend'

Earlier this year he expressed his fears that the massive Thames Gateway development, which encompasses his cathedral, risked creating "alienated" communities.

He opposed proposals to make IVF readily available to single women and lesbians, saying: "Children need parents of both genders."

Dr Nazir-Ali criticised Tony Blair when the former prime minister said he avoided talking about his religious views while in office because he feared people might think he was a "nutter".

Recently, he lost a "personal friend" when former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Dr Nazir-Ali described her murder as "a body blow for freedom and democracy".

There was further controversy when he said some communities in the UK had become no-go areas for non-Muslims.

Lords first

Dr Nazir-Ali's school education was in Pakistan and he read economics, sociology and Islamic history at the University of Karachi, and theology at Fitzwilliam College and Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

He holds both British and Pakistani citizenship and has been a member of the House of Lords since 1999, the first Asian religious leader to sit in the upper house.

He was a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and chaired its ethics and law committee between 1997 and 2003.

Dr Nazir-Ali is also a president of the Network for Inter-faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion.

He is married to Valerie and they have two sons, Shammy and Ross.

His hobbies include cricket, hockey, table tennis and scrabble, and he has written poetry in English and Persian.

He also enjoys listening to music - and in 1997 was the only UK bishop in a poll to be able to name all five Spice Girls.


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