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Queen Sanctions First Ever Muslim Prayer Room
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The Muslim month of Ramadan is being celebrated in Windsor Castle with the blessing of the Queen, it was revealed.
A special prayer room has been set aside in Her Majesty’s favourite residence for the Islamic month of fasting.
The room is being used by just one person who works in the gift shops at the castle.
Every workday at 1.30pm visitor services assistant Nagina Chaudhry locks herself in the room to roll out her prayer mat and point it towards Mecca.
She then dons her hijab — headscarf — and begins the half-hour lunchtime prayer required of all Muslims during Ramadan.
Miss Chaudhry said she was thrilled when castle bosses allowed her to use a specially-converted office in the historic Saxon Tower.
“It feels amazing to be the first Muslim to read namaz (prayers) at Windsor Castle,” said the 19-year-old.
“I was reciting the prayer with more power than usual because I knew I was making history.”
University student Miss Chaudhry, who works at the castle for two days a week, said being able to pray during her normal lunchbreak made the fasting easier.
“Ramadan is hard at the start because the days are long and your body’s not used to it. At 1.30pm I would normally be going out to lunch, but because I’m praying it seems to go faster.
“The prayer really relaxes me and gives me more energy for the rest of the day.”
Miss Chaudhry said she was pleasantly surprised when her request for a special prayer room was granted.
“I was worried that I might not get it because there are so many misconceptions about Islam. I’ve only worked there for two months, so I was surprised when everybody went out of their way to help me.
“The Queen is the head of the Church of England so it’s great to know she respects other people’s faith.
“I think I’m the only Muslim who works here so I feel special knowing they’ve made such an effort for me.”
A spokesman for the Royal Household confirmed that the room had been set aside for prayers during Ramadan.
“We have had Muslim employees before who have taken time out to pray, but a decision has been made to make a particular room available during Ramadan,” she said.
“There is no cost to the change of use because the office will continue to be used throughout the working week.
The spokesman added that she was not able to say what the Queen’s views on the room were, but confirmed that she had been consulted.
“Because this is a decision that has been reached which affects Windsor Castle, the Queen would be aware of the decision,” the spokesman added.
(Posted on October 3, 2006)