Fuad Nahdi, head of Radical Middle Way, a think tank involved in inter-faith dialogue, recited an Islamic prayer and greeted the Anglican gathering with the words “Asalaam-o-aleikum” (Peace be with you).
Nahdi branded violent Islamist jihadists as “idiots” and condemned discrimination against Christians, but said that Muslims who did not adhere to extremist ideologies had suffered in greater numbers.
“The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is heinous and totally unacceptable to any sane human being. But we should not forget that the Muslims have borne the brunt of these extremists,” he said.
“Thousands if not tens of thousands have died in the past couple of years and they will continue to die if we pretend to ignore it,” the Kenya-born campaigner, who was dressed in a blue robe and cap, told hundreds of assembled delegates.
He also spoke about growing anger among young Muslims in Britain in reaction to criticism that they face because of the actions of extremists they have nothing to do with “thousands of miles away”.
“All the pressure on us is to try and justify things that are unjustifiable,” he said, calling for peaceful existence and joint “fight against ignorance” by Christians and Muslims.
In an article in The Guardian newspaper out on Tuesday, Nahdi wrote: “I hope my presence as the first Muslim to address the General Synod shows that followers of these great religions can be allies”.
The Church of England is the mother church of the global Anglican Communion, which has some 80 million followers in over 165 countries.