The other day, having pretty much run out of clean clothes – as one does – I was wearing an old College sports top. Not that I was any more of a sportsman at university than I am now: this was for a group that did crosswords while eating cakes, of a Sunday afternoon. It’s a long story.
Anyway, a colleague asked what the coat of arms on the breast was for. I explained. ‘Oh,’ he observed, ‘nothing Muslim, then?’ – for the arms do indeed feature, prominently, a crescent. It’s a curious crescent, on its back (as it were), and looking as much like a croissant as anything. My colleague wondered whether this arrangement could be interpreted as offensive. I hadn’t considered that, and spent the rest of the day worried I’d committed some dreadful religious faux pas.
Then tonight, I had one of those sudden ‘Hang on a…’ moments, and invoked Google. As best I can tell, from sites like this, the crescent didn’t come into common use in Islam until after 1453. My college’s use predates this by a little over a century: it’s taken from the arms of the founder, Bishop Bateman, whose family presumably used it considerably prior. So, no conflict at all.
Sometimes we forget the scale of our history.