Muslims in Britain Monitor for January 1993 Vol. I, No. 1
Education update: New supplementary schools: Leicester, Preston, Blackburn.
Mosque building update: Bradford, Blackburn, Nottingham, Dudley.
The Muslim Parliament is a 150-seat un-elected body which seeks to unite British Muslims under a common voice. It was founded in 1992 by Dr Kalim Siddiqui. It met three times in its first year so this was its fourth session. The main subject of the meeting was a recent "White Paper" called "Financing the Community Programmes of the Muslim Parliament".
The Community Programmes referred to include:
a. Setting up a "welfare system" to provide financial and practical help for Muslim families facing acute hardship caused by debt, death, illness, disability and old age. This would include retirement homes for elderly Muslims, although it is hoped that they will normally be cared for within the family. There is also a need for Muslim foster homes for children taken into care by the courts.
b. Building new mosques and modernising existing ones. This would include the provision of recreation facilities and appropriate sectors for women.
c. A supplementary school network would be established for Muslim children in state schools. This would provide Islamic education during evenings and at weekends. In addition there would be provision for adult and further education centres leading ultimately to an Islamic University.
d. A new project to set up tutorial centres to enhance the prospects of Muslim children in public examinations. This is part of an overall policy of improving the education base of British Muslims so that they become a community of traders, professionals and industrialists.
e. As from this academic year, supplementary loans are available for Muslim students in higher education and it is proposed to found single-sex students' hostels in university towns to which Muslim families can entrust their children.
f. Within the commercial sector, the Muslim Parliament hopes to provide start-up capital for Muslim businesses and consultancy services to improve the efficiency of those already existing.
All these programmes need to be financed. The immediate means of raising money is to call on the Muslim community to make a voluntary contribution to a "community fund". The proposed rate is 0.2% of the annual income of each Muslim household. This is part of setting up a culture of voluntary giving as proposed by the Qur'an. The amount of money which could be expected from such a fund would depend on two things: firstly, the number of Muslims in Britain, and secondly, the proportion who were willing to pay their contribution to the Muslim Parliament.
The estimate for the Muslim population of Britain given by the Muslim Parliament was three million. This is widely recognised to be 2 to 3 times higher than the most commonly accepted estimate of 1 to 1.5 millions. Any accurate assessment of the Muslim population is rendered impossible as the British census does not include questions about religious affiliation. This means that estimates must be based on assumptions about the "ethnic origins" of Britons.
The second question is more difficult. There seems to be a general realisation that the Muslim Parliament is as yet unrepresentative of the Muslim community as a whole. Commentators generally agree that a maximum of 5% of the Muslim community might be expected to send a contribution to the Muslim Parliament's "community fund" in the foreseeable future.
Another financial strategy is to establish the Muslim Parliament as a recognised agency to collect the statutory dues owed by Muslims to the welfare of the community. These are separate from charitable gifts and are regulated by Islamic law. They consist of zakat (2.5% of annual savings) and fitrah (the contribution made at the great festival at the end of Ramadan). At present
these contributions are either not being made by Muslims or are being sent back to their countries of origin to assist in welfare work there. Proposals about the collection of zakat are still awaited.
The general tenor of comments in the press concerning these proposals demonstrate two things. Firstly, that the Muslim Parliament speaks for only a small proportion of Muslims and cannot rely on widespread support for such measures. Secondly, that it still enjoys a relatively high press profile, is raising questions which are generally held to be important and is gradually building a power base by tackling questions on a local and national level. [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No. 1, p 1/2]
The system of Muslim families arranging the marriages of their children has come under some pressure following recent legal cases brought before Scottish courts.
A case was brought by a Muslim woman who asked the court to declare her ten-year-old marriage null on the grounds that it had taken place in Pakistan when she was only fourteen years old. This is below the minimum age for consent according to British law. A declaration of nullity (or annulment) states that no true marriage ever existed. A precedent was set in that the court decided that it had jurisdiction in the case even though the marriage took place in Pakistan.
A second case is due to come before the Court of Session in February. This has been brought by a Muslim woman who claims that she was forced into marriage by her family against her will. This would be "under duress" according to Scottish law. She too is seeking a decree of annulment. This is the first such case to come before the Scottish courts even though there is legal precedent under English law. The Scottish code of law is separate from that in force in England.
Solicitors acting in the second case claim to have several more petitions in preparation awaiting the outcome of this case. It is claimed that there are similar petitions from Muslim men as well as women. Muslim authorities in Scotland have pointed out that under Islamic law these decrees of nullity are meaningless, although islamic law also does not generally accept enforced marriages. [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No.1, p. 2/3]
The attack by Hindu extremists on the Ayodhya Mosque in India has led to several incidents of intercommunal violence in Britain. Both Muslim mosques and Hindu Temples have been attacked and there have been incidents of attacks on individual members of the two communities. In parts of London there have been calls for a boycott of Hindu shops.
From Muslim communities across Britain calls have come for peace and an end to violence. A joint conference was sponsored by Muslims and Hindus in London which called for an end to the violence and the rebuilding of the Ayodhya Mosque. Similar calls emanated from other such meetings. [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No.1, p.3]
There have been various responses to the crisis in Bosnia. Muslim communities in different parts of the country have been raising money to send as aid. In this they have been joined by other religious groups e.g. in Wolverhampton. There have been joint days of prayer for peace. A charitable body has been formed in Edinburgh by a Jewish woman to help the Bosnian Muslim victims of rape. [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No.1, p.3]
a. Planning permission has been given for three new supplementary schools in Leicester, Preston and Blackburn.
b. Nazar Mustafa of the Muslim Education Co-ordinating Council and Moin Yaseen the editor of Islamia met with the Minister of State for Education, Lady Blatch, to request the government to improve the provisions for Muslim children in state and voluntary schools. Their specific requests were that in schools with a majority of Muslim pupils there should be separate religious facilities and Muslim prayers in assemblies. They wanted classrooms to be used for supplementary schooling and a statutory right for Muslims to sit on governing bodies of schools with more than 20% of Muslim children on roll. Linked with this is a request for a statutory advisory council on Muslim education.
Their requests are being considered by the Department for Education and Lady Blatch is reported to have told the delegation that on most issues "we are not far apart". [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No.1, p.4]
a. Bradford. A new £1m mosque for the Jamia Masjid Hanafia Association is nearing completion. A final appeal is being launched for internal completion and furnishings.
b. Blackburn. Plans have been changed and re-submitted for a new mosque complex. Planning permission was earlier deferred because the dome and two 18m minarets were considered to be too large.
c. Nottingham. Landscaping of the surrounds of an Islamic Centre in the St Ann's district has begun.
d. Dudley. Planning permission for an Islamic cultural and community centre was deferred after 850 local residents opposed it and the borough planner recommended rejection due to lack of parking space. [BMMS January 1993 Vol. 1, No.1, p.4]