Muslims in Britain Monitor for March 1993 Vol. I, No. 3

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Reporting Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr

Muslim marital harmony and fostering Muslim children

Fund-raising efforts to bring some relief

 

Short Reports

Preston hospitals - Rotherham schools

The Rushdie Affair

Graves in Rochdale - The East Lancashire coroner's service

Yusuf Islam in court

Mosque fire in Eccles

Attack on Hindu temple, London

Resignation of leader in Britain

Annette Crosbie's dog

Industrial tribunals, Dewsbury

St Mungo's Museum of Religion, Glasgow

 

 

Updates

Education

Islamia School

Teacher shortage

M.E.F. lobby of parliament

 

Mosques

Batley

Milton Keynes

Bradford

Slough

Southampton

Birmingham

 

 

Major reports

Reporting Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr

The fasting month of Ramadan, like all Islamic months, is based on the cycle of the moon. This year it ran from 22nd February to 24th March. It always causes some interest in the British press because the concept of a month-long fast with the attendant additional spiritual activities is out of the ordinary in modern Western thought.

Most of the coverage for Ramadan was local where people can gain an insight into Muslims in their neighbourhoods. There were two exceptions to this rule. The BBC launched a four-part series called "Call to Prayer" which was broadcast on each of the Thursday nights during Ramadan. During these fifteen minute programmes Muslims spoke about their observance of the fast and what it meant to them.

The Times sent a woman reporter to visit the London Central Mosque as part of a series on places of worship from a woman's perspective. This coincided with Ramadan and so the report had a double function. The reporter received a warm welcome and enjoyed the hospitality of the women's gallery where she was guided through the Maghrib prayers and joined in Iftar afterwards. The report was sensitive and expository.

Following its success last year, the FM radio channel "Fast FM" went on the air in Bradford against this year. It had a 32-day licence from the Radio Authority and broadcast local, national and international news concerning Muslims as well as current affairs and discussion programmes from 7 am through until 4 am the next day.

Articles explaining the meaning of Ramadan were carried by several local papers especially in the Bradford and Sheffield areas. Local companies and schools had made special provision for their employees and students to observe the fast and many gave occasional days leave for the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr.

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus explored the provisions made at Armley Prison, Leeds, where Muslim prisoners were moved into a separate wing so that they could observe the fast together and join in prayers and Qur'an reading. Appropriate food was made available for Iftar and outside caterers sent in food for Eid ul-Fitr. The prisoners were released from normal duties during the last ten days of the fast.

 

An important decision was reached in Birmingham where all local Muslim leaders met to decide on the calendar for the year which meant that the dates for Ramadan and the great Eids were fixed in advance. This brought a degree of solidarity to the local celebrations as in the past different groups had begun and ended their fasts on different days depending on the sighting of the new moon. This decision is important as it strengthens the call by Muslim leaders for school pupils and workers to be given a day off to celebrate Eid. In the past the uncertainty of dating has been a stumbling block with the authorities. This uniformity of dating was not common nationwide as was apparent from critical letters from Muslims which appeared in the press after the event.

As the end of Ramadan approached greetings for Eid ul-Fitr were sent from the Presidents of the Birmingham Council of Christian Churches and an interview was published with the Provost of Birmingham Cathedral which praised Muslims for their deep sense of the centrality and unity of God. Greetings were published in other local papers from politicians and community leaders.

Eid ul-Fitr was celebrated by Muslims throughout the country with the customary combined gatherings for prayers and celebratory meals. Festival lights were switched on by the Lord Mayor of Coventry throughout the city centre. Special traffic provisions were made in Sheffield and a general carnival atmosphere prevailed in many parts of the country. Large numbers of young Muslims from the North West congregated at Blackpool to celebrate in this traditional recreation centre. Many schools celebrated with their Muslim pupils in festive mood.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.1/2]

 

back to contents

 

Muslim marital harmony and fostering Muslim children.

The chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Mr Adam Patel, spoke out to contradict a recent parliamentary report which said that Asian wives do not speak out against domestic violence. He responded by saying that there is less domestic violence within Asian families because these marriages were carefully arranged and supported by religious beliefs and traditional family values. When disharmony arises there are always parents and community elders on hand to offer advice and work for reconciliation.

March 21st saw the beginning of the National Foster Care Association's "Foster Care Week" which aimed at recruiting foster parents and raising consciousness of the need for fostering. This theme was taken up in an article in The Muslim News (26.03.93) which spoke of the great shortage of Muslim families offering themselves as foster families for Muslim babies and children. There has been an increased awareness of this situation amongst Muslims in the light of the huge number of orphans from Bosnia but there are always many Muslim children in need of foster homes. Families who are willing to undertake this work are supported by social workers and receive some financial assistance with the children's support. Potential foster families must be approved by the local authorities. The cry is often heard that Muslim children in care must be placed with Muslim families so that there Muslim identity is nurtured but this requires that the Muslim community comes forward and suitable families seek approval and registration with the authorities. Without this willingness on the part of Muslim families the common situation of Muslim children being placed with non-Muslim families will continue.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.2/3]

 

back to contents

 

Fund-raising efforts to bring some relief.

Fund-raising efforts have continued to bring some relief to Muslims suffering in Bosnia. A soccer tournament was held in Wolverhapton which raised 355 for Bosnian refugees and a similar event took place in Huddersfield to raise money for sufferers in Bosnia and Kashmir. Muslims in Bradford have raised a total of around 30,000 since September as well as collecting thousands of bags of clothes. A 24-hour vigil was held in Leeds jointly organised by the Ahmadiyya Moslem Association and the Christian-based Leeds European Refugee Trust. In Sheffield the Muslim community used the time of Ramadan for a special effort and raised over 2,500 for Bosnian relief. School children in Bradford and elsewhere made a concerted effort to raise funds during Ramadan. In general money is being channelled through the charities Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief. The visit of the Prince of Wales to visit British troops in the area was welcomed.

The victims of disaster in other areas have not been forgotten. The Lancashire Council of Mosques reports a total of over 7,500 raised for victims of last year's flood disaster in Pakistan and Islamic Relief in Birmingham has launched a new drive in concert with various Christian charities to help the homeless in that city.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.3]

 

back to contents

 

Short reports

Preston hospitals

The scheme launched last month in Preston hospitals to provide halal food for patients has been so successful that the catering service concerned has branched out into providing outside catering for a variety of functions. Approval for halal slaughter is never unanimous. Complaints were raised when Lancaster Abattoir announced that halal slaughter takes place there.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.3]

 

Rotherham schools

Rotherham council has begun legal proceedings against a contractor who is alleged to have supplied schools in the area with a mixture of pork and beef mince instead of the halal lamb mince for which they were contracted.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

The Rushdie Affair

Angry concern was registered in the House of Lords when it was announced that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to prosecute Dr Kalim Siddiqui after his threats to "break every bone in his [Mr Rushdie's] body". The Crown Prosecution Service said that they had "carefully considered a transcript of the interview and has concluded that the contents taken as a whole are not such as would afford a realistic prospect of conviction for incitement to murder or any other offence".[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Graves in Rochdale

Muslims in Rochdale were offended when cemetery workers used a dumper truck to carry soil to fill in subsiding graves. This small truck was driven over Muslim graves thus causing grave offence.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

The East Lancashire coroner's service

Muslims in East Lancashire were concerned when the local coroner's service was re-organised so that Blackburn and Burnley would share the services of one coroner rather than have separate coroners as in the past. They feared that this would lead to delays in obtaining permission to bury their dead.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Yusuf Islam in court

Yusuf Islam took the satirical magazine Private Eye to court after libellous accusations that he had misused 80,000 from the charity Muslim Aid. He accepted undisclosed damages and an apology from the magazine.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Mosque fire in Eccles

Police investigating a fire at an Iranian-backed mosque in Eccles have revealed that it was started deliberately.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Attack on Hindu temple, London

Muslim Ahmed Raza has appeared before Snaresbrook Crown Court and was found guilty of causing damage to the Hindu temple in Forest Gate, London. Raza was cleared of a charge of arson but he was involved in the attack which caused the temple to be set on fire. This was part of the inter-communal violence which followed on the attack on the Ayodhya Mosque in India. No-one else involved in the attack was identified.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Resignation of leader in Britain

Ralph X, the leader of the Brixton-based Nation of Islam in Britain has resigned following his perceived lack of support. He has been replaced by Wayne Massop, the former editor of Sphinx magazine.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.4]

 

Annette Crosbie's dog

The case of the attack on actress Annette Crosbie's dog by a bodyguard of the Ahmadiyya leader Mirza Tahir Ahmad on Wimbledon Common in 1991 has been publicised following her comments on a T.V. programme. Much of the press coverage focused on the part played by former minister David Mellor who intervened in the case. The bodyguard was acquitted of any offense.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.5]

 

Industrial tribunals in Dewsbury

Several firms in the Dewsbury area are to appear before industrial tribunals following decisions to sack Asian workers after a dispute concerning changes to working practices.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.5]

 

St Mungo's Museum of Religion, Glasgow

A new 6m museum devoted to religion has been opened in Glasgow. It has been funded by the City Council together with various development bodies. It will concentrate on religious art and artifacts and specialise in the history of religion in West Scotland. It contains art and artifacts from all major world religions including Ahmed Moustafa's "Attributes of Divine Perfection" which is composed of calligraphic and geometrical designs and is regarded as a masterpiece of Islamic art.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.5]

 

back to contents

 

Updates

Education update

Brent: Islamia School

The Islamia School in Brent has been struggling to gain voluntary aided status for ten years. The latest round in this struggle is an appeal which is before the Secretary of State for Education, John Patten, at present. The Islamia Trust has made it known that there is a real danger that the school will have to close if it does not get government funding. The school has brought its buildings and curriculum up to the highest standards expected from a publicly funded school. The only grounds left for a possible rejection of state aid is that there are surplus places in the Brent Education Authority area. At present the school is massively over-subscribed even though most parents have to pay around 1,100 per year for each child. A decision from the Secretary of State is expected shortly.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.5]

 

Teacher shortage

Ethnic minority groups are seriously under-represented in the ranks of teachers. According to figures from a leaked government-sponsored survey, only 3.3% of full-time teachers come from the ethnic minorities whilst estimates of children from these groups range from 5.5% to 8% nationally. The situation is most acutely felt in areas of high concentrations of minority communities. In Birmingham about 30% of pupils are from ethnic minorities but only around 3% of teachers. In Bradford the situation is worse with about 30% of children and 1% of teachers coming from minority groups.

An important course to redress this balance has been launched by Westhill College, Birmingham. This course is for primary school teachers who specialise in Religious Education. The course has been adapted so that students can major in Islamic Studies with a compulsory course in Christian Studies. The course in Islamics is taught by Muslim scholars according to a syllabus drawn up by Muslims in association with the Muslim Education Forum. The course, now completing its second year, has attracted a high percentage of Muslim students who will help to act as role models within the Muslim community.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.5/6]

 

M.E.F. lobby of parliament

The Muslim Education Forum is a confederation of all the major educational institutions in Britain. It organised the first ever Muslim lobby of parliament with a view to influencing the passage of the Education Bill now before parliament. The M.E.F. aims to apply pressure for a genuinely multi-faith education system in Britain where equality of opportunity for minority faiths is guaranteed and religious discrimination in education is ended. They have been invited by the All-party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community to address a half-day seminar in the House of Lords at the end of April. This will examine issues of current concern in education in a multi-faith society. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Mosques

Batley

The Islamic Cultural Centre, Henry Street, is nearing completion. It consists of a mosque, madrassah and community centre.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Milton Keynes

An application for planning permission has been lodged for an extension to the Granby Mosque. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Bradford

The Jamiyat Tablighul Islam has applied for planning permission to turn a former laundry in the Frizinghall district into a mosque. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Slough

The Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre has been given permission to build a new mosque and community centre in the Stoke Poges district. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Lancaster

The Lancaster Islamic Society has applied for planning permission to convert the Friends' Hall in Fenton Street into a mosque. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Southampton

Work is due to start on a 1m mosque off St Mary's Road. [BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

Birmingham

Work on a car park has been halted at the Woodlands Road Mosque, Moseley. This work was funded by a local government grant but it is alleged that the foundations for an extension to the mosque have been incorporated into the project without planning permission.[BMMS March 1993 Vol. 1, No.3, p.6]

 

back to contents