British Muslims Monthly Survey for May 1993 Vol. I, No.5

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Winston Churchill's speech on immigration

Muslim women in education and employment

Relief work for Bosnia

Salman Rushdie meets the Prime Minister

Marriage under duress in Scottish law

Visit of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed

Christian/Jewish/Muslim discussions

 

 

Short Reports

Eid ul-Adha and the Hajj

Provision for Muslim burial in Kidderminster

Death of Professor Abu Saud

Muslims in County Council elections

Care for Muslims in hospital

Scheme to save the Albaraka Bank

Halal meals-on-wheels in Slough

Immigration plea for Muslim leader

Internal divisions in Middlesborough

 

 

Updates

Education

Voluntary Aided Schools

Teacher training

A Muslim school in Ireland

Swimming lessons in Oxford

 

Mosques

Batley

Crawley

Derby

Trowbridge

 

 

Features

Winston Churchill's speech on immigration

Winston Churchill, Conservative M.P. for Manchester Davyhulme and grandson of the war-time leader, made a speech in Bolton on 28th May in which he condemned "the relentless flow of immigrants" to Britain. The speech was widely reported in local and national press and included claims that many northern cities have more than 50% immigrants in their populations and that Muslims in particular are becoming more prominient.

Mr Churchill said that the problems of Asia and Africa could not be solved by immigration to Britain. He called for an increase in the number of police on the beat and for the government to tighten up social security regulations. "The long-suffering British taxpayer is being taken for the biggest ride of his lifetime".

In two direct references to Muslims, Mr Churchill repeated the Muslim claim that they number more than two million in Britain and, with reference to a comment of Mr Major's that in fifty years time spinsters will still be cycling to Communion on Sunday mornings, he added "more like the muezzin will be calling Allah's faithful to the high street mosque".

The repetition of the claim that there are more than two million Muslims in Britain is unfortunate as it can be attributed more to Muslim rhetoric than demographical analysis. This figure is regarded as inflated by statisticians who estimate that a more accurate estimate would be closer to 1m and certainly less than 1.5m. It is notoriously difficult to obtain precise figures as no national census asks questions about religious affiliation.

Some of the erroneous assertions of Mr Churchill were rebutted in an article in the Guardian (31.05.93) which commented that primary immigration was all but halted in 1971 and that only dependant relatives are allowed to settle in Britain now. These amounted to 50,900 in the year to June 1992. No British city has an immigrant population of 50%. Greater London has the highest population of ethnic minority origin at 17%, with the borough of Brent having 45%. The two cities referred to by Mr Churchill were Leeds and Bradford. According to figures quoted in the Guardian, Leeds has an ethnic minority population of 5.8% and Bradford 15.6%.

It is hard to find a single voice raised in support of Mr Churchill's position. There was one letter speaking against Muslims in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph (03.06.93). The great weight of political opinion right across party lines was firmly against Mr Churchill. The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, commented: "Up and down our country, people from ethnic minorities and from all races are making a tremendous contribution to our national life, .." (Sunday Telegraph 30.05.93). Other comments can be summed up in the remark of Nirj Deva, Conservative M.P. for Brentford and Isleworth, who described the speech as "ill-judged and factually incorrect".

Muslim commentators on the speech condemned it as "highly irresponsible" and "misguided or totally dishonest". There were widespread calls for Mr Churchill's resignation or that he should be sacked by his party. Such comments came from Muslim leaders across the country but especially in the northern cities.

Perhaps the most telling comment on Mr Churchill's speech is that it rated only three days attention in the national press and a week in local papers. This is an indication of the lack of support for his ideas and their irrelevance in the public mind.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.1/2]

 

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Muslim women in education and employment

Several initiatives have been taken to provide help to Muslims, especially women, to enter employment. In Coventry, Qasira Farooqi has been appointed as co-ordinator of a new employment service based at the Muslim Resource Centre and funded for two years by a Taskforce grant. She will arrange courses in basic literacy, assertiveness, cookery and computing. She aims to build up self-confidence and motivation as these are often the first hurdles in the path of seeking employment.

The Central Regional Council in Scotland has created a new post for a Muslim woman, Shamine Monsoori, to set up a Muslim Women's development group which will co-ordinate Muslim women's groups in the area. The appointment is for one year initially and is funded through the council's community education service. Mrs Monsoori aims to set up educational, social and recreational activities to help break down the isolation and cultural barriers which many Muslim women in her area feel. She will be responsive to cultural needs by providing transport for women members, arranging creches and using traditional crafts as a meeting point. She hopes that the groups which are set up will constitute a forum to help Muslim women to establish their own voice in society.

A new job training scheme has been launched in Halifax under the direction of Idris Awan and based at the Islamic Cultural Community Centre. It will provide an intensive 12-week course to improve the job skills of local Muslims with a view to assisting them to find work or enter further education. The course, which is run in partnership with Calderdale College, is open to both men and women.

In Blackburn an Enterprise Development Partnership has been launched based at Blackburn College. It will provide halal food on a meals-on-wheels basis for elderly Muslims in hospitals, nursing homes, social service establishments and day-care centres. The scheme is being funded by the County Council with support from the Prince's Youth Business Trust and the European Social Fund. It has the backing of the Blackburn Council of Mosques and seeks to provide new job opportunities for young Muslims as well as offering a valuable service to the community.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.2/3]

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Relief work for Bosnia

Relief work for Muslims in Bosnia has continued throughout Britain. A sponsored walk in Chesham raised 2,500 and an auction in Cumbernauld raised 1,500. The Ahmadiyya community in Bradford sent 40,000 worth of food and medicines to Tusla. The charity "Islamic Relief" appealed for volunteers to accompany a mobile bakery which its Bradford branch was sending to Bosnia for May and June.

A reception centre has been set up in Rugby by the Red Cross to receive Bosnian refugees. They will stay there for up to six months while they receive health checks and basic education before moving on to family accommodation. It already has 34 residents including 11 children and had a morale-boosting visit from the Princess of Wales.

The Urdu/English newspaper, the Daily Awaz, holds occasional meetings to focus on speficic areas of concern to Muslims. One such meeting, called an Awaz Forum, was held on 17th May to discuss the situation in Bosnia. The Forum lamented the lack of armed effort from the Muslim world to fight on behalf of their suffering brothers. This was seen as an excuse for the West's lack of armed intervention. British Muslims were recommended to apply pressure to their elected representatives in Westminster and Brussels. The Muslim world was called on to take action to stop the fighting. A call for more aid was widely endorsed.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.3]

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Salman Rushdie meets the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister held a 30/40 minute meeting with Salman Rushdie and the leader of his support group Frances de Souza on 11th May. The meeting was held under strict security in Mr Major's private office in the House of Commons. No press or photographers were allowed. This was in response to Mr Rushdie's desire to increase governmental pressure on Iran to have the fatwa lifted. It is part of an on-going attempt by the British government to unblock the impasse which has led to Mr Rushdie being in hiding for more than four years.

Mr Rushdie gave a press conference afterwards in which he disclosed little of the contents of the meeting but regarded it as significant in increasing the pressure on Iran. He indicated that certain measures discussed would provoke a response from Tehran.

A statement was released by the Prime Minister's office which said: "The Prime Minister underlined the government's full support for his fundamental rights as a British citizen and expressed concern that the Iranian authorities have failed to repudiate the incitement to the murder of Mr Rushdie in the fatwa and the bounty which an Iranian organisation has offered... The Prime Minister said that the United Kingdom has great respect for Islam and believes that Iran's failure to repudiate this incitement to murder does no service to that great religion."

Muslim response to the meeting came from Dr Kalim Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament: "We have always known that the British Government holds Islam and Muslims in deep contempt and this confirms it... We have taken a stand over Rushdie and we will not change our view". Sher Azam, President of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said that the meeting was a grave insult to every Muslim in Britain: "Mr Major has condoned the offence given to Britain's two million Muslims and the Muslim world by The Satanic Verses". Iqbal Sacranie, joint convenor of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, said: "It shows the level of insensitivity of the Prime Minister to the feelings of the British Muslim community".

Conservative M.P.'s also commented on their leader's meeting with Mr Rushdie saying that he should have more important things on his mind and expressing concern about the strained relations with Iran and the impact it was having on Anglo-Iranian trade relations.

A statement from the Iranian embassy claimed that 51 Islamic countries had approved the death sentence when they met in Pakistan in April. The views of the Iranian government were also relayed through the Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency which was reported to have said: "The fatwa is not a political matter but an irrevocable religious decree". Mr Major's action was "an act of defiance that is likely to have widespread repercussions in relations and trade with Islamic countries".

The Prime Minster was praised for his handling of the meeting in an editorial in The Times (15.05.93) which spoke of it as an act of "useful statesmanship". It went on to link the issue with other aspects of Muslim life in Britain: "This week's meeting will make the reform of the blasphemy law and the case for Muslim schools all the more pressing. Mr Major will have to demonstrate both that support for Mr Rushdie is necessary in a free society and that the sensitivities of Muslims in Britain have not been forgotten. The auguries look better than for some time".[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.3/4]

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Marriage under duress in Scottish law

Following the case which appeared before the Court of Session in February (see British Muslims: Monthly Survey for January 1993) in which a Muslim woman claimed that she had been forced into marriage against her will by her family, further cases have been brought on the same grounds by Muslim men. There now seems to be a steady flow of such cases with solicitors claiming that they have two cases before the courts and ten more in preparation.

One of these cases concerns Mohammed Khalil who was born in Glasgow to a family of Pakistani origin. He claims that he was sent to Pakistan by his family after the Muslim woman whom he hoped to marry had been refused permission to marry him by her family. Whilst in Pakistan, his family "forced" him to marry a cousin whom he had never met. He later returned to Scotland where he married his original love in secret in a register office. When her family found out, they sent her to Pakistan where she was "forced" to contract a marriage with a man of her family's choosing. Mohammed Khalil is now petitioning the Court of Session to have his marriage in Pakistan annulled.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.5]

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Visit of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed

Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam movement in America which commands a considerable following amongst African-Americans, has been in England on a lecture tour. There was a dispute about the orthodoxy of Elijah Muhammad's Islamic faith but Warith Deen Mohammed claims to have made a full profession of orthodox Islam, this however is disputed by some Muslims in Britain notably the Jam'iat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al-Sunnah.

This group is reported to have launched a concerted campaign to ensure that Imam Mohammed did not address any of the Muslim meetings planned during his visit (Q News 14.05.93). According to their report: "car-loads of turbaned men wearing army-style boots surrounded premises adamant that the Imam would not enter". It is reported that meetings were cancelled by the East London Mosque, the Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent's Park, and the Brixton Mosque which has a large number of Afro-Caribbean members. In the end Imam Mohammed held public meetings only at Birmingham University and in Manchester. A private meeting was held at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester.

This version of events was contested by a representative of the Jam'iat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al-Sunnah ( Q News 04.06.93) who said that any violent threats emanated from Imam Mohammed's security men. The group regard him as an unrepentant public sinner and published a list of his sins against Islam.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.5/6]

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Christian/Jewish/Muslim discussions

A theological discussion was held in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey on the topic of multi-faith worship. This has particular relevance as it is the setting for the annual Commonwealth Day Observance. Speakers were drawn from Muslim (Dr Zaki Badawi), Jewish (Rabbi David Goldberg) and Christian (the Revd. Tony Higton) communities. There was a sensitive and frank exchange which highlighted the tension between each tradition expressing its own conviction fully and at the same time seeking to share worship if and when possible.

A video film produced by the Columban Mission called "Barriers or Bridges" was used by the Methodist Church for group study in Christian-Muslim relations. The film aims to give a basic introduction to Islam and Muslims in Britain and challenges its viewers to break through barriers by building bridges of mutual love based on human encounter.

Christians and Muslims in Blackburn held their second annual lecture on interfaith matters. This was given by Sheik Gamal Sulayman of the Muslim College who was formerly imam at the London Central Mosque. His lecture was entitled: "Islam and Christianity: conflict, co-existence or co-operation?" The series is organised by Dr David Thomas, the Bishop of Blackburn's adviser on interfaith matters, who has recently been appointed to the staff of CSIC.

A conference of leaders from many religions was organised in Newham by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of East London. It made a strong call for peace and tolerance in their multi-racial, multi-religious part of that city.

The Bishop of Wakefield paid a formal visit to the Madina Masjid Mosque in Batley as a guest of the Mount Pleasant Islamic Trust. He told his hosts that they were making a "huge contribution to the whole community and were a model for Islam in Britain".[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.6]

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Short Reports

Eid ul-Adha and the Hajj

The celebration of Eid ul-Adha was marked by extensive coverage in the Muslim weekly Q News and the bi-ligual Daily Awaz but went largely unnoticed in the national press. Congregations of many thousands were recorded at all the major mosques with many benefitting from celebrating on Monday 31st May which was a public holiday which made parking easier in city centres. There were the usual groups of British pilgrims making the journey to Makkah to take part in the Hajj.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.6/7]

 

Provision for Muslim burial in Kidderminster

Muslims in Kidderminster should shortly have a section of the cemetery set aside for Muslim burials. The council has been moving towards this since 1989 when it took a decision in principle. The delay was because the whole cemetery had been consecrated or set aside by blessing for Christian burials. This meant that the situation regarding deconsecrating part of the cemetery had to be clarified according to church law. This process was completed in March and a formal petition has now been made to deconsecrate a section sufficient to accommodate 50 graves specifically for Muslims.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.7]

 

Death of Professor Abu Saud

On 24th April the economist Professor Mahmoud Abu Saud died in Birmingham. Professor Abu Saud was Egyptian by birth but had served in many countries around the world as one of the leading experts in contemporary Islamic economics. He specialised in central banking and had been instrumental in establishing central banks and currency regulation in Kuwait and Afghanistan amongst other countries. He was a co-founder of the American Muslim Council which represents American Muslims to the Washington government.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.7]

 

Muslims in County Council elections

Many Muslims were standing as candidates in the recent local government elections. These were of significance because they were for county councils and not for the great metropolitan areas where Muslims are concentrated. Five Muslims were elected to Nottinghamshire C.C., two each to Leicestershire, Bedfordshire and Berkshire, and one each to Lancashire and Derbyshire. All these were victorious for the Labour Party although there were often defeated Muslim candidates for other parties in the same seats. This list is not exhaustive but is based on that published in the Muslim News (28.05.93).

Two British cities have Muslims as their Lord Mayors. Mohammed Ibrahim has been elected Lord Mayor of Nottingham and Qurban Hussain was elected Lord Mayor of Sheffield. They are the second and third Muslims to hold such positions in Britain, the first was Mohammed Ajeeb who was Lord Mayor of Bradford in 1985/86.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.7]

 

Care for Muslims in hospital

Muslim leaders in Bradford are campaigning for more provisions for Muslims in hospital in that city. These include the provision of a prayer room, a full range of halal meals and a referral system so that the Council for Mosques is informed of any patients without relatives or whose families are abroad.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.7/8]

 

Scheme to save the Albaraka Bank

The Albaraka Bank is scheduled for closure on 30th June. A last minute attempt has been made to save it and thus save Islamic banking in Britain. Over recent weeks a number of meetings have been held in centres of Muslim population to gauge the support for the bank. At these meetings a total of 12m was pledged to take up shares in the bank if it can be saved. The scheme to save the bank is under consideration by the Bank of England, if this is approved then it is hoped that more money will be forthcoming to buy shares in the bank.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.8]

 

Halal meals-on-wheels in Slough

The council meals-on-wheels service in Slough put a range of halal meals onto its menus. It has now been criticised by local Hindus who claim that the council is endorsing cruelty to animals. In order to defuse the row, the council, who acted in all good faith wishing to cater for the needs of its community, has set up a tasting session when 200 community leaders will be invited to examine and sample the full range of the council's menus.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.8]

 

Immigration plea for Muslim leader

Mohammed Hafiz Aktar entered Britain without proper immigration clearance and has worked as a mosque leader in Cleveland for the last four years. During this time he has established himself by his good work for the community partly through his excellent command of English. In spite of an appeal from his local M.P., he was deported and is now in Pakistan where he will have to apply for permission to re-enter Britain.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.8]

 

Internal divisions in Middlesborough

There has been a long-running disagreement within the Muslim community in Middlesborough over elections to the committee of the Jamia al-Madina Mosque. Recent elections were marred by talk of people being disenfranchised. The elections themselves were supervised by a local councillor and the police were on hand. In the event there were some scuffles and damage to property.

The ruling party won the election with an overwhelming majority but those defeated have formed a pressure group calling for fresh elections. The ruling group has sent solicitor's letters to two of the dissidents warning that if they "persist in disrupting proceedings at the mosque", then an injunction will be sought barring them from entering the building.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.8]

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Updates

Education

Voluntary Aided Schools

A group of Conservative peers has tabled an ammendment to the Education Bill currently before the House of Lords which aims to switch one of the criteria for granting V.A. status from showing that there is a need for more school places in the proposed school's catchment area to showing that there is a demand for places of the type which the new school will offer.

The effect of this on Muslim applications for V.A. status is that, if the Muslim parents in the area could show that there was a demand for a Muslim school, then the fact that there were already existing surplus places would not be an impediment to the new school being approved.

The chairman of the Conservative back-bench committee on education, Jim Pawsey, has given his backing to Muslim schools receiving state funding provided that they meet the demands of the National Curriculum. This announcement came after a visit Mr Pawsey made to the Islamia School in Brent together with Sir Rhodes Boyson, a local M.P.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.9]

 

Teacher training

The poor representation of people from Asian families on teacher training courses was examined by the Times Educational Supplement (14.05.93). Two factors were noted. At present teaching has a low status in Britain and so parents who are going to allow their children to enter the professions are more likely to go for a high status profession. The fact that so many girls from Asian families do not continue into higher education militates against their entering teaching.

A new scheme has been started in Bradford to link a teacher training college with a girls' school in the hope of attracting more girls from Asian families to enter teaching. The scheme involves units of study, placement in local schools and visits from Asian teachers who can be good role models. Six of the first cohort of students have applied for places on the B.Ed programme for next year. The college boasts 20% of its B.Ed. students are from Asian families.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.9]

 

A Muslim school in Ireland

The first Muslim state school in Ireland opened in Dublin in 1990 and has just been re-housed into new premises. The school has 120 pupils and teaches the standard Irish syllabus with additional classes in Arabic, Qur'an and religious studies. Part of the finance for the new building was contributed by Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum but the Irish Department of Education meet all the school's normal costs.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.9]

 

Swimming lessons in Oxford

A Church of England primary school in Oxford which has approximately 35% Muslim pupils on roll found that parents were objecting to their girls taking part in mixed swimming lessons. The school responded by timetabling single-sex swimming lessons for all pupils. Then some non-Muslim parents objected to their children being segregated according to sex. This led the school to put on mixed lessons for those who wished in addition to the standard single-sex swimming lessons.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.9/10]

Mosques

Batley

A mosque in a converted house has become so popular that the Hope Street Muslim Welfare Society has bought a piece of land in the same street and applied for permission to build a new mosque to accommodate 200 worshippers. The popularity of the mosque is largely explained by the decision to schedule prayers to coincide with the lunch-hour and breaks between classes at the nearby Dewsbury College. [BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.10]

 

Crawley

The Muslim community in Crawley have raised 70,000 so far towards the first purpose-built mosque in the county. They have arranged to buy a site from the council for 52,500 and hope to begin building by the end of the year. [BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.10]

 

Derby

The Jamia Mosque, Rosehill Street, has submitted detailed plans for extending their present facilities to include seven classrooms, a library, offices and toilets. [BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.10]

 

Trowbridge

Planning permission has been granted for the construction of a mosque and car park on a site in Longfield Road. The plans have met with some opposition from local people.[BMMS May 1993 Vol.1, No.5, p.10]

 

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