British Muslims Monthly Survey for June 1993 Vol. I, No.6
Brent: Islamia School
The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys has issued a new three-volume report based on figures collected in the 1991 census. Ten boroughs and towns were listed as having an ethnic minority population exceeding 25%. Included were the London boroughs of Haringey, Lambeth, Ealing and Tower Hamlets as well as the towns of Harrow, Slough and Leicester. The highest figure is for the borough of Brent with a total of 44.8%. The total number of people from the ethnic minorities stands at 3 million or 5.5% of the population. The breakdown indicated that black people represent 1.6% of the population, people of Pakistani origin 0.9% and Indian origin 1.5%.
The report indicated that the number of single parent families in Britain has doubled in the decade to 1991. This trend is reflected amongst people of Asian origin although it is still well below the national average. The census does not distinguish communities according to religion, so it is impossible to comment further on this trend amongst Muslims. It is worth noting that the figures do not distinguish between families headed by an unmarried lone parent and a parent who is alone because of marriage breakdown or a partner's death.
Home Office figures for people granted U.K. citizenship fell by 28% to 42,200 last year. Applicants from New Commonwealth countries, which includes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, accounted for half the total. This compares with a high of 80% in 1989 when the immigration figure peaked at 117,000. As an addition there were 48,700 people in Hong Kong granted British citizenship due to legislation preparing for the return of the colony to China in 1997.
Data from the same 1991 census relating to housing and the family has been analysed by the University of Warwick's Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. This indicated that many South Asian families still suffer from overcrowded housing. They found that 47.1% of Bangladeshi families had an average of more than one person per room compared with 1.8% of the white population. The incidence of lone pensioners amongst South Asians is 1.5% as compared to 15.6% in the white population. This indicates the existence of more extended family units in the South Asian population.
The age-profile of the Muslim community is still younger than that of the population as a whole but there are concerns about elderly Muslims who cannot be cared for in traditional extended family units. The problem was addressed in two full-pages by Q News (11.06.93). This explored the concept of day-centres where elderly Muslims could meet for company and support, especially when they are not living with their families. Sheltered housing and residential care homes were explored, especially homes which are set up for elderly Muslims where their religious and cultural needs can be respected. Asian entrepreneurs are now moving into this market and over one thousand homes across eleven London boroughs which cater for Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are reported.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.1/2]
The Royal College of Art, London, is one of the country's most prestigious art schools. Here, in 1984 the unique Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts School (VITA) was founded under the direction of Dr Keith Critchlow who has established an international reputation over 25 years as an expert on Islamic patterns. As a consequence of Dr Critchlow's initiative the school has attracted visiting scholars from all over the world and has been a major source for innovative ideas in Islamic art.
The school attracts students to follow Masters and Doctoral programmes in both two- and three-dimensional art. Each year there is an exhibition of students' work which attracts collectors from many countries. This year's exhibition was widely reported in the Daily Awaz (09/10.06.93). For financial reasons the VITA school is to be closed but the courses will continue at the Prince of Wales' Institute of Architecture in Regent's Park.
The British Museum held an exhibition of coins from the Silk Road which marked the trade route from East to West. It illustrated the history and culture of the peoples who lived along this ancient way.
Channel 4 broadcast a two-part documentary in its Rear Window series about the Islamic art collection of the Iranian Jew David Nasser Khalili which is renowned world-wide. He has offered the collection to the British government on a 15-year loan provided that they will house it in a special museum which will do it justice. This offer is under consideration by the Heritage Secretary, Peter Brooke.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.2]
The technique of sorting sperm according to the sex-bearing chromosomes was pioneered in the United States where it is currently reported to be used in around 60 clinics. American reports suggest that some 1500 children have been born using these techniques. The accuracy rate appears to range from 50% to 75%. Natural selection would yield 50% of people's choices.
These techniques have been employed in Britain since January 1993 and a programme to select the gender of children is currently offered by the London Gender Clinic. This clinic reports that 75% of all inquiries so far have come from "the Asian community" enquiring about the possibility of having a boy. Ethical questions concern the possibility of upsetting the natural balance of the sexes in society, the potential for more abortions when the selection process does not produce a foetus of the right gender and the fear of latent eugenics, the science of selecting particular characteristics and then breeding for them within society.
This process has been the subject of Muslim learned opinion this month. The Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association urged that the clinic should be closed down and described the whole area as being "fraught with pitfalls and danger". The Islamic Medical Association denounced the process as un-Islamic as human bodies are the possession of God and we have no right to interfere with the creation process.
A contrary ruling was given by the President of the U.K. Shariah Council, Dr Darsh, who was educated at the highly-influential Al-Azhar university in Egypt. He based his decision on the deliberations of 75 Muslim medical and legal experts who met in Kuwait in 1983 and discussed this question. This conference endorsed the process where the aim is to ensure that children of one sex are not dominant in a family.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.2/3]
The Muslim Parliament held its seventh session in London on 20th June. Four points of interest should be noted from this meeting.
A plan was debated to create a special citizenship open to all Muslims in Britain. This has not met with universal support amongst the wider Muslim community where the fear was expressed that it could lead to segregation and make the Muslim community targets for extremist groups.
There was a proposal that money should be raised from British Muslims to arm their co-religionists in Bosnia. Linked to this was a proposition that a body of Muslim fighters should be trained who would be ready to defend Muslims in Bosnia or anywhere else in the world where Islam was threatened. This idea has also been subjected to criticism by other Muslim groups, e.g. the Bradford Council for Mosques.
Local organisation of Muslims who support the Muslim Parliament was also discussed. At present these supporters are organised into Muslim Manifesto Groups. It was proposed that these should be replaced with more formalised Muslim Parliament Groups (MPGs). Each MPG would have a leadership of three officers who would normally be Members of the Muslim Parliament and would be appointed by the General Purposes Committee of that organisation. Membership of the MPGs would be open to all Muslims who paid their dues to the Muslim Parliament Ummah Fund (which amount to 0.2% of annual income). These groups would be an embryonic "local government" within the community being responsible for implementing the Muslim Parliament's policies on education and welfare. They would also be "listening posts" to transmit ideas upwards to the Parliament itself.
Finally, the idea of establishing Muslim Tutorial Colleges was further discussed. The plan involves setting up such colleges to supplement the education of Muslim young people from seven to eighteen years. They would teach right across the curriculum and aim to raise the standards of education amongst young Muslims. They would be in addition to ordinary State schools. It is hoped that such colleges might be in action by the autumn but they depend on Muslim funding and the commitment of teachers and pupils.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.3/4]
A judgement has been delivered in the case of a Muslim man who petitioned the Court of Sessions in Scotland to have his marriage annulled on the grounds that he was forced into the marriage under duress. This judgement sets a legal precedent in Scotland as it is the first time that such a decision has been reached in the case of a Muslim man (see British Muslims: Monthly Survey for May 1993).
The case was brought by Shahid Mahmud who had been asked by his dying father to marry a cousin from Pakistan. Pressure to fulfil this request was maintained by his mother and other family members over a period of twelve years. He had never met his cousin who could only gain permission to reside in Britain if she married him. Mahmud was already committed to a relationship with another woman with whom he had one child and was expecting another. Finally, he succumbed to family pressure and attended the register office one morning on his way to work. He went through the marriage ceremony with his cousin, which constituted the only fifteen minutes that they were together, and then went on his way to work. The judge decided that the pressure from the family was intense and unrelenting, so much so that it overwhelmed his will and rendered null the verbal consent to the marriage which he gave. Solicitors acting in the case said that they had a further ten similar cases in preparation.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.4]
Fund-raising events for Muslims in Bosnia continued throughout June. The Muslim Women's Association of Reading raised £1,500 at a concert and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Birmingham staged a national basketball competition. More than 200 Muslims demonstrated in Blackburn to demand that U.N. troops be withdrawn and replaced by forces from Muslim countries.
The Sussex Muslim Society gave Bosnia a high profile at its 17th annual conference which was attended by leading Muslim figures as well as representatives from the government (in the person of the Solicitor General, Sir Derek Spencer), the C.R.E. and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. The conference was warned that persecution of Muslims, as seen in Bosnia, could be repeated in other parts of Europe and the Western powers were accused of double standards and being in collusion to let Muslims perish.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.5]
Shi'ite Muslims in Britain joined their fellow believers around the world in celebrating the Day of Ashura on 1st July. This festival commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. In Birmingham 500 Muslims held a procession through the city centre distributing leaflets explaining the festival. They attracted the attention of the local press and television news. A similar procession was held in Peterborough where around 600 Muslims celebrated the day.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.5]
The Manchester-based company Action Time, Britain's largest game-show producers, has been commissioned to produce a T.V. quiz on the Qur'an for sale to Arabic-speaking countries. Waddingtons, makers of many famous games, are to make a board game to complement the quiz. Muslim leaders in Britain have been consulted by the company to ensure that the quiz causes no offence.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.5]
This year's Reith Lectures, on Radio 4, are being given by the well-known Palestinian writer and critic of Western cultural imperialism, Edward Said. His theme is the role of the intellectual in society.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.5]
A newly formed company, Orient Radio, has tendered a bid for an eight-year licence from the Radio Authority. The company plans to aim its programmes at London's Muslims. It will broadcast a mixture of speech and music programmes in Arabic, English, Kurdish, Persian, Turkish and Urdu. This will make Orient a direct competitor for Sunrise Radio which has been operating for the last three years and has recently launched satellite broadcasts to Europe and parts of Britain. Sunrise has come in for some criticism by Muslims for alleged biased and inaccurate news and phone-in programmes.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.5/6]
The Prince of Wales has accepted the honour of becoming patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. There have been some Christian voices raised in surprise at the potential anomaly of the future Supreme Governor of the Church of England accepting such a position.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.6]
Westhill College, Birmingham, has been running a B.Ed. course for primary school R.E. teachers with a specialisation in Islamic Studies for the last two years. The course has proved so successful in recruiting young Muslim men and women to train as teachers that a second Muslim lecturer has been appointed to join Dr Bustami Khir as from September.
The new appointee is Dr Haifaa Jawad who was born in Baghdad. She holds degrees from Baghdad University and received her doctorate from the University of Exeter with a thesis entitled: "Euro-Arab Relations: A Study in Collective Diplomacy" which has recently been published.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.6]
Christians and Muslims gathered together in Leicester to discuss the interaction between religious family laws and British law. These discussions were led by Ataullah Siddiqui from the Islamic Foundation and the Revd. Gordon Sealy from St Paul's Church.
A new inter-religious body has been set up in London called "Faith Asylum Refuge" with the aim of encouraging the faith communities of the capital to extend to refugees and asylum seekers "the profound hospitality which is the demand of followers of every faith".[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.6]
The cemetery in Hounslow, West London, will now be open for burials on Saturdays from 0900 to 1700 and Sundays from 0900 to 1600. This comes as a result of sustained pressure from local Muslims who wish to bury their dead as soon as possible in accordance with Muslim tradition. There will be a surcharge for burials taking place during these times.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.6]
A day seminar was organised by the Inner Cities Religious Council in Birmingham. Representatives of local and national government were present. The aim was to assemble religious and community leaders to discuss possible ways of dealing with inner city problems.
The Labour Party has launched an inquiry into the state of the inner cities under the chairmanship of Keith Vaz, the Shadow Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities. The inquiry, called "City 2020", will look into questions of crime, unemployment and housing and seek ways of countering the present decline of the inner cities.
The Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley has set up a scheme called "Project Youth 2000 - The Next Generation" to provide social facilities for 12 to 25 year-olds in the area.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.6/7]
A new helpline for Muslim women has been set up based in London. It will offer emotional support, counselling and practical information to Muslim women faced with isolation and experiencing domestic, welfare and language problems.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.7]
The Albaraka Bank, which carried the standard for Islamic banking in Britain, closed on 30th June. A small skeleton staff remain to attend to the bank's affairs. A group of former customers of the bank are reported to be putting together a scheme to re-float the bank. They are said to command pledges of between £20 and £40 million. An important factor will be whether Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel will join the new venture or not. His presence would be required to justify the claim that this is a re-floating of Albaraka rather than a totally new bank which would have to begin the process of applying for a banking licence which would take several years.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.7]
Muslim Care was founded in 1991 and registered as a charity in October 1992. It aims to promote education, health and self-sufficiency in the third world. It does this by selling goods donated by businesses and goods made by small industries in the third world which it supports and helps to set up. It has now opened a new charity shop in the East End of London.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.7]
The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, Mr Keith Hellawell, has been making a tour of his area, getting to know community leaders and listening to local problems. As part of this exercise he has visited the Purlwell Mosque in Dewsbury and the Calderdale Racial Equality Council in Halifax. In Bradford he met with a gathering of fifty Muslim leaders to discuss crime, the use of firearms, drug abuse and prostitution.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.7]
The North-West Anglia Health Authority and the Peterborough Race Equality Council commissioned the University of Warwick to investigate health care in Peterborough for Kashmiri and Punjabi residents. The report highlighted a number of problems which included: a shortage of female doctors which leads to women patients being examined by male doctors, lack of adequate halal food in hospital, poor services for circumcising babies, insensitivity to customs surrounding death, poor interpreting services and insensitive advice on contraception and sterilisation given to women after childbirth. The Health Authority is taking steps to address these problems.
In Ipswich, the leader of the Bangladeshi community has attacked the local hospital for not providing necessary care for Muslim patients accorded to them by the Patients' Charter. The hospital authorities have entered into discussions with community leaders to improve the service.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.7/8]
Bedfordshire County Council is to consider afresh a scheme officially to link the county with the Mirpur region of Kashmir. The scheme was considered in January but dropped. It has now been tabled for further consideration.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.8]
The Muslim Community Resource Centre in Coventry has been opened officially. The Centre, which cost £80,000, will serve the city's 12,000 Muslims. It was conceived following an investigation by the University of Warwick into the needs of local Muslims. It will have a full-time staff of five who will organise educational, cultural and recreational activities including language training, preparation for work and skills training.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.8]
The Army Cadet Force is seeking new recruits from the Muslim and ethnic minority communities. It is a voluntary youth organisation sponsored by the army which seeks to train character and instill a spirit of good citizenship. The drive is being led by Lt. Mahroof Rashid, the Yorkshire liaison officer for ethnic minority cadets.
The Girl Guides Association has announced a change in their oath of allegiance which is aimed at making it more acceptable for members of faiths other than Christian as well as for non-believers. The new wording will contain the phrase: "I promise that I will do my best to love my God...."[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.8]
Brent: Islamia School
On 23rd June, the Secretary of State for Education, John Patten, visited the Islamia School in Brent. He is at present considering a final appeal from the school for state funding and so took this opportunity to see it for himself. He met teachers, pupils and governors and praised the high standards, moral teaching and good discipline. He made special mention of the exemplary way in which the National Curriculum was being taught. No commitment was given about the future funding of the school but a decision is expected shortly. Mr Patten also visited a Jewish school on the same day, which is applying for Voluntary Aided status.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.9]
The Sunning Hill Primary School in Bolton has become the first school in the town to hold Islamic assemblies every day. About 75% of its roll is Muslim and ethnic minority children make up a total of 90%. The application for a determination was made by the school governors to the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE). No other applications from Bolton schools are in hand at present. The assemblies, which attract about 300 pupils every day, are conducted by mothers of children in the school. A smaller, broadly-Christian assembly takes place at the same time. Parents are asked to make an option concerning which assembly they want their children to attend when they are enroled.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.9]
Two amendments to the Education Bill are to be debated in the House of Lords. The effect of these amendments would be that sex education becomes compulsory but parents would have the right to withdraw their children if they did not approve of the sex education programme being offered by the school.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.9]
A seven-week, part-time course has been run by the Calderdale and Kirklees Training and Enterprise Council based in Halifax. It aimed to help people from the ethnic minorities set up in business on their own. Twenty-six men successfully completed the course. The men will be monitored and if the course is deemed successful it will be repeated.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.9]
Problems arose in the Preston Manor High School in the London borough of Brent when Muslim pupils complained to community leaders about a lesson on Islam which was given as part of the school's sixth form General Studies course. The lesson was based around a worksheet which contained many acontextual quotations from various Muslim sources and the press. The result was that the worksheet was felt to be unbalanced and could result in misleading ideas about Islam. Examples of these misleading ideas were that Islam justifies terrorism and that Islam is a religion in which intolerance is found without equal anywhere else in the world.
The school admitted that the presentation was unbalanced when it was challenged by Muslim leaders but they defended their good intention to stimulate discussion of racial and religious intolerance. The teacher concerned was formally reprimanded, the headteacher apologised to all Muslims concerned, the lesson material was withdrawn and a Muslim leader was invited to give a lesson putting a more balanced view of the subject.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.9]
The local council has given permission for the present mosque, sited in a semi-detached house, to be extended. As soon as this is completed the Muslim community will have to vacate a former brush factory which they had been using but which constitutes a fire hazard.
Construction of the £1 million mosque which was recently started (see BMMS for March 1993) has been halted while an application for a grant is considered by Hampshire County Council. The Mosque Trust has asked for a grant of £200,000 towards the complex which will include a multi-purpose hall for community use. Application for financial assistance has also been made to Southampton City Council.
Disputes over the granting of planning permission for a mosque in the Longfield Road area have continued (see BMMS for May 1993) with the establishing of a fighting fund by local residents who have also retained a solicitor to examine the case. The solicitor will advise on the likely success of an application for judicial review.[BMMS June 1993 Vol.1, No.6, p.10]