British Muslims Monthly Survey for August 1993  Vol. I, No. 8

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Islamia School denied voluntary aided status

Muslims and the law in multi-faith Britain

Internal divisions in Middlesborough

Court hearing over school places in Bradford

Short Reports

Impact of the Immigration and Asylum Act

International treaties on child abduction

UN call to ban racist groups

Muslims in a multi-faith society

Anti-Racist Alliance survey

Racism in the legal system?

Pharmacist loses claim of racial discrimination

Cheltenham's first Muslim J.P.

Muslim Conservative Party agent

O.U. programme on Muslims in Europe

Muslim VIP's visit Britain

New department for the sale of Islamic art

Vandals attack mosques

Fund-raising for "Arms for Bosnia"

Concern over Bosnian refugees

French "Zamzam Water"

Shortage of kidney donors

Advice for Muslim diabetics

NHS employs liaison person

Can food additives be halal?

Muslim children suffer from shortage of iron

Baby food labels in Urdu

Training prospective entrepreneurs

Sports Day for women and girls

Muslim women in Britain and Pakistan

Research project on Muslim marriages

Muslim youth assemble

Halal food in Burton on Trent schools

Action on Section 11 funding

Course for trainee journalists

Housing initiative in Lambeth

Help over housing grants for Bradford Muslims

Talks over burial grounds in Stockport and Lothian

Disposing of Qur'an copies with dignity

Updates

Education

Al-Khoei Schools, London

Muslim boys' college, Newark

New prep. school in Manchester

Muslim Girls' Academy, Oxford

School site unsuitable in Cardiff

Pioneering "Access" course for Muslims

National syllabus for R.E.

English as a second language

 

Mosques

Ashton

Cardiff

Derby

Grimsby

Hackney

Hanwell

Ilford

Northolt

Swindon

Tooting

Trowbridge

Walsall

 

 

Features

Islamia School denied voluntary aided status

The decision of the Department for Education on the granting of voluntary aided status to the Islamia School in Brent was finally delivered by Baroness Blatch on 18th August. The appeal was turned down on the grounds that there were already surplus school places in the borough of Brent with more than 1,500 empty places in schools within a two-mile radius of Islamia. The requirement to show that additional places are needed is one of the basic pre-requisites for the granting of public funds for a new maintained school. These were the same grounds that were used when the last appeal was turned down by the then Secretary of State for Education, John MacGregor, in 1990. This decision was the subject of a judicial review in the High Court which sent the case back to the Secretary of State for reconsideration on the grounds that Islamia School had not been told at that time that there were surplus places in the borough. This failure fully to inform Islamia School of the situation was regarded by the judge in the judicial review as manifestly unfair.

It is generally agreed by politicians and educationalists that Islamia School offers an excellent standard of education. The facilities have been upgraded at a cost of 2.5m so that they now support the full National Curriculum in a way which many maintained schools would envy. The staff are fully qualified and regularly attend in-service training as recommended by education advisors. It is clear that the parents of children who attend feel a great need for the school's services as there is a waiting list of around 1,000 for the school which currently has 180 children on roll. The majority of these parents pay tuition fees of around 1,100 per year although assisted places are provided for the children of refugees and the poor. Some pupils travel up to fifty miles each day to attend.

The school first applied for voluntary aided status in 1986 and has been regarded by many as the flagship for such status for Muslim schools in Britain. It has long been agreed by the government that there is no reason in principle why Muslim schools should not receive state funding in the same way that around 4,000 Christian and 21 Jewish schools do at present. There can be no doubt that the cause of Muslim schools receiving state funding in this way has been set back by this decision as Islamia is in the vanguard in terms of facilities and qualified staffing.

Reaction to the decision from the Muslim community has been vociferous. Their cry is one of outrage and blatant injustice. The Muslim Educational Trust said, "It is clear that justice and equality for all are absent from British society". Tanzeem Wasti, secretary general of the UK Islamic Mission, said, "We are very distressed by this decision, especially when the school's high educational standards were praised by Mr Patten himself. Muslim communities are being discriminated against".

The school's future must now be in doubt. Last year it had to withdraw an additional reception class due to lack of funds. The school's founder and benefactor, Yusuf Islam, has made it clear that the Islamia Schools Trust cannot continue indefinitely to subsidise the school. It is possible that an appeal will be made to the European Court of Human Rights but this is a most lengthy and costly course of action. Now that state funding has been refused, it is likely that the fees will have to be increased, perhaps as much as three-fold. This will obviously limit the number of parents who can afford to continue sending their children to the school.

The grounds quoted by the Department for Education are considered to be feeble by many commentators. According to Islamia School, around 60% of the current pupils live outside the borough of Brent which means that surplus places there are largely irrelevant. If the government intends to uphold its principle of parental choice in education then it is essential that there are surplus places to which people can move their children. The argument of surplus places was over-ridden when some of the City Technology Colleges were set up and Muslim commentators have pointed to Christian and Jewish schools which have recently been approved in spite of surplus places locally. In the opinion of many commentators, it is inescapable that a political decision has been taken in this case not to waive the rule and permit the first Muslim voluntary aided school.

Political reaction to the decision has been plentiful. One frequent visitor to Islamia School has been the Brent North MP, Sir Rhodes Boyson. He has called the decision "a disaster on both educational and religious grounds." He added, "I have visited the school on a number of occasions. It follows the National Curriculum and has good discipline and good teachers". Further, he said, "It is totally unjust that there is not a single voluntary-aided Muslim school in a country where the community numbers more than one million". Mark Cummins from the Liberal Democrat Group on Brent Council wrote, "By using such spurious arguments, the government has once again demonstrated how out of touch it is with reality".

As always when public funding of religious schools is discussed, there have been some voices raised with the cry that all education should be secular and that state funding should be withdrawn from the present denominational schools. This would short circuit the demands for Muslim schools but would strongly be opposed by the churches, especially, who have committed vast resources to their voluntary schools.

Reaction from Christian sources has come both from individuals and the church press. The peace campaigner and former Catholic priest, Bruce Kent, wrote, "As a Roman Catholic I have defended for many years the right of parents to choose the kind of school they want for their children. After all we pay the same taxes as anyone else. Catholics, with their own aided schools, should be standing for the same justice for others and support the reasonable demands of the Muslim community". On the other hand, Clifford Longley, formerly the religious affairs correspondent of The Times, wrote in the Daily Telegraph (03.09.93), "..the present mood of the Muslim community in Britain does not give confidence that separate Muslim schools would be good for the overall health of society. The desire for separate schooling is part of a policy on the part of the present generation of Muslim community leaders to protect young Muslims from being influenced by the values on which British society is based. ..behind the Muslim demand that they be given their own schools out of public funds is a hidden agenda of discrimination and intolerance".

The Church Times (27.08.93) drew attention to the distinction between religious schools which were more or less committed to pluralism and those who had "an excess of monocular religious zeal in them". The former, it claimed, could contribute to the collective cohesion of society but "Allow any significant body of citizens to be educated outside that common culture, and you heighten the risk that division will outbalance unity". Muslims are not alone in wanting religious schools to reinforce their perceived understanding of moral imperatives and revealed truths. There are other religious groups in Britain who are at present excluded from having voluntary aided status for their schools. Amongst these are evangelical Christians and ultra-orthodox Jews. In the Observer (22.08.93) an article was devoted to some of these other groups who might make common cause with Muslims in pressing for a widening of the franchise for aided religious schools.

One possible way forward for Islamia School appears to lie in the direction of grant-maintained status. Under this legislation, schools are funded directly by central government and opt-out of control and financing from LEA's. Within 24 hours of the decision over Islamia, the government awarded grant-maintained status to Oakington Manor School in Brent in spite of the acknowledged surplus places and a 3m repair bill on the school's premises. The Department for Education has confirmed that there is nothing to stop an independent school, like Islamia, from applying for grant-maintained status. Further, it has been calculated by the "London School of Islamics" that there are 62 schools in Britain where Muslims make up 90% plus of the school roll and a further 238 where Muslim pupils exceed 75% of the school population. Some Muslim commentators see opting-out by these schools as a way of moving towards better provision for Muslim schooling.

CSIC, too, has contributed to the debate by writing to the editors of Q News,the Church Times and the Tablet echoing Muslim concern at the decision and calling on Christian leaders to join in the call to the government to reconsider its decision. A letter was also sent to the Secretary of State for Education: [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p.1-3]

 

7 September 1993

Dear Mr Patten,

With reference to the recent decision of the Department for Education in relation to the Islamia School, Brent.

You will know that this Centre has worked in the field of Christian-Muslim relations for the past seventeen years and has graduated students from many countries around the world as well as doing the pioneering research on Muslims in Europe. We were involved in the Birmingham LEA Agreed Syllabus of 1975 and were instrumental in setting up the Islamic Studies option for Primary School B.Ed. students at Westhill College, Birmingham. Therefore, we feel that we have some knowledge and expertise in the field of relations with the Muslim community.

You will also be aware that your decision is perceived by the Muslim community at large in Britain as an act of gross injustice. There is no doubt that the Islamia School is serving a genuine demand from British tax-paying citizens to have their children educated within a certain environment. The reports of educationalists and politicians who have visited the school speak highly of its facilities, trained staff, general atmosphere and educational standards. You yourself have visited it and so will need no further evidence.

The Muslim community has invested hugely in developing Islamia as a model school. It has met every requirement set by your department. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that your refusal to grant it Voluntary Aided status should be seen as an injustice. The grounds which were quoted in your decision themselves reinforce this sense of injustice. The Islamia authorities have made it clear that more than 60% of their pupils come from outside the borough of Brent, therefore the fact that there are surplus places in the immediate vicinity is hardly relevant. This is particularly compounded when your department has waived these restrictions in the case of other schools. Muslim commentators themselves are pointing out in the press that a Catholic school in Essex, a Jewish school and the City Technology Colleges were all the subject of this very rule being waived. You must be aware that such action fuels their sense of outrage and injustice.

There are those who do not want to see Muslim schools on the basis that they would be divisive and encourage "fundamentalism". We find ourselves in agreement with those commentators who have pointed out that suffering continual injustice is much more likely to radicalise the Muslim community in Britain rather than allowing Voluntary Aided status to Islamia School and to any other Muslim schools in future which match the high standards which your department demands in terms of facilities, staff and curriculum.

Great damage has been done by your decision. We would ask you to reconsider it. Perhaps it might be possible to find a route to bring Islamia School under the direct control and funding of central government through grant-maintained status. By whatever route, this manifest injustice will stand as a blight on Muslim relations in this country until it is removed.

A copy of this letter will be sent to the Islamia School Trust and its text will be published in our report on the situation there in our publication British Muslims Monthly Survey for August. A copy of the Monthly Survey for July is enclosed. 

 

Yours sincerely,

Jorgen S Nielsen

Director [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p.4/5]

 

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Muslims and the law in multi-faith Britain

The UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs released its memorandum to the Secretary of State at the Home Office on 29th July. This 88 page document is entitled Muslims and the law in multi-faith Britain: Need for Reform and is obtainable from them at 146 Park Road, London NW8 7RG. This is the UKACIA's contribution to the consultation taking place on the working of the Race Relations Act of 1976.

The memorandum's great value lies in its bringing together in one document many relevant contributions to the current debate on the position of Muslims under British law, with particular reference to the lack of any legislation in Great Britain which provides for a right to freedom of religion, which is one of the aspects of our not having a written constitution.

The first twenty pages of the memorandum outline the position of British Muslims under the law as seen by the UKACIA. The situation is surveyed under five sections which deal with

- Education: no provision for voluntary aided schools, uniform regulations do not observe religious dress code, single-sex education, R.E. and collective worship;

- Employment: flexible time off for Friday congregational prayers, time off for hajj and the great eids, respect for religious dress codes at work;

- Sacrilege and incitement to religious hatred;

- Race law: Muslims do not constitute a racial or ethnic group, the CRE's call for legislation against religious discrimination supported by UKACIA;

- Human rights: the adoption of standards set by international law on freedom of religion.

The main body of the document is concluded by a tripartite conclusion on action which UKACIA would like to see enshrined in legislation. This includes - Vilification: it must be made a criminal offence to vilify or ridicule religious beliefs, practices and sanctities by any action, by word of mouth or by writing, publishing or distributing offensive material;

- Incitement to religious hatred: the law which at present applies to Northern Ireland must be extended to cover the whole of the United Kingdom;

- Discrimination on religious grounds must be made illegal.

There are four appendices which bring together relevant documents, some of which have received little public attention. Appendix I gives the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Appendix II contains an exchange of letters between John Patten when he was Minister of State at the Home Office in 1989 and the UKACIA. The letters deal with the situation of Muslims in Britain in the light of the Satanic Verses affair. Appendix III publishes four submissions from Muslim groups in Britain in response to the CRE's consultation document: Second Review of the Race Relations Act 1976. Appendix IV accounts for the last thirty-three pages of the document and contains opinions from three leading academics on the need for a law prohibiting incitement to religious hatred. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 5/6]

 

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Internal divisions in Middlesborough

The long-running divisions in the Muslim community in Middlesborough have continued. Two female Qur'an teachers were sacked allegedly because they supported the disenfranchised group which has been excluded from the mosque. This led to demonstrations outside the mosque on 16th August. Violence broke out and thirty police officers had to be sent to the scene to keep the peace and break up the rival factions. During the incident, one police officer, who tried to break up a fight, was injured. Three youths were arrested and charged with public order offenses. The police then appealed to elders to sort out this dispute.

After the violent clashes, leaders of the dissenting faction, who call themselves the United Muslim Council, called for an inquiry into police handling of the whole affair. Following arbitration by local police and a former Imam, Zara Ali Shah, the demonstrations outside the mosque were called off so that negotiations could proceed.

The original cause of the dispute was the contested result of elections for the mosque committee which were held last May. Prompted by police negotiators, the ruling group agreed to accept some nominees of the dissenting group onto the committee. This did not satisfy the dissenters who continued to campaign for fresh elections. Finally, after more intense meetings, both sides agreed that there would be a fresh election by secret ballot sometime before 4th November. These elections are to be supervised by an independent body. It is by no means clear that this will end the dispute as part of the original claim was that the dissenting members had been excluded from the electoral roll after they had failed to pay their annual dues of 10-20. It would appear that this point has still not been clarified. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 6]

 

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Court hearing over school places in Bradford

A group of parents from Bradford won the right to have their call for a review of Bradford L.E.A.'s policy in school place allocation tested in a judicial review by the High Court. The parents claimed that the council was discriminating against them by not allowing their children access to the higher standards of education found in the predominantly white Aire Valley area of the city. The Authority has stated that these schools are over-subscribed and so places were allocated to the children in another school but Muslim parents say that 30% of Asian parents were denied the schools of their choice compared to only 5% of white parents. The parents have decided to keep their children at home pending the court's ruling rather than send them to what they regard as a "dustbin school". The parents' case is backed by the Bradford Race Equality Council. Bradford LEA said that its whole policy of catchment areas will be due for revision in time for the 1994-95 school year. One solution which was suggested by some leaders is that an independent Muslim girls' school in Bradford should be given voluntary aided status and allowed to expand into the redundant Feversham First School buildings.

The initial hearing of the case was held in the High Court on 25th August. The Court ruled that a full hearing should take place on 9th September. On that date, the High Court decided that Bradford Council was not guilty of discrimination; the parents are considering an appeal. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 7]

 

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Short Reports

Impact of the Immigration and Asylum Act

The Immigration and Asylum Act became law at the end of July. Under the provisions of this act, visitors to the U.K. will not be allowed to appeal if they are refused a visa to enter the country. According to Claude Moraes, Director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, these provisions are a "rank injustice against the British Muslim community. Two thirds of the 10,000 people refused visas each year manage to succeed on appeal. These people now have no chance of getting a fair deal". [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 7]

International treaties on child abduction

A paper has been prepared on behalf of the British Institute of Human Rights by Geraldine van Bueran of Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, which points to the scope for greater co-operation between Islamic law and international treaties on child abduction. Some Muslim states have not yet ratified these treaties but Ms van Bueran points out that Islamic law recognises the welfare of the child as being of first importance in cases relating to children and that children have had rights in Islamic law long before they were recognised by international law. She concludes that there is scope in Islamic law for the international treaties to be ratified. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 7/8]

UN call to ban racist groups

A United Nations committee has called on the British government to ban racist groups in this country. Two groups mentioned were the National Front and the British Movement. The report also called for better training for the police in handling race issues. The report criticised several countries for their policies on race questions. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8]

Muslims in a multi-faith society

A conference was convened in Brighton by the Sussex Muslim Society to discuss the multi-faith nature of British society. A number of Muslim speakers took part together with representatives of bodies who work for racial harmony and the good of refugees. The need to promote a multi-faith society and avoid the racial disaster of the former Yugoslavia were the main themes. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8]

Anti-Racist Alliance survey

The Anti-Racist Alliance is launching a survey on racial harassment and abuse. Members of ethnic minority groups are to be asked to complete a questionnaire to build up a complete picture of the problem. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8]

Racism in the legal system?

An interim report is expected shortly from the inquiry into racism within the law in Britain chaired by Dame Jocelyn Barrow. This inquiry is investigating 80 cases of alleged racism within law schools. This year 70% of candidates from black and ethnic minority groups passed their bar exams as compared to 50% last year. The disparity between the success rates of these candidates by comparison to their white counterparts is still "a cause for concern" according to the registrar of the Council for Legal Education who is hoping that the inquiry will indicate methods of improving the situation. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8]

Pharmacist loses claim of racial discrimination

An industrial tribunal has dismissed the claim of racial discrimination brought by a Muslim pharmacist who was sacked from his job after performing his ablutions in the dispensing area of a chemists shop in full view of the customers. His employers gave the tribunal a list of complaints which had been recorded concerning the standard of his work. The pharmacist agreed that there had not been a racial question at stake but he had to resort to anti-racist law in the absence of legislation prohibiting discrimination on religious grounds. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8]

Cheltenham's first Muslim J.P.

Cheltenham, the town where a black Conservative parliamentary candidate failed to win a seat, has received its first Muslim Justice of the Peace. He is Abdul Shakoor, a lecturer in electronics and engineering. He will join a panel of 130 part-time magistrates who sit in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Stow on the Wold. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 8/9]

 

Muslim Conservative Party agent

One of the youngest Conservative Party agents in Britain is Azahar Hussain, the agent for Wyre Forest. He became involved in politics when he did a thirteeen-week work experience at the Conservative Party office in Burton as a computer systems expert. This led him to work in a city constituency and later in a rural one. Finally he qualified as a party agent in London and was recruited for the Wyre Forest constituency based in Kidderminster. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9]

 

O.U. programme on Muslims in Europe

An Open University television programme called Outsiders In: Muslims in Europe was screened on Saturday 28th August. It examined the situation of immigrants and children of immigrant families in Britain, France and Germany. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9]

 

Muslim VIP's visit Britain

The Chief Justice of Azad Kashmir was the guest of honour at Luton Town Hall where he was received at an official function. He was in the town to see how well Kasmiris have settled there and integrated themselves into local life. The Deputy Mayor is a Kashmiri.

Sheikh Saleh Bin Hamied, the Imam of the Holy Kaba, visited Britain to attend the Third World Seerat Conference in Birmingham. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9]

 

New department for the sale of Islamic art

Bonhams, the auction house, has announced the inauguration of a department of Islamic art which will be headed by Diddi Malek who is of Persian extraction. She hopes to serve the needs of collectors of Islamic art, many of whom come from the Middle East and feels that being a Muslim and a fluent Persian and Arabic speaker will be of assistance. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9]

Vandals attack mosques

A mosque in Isleworth has been the victim of repeated acts of vandalism over the last seven months which have cost a total of 8,000. These attacks are thought to be racially motivated. The vandalism has included smashing doors and windows, attempted arson, urinating on the floor, smearing faeces on walls and throwing copies of the Qur'an on the floor. Expensive security measures are now being installed including iron gates and doors, steel mesh on windows and a burglar alarm.

A Bolton mosque has been the subject of attacks by vandals and arsonists twice in recent days. A similar attack took place against a Hindu Temple in the town during the same period. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9]

Fund-raising for "Arms for Bosnia"

A fete was held in Chesham, Bucks., to celebrate Pakistan Day. The funds collected at this event were to be donated to the Muslim Parliament's "Arms for Bosnia" appeal. However, things ended in drama when the local council forbade them to use one of its buildings for the fete as the donation of funds to buy arms contravened the United Nations prohibition on supplying weapons to the factions in the former Yugoslavia. Customs and Excise officials alerted County Council officials who ordered the organisers to cease their fete unless they were willing to use funds for peaceful relief rather than arms. Eventually police were called in to enforce the Council's decision. Finally, the fete was moved to a local mosque so that the organisers could fulfil their original intention of donating proceeds to the "Arms for Bosnia" appeal. The Council was at pains to stress that it was supportive of the fete but could not condone the use of funds in this way which would have been illegal. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 9/10]

 

Concern over Bosnian refugees

The Guardian (20.08.93) expressed concern over the plight of refugees from Bosnia who have been brought to Britain. These refugees were brought in by private charitable bodies but no register was kept of exactly how many came or what happened to them since their arrival. There are concerns that funds raised for this work might have been improperly used. The Refugee Council is particularly concerned about 800 refugees who remain unaccounted for. In particular, Bosnian children appear to have been placed in homes which are ill-equipped to care for their needs, especially where language is concerned. There are reports of refugees living in unsuitable housing and failing to find the medical attention which was promised to them. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 10]

 

French "Zamzam Water"

The London-based company Mona Lisa which specialises in providing halal products has been marketing French bottled water under the trade name "Zamzam". Zam Zam is the name of the well in Makkah which was discovered under divine guidance by the Prophet Abraham. Water from this well is drunk by Muslim pilgrims who visit the holy sites around Makkah. Anything associated with the prophets in this way is worthy of great respect in Islam. The company have been marketing this product for three years and claims that complaints carried in Q News (06.08.93) about trading on the name Zam Zam in a way which could lead people to think that they were buying water from the holy well are the first of their kind. The use of the name "Zamzam" has been described as "deeply offensive and in bad taste" by the Saudi Arabian Ambassador who says that the embassy is considering the legal position. The company have defended their actions by saying that the label clearly says that the water is French and that it will stir interest in Islam and the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Makkah). Legal action has been threatened by the Dada Trading Company who use the name Zam Zam as a clothing trade mark. The company claims that it has been using this name since the seventies and in 1986 extended its registration as a trade mark to include non-alcoholic beverages. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 10]

Shortage of kidney donors

Doctors at the Leicester General Hospital have revealed that one quarter of the patients awaiting kidney transplants in their hospital are from ethnic minority groups. One of the reasons for this is that only two kidney donors have come forward from these groups over the last 18 years. It is essential that donated organs match the tissue type of the recipient. There is more chance of a match with organs from a donor from the same racial group. To encourage more donors to come forward, the hospital, together with the Department of Health, has made an advertisement in five minority languages which will be added to Indian video tapes. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 11]

 

Advice for Muslim diabetics

A study in the British Medical Journal concluded that people with non-insulin dependant diabetes can safely reverse their normal morning and evening doses of glibenclamide. This is particularly important for Muslims with this condition who chose to fast during Ramadan rather than claim the exemption on health grounds. The advice is based on a controlled study carried out in Morocco where patients who reversed their doses under medical supervision did not experience any ill-effects. The normal morning dose was taken at sunset and the normal evening dose was taken before dawn. Additional care must be exercised by those patients who habitually take a midday dose as well. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 11]

 

NHS employs liaison person

Health authorities in Leeds have recruited a former Equal Opportunities Communications Officer to act as a liaison person for patients in local NHS hospitals whose first language is not English. Naeem Arif will be based at Leeds Infirmary. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 11]

 

Can food additives be halal?

The President of the UK Shariah Council, Dr Darsh, gave his views on the permissibility of food additives which were originally derived from haram (forbidden) foodstuffs in his regular column in Q News (20.08.93). He concluded on the basis of extensive references, that when a product has undergone a substantial chemical change, even though the original product was haram, it ceases to be forbidden and can be considered halal (permitted or fit to eat). He instanced the substantial chemical change undergone by the ingredients of gelatine and certain food additives as examples. He touched on a major concern for many Muslims who study the list of ingredients in prepared food carefully to ensure that additives, such as those listed with "E" numbers, which might have been derived from forbidden sources, have not been incorporated into the food.

His opinions provoked considerable response in the letters column of the same weekly (03.09.93). Here it was argued that his reasoning was defective and that a distinction must be made between a natural extract, like gelatine from animal bones and hides, and a change of state. This distinction can be seen in the production of vinegar from wine in which no trace of the original alcohol remains by contrast to gelatine in which, however minutely, there are remnants of the original pork. There were other voices which welcomed Dr Darsh's views. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 11/12]

Muslim children suffer from shortage of iron

A two-year study of infant nutrition carried out by the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield has indicated that around one-third of infants from "Asian" families aged four months to two years are suffering from a deficiency in iron. This is thought to be due to the practice of feeding babies on milk for longer than is normal across British society. The study recommended that semi-solid food should be given to these babies earlier so that a better balance in diet could be achieved. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 12]

Baby food labels in Urdu

Lawyers in Birmingham are urging baby food manufacturers to label their drinks which contain sugar with a label which warns parents about the dangers to children's teeth. Following earlier legal action, manufacturers such as Beechams and Robinsons have started to include a warning on these drinks but the label is printed in English. As recent university research indicated that children from ethnic minority families might be particularly at risk, the lawyers want labels printed in ethnic minority languages too. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 12]

Training prospective entrepreneurs

Northamptonshire Training and Enterprise Council is offering a new course aimed at black and ethnic minority entrepreneurs to assist them in setting up their own businesses. People who have been unemployed for six months or more, who have been made redundant, who are ex-prisoners or disabled or who have left the armed services are eligible for this four-week course.

The Pakistani Social, Cultural and Islamic Centre in Scunthorpe has been praised for its work in training people in basic business skills by the Humberside Training and Enterprise Council. It is hoped that there will be financial assistance from the TEC and from European funds to further the training work of the Centre. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 12]

Sports Day for women and girls

The charity Islamic Relief organised a day of games for women and girls in London. Events included various sports, an auction, displays of work and food stalls. The sporting element of the day had a serious undertone, the women wanted to show their support for and solidarity with Muslim women throughout the world, especially those who were suffering, hence the link to Islamic Relief. The organisers felt that many Muslim women were missing out on physical activities because of the strictures of Islamic dress code for women. Hence the idea of a women-only sports day. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 12]

Muslim women in Britain and Pakistan

Following a visit to Keighley by two senior female educationalists from Pakistan, the claim has been made that many traditions regarding Muslim women in Britain are based on outdated notions of the way that things are in the sub-continent. The rich variety of professions which are open to women in Pakistan was highlighted but these can be missing from the recollections of many British Muslims whose families left the subcontinent up to fifty years ago. The role of the extended family as a secure base in which to leave children so that younger mothers could go out to work was explained. It is now common for urban Pakistani women to remain in education to a higher level and establish themselves in a career. The two women were in Britain to follow up a scheme launched in Bradford to encourage teacher exchanges and visits so that the culture and language of Pakistan can be kept vibrant in Britain. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 13]

Research project on Muslim marriages

A research project is to be conducted in Glasgow called Missing Link. It will focus on attitudes to marriage within the Muslim community and has been occasioned by the recent annulment cases brought before Scottish courts. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 13]

Muslim youth assemble

More than 1,000 people attended the annual conference of the Young Muslim Organisation in London on 8th August. The conference was entitled: Islam: The Choice of a New Generation. Speakers included Khurram Murad, former Director General of the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, Maulana Dilwar Hussain Sayeedi, a renowned Qur'an scholar from Bangladesh, and Harun Behr from Munich. The conference was generally regarded to have been a success although the audience was younger than some of the organisers had anticipated and some found the speeches too complex for them to follow.

Two Young Muslims summer camps took place at the end of August. They were located in Leicester and aimed to raise the consciousness and knowledge of Muslim youth. The main speaker was Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam of New York's Taqwa Mosque. Other speakers included Yusuf Qaradawi, author of Halal and Haram in Islam, Mohammed Siddique from Germany and Dr Munir Ahmed, a former president of the Young Muslims. The Young Muslims were founded in 1984 by Khurram Murad and grew from strong links with the UK Islamic Mission and the Islamic Foundation, Leicester. They aim to help young Muslims in Britain lead a life shaped by their Islamic beliefs. There are two sections to the organisation which cater for students and non-students respectively. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 13]

Halal food in Burton on Trent schools

The Staffordshire Education Authority are to make provision for Muslim children to receive halal meals in two primary schools in Burton twice a week during the autumn term as an experiment. To this end they retained the services of a Muslim catering officer to supervise the food purchase and preparation. This has provoked a storm of complaints from local people along the lines that halal slaughter causes unnecessary suffering to animals. The RSPCA has been brought in and a scientific officer has commented: "If animals have their throats cut without pre-stunning, it means the animals suffer pain and can be aware of what's going on for up to 126 seconds after the knife is drawn across their throats". Several letters have been published by the Burton Mail (10.08.93) which take exception to the Islamic practice and recommend the outlawing of halal slaughter and the importation of halal meat from elsewhere. A local Muslim leader from Burton has entered the discussion and listed many activities in British society which he judges to be a deal less "civilised" than halal slaughter. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 13/14]

Action on Section 11 funding

Concern over government plans to reduce drastically the amount of money available for Section 11 funding (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for July) has spread. The fear is that over 4,000 teaching posts which serve ethnic minority groups will disappear. A pressure group, the Section 11 Action Committee, has been formed and a lobby of parliament is proposed for 21st October. Teachers' professional bodies are involved. They are calling on members to write to M.P.'s to urge the Home Secretary to restore funding to its previous levels. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 14]

Course for trainee journalists

Lambeth College in south London has set up four newspaper and radio training courses. Its course in journalism, which is specifically aimed at candidates from the ethnic minorities, has been given official recognition by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Graduates from this pre-journalism course will now be recognised as qualified journalists. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 14]

Housing initiative in Lambeth

A new initiative has been launched by the Lambeth housing department in company with the Ash-Shahada Housing Association to bring back into use the many flats which are situated over shops which are closed during the current recession. The Council leases the shops from their owners and pays for any refurbishment which may be needed. The Housing Association finds suitable tenants and manages the flats. The flats are on short-term leases, normally of five years. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 14]

 

Help over housing grants for Bradford Muslims

The Bradford Council has opened a new office in the Manningham district which is heavily populated by Muslims. Much of the housing stock in that area is in need of improvement. The Council's intention is to assist local residents with filling in the necessary forms to apply for housing improvement grants. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 14/15]

Talks over burial grounds in Stockport and Lothian

The Islamic Party of Britain has been instrumental in seeking better provision for Muslim burials in Stockport. They wrote to the local council asking them to state their policy. The council replied that it would be possible for the Muslim community to purchase part of a local cemetery which could be used exclusively for Muslim burials. Graves could then be aligned in accordance with Islamic principles. They also replied that, while they had as yet no policy on non-coffin burials, they had contacted the health authorities who stated that there were no health problems involved in burials without a coffin.

The Lothian Racial Equality Council has approached the West Lothian District Council on behalf of local Muslims to seek a separate Muslim burial ground in the area. The Council has set up a working party to consider the question. If permission is given, it will become the third Muslims-only burial ground in Scotland, the others being in Edinburgh and Glasgow. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 15]

Disposing of Qur'an copies with dignity

Islamic law requires that any copies of the Qur'an which become torn, tatty, dirty or are in some other way unserviceable must be disposed of with a degree of dignity in keeping with the respect which is shown to the Qur'an as the Word of God. Normally this means that paper is burnt (with careful disposal of the ashes) or buried in an appropriate place. In some Muslim countries separate waste disposal services are available for any paper which may have Qur'anic verses written on it.

This Islamic practice led to copies of the Qur'an being buried in an old disused Victorian cemetery in the Sharrow district of Sheffield. The persons responsible for burying the paper in this way had not sought permission and local residents were concerned. The local council is sensitive to Muslim needs in this respect and is considering setting aside a grave especially for this purpose. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 15]

 

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Updates

Education

Al-Khoei Schools, London

Further to the report on problems at Al-Khoei School (see BMMS for July 1993), a response was given by the Public Relations Director to the Al-Khoei Foundation, Dr Laith Kubba, in Q News (20.08.93). He acknowledged that there had been a difficult passage of time at both the Al-Sadiq Boys' and the Al-Zahra Girls' Schools due to "an overall reappraisal of the administrative system" but emphasised the improvement of facilities in the schools, their newly appointed and committed staffs, the extent to which the fees were subsidised by the Al-Khoei Foundation (200% of parental fees) and the fact that the schools were over-subscribed. He commented particularly on the diverse nature of the schools' rolls in terms of cultural, social and educational backgrounds. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 15/16]

Muslim boys' college, Newark

The Al Jamia Al Islamia in Flintham, Newark, which opens this autumn has drawn public attention with a claim that it will expand to 2,000 students within four or five years. An opening roll of 100 students aged 11-25 drawn from all over Europe is expected and it is claimed that there is a waiting list of 400. The boarding school, currently housed in a converted derelict RAF officers' mess, will expand as more classrooms and accommodation become available. The school is to be subsidised by an unidentified trust and parents will only be expected to contribute around 20 or 25 per week for their son's education. In this way it is hoped to cater for some of the boys from inner-city areas who are suffering under present provision. Local residents have voiced concern that their neighbourhood will be overwhelmed by the expected influx. A total roll of 300 had previously been anticipated. The residents have sent a petition to the Home Secretary expressing their concern. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 16]

New preparatory school in Manchester

Organisers of a playgroup in the Rusholme area of Manchester have converted their playgroup into a prep. school where they plan to teach all National Curriculum subjects to children from two to five years. The long-term plan is that the school will grow as the children age so that it will become a full independent school teaching the National Curriculum within an Islamic environment. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 16]

Muslim Girls' Academy, Oxford

The Muslim Girls' Academy will cater for young Muslim women aged over 16 years. A full- and part-time course will be offered in Urdu and Arabic as well as a three year course in Islamic Studies. The school is intended to supplement state education and will be funded by members of the Muslim community in Oxford. Fifteen girls have enroled for the first term. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 16]

School site unsuitable in Cardiff

Plans to open the first full-time Islamic school in Cardiff have been rejected by the planning authorities due to the unsuitability of the proposed site, a disused warehouse. The planners supported the school plan in principle but rejected the proposed site as there was no playground and there were problems with passing traffic. Discussions are continuing to find a more suitable site. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 16]

Pioneering "Access" course for Muslims

A course has been launched in Cardiff by the Centre for Islamic Studies and the Department for Continuing Education at St David's University College, Lampeter, in collaboration with the Muslim community in Cardiff. The course aims to raise the academic standards of students who lack the necessary qualifications for university study so that they can gain admission to the University College or make their way into the job market. The course is funded by the European Social Fund. The course will have three aspects: basic communication skills in the English language, computer studies and Islamic awareness. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 16/17]

National syllabus for R.E.

The Minister of State at the Department for Education, Baroness Blatch, announced that government advisors are to be asked to develop a range of model R.E. syllabuses which can be used nationally to raise the importance and standard of R.E. in State schools. It is intended that such syllabuses could be used as exemplars for local Agreed Syllabus conferences. The move has generally been welcomed by Muslim educationalists in so far as it raises the status of R.E. but there is a continual fear that there is a hidden agenda to increase the importance and amount of time which must be devoted to Christianity within the syllabus. This agenda is detected in the statement from the Church of England's Board of Education which is looking for two thirds of R.E. time to be allocated to the study of Christianity.

Another document which is expected soon and aims to illuminate Agreed Syllabus conferences is that drawn up by the National Curriculum Council in consultation with leading educationalists from Britain's major faiths. This body has sought to outline what should be the content of Agreed Syllabuses on each of the major faiths and to give guidance on what content is appropriate for each age group. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 17]

English as a second language

The Muslim Education Coordinating Council has welcomed the government's proposed revisions of the syllabus for English teaching under the National Curriculum. They hold such revision to be desirable to provide a more structured and systematic approach to teaching reading and the use of standard English. They have further petitioned the government to bring the teaching of English as a second language under the supervision of the new School Curriculum and Assessment Authority so that its standards can be set nationally and monitored by the Office for Standards in Education. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 17]

Mosques

Ashton

Members of the Dar ul-Uloom Qadiria Jilana mosque are to appeal to the Department of the Environment to have the decision of the Tameside Council planners overturned. The planners refused permission for the permanent use of the building as a mosque and teaching centre on the grounds that bad access would be a hazard to mosque users and other members of the public. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 17]

Cardiff

The Noor-el-Islam Mosque has opened in the Butetown area of the city for use by the century-old Somali community. It was built by trainees from three construction companies; Mowlem, Wimpey and British Gas Wales, fifty of whom gained National Vocational Qualifications as a result. The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation contributed 27,000 to the project. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 17/18]

Derby

Staff at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary have been granted their request to have a prayer room set aside for Muslim prayers. As a temporary measure they are to use a room in a building adjacent to the main hospital building while a more central permanent site can be found. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Grimsby

The government's Planning Inspectorate has overturned the decision of Grimsby planners who refused permission for a church to be used as a mosque. The original application was turned down due to lack of parking facilities. Now part of the former New Clee Baptist Church will become a mosque and teaching centre. The remainder of the building is used for residential accommodation. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Hackney

Plans have been unveiled by the UK Turkish Cultural Centre to build a 3.5m mosque complex in the Haggerston district. The six-storey construction will be topped by a 120-feet tower and will contain a prayer hall, classrooms, library, offices, dining hall, guest accommodation and parking spaces. The council planning authority are taking soundings from local residents prior to considering the planning application. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Hanwell

The UK Islamic Mission has received permission to convert a second house alongside its existing building for use as a community hall and educational centre. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Ilford

Redbridge Council has given planning permission for a building in the Seven Kings area to be developed into a mosque and class rooms. There were objections on the grounds of inadequate parking facilities but the council over-ruled them, in spite of this the residents have vowed to fight on. The local muslim community estimate that the project will cost around 200,000. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Northolt

The mosque under construction for the Dawoodi Bohra community has been held up and will not now be ready for at least another year. Twenty-two houses for the use of the Muslim community on the same site are scheduled for completion in about one month. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18]

Swindon

Thamesdown Council agreed in July to open negotiations with the Islamic Association in Swindon to sell them a piece of redundant land in the Ferndale Road area of the town. There has been a significant protest from local residents who are complaining that this piece of ground is the only recreation area in the district. They oppose any building being erected on the site. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 18/19]

Tooting

The Caribbean Islamic Society has been given planning permission for a two-storey mosque in Gatton Road in spite of some local opposition on the grounds of increased traffic. An earlier application to replace the present single-storey building was turned down last January. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 19]

Trowbridge

The opposition to a new mosque in Trowbridge has solidified (see BMMS for June 1993 and July 1993). The mosque received planning permission in May but the campaigners who oppose the building have instructed a London barrister to take up their case. The campaigners are now waiting for the barrister to advise them on the strength of their case. If they go ahead they face legal fees of several thousands of pounds. The local Christian community is supporting the mosque. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 19]

Walsall

The Walsall Mosque and Community Centre celebrated when their new mosque, which was largely completed at a cost of 500,000 two years ago, received the finishing touch of a minaret which was lowered into position by a crane. [BMMS August Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 19]

 

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