British Muslims Monthly Survey for October 1993 Vol. I, No.10
The speech by the Prince of Wales in Oxford on 27th October attracted a great deal of comment. The Prince is the vice-patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. The speech was given in the Sheldonian Theatre before an invited audience of dignitaries, academics and diplomats. The two aspects of the speech which drew the most attention were his call for greater tolerance in Britain and his condemnation of Saddam Hussein's attacks on minorities in Iraq. In a much-quoted phrase he described the Muslim community as "an asset to Britain" and called for mutual understanding and respect.
The Prince's condemnation of the "unmentionable horrors" perpetrated by Saddam in Iraq has added poignancy as he has now left on a visit to several Gulf states.
The general reception of his speech by the press has been favourable with his remarks about Iraq being regarded as courageous and timely. There were frequent comments that he had failed to mention the Salman Rushdie affair particularly in the context of calling for two-way tolerance. Naturally, there were some elements within the press who interpreted his words to suit their own stamp, the example of the Daily Express (28.10.93) could be instanced, as could The Sun on the same date. The Independent chose to combine their report of the speech with a report on the Church Society's failed attempt to use the law to prevent the Church of England from ordaining women to the priesthood; the link was over the role of religion in society. The Sun ran a 'phone-in survey on whether people "agreed with the Prince's call that Muslims living here should do more to fit in with British life". Of the 13,106 calls received, 12,723 supported the call as stated and 383 opposed it.
Some leading Muslims were quoted by the press giving their response to the speech. Kalim Siddiqui said: "The Royal Family needs to take Muslims more seriously if they are going to make major speeches about us." Akram Khan Cheema said: "It was tremendous to hear our future king put warmly the position for creating understanding." Imam Abduljalil Sajid from Brighton said that it was vital that the Prince should stress that both Islamic and Western cultures have something to offer each other. The comment of the Aga Khan, that the speech was excellent, was widely reported. Tony Ward, the deputy chairman of the CRE said: "For the heir to the throne - who will become head of the Church of England - to be asking the nation to be not only tolerant of other religions but actually to welcome and respect them is a very important statement."
Q News, the Muslim weekly (29.10.93), devoted its two centre pages to printing a condensed version of the speech and carried many columns of appreciation and analysis. Amongst Muslims whose comments were printed there, Ahmad Versi, editor of the Muslim News, said: "You can tell from the way he played up the threat from Saddam and the way that he played down the horrors of Bosnia, that this is just Government policy." Shabbir Akhtar said: "The fact that God and His Prophet approve of our faith should be good enough for Muslims. ..it felt like the apologetic, unchallenging Islam that is no threat to the West and of which we could all do without." Prof Akbar Ahmed said: "Here is the future King of England acknowledging the contribution of Islam to Europe and who says that the West today has much to learn from Islam because it is spiritually bankrupt and Islam is spiritually rich." [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 1/2]
The Department for Education on 11th October issued a draft of its forthcoming circular on Religious Education and collective worship in maintained schools in England and Wales. They are asking for comments before the final version is issued in the new year. Copies can be obtained from the DFE at Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT and comments must reach the same address by 3rd December.
This circular affects Muslims in state education in a variety of ways. From 1 October 1994 all Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACRE's) must reconstitute their representation to reflect the proportionate strengths of religious groups in the area. The same regulation covers all Agreed Syllabus conferences. From 1 May 1994 all meetings of SACRE's and Agreed Syllabus conferences must normally be open to the public. All Agreed Syllabuses which were adopted before 29 September 1988 must be reviewed in the light of the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988. From now on all Agreed Syllabuses must be reviewed every five years. Grant-maintained schools are to have their own group on SACRE's and Agreed Syllabus conferences. Determinations on collective worship, which allow specific schools to change the pattern of collective worship to reflect the needs of other religions represented in the pupil body, must be reviewed by SACRE's every five years. Grant-maintained schools, which do not have any specific religious affiliation specified in their trust deeds, will be free to use an Agreed Syllabus from any LEA in the country. Headteachers will be responsible, in consultation with Governors, for ensuring that RE and collective worship provisions meet with DFE requirements. These will be open to inspection in the normal way by OFSTED. Governors will be responsible for ensuring that information on RE and collective worship is included in each school's prospectus and they will have to consider complaints about these issues.
The full impact of this circular will only be felt when the DFE publishes the model syllabuses on RE which Agreed Syllabus conferences will have to consult in the new year. There will also be statements from faith groups on what they consider should be contained in Agreed Syllabuses pertaining to their particular faith. There is no doubt that if all these provisions are implemented and monitored by OFSTED, there will be a marked change in RE and collective worship provision in all maintained schools in England and Wales.
Some initial comment has been elicited from Muslim leaders based on extracts from the circular. These have expressed concern over the preponderance of Christianity which must be taught even in those schools where 95% of the pupils are Muslim. Comments have been made along the lines that this will lead to more Muslim pupils being withdrawn from R.E. and that the government wishes to re-establish a "Christian" state in Britain. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 2/3]
The row over the appointment of Mrs Noshaba Hussain as headteacher of the Springfield Junior School in Sparkhill, Birmingham continues with no end in sight (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for September 1993). Mrs Hussain was appointed in unusual circumstances whilst having had no paid primary school teaching experience and being under investigation concerning financial irregularities at the Muslim Women's Training Centre which she used to manage.
There has been a petition signed by 50 parents of pupils in the school who have expressed their concern over the situation. This has been sent to the Education Department and was organised by a local councillor who is a Muslim, Raghib Ahsan. Councillor Ahsan has stated that the panel which appointed Mrs Hussain contained only three people; Mohammed Yussouf, the chairman, Aziz Hassan, his nephew and Miss Millie Brown, who has resigned from the board of governors since the interview. It is further reported that the appointment was made by a majority of two to one. Finally, although there were 19 applicants for the post, only two were called for interview. Councillor Ahsan has joined in the call for a full inquiry into Mrs Hussain's suitability, the method by which she was appointed and the alleged financial irregularities.
Prof Tim Brighouse, the newly-appointed Director of Education in Birmingham, asked Mrs Hussain to see him to discuss her situation but she refused. The Director then met with the Chairman of the governing body where it was agreed that Mrs Hussain should be suspended to allow a full investigation to take place. Under the Education Reform Act 1988 governors and the Education Department must agree over a headteacher's suspension. It appears that agreement was reached at the meeting but later the Chairman of the governing body withdrew his agreement as the letter of suspension was written as though the governors had made the decision to suspend rather than that they had agreed to the wish of the Education Department. Mr Mohammed Yussouf, the Chairman of Governors, said that he was going to appeal to the Secretary of State for Education to intervene, meanwhile, he had instructed Mrs Hussain to remain in post. This meant that she continued to occupy her office whilst the staff, under the guidance of the NUT, declined to accept her authority, as she had been suspended by the Authority, and recognised the deputy head as acting headteacher.
At this stage the situation became even more confused as The Birmingham Post revealed (23.10.93) that there had been a series of three advertisements for the post when Mrs Hussain was appointed, the first two carried the standard requirement for appropriate teaching experience but the third, which had apparently not been approved by the Authority and on the basis of which Mrs Hussain was appointed, did not carry any mention of such a requirement. Further, the same newspaper reported that irregularities had been found in Mrs Hussain's record of service which she had thrice been asked to clarify but had declined so to do. It appears that the Authority and Governors were aware that she had only served in British schools on a voluntary basis, however, there would seem to be correspondence from the Authority which suggests that they decided to approve her appointment as they recognised that there is a shortage of teachers from the ethnic minorities.
Four days after the initial letter of suspension was received, the Chairman of Governors wrote to Mrs Hussain ordering her to co-operate with the suspension letter from the Authority. She has now done so. The Chairman of the Birmingham Education Committee has met with government ministers to discuss the situation and to ask for their guidance on how to act in such a situation, given that they are the authors of the current legislation. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 3/4]
Prof Muhammad Anwar, the Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick University, has completed a survey of the 1991 census and other statistical sources. In this he estimates the current size of the Muslim population in Britain to be 1.5m. This is always a hotly contested figure as no official survey asks questions about religious affiliation and so estimates must be drawn on the basis of ethnicity and surveys of the labour force. Current estimates vary from 750,000 to 3m.
Prof Anwar's results are summarised in a CSIC Paper in the "Europe" series, a copy of which is available priced £3 from CSIC. It is clear that, whatever the exact figure, Muslims are distinctly the second largest religious group in Britain. The major concentration is in the South-East, with around 60%. Birmingham has about 100,000 Muslims, the largest concentration in a single local authority area, and there are further concentrations in West Yorkshire, South East Lancashire and in Clydesdale. Another important factor is the age profile of the Muslim community with 30% being of school age, compared with a general figure of 13%. Almost 60% of Muslims are under 25 compared to 32% nationally. There is a preponderance of working class Muslims, some estimates put the figure at 80% and unemployment could be running as high as about 30%. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 4/5]
A thousand people are reported to have lobbied parliament over the proposed cuts in funding under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. The lobby was organised by the "Save Section 11 Campaign" and was supported by members of ethnic minority groups. Although the government agreed in September to reduce its proposed cuts from 42% to 18% this will still mean a cut of £130m from the budget which will mean a reduction of 4,000 jobs paid for by this funding. Many of these jobs would be lost in language support teaching for children from ethnic minorities. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 5]
Muslim organisations are being criticised for their laid-back approach to the rise in racist attacks in Britain. Muslim groups were noted by their absence from anti-British National Party demonstrations in London and their presence in the Section 11 lobby of parliament was regarded as negligible. Khalida Khan, a veteran Muslim community worker was quoted in Q News (22.10.93) as saying: "Muslims are the largest minority in Britain. We live in areas where attacks against Muslims take place on a daily basis, yet our leadership is not involved in the struggle. It is pathetic." [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 5]
The Kashmiri community in Britain remembered the 46th anniversary of the Indian occupation of their homeland on 27th October. For the first time in decades, all four of the diverse Kasmiri groups represented in Britain ceased their hostilities and agreed to assemble and march on the Indian High Commission where they presented a petition addressed to the President of India. They were appealing for the independence of Kashmir and for an end to suggestions that the country might be divided into two separate states. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 5]
Ireland is one of the world's biggest exporters of halal sheep-meat and beef. Concern was expressed by Muslims in Birmingham that the animals were not being slaughtered correctly in accordance with Islamic law so an environmental health officer was sent by the City Council to inspect the slaughterhouses in Dublin and Belfast. The officer liaised with local Muslim leaders and all concerned were satisfied that the correct methods are being employed. Birmingham Muslims were pleased to receive the assurance of their Council officer but there were some voices raised in complaint about the £412 which the trip cost. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 5/6]
A new halal slaughterhouse for poultry has been opened and licensed in Birmingham at a reported cost of £800,000. The abattoir will be able to process 10,000 chickens each day. This may well lead the authorities to clamp down on the unofficial killing of poultry on unlicensed premises. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 6]
The London-based India Association has given a four-week crash course in law, psychology and martial arts to a group of 20 so-called "Guardian Asians" who are dedicated to protecting people from racial attacks on the streets of the capital. They feel that the police and the government are not doing enough to protect the victims of racial attacks and to punish the attackers. They claim a figure of 400 racial attacks every day in Britain. The group includes black and white people as well as those from Asian families. A further cohort of 50 people is currently under training. The police have discouraged any idea of vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 6]
In the wake of the election of a British National Party candidate in Tower Hamlets, an anti-racist group called the United Front Against Racism and Fascism has been formed in Bradford under the inspiration of the deputy leader of the council Mohammed Ajeeb. Prompted by this group, community, church and political leaders have issued a "Fascist-free Charter" against all forms of fascism within the city. The council is to meet directly to discuss the charter with a view to adopting it as official council policy. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 6]
A conference on an Islamic approach to environmental and ecological questions was held in Leicester on 31st October. Speakers included Dawood Ghaznavi, from the "World Wide Fund for Nature" in Pakistan, and Fazlun Khalid, of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 6]
The UK Islamic Mission held its 13th annual conference in Birmingham under the theme "Unity of Muslims in Britain". Speakers included Dr Saleh bin Humaid, Imam of the Ka'bah, Makkah, Imam Ahmad Cato from Sarajevo and Raschid al-Ghannouchi from Tunisia. The repeated message of the speakers was that Muslims throughout the world are suffering because of the disunity of the Muslim community. There may be differences of opinion within Islam but the fundamentals of religion are uniformly upheld and agreed. Genuine unity is needed to resist the world-wide propaganda against Islam. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 6/7]
The fourth annual conference of the Muslim Women's Institute, part of the Muslim Parliament Network, was held in London on 17th October under the theme: "Muslim Women Building a New Future - Vision, Action and Growth". The two keynote addresses were given by Mrs Noshaba Hussain on underachievement in education, and Dr Aliya Qidwai on "Bosnia: The Muslim Holocaust". There were four workshops which met during the afternoon on Education, Muslim Advisory Service, Youth and Students, and Social Welfare. The Education workshop was told that the Muslim Tutorial Colleges, proposed by the Muslim Parliament, will help to address underachievement. A Muslim Advisory Service is hoped to be launched next year providing information, advice and counselling. The Youth and Student workshop focused on the issues of Muslim identity and Islam versus Western Culture. The Social Welfare group looked at women in the community and explored the needs of women in prison, fostering and adoption services and child care provisions. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 7]
A working party has been set up by police and Council representatives in Bradford to look into the plight of women from Asian families who feel themselves to be torn between their traditional culture and British society. It is feared that some women from the city are faced with the prospect of being sent to Pakistan to be married or leaving home to an uncertain future. The local police are developing expertise in dealing with missing women. This is an escalating problem. In 1990 they dealt with only seven cases but this increased through 21 in 1991 and 30 in 1992 to 50 cases in the first nine months of 1993. The police are often placed in the rôle of intermediary communicating between women who have left home and their families who are desperate to regain contact with them. Local Muslim leaders, some of whom are serving on the working party, share the anxiety of the police over this issue. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 7]
The Bishop of Stepney has commented that the election of a British National Party candidate in Tower Hamlets may well be due to people who might call themselves "Christians". In a letter to Church of England worshippers in Tower Hamlets he is reported to have said: "I have been struck by how much easier it has been to communicate with Bangladeshi young people through their impressive leaders, than it has been to make contact with many of our neighbours who would call themselves Christians". [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 7]
The Bishop of Blackburn and the Chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques have issued a joint statement backing the rights of minorities in our multi-racial society. The statement was prompted by the British National Party victory in Tower Hamlets. They affirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury's words that "the evil politics of race solve no problems". They went on, "It would be tragic if the deprivation which affects all communities should be allowed to be used by political, racial or religious bigots, to set one part of the community against another. We therefore wish to state our commitment to the common good and to encouraging an environment in Lancashire which allows no place for the politics of race". [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 7/8]
Bradford and District Training and Enterprise Council ran a pilot scheme aimed at teaching English to people from the ethnic minorities. The scheme was such a success that it has been followed by a 15-programme series called "Switch on to English" on Sunrise Yorkshire radio. The programmes, which run for 20 minutes, aim to give people the basic skills of language communication which they need for daily life. The broadcasts are supplemented by workbooks in five Asian languages which are free to people over 18. The series is being monitored by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit and it is hoped that a second, more advanced, series can be broadcast in the new year. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8]
Portsmouth city council launched a new service for Bengali-speakers who need to contact them with concerns over housing provision. There will be a Bengali speaker available for two hours once per week to assist with problems ranging from housing benefits to grants and homelessness. If the service is successful Punjabi and Cantonese services may be provided. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8]
Audio tapes based on a book banned by the City of Birmingham library have turned up on their shelves and have themselves been banned. The book, Bonker's Clocks by Nicholas Fisk, was banned when it appeared in 1986 but the tapes were overlooked and have been in circulation since 1990. They were found after the Council was alerted by another local authority. The tapes contain racist material which talks of Asians stealing British jobs and feature a racist attack on an Asian shop. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8]
A Sheffield pub which has been running striptease shows once per month has applied for a licence to stage such shows two nights per week and at weekend lunchtimes. Local Muslims from a mosque about 100 metres away have asked the council to refuse permission on the grounds that the shows would attract undesirable people who might engage in racist abuse of worshippers leaving the mosque. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8]
A report was published in the British Medical Journal from the British Heart Foundation of Cardiology based, under Prof David de Bono, at the University of Leicester. It revealed that deaths from heart disease amongst men and women of South Asian origin were 40% higher than the national average. Further, it was reported that such patients wait an average of 10 months longer for specialist treatment. The causes of this delay were attributed to a delay in seeking medical assistance, difficulties in communication and discrimination by family doctors. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8/9]
The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC), which campaigns against abortion on moral grounds, has launched a Muslim section under the direction of Dr Abdul Majid Katme who has been appointed as National Muslim Coordinator. Dr Majid has assembled literature on Islam's stance with regard to the unborn foetus and its right to life based on Qur'anic verses. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 8/9]
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK staged a national sponsored walk in Surrey which was supported by Ahmadiyya groups from around Britain. They raised a total of about £20,000 for various charities both in this country and overseas. The same group staged a careers exhibition in their centre in Bradford at which 150 young people received information about a variety of careers.
Thirty members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Fellowship joined Christians in Golcar, Huddersfield, to celebrate a harvest festival. Both groups joined in presenting harvest gifts and then the Muslims observed a Christian service. Afterwards a harvest lunch was shared by all. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 9]
The Glasgow Sunday Mail (10.10.93) profiled a local woman who has opened her home to receive 21 children who have fled from Bosnia. In Rochdale, a local charity called the "Bosnia Aid Committee" is staging a concert to raise money for Bosnian sufferers. The principal artist will be Najma Akhtar who is styled the "Ghazal Queen of Britain".
Hundreds of people are reported to have gathered in Leicester for a fund- and consciousness-raising vigil which was addressed by the Bishop of Leicester and the Imam of the Islamic Centre. A petition was sent to the government asking them to do more to help suffering Bosnians and the funds were used to send medical supplies. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 9]
The Oldham-based Fatima Women's Association has received a grant of £10,000 from the charity Children in Need to pay for a part-time development worker for the youth section of the Asian women's group. This group runs courses for girls aged 11 to 17 as a social support and to improve their educational prospects. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 9]
Two projects put forward by Muslims in Calderdale have had funding deferred by the local council. The Calderdale Islamic Cultural Centre Association applied for £1,000 to set up a luncheon club for elderly and disabled Muslims in the area. This was deferred by the council pending more research into the demand for such a club which is being conducted as part of the Care in the Community programme. The other project was for £4,000 to fund a four-year research project organised by the Calderdale Council for Racial Equality and the University of Manchester into the social needs of Calderdale Muslims. This too was deferred pending further investigation. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10]
Britain's first Qur'an recitation competition was held in the Islamic Cultural Centre, London on 3rd October organised by the Islamic Video and Audio Services Centre. Boys and girls competed in various age groups. The emphasis was on the traditional and melodious method of Qur'an recitation. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10]
Thousands of credit card holders from the collapsed Bank of Commerce and Credit International are to receive demands from the liquidators. These cardholders have not received bills since the collapse of the bank in 1991 due to difficulties in sorting out the accounts but now the liquidators are eager to recover as much money as possible to pay the bank's creditors. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10]
An inquiry into discrimination in legal education conducted by the Commission for Racial Equality has been suspended pending the report of the Council for Legal Education's inquiry under the chairmanship of Dame Jocelyn Barrow (see BMMS for September 1993). The cause of the inquiries is the disparity between the pass-rates of candidates from black and ethnic minority groups as compared to white candidates. The Barrow inquiry is expected to report in March 1994. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10]
Harrow council has introduced a procedure whereby housing officers will have to ask questions about claimants' rights to be in Britain before they can be provided with accommodation. Any suspicions that claimants might be illegal immigrants would have to be reported to the Immigration Office. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10]
The plight of Asian Christians in the East End of London was raised in an article in the Church Times (08.10.93). They feel themselves to be doubly disadvantaged in the current situation of racial disharmony as they are perceived to be "Asian" by racists and at the same time, because of their number, they are a tiny minority amongst the larger Muslim, Hindu and Sikh "Asian" communities. There are many cases of racial attacks and threats. Local people from all four of the above religions are now gathering together to protect and support one another. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 10/11]
The Unitarian community in Wakefield has been running a series of interfaith sessions focusing on different world religions. Their session on Islam was attended by local Muslim leaders who spoke and were well-received. There is a long history of Muslim interaction with Unitarians, not least in the person of Allamah Muhammad Iqbal. The Unitarians are variously regarded by mainstream Christians. Most would tend towards the opinion that they have put themselves outside the community of Christianity by denying a belief in the trinitarian nature of God, the divinity of Jesus and the reality of original sin. Given that these three beliefs are often perceived to be contentious questions between Muslims and Christians, it is easy to see why interfaith discussions between Muslims and Unitarians have been fruitful. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 11]
The issue of "repatriation" of people who have settled in Britain but might now wish to return to their country of origin has been hotly debated following comments made by North London M.P. Bernie Grant and a poll published on the subject in the Sunday Express (25.09.93). The poll reported that 36% of people in Britain were in favour of repatriation. This was greeted as "nothing new" by Ishtiaq Ahmed of the Bradford Race Equality Council but was rejected by Safdar Butt of the Birmingham Islamic Resource Centre. Mr Grant's comments have been greeted incredulously by Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College and Iqbal Sacranie of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs. Both pointed out that this was not an option for the majority of Muslims who were born in this country and for whom this is home. They stressed the need to view the ethnic minority communities as being British by birth and inclination rather than in any sense as temporary migrants. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 11]
The Labour councillor, Najma Hafeez, chair of Birmingham Council's Social Services Department, was profiled in Q News (01.10.93) as a possible future M.P. for the safe Labour seat of Sparkhill, Birmingham, should the present incumbent, Roy Hattersley, decide to step down at the next election. Under regulations passed at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, women are to have a better chance of being selected as candidates and so Councillor Hafeez is tipped as a contender to become Britain's first Muslim woman M.P. There is also a vacant safe Labour seat in Bradford for which two local Muslims have been named as possible candidates. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 11]
The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, has been awarded a prestigious prize for its edition of the Ninety-nine beautiful names of God by the British Printing Industries Federation. It is the second year running that the ITS has won the UK paperback award for the design of one of its publications. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12]
The access course set up by the Lampeter Centre for Islamic Studies and pioneered in a co-operative project with a Cardiff mosque (see BMMS for August 1993) has spread to Leicester where ten students have enrolled at the Leicester Moat Community College. The course combines general communication skills, information technology and English with a component of Islamic Studies. Those who successfully complete the course may be eligible for university entry and will have their job prospects enhanced. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12]
The East Staffordshire Council's community arts programme mounted an exhibition of Islamic textiles in Burton on Trent. The exhibits were drawn from collections all across its region. The exhibition was staged to launch an embroidery and textiles project for women from Asian families. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12]
A "free market" has been launched by Muslims in Slough which combines some old English laws on free trade with Islamic principles on economics and business ethics. No interest-charging or monopolies are allowed and there are no discounts for bulk purchases as this disadvantages the small trader. Most singularly, no paper money is permitted. It must be used to buy gold and silver coins which have been specially minted for the purpose. These coins are then tendered for goods and, where the change falls below the sterling value of the smallest silver coin, change is given in British treasury coins. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12]
The Sunday Times (31.10.93) carried an article on terrorist groups from around the world who it claimed fund their activities by extorting money from refugee and immigrant communities in Britain. The lead group was said to be the Shining Path from Peru but Kurdish, Bangladeshi, Palestinian and Libyan groups were also featured. The method allegedly employed is to establish protection rackets whereby money is regularly extracted from wealthy individuals, businessmen or whole communities. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12]
A High Court Judge has ruled that Britain is not in breach of the 1951 Geneva Convention in sending asylum seekers back to safe third countries through which they have passed en route to Britain whilst fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. The ruling came in an appeal case under the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 which came into force last July. It applies to people who flee from their own countries in fear of their lives who must apply for asylum in the first "safe" country which they enter rather than make their way onwards to another safe country such as Britain. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 12/13]
The situation facing young single British Muslims who are thinking of marriage was explored on two consecutive weeks by Q News (01 and 08.10.93). In this frank exploration of the problems which such Muslims face the tensions between generations and cultures were apparent but so was the earnest desire of young Muslims honestly and sincerely to follow the prescriptions and norms of Islam. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 13]
An "Asian ladies only" swimming class has been launched in Swansea. The classes will teach women to swim and provide the opportunity for exercise in a restricted-access environment which, it is hoped, will prove both enjoyable and useful for local women from Asian families. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 13]
The public affairs committee of the Commission for Racial Equality has met to discuss the situation in Blackburn with the Racial Equality Council. Two reports have been written on the Blackburn REC by the CRE's Manchester office. There are fears of financial and operational inefficiency. It is hoped that a new regime can be established which will improve the efficiency of the operation and bring it under tighter financial control. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 13]
A Pakistani businessman, Yaqub Ali, who has been trading in Britain for 40 years, has launched a scheme to help prospective or existing "corner shop" owners to start up in business or improve their business acumen. Mr Ali will enter into an agreement with the shopkeeper to refurbish the premises and supply stock through his cash and carry chain. The shopkeeper agrees to take a certain percentage of his stock from Mr Ali's company for a limited time. Eight businesses have been helped so far and there are a further 73 applications. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 13]
The case of the 17 knitwear workers in Dewsbury, who were disciplined for taking time off to celebrate Eid ul-Adha in 1992 against the wishes of their employers but in accordance with a ten-year tradition, appeared before an industrial tribunal at the end of October (see BMMS for March 1993). Although the company had for ten years permitted workers to take some annual leave for these celebrations, it issued a notice to say that this would not be possible from May to July in 1992 as this was the busiest time for orders and the company was in financial straits. The managing director of the company said that they were on the verge of being thrown into receivership which would have cost them all their jobs. He issued the notice in September 1991 but was not told of the workers' intention to ignore it until three days before they took the time off. He said that, had the company had more notice, they would have been willing to make alternative plans.
The workers are claiming that the company's action in banning leave-taking during that period and then responding to their having taken the leave without permission by issuing notices stating that any further incident within the following twelve months would result in dismissal amounted to racial discrimination. The tribunal has completed its hearing but has reserved its decision for two weeks (from 28.10.93). [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 13/14]
Members at the Douglas Park Golf Club, Glasgow, have agreed to set aside a room in their clubhouse for the use of Muslim members to pray whilst they are at the club. The decision comes after members were concerned that one of their leading members, former race relations chief Bashir Maan, had regularly to leave functions to make the six-mile journey to a local mosque for prayers. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 14]
The Islamic Foundation, Leicester, has launched two new projects recently aimed at building-up and supporting the Muslim community in Britain. One is aimed at youth and runs seminars and series of talks for young people. It also has an interfaith dimension as many young people are involved in dialogue with other believers. The second aims to support new converts to Islam both in practical ways such as dealing with the problems of leaving their old associates and sometimes families and by extending and deepening their knowledge of the faith which they have come to embrace. The second project was featured in a double-page article in Q News (15.10.93). [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 14]
Salman Rushdie has featured in the recent news in two respects. The fact that he had been banned from all its flights by British Airways for the last two years has been noticed by the press. It is reported that the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister have attempted to influence the airline to lift its ban but security experts regard the condemned author as a high risk for other passengers. No other airline has been willing to comment publicly on its willingness to transport Rushdie but there has been speculation that the ban is shared by other British and overseas carriers. There is speculation that the inexplicable shooting of the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses, William Nygaard, in Oslo on 11th October could be connected with the fatwa of the Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie and those responsible for disseminating the book. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 14]
Concern was expressed in High Wycombe when the family of a local Muslim man who died of a brain haemorrhage was charged £640 to have him buried in the town's cemetery. This is twice the standard charge. The reason given was that the man lived outside the town area and so the higher rate applied. It is particularly unfortunate as this is the only cemetery in the area with graves set aside for Muslims. A spokesman for the environmental services committee of Wycombe Council said that the situation would be reviewed at a forthcoming meeting. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 15]
The Edhi Foundation, a charitable concern founded in Pakistan in 1949 by the philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, has been actively raising money in Britain with a concert of qawwali music in London. The Foundation is a major provider of humanitarian assistance in Pakistan with efforts ranging from health clinics, to homes for the destitute. Present concerns include the cancer research centre associated with the name of cricketer Imran Khan. The Foundation was also responsible for a large sum towards a life-saving operation for a Muslim boy in need of sophisticated cancer treatment. He was the sixteenth such beneficiary which the Foundation has been able to help. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 15]
According to The Times (25.10.93) the governors at Islamia School are actively considering making an application for grant-maintained status when this becomes possible on 1 April 1994. This is to be discussed with the Secretary of State for Education when he meets with the National Muslim Educational Council in November. Whilst the governors favour this step, some parents are reported to favour an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights especially as they are having great problems in meeting the increased fees which are to be levied. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 15]
The Muslim Girls' Community School in Bradford has operated in a disused church for the past nine years. It has 180 girls aged 11 to 18 on roll at present and has had some significant examination results in past years. There can be no doubt that it fulfils a need amongst local Muslims as was demonstrated by its willingness to take in the girls who were refused places at the "better" local state schools last month.
The school has now negotiated a seven-year "peppercorn" lease from Bradford LEA on the redundant Feversham Street school. The fact that rent has been set at £1 per year for a million pound building is testimony to the relationship which the school has developed with the local authority. Both the chairman of the Education Committee and the Director of Education have publicly voiced their support for the school.
The newly acquired building will need some refurbishment which it is estimated will cost around £70,000. The governors already have £20,000 and are appealing for the remainder. The chairman of the board of governors is Akram Khan Cheema who is a former Chief Inspector of Schools in Bradford and well-respected as an educationalist. The intention is to move into the new building by January.
Once the move is completed there will be an immediate expansion of places available from 180 to 280. There ought to be no difficulty in filling these places as there is a shortage of places in the area and the over-subscription to local schools was the reason for so many Muslim pupils being denied places at the start of this academic year. There are only two girls' schools in Bradford, both of which are over-subscribed. This is an important factor as the school has announced that it will apply immediately for voluntary aided status.
The fact that the surplus places argument, which was used repeatedly against the Islamia School's application, does not apply is significant as is the support from the LEA and local politicians. There is, therefore, a better chance, on those two grounds, of the school being successful. However, the weakness of this school lies in the limitations of its curriculum, facilities and teaching staff. These were the great strengths of Islamia. It must be borne in mind that, as this is a senior school as opposed to Islamia's primary age-group, the small size of the school and the short-comings in these areas will be particularly apparent. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 15/16]
Concern has been expressed in the Muslim community after a sixth-form boy was sent away from school at the start of the academic year and told to shave off his beard. At the same school, a sixth-form girl was similarly sent home and told to return without her hijab. The school, Hazlewick Secondary School, in Crawley, West Sussex, permits Sikh boys to wear beards and turbans. A spokesman for the education department, which is investigating the case, said that the situation regarding Sikhs and their religious duty to wear a beard and turban is more clear cut. He indicated that there is some confusion about the religious duty of Muslim young men to wear a beard. The case follows on similar incidents in Manchester and East London. Both students reluctantly agreed to accept the ruling rather than prejudice their future education. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 16]
The Muslim philosopher and education consultant Shabbir Akhtar has written a book entitled The Muslim Parents Handbook (What every Muslim parent should know) which is published by Ta-Ha Publishers of London. The book covers three issues of major importance: the under-achievement of Muslim pupils, the secularisation of young people who are brought up in a society which does not value religious beliefs, and the whittling away of Islamic values, ethics and manners. The book discusses these issues and gives guidelines for parents on how they might act to alleviate these problems. Dr Akhtar shares his vision of Muslim parents and leaders becoming more involved in education and offers a host of practical ideas. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 16/17]
Lincolnshire has issued a new Agreed Syllabus of Religious Education which sets out the ways in which Muslim and Hindu faiths are to be taught in County schools in their area in a more structured and thorough way than before. The syllabus follows the guidelines set by the DFE in which the major part is devoted to the study of Christianity. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 17]
The government has issued a "blue paper" setting out how it would like to see initial teacher training modified in future. The proposal is that responsibility for teacher training would be transferred away from the Higher Education Funding Council to a newly-established statutory Teacher Training Agency. This would particularly affect the way in which primary school teachers are trained. The current four-year B.Ed. course which allows for each student to develop a specialist subject to a Higher Education level, would be replaced by a three-year course at a lower standard in which students would study six subjects without the potential to develop any one subject to specialist level. The proposals are being heavily criticised by teachers' professional bodies and by many in teacher education. It is not clear whether the proposals would be lawful under the Maastrict Agreement which aims to standardise all professional qualifications across the European Community. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 17]
The dispute over prayer facilities for Muslim students at St Philip's Catholic College, Birmingham (see BMMS for September 1993) has been settled, for the time being at least, by the provision of a suitable room off the college premises but at the expense of the college. However, the Labour M.P. for Birmingham Ladywood, Ms Clare Short, has raised the question in the House of Commons and asked the Secretary of State for Education to appoint new governors for the college. According to The Birmingham Post (23.10.93), she is reported to have said: "I believe a reactionary group in the Church is responsible for this. I will call on Mr Patten to appoint outside governors. I do not want to see this fine college destroyed by what is a racist action". The governors have denied mismanagement of any description. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 17]
Opposition to the proposed Islamic Culture Centre in Frizinghall, Bradford (see BMMS for September 1993) has continued to mount. The local M.P., Sir Marcus Fox, has been asked to take an interest. Outline planning permission was apparently given for a classroom for 15 children but plans have been submitted for a 35 feet high hexagonal building which is 60 feet wide at its widest point. The site is next to a church, in a private housing area, and there are fears that the traffic to both will be too great. Two petitions have been submitted and many objections have been lodged with the planning authority. In addition a 500-name petition has been submitted in favour of the plan. A decision is expected in November. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 17/18]
An appeal has been launched for £400,000 to extend the Thornton Heath mosque which has become too small for the Muslim community of the town. The mosque will only accommodate 200 in comfort but there are an estimated 15,000 Muslims in the area. The proposed extension will include a library, lecture room and information centre as well as the extended prayer hall. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 18]
Controversial plans to extend the Darbar Unique Centre, the base of followers of the Muslim Pir Pandariman, have been sent on appeal to the Environment Minister after the local council failed to meet a deadline to rule on the case. The present building is a former working men's club and the proposed extension would involve the building of a community hall and the creation of a new entrance. Local residents have opposed the plan on the grounds of increased nuisance of visitors and traffic. This opposition has been reinforced by the local planning authority which has objected to the plans. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 18]
The Worthing Islamic Social and Welfare Society has applied for planning permission to change the use of an industrial unit which they wish to use as a community centre. There are about 500 Muslims in the area and until now they have had to hire premises for any activities. The planning authority will consider their application in November. [BMMS October 1993 Vol. I, No. 10, p. 18]