British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1993 Vol. I, No.11

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Muslims and the media

Lord Tebbit on British society

Muslim Parliament conference on Bosnia

Muslims in church schools

Conversions to Islam explored

Prince of Wales' speech, Oxford

Short Reports

Labelling genetically modified food

Sudanese refugee murdered

Fire safety promoted

Interfaith roundup

Internal divisions, Middlesborough

"Integration or Isolation?"

Judges to receive awareness training

Multi Faith Directory launched

Rushdie fatwa challenged

Equal opportunities for Muslim women

New magazine launched

Islamic Relief Games

Arson attack on Islamic centre

Ahmadiyya face a move

Internal divisions, Southampton

White Paper on adoption

Scouting for Bengali boys

Concern over arranged marriage

Ayatollah denied entry

Economics conference, Leicester

Spiritual support for patients

Immigration Centre has prayer facilities

Christian Scouts and Guides companies

Female circumcision doctor accused

Relief work for Bosnia

Muslims for House of Lords?

Halal Food Board moves to new offices

Muslim woman kidnapped

Burial facilities in Bury

Youth work amongst Muslims

Day Centre for elderly Asians

"No confidence" in REC director

Young people turn to religion

Boys suspended for racism

Political attacks on Raschid Ghannouchi

Updates

Education

Springfield Headteacher, Birmingham

Education in Tower Hamlets

Higher Education students

School places, Bradford

Religious festivals in playgroups

Vegetarian school meals

Racism in Liverpool schools

Muslim schools, Gloucester

Islamia School, Brent

Grant-maintained schools

Oxford building remains in use

Cardiff Muslims offer tutorials

Truancy in Muslim school

VSO works for harmony

A-levels accepted

Failed bid for London school

Qur'an for school libraries

Mosques

Blackburn

Cheltenham

Kidderminster

Manor Park, London

Peterborough

Poole

Stoke on Trent

Worcester

Woking

Worthing

 

 

Features

Muslims and the media

The One World Broadcasting Trust staged a half-day conference on 22nd November on "Islam and the Media: how broadcasting in Britain approaches the issues of the Muslim world". There were three sessions in all. The first gave a platform to Muslims to state their perspective on how Muslim issues were portrayed by the media. The second gave senior broadcasters the opportunity to respond and put their views on the question. In the third section leading Muslims from the media and broadcasting legislators tried to work towards proposals to improve the situation.

In the first session the disillusionment and anger of Muslims in Britain with the way that they were portrayed in the media was stated by Iqbal Sacranie (of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs), Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (a writer and broadcaster) and Mahmood Jamal (television producer). The general theme was that Muslims wanted fair and objective treatment and an end to what was perceived to be a negative portrayal. There was a need to speak to responsible and authoritative spokespeople rather than seeking headline-grabbing opinions. Facts must be checked and, whilst informed criticism would be welcomed, insults and abuse should be avoided. There was a feeling that broadcasting agendas were set by programme makers and that Muslims did not share in this process and that the liberal approach of broadcasters made Western post-modernist views appear to be superior to anything else.

The broadcasters made it clear in their response that they were the product of post-Enlightenment Western thought which held liberalism and the search for truth, as they perceive it, to be paramount. There was a feeling that Muslims were not open to criticism and the difficulty of finding genuinely representative spokespeople is an ever-present problem. There is a difference between what Muslims might want to say about themselves and the questions which the British public as a whole want to be addressed. The broadcasters felt that they had developed a critical relationship with Christianity and were concerned that they had to tread so gingerly when addressing Muslim religious topics. The fact that Channel 4, which relies on people coming forward with ideas for programmes, had only received about 15/20 proposals from Muslims out of a total of about 15,000 in recent years indicated a lack of Muslim commitment to enter fully into the media world.

At best it could be said that views were freely exchanged by the parties represented but there was little common ground to make constructive proposals for the future.

The conference was reported in Q News (26.11.93) under the headline of "Broadcasters, Hypocrisy and the Muslims". The BBC's coverage of the Bosnian crisis, to which they had devoted 3m and many people, was treated as an act of hypocrisy aimed at increasing the acceptance of the BBC World Service and confusing the issues at stake in Bosnia. The dominance of secular liberal values were seem to be all-pervasive in the broadcasting world.

Local radio in Bradford is also due for some changes when the Independent Local Radio licences are renewed in the new year. Two Muslim-backed companies are competing with the established Sunrise Radio which has been widely criticised by Muslims. These companies, Rainbow FM and Black Rose FM, aim to widen the representation of minority voices in the area and to give a fairer deal to Muslims. More emphasis would be given to speech-based programmes with education and advice programmes being highlighted. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.1/2]

 

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Lord Tebbit on British society

Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman, delivered the first Nicholas Ridley Memorial Lecture on 22nd November. He spoke about a "lack of common values" in British society and called for common "laws, customs, standards, values, language, culture and religion". He spoke about the glue which holds British society together being threatened by the collapse of Judeo-Christian values. In a subsequent BBC interview he said, "If you look around the world it is hard to find societies which are stable where there are major religious differences in that society. We have to work very much harder to maintain the stability of our society, if there is a religious divide such as that between Muslims and a nominally Christian people..."

Muslim reaction to the speech has been plentiful. Mashuq ibn Ally, of the Lampeter Centre for Islamic Studies, said, "People like Lord Tebbit and Winston Churchill are creating instability and insecurity among the ethnic minorities and in wider society. It is they and their remarks which threaten society." Khalida Khan said, "Such remarks coming from Lord Tebbit, Winston Churchill or anybody else having access to the media translate into actual assault and attacks on Muslims." Lord Tebbit's disparaging remarks about the Muslim Parliament were dismissed by Dr Ghayasuddin, the chair of its procedures committee. Dr Syed Aziz Pasha of the Union of Muslim Organisations advised Lord Tebbit to ignore the "loony element" in the Muslim Parliament and instead talk to organisations like his which do constructive work in the community. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.2]

 

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Muslim Parliament conference on Bosnia

The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain convened a two-day international conference in London on 13/14 November under the heading of a "World Conference of the Global Islamic Movement". The conference was called to discuss the situation in Bosnia and that country's relations with the rest of the world. Representatives participated from Bosnia, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. More than a thousand people attended and heard repeated denunciations of Western powers for aiding the Serbian atrocities by upholding the UN embargo on arms. Muslim governments were also castigated for failing to support the Bosnians. There were calls from individuals to contribute money to buy arms for Bosnian Muslims but this was not endorsed as official policy. According to an article in Q News (19.11.93), "Participation from the big-six, leading British Muslim organisations was surprisingly thin. The veteran Union of Muslim Organisations, Muslim Aid, the Bradford Council of Mosques and the UK Islamic Mission and the Islamic Foundation all boycotted the event."

A series of recommendations was published by the conference calling for the support of the government of President Alija Izetbegovic, the lifting of the arms embargo, the punishment of all those guilty of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, the establishment of a Bosnia Day to remember the people and culture which has been destroyed, the raising of awareness amongst Muslims to ensure that they should never again be caught unprepared in such circumstances, the influx of funds from around the world to rebuild Bosnia and relieve the suffering of its people and for all Muslims to join in a common struggle in defence of fellow Muslims and Islam. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.3]

 

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Muslims in church schools

In their edition of 12.11.93, the Muslim weekly Q News featured several articles on the question of Muslim children in church schools. Given the absence of Muslim schools within the State sector, many Muslim parents send their children to church schools by choice because they feel that they will fare better in a school with a religious ethos rather than in what they perceive to be the secular environment of ordinary State schools. In some cases, the choice of a Christian school is made more for its single-sex nature than for any other reason and pupils are withdrawn from Religious Education and acts of worship. In many cases parents do not feel the need to withdraw their children in this way. A distinction was drawn between Catholic schools which exist for the education of Catholic children and Church of England schools which often see themselves to be serving the local community in general. This is an accident of history in that many C of E schools existed before the creation of a State education system and so they were simply "the" school in the area.

Two cases were reported at length. In one case, Muslim girls had great praise for the Christian school to which they had been sent where they felt that they learned much about Christianity but were always free to expound their Islamic understanding which was treated with respect. Their mother was delighted with their progress but it should be noted that they came from a practising Muslim home and were regular attenders at the Regent's Park Mosque school. In the other case there was a completely different picture where boys had been sent home for observing Islamic customs and made fun of for growing beards. They were forbidden to pray on school premises. Both schools were in London and were run by the Church of England.

To complete the picture, the paper contacted some of the headteachers of Muslim schools in Britain. Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College, said that, if he were running a Muslim school, he would automatically grant one-third of places to non-Muslims to avoid an all-Muslim form of apartheid. Similarly the heads of Islamia, Zakaria Muslim Girls' (Batley) and Manchester's Islamic High said that they would all be willing to welcome non-Muslims on the simple grounds of reciprocity; one cannot demand accommodations from church schools unless one is willing to grant them oneself. Due to the long waiting lists for the Muslim schools mentioned, they had been unable to offer places to non-Muslims to date. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.3/4]

Conversions to Islam explored

The Times devoted full pages on two consecutive days (09.11.93 and 10.11.93)to women who had converted to Islam. It was pointed out that many of the women were exceptionally well-educated and were attracted to Islam by the status which was given to women which contrasted to the exploitation of women which they observed in Western culture. There were many references to the rights which were given to women from the earliest years of Islam, many of which had only been granted to European women in relatively recent years. The wearing of hijab was referred to by women as being a boost to their self-confidence and a liberation from the sex-stereotyping of the West. The sense of sisterhood amongst Muslim women was also stressed. It was estimated that women make up the majority of converts to Islam in Britain. Many are in the 30-50 age range.

The phenomenon was commented upon in an editorial in the same paper at the same time. Here the benefit which British converts would make to the mutual understanding between the Muslim community and wider British society was stressed. It was noted that there had been great Muslim women leaders in history and in modern times even though some traditional Muslim societies had fallen short of the ideals portrayed for women in the classical texts of Islam. It was noted that, whilst some women convert at the time of their marriage to Muslim men, many were embracing Islam by virtue of their own spiritual quest. The pattern was seen to be similar in the USA where women converts are said to outnumber men by four to one. A comment in the editorial that women's rights are enshrined in the Qur'an "in spite of the outrageous indignities which many women suffer in Muslim countries", prompted an exchange of letters in its letter column. Some correspondents pointed out that it was the very status of women in Islam which had attracted converts whilst others evidenced the lack of what they saw as human rights for women in some Muslim countries today.

It was estimated in these reports that there may be between ten and twenty thousand converts to Islam in Britain today but accurate figures are hard to obtain and informed commentators suggest that a maximum figure of five thousand is probably more realistic. Coinciding with The Times' articles, there have been interviews with converts in several other national and local papers. Some of the converts have come to Islam through the mystical sufi route whilst others have been attracted by the intellectual conviction that Islam has brought. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.4/5]

Prince of Wales' speech, Oxford

Following the speech by the Prince of Wales in Oxford on 27th October (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for October 1993), there was a considerable amount of correspondence in The Times (04.11.93 and 08.11.93). In general, this correspondence welcomed the balance and objectivity of the speech stressing that the Prince had called for mutual understanding and respect. There was general agreement with his condemnation of Saddam Hussein. The only exception to this trend was a letter from Dr Kalim Siddiqui which attacked the human rights record of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and the inequality in the Prince's call for Muslims to respect the history and culture of England whilst non-Muslims in Britain were only asked to have a decent care for the offence which they might give to Muslim sensibilities. These points were addressed in a letter from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia.

There was some coverage of the Prince's visit to the Gulf States with his repeated attack on Saddam Hussein. In general, commentators warmly welcomed the Prince's comments throughout his visit.

The Prince's speech was welcomed by the Rt Revd Christopher Mayfield, the Bishop of Manchester and chairman of the General Synod's Interfaith Consultative Group. He said that people in the churches are well aware of the positive contribution which Muslims make to any society in which they find themselves and stressed that there were only a small minority of militants who attract press coverage. He hoped that the prince's speech would provoke people to become more involved in talking to believers from other faiths. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.5/6]

 

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Short Reports

Labelling genetically modified food

The question of genetically modified foodstuffs has again been discussed (see BMMS for September 1993). The Food Advisory Committee has reported that certain genetically modified foodstuffs will be labelled but only those which contain a gene originally derived from a human being, or an animal which is subject to religious dietary laws, or is from plant or microbial material and contains a gene originally derived from an animal. Foods which fall outside these categories will not be labelled nor will any food in which the inserted gene has been destroyed by processing. Muslim medical and scientific experts have expressed concern over these regulations and called on Muslim religious scholars to study the situation and issue guidance. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.6]

 

Sudanese refugee murdered

Two unemployed men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a 21 year-old Sudanese refugee in Brighton. He was stabbed in an unprovoked attack as he walked in the street with friends. There has been a significant reaction amongst the Sudanese community in Brighton who are afraid for their own lives after the attack. Imam Sajid, director of the Muslim Community Centre in Brighton, has called for calm and restraint within the law. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.6]

Fire safety promoted

Muslim community leaders in Bradford are working with the local fire brigade in their efforts to promote fire safety in the area. They are making mosques and community centres available for demonstrations and exhibitions and encouraging people to be more safety-conscious where fire hazards in their homes and places of assembly are concerned. Statistics locally indicate that the risk of fire in the homes of Asian families is particularly high and there have been some tragic deaths caused through fires. The fire brigade are encouraging the fitting of smoke detectors and are making several thousands of these available at a concessionary rate to people who attend their exhibitions. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.6]

Interfaith roundup

A series of interfaith awareness meetings has been organised at the Quaker centre in Uxbridge under the heading "Religion in the 90s - Understanding Other Faiths". A Muslim speaker from the local SACRE was well-received. An interfaith gathering was held at the Moat Community College, Leicester under the heading "Muslims and Christians: Perceptions of Each Other". Dr Shabbir Akhtar gave a talk on Christians and Muslims at the Lancaster Priory Church on October 31st. Christians were encouraged, in an article in the local press, to explore the teachings of Islam and see what they might learn by the Revd. John Russell, the vicar of a church in Birmingham. An interfaith "peace vigil" was held in Preston to unite people of all religions in the area to pray for peace in the world. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.6/7]

Internal divisions, Middlesborough

The putative settlement of internal divisions in the Middlesborough Muslim community, which focused on elections at the Jamia Mosque in Waterloo Road (see BMMS for May, July and August 1993), has not been sustained. It had been agreed that fresh elections would be held but these have yet to take place. The United Muslim Council, which consists of those who claimed to have been disenfranchised, scheduled a meeting for 20th November, but the dominant group refused them permission to hold this meeting on mosque premises. The police where again called in. No lasting solution seems imminent. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.7]

"Integration or Isolation?"

Following on from the Prince of Wales' comments on Muslims in British society and subsequent discussions in the press, there have been several contributions to the debate in Muslim circles around Britain. The idea of "Integration or Isolation" was debated by Muslims in Harrow and an article by Azeem Diwan in the Daily Awaz (15.11.93) stressed the im portance of family values to the upbuilding of society in which, he felt, Muslims had a great deal to contribute. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.7]

Judges to receive awareness training

The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have launched a 1m training programmed for judges and recorders in England and Wales to raise their awareness of racial issues and ethnic minority customs and cultures. Mr Justice Brooke, the chairman of the Law Commission in his annual lecture to the Bar Council and the Council for Legal Education, also turned to this theme when he said, "Serious risks to justice are being created as a result of ignorance of ethnic minority culture and customs". [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.7]

Multi Faith Directory launched

Following a three-year research programme, the Religious Resource and Research Centre in the University of Derby launched Religions in the UK: A Multi Faith Directory on 24th November at the headquarters of the Inter Faith Network for the UK in London. The launch was marked with a lecture by John Rex, Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick, which was entitled, "Religion, Politics and Multi-Cultural Societies". The directory contains over 4,000 entries and gives introductory information on each of the major faiths in Britain. Each faith community has its religious traditions and beliefs outlined as well as a profile of the way in which they are organised and a bibliography. It is the only directory of its kind in the world and has attracted interest from several other countries. Copies, priced at 21.50, are available from the Religious Resource and Research Centre, University of Derby, Mickleover, Derby, DE3 5GX. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.8]

Rushdie fatwa challenged

Sheik Gamal Manna Solaiman Ali, who was formerly Chief Imam at the London Central Mosque and now teaches Muslim law at the Muslim College in London, whilst addressing a gathering at Hampstead Parish Church, commented on the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Sheik Gamal said, "As far as Mr Rushdie is concerned, I don't agree with the fatwa. I say give him a chance, a fair trial. Allow him the chance to repent and be accepted again". He went on to point out that the fatwa only had authority in lands under Muslim law. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.8]

Equal opportunities for Muslim women

The local council in Preston felt obliged to withhold a grant to the Preston Moslem Forum which had asked for 3,000 towards paying for a development officer to help in training local people for employment and then finding them jobs. Whilst the Council was in full support of the project and wanted to assist it, it felt that its equal opportunities policy caused it to ask for further details of the way in which women would benefit under the scheme. The documentation submitted in support of the appeal made no mention of its effect on women seeking employment. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.8]

New magazine launched

A new bi-lingual monthly magazine was launched on 5th November by the al-Asr Publications company in London called al-Kirdar. The magazine will be aimed at Muslim young people. At the launch, Professor Amin Mughal reminded the editors that they should have the teachings on Imam Ali and the Islamic Revolution of Iran as the basis of their mission. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.8]

Islamic Relief Games

The fifth annual Islamic Relief Games were held in Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre. The weather was extremely cold and this may have accounted for the poor turnout. Sports included football, volleyball and taekwondo. There was also a women-only section and many stalls and food outlets. Around 1,000 people are reported to have attended the games but this was decidedly less than last year. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.8/9]

Arson attack on Islamic centre

An Islamic Centre in Stirling, which was only opened in March 1993, was the subject of an arson attack. It appears that a window was broken and petrol poured through it and then set alight. The main prayer hall was damaged but the fire was spotted by local people at a filling station and the fire brigade was alerted. Local Muslims suspect that the attack must have been racially motivated but the fire authorities and police are keeping an open mind pending investigations. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.9]

Ahmadiyya face a move

The 350-strong Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Leamington Spa are faced with having to move out of the meeting place and youth centre which they have rented from the local council for the last six years as it is scheduled for redevelopment. They are hoping that suitable alternative premises can be found with the assistance of the local council. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.9]

Internal divisions, Southampton

The Muslim community in Southampton was divided in September 1992 when a controversial speaker was invited to address a gathering. A group of some fifty men gathered outside the mosque with the intention of registering their protest and disrupting proceedings inside. The demonstration went out of control and one protester began hurling house bricks at the mosque door. He was arrested and when finally he appeared in court this November he was fined 200 and bound over to keep the peace. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.9]

White Paper on adoption

The government's White Paper on adoption, Adoption: The Future, has been given a restrained welcome by Muslims. The emphasis on the importance of religion rather than the former stress on race and culture has been welcomed. This will mean that Muslim children have more chance of being placed with Muslim families instead of the former practice of seeking adoptive parents of the same racial background irrespective of religion. There has also been a welcome for the move towards more "open adoption" where the child knows its birth parentage, which is held to be more in keeping with Islamic custom. In the same way the new "guardianship order", which will bring the practice of relatives acting in the role of guardians under government regulation, was welcomed as a means of legitimising what has traditionally happened in Muslim societies when parents die or are unable to bring up their children. It remains true that there is a general shortage of Muslim families who are willing to adopt children, especially older children with behaviourial problems. A conference on fostering and adoption from a Muslim perspective is being planned by the Ra'aya Project and should take place in 1994. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.9/10]

Scouting for Bengali boys

There are reported to be around 600,000 scouts in the UK but the vast majority of these are from white, middle class homes with only an estimated 1% from the ethnic minorities. The Scout Association was started in 1907 and aimed to help integrate all elements within society. One project which had great success was called "Scoutreach" and was established in the Tower Hamlets district of London. This project was featured in a major article in The Times magazine (06.11.93). A former army officer ran week-long camps for boys from the area. In view of the racial tensions, he concentrated on taking boys from the same ethnic background on camp and gradually introduced members of other communities. The scheme was most successful amongst Bengali boys from the area and had the full backing of the local mosque but it came under criticism from some leaders within the Scout movement locally. The scheme was forced to close in September but the leader, Bob le Valliant, hopes to start up again under a different organisation. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.10]

Concern over arranged marriage

A 15 year-old Muslim girl wrote to a Cumbrian evening paper expressing her concern that her parents were preparing to arrange a marriage for her against her wishes. She said that she had talked to her parents about this but had been told that it was part of her religion to have an arranged marriage. The girl received a sympathetic response and was advised to contact the London-based Asian Young Women's Project for advice. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.10]

Ayatollah denied entry

According to an article in the Evening Standard (12.11.93), the government refused to grant a visa to Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati who was planning to enter Britain to attend the conference on Bosnia organised by the Muslim Parliament. Ayatollah Jannati is a member of Iran's Council of Guardians which oversees the Islamic validity of the Iranian government's actions and is the special representative with responsibility for Bosnia. The article stated that this refusal was due to the Ayatollah's denunciation of Salman Rushdie and quoted extracts from his speeches in Tehran. He is reported three weeks ago to have said, "Salman Rushdie is currently the symbol of Satan in the sphere of propaganda. Right now, anyone who wishes to throw stones at Satan should aim at Salman Rushdie". Another speech was quoted in a similar vein from 1992. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.10]

Economics conference, Leicester

A five-day course on Islamic economics, banking and finance was staged by the Islamic Foundation, Leicester. The principal speaker was Professor Khurshid Ahmed, a leading Pakistani economist, together with Dr Fahim Khan, of the Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabia, Dr Umar Chapra, adviser to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, and Dr Abdelkader Chachi of the Islamic Economics Unit at the Islamic Foundation. The principal themes of the conference were the need to bring economics under moral guidance so that it could be seen to promote the over-arching ideals of Islamic life and the need to develop more extensive schemes of sharing profits and losses rather than the interest-bearing economics of the West. In general, the conference was theoretical with little time given to practical details of living an Islamic economic life in a Western country. The Islamic Foundation intends to launch a new quarterly journal on Islamic Economics in the new year. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.10/11]

Spiritual support for patients

The Forest Healthcare Trust, which administers Whipps Cross Hospital, amongst others, has appointed a co-ordinator for non-Christian faiths whose job it will be to liaise with faith groups to ensure that patients receive spiritual support whilst in hospital and that staff receive adequate training in religious and cultural norms. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.11]

Immigration Centre has prayer facilities

The new 5m Home Office immigration detention centre in Oxfordshire has been equipped with prayer facilities for any Muslims who might be detained there. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.11]

 

Christian Scouts and Guides companies

A vicar at Goodmayes, Ilford, has disbanded his Scouts and Guides companies after the decision to alter the promise which members have traditionally made which made an explicitly Christian reference to God in favour of one which was open to a wider interpretation by followers of all religions (see BMMS for June 1993). The decision was made on the grounds that the church's Scout and Guide companies had always been an extension of Christian education and outreach from the church. To preserve this tradition the vicar decided to replace the Scouts and Guides with specifically Christian youth organisations. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.11]

Female circumcision doctor accused

The General Medical Council is hearing evidence in the case of a Harley Street doctor, Farooque Hayder Siddique, who has been accused of circumcising Muslim girls, some as young as a few days old, for 400 per operation. The case is continuing. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.11]

Relief work for Bosnia

Southwark Muslim Women's Association staged an awareness- and fund-raising day on 27th November where refugees and relief workers spoke about the situation and a display of photographs was mounted. Christian and Muslim school girls have launched a project to collect 3,000 pairs of shoes for refugees who are facing a harsh winter in camps on the Hungarian border. Birmingham school children have raised 700 which will be sent to Bosnia through Islamic Relief. Muslims in Croydon have collected the money to buy a truck-load of medicines, milk and children's shoes to be taken to Bosnia in a Convoy of Mercy. Schools, churches and mosques in Lancashire are collecting to send a seventh consignment of aid to Bosnia. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.11/12]

Muslims for House of Lords?

The Union of Muslim Organisations organised a belated celebration for the birthday of Muhammad on October 25th. Political leaders were present including Sir Teddy Taylor who praised Muslims for their contribution to community life in Britain and indicated that he thought it was time that Muslims were represented in the House of Lords. Jack Straw, for the Labour Party, spoke in support of voluntary aided schools, and Aina Khan, for the liberal Democrat Party, supported the introduction of family law for religious groups in Britain.

Halal Food Board moves to new offices

The Halal Food Board, which was launched last February (see BMMS for February 1993), has moved into new offices in Birmingham. The Board aims to benefit both the producers and consumers of halal food by monitoring every stage in the meat supply process from abattoirs to retailers. They hope that the move into new premises will assist them in their work of issuing certificates to accredited halal outlets. However, it is still a small and relatively uninfluential body. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.12]

Muslim woman kidnapped

Two Muslim men were convicted of kidnapping a 24 year-old Muslim woman in Bedford and taking her to Birmingham. One was the woman's uncle and the other a taxi driver who drove the kidnap car. The woman was told that she had had a marriage arranged to a cousin in Pakistan but there was consternation in her family when it was discovered that she was engaged to a Sikh. The men decided to kidnap her and told her that they would send her to Pakistan to be married and would assault her fiance. The police were alerted and arrested the two men upon their arrival in Birmingham. They were remanded in custody for three weeks for pre-sentence reports. The judge said that he was considering custodial sentences but wanted to know more about the men's cultural background before passing sentence. The woman has married her fiance since the kidnap occurred in January 1993.  [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.12]

Burial facilities in Bury

Muslims in Bury have begun negotiations with the local council for addition provision for Muslim burials. They have agreed addition space when necessary and are negotiating to have permission for burials without a coffin. The Council's leisure services director has indicated that a set procedure might be negotiated, whereby bodies are brought to the cemetery in coffins and then removed before burial which would take place in a shroud. In this way it is hoped that no-one's sensitivities will be offended. There is the additional question of footstones which is a problem in lawn-type cemeteries. Negotiations are proceeding with a view to providing a hard-surfaced area to avoid this problem. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.12/13]

Youth work amongst Muslims

Calderdale Council's youth and community service department, together with a number of local Muslim groups, has launched the Asian Youth Work Development Project. The project aims to bridge the gap between traditional youth work and promoting the needs of youth from Asian families in ways which meet with their community leaders' cultural ideals. By developing the self-image of young people, the project hopes to redress the under-achievement of many local young people. Care has been taken to segregate activities and schedule as much as possible during the daytime so that parents can be sure that their children's virtues are protected. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.13]

Day Centre for elderly Asians

Concern has been expressed in Bury over the local council's plans to build a day centre for elderly people from Asian families. Representatives of the four mosques in the town felt that they were being excluded from planning meetings which, they felt, had been conducted with "hand-picked Asians". The local council representative replied that he had proceeded in good faith believing that the people he was talking to were genuine community leaders. His comment reflects the lack of organised leadership in the Muslim community: "As soon as I know who I can sit down with, we will form a management committee to get this project off the ground". [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.13]

 

"No confidence" in REC director

Muslim leaders in Burton on Trent have assembled a 500-name petition claiming that they have lost confidence in the newly appointed director of East Staffordshire's Racial Equality Council. The petition is to go to the CRE and local and national politicians have been asked to take an interest. There are concerns over the way in which the new director, Mr Amir Kabal, was appointed. There have been some claims from Muslims in the town that they signed the petition under false pretences thinking that it was in support of Mr Kabal. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.13]

Young people turn to religion

The Sunday Times Magazine (07.11.93) featured the revival of religion amongst young people in Britain across the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Many are people who had initially been born into believing families but had drifted away and now are finding faith again in their late teens and twenties. These are accompanied by numbers of converts from the secularist culture of modern Britain. In the opinion of the magazine, the dominant style of religion which attracted these young people was a fervent upholding of more literalist interpretations of their chosen faiths. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.13/14]

Boys suspended for racism

Two boys in Brighton aged 8 and 9 have been suspended from a council-run playscheme for taunting a mixed-race boy with names like "brown chocolate" and saying that he "came from a sweet shop". The case was reported by the Inter Agency Forum on Racial Harassment and the Ethnic Minorities Representatives Council. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.14]

Political attacks on Raschid Ghannouchi

British victims of bomb attacks against hotels in Tunisia have complained to the government about the leader of the Tunisian Islamic group, Raschid Ghannouchi, who was convicted of masterminding the attacks, being granted leave to remain in Britain. The case has been taken up by some M.P.'s. Mr Ghannouchi was given a presidential pardon but fears that his life would be in danger if he were returned to Tunisia. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.14]

 

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Updates

Education

Springfield Headteacher, Birmingham

The row over the appointment of Mrs Noshaba Hussain has continued (see BMMS for September and October 1993). The case has centred on Mrs Hussain's suitability to act as a headteacher given her lack of primary school experience. There have also been concerns raised over the manner in which she was appointed and the fact that she is the subject of an auditor's report into financial irregularities in a Muslim women's training centre which she used to manage. 

The Birmingham Education Department wanted to suspend Mrs Hussain in October but the governors withdrew their consent to this action. When the governors met on 9th November, the chairman, who had been at the centre both of the original appointment and the lack of concerted action with the LEA, resigned. He was replaced by a co-opted governor, Mr Safdar Butt, who is a leading member of the Muslim community in the city. This was followed by a two-week investigation by the Education Department into Mrs Hussain's appointment. This report was presented to governors at a meeting on 22nd November where it was decided that a special panel of governors would be empowered to conduct a full inquiry into the affair. To expedite this enquiry, Mrs Hussain was suspended from her duties on full pay. The governors are taking legal advice to ensure that the inquiry is conducted in an exemplary manner. Mrs Hussain has issued a statement through her solicitors to say that she expects to be completely exonerated by the inquiry. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.14/15]

Education in Tower Hamlets

The Education Strategy Group in the London borough of Tower Hamlets has issued some statistics on children from Bangladeshi families in schools in the borough. Such children make up just over half of the 31,000 school population, 53% of whom are in the secondary sector. In East London sixth forms, 63% of students are from Bangladeshi families. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.15]

Higher Education students

The Policy Studies Institute researcher, Tariq Modood, reported grounds for some optimism over the number of students in British higher education from ethnic minority communities in the Oxford Review of Education, Vol.19, No. 2, 1993. He found that the number of members of ethnic minorities admitted to higher education in 1990 and 1991 did not conform to the expectation of under-representation. There were significant differences between various minority communities with Africans, Indians, East African Asians and Chinese heading the list but Pakistanis were also over-represented and only Bangladeshis and "other blacks" were under-represented. The polytechnics (now "new universities") tended to fare rather better than universities but the differentiation was much more likely to be in subject disciplines with minorities being over-represented in business, engineering, law and medicine, whilst they were under-represented in languages, humanities and arts. The substantial numbers in the over-represented fields, which traditionally have higher entrance requirements was noted. The reduced number of minority students in the universities might be partially accounted for by the fact that they are less likely to apply for the under-represented subjects which set lower entrance requirements. There might also be a class component in the figures, but he concluded, "Yet it is striking that most ethnic minority groups have worse class profiles than whites, but produce much larger proportions of applications and admissions in the national higher education system". [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.15]

School places, Bradford

Following the dispute over the allocation of secondary school places to Muslim pupils in Bradford (see BMMS for September 1993) which resulted in the High Court ruling that the Bradford LEA had not acted in a discriminatory way, a further appeal in the High Court was lodged. This too was rejected on 11th November. Local Muslims have indicated that this will make the pressure for a Muslim independent school in the area even stronger. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.15]

Religious festivals in playgroups

The Pre-school Playgroup Association has issued guidelines to its members to say that all religious festivals should be celebrated with equal emphasis. This has resulted in some comment in the press in the pre-Christmas period where a playgroup in Lewisham felt it necessary to scrap their traditional Christmas party in favour of a non-sectarian "winter party" without the traditions of carols and a Christmas tree. The incident was eased when the Association clarified its position by saying that its advice was directed at playgroups which contained children of varying faiths in which it would be appropriate to celebrate festivals from the traditions represented. The incident prompted some comment on the value of religious symbols in a secular situation which could teach children reverence for what others held to be sacred. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.15/16]

Vegetarian school meals

A Church of England school in St John's Wood, London, where Muslims make up 80% of the school roll, has decided to make all school meals vegetarian from now on so that they will be accessible for all pupils. The school draws its 460 pupils from about 20 ethnic groups. The nutritional balance of the meals is being carefully maintained. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.16]

Racism in Liverpool schools

Liverpool City Council has issued guidance to its teachers to increase the multi-cultural dimensions of all subjects within the school curriculum in a bid to stamp out racism. The race equality team at the Council has indicated that there are problems within Liverpool schools where racist taunts have been reported from teachers and students. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.16]

Muslim schools, Gloucester

Plans for a residential Muslim boys' school specialising in religious teaching have been shelved due to lack of funds. The sponsoring body hoped to buy a redundant hospital but the costs of renovation proved prohibitive. The sponsors are now looking for another site, perhaps in another part of the country. Similarly, plans for a Muslim girls' school in a redundant school building have had to be shelved due to lack of funds. Gloucestershire County Council has declined to fund either project as they already have an excess of surplus places within the catchment areas. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.16]

Islamia School, Brent

Following the rejection of voluntary-aided status for the Islamia School in August (see BMMS for August, September and October 1993), a meeting was held on 11th November between the Secretary of State for Education accompanied by DfE officials and the National Muslim Education Council. At this meeting, the Secretary of State repeated his position that no public funds would be forthcoming for the school on account of the excess of surplus places in neighbouring schools. He was at pains to stress that he was willing to consider other applications from Muslim schools where they met the criteria for voluntary-aided status and encouraged the Muslim representatives to begin discussions with the government agency responsible for grant-maintained funding when the doors were opened for independent schools to apply on 1 April 1994. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.16]

Grant-maintained schools

From 1 April 1994 independent schools will be able to apply to the government to "opt in" to grant-maintained status. Presently, LEA-controlled or voluntary-aided schools can apply to the government to "opt out" of their present situation into grant-maintained status. This can be done either singly or in groups. The implications of this new legislation were explored in an article in Education (12.11.93) by Moeen Yaseen an advisor to the Association of Muslim Schools. He indicated the political implications of such a decision given the current power-struggle in education between central and local government and the positions taken by the two major political parties. The heavy burden of responsibility which falls on the governors of a grant-maintained school was outlined. He felt "that there is a need to develop a third way of a non-partisan, non-political nature - a developed State education system in which schools become autonomous and self-governing agencies, communities become empowered and local authorities become invigorated and refocused". Given the current political situation in education, he indicated that "The move towards self-government and GM status stands a better chance of success if the independent Muslim schools sector selects to opt in". [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.17]

Oxford building remains in use

The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is presently housed in a temporary building. The local council has given permission for the building to continue in use for another three years. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.17]

Cardiff Muslims offer tutorials

The Bangladeshi International and Cultural Society in Cardiff plans to offer tutorials to students from Bangladeshi homes who are experiencing difficulties with their studies in local secondary and further education establishments. The service will be free and will focus on core subjects where it is thought such students are underachieving due to difficulties at home, failure to understand lessons and poor self-confidence. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.17]

Truancy in Muslim school

The Department for Education recently published figures for unauthorised absences in schools throughout Britain. The figures were greeted with complaint and scepticism by many who said that they had been compiled under varying interpretations of the guidelines to such an extent that many regarded them as meaningless. In Bolton, there was considerable comment over the figures in the press, as there was in other parts of the country. The Bolton Muslim Girls' School fared badly with a 42% unauthorised absence rate. It was pointed out by the headteacher, Dr Adam Gsodiwala, that this was partly due to the lifestyle of the girls and was compounded by the practice of some parents of taking girls on holiday to India and Pakistan during school time. They were making efforts to redress the situation. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.17]

VSO works for harmony

The Voluntary Service Overseas organisation has made a video training pack designed to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain. It was launched at the Interfaith Education Centre in Bradford during a VSO campaign in the area to attract more skilled volunteers to take part in their projects. At present VSO send about 850 people to serve overseas each year and would like to increase this to 1,000. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.17/18]

A-levels accepted

The Bradford Council Careers Officer, Mashud Haque, told a conference on teaching ethnic languages in the city that A-levels in ethnic minority languages are widely accepted by universities now whereas ten years ago universities were reluctant to accept them on equal terms with other subjects. In 1991 only 136 students with Urdu A-level were offered university places but this rose to 219 in 1992. There are reported to be 3,300 pupils in secondary schools in Bradford who are being taught an ethnic minority language. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18]

Failed bid for London school

A former primary school in Roehampton, London, which was closed in an education review by the local council in 1992 is to be sold to a housing association. The council had been keen to retain the school in educational use but the only bid received was from the "Islamic Republic of Iran" which wanted to establish an Islamic school on the site. The Iranian bid fell well below the expected price and so the council felt obliged to sell the site to a housing association even against their original desires. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18]

Qur'an for school libraries

The al-Muttaqin youth organisation in the south London borough of Sutton has supplied 80 copies of the Qur'an free of charge to 62 schools in the area. The Qur'ans were donated by a printer in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, after contacts from the Muslim group. They now hope to extend the same offer to schools in other parts of London and eventually to other cities across Britain. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18]

Mosques

Blackburn

Problems have been reported to the local council about a terraced house in Devonport Road which has permission to be used for Muslim education but which has been operating as a mosque to the disquiet of neighbours who complained of additional traffic, noise and extended times of activity. The committee were advised that if this continued they would be forced to close. The building is to revert to its original educational use. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18]

Cheltenham

The foundation stone has been laid for the first purpose-built mosque in Cheltenham. The site is at the rear of two houses in the High Street which have been used by Muslims for prayer for the last eight years. The new mosque, which is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 1994, will accommodate about 300 worshippers. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18]

Kidderminster

A house, which was formerly used as a photographic studio but has been used as a mosque for the last nine years, is to be the subject of an official application for change of use permission to Wyre Forest District Council. The house has been used by the twenty Muslim families who live locally without realising that they needed permission. The present application came about after the planning authorities received a complaint. Neighbours have welcomed the use of the house as a mosque. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.18/19]

Manor Park, London

Plans for a first floor extension to the Manor Park Islamic Centre have been rejected by the local council on the grounds that the development would be too intrusive for neighbours. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Peterborough

The local council has agreed to lease a piece of land to a mosque in Gladstone Street. The mosque management committee has agreed to pay the costs of re-locating the play area which is currently sited on the land. This will enable the committee to bring forward plans to extend the mosque. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Poole

An application from the Dorset Islamic Centre to use a house in the Old Poole district as a social centre has been turned down by planners on the grounds of inadequate parking and excess traffic. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Stoke on trent

The appeal to the Department of the Environment over the Darbar Unique Centre's application to extend its premises with the addition of a community hall (see BMMS for October 1993), is to be the subject of a public enquiry. The appeal was made after the local council planning authorities failed to deliver a decision within the stipulated time. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Worcester

Plans are to be submitted to develop the site of a former post office sorting depot in the Arboretum area of the city. The projects calls for the erection of six new homes at the front of the building and the conversion of the old depot building itself into a mosque and community centre. This will replace an existing mosque which is overcrowded. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Woking

A 50,000 project to refurbish the Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking, the oldest mosque in Britain which was opened in 1889, is almost completed. The money has been raised by appeals across the country. Unfortunately, the VAT office has twice refused applications to have the work awarded charity status and thus be zero-rated for VAT purposes. Another appeal has been made for the decision to be reconsidered but if it fails the mosque will have to find an additional 7,000 for a VAT bill. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

Worthing

The application by the Worthing Islamic Social and Welfare Society to turn a disused industrial unit into a community centre (see BMMS for October 1993) has been granted by local planning authorities. The plans call for meeting and teaching rooms, an office, library and prayer room. [BMMS November 1993 Vol. I, No.11, p.19]

 

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