British Muslims Monthly Survey for December 1993 Vol. I, No. 12

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Knitwear workers win discrimination case

Arab Communities Conference

Short Reports

Problems at community centre

Muslim "Open Space"

Cemetery refurbishment

Festive lights in Birmingham

Mosque damaged by fire

Racial bias over taxis?

Cemetery charges upheld

Cultural Heritage Centre

Stronger links in Northampton

Women converts to Islam

Youth club in Luton

Entry of second wife to UK?

Black Muslims in Britain

Future for arms control

Funds for Bristol Muslims?

AIDS and the Muslim world

Seeking a marriage partner

Banned from community service

Sheffield women in training

Marriage ends in separation

Burial facilities, Northampton

Community award, Chesterfield

Burton REC

Grant for Urdu software

Cycling around Pakistan

Islamic MEP's?

Women's self-help group

Focus on Islamic art

Grant for community projects

Court ruling on immigration case

Rate of marriage failure

Muslim responses to Christmas

Luton kidnappers sentenced

Updates

Education

Underachievement of Muslim pupils

Islamia School, Brent

Music in education

Cultural demands of Muslims

Exam. and absence tables

Tipton job centre

Culture Centre, Bradford

Temporary permit for school

Muslim prayers in school

Delay at Springfield School

Mosques

Aberdeen

Burton on Trent

Coventry

Crawley

Leicester

Leicester

Luton

Newport

Southall

Stevenage

Wakefield

Wandsworth

Worcester

Worthing

 

 

Features

Knitwear workers win discrimination case

The case of the 17 knitwear workers in Dewsbury who were disciplined for taking time off to celebrate Eid ul-Adha in 1992 (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for March 1993 and October 1993) finally has been settled. The employers were found guilty of racial discrimination against the 17 workers who were described in the judgement as "Asian Muslims". This should be noted as the case was brought on the grounds of racial and not religious discrimination, which is not covered by current law. The workers were all Kashmiris and so could be described as "Asians" and thus be protected by anti-racist laws. The fact that they were Muslims was secondary and the case could not have been brought if they were "white Muslims".

The tribunal's ruling said: "The Muslim employees had always been permitted to take a day off work for Eid as part of their holiday entitlement or without pay if they had no holidays left. During the previous 20 years there had never been any indication whatsoever from management that this position was unacceptable." A notice prohibiting any holidays during the months of May, June and July 1992 was issued in September 1991 and, according to the ruling, "The notice was shown deliberately to each member of the staff who were warned of repercussions if they disobeyed the order". Those workers who turned up for work on Eid were paid a bonus of 15 in spite of the company giving its extremely precarious financial situation as the reason for prohibiting the taking of holidays.

The question of compensation has yet to be decided. One solicitor acting for 16 of the men has indicated that he will be seeking 11,000 each which is the maximum permitted under the law. The tribunal will rule on this question shortly. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 1]

 

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Arab Communities Conference

The second Arab Communities Conference, staged by the Arab Club of Britain and the Arab League Mission, was held in London on 19-20 November. The conference resolved to establish a Permanent Council to oversee a series of recommendations which were passed by the conference. This should be interpreted as a response to the growing awareness of the changing needs of the Arab communities in the UK.

A total of 18 recommendations were passed, amongst them were stimulating the participation of Arabs in British public life, the setting up of an advisory service for Arabs focusing on law, housing, education, employment etc., to study the possible involvement of commercial bodies in providing community care for Arab communities, to establish a research commission and databank on Arab organisations in Britain, to gather information and develop courses for teaching Arabic and Islamic Studies and to establish a voluntary body to co-ordinate public relations on behalf of the Arab communities. The conference is to meet every two years in future; between meetings the Permanent Council will facilitate the recommendations of the conference. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 1/2]

 

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Short Reports

Problems at community centre

The Moat Community Centre in Leicester has been the subject of controversy for some time. The latest issue is the alleged use of the centre as a mosque. This has been denied by Muslim leaders but they have pointed out that prayer is an integral part of community life for Muslims. It has been agreed that Muslims will be restricted to using one room only for prayers in future.

Local Muslims who use the Centre have been complaining about it being closed over the Christmas period in line with council policy. The centre is used for a supplementary school for 350 Muslim pupils who were due to take language examinations during the Christmas period. Six people staged a sit-in demonstration in an attempt to prevent the closure but they were evicted by council officials with police support in pursuit of a court order. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 2]

Muslim "Open Space"

The BBC2 "Open Space" programme devotes time each week for people to make television programmes about an issue of their choice. On 15th December it was presented by a British Muslim student Saqib Qureshi under the title Al Dawaah-The Invitation. He endeavoured to show the part which Islam had played in Europe and the desire of the vast majority of Muslims in Britain to live in peace and tolerance. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 2]

Cemetery refurbishment

A cemetery was founded at Woking, Surrey, the site of the first mosque in Britain, in 1917 to bury Muslim soldiers who had been killed in the First World War. The bodies were later reburied in another cemetery nearby. The entrance to the Woking cemetery was marked by a domed arch which has since fallen into considerable disrepair. The local preservation society put up a sign many years ago stating that the arch could not be repaired until a benefactor was found. Now Paul Weller, a native of Woking and popular singer, has come forward with the 20,000 needed to refurbish the arch and landscape the cemetery. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 2/3]

Festive lights in Birmingham

The cosmopolitan city of Birmingham decided to remove overtly Christian symbols from its traditional array of lights in the city centre this year. The "Christmas lights" are to be replaced with "festive lights" which contain the elemental symbols of earth, air, fire and water. In this way the local council hopes that all religious communities in the city will feel some ownership of the display which will be illuminated during the time of the Hindu and Jewish festivals of light as well as Christmas and New Year. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 3]

Mosque damaged by fire

The Islamic Centre in York Road, Exeter, was damaged on 2nd December when a petrol bomb was thrown against it. Damage was limited to some blackening of the outside wall and no racial motive is suspected. It is thought that the attack was carried out by youths. Two people have been charged with criminal damages offences. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 3]

Racial bias over taxis?

There were allegations of racial bias at the annual private-hire taxi vehicle inspection in Huddersfield. The incident was sparked off when a Muslim driver became abusive after a delay in having his vehicle inspected. He was ordered to leave the inspection. This resulted in 60 drivers threatening to drive around the town hall during the next meeting of the licensing authority. The drivers complained that they were not being consulted by the authority which was failing to show them due respect. The incident was diffused when the authority agreed to form a sub-committee to discuss the drivers' grievances and to co-opt a nominated driver onto this committee. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 3]

Cemetery charges upheld

The local council in High Wycombe has been reviewing its policy on charges for the burial of people who lived outside its area following the case of a Muslim man whose family was charged double the local resident's fee to have him buried in High Wycombe cemetery (see BMMS for October 1993). The double charge is normal for anyone who resided outside the area but the problem is compounded in the eyes of local Muslims by the fact that this is the only cemetery in that part of the country which has graves set aside for Muslims. Rather than take a unilateral decision, the Environmental Services Committee has requested advice from other committees of the council. The Special Expenses Panel voted eleven to one against waiving the charges saying that it is the duty of neighbouring councils to provide facilities for Muslim burial. The round of consultations continues.

The local council in Gateshead is proposing to set aside part of one of its cemeteries for Muslim burial. At present Gateshead Muslims have to be buried in Newcastle and so incur the cost of double charges as they live outside the Newcastle area. The Gateshead cemetery will accommodate 10 to 15 Muslim burials a year. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 3/4]

Cultural Heritage Centre

The Muslim Communities Forum, which is a co-operative body made up of local Muslim groups in partnership with the Kensington and Chelsea council and the North Kensington City Challenge Company, has launched a new project to build a Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre at an estimated cost of 3m. When completed in 1996/7, the Centre will provide facilities for prayer, education, employment training, a lunch club, refuge for Muslim women, library, exhibition gallery and will work to promote multi-ethnic harmony. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 4]

Stronger links in Northampton

There has been a significant change in leadership amongst the Bangladeshi community in Northampton. The new committee was elected on a policy of developing stronger links with other community groups with special reference being made to the Pakistani community. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 4]

Women converts to Islam

The spate of articles about Britons converting to Islam (see BMMS for November 1993), has continued with a three-page spread in the Daily Mail (02.12.93). This featured interviews with three women converts, all of whom had university education and had been brought up in Christian families. The women spoke of the attraction to the peace and order of Islam which brought them to belief and spoke of the way in which their lives had been enriched since coming to Islam. All three had entered arranged marriages, in which they were happy, and felt the liberation of wearing hijab. The articles occasioned some cautionary letters in the same paper. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 4]

Youth club in Luton

Temporary, two-year, planning permission has been given to the Bangladesh Youth League in Luton to run its own youth club. It will be restricted to operating between 0800 and 2000 Monday to Saturday and 0900 and 1800 on Sundays. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 4]

Entry of second wife to UK?

A Pakistani Muslim woman wrote to a legal rights' column published by the Newham Rights' Centre in London. She is married to a man who became a British citizen in 1960. They married in Pakistan in 1967 and moved directly to Britain where they have lived ever since.The wife has now discovered that, on a visit to Pakistan in June 1990, her husband entered into a second marriage which has subsequently produced a child. Her husband is now attempting to bring his second wife into Britain. The woman asked for clarification of the law.

She was told that under the law regulating the admission of spouses in polygamous marriages (1 May 1990), a wife will only be given permission to settle in the UK with her husband provided that (a) there is no other wife living in the UK or (b) there is no other wife who already has permission from the British High Commission to enter the UK as the wife of the husband. In the case presented, provided that the woman remains married to her husband, the second wife will be thus prohibited from obtaining permission to settle in the UK. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 4/5]

Black Muslims in Britain

The Labour M.P. for Tottenham, Bernie Grant, who provoked some comment by his request for government assistance to help black people in Britain who were dissatisfied with their place in society to return to their original homelands (see BMMS for October 1993), returned to the same theme at a "closed" meeting in Birmingham on 11th December. The meeting was restricted to invited groups which included the Nation of Islam. It was reported in The Independent on Sunday (12.12.93) which made mention of the increased popularity of the black-led Brixton mosque which is attracting numerous converts from Christianity. The mosque is said to have increased its membership from about 20 in the 1970s to a current figure of around 300. The mosque was reported to preach black separatism to the "Africans of England" following the concept that the majority of Africans who were shipped as slaves to America were Muslims who later lost their faith. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 5]

Future for arms control

The Daily Awaz (24.12.93) devoted a full page to an article by Sajid Rizvi entitled Distrust or Dialogue? The way forward for arms control. It was adapted from a paper given at a seminar on "The Politics of Non-proliferation and Global Arms Sales" organised by the International Centre for Islamic Studies in London. The article gave an analysis of the incongruities in the nuclear weapons policy of the USA and called for a world-wide policy of even-handed international relations which would contribute to a reduction of the growing nuclear threat. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 5]

Funds for Bristol Muslims?

Leaders from the Bristol and Avon Muslim Association are campaigning for the local council to divert some funds towards them which have been released by the closure of the Immigration Rights Centre in Bristol. The Muslim association is struggling financially and surviving on private donations. It operates an advice centre, translation service and youth project. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 5]

AIDS and the Muslim world

Muslim News (24.12.93) reprinted a paper given by the editor in chief of the Malaysian journal Periodica Islamica, Dr Munawar Anees, at the Eighth International Bioethics Symposium Global Concerns in AIDS: Bioethical Issues held in Tokyo on 14/15 December 1993. The article was called The silent killer: AIDS and the Muslim world. It outlined the culpable silence of many Muslim governments on the incidence of AIDS in their lands and indicated the consequences of continuing this conspiracy rather than collectively facing up to the world pandemic which is progressing inexorably. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 5/6]

Seeking a marriage partner

The difficulties which young people, who have found their Islamic faith re-awakened through study, experience in finding suitable marriage partners was explored in an article in The Independent (04.12.93). Often, they have developed a firmer attachment to the core of Islam rather than the tradition-laden Islam of their parents. They want a partner to share their Islamic ideals rather than to reinforce traditional family ties. The Muslim Women's Helpline has been established in London to assist women in working through these questions and there is an increase in introduction agencies both on the formal and informal level. The problems are often more acute with university-educated and professional Muslim women who have exigent criteria and a vision for the type of man that they want. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 6]

Banned from community service

Two prominent members of the Portsmouth Bangladeshi Muslim community have been banned for life from having anything more to do with the administration of the community's affairs. The two were president and secretary of the mosque committee during 1992 and 1993. Internal investigations have shown that there were irregularities concerning the voting list and the level of subscriptions which breached the constitution. There is no suggestion of criminal misconduct. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 6]

Sheffield women in training

Women in Sheffield are attending the Pakistan Muslim Centre where they are gaining qualifications in information technology and clothing skills. The centre tries to break down language barriers by having bi-lingual tutors and aims to provide a safe environment where women can develop their natural talents as managers. The courses operate under the aegis of the Sheffield Training and Enterprise Council. The centre provides child care during courses and hopes to increase its current enrolment of seventy people. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 6]

Marriage ends in separation

A Peterborough Muslim man of 23 has decided to drop a High Court action to have his wife released from the custody of her family. The man originally asked his wife's father for permission to marry his daughter. This permission was refused but the couple decided to proceed with the marriage without the bride's father's consent. The bride was 18 years old. The couple were married by special licence in Peterborough Register Office and later completed the Islamic formalities in a secret service in Leicester. When the woman's father found out he kept her in the family home and would not allow the couple to meet. The man took an action in the High Court to have his wife returned to him but eventually agreed to withdraw it after speaking to his wife and her father in a corridor of the court. The couple are reported still to be in love, according to the man, who said: "I know she still wants to be with me, but she and I respect her family too much to go against their wishes" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph 15.12.93). [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 6/7]

Burial facilities, Northampton

In the past, Muslims in Northamptonshire have had to transport their dead to London or Birmingham if they wished to use specially designed body-washing facilities. Now the Bangladeshi Community Centre has built an extension which provides special facilities for washing the dead and an adjacent room for the traditional funerary prayers. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 7]

Community award, Chesterfield

The Chesterfield Muslim Association, which was formed in 1987 and has 350 members, has won recognition for its work from local councils and the education authority. It has recently been awarded a Dulux Community Projects Award. The paint company made 116,000 worth of paint products available to community projects nationally and the Chesterfield association was awarded 300 litres. The Association, which has enlisted the support of local M.P. Tony Benn, now plans to raise money to buy a disused school to convert into a community centre. The project will cost an estimated 300,000. A video presentation has been prepared which will be sent to various European and Islamic grant-making bodies. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 7]

Burton REC

The Muslim opposition to the newly appointed director of the East Staffordshire Racial Equality Council (see BMMS for November 1993), has been called into question by other Muslim leaders from the area. It has been strongly alleged that the people who organised the petition acted rather out of a desire to increase their personal status than in the name of the whole community. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 7]

Grant for Urdu software

The Black Country Development Corporation has given the Sandwell Moslem Organisation a grant of 1,000 to pay for new office equipment with Urdu software. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 7]

Cycling around Pakistan

Northamptonshire Social Services employee, Mr Chris Corke, recently returned from an extensive cycling tour of Pakistan and was the guest of the Northampton Islamic Pakistani Association where he spoke about aspects of welfare provision in the Karachi area before an audience which included political and community leaders as well as a representative from the Pakistani Vice Consulate in Birmingham. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 7/8]

Islamic MEP's?

The Islamic Party of Britain has announced that it intends to field three or four candidates in the elections to the European Parliament scheduled for May 1994. The selected seats are likely to be Yorkshire West, Lancashire East and London North East. There may be a further candidate in Scotland. Although the Party harbours no illusions of winning, participation in the elections is seen as a form of da'wah. Spokesman for the Party, Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, is quoted as saying: "The purpose is not to win, nor for votes, but to open up public debate on what Islam has to say on various issues." (Muslim News 24.12.93) and "We will be fighting against things like a single European currency and a European bank and anything else which amounts to an erosion of national sovereignty." (The Times 05.01.94) [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 8]

Women's self-help group

A leading member of the Derby Muslim Women's Association was featured in an article on self-help groups. She had been thrown out of her marital home by her husband when she failed to become pregnant. A teacher by profession, she now runs self-help groups for Muslim women. They deal with a variety of social welfare issues as well as organising educational, social and budgeting programmes. The group meets in a local Pakistani Community Centre. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 8]

Focus on Islamic art

The Daily Awaz has carried two articles focusing on Islamic art (18.12.93 and 21.12.93). The first featured the work of the contemporary artist Ali Omar Ermes who was exhibiting his work and selling it to raise funds for Linacre College, Oxford. Two of his paintings were purchased by the Saudi Arabian Embassy. The artist has developed singular techniques for his paintings of Arabic calligraphic motifs with quotations from Arabic poetry by which he is able to build up layers of transparent paint in different colours to create his unique effect. Mr Ermes has also published a book to co-incide with the exhibition dealing with some of the major social ills of our times in which he speaks particularly strongly of the hypocrisy of world powers in relation to Bosnia and the environment. The second article explored the growing richness and diversity of national trends within the over-arching genre of Islamic art. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 8]

Grant for community projects

Leicestershire County Council has decided to transfer a grant of 5,432 from one Muslim organisation to another. The previous recipients of the grant were the Loughborough Islamic Cultural Association which used the grant to provide a place of worship and religious education. The council decided that it could not support the use of public funds for religious activities and so transferred the grant to the Loughborough Islamic Community Association which will use it to organise community activities, education and employment services. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 8/9]

Court ruling on immigration case

The Court of Appeal in London on 3rd December overturned the decision of a High Court on 16th July in the case of Mrs Naheed Ejaz who had earlier been sentenced to be deported. The case focused on the validity of Mrs Ejaz's naturalisation to British citizenship. This was made possible because of the British citizenship of her husband. Later it transpired that her husband's citizenship papers had been obtained under false pretences and were therefore null. As her husband did not have British citizenship, the Home Secretary of the day, Kenneth Baker, ruled that her naturalisation must also have been granted on a false premise and so was also null. She was therefore ordered to leave the country. The High Court upheld this decision in July but was over-ruled by the Court of Appeal's decision. Mrs Ejaz's appeal against the Home Secretary's decision rested on the interpretation of the provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981 which require that such a case as hers be considered by a committee of enquiry. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 9]

Rate of marriage failure

The Asian Family and Marriage Counselling Service in Leicester has indicated that marriages amongst the Asian community in that city are failing at a "phenomenal rate". The problem derives from the stress which is placed on them by the pressure of living in Western society. The problems are said to be worst when the husband is unemployed and the wife has to work and run the home. People call on the service from all the religious traditions in Leicester. It is feared that there will be an increase in alcoholism, extra-marital affairs and mental illness. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 9]

Muslim responses to Christmas

Both national and local newspapers carried interviews with or articles from people who are not Christian exploring both the ways in which they celebrate Christmas and their attitudes to the festival in contemporary Britain. These ranged from articles on the importance of the nativity play as a way of passing on a sense of awe in post-Christian Britain, through "round-ups" of one representative from each of several religious and non-religious traditions, to more profound reflections on the spiritual importance of the festival stripped from its commercial "hype". Two notable examples of the latter came from Muslims.

A convert to Islam from Christianity gave a lengthy interview to the Daily Telegraph (18.12.93) in which he spoke about his rejection of the pagan overlay of Christmas and the way in which materialism had obscured the original message. Similarly, Prof Akbar Ahmed wrote about the prevailing alienation in society at this time in his article in The Guardian (24.12.93). He spoke of the message of compassion, charity and tolerance being lost in a wave of consumerism. The contrast between the impulse of Muslims to share the bulk of their sacrificial food (after Eid ul-Adha) with the poor contrasts with the neglect of the homeless and lonely in so many aspects of the Western celebration of Christmas. He called for people celebrating Christmas to use it as an occasion to break down some of the barriers within society so that the scope of alienation is lessened. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 9/10]

Luton kidnappers sentenced

The two Muslim men who were found guilty of kidnapping a 24 year-old Muslim woman with a view to preventing her marriage to a Sikh and transporting her to Pakistan for an arranged marriage (see BMMS for November 1993), have been sentenced. The woman's uncle was sentenced to 30 months in gaol and the taxi driver received a 15 month sentence. Her father, who admitted making an untrue statement to obtain a passport, was given a conditional discharge. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 10]

 

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Updates

Education

Underachievement of Muslim pupils

Following the government's publication of examination league tables, the Muslim Parliament has issued a report on the underachievement of Muslim pupils in British schools which is reflected therein. It reported that "Muslim pupils are to be found in schools and areas which have some of the worst results nationally and locally", and concluded, "It can therefore be said with some accuracy that the majority of Muslim children in state schools are obtaining very few qualifications, despite the general myth that Asian children are doing well in education".

The report identified several areas of the country where high Muslim concentrations coincided with poor examination results. These areas included the West Midlands, Sheffield, Bradford and Blackburn. Three ideas were put forward to help redress the situation, viz. establishing Muslim schools, setting up Muslim Tutorial Colleges to increase the performance of Muslims in state schools and more government funding for education in the areas indicated.

Response to the report came from educationalists and representatives from several areas. It was pointed out that the league tables were widely regarded as being misleading but there was a general acceptance that more finance was needed for inner city education in general which would have an enhanced impact on Muslim communities. The Chairman of Governors at a Sheffield school which was named in the report wrote to refute comments about his school and the question of the league tables was addressed by Nazar Mustafa, the Chairman of the Muslim Education Co-ordinating Council, who also focused on the withdrawal of Section 11 funding and its impact on English support teaching. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 10/11]

Islamia School, Brent

The repercussions of the rejection of Islamia's bid for voluntary aided status (see BMMS for August, September, October and November 1993) continued during December with two meetings to discuss its future. On 2nd December, members of the Islamia Trust met with the Brent Director of Education to discuss the implications of surplus places in the area on a possible application for Grant Maintained status. The general opinion from the meeting was reported to rate the chances of obtaining GMS as rather better than the application for VA status. It was felt that there was a political will to see schools which offer "diversity and choice" receive government funding in this way. The problem of surplus places still remained to be surmounted.

This issue of surplus places figured in discussions between representatives of Islamia Trust and the Secretary of State for Education, John Patten, on 7th December. According to the Muslim News (24.12.93), the chairman of the trust, Yusuf Islam, reported that "He [Mr Patten] indicated to us that we should look at shifting the location of the school to another borough which does not have surplus places in schools".

The former world heavyweight boxing campion, Muhammad Ali, was in London to launch his latest book when he made a surprise visit to the Islamia School on 22nd November. He expressed his concern for the education of British Muslims with particular reference to the failure of Islamia to attract government funding. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 11]

Music in education

The Association of Muslim Researchers held a conference on 18th December with the title Much Ado About Music: responding to the contentions surrounding music as a pastime and in education. Speakers included Dr Zaki Badawi: Notes of contention and jurisprudence in the nature of music, Dr Suhaib Hasan: Instruments of revelation, Ibrahim Hewitt: Orchestrating laxity, Abdul Lateef Whiteman: Interpreting music, and Abdul Rahman Johansen: The matter of music and melody. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 11]

Cultural demands of Muslims

The Times Education Supplement (10.12.93) carried a major article by Judy Meewezen on elements of conflict between the National Curriculum and Muslim cultural demands and an exploration of possible beneficial resolutions.

One area of contention, within the arts provisions of the Curriculum, is the need for pupils to compose, perform and access music in instrumental forms. Many Muslims are guided by the hadith in which Muhammad is reported to have said: "There will be at some time people of my nation who seek to make lawful the acts of fornication, the wearing of silk and the making of music" (Bukhari). This is generally interpreted to prohibit instrumental music-making. In schools with a high proportion of Muslim pupils this often leads to negotiations between Muslim leaders and the school authorities. Sometimes a way forward has been to concentrate on vocal music, which is permitted, provided that the words are acceptable. This does not overcome all the problems.

Similar problems are found in art work where the hadith are generally taken to prohibit the representation of any human or animal form. Possible ways forward here have been found by concentrating on "still life" representations of fruit and plants. Again, the whole area of dramatic art has to be treated with sensitivity. It is sometimes possible to avoid conflict by making a careful selection of plays to be studied and respecting religious and cultural norms in pupil-generated "self-expressive" drama. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 11/12]

Exam. and absence tables

The Muslim News (24.12.93) published a table of the examination results and figures for unauthorised absences in Muslim independent secondary schools during the year. This reflected the tables drawn up to carry the same information for maintained schools as published by the DfE in December. The figures for unauthorised absence were generally impressive when contrasted to the national figures for maintained schools. The one freak result was the Bolton Muslim Girls' School (see BMMS for November 1993). All the cautions which have been issued about the reliability of these figures should be borne in mind.

Based on these figures, which covered 19 Muslim independent secondary schools, it can be estimated that there are around 3,000 pupils of school-age from Muslim families permanently resident in Britain in Muslim schools. This represents approximately 0.67% of the estimated 450,000 school-age children in the British Muslim population. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 12]

Tipton job centre

The Tipton Moslem Community Centre, West Midlands, is to receive a grant of 200,000 to extend its building, part of which will be used as a job training centre. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 12]

Culture Centre, Bradford

It now seems likely that the planning authorities will approve the plans for an Islamic Culture Centre in the Frizinghall area of Bradford (see BMMS for September 1993 and October 1993) in spite of the considerable local opposition. The centre will concentrate on teaching Arabic and other community languages. Planning officers are now supporting the application and a decision is expected in January. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 12]

Temporary permit for school

Planning officers are supporting a one-year temporary licence for a supplementary school in the basement of a terraced house in Thornton Lodge Road, Huddersfield in spite of it being against their general policy that religious institutions should be in detached buildings. The planners are supporting the temporary permission as a way of judging the possible nuisance caused by noise and additional traffic. The school would cater for only 30 pupils and operate for two hours each evening. The planning committee will decide in January. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Muslim prayers in school

Plans to introduce facilities for Muslim prayers at Edge End High School, Nelson, Burnley, have caused some controversy. There have been complaints from some local people which have been answered by letters in the local press from Muslim pupils in the school stressing the need for tolerance and justice for Muslims to worship under the law. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Delay at Springfield School

There has been a delay in the inquiry into the case of the appointment of Mrs Noshaba Hussain as headteacher at Springfield Junior School (see BMMS for September, October and November 1993). The board of enquiry set up by the governors was due to question Mrs Hussain on 16th December but she failed to attend "apparently because of a stress-related illness" (Birmingham Evening Mail 17.12.93). The enquiry was adjourned until 13th January. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Mosques

Aberdeen

The Muslim community in Aberdeen founded its first mosque in 1978 in a former bank but this has now become too small as the community has increased tenfold in the last fifteen years. The Lord Provost has given his whole-hearted support to plans to find a suitable site to enable the Muslim community to build a mosque to accommodate the growing community. He asked the council to instigate a feasibility study to locate a suitable site in the city. The Lord Provost's call met with some opposition in the press but it received council backing and the planning department's principal surveyor has been instructed to liaise with the Muslim community to find a suitable site. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Burton on Trent

The Muslim community in Burton on Trent use a former school as a mosque and are now applying for planning permission to extend it with the addition of a dome and minarets. The Muslim community has said that a mosque in Britain must be constructed at an angle of 160 degrees, 42 minutes from the magnetic north so that it is correctly aligned to face Makkah. The extension will facilitate this alignment. The local planning authorities are considering the application. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Coventry

Muslims in Coventry have been given permission to convert a former betting shop in Station Street, Foleshill, to provide religious education for children. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13]

Crawley

Permission has been given for an extension to the Crawley Islamic Centre in London Road to transform the prayer hall and build a seminar room in spite of local protests over additional noise and parking problems. A car park for 23 cars has been constructed which has alleviated the parking problem. The mosque has been in use for twelve years. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 13/14]

Leicester

The city council has expressed reservations about plans to develop a partly derelict site as a community and education centre for Muslims in the Highfields area. The site is partly used as a recreation area and it is feared that the proposed development would cause traffic problems. The council is to hold discussions with the Muslim community about a possible alternative site. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Leicester

A Muslim organisation, which has been using a terraced house in Earl Howe Street as an education and community centre, has been told that it must cease this use due to increased traffic and neighbourhood disturbances. The house has been extended without planning permission in such a way that it blocks the light and view from neighbouring houses. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Luton

When permission was given for an extension to the Bangladeshi mosque in Bury Park Road, it was on the condition that no loudspeakers would be installed. An application was recently submitted to install three loudspeakers on the roof to call people to prayer five times a day, seven days a week. Letters, both supporting and opposing the application, were received by the council who ultimately declined to give permission. There have been some allegations of a racist disposition in orchestrating the opposition to the scheme. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Newport

The Welsh Office granted 57,000 for the refurbishment of a mosque and community centre in Stow Hill. The work has now been completed and the mosque has been re-opened.[BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Southall

A former town hall in Southall, London, is on the market and interest has been shown by local Muslims who want to buy it for a mosque as well as Hindus who want it for a temple. There is a race to raise the necessary funds which have been set at 600,000. The first community with the money will be able to purchase the property. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Stevenage

Plans to build a mosque on land designated for community use have prompted considerable local objections. There have been protest meetings and letters to the press with allegations of racism on the part of objectors. The proposed site is reported to be in an area in which few Muslims live. A decision is expected shortly. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Wakefield

The Wakefield Mosque Committee has applied to convert a two-bedroomed mid-terrace house into a teaching centre for about 40 children to attend supplementary classes in Islamic Studies. There is concern about the additional noise and traffic that such a development would bring. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 14]

Wandsworth

Local planners rejected a scheme to extend the London Mosque, the national headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, last February on the grounds that the site was too small to accommodate the extension which included the erection of a two-storey residence for the Imam. The mosque authorities appealed to the Department of the Environment and a public enquiry was held in November 1993. The DOE inspector upheld the local planners decision on the same grounds that the extension would transform the mosque into a national venue which would cause unacceptable congestion in a quiet residential area. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 15]

Worcester

Plans to develop a former Post Office site in the Arboretum area of Worcester (see BMMS for November 1993) into a mosque, community centre and six new homes have met with local opposition and are recommended for rejection by city and county planning officers on the grounds that there would be too few parking places and cars would have to reverse directly across the pavement. A final decision by the planning authority is expected shortly. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 15]

Worthing

The Worthing Islamic Social and Welfare Society, which has been given permission to convert a former industrial site into a community centre (see BMMS for October 1993 and November 1993), has launched an appeal for 40,000 to enable them to execute the plans. [BMMS December 1993 Vol. I, No.12, p. 15]

 

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