British Muslims Monthly Survey for March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Allegations about halal meat

Reaction to the Hebron killings

Reporting Eid ul-Fitr

Sunrise Radio broadcast

Profiles of Muslim charities

Brighton council grants

Review of Islamic Conversations

Focus on Hizb ut Tahrir

Short Reports

Protests over Kashmir

Provision for Muslim burial

Lawyer withdraws, Exeter

Unrest in Turkish community

Relief work for Bosnia

Abdul Wahhab Siddiqui

Focus on Islamic art

Muslim heads CR Council

Homes for Muslims

Manchester students cramped for space

Eid message from the Vatican

"Sheffield: Multi Racial City"

The mosque in Muslim life

Racial discrimination legislation

Countering racism

"Health for All", Kirklees

International Year of the Family

Banks and minority businesses

Freezing hearts for transplants

"Spirituality into Action"

Health Mela for women

Muslim barrister profiled

Concern for the sick

Racism in football

Edinburgh Mela in '95?

International Women's Day

Racism in housing policy?

Environment symposium

Discrimination in medicine?

Influencing local elections

Lessons from ethnic cleansing?

Yemeni centenary, South Shields

Care in the community

Muslim youth and businesses

Finding and keeping a job

Orientation of toilets

Boxer becomes a Muslim

Muslim Women's Helpline

Praying in biscuit factory

Wedding entrepreneur

Pakistan Day celebrations

Woman abducted

Muslims told to unite

Former mayor dies

Promoting Muslims' health

Correction to JIM campaign

Divided community, Huddersfield

Two sentenced for abduction

Believers' breakfast

Community healthcare, Gloucester

Muslim group accused of racism

Rushdie listed as a patron

Marriage ends in divorce

Updates

Education

Islamic Academy seeks funding

Drive for more teachers

Catholic teacher required to resign

"Values" and the religious school

More students for higher education

Batley madrassah

School assemblies, Birmingham

Hunniford on "Islam in Britain"

Support for multi-faith RE

Will Christian schools "opt in"?

GM status not quite "the answer"

Record results in Sheffield

Students raise 5,000

Hussain dismissed

Boys' boarding school proposed, Sheffield

Bradford Muslim Girls' School

Mosques

Burton on Trent

Hyde

Leicester

Leicester

Leicester

Luton

Newham

Oldham

Oldham

Oxford

St Albans

Southall

Wolverhampton

Worcester

 

 

Features

Allegations about halal meat

A BBC television programme in the East series (02.03.94) reported on the alleged practice of passing off meat as halal which, in fact, comes from abattoirs which do not practice halal slaughter. It was reported that up to 80% of meat sold as halal might have entered the retail chain in this manner. A major factor in this situation was held to be the lack of regulation in the halal meat industry.

The television programme drew heavily on information supplied by the Muslim Parliament which announced that it is to set up a Halal Food Authority to regulate the halal meat industry from slaughter to retail sale. Such a body would enjoy only such authority as might be given to it by Muslims abiding by its seal of approval and refusing to purchase meat from other sources. If this happened, it would both tighten regulation of the halal meat industry and substantially enhance the standing of the Muslim Parliament. In a statement from the Muslim Parliament, it said, "Though the authority is not likely to have legal or enforcement powers, the Muslim Parliament's standing in the Muslim community is likely to ensure that any meat not approved by them will find few buyers in the market" (Daily Awaz 02.03.94). The idea of improving the regulation of halal meat has met with widespread approval not only from Muslims but also from environmental health officials. In many ways, the situation is more difficult for individual Muslim families, as the Bradford Education Department chief caterer pointed out, as large institutions, like the school meals service, can deal directly with approved wholesalers and thus guarantee the halal credentials of their supplies (Bradford Telegraph and Argus 05.03.94).

The Muslim Parliament published a consultation document on this question. After setting out the bounds of the problem and limitations on a speedy solution, it acknowledged that, whilst the Halal Food Authority could attempt to regulate the meat industry, the real power lies with consumers who would need to be prepared not only to insist on genuine halal meat but also to do without meat on several days per week, to bring demand into line with supply, for a period of two or three years by which time sufficient facilities for halal slaughter will be financed and built. As a way of registering an immediate protest with meat suppliers, the Muslim Parliament called for a total meat strike over Eid (Daily Jang 11.03.94). There might be some people who would countenance a vegetarian lifestyle but many Muslims have a close relationship with their butcher which would be broken if his credibility was called into question. Other Muslims are reported to be turning to Jewish kosher butchers for their meat. "This would mean good business for the Jewish community but I'd rather trade with an honest Jew than a bogus Muslim", one Muslim told Q News (11.03.94).

In an effort to increase the effects of their campaign, the Muslim Parliament has launched the Halal Food Consumers' Association which will encourage consumers to monitor the supply of halal meat at every stage. A president of the association, Jahangir Muhammad, has been appointed by the Parliament to bring its work to the attention of Muslims nationally. The Muslim Parliament has also nominated the first Chief Executive Officer for the Halal Food Authority. He is Abd'ar-Rahman Glyn Sparkes who comes from a background in industry and finance.

There was consternation in Birmingham when it was learnt that a lorry-load of sheep had been imported from Poland for slaughter at the Halal Meat Company. Concern was expressed at the ease with which these animals had been imported from a region which could lie within the contaminated area following the Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire. Calls were made for regulations on imported animals to be tightened. Health officials found no trace of radiation fallout in the sheep but the consignment of 300 animals contained 30 which were unfit for human consumption, two which were dead on arrival, four which were unfit to travel, three which had gone missing in Holland and one which was not part of the original consignment (Birmingham Evening Mail 09.03.94). Council officials in Birmingham have backed moves to impose more stringent regulations on the certification of animals imported into Britain and clear guidelines to be set to govern the transportation of live animals across Europe. In the case of the Polish sheep, this amounted to a 25-hour, 870 mile journey. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 1/2]

 

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Reaction to the Hebron killings

Following the massacre at the Hebron mosque on 25th February (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1994), there have been various demonstrations and acts of solidarity. The Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a press release on the day of the massacre which was later circulated to representatives of other religions in the UK. It was headed Massacre in Hebron and said, "The Board of Deputies of British Jews is appalled by the terrible crime committed in Hebron. It is, if possible, all the more grievous in that it occurred in a place holy both to Jews and Moslems and at a time of special religious note in the Jewish and Moslem calendars. We send our sympathies to all who have suffered, including the families of those murdered. It seems that the murders and mayhem were the work of one deranged individual. It is the duty of Israel's police and security forces to protect Jews and Arabs from the violence of extremists from whichever side. It is important that the peace process should not be dislodged, but should continue unabated".

Five rabbis in the Ilford area signed a letter to the Ilford Islamic Centre expressing their outrage at the incident. "We feel ashamed not only that this mass-murderer and enemy of peace was a Jew, but that he and his supporters claim to be religious Jews and to be acting in the name of the Jewish religion. Such claims are totally false and slander all truly religious Jews" (Ilford Recorder 03.03.94). A spokesman for the Ilford Islamic Centre welcomed the letter from the rabbis and spoke of the need for Muslims not to allow this outrage to wreck hopes for peace. Jewish and Muslim leaders in Hackney were reported to be working together to defuse tension in the area after there were reports of verbal abuse and some minor physical assaults (Hackney Gazette and North London Advertiser 04.03.94).

Serious doubts have been cast on the "one lone madman" interpretation of the event. There were "reports" printed in Q News (04.03.94) which held that other Jewish settlers had been present to assist the gunman in reloading and questioning the supposed inability of the Israeli army to halt the massacre, which lasted for some fifteen minutes, given that they are always present at the entrances to the mosque and have closed-circuit cameras in operation. There was a call for a formal inquiry into the incident and the international community was called upon to defend the rights of Palestinians.

A rally was held in London on 5th March to protest against the killings and the "continuing Israeli denial of the Palestinians' basic human rights, and the arrogant and coercive so-called `peace' process" (Daily Awaz 04.03.94). Nearly six thousand people were reported to have taken part in the rally at which Israeli flags were burnt and the PLO was condemned. Massoud Shadjareh, one of the organisers, is reported to have told the rally, "Yasser Arafat does not represent Muslims. He has helped the Israeli government destroy Islam in the holy lands" (Q News 18.03.94). More than fifty Muslims in Norwich were said to have marched "in unity and sympathy" with those who died at Hebron in a rally on 4th March.

Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders staged a silent vigil for peace in the Middle East in Westminster Abbey on 15th March. They remembered both the Hebron victims and the Christians killed in an attack on a church in Lebanon.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 2/3]

 

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Reporting Eid ul-Fitr

The final days of Ramadan were marked by an extensive profile of the Yemeni community in South Shields, the oldest in the country. Some of the common myths about fasting were exposed in a full-page spread in Huddersfield and Q News (04.03.94) gave a guide to some of the best places to find a free iftar [evening meal which breaks the fast during Ramadan] in London.

The celebration of Eid ul-Fitr was reported in many ways; with general pieces on Islam (Glasgow), advertising features (Bradford), profiles of the community and religious leaders (Keighley), exhibitions (Loughborough, Burnley and Brent), civic lights (Coventry), and news coverage of Eid parties (Stoke on Trent, Bolton, Norwich, Cardiff, Scunthorpe, Burton on Trent, London, Halifax, Cambridge, Doncaster, Barnsley, Nottingham, Bury, Fife, Chesham, Stafford, Preston, Newcastle upon Tyne and Luton).

The rowdy behaviour which has marred the celebration of Eid at Blackpool in previous years was not repeated this year. Letters had been sent to Lancashire mosques by county leaders asking for a trouble-free celebration and the police reported that nearly everyone was on their way home by 1930. The deliberate wrecking and setting on fire of two new hire-cars in Oldham was linked in the press to Eid exuberance.

Muslim students on a business studies course in a Bradford school designed, manufactured and marketed a range of Eid cards to raise money for a school cricket tour to Karachi. A Primary School in Halifax staged an Eid workshop so that the Muslim pupils could explain the celebration to their classmates. A Southall girl won a Daily Telegraph prize for a letter linking Ramadan with raising consciousness about the lack of access to water in other parts of the world. A letter was sent by the Catholic Bishop responsible for relations with other religions to Muslims celebrating Eid in Gloucester.

The fact that Eid was celebrated on different days by various Muslim groups was criticised as a display contrary to the unity of the Muslim community by several Muslim leaders across the country.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 3/4]

 

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Sunrise Radio broadcast

The offensive remarks concerning the Prophet Muhammad which were broadcast by Sunrise Radio in a call from a member of the public during a live phone-in programme (see BMMS for February 1994) have brought a formal rebuke from the Radio Authority. The company was told that it must make sure that its broadcasters were better informed about religious sensibilities, as required by the Radio Authority Programme Code, in order that such incidents might be prevented. The Radio Authority decided that, whilst the comments were certainly offensive, the company was not guilty of causing deliberate offense, the incident was a genuine mistake based on a lack of knowledge by the presenter concerned.

Muslim reaction has been to give the decision a partial welcome. The UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs is to consider its response but members are concerned that the Radio Authority has not released a tape of the offending programme so that the context can be properly checked. Hizb ut Tahrir responded by calling for a demonstration outside the offices of Sunrise Radio which was attended by several hundred people who called on the station's chairman to stop broadcasting anti-Muslim propaganda. Some Muslims were reported to hold the opinion that the several apologies which had been broadcast by the chairman in both Urdu and English were "half-hearted" because of their "defensive tone" (Daily Awaz 21.03.94).

With four new London-wide radio broadcasting licences just announced by the Radio Authority, there has been a call for Muslim businesses to organise a new broadcasting company which would serve the needs of London's Muslims.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 4]

 

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Profiles of Muslim charities

To coincide with the month of Ramadan and the heightened awareness of the need to give in charity to those in need, the Muslim weekly Q News (11.03.94) carried profiles of the two Muslim charities "Islamic Relief" and "Muslim Aid".

Islamic Relief was founded by Dr Hany El-Banna whilst still a student in 1984. Dr El-Banna's son is credited with making the first donation, 20p, after seeing the suffering of famine victims in Ethiopia and Sudan on the television. This led to door-to-door collections that year of 30,000. Since then a total of 11.8m has been raised culminating in an annual figure of 4.5m in 1993. The charity now has 29 offices throughout the world and has Non-Governmental Organisation status with the UN. It has 11 full-time staff and 300 volunteers in the UK alone.

Islamic Relief has a working objective to "uphold the principles of Islam by alleviating suffering wherever it occurs and for whosoever is its victim regardless of race, nationality or religion". Their emphasis is on long-term development and self-help projects so that people can take some responsibility for addressing their own needs.

Muslim Aid was set up in 1985 by British Muslim leaders to channel aid to Muslim governments. It specialises in disaster relief work and has been involved in around 30 countries to date. It has an annual budget of 2m with offices in the UK, Australia and Germany employing a total of 20 full-time workers and about 350 volunteers. Muslim Aid has developed a sophisticated data-management system which keeps track of every donor and is capable of producing lists of donors who are known to have a particular concern for specific types of disaster relief.

Both charities had the air of professional organisations and had well-established links with the appropriate authorities to ensure that aid was delivered directly to those in need with the minimum of administration and time wasted on ill-thought out "mercy missions". Both were rather critical of the high-profile individual attempts to get aid through to Bosnia, for example, which all too often resulted in the wrong type of aid being delivered at the wrong time or failing to reach the most desperate people due to poor forward planning.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 4/5]

 

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Brighton council grants

Brighton Council has been considering its grants to various voluntary groups in the area as part of its annual budgeting review. Queries have been raised especially about several groups which cater for the needs of local Muslims. There have been allegations about possible duplication of provision, excessively high overheads and inaccuracies in the numbers of people helped. Local Muslim leaders have reacted strongly against these queries and pointed out that statutory bodies are referring clients to these voluntary agencies which raise 75% of their own funds in addition to grants from the council. The ethnic minorities' groups actually attract grant aid from two other councils in the area but the grant from Brighton Council is significant. Last year the total grants to Ethnic Minorities groups amounted to almost 56,000. A full reply has been sent to the council to clarify the agencies' position on the queries raised. It pointed out that the diversity of local minority communities made it necessary to offer services in various languages and that, as the communities are widely dispersed, the telephone bills were justifiably high as this is the only way to maintain contact. It was further stated that census figures for black and ethnic minority people in the area substantially underestimate the representation of those communities.

The situation was not helped by reports in the local press. The Brighton Evening Argus, which has carried several reports, quoted a figure of 440,000 in grants to ethnic minority organisations (28.03.94) when the actual figure is 40,000. This raised unnecessary concern amongst local people. The editorial in that paper was headed "It's our money!" and spoke of help being given to people who "come to the town from other countries". The implication of these reports was that local members of the minority communities do not contribute to public funds. The erroneous nature of these reports was corrected in a press release from the ethnic minority organisations. It corrected the figure of grant aid which is only a tiny proportion of the council's 1.2m budget. It is estimated that 3.8% of the local population are from minority communities. The vast majority of these people were born in Britain and did not "come to the town from other countries". It also rejected the implication that these local people do not contribute to public funds and are not entitled to share in council resources. It was felt that such biased reporting would foster racist attitudes which are already a problem in the area.

The Council has deferred a decision on these grants until its next meeting in June. This could be a disastrous situation for the projects thus funded as the money might not then be available if it is not ear-marked in the annual budget especially as, like all councils, Brighton is strapped for money. There is a certain history to this debate as a similar deferment was enacted by neighbouring Hove Council in 1992 after fears that grant-aid would ultimately be used on overseas projects. This situation was harmoniously resolved and the grants were ultimately paid. The result of this deferment and the unfavourable reporting has been to raise serious financial problems for the projects and has raised renewed racially-orientated speculation in the population.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 5/6]

 

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Review of Islamic Conversations

The Channel 4 TV series Islamic Conversations (see BMMS for February 1994) has attracted significant reviews only in the Muslim press. Q News has carried a weekly review of each programme. The interview with Syed Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hizbullah, on Islam and War was reviewed by a former British army officer and author on armaments, David Rosser-Owen (04.03.94). He expressed disappointment that the programme's coverage of the question was superficial as it did not touch on other centres of conflict such as Bosnia, Palestine, the Sudan or Afghanistan. The general condemnation of acts of terrorism, the limits to be imposed on the conduct of war and the essentially defensive nature of war in an Islamic perspective were noted but the presenter and researchers were criticised for a lack of precision in obtaining direct answers to crucial questions and a failure to examine these statements against the record of conflicts involving Hizbullah.

The interview with Dr Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, was reviewed by Dr Zaki Badawi, the Principal of the Muslim College and a graduate of Al-Azhar university in Cairo (11.03.94). As a graduate of this most prestigious university in the Muslim world, Dr Badawi was able to assess the importance of an interview with one of the most influential jurists alive but he was also able to point out that the interpreter failed to understand and elucidate the crucial dimensions of the questions and answers provided. "If there had been a common language between interviewer and interviewee the conversation would have been much more interesting and fruitful". The reviewer lamented the absence of any discussion of Islamic norms for banking in the modern world, which has been the subject of particular attention by the Mufti. Similarly, the interview displayed a lack of probing questions on the nature of a Muslim state as opposed to the Islamic State demanded by Muslim activists in Egypt and elsewhere. The internal debate about who has primacy in giving fatwas was likewise given only an uniformed airing.

The final interview in the series, with Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian Finance Minister, was reviewed by Abdal Hakim Murad (18.03.94). The skill and charm of the politician in dealing with questions was noted, as was his willingness to elide over central questions of establishing Islamic ideals in a modern nation state which is, rightly, intent on improving the economic well-being of its population.

The general tone of the reviews of the six programmes in this series has been to welcome the serious attempt to explore some of the richness of the intellectual life of leading Muslims around the world. There was a general feeling that the research behind the series was patchy and that the questioning was more in line with an invitation to state one's position rather than a searching analysis of the questions under discussion in the light of contemporary practice. Ziauddin Sardar emerged with credit for bringing these issues to public attention but without acclaim for the penetration of his questions or the grasp which he displayed of the need to enter into a genuine conversation rather than a series of pre-packaged questions and answers.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 6/7]

 

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Focus on Hizb ut Tahrir

In the light of complaints after a previous meeting held by Hizb ut Tahrir at the Davenant Centre in Tower Hamlets (see BMMS for January and February 1994), it was decided by the Bethnal Green Neighbourhood to cancel a further meeting planned for 5th March. The Jewish chair of governors at nearby Swanlea School, which draws a majority of its children from Bangladeshi families, asked, "How can we ban the BNP or Sinn Fein from community centres if Muslim fundamentalists are allowed a free hand?" (Docklands Recorder 02.03.94).

In an article in the Ilford Recorder (03.03.94) about the growing trend of extremist candidates from the BNP and the Third Way (UK Independence) Party who are likely to stand in the forthcoming local government and European Parliament elections, reference was made to Hizb ut Tahrir and their deputy leader Farid Qassim was quoted as saying, "We are not declaring a holy war against non-Moslems in this country. We believe we can all live peacefully... Our concern is with Israel".

The Daily Awaz (07.03.94) gave over half a page to members of Hizb ut Tahrir in Britain to explain their position. This article claimed, "A campaign of misinformation and flagrant lies is being spearheaded by a vociferous element of the Jewish community in Britain against Islam and the Muslim community... The campaign is designed to prevent the Islamic jurisprudence opinion about the Israeli state being mentioned." A summary of the Islamic understanding of Jews and Christians in an Islamic state being awarded the protected status of dhimmi was expressed and this was compared to the "oppression meted out by the terrorist state of Israel". Incidents from Muslim history where hospitality to Jews was practised were enumerated and this was contrasted to the Israeli attitude to dispossessed Palestinian Christians and Muslims today.

Finally, the Islamic perspective on the state of Israel was explained. "The very establishment of the state of Israel was a declaration of enmity against the Muslims... This means that anyone, whether Jew, Christian or Muslim, who supports the Israeli entity by their tongue, wealth or person is at war with the global Muslim nation (the ummah)".

The article concluded with a seven point statement of the position of Hizb ut Tahrir:

1. Jews are to be accorded the protected status of dhimmi provided that the trust placed in them is not betrayed, for example, by the killing of Muslims or the occupation of Muslim lands.

2. The Muslims of Palestine are entitled to fight in self-defence of their lands which are under occupation. This disposition does not extend outside of Muslim lands and thus does not include any "battlefield" in Britain.

3. Muslims living in non-Muslim countries are to live according to the commands of God and to refrain from harming, betraying or cheating non-Muslims. They are to seek to invite non-Muslims to embrace Islam.

4. The killing of innocent people, including hijacking aeroplanes, is forbidden in Islam.

5. The Qur'anic verses referring to adultery, fornication, stealing and homosexuality are clear but the punishments prescribed apply only to an Islamic State.

6. There is a concerted effort by the media to limit the effectiveness of Islamic proclamation on university campuses.

7. Members of Hizb ut Tahrir are innocent of any assassination attempts in Jordan. Such charges are a fabrication by Muslim regimes to obscure the legitimate desires of Muslims to allow Islam to govern all the affairs of life.

Articles describing the "anti-Jewish" and "anti-homosexual" activities of Hizb ut Tahrir have continued to be published in national newspapers. The Daily Mirror (04.03.94) described them as "A fanatical group of Moslem extremists... stirring up hatred in Britain against Jews". It included a subheading: "Jews and gays must be killed for the glory of God". In an interview with a Jewish student leader, it was reported that "These people are trying to stir up the worst kind of racial hatred. We find it amazing that they are permitted to say what they do without any action being taken against them. Is the government waiting for someone to die before doing something". An article, similar to those noted earlier, appeared in The Observer (13.03.94) under the headline: "Hitler's heirs incite Islamic students".

Orange posters announcing the imminent return of the Caliphate (the Islamic system of government whereby all Muslims are governed by a single Caliph rather than belonging to separate nation-states) were posted in considerable numbers around Burton on Trent, Staffordshire. The posters read "From 3rd March 1924 until the present year, 1994, the world has been without... KHILAFAH ...coming soon to a country near you, the Islamic State". Local Muslim leaders were quick to dissociate themselves from the posters and blamed them on a night-time fly-poster team. Police are investigating the situation.

The orange posters were the subject of an editorial in the Muslim weekly Q News (18.03.94) which noted that they had put the subject of the Caliphate on the agenda of every Muslim circle. However, this was at the cost of having littered the streets with the stickers where they attracted little non-Muslim attention except as a piece of graffiti. "Surely no one seriously thinks that Londoners who are pursued relentlessly by this pestilential campaign will cause them to lose sleep or win them over to the cause of the Khilafah [sic]." "It's only the brainwashed who believe that sleepless nights of shouting the word Khilafah will lead to the solution of all our problems. Their Khalifs-in-waiting would have done them a great favour if only they taught them some Islamic etiquette. I only hope these stickers have made people want Khilafa as much as they have upset them." "Unfortunately, this bunch of over-zealous shortsighted Muslims assume that they are the only ones gifted with the knowledge that commitment to the setting up of Khilafa is a fard [an obligatory act] upon Muslims. Admittedly, many Muslims would agree that there is a need for establishing Khilafa. But to achieve it one does not necessarily have to turn oneself into a vandal."  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 7-9]

 

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Short Reports

Protests over Kashmir

Kashmiri organisations in Britain (see BMMS for October 1993) have unanimously expressed their disappointment that Pakistan has withdrawn its resolution condemning human rights abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir which had been submitted to a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission. The general feeling now is that Pakistan should take a less prominent part in the affairs of Kashmir as its deeds do not match its rhetoric.

There was an orchestrated effort by the Kashmiri groups to place the future of their homeland on the agenda during talks between the British government and the visiting Prime Minister of India, Narasimha Rao. They staged a large demonstration in Downing Street when the Prime Ministers met and were rewarded with the announcement that the question had been an important item on the agenda during the meeting. The visit of the Indian politician appears to have opened a certain rift between the British Kashmiri groups and British Muslims from India who took out an advertisement in the press welcoming the Prime Minister and praising him for "the firmness and determination with which you and your government have handled the forces of communalism and separation" (Q News 18.03.94).  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 9]

Provision for Muslim burial

A request to have ground set aside for Muslim burials in Nelson has been deferred for further investigation. The seventy Muslims who live on the island of Jersey seem likely to have their own burial plot in one of the St Helier cemeteries shortly. A plot has been identified but the committee responsible are considering some practical issues before giving their final decision.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 9]

Lawyer withdraws, Exeter

The lawyer representing the four men who admitted throwing a petrol bomb against the wall of a mosque in Exeter (see BMMS for December 1993 and January 1994) has withdrawn from the case. He told the court that he could no longer represent the men due to their conflicting stories. At their trial the men said that they had been drinking and that the mosque was only a coincidental target but possible alternative motives were revealed during pre-sentence investigations by the probation service.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 9]

Unrest in Turkish community

There are fresh fears of terrorist activity within the community of Turkish origin in Britain (see BMMS for January 1994). The Turkish Islamic Centre, Stoke Newington, was the target of a petrol bomb attack on 6th March. This was the second such attack on this building. On this occasion the bomb bounced off toughened glass and exploded without causing harm. There are reports that the centre has "shadowy links" with the terrorist group Grey Wolf. This group is supposed to be involved in a feud with two other terrorist groups based in Turkey, the PKK and Dev-Sol. The anti-terrorist branch of the Metropolitan Police is co-ordinating the investigation.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 9/10]

Relief work for Bosnia

Six 7.5 tonne lorries loaded with supplies of clothes and medicine were sent by the Luton branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association to Bosnian refugees in Croatia and Hungary. Thirty tons of food were sent to Bosnian refugees by the Balham, Croydon and Central Jamia Mosques in London.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 10]

Abdul Wahhab Siddiqui

The death of Maulana Abdul Wahhab Siddiqui, a leading alim [religious scholar] and Deputy Speaker of the Muslim Parliament, from cancer on 19 March 1994 was noted with sadness in a full-page obituary in Q News (25.03.94). Abdul Wahhab was born in 1942, the son of an alim, and educated in Lahore before coming to Britain and settling in Coventry in 1972. He was noted for his disinclination to be employed as an imam by a local mosque committee for fear that they would thus control him and so instead sought to earn his living independently, first as a carpenter and later as a property dealer, whilst serving the community as unpaid imam throughout his time in Coventry. He was committed to the ideal of training a future generation of Muslim leaders in Britain and was instrumental in plans to found an Islamic seminary near Coventry. Although he came from a Barelvi and Naqshbandi Sufi background, he was widely respected by scholars from all schools of thought within Islam as was testified by the presence of leaders from all such schools at his funeral, which was the largest thus far seen in Britain.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 10]

Focus on Islamic art

The closure of the ten year-old magazine Arts and the Islamic World was lamented as the end of an era of stimulating coverage and interest in the field of classical and contemporary Islamic art. The closure was occasioned by the loss of revenue from advertisers and the fact that the magazine never really attracted a mass audience in the Muslim world. Only 2,000 of its regular 5,000 print run were reported to be sold in Muslim countries. The magazine's editor, Jalal Uddin Ahmed, a former Pakistani civil servant, regretted the lack of interest in the arts displayed by Muslims and Muslim governments. The magazine will live on in occasional monographs and thematic publications.

The forthcoming Islamic art week of auctions in London prompted reports of particular items catalogued for sale and an article in the Daily Awaz (03.03.94) on the emergence of national styles from such Muslim countries as Iraq, Syria and Turkey which were influenced by Islamic principles as a development of the more classical pan-Islamic themes in art which characterised the pre-modern period.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 10]

Muslim heads CR Council

Khan Moghal, an established anti-racist campaigner, has been appointed director of the Manchester Council for Community Relations.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 10]

Homes for Muslims

A development of flats in Bermondsey, London, which was built for the New World and Ash-Shahada housing associations with a special design to make local Muslim and Vietnamese people feel at home, was explored in an article in the Daily Telegraph (05.03.94). The Muslim block has been built with lines of brickwork in geometrical patterns and small towers reminiscent of traditional Islamic architecture. The work of the Oldham Muslim Housing Association was also mentioned. It specialises in converting larger old houses for the extended family usage of Muslim families which include ground floor facilities for the elderly and separate reception rooms for use by men and women.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 10/11]

Manchester students cramped for space

Students from the Manchester University Islamic Society are threatening to take the Student Union to court to force them to provide a room of sufficient size and nature for them to use as a prayer room. Currently there is a "box room" set aside for Muslim prayers but this is too small for the numbers attending prayers regularly. An offer was made of a disused church on the fringe of the university campus but this was rejected by the students as an attempt to marginalise them away from the heart of university life. This is all part of a wider movement towards greater influence by Muslim students in some universities where a challenge is being mounted to the "secular, liberal orthodoxy". The students are claiming that their increase in influence is being met with blocking tactics by other student groups. The students have appealed for financial backing to assist them in their proposed litigation.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 11]

Eid message from the Vatican

The head of the Pontifical Congregation for Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Vatican, Cardinal Francis Arinze, sent an Eid message to Muslims world-wide. He sent his sincere greetings and best wishes to Muslims and concentrated on the strength of the family as a unit of society, thus reflecting the UN theme of the International Year of the Family. He spoke of the family as a sacred institution suited to teach and transmit culture, ethical, social and religious values through which people develop full mature personalities. The family, he said, is a fundamental social unit which gives strength to the societies which are formed on these foundations. Families were crying out for relief from poverty and oppression around the world and he offered this as one area of Christian-Muslim co-operation. He concluded, "As believers in God, the Merciful and Compassionate, who cares for the weak and the downtrodden, let us pledge to work together to uphold family life. We could foster increased contacts between Christians and Muslims to exchange on family values. As members of the one human family, we could work in solidarity to help those in need. In so doing we would be giving a human expression to divine compassion".

The full text of the message was published in Q News (11.03.94) and provoked an angry letter from a correspondent (25.03.94) who reminded readers that the Vatican had also recognised the State of Israel.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 11]

"Sheffield: Multi Racial City"

Following an attack on a 66 year-old man in Sheffield, which took place on a bus as he was returning from the mosque, the man died of a heart condition. This was just one of a series of racially motivated incidents in the area which led to a one-day conference called "Sheffield: Multi Racial City" on 21st March.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 11]

The mosque in Muslim life

The centrality of the mosque in Muslim life was considered by Prof. Akbar Ahmed of Cambridge in an article in The Guardian (10.03.94). His thoughts were prompted by the killings in Hebron which took place whilst people were lined up in the mosque for prayer. From this he went on to consider how the mosque had been the centre of attacks against Muslims whether at Ayodhya, at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem or in Bosnia where many mosques have been levelled in an attempt to wipe Islam out of the memory of areas which have been "ethnically cleansed". The mosque is the centre of political and social life in Islam as well as religious worship. The London Central Mosque in Regent's Park was instanced as a place outside which political groups gather whenever they have a cause which they want to share. In Prof. Ahmed's opinion there is a growing feeling of claustrophobia even there as so many young Muslims feel themselves to be threatened and outside general society. Across Britain he sees a crisis of leadership in mosques where sectarian "leaders" attempt to take control. There is an impelling demand, in his view, for a national structure which will not only co-ordinate the running of mosques but lead Muslims in their discussions of crucial social, political and religious questions.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 11/12]

Racial discrimination legislation

The Labour front bench are proposing an amendment to the Criminal Justice bill which would enable judges to impose an additional penalty if a crime was found to be racially motivated. Hartley Booth, MP for Finchley, introduced a private member's bill which would enable police to act on their own initiative to counter racially offensive material without the need for a complaint from a member of the public, as is the case at present. However, the bill failed to gain a second reading after it was "talked out" by Conservative MP, Lady Olga Maitland.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 12]

Countering racism

Redbridge Trade Union Council has asked the Home Secretary to bring in additional legislation to stem the tide of racism. The Secretary of the Council cited both the BNP and Islamic extremists who were active in the area. He felt that these two groups could come into open conflict if steps were not taken rapidly. Bangladeshi groups from the East End of London took part in an anti-racist march organised by the TUC which attracted tens of thousands of people on 19th March. Amongst other groups calling for new laws on racism is the Black-Jewish Forum which includes several leaders from ethnic minority groups including Imam Abduljalil Sajid from the Brighton Muslim Community Centre. Two students, an Iraqi and a Cypriot, were attacked and beaten by a group of men in Hatfield who taunted them with racist slogans during the attack. Both were students of law at the University of Hertfordshire.  [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 12]

"Health for All", Kirklees

A report from the West Yorkshire Health Authority has found that there are higher levels of heart disease, mental illness, diabetes and blood disorders amongst ethnic minority communities. This has led to a "Health for All" forum being set up in Kirklees. It is thought that there might be a link between racism and illness in as much as people can feel isolated and lonely due to racial harassment. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 12]

 

International Year of the Family

1994 is the International Year of the Family and to mark this the Lancaster Guardian has launched a regular series on families in their area. The first of the series (11.03.94) was devoted to a Muslim family of Asian heritage. The family consists of parents, the mother is a social worker; two adult sons, one of whom manages a supermarket and the other is a full-time mosque worker; and two adult daughters, both of whom are still in full-time education. They were presented as having a rich engagement in religious, cultural and social activities. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 12/13]

 

Banks and minority businesses

Academics from the Enterprise Research Centre at the University of Central England, Birmingham, have issued a research report on the way in which banks are accommodating the needs of ethnic minority businesses. The report found that such businesses were finding it hard to obtain backing from the banks partly because property values in inner city areas did not generate sufficient capital to guarantee loans. Three positive steps were recommended: bank employees who regularly deal with minority businesses should receive special training, more employees from the minorities should be engaged for bank branches which cater to this specialist demand and specialist advice units should be developed staffed with people who understand the problems of small ethnic businesses. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

Freezing hearts for transplants

Egyptian-born Dr Ahmed El-Gamel is conducting revolutionary research, based at a hospital in Manchester, into ways of freezing hearts donated for transplants. Currently hearts have to be transplanted immediately but if a successful method of freezing them could be found it would greatly ease the present shortage of donor organs. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

"Spirituality into Action"

Young Muslims and Hindus in Bradford staged a presentation called "Spirituality into Action" at the interfaith centre in that city. The young people were aiming to raise money for an orphanage in India following their success in raising money to send a convoy of relief aid to Bosnia. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

Health Mela for women

A Health Mela [festival] for Asian women was organised in Halifax. It looked at both traditional and modern approaches to healthcare and included information on exercise, breast screening, relaxation and diabetes. The Mela was organised by healthcare workers in association with the local Asian Women's Forum. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

Muslim barrister profiled

Khalwar Qureshi, a young British Muslim barrister, was profiled in Q News (11.03.94). In the eight years since he began studying law, he has graduated, become a teacher at Cambridge University and been accepted into a major firm of barristers in London. He has been instrumental in preparing the case against the Serbian government which will be presented by Bosnia at the International Court of Justice in the Hague which will allege that the Serbian government is in contravention of the 1948 Genocide Convention in the way in which it has treated the Muslims of former Yugoslavia. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

Concern for the sick

The Newport Islamic Society has donated two radio-cassette players for the use of elderly patients in a local hospital and a collection of computer games to a children's unit. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13]

 

Racism in football

The Football League has signed a charter as part of a campaign entitled "Let's kick racism out of football". Several clubs have made efforts to clamp down on racist fans including Derby County who staged a "Rams against racism day" recently and announced lifetime bans for anyone found guilty of racist taunts at its matches. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 13/14]

 

Edinburgh Mela in '95?

In an effort to widen the cultural diversity of the Edinburgh International Festival, a scheme is being considered to introduce an Asian Mela celebration modelled on the lines of that which has taken place each June in Bradford for the past six years. A fact-finding party will be sent to this year's Bradford Mela and if their report is encouraging, an Edinburgh Mela could form part of the Festival in 1995. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14]

 

International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day, women in the Wakefield area organised their third Women Celebrate Festival. As part of this, there were two contributions particularly aimed at enhancing the general appreciation of the richness of women's contributions to Islam. There was a "Women in Islam" conference which was a consciousness-raising event and a celebration of "Women in Islamic Communities" which included displays of women's art, a clothes designer show and a concert by a Muslim woman singer. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14]

 

Racism in housing policy?

Long term homeless families in the Tower Hamlets area, including many from Bangladeshi families, have launched a High Court action against the local council alleging racism in its housing policy. They claim that they are being forced into high-cost private rented accommodation rather than being housed in council houses. The council has defended its actions as a genuine attempt to get people housed quickly and to cut back on wasted expenditure. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14]

 

Environment symposium

A symposium on the religious and humanist responses to the environmental crisis was held in London on 16-18 March under the auspices of the "International Society for Universalism". The Muslim participation was organised by the Calamus Foundation and an Islamic perspective was offered by Dr Mawil Izzi Dien of the Islamic Studies department at St David's University College, Lampeter. The proceedings of the symposium will be published in the journal Dialogue and Humanism. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14]

 

Discrimination in medicine?

Doctors from the Medical Practitioners' Union have conducted research into the number of doctors from ethnic minorities who appeared before the General Medical Council's Conduct Committee in the period between 1982 and 1991. They found that doctors from ethnic minorities were six times more likely to be summoned before the committee than white doctors. They have passed the results of their research to the CRE so that they can consider possible action. They also reflected on the number of people from minority communities who found places in medical schools and who became consultants. In both cases members of minority groups were three times less likely to achieve their end. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14]

 

Influencing local elections

As the local council elections (5th May) draw near, Muslim organisations are beginning to plan strategies to ensure that the Muslim vote counts in electing councils who will be sympathetic to the needs of Muslim residents. One such group is the Brent Islamic Forum in north London which has mobilised the estimated 30,000 strong local community to register on the electoral roll and to cast their votes. They plan an election newspaper in several languages which will carry interviews with candidates on issues particularly relevant to local Muslims and to arrange election meetings at which people can question and listen to candidates. By thus using their political power, the organisers hope that Muslims will be able to affect changes in local policies. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 14/15]

 

Lessons from ethnic cleansing?

Professor Akbar Ahmed was invited to give the third annual lecture organised by the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies at the London School of Economics and chose as his title: "Ethnic cleansing: a metaphor for our time?" He refuted the view common amongst political scientists that passion generated by race and religion was a hallmark of "backward societies" by reference to Bosnia, Ireland and Britain. "Ethnic cleansing challenges the most vaunted European liberal values of humanism, civilisation and rule of law" (Daily Jang 25.03.94). He saw the problem not as arising from the collapse of communism but stemming from a realisation that modernity cannot solve all our problems.

He outlined the problems with terms like ethnicity, race, nation and tribe and went on to indicate the causes of fanatical hatred between people. He identified these as being economic, a false picture of consumerism developed by the media and a lack of moral principles on the part of leaders. The rise of rape as a weapon of war can be seen in many conflicts as a way of inflicting humiliation on the conquered. Finally he went on to point to ways of increasing ethnic understanding in the world. "The first and most important is to understand the plurality of our world, that although people are divided by birth, language and religion they belong to the same species... Organisations like the UN... need structural changes and larger budgets... The idea of tolerance and understanding needs to be encouraged through mass media." Finally, education is one of the main ways of discouraging racial hatred. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 15]

 

Yemeni centenary, South Shields

One hundred years ago, the first Yemeni community in South Shields was recorded. There are records of Yemeni sailors visiting the port for more than 100 years before that but the settlement dates from 1894. Many of the Yemenis have maintained strong links with their homeland because they were sailors and were able to visit it frequently. They have never lost their traditions and retain a strong sense of their cultural identity. Their honoured presence in the community was reflected by profiles of communal feeding programmes during Ramadan and on the occasion of an analysis being printed in the local Journal (15.03.94) of the richness and diversity of the Tyneside community. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 15]

 

Care in the community

A local Health Centre in Sunderland has found a way of taking primary health care to the families of the largely Bangladeshi community which lives nearby. For three years they have retained the services of a young Bangladeshi woman who speaks Sylhetti and knows the village culture from which the first generation immigrants came. The Centre's female healthcare worker has been visiting homes with her colleague acting as interpreter. Together they have achieved a high rate of babies being immunised, school-age children having health checks and women undergoing smear tests. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 15]

 

Muslim youth and businesses

The Muslim Parents' Group in Manchester has appealed for volunteers to help further their aims of working with youth and establishing businesses in the area to provide employment. The Muslim Women's Support Group is likewise looking for help in establishing itself as a separate organisation. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Finding and keeping a job

According to a report published by the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, more people from the ethnic minorities, women and the disabled were coming to the bureaux after experiencing prejudice in finding and keeping jobs. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Orientation of toilets

When the houses were built on the Wimberley Estate in Blackburn in the 1960s, the small number of Muslims in the area meant that no consideration was given to the orientation of toilets. As a consequence they were positioned so that they face towards Mecca. Subsequent public housing has taken this consideration into their planning but the residents of this older estate petitioned the council to have their toilets reorientated so that they cause no offence. The work, which could involve re-piping and replacing some walls, will cost an average of 400 per house, according to a council report. The local council considered the request but decided that the work could not be done at public expense, however, they said that they would listen favourable to schemes which allow individual tenants to carry out the work themselves. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Boxer becomes a Muslim

The boxing match between Herbie Hide and Michael X-Bentt was reported in the Daily Sport (16/17.03.94). Michael X-Bentt was reported to have converted to the Nation of Islam under the influence of Muhammad Ali and Louis Farrakhan. He commented that "service to others is the rent we pay to stay on earth". Unfortunately, the fight organisers had to refuse his request to have 18 of his followers, dressed in suits and dark glasses, escort him to the ring. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Muslim Women's Helpline

The work of the Muslim Women's Helpline was extolled in Q News (11.03.94). The helpline is five years old and operates from a tiny office on a shoe-string budget. It is staffed by volunteer women who aim to offer support, advice and counselling to Muslim women and girls in all kinds of need. Many of the Helpline's clients have been abused either sexually, mentally or physically and their self-esteem is at its lowest point. The Helpline exists on gifts from concerned Muslims and is constantly in need of funds to maintain it in existence. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Praying in biscuit factory

Muslim workers at Fox's Biscuits in Batley have applied to the management to have a separate room set aside in which they can pray. At present the several hundred Muslim workers have to pray in any available corner of the factory. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16]

 

Wedding entrepreneur

A 35 year-old Muslim businessman in Bolton has scored a success with his business "Stage Creations" which sets the scene and caters for weddings, fashion show and exhibitions. He organises everything for a wedding from the invitations and photography to the cake and flowers. Many of his clients are Muslims but he also serves the Hindu and white communities. He has received assistance from the local Training and Enterprise Council and business start-up advisers. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 16/17]

 

Pakistan Day celebrations

At the annual Pakistan Day celebrations in London, the national flag was raised by Mohammed Ibrahim, the Lord Mayor of Nottingham. Those present heard a message from the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan encouraging Pakistanis everywhere to work in unison and harmony, forgetting internal differences. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 17]

 

Woman abducted

No charges are to be brought against family members of a Muslim woman who was abducted from her boy-friend's house in Newton Abbot. The family, alleged to come from London, were reported to be angry because the woman intended to marry a non-Muslim and so took her away by force whilst the boy-friend was restrained. The woman, who was subsequently returned to Newton Abbot by the police, declined to make a formal complaint. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 17]

 

Muslims told to unite

The Home Secretary has called on Muslim groups to unite and speak with one voice so that they may have a greater impact on government policies. "In an hour-long meeting with a select group of Muslim leaders, last week, Michael Howard, pinpointing disunity and absence of effective leadership as the main obstacle to Muslims advancement, suggested that the Home Office could best meet the needs of British Muslims if they were represented by one and not several organisations. He complained that the existence of half a dozen groups, all claiming to be the true representatives of Muslims in Britain, was not only misleading but also made it difficult for the Home Office to identify the issues which mattered most to the community." (Q News 25.03.94)

Muslim reaction to the Home Secretary's comments has been two-fold. On the one hand, there is some agreement that the disparate voices of Muslims in Britain are a hinderance to their concerted effect on government institutions, but on the other, there is the feeling that the Home Secretary could be using this issue to avoid tackling the central questions on which all Muslim organisations agree. A particularly unimpressed response was delivered by the Union of Muslim Organisations and the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, both of whom have striven to provide a collective voice on Muslim affairs. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 17]

 

Former mayor dies

A former mayor of Waltham Forest and established Muslim leader died of a heart attack during prayers in the mosque one evening during Ramadan. Mohammed Khan had been instrumental in founding the mosque and had been supervising the building of mortuary washing facilities just before his death. Ironically, he became the first person to benefit from the new facilities. More than 1,000 mourners gathered for his funeral and many tributes were paid to his community work and contribution to public life. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 17]

 

Promoting Muslims' health

The Barking and Havering Family Health Services Authority has been meeting with members of the Essex Islamic Educational Trust to explore the current provision for respecting the cultural and religious needs of Muslims who are catered for by the local NHS. It transpired that one member of the Authority is a Muslim and multi-lingual clinics were in place. The service is being monitored by the Hackney Women's Advocacy Service. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 17/18]

 

Correction to JIM campaign

A national Christian evangelical campaign has been running for the last few months under the slogan JIM - Jesus In Me. It was commented upon by the Vicar of Rotherham in an article in the Rotherham Advertiser (18.03.94). He said, "Not all Christians would be entirely happy about the way the faith is presented and practised by those involved in the campaign. There was one thing, for example, which I consider to be a gross error of tact - to say the least - in the preliminary literature I received." This was the listing of the number of mosques in Britain in the middle of a set of "ills of the age". It seemed to equate the number of mosques as an evil which could be compared with the amount of crime, the amount spent on pornography, etc. So strongly did I feel that this was an error on the part of compilers of the list - and indeed something which could give a totally unChristian impression - that I asked the "Churches Together in Rotherham"... to write to the JIM organisers and object." It appears that no reply was received. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 18]

 

Divided community, Huddersfield

The Muslim community in Huddersfield are reported to be divided by a dispute over control of the Masjid Noor (mosque) and the Islamia Girls' High School (Huddersfield Daily Examiner 23.03.94). The dispute centres on the democratic mandate exercised by the trustees. Supplementary issues are the dismissal of the imam who had served the community for eight years and the apparent lack of democratic control over the expenditure of mosque funds. Standards in the school are particularly low. The trustees acknowledged that there had been an election of trustees when the mosque was first bought in 1978 and that since that time new trustees had been elected by a majority of serving trustees. The trustees claimed that the protesters are a vociferous minority but the protesters claim to speak for 80% of the community. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 18]

 

Two sentenced for abduction

Two Muslim brothers from East Ham, London, received suspended sentences for kidnapping the daughter of one of them. The daughter, in her late teens, was about to take a driving test when she was abducted by the men. A witness took the number of their car and she was released by police after a short ordeal. The family row focused on the daughter's association with her boyfriend which was contrary to her father's wishes. The woman, who is not a practising Muslim, moved in with her boyfriend last August. She returned to her father's house on one occasion under the mistaken impression that he was ill, however, she went back to her boyfriend and had had no contact with her family until the kidnap in November '93. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 18]

 

Believers' breakfast

An inter-faith breakfast is being organised in Bury for April 19th with the intention of bringing together believers from various religions to meet one another. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 18]

 

Community healthcare, Gloucester

Gloucestershire Health, the body responsible for health services in the area, conducted a survey on the accessability of healthcare services in the inner city of Gloucester. As a result of this survey, healthcare workers from the ethnic minorities represented in Gloucester have been recruited to work closely with all agencies delivering primary health care in the area. "There will be particular emphasis on identifying the social and religious needs of individuals within particular ethnic groups" (Gloucester Independent 17.03.94). [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19]

 

Muslim group accused of racism

A fringe Muslim organisation, "Islaamic Action [sic], a black African Shi'ite Muslim group" (South London Press 25.03.94) has been accused of displaying posters inciting black people to kill white racists. The group is based in Brixton, where it has been meeting on council property, and the posters read (in part) "BNP 3 Blacks Nil Is it time for us to kill?" The group has been condemned by local councillors, who are mounting an investigation into the use of council property, Muslims and anti-racist workers. The founder and chairman of the group, Brother Muhammad Sulaiyman, was reported to have told a meeting that "the group's main aim was to fight back in self-defence of [sic] white racists who attack black people - killing if necessary". [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19]

 

Rushdie listed as a patron

Salman Rushdie has been listed as one of thirty patrons for the literary festival in Swansea which will form a focal point of the "UK Year of Literature and Writing 1995". The decision to nominate Rushdie as a patron has been condemned as discriminatory by a spokesman from the Muslim Parliament (Western Mail 23.03.94), and Dr Abdul Rahman, chairman of the Swansea mosque which serves the estimated 1,500 Muslims in the area, said, "I think there will be protest. He is very much controversial [sic]." The festival, which lists many literary luminaries amongst its patrons and officials, has been the subject of controversy after its artistic director resigned last October due to concerns over the efficiency of the management. An editorial in the same newspaper referred to the nomination of Mr Rushdie as amounting to "deliberate antagonism". Muslim commentators have indicated that Muslim participation in the festival will be curtailed due to this association with the author of The Satanic Verses. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19]

 

Marriage ends in divorce

A 31 year-old Muslim man from Middlesborough claimed that he was forced into a marriage with an 18 year-old woman by his family against his wishes. He told the court that he had been told he was getting too old to remain single and, when he had expressed his desire not to go through with the wedding, that he would bring disgrace on his family as well damage the woman's future chances of marriage. In view of his father's poor health, he had agreed to go through with the marriage. The marriage ended in an Islamic divorce in July 1993 and the man came to the County Court to ask for an annulment. The judge declined to award the annulment but granted a divorce decree nisi to the wife in a cross-petition on the grounds that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19]

 

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Updates

Education

Islamic Academy seeks funding

The Leicester Islamic Academy, which caters for Muslim girls of secondary age, has applied to receive grant-maintained status when this becomes a possibility on 1st April. At present the school is independent and exists on fees plus community support. By making this application, the Leicester school will be in the first cohort of independent schools to try this new route to government funding. There are reported to be about 12 schools aiming for the 1st April date of which a small number will be Muslim. The decision whether to grant this status will be made ultimately by the Secretary of State for Education based on reports from his advisers but the Leicester application has not met with the support of local education officers who fear that it will be a drain on limited resources and would run counter to their policy of not supporting segregated schooling. A decision from Mr Patten is not expected for several months. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19/20]

 

Drive for more teachers

Leicester University has launched a new campaign to attract more people from ethnic minorities into teaching as a career. They have produced a special video to awaken interest in teaching and have published a supplement to a local newspaper. To give people some idea of what teaching involves, they are running three-day "taster" sessions where potential students visit schools and teaching centres. The aim is to recruit more minority teachers to act as role models for today's children. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 20]

 

Catholic teacher required to resign

A Roman Catholic woman, who taught in a Catholic school in Cardiff, was required to resign after it was discovered that she had married a Muslim in a register office. The issue at stake was not marrying a Muslim but marrying in a register office which is in contravention of the rules of the Catholic Church. As a teacher in a Catholic school, the woman had signed a special contract which stated that she would not do anything prejudicial or detrimental to the church. The woman, who had taught in the school for four years, agreed to resign in the presence of her solicitor and was given three months' salary. A spokesman for the teachers' union, NAS/UWT, said that they advised their members to strike out the Catholic clause before signing the contract which he regarded to be grossly unfair. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 20]

 

"Values" and the religious school

The question of teaching within a set of moral values has been raised frequently by educationalists and government ministers recently and has been the subject of an OFSTED discussion paper. The issues involved, as they are addressed in religious schools, were explored in an article in The Observer (13.03.94). The author visited two Jewish schools, a Catholic Sixth Form College and the Bradford Muslim Girls' Community School. In each case, the religious dimension of the school's identity gave it a certain spiritual, moral and social foundation upon which to establish a value structure in which education could operate. As it was put by one of the Jewish schools, the first rule is consideration, courtesy and sensitivity in personal relationships, excellence in work comes second. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 20]

 

More students for higher education

The Group for Encouraging Ethnic Minority Applicants aims to increase the number of students from minority communities who gain admission to higher education. To this end a meeting was held in Leicester to which all interested parties were invited. As part of the same campaign, admissions tutors from Cambridge University are touring inner-city schools to try to encourage applications from students who might not otherwise consider a place at Cambridge. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 20]

 

Batley madrassah

After several years of searching for a suitable property and having been rejected by the planning authority, the Pakistan Muslim Welfare Society in Batley has finally found a house which it believes will suit everyone's needs as a madrassah [supplementary school]. It is currently in residential use but could be converted to provide classrooms and washing facilities for prayer. It would prevent local children from having to cross busy roads to reach the current madrassah which is located in the mosque. There is a certain dispute over parking provision, with Muslim leaders saying that this is adequate but a minority of local residents signing a petition against the madrassah on these grounds. A decision on the change of use is awaited from the planning authority. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 21]

 

School assemblies, Birmingham

The dispute over assemblies for Muslim children in the Perry Barr district of Birmingham has not been settled (see BMMS for January 1994) and was the subject of a report in the Sunday Express (20.03.94). The language used in the article was value-laden with mention made of "Moslem fundamentalists want..." and "Sources link it to the growth of Moslem extremists fighting to take over city mosques from more moderate elders". A breakdown of the religious affiliation of children attending the two schools in question was given. Birchfield: 70% Muslim, 25% Hindu, 5% "including whites". Canterbury Cross: 77% Muslim, 9% Hindu, "around 5% Christian". A Muslim campaigner was quoted as saying: "It's democratically wrong to impose Christianity on a school which has less than 5% Christians in it". It was reported that 130 (from 740) pupils at Birchfield and 43 pupils from Canterbury Cross have been withdrawn from school assemblies. The Muslim parents want the schools to apply to the Birmingham SACRE for a determination which would permit them to hold Islamic worship as an alternative assembly daily. The decision to forward the request to the SACRE lies with the headteacher. It is reported that the headteacher of Canterbury Cross has now agreed to do so.

Prof. Tim Brighouse, the Chief Education Officer, has agreed to meet all parties to see if everyone's needs can be met within the options permitted by law. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 21]

 

Hunniford on "Islam in Britain"

Mr Roy Hunniford, the former Bradford headteacher who was at the centre of a row over alleged racism, was the guest speaker at a meeting of the European Union of Women (Mid Cheshire Branch). His topic was "Islam in Britain". "He said his knowledge of the subject was based on encounters, reading and research. He stressed the fact that a moderate Muslim can do nothing but good for this country. With excellent morals, a good upbringing and good beliefs they produce upright citizens. They value the family and education." (Middlewich Chronicle 09.03.94) Mr Hunniford went on to raise queries about Muslim attitudes to women and equal opportunities and concluded by stating his opinion that Muslim schools should not receive public funds. "He believed it would prevent future conflict if the British education system stayed as it was and all immigrants entered the British state system." [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 21]

 

Support for multi-faith RE

Parents in Liverpool were questioned about their attitude to RE in the city's state schools for an article in The Observer (20.03.94). The views of a Jew, a Muslim and a Hindu were reported in the article. All three were eager that their children should learn about the various faiths represented in the Liverpool community and reacted strongly against a Christian dominance in RE and collective worship. There was some concern expressed about multi-culturalism. The Muslim interviewee said that it is easy for teachers unwittingly to reinforce stereotypes and expressed irritation over teaching materials which emphasise the Asian wing of Islam. "Islam is not a culture, it is a religion." [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 21]

 

Will Christian schools "opt in"?

Some research has been conducted amongst 65 Christian independent schools, who are part of the Christian Schools Campaign group, by Dr Geoffrey Walford of Aston University. He questioned them about their intentions with regard to the government's new legislation on independent schools opting into grant-maintained status. He found that only five out of the 65 were in any position to apply for grant-maintained status. Some were ruled out by being too small and others ruled themselves out because of their desire to remain independent and free from the constraints of the National Curriculum.

Many of the schools were reported to be fundamentally opposed to taking government money. "A particular concern for some headteachers was that the campaign would make it easier for Muslim schools to obtain funding - which was generally seen as undesirable, if not against the will of God" (Times Educational Supplement 18.03.93). One headteacher specified Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses as three groups for whom he would oppose state funding. "Some headteachers were also alarmed about the methods used by the campaign to achieve its objectives and specifically the way the campaign had worked with Muslims and with right-wing politicians whose aims might be very different from those of many schools. There was a recognition by a few that allowing faith-based schools to become grant-maintained might be part of a far wider right-wing plan for education which could have deeply undesirable effects."

With regard to their curricula, Dr Walford found that one in three would not teach the National Curriculum, more than half wished to retain corporal punishment, 42% refused to teach sex education, all but one taught the creation as fact and evolution as incorrect, whilst one in three did not teach evolution at all. The full article by Dr Walford will appear in the spring edition of Educational Management and Administration. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 21]

 

GM status not quite "the answer"

Sohail Zahur Khan, who is closely associated with the Al-Hijrah Islamic School in Birmingham, contributed an article to the Daily Jang (25.03.94) in which he traced the history of the school, which depends entirely on voluntary contributions from parents and the community. There is clearly a huge demand for the services which the school offers, not just to boys and girls from 5 to 16 years as a day school offering the full National Curriculum, but also to students who are unable to attend the day school who come to classes at weekends and during the evenings. Given its financial base, the school always exists with a degree of financial uncertainty. This has actually been made worse by the recent plans which the government has announced to extend grant-maintained status. Many community members now think that the battle has been won and government money will be forthcoming but the reality is that the "surplus places" clause, upon which the government insists, means that schools like Al-Hijrah, which exist in an area where there is a long-term surplus of places in state schools, have just as little chance of gaining public funds as ever they had. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 22]

 

Record results in Sheffield

The Pakistani Muslim Centre in Sheffield, which runs National Vocational Qualification courses in partnership with Sheffield Training and Enterprise Council, has announced record successes in people gaining NVQ passes. The courses were in information technology, catering, sewing and childcare. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 22]

 

Students raise 5,000

Students at the Bolton Muslim Girls' School raised a total of 5,000 during Ramadan for the charity Muslim Aid to be spent on relief projects in Bosnia, Bangladesh, Somalia, India and Palestine. The project formed part of the educational aims of the school as explained by the headteacher, Dr Adam Ghodiwala, "One of the objectives of Muslim education is to reconstruct and revive the concept of ummah [the world-wide single community of Muslims], to make the young people aware that they are part of the ummah, and to enable them to identify with the problems and sufferings of Muslims all over the world" (Muslim News 25.03.94).[BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 22/23]

 

Hussain dismissed

Following the rejection of her appeal against her dismissal as headteacher at Springfield Junior School, Birmingham (see BMMS for September, October, November, and December 1993, January and February 1994), Mrs Noshaba Hussain claimed that she had suffered "persecution and torture" at the hands of the governors and local authority (The Birmingham Post 02.03.94). A spokesman for Mrs Hussain's union, the NAS/UWT, said, "We won't be making any knee-jerk reactions to the appeal decision. Our next course of action now has to be considered coolly and calmly".

An unidentified member of the appeals panel said, "Here we have a woman appointed to a job for which she did had not [sic] previous experience. It was our view that the interview panel would therefore have given a lot of weight to her qualifications. The fact that these were misrepresented was seen by us as a significant factor and had led to an irreversible break-down of trust in Mrs Hussain by the governors" (The Birmingham Post 02.03.94). Commenting on the appeal hearing, Mrs Hussain said, that the panel "sat glazed, sometimes yawning, going through the motions" (Birmingham Evening Mail 02.03.94). Mrs Hussain is reported to be considering an appeal to the High Court or to the CRE for a tribunal hearing. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 23]

 

Boys' boarding school proposed, Sheffield

A girls' school run by the Makki Mosque in Heeley, Sheffield, has announced plans to expand to include a boys' boarding department which will cater for about 60 boys aged 5 to 15. Plans are being negotiated with the local authority and will include a shared sports hall, a teaching block and a residence for the boys. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 23]

 

Bradford Muslim Girls' School

The Muslim Girls' Community School in Bradford has submitted an application to the Secretary of State for Education to receive voluntary-aided status under the partial control of the Bradford LEA. The official notice of intent has been published which gives local people two months to register their opinions. The project has received the backing of local church leaders, the Bradford Council and local politicians. The school will cater for girls from 13 to 18 years on two sites, with the girls up to 16 occupying the new site at Feversham Street and the sixth-formers using the existing Ryan Street premises. It is hoped that the new status will be granted in time for September 1994 when the school will expand to a roll of 280. The school has announced a change of name to "Feversham College". [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 23]

 

Mosques

Burton on Trent

The question of the mosque extension at the Uxbridge Street mosque is still unresolved (see BMMS for December 1993 and February 1994). The planning application was to extend the former school at an angle to align it with the direction of Mecca and to add a dome and minarets. Planning officers recommended the planning committee to approve the application provided that the extension matched the existing building and was sound-proofed. The planning committee was not prepared to grant permission, even with these conditions, and the vote was only narrowly against an outright refusal. Finally a compromise was suggested whereby permission would be granted provided that there would be no minarets, the dome would be "Victorianised" and the extension would be parallel to the existing building rather than at an angle. Local Muslim leaders are now considering an appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 23/24]

 

Hyde

Muslims in Hyde, Cheshire, had to hire the Town Hall to accommodate the 1,000 people who gathered to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr. The community has applied for permission to extend their present mosque in Jackson Street to include two houses in Greenfield Street. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24]

 

Leicester

Work has commenced on a purpose-built women's gallery, reception room and washing facilities at the Central Mosque, Conduit Street, Leicester. The work is expected to cost around 500,000, which will be raised by local people, and to be completed by the autumn. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24]

 

Leicester

Planning officers have declined to give their recommendation to a plan to demolish a three-storey Victorian house fronting a park in the Spinney Hill area of the city and to replace it with a three-storey mosque constructed of red brick with concrete panels and a gold-coloured aluminium roof. They have decided that it would spoil a conservation area and be out of keeping with neighbouring buildings. The planning committee are due to consider the application directly. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24]

 

Leicester

The plan to build a new Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat mosque and two temples on the same plot of land in Leicester (see BMMS for January 1994) has led to a political row. Two Conservative members of the council resigned over the Labour-controlled council's decision, thus forcing a by-election for their seats which are in the area of the intended mosque. Liberal Democrat candidates in the by-election have accused the Conservatives of running a campaign based on racism as expressed by their desire to keep the places of worship out of that part of the city given that there are few followers of those religions living nearby. There is also an undercurrent that the presence of the places of worship might encourage members of minority groups to settle closeby. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24]

 

Luton

Planning officers have recommended approval for the Luton Central Mosque in Westbourne Road to expand to include an adjoining house which will be used to accommodate women worshippers and a library. The application is tied to use strictly as a mosque in accordance with the plans. The planning authority is expected to approve the extension unless there are valid objections. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24]

 

Newham

The council in Newham put a piece of land on the market for tenders. When these were submitted last November the highest bid was 226,000 from a developer who intended to build affordable shared-ownership houses which would relieve some of the 16,444 people on the council's housing waiting list. This plan was accepted "subject to contract". A local mosque had also bid 50,000 for the site on which it wanted to build a car park. It is alleged that the mosque reconsidered the use that they would make of the land after their initial bid failed and submitted plans to build community facilities over the planned car park. This has caused the council to reconsider its original decision and to consider selling the land to the mosque, for an increased price, on the understanding that the new facilities would be available to the "wider community" (Daily Telegraph 16.03.94). [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 24/25]

 

Oldham

Oldham Development Committee have approved plans to build a car park and an extension to the Islamic teaching centre at the junction of Warwick Street and Cambridge Street. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

Oldham

Gypsies from a caravan site have demanded that the council provide them with a new home after permission was given for a new split-level mosque to be built on a green site at the junction of Barlow Street and Greengate Street in the Glodwick area of the town. The gypsy site would be overlooked by the mosque. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

Oxford

Permission to use the ground floor of a house in Cowley Road as a mosque for at least the next three years has been granted by the planning authority in spite of complaints about early morning noise from neighbours. Planning officers objected to the continued use on the grounds of insufficient parking. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

St Albans

Plans have been submitted for the conversion of a disused tyre centre into a single-storey mosque with an imam's flat above and a retail outlet to the front. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

Southall

The Ealing Council has rejected the bid tendered by local Muslims for the former town hall in Southall (see BMMS for January 1994). They have decided to reopen tenders which will make it possible for the Hindu temple adjacent to the town hall to increase their bid for the property. The council said that they had acted in the interests of inter-religious harmony after there had been several dire warnings of Hindu-Muslim violence if the two communities had places of worship right nextdoor to each other. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

Wolverhampton

Muslims have been writing to the local press to make it clear that they are willing to be flexible regarding plans for the new mosque near the Five Ways roundabout (see BMMS for February 1994). It has been stated that they are willing to accept a ban on the use of loudspeakers and to negotiate the height of the minaret and parking facilities. The proposed mosque would be adjacent to an existing one which has served the community for 25 years without any complaints. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

Worcester

Plans to build a mosque and a block of flats on the site of the former post office sorting depot in the Arboretum district (see BMMS for November and December 1993 and January 1994) were rejected by the planning committee. There were concerns over noise, traffic, over-crowding on the site and the mixture of a mosque and flats. [BMMS  March 1994 Vol. II, No. 3, p. 25]

 

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