British Muslims Monthly Survey for July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7
The terrorist attacks on Israeli buildings in London have been reported extensively in all forms of the media. This report will focus on the impact of the incidents on Muslims in Britain and the response of Muslims here to the events.
The facts of the attacks briefly are that a bomb was exploded outside the Israeli embassy on 26th July. This followed an attack in Buenos Aires on 18th July which resulted in the death of 96 people and came shortly after the Middle East peace initiative between Prime Minister Rabin of Israel and King Hussein of Jordan. The embassy bomb was followed by a second attack on the offices of the Joint Israel Appeal on 27th July. The JIA is a charity which specialises in raising funds for projects in the UK and Israel. There followed a general heightening of security at all Israeli and Jewish locations in Britain. Initial speculation indicated that either the Palestinian group Hamas or the Iranian-backed Hizbollah was responsible. This led to calls for them to be banned in Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Hamas has denied all responsibility and the finger of suspicion now points towards some Iranian influenced organisation. The immediate suspect is a middle-aged woman of Mediterranean appearance.
Muslim reaction was immediate. Dr Zaki Badawi, the chairman of the Imams and Mosques Council told The Guardian (28.07.94), "We do not wish for or condone any violent activities in this country... There are extremists in every community and if we start banning extremists we would not know where to stop. We need to stop people who are violent. They should be punished by law." Dr Hisham el-Essawy, the chairman of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance, said, "If your ordinary British person would disapprove of this with a score of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, then your average Muslim would score 10" (The Independent 28.07.94).
Dr Pandeli Glavanis of the Middle Eastern Centre at Durham University gave an extensive interview to The Northern Echo (28.07.94) in which he set the attacks against the whole modern history of the Middle East with special reference to the situation of the dispossessed Palestinians of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon. He was not optimistic that the current peace overtures in the Middle East would attract wide support amongst these displaced persons. Likewise Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the human rights committee of the Muslim Parliament, explained, "What really worried me was the fact that the media was trying to give their opinion that anyone who accepts the peace treaty is civilised and anyone opposed to it is a terrorist and uncivilised, which is not reality at all. There are many Muslims opposed to the peace treaty because it is not based on justice... Opposing the treaty does not automatically mean that you support this sort of thing. I oppose any endangering of human life, especially innocent human life. I fundamentally believe in that and I wish that the rest of the world agreed" (The Guardian 28.07.94).
Six national leaders from the Muslim community in Britain expressed themselves in a joint letter to The Independent (01.08.94) thus: "We, as members of the British Muslim community, have been outraged at the recent bombings aimed at the Jewish community. Peaceful co-existence of all communities is not only desirable but is also in line with the basic teachings of Islam. It is in fact a duty of every Muslim to uphold the rights of other members of the society, to observe the principles of brotherhood and good neighbourliness and to stand up against all such acts of violence - whoever the perpetrators."
Muslim commentators, like Iqbal Sacranie of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, Fuad Nahdi, the editor of Q News, and Ahmed Versi, the editor of the Muslim News, have complained of the way in which media reporting of the events has put Muslims in Britain in a bad light. The same point was taken up by Lawrie Rosenberg, the Executive Director for Education of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, when he said, "It was very upsetting to see that the media immediately accused `Islamic fundamentalism' when, really, they mean `political terrorism'... I have so much confidence in my Muslim and Christian colleagues that I think we will come out of this stronger than before" (Q News 29.07.94). A memorial service for the victims of the bomb in Buenos Aires was held in the Argentine embassy which was attended by several leading Jews and Dr Zaki Badawi on behalf of the Imams and Mosques Council.
The Prime Minister expressed his government's resolve to track down the terrorists and resist all such attacks in a speech to the Conservative Middle East Council. During this he said, "We deeply respect Islam. We do not regard it as a threat. It is completely wrong to equate the extremism of a few in the Middle East with the religion of Islam" (Western Morning News 29.07.94). Mr Major went on to say, "The Prince of Wales argued that the links between the West and the world of Islam mattered more today than ever before. As he rightly said, there is much that binds the culture of the West and the Middle East together: respect for knowledge and for justice, compassion for the under-privileged, the importance of family life" (The Scotsman 29.07.94).
In an effort to assess the way in which Arab expatriates who have now settled in London view their country of residence, The Guardian ran a feature which consisted of a series of short interviews with a variety of Arab men and women (08.08.94). The overall impression was of a group of people who value the relative peace and freedom of living in the cosmopolitan city of London. Many had been refugees several times over in their journey here and were pleased to have escaped from political oppression, dispossession and economic hardship. All those interviewed were well-established in professional or business life and generally tended to keep a low profile politically. There was a note of caution and a wary regard for any possible reaction against Arabs in London.
One of the consequences of the bombs was the sustained campaign to have the Kalifah Conference organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir at the Wembley conference centre on 7th August banned. Much of this opposition came from Jewish groups and anti-Nazi campaigners. The general impression of Hizb ut-Tahrir was not helped by an interview given by its spokesman, Farid Qassim, to The Guardian in the immediate aftermath of the bombs (28.07.94). In the interview he was reported to have said that his party wanted to re-establish the caliphate and that violence was irrelevant to that goal. "We neither condone nor condemn it. What I find unacceptable is that the media have already condemned Muslims. I do not think it is very useful for relations between Muslims and non-Muslims... Have you contacted any extremist Jewish organisations which might have some way to benefit from this bombing? We Muslims are the new pariahs of the world after the cold war... Did anyone condemn violence when the Gulf War took place and Muslims were treated so terribly? Has anyone done anything about Serb atrocities against the Bosnians? Every nation believes at some time in history that violence is a necessary act. We are not hypocrites. We accept that." [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 1-3]
The Kalifah Conference (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for May 1994) received an enormous boost to its publicity in the wake of the Israeli bombings. It had been organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir (see BMMS for January, February, March and April 1994) and aimed to bring several thousand people to the Wembley conference centre to hear speeches by Muslim leaders from around the world. Hizb ut-Tahrir has already come under suspicion by Jewish groups for its alleged anti-Jewish and anti-Israel pronouncements. Given the temporal proximity of the conference to the bombings, it is not surprising that Jewish voices were amongst those most vociferously raised in calling for the conference to be banned.
Before the bombings, the campaign to halt the conference had centred on the allegedly racist nature of the organisation's leaflets and the fact that the Wembley area contains a substantial Jewish community. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said, "We have expressed our concerns to Wembley and we would rather the thing was cancelled" (The Wembley-Kingsbury Independent 21.07.94). Weight was lent to this campaign by Brent Council who appealed to the Home Secretary to prohibit the gathering for public order reasons given that it might attract rival demonstrations on the streets and provoke racial hatred (Evening Standard 25.07.94). The move by Brent Council to have the meeting banned was strongly opposed by the Brent Islamic Forum as it would send the wrong messages about freedom and equality under the law to those who abide by the law. The full text of the letter, dated 25th July, was published in Q News (29.07.94).
After the bombings, the campaign to stop the conference intensified with sympathies being intimated between Hizb ut-Tahrir and those who carried out the terrorist attacks. Searchlight, an anti-fascist group, said, "These people share political sympathies with the people who carried out the recent bombings" (The Big Issue 02.08.94). The Home Secretary was put under increased pressure by MP's and Jewish leaders but a Home Office spokesman explained, "It is not within his powers to ban this meeting. There is no legislation which allows him to do so" (Asian Age 03.08.94). A report in the Evening Standard (04.08.94) suggested that a team of undercover agents were to be sent to Britain by the Israeli secret service to look for known extremists in the crowd at the conference and pass on the information to the British intelligence service.
One of the leading figures behind the conference, a speaker and the leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain is Omar Bakri Muhammad. In an effort to inform the judgement of mainstream British Muslims about this fringe group, the Muslim weekly Q News carried an extensive interview with Omar Bakri (29.07.94). In this he explained the origins of Hizb ut-Tahrir as an intellectual driving force within Islam aiming to re-awaken Muslim perception of themselves as the intellectual leaders of society. They believed in the leadership of the Caliph and not political parties or the universal franchise. The interview had a tone of studied moderation in which Muslims were asked to develop their own commitment to Islam and invite others to accept its truth. Omar Bakri admitted that Hizb ut-Tahrir was not a membership organisation which any Muslim could just join but rather there was a period of "culturing" during which prospective members studied with those already enroled.
The conference did take place without any serious public order disturbance. The only incidents were two men arrested for demonstrating against the anti-homosexual opinions of certain religious groups. The men were protesting under a "Queers Against Fundamentalism" banner. There were also allegations of obstruction by stewards against reporters and TV crews. Reporters had to pay £10 to enter the conference rather than the £3 entry fee for participants and cameras were not allowed except for a brief photo opportunity. It was suggested that photographs were used by governments to identify participants.
It would appear that the conference attracted considerably fewer than the 12,000 people who were expected. Attendance has been reported at 5,500 and 8,000. The content of the many speeches can apparently be summed up in three points: Muslims must hold fast to the essentials of Islam, the Caliphate must be established through the dissolution of Muslim nation states and any agreements with Israel are illegal.
The conference was criticised by other Muslims in Britain. The Bradford Council for Mosques, through the person of its spokesman, Ishtiaq Ahmed, said that it wished to distance itself from "organisations that pursue a policy of open confrontation and violence... Muslims in Britain have a difficult enough time and such conferences give them a bad name" (Asian Age 09.08.94). Hizb ut-Tahrir was dismissed as a fringe group which "had struck a popular note" with some disaffected Muslim youths. "I doubt whether these young people actually subscribe to the strategy of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I would be very concerned if they did."
Akbar Ahmed, writing in The Guardian (09.08.94), questioned the strategies employed by Muslim groups which resulted in such a distorted media image. Hizb ut-Tahrir's "style and rhetoric alienate the majority of Muslims in Britain, most of whom are concerned with getting on with life in an increasingly racist climate - their expressions of Islam are made through the number of new mosques and the Islamic centres that proclaim pride in their culture and religion." He concluded, "How does the government deal with the phenomenon? To ban it would drive it underground, but indifference may create cultural and religious confrontation. The one lesson we need to drive home, in the multi-cultural, multi-faith society Britain is now becoming, is that there is no substitute for debate, that violence will remain counter-productive. The Hizb need to be taken in, not excluded". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 3/4]
The struggle by the Halal Food Authority of the Muslim Parliament to establish their controls over the supply of genuinely halal meat enterd a new phase on 22nd July when "10 or so shops in the London area" (Q News 08.07.94) opened under direct HFA badging selling the tagged and tattooed meat authenticated by the authority (see BMMS for March, April, May and June 1994). The economics of supplying authenticated halal meat in this way are accepted as working against the HFA in the short term as other outlets are selling genuinely halal meat without the HFA levy of 15p per pound and still others are alleged to be buying reject haram meat at prices as low as 20p per pound and then passing it off as halal through retail outlets. Some Muslim butchers are particularly worried about the financial situation as was reported from a butcher in London, "Most of my customers will not be able to afford the higher prices. I already sell halal meat and am satisfied it is 100 per cent halal. The authority is using the name of Islam to try to control the trade, and its got nothing to do with religion" (The Guardian 01.07.94).
The Halal Food Authority took out its own full-page advertisement in Q News (15.07.94). It announced that 22nd July will be "Halal Day" and listed three abattoirs (in Hailsham, Birmingham and Ossett, W. Yorks.) which would be approved by them to supply meat to a total of 16 retailers (11 in London, 2 in Bradford, 2 in Leeds and 1 in Leicester). The wholesalers and retailers were listed in detail. The tone of the advertisement was confrontational, "The Big Battle Begins: Halal v. Haram". "Don't fall for meat even if it comes from a well-known family or slaughterhouse. Some may also be certified by local busy bodies, committees or boards set up by traders. Some will even try to put their family or company tag on carcasses." "Take our word, the HFA licensed shops are the only outlets for guaranteed halal meat." Such a tone can only reinforce those commentators who see the HFA campaign being about control, power and making money rather than service to the community and fidelity to truth and honesty in advertising.
In a well-balanced article which contrasted the halal method of slaughter with customary methods in British slaughterhouses (Wolverhampton Express and Star 04.07.94), the extent of the potential of the Halal Food Authority was expressed by the chief executive officer, Abd'ar-Rahman Glynn Sparkes, "Muslims throughout Europe find it hard to get halal meat they can be sure of. If we have a national authority with guaranteed standards it will arouse massive interest. Thanks to us Britain could soon become the biggest halal meat exporter in the western world".
The launch of the Halal Food Authority's regulation of the meat trade met with a mixed reception. Some traders reported increased business with people welcoming the guaranteed halal meat. Other retailers and slaughterers have resisted joining the scheme, saying that they are already fully regulated by the local authorities and their own inspectors. It is reported that the two outlets in Bradford and one in Leeds could not be supplied with HFA tagged meat. "The Yorkshire operation collapsed because the single supplier on whom it was based was blackmailed into abandoning the HFA by his halal/haram mixing customers" (Q News 29.07.94). It was also reported that opposition groups "bought out the only chicken supplier the HFA had". The HFA are now developing plans to licence another chicken supplier.
A London butcher has attacked the HFA because of the increased costs involved in selling their meat. Raja Talhat Rehmen of Kingsbury paid his £250 registration fee to join the HFA scheme and was told to obtain his meat from the appointed wholesaler. He found that meat from this source was going to cost an additional 20% in excess of that which he was accustomed to paying. In addition to this he would have to add the HFA levy of 8p per pound on lamb and 15p per chicken. He claimed that this would increase his costs by £700 per week (Harrow Observer 28.07.94). The HFA's licence to this company has now been withdrawn (Q News 05.08.94).
The Bradford Halal Meat Traders Committee has retained a Bradford firm of solicitors to seek a High Court injunction against the HFA as their scheme "would mean price increases and would imply that non-members are not selling real halal meat" (Bradford Telegraph and Argus 22.07.94). The unseemly debacle over control of halal meat supplies has been littered with headlines which speak of a "war", "battle" and "punch-up in the press". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 4-6]
The government has issued its Consultative circular on the supply of school places. Given that the existence of surplus places in neighbouring schools has been the grounds on which the Islamia School, Brent, has consistently been refused voluntary aided status, the issue is of significant importance for Muslims seeking to establish schools either with voluntary aided or grant maintained status. The circular must be seen within the context of the Secretary of State's desire to facilitate quality education in keeping with parental choice and with the greatest possible cost-efficiency for tax-payers. There is also the dimension of "who controls education?" to be borne in mind. The concept of grant maintained schools being independent of the control of the LEA has led to a bi-polar division of power between central and local government. One of the factors which inhibits the expansion of over-subscribed GM schools is the surplus of places in local LEA schools. The same criterion can prevent independent schools opting-in to GM status or new schools being proposed. Therefore, the current circular which seeks to reduce the number of surplus places in LEA schools (by requiring that some schools be closed) must be placed within the context of the government's desire to expand the GM sector.
A crucial factor in the supply of school places is the projected growth in school pupil numbers. The circular contains a map of England colour-coded to indicate the rates of growth expected in each LEA. It is noteworthy that 11 out of 13 Inner London Boroughs are projected to show a growth in pupil numbers of 14-45% (the top band) by the turn of the century. The corresponding figure for Outer London Boroughs is 15 out of 20. No other metropolitan area has a concentration of top band predicted growth LEA's. In West Yorkshire, only Calderdale has a top band projection, the other LEA's are projected on the 5-14% bands. In Greater Manchester, Tameside and Manchester are in the 14-45% band. No LEA's in the West Midland appear in the top band with only Birmingham and Dudley being projected at 10-14% band. Of the 15 "shire counties" listed in the top band, six are in the South West, whilst North Yorkshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire and Bedfordshire also appear. The national average for growth in pupil numbers in 14%. No figures have yet been produced which correlate the projected growth of the Muslim pupil population with LEA's.
The circular sets out the clear intention of the government to reduce surplus places. Ideally this should be done voluntarily by LEA's but should this not be forthcoming to the Secretary's satisfaction, he will use his powers under the Education Act 1993 to publish proposals to remedy the situation himself (para. 7). In the process of bringing forward proposals for rationalisation of school places "The Secretary of State would expect all proposals to give full weight to parental preferences for schools of particular types, including denominational, selective, specialised and single-sex" (para. 6). This could empower those Muslims who are seeking to ensure that single-sex schools are retained in the system.
It is accepted that some surplus capacity has to remain within the system; the amount must be determined in accordance with local circumstances (para.8). Three justifications for retaining surplus places would be to promote parental choice, to cater for increasing pupil numbers and to ensure accessibility of schools (para. 9).
In relation to funding new schools where an existing surplus applies, the circular makes it clear that educational factors (increasing choice, diversity and particularly an improvement in the quality of education) will be considered as well as financial and organisational factors (para. 12). Further, "There may be circumstances in which the Secretary of State is prepared to approve proposals for new school places despite the absence of a projected shortfall of places in the area, in particular where in his view the proposed new places would significantly enhance the quality, choice and diversity of education available in that area and where there would be scope, following the approval of new places, for rationalising places at other schools. This would be a matter for discussion with the relevant authority... at the appropriate time" (para. 13).
The contents of paragraphs 12 and 13 on establishing new places where a surplus already exists will be important for the proposed foundation of Muslim GM schools. If a proposal could demonstrate that the existing schools in an area fall short in terms of offering choice, diversity and quality and convince the Secretary that they were able to offer a service which excelled these local schools and met with the sustained support of parents who were seeking to exercise their choice for that type of school then it would be possible that the Secretary would consider funding that Muslim school even though it meant requiring the LEA to eradicate other unwanted places in the area.
A key to a successful proposal for a new maintained school is correct information about the number of surplus places in the area (vide the earlier proposal from Islamia School in which such information was not forthcoming). Now, "LEAs and the Funding Agency for Schools should also ensure that information on school capacities and projected pupil numbers is made available to potential promoters of the grant-maintained and voluntary schools so that they can take it into account in considering whether to publish proposals and, if so, the nature of the proposals they should prepare" (para 30).
The circular also sets out the procedure for setting up a new GM school or changing the status of an existing independent school. Two points from these procedures are particularly relevant for the current purposes. The initial costs of setting up the school will be the subject of a grant from the DfE. "Grant will be paid to a maximum of 85% of the cost of the school site and school buildings. Promoters should not assume that capital grant will always be paid at the full rate" (para. 77). This is a difference from the regulations for VA status which attracted a mandatory grant of 85%. In the current situation, it might well be that, in a time of fiscal restraint, the DfE found itself obliged to pay significantly less in grant towards a project which might cause the promoters to withdraw through lack of funds to finance their increased share of the initial costs.
Paragraph 83 sets out some of the considerations which the Secretary of State will have to take into account on each proposal:
a the effect of the new school on the quality of schooling in the area
b "evidence of demand from parents for the type of places proposed (e.g. denominational)"
c contribution of new school to increasing choice and diversity
d the need for additional school places
e the cost
f "the ability of the proposed school to satisfy basic curriculum requirements, including the National Curriculum"
g "whether teachers are suitably qualified"
h "whether, in the case of co-educational schools, the school will offer equal opportunity to boys and girls"
i suitability of proposed premises
j "the promoter's background and stated objectives in establishing the school"
k criteria for sixth-forms (if applicable)
l "the suitability of admissions arrangements"
m whether the Funding Agency for Schools supports the proposal.
The circular has received a positive response by some Muslim educationalists. Dr Azam Baig, the Principal of the Islamia School, told the Daily Jang that the measures contained in it are a good step as Muslims schools are badly in need of funds. He indicated that he thought the whole issue has political overtones. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 6-8]
The Balsall Heath area of Birmingham has been a major scene for street prostitution for decades. Recently the local community, mainly Muslim, has decided to take the matter into their own hands and clean up the streets. This action has attracted the attention of the national press in a sustained way with significant articles appearing in The Observer (17.07.94), The Guardian (20.07.94), The Times (21.07.94), the Daily Telegraph (22.07.94) and again The Guardian (23.07.94).
In an area of some 18 streets in the inner city district of Balsall Heath anything up to 70 or 80 prostitutes plied their trade on street corners. There were 36 houses in the area which were notorious for visible displays of what the women had to offer. Women and young girls were regularly propositioned by kerb crawlers and certain notorious roads could endure up to 300 cars per hour at night with men in search of the prostitutes' services. The initial action was taken by police to reduce the number of notorious houses but then the local Muslim community decided to reclaim their streets by mounting continuous pickets to embarrass customers away from the area. Typically there were 200 local residents on the streets during the day and up to 500 at night. They displayed signs warning that kerb crawling cars would have their registration numbers noted and they positioned themselves next to prostitutes awaiting clients. They were effectively organised by local Muslim leaders so that pickets were disciplined and, almost without exception, violence was avoided. Within three weeks the streets have been cleared of prostitution.
The police are naturally ambivalent about the action. On the one hand they welcome the community's determination to expunge prostitution from their area. Crime is an evil of society and not something which the police can tackle alone. However, there is also the necessary caution about what mass pickets might lead to in terms of possible vigilantes. Like any neighbourhood watch scheme, the end result is often to send the miscreants off to ply their trade in other areas.
The question has been addressed by local councillors who are discussing a "zone of toleration" in which prostitutes would be able to pick up clients away from residential areas. Similar projects on the continental mainland of Europe have been studied. One local MP, Dr Lynne Jones, has called for prostitution to be decriminalised in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons. Opinions are split as to how best the problem can be contained so that those who are not involved can be safeguarded and drugs-related crimes can be kept in check. Naturally, the prostitutes too want a safe area in which to work where they can be protected from abusive customers and exploitation.
The success of the Balsall Heath civil vigilance scheme has inspired people in other parts of Britain. There have been contacts from Bradford, Leicester, Rochdale, Plymouth and Newcastle upon Tyne with requests for guidance on how to repeat the Balsall Heath experience in their own area. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 8/9]
A nice legal point was presented to the coroner in Huddersfield (Huddersfield Daily Examiner 30.06.94) when a local 29 year-old woman died after passing into a diabetic coma. The woman was divorced from her first husband and the child of that union was looked after by her mother. For five years prior to her death she had lived as the second wife of a local Muslim man by whom she had a two year-old son. The man lived with his first wife and nine children but visited the woman every day to administer her insulin injections. Upon her death, both the man and the woman's mother applied to the coroner to have her body released to them for disposal.
The man said that the woman had lived as a Muslim for five years, was married to him according to Islamic law and had expressed the desire to be buried according to Muslim customs. Her mother expressed the intention to have the body cremated. There was a degree of negotiation by which the man agreed to her being buried according to the mother's wishes and said that he would pay the funeral expenses if only the mother would agree to allow him to have the body for two hours so that he could perform the Muslim burial customs. The mother refused to accept that there should be any Islamic component in the burial of her daughter. At this stage the coroner was asked to give his ruling.
The coroner adjourned the hearing for a day to consider the legal and religious implications. He gave his opinion that it was the most unusual case in his 25 year career. The issue was complicated in his mind by the fact that the liaison between the deceased woman and the father of her child could not be regarded as a marriage in English law although it is recognised under Islamic law. The coroner expressed his view to both parties in the case that they should arrive at a compromise and not force him to decide for one or the other. Eventually this was agreed and the body was released into the mother's charge for a Christian burial, not a cremation, but only after it had been taken to the man's mosque for two hours so that it could be prepared for burial and prayers could be said in the Muslim manner (Huddersfield Daily Examiner 01.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 9/10]
The final form of the model syllabuses for RE, which are intended as guidance for local Agreed Syllabus conferences when they come to draw up their own syllabus for each LEA, were launched at the beginning of July.
In general the content and structure of the syllabuses has not been changed from the draft model syllabuses which were published for consultation in January (see BMMS for January and April 1994). The major change is that the guidance which laid down percentages of time which should be spent on each religion has been dropped. The guidance now requires that Christianity should be taught at each key stage and that two other faiths should be taught during key stages 1 and 2 (the years of primary education) whilst all five of the other major world religions must be taught at some stage during each child's school career.
The new syllabuses have been generally welcomed on all sides with the dominant voice of complaint coming from conservative Christians who are concerned that insufficient Christianity will be taught. The greater flexibility to allow primary school RE to reflect the religious traditions which children bring to school with them has been welcomed in particular by Muslim commentators as this will allow Islam, for example, to figure significantly alongside Christianity in the early years. It has generally been welcomed that the new syllabuses focus on beliefs rather than on the peripherals of practice in RE. Most importantly, the syllabuses reflect the intention of the government to give a higher profile to RE in schools. This has been welcomed by the secretary of the Muslim Education Forum and leading Muslim educationalist Akram Khan Cheema, "I welcome the fact that the Government has put religious education on the agenda and given it a high profile. In the past, it has too often been marginalised" (Bradford Telegraph and Argus 05.07.94).
The fact that RE is to be taken seriously and that all faiths will be recognised as having importance has been welcomed by most leading Christian commentators. Thus, the Revd. Peter Jackson, chaplain at Harrow School, chairman of the group which drew up the Independent Schools' RE syllabus and member of the model syllabuses working party, "As a priest and teacher I don't feel threatened in any way by the fact that religions other than Christianity are being taught. There is no threat in the majority of schools to the teaching of Christianity and there is no good evidence that children are confused if they are taught more than one religion" (The Independent on Sunday 03.07.94).
The predominant concern of many professional commentators and teachers' bodies concerns the amount of time which will be devoted to RE in general in the whole school curriculum. The recommendation is that it should have 5% of total teaching time. This will require that the problem of a shortage of trained RE teachers be addressed and that the lack of suitable teaching resources be redressed. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 10]
Birmingham City Council Environmental Health Department announced in April that it was going to instigate an inspection of local meat outlets to ensure that meat which is sold as halal can be authenticated as such (see BMMS for April 1994). A total of 120 premises which purport to sell halal meat were inspected, of these 104 were passed as giving "no grounds for suspicion" (Dudley Express and Star 06.07.94). "The remaining 16 were subject [sic] to detailed inquiry which resulted in the identification of three who appear to be selling haram meat as halal." This represents an infringement rate of 2.5% which contrasts favourably with previous investigations into false description offences in the general butchery trade which showed an infringement rate varying between 6% and 49%. The three offending businesses are to be prosecuted by the council.
The Milan Day Centre for elderly people from Asian families in the Bury Park district of Luton celebrated Eid with a special meal. A formal letter of complaint was sent to the director of social services when it was discovered that non-halal chicken had been served at the meal. The chicken curry was prepared by a Hindu caterer. This led to further claims that the centre was dominated by local Hindus and the Muslims were being ignored.
An Indian Muslim chef who is being held in Aberdeen prison whilst immigration irregularities are being investigated is reported to be refusing prison food because he claims that it is not halal. The prison staff have denied that the man's health is in any danger as he has regular access to vegetarian options. Arrangements have now been made for meals to be brought in from a local Indian restaurant whenever there is nothing on the menu that he can eat. The senior prison managers are monitoring the situation which seems to be complicated by a sense of injustice that the man should be detained in prison when his employer has offered to stand bail for him (Aberdeen Press and Journal 30.07.94).
Two Muslim inmates at Perth Prison have begun to refuse their cooked meals because they refuse to believe the prison's assurance that the food is halal. The prison claims to have considerable experience of holding Muslim prisoners and prides itself on the care which it takes to ensure that their dietary needs are met. There has never been any query about the authenticity of their halal food in the past. Their suppliers and methods of preparation are checked by local religious leaders. A meeting is planned between religious leaders, the men's families, community relations officers and the men themselves together with the prison management to resolve the issue (Dundee Evening Telegraph 04.08.94).
A large meat wholesaler in Northern Ireland has landed a lucrative order to send a regular supply of chickens to Dubai. The birds will be slaughtered one day per week in the factory by a Muslim slaughterman who will ensure that everything is halal. The company hopes to develop its trade with Middle Eastern countries.
After negotiation with Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist groups in the area, an Aberdeen-based biscuit company has introduced a special version of their oatcakes and cookies which are baked with vegetable fat rather than the traditional animal fat. The development has been applauded by the local Racial Equality Council and people are happy to rely on checks by trading standards officers to ensure that all ingredients really are vegetarian as the labelling indicates. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 11]
The lack of a national policy on the disposal of foetuses was highlighted in Sheffield where a Muslim family found that they could not find a cemetery which was able to offer them burial facilities and so resorted to burying the foetus in their own garden (Sheffield Star 06.07.94). The policy of Sheffield Council cemeteries is to offer burial facilities for any foetus from 24 weeks gestation onwards. Should a pregnancy end before this time, the foetus is normally disposed of by the hospital concerned through an agreement with the crematorium. This general rule is only varied after "strong intervention by a churchman or funeral director". In the present case, the Muslim family would not permit cremation on religious grounds and so tried local cemeteries to see if any would permit burial. Such provision was denied to them so they resorted, with sustained misgivings, to burying the foetus in their garden. The Sheffield Council are reviewing their provision in such instances.
Organisations which specialise in supporting parents after a miscarriage or stillbirth confirmed that provisions for the disposal of foetuses vary in different parts of the country. It normally relies on an agreement with local cemeteries and hospitals in consultation with local government. These organisations call for more weight to be given to the choice of individual families and for a variety of provision to be made. According to the report, "It is not against the law for families to bury "non-viable" foetuses of less than 24 weeks in their gardens if they wish - but after 24 weeks they are classed as a person, a death certificate has to be issued and strict rules apply to the disposal of the remains". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 12]
Conservative MP John Carlisle (Luton North) has questioned the suitability of Prince Charles to become king following his remarks on television (Luton News 29.06.94). With reference to the Prince's remarks about becoming the "defender of faith" in Britain, Mr Carlisle, "a regular worshipper at Church of England services", commented: "The Prince is really talking about the Muslims and others of non-Christian faiths. It is most extraordinary... We have always had a multi-faith society in Britain, but THE faith is the Church of England".
The issue raised by the Prince was the subject of comment by the columnist Auberon Waugh in The Spectator (09.07.94). Mr Waugh linked the Prince's remarks to the reaction to Tasmila Nasreen's writings and comments in Bangladesh (see BMMS for June 1994). He noted the somewhat "soupy" nature of the Prince's comments and compared them to the response of an imam at the Regent's Park mosque in London. Whilst accepting that Muslims in Britain today are "law-abiding, industrious and well respected" he noted the potential for this to change. Mr Waugh is noted for the originality and particularity of his views which he exemplified by saying: "At present the Muslims of Britain are moderate and accommodating. Despite occasional fiery speeches, the fundamentalist virus does not yet seem to have appeared, but as it has appeared nearly everywhere else we must suppose it is on its way. Then it will no longer be time for the Prince to adopt soupy postures about defending Faith. He will have to decide which side he is on. After the disappearance of Naziism and Marxist-Leninism, fundamentalist Muhammadanism looks like inspiring the next great international call to arms." [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 12/13]
The Daily Jang (01.07.94) cited a report in the Washington Post to the effect that a plea bargain deal had been struck between the US Justice Department and Swaleh Naqvi, "the Pakistani banker described as the brains behind the worldwide BCCI bank fraud". According to this deal, Naqvi has agreed to plead guilty to charges of banking fraud and to serve a term of imprisonment of between six and eight years. He has also agreed to testify to grand jury inquiries into the accounting malpractices which led to the downfall of the bank (see BMMS for May and June 1994).
Three former directors of BCCI, who were not part of the management but were brought onto the board of directors to provide international banking respectability, have filed a $100m lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court against members of the Abu Dhabi ruling family. The suit, brought in the names of Dr Alfred Hartmann (Switzerland), Yves Lamarche (Paris) and Johan Diderik Van Oenen (London), alleges that the Abu Dhabi rulers knew of the bank's insolvency long before it was closed by regulators but hid the fact from the directors as well as customers. The non-executive directors' reputations have been destroyed by the scandal as well as their having been exposed to massive liability. An Abu Dhabi spokesman has dismissed the allegations as baseless and a rehash of earlier discredited charges. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 13]
The Commission for Racial Equality published its 1993 report which noted that the number of complaints made to it had risen by 73, from the 1992 figure, to 1,630. Two-thirds of the complaints were work-related. At the news conference to launch the report, the chairman Herman Ouseley said, "In truth we have neither the resources nor an adequate legal framework in which to blitz through entrenched institutional discrimination" (Daily Jang 01.07.94). In his foreword to the report, the chairman noted, "We will nevertheless continue to work with what we have got, the best anti-discrimination legislation in Europe". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 13]
An Early Day Motion was tabled in the House of Commons on 11th July by Roger Godsiff, the MP for Birmingham Small Heath, as part of a World Day of Action on Kashmir. Similar motions were tabled in an estimated 113 national parliaments around the world and a group of parliamentarians from several European countries travelled to London to support the move. The motion called on the governments of India and Pakistan to respect the right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination and for all parties involved in Kashmir to observe international standards of human rights. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 13]
A major Festival of Spiritual Unity is being organised by leading Hindus to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The festival hopes to promote and encourage unity amongst different faiths and people from the Sikh, Muslim and Christian faiths are invited to attend. There will be honoured guests from these faith communities. The high point of the festival will be a recitation of the Ramayana in Hindi by the Indian scholar Sant Shree Morari Bapu. An estimated 15,000 people are expected to attend the festival throughout. It lasts from 30th July to 7th August and will be held in the Roundwood Park in north London. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 13/14]
A further election has been held in the dispute over control of the Jamia Mosque, Middlesborough (see BMMS for May, July, August and November 1993 and April and May 1994). In this election the United Muslim Council's candidate, Pino Khan, was reported to have been elected unopposed but the general secretary of the Islamic Society (also known as the Islamic Council and the Cleveland Islamic Society), Muhammad Khan Durrani, described the election return as "a load of rubbish" (Middlesborough Evening Gazette 02.07.94). The dispute is now likely to return once again to the courts for a further ruling. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 14]
For the second year running, the Human Rights Committee of the Muslim Parliament organised a sponsored walk to raise money for Bosnians and to keep the sufferings of those people before the minds of British Muslims. It is hoped that this year's total will exceed the £2,500 raised last year. The walkers were addressed by the wife of the Bosnian ambassador who stressed the on-going human rights abuses perpetrated by the Serbs. The resolution of the parliament's "War Crimes Watch" to monitor atrocities with a view to future prosecutions was stressed by Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Human Rights Committee.
The Bosnia Aid Committee of Oxford, which was recently commended for its heroic work in bringing aid to refugees (see BMMS for June 1994), has launched an appeal for funds to help it maintain a mobile hospital in East Mostar. Its contact address is 35 Stockmore St., Oxford OX4 1JT.
A balti restaurant owner in Walsall has staged a special day's opening at which meals will be provided as a way of encouraging people to eat there and donate the cost of the meal to the Walsall Aid Convoy which will mount an aid delivery to Bosnia in September.
Groups of adults and children, thought to originate in the former Yugoslavia, have come under police surveillance in Walsall where they have been begging in the streets in an attempt to collect money for themselves under the pretence that it was to go to Bosnian refugees. The beggars held up cards written in Urdu and were apparently targeting the town's Muslim community. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 14]
Several hundred people from many racial and religious groups in Britain attended the reception held by the Prince of Wales at St James' Palace on 18th July. The Prince told his guests, "I hope, as the years go by, I shall be able to play whatever part I can to help this process, of understanding, of tolerance and appreciation of what we all mean to each other" (Daily Telegraph 19.07.94). He referred to his recent remarks on television by saying, "As I was trying to say the other day, I do believe all of us, when it comes to religion anyway, are trying to answer the same fundamental questions... One of the greatest challenges we face in a country like ours is how to persuade people that other people who have other cultures, other ways of doing things, other ways of cooking things, other ways of worshipping things, are actually not a threat". His remarks were welcomed by those who attended including leading Muslims from various parts of the country. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 14]
The BBC2 sporting documentary series On the Line returned on 4th July with a programme substantially devoted to exploring the organisation of cricket around Bradford. There have been allegations of racism levelled at Yorkshire clubs and a general feeling that players from Asian families are not welcomed. This led to the setting up of a separate sub-continent league some 15 years ago. Cricket is now thriving amongst these teams whilst the traditional clubs are foundering. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
Muslims in Wembley were mourning the death of one of their long-standing leaders, Rafique Malik, who was president of the local Muslim Welfare Association. Mr Malik had been a founding member of the association and had fought many battles with planning authorities to obtain premises for use as mosques in the area. He died in Mecca whilst on a visit there with friends. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
Following the report in the Slough and Langley Observer (17.06.94) concerning a Pakistani Christian who is seeking asylum in this country (see BMMS for June 1994), there has been an angry reaction from leaders of the Slough Islamic Trust. Sufi Afzal, of the trust, was quoted in the 24th June edition of the same paper saying, "The Christian Church is envious of the thousands who convert to Islam every year despite the lies invented about it. Christians in the West make much of the odd conversion to their faith, which are usually inspired by an individual's wish for a false freedom [so] that he can do as he likes." [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
There has been a series of inter-communal disturbances between white youths and youths from Asian families in the Rotherham area. The police have been involved in attempting to deal with the events and a number of youths from both communities have been arrested. There appears to be a territorial dimension to the attacks and Muslim leaders have called for more social provision in the area to prevent groups of youths from feeling disadvantaged. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
Health officials in the Blackburn area were concerned that the "safer sex" message of the AIDS and HIV campaigns was not getting through to young people in the community of Asian origin. To affect this they have appointed two members of that community as education officers to give confidential advice throughout the region. One of these officers, Tahir Hussain, said, "My experience in working with young Asian people confirms their knowledge is very limited and there is a real need to educate them" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph 06.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
A public meeting was organised by Young Moslems UK at the Rex Centre in Birmingham to hear Imam Siraj Wahaj speak about Islam and a multi-cultural society. A spokesman for the organising group said, "Imam Siraj Wahaj is from the same breeding ground as Malcolm X. He is a very charismatic black Moslem whom we feel is an ambassador for all who are in favour of racial harmony" (Birmingham Evening Mail 09.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 15]
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph (10.07.94), the journalist John Casey began his article, "We are unquestionably prejudiced against Islam. I can think of no other great religion - not Buddhism, not Hinduism, certainly not Judaism - that people so casually abuse". Mr Casey went on to contrast the negative image portrayed by such Western writers as Gibbon and Dante to the positive personal experiences which he had gained from travels in the Muslim world. He went on to indicate the ways in which most of the troubles in the Muslim world today, which all too easily are attributed to "Islamic fundamentalism", arise from "Western ideas imported into the Muslims world - nationalism, socialism and secularism". Finally, he gave his opinion that, "the confident ignorance about and hostility to the religion of Mohamed [sic], which is in effect the religion of Abraham, on the part of educated people strikes me as a genuine scandal, and as stupidity on a massive scale". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 16]
The spirit of freedom of speech and healthy debate which has pervaded "Speakers' Corner" in Hyde Park, London, is under threat according to a report in The Independent Magazine (02.07.94). According to the report, there has been an increase in more militant Christian and Muslim groups who have heckled opposing speakers so that they have been silenced. Police have been more in evidence in an effort to avoid clashes. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 16]
The director of Blackburn Racial Equality Council, Rafique Malik, and Blackburn lawyer Fauz Khan were guests on the Granada TV Asian community programme Chalte Chalte on 3rd July to discuss the wave of "mafia-style" revenge attacks which are currently troubling East Lancashire. The programme explored "feuds amongst Asian families and the fear of reprisals that has hindered police investigations" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph 02.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 16]
The race relations unit of Birmingham City Council is planning to appoint three more officers to work with minority communities in the city and to monitor the city's delivery of council services. The new posts will cost an additional £60,000. There is an amount of political unease about these appointments as the unit had a £350,000 overspend on its £815,000 budget last year. The council claims that the posts have been in existence for some time but have lain dormant whilst re-structuring was taking place. Conservative commentators have labelled this as an increase in the race relations industry which does very little for ordinary people in the area. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 16]
Mohammed Sarwar arrived in Glasgow in 1976 as a graduate of Faisalabad University in Pakistan. He opened a corner shop which over the years has bloomed into a multi-million pound cash and carry business. He was originally concerned with supporting the Pakistan People's Party but joined the Labour Party in 1982. He stood for election to the district council in 1988 and was finally elected in 1992. This year, aged 41, he was elected to the Labour Party's Scottish executive and is now tipped to be selected for the newly formed Glasgow Govan parliamentary seat. He was the subject of an extended interview in Glasgow's newspaper The Herald (11.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 16/17]
Nottingham City Council has come under attack over the escalating cost of a new extension and entrance to a community centre. The new extension, which includes two new meeting rooms, storage space, fire safety measures, lighting and security installations, will provide a separate entrance to the facilities for women. The idea was prompted by requests from Muslim women who were concerned about groups of youths standing around the main entrance and that the main entrance led into rooms where men were exercising and meeting. When the project was approved in March the estimated cost was £47,000 but this has now risen to £106,539 due to problems with the foundations.
Councillors and community workers at the John Carroll Community Centre, Radford, have been at pains to stress that tabloid reporting on the extension to the community centre gave a totally false and inflammatory slant to the true facts. The tabloid press had indicated that the extension consisted only of a separate doorway for Muslim women. The truth is that the whole community has raised funds for the extension over a ten-year period and the new facilities have been planned with the whole community in mind. The new entrance is essentially a fire escape which doubles as a separate entrance to the whole centre's facilities without disturbing other activities. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 17]
The UK Asian Women's Conference, in association with the Harrow branch of MIND, have produced a new series of booklets in six community languages explaining the issues which people most often raise concerning mental illness. The booklets were launched at a civic reception in Harrow. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 17]
A decision by three video rental companies in Scotland, which together run around 200 shops, not to buy copies of the film Bhaji on the Beach when it becomes available in late July has led to unfortunate comments in the press. The three companies are owned by Muslims and there has been some speculation that they have banned the film because it is offensive to Muslims. The film depicts a group of women from Asian families on a day outing together. The companies have made it clear that their decision was based on commercial grounds as they do not think that the film will be profitable amongst their clientele (Daily Jang 01.07.94). They could see no reason why Muslims should particularly object to it although there has been some general reaction from the community of Asian origin because it is felt that the portrayal of their women in the film is misleading and inaccurate. The Glasgow Evening Times is reported to have made comments about the decision not to carry the film in a manner which gave the impression that it was a Muslim ban similar in nature to that on The Satanic Verses. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 17]
The rise in the number of racist attacks and racially motivated incidents in the Redbridge area of east London has prompted the local Racial Equality Council to suggest that organised racists have been responsible. The director of Redbridge REC told the annual meeting, "The scale of activities including leafleting at schools, homes and shopping areas as well as recruitment campaigns suggests that East London, including Redbridge, has been targeted by racist groups... A much more disturbing feature of this campaign is the publication of sophisticated literature aimed at sowing seeds of discord between people of Jewish origins and Asians" (Wanstead & Woodford Redbridge Guardian 07.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 17/18]
The Luton Islamic Cultural Association staged a "debate" under the title "Islam `versus' Christianity at the Bury Park Community Centre. There was some concern over the event which apparently had been extensively advertised only in the predominantly Muslim Bury Park area and to which some leading churchmen from the town had not been invited.
The debate passed off peacefully with a reported 3 to 20 Christians being present. There was some concern that the event had been advertised and reported in an adversarial fashion but local newspapers pointed out that the title had been chosen by the sponsoring Muslim body. The debate was held on council property and questions were asked as to why the council had not banned it as it had been the subject of illegal fly posters around the town. The council replied that it was not obliged to ban a meeting which was illegally advertised even though it had the power to do so. On this occasion the council chose to warn the organisers about their activities and noted that this might affect future bookings. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 18]
A survey, called The Great Leap, has been conducted by Dr Colin Francome, reader in medical sociology at Middlesex University, into the incidence of "arranged marriages" and "love marriages" amongst the Hindu and Sikh communities in Britain. The survey was conducted amongst 107 Hindu and Sikh students between the ages of 16 and 25 whose parents had been born overseas. It showed that 70% of the Hindus and 35% of the Sikhs planned to have love marriages which contrasts to 12% and 6% amongst their parents. None of the students planned to marry before they are 21 compared to nearly half of their mothers. 62% of female students and 64% of males intended to marry after they are 25 years old. A separate study on Muslim attitudes to the same question is under preparation and will be published within the next two months. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 18]
The decision by the European Court of Justice in July 1992, after an action brought by Surinder Singh, that all immigration entry clearances issued to people under EC law must be free of charge will affect many people of Commonwealth origin as the British Foreign Office has decided to apply the ruling retrospectively. The ruling relates to those who qualify for permanent settlement in the UK and will mean that families who came to join a resident member in Britain and paid the former entry clearance fee will now be eligible for reimbursement. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 18]
Britain's first Asian Drama Festival was held at the Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, from 24th June to 3rd July. It featured drama and writing from the community of Asian origin and sought to confront many of the issues which are there faced. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 18]
The Health Authorities in the London boroughs of Brent and Harrow have published a joint report into the incidence of mental illness and suicide in their areas. The report indicated that every year nearly one-third of the people in the poorest part of Brent seek medical help for a depressive illness. 107 suicides were reported in Brent over a three year period. This is well above the national average and almost twice as high as neighbouring Harrow. It would seem that poverty and deprivation are having an effect both on the incidence of mental illness and the rate of suicides. In the light of the report the health authorities have now decided to launch an Asian Health Awareness Project to make professionals more aware of the needs of the community of Asian heritage. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 18/19]
The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has set up a Race Relations Advisory Board which will draw its membership from existing race, ethnic, youth and community organisations as well as police, health authority, probation service and council officials. It will be independent but have direct access to the council and police. Its task will be to monitor all aspects of race relations in an area which has been notorious for racial attacks and discrimination. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 19]
The first recorded airborne Muslim marriage took place between a young couple as they circled over Kent. The wedding party consisted of only twenty guests who witnessed the ceremony and shared in a celebratory meal. There was an earthbound reception afterwards. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 19]
The International Anti-Racism Fax Network which is based in Quebec, Canada, has been sending fax messages to British organisations alerting them to the growing trend for religious groups to target members of other faiths for possible conversion. It asks if targeted proselytisation is acceptable in a multi-faith and multi-ethnic country like Britain. It asserts that "Targeted proselytisation amounts to negative socio-religious discrimination" and asks whether such activities ought not to be outlawed under "race" relations legislation. "At the very least, mission societies... who specifically target minority communities, should be refused charitable status". The specific cases mentioned in the fax are Christian evangelical groups who target Jews but the same reasoning might equally apply to similar groups who target Muslims (see report on "Operation Mobilisation" in BMMS for June 1994). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 19]
The 50th anniversary of Muslims in Glasgow (see BMMS for June 1994) was marked by a four-page supplement in Q News (15.07.94). This gave a portrait of the Muslim community in Glasgow, said to number around 20,000 out of a total of around 35,000 in Scotland, which showed it to have a strong Scottish-Muslim identity in which both young people and the elderly benefitted from the dedicated leadership of Muslim professionals. The history of Muslim settlement in the area was described along with interesting reminiscences of earlier times. It was particularly noted that the community has developed good relations with local and regional government and is stable and democratic in the way in which it administers its own affairs. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 19]
Bradford West MP, Max Madden, convened a public meeting at the House of Commons for people to hear and question representatives of the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on their human rights record. The meeting was something of a fiasco. It began with the Indian High Commission sending its apologies which left the other two representatives to state their positions. This, and the questions from the floor which followed, was done amidst a great deal of ill-tempered interruptions which caused the policeman on duty to enter the room on several occasions. Ultimately the interruptions rose to such a crescendo that Mr Madden had to abandon the meeting. He suggested that the chairman of the Indo-British Parliamentary Group convene the next such meeting. This provoked the Daily Jang (15.07.94) to conclude its report with the comment, "On the strength of this week's encounter this is about as likely as Beelzebub entering the next winter Olympics as an ice skater". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 19/20]
The increased demand for fashion models from the Asian communities was noted in an article in the Weekly Journal (07.07.94). Both mainstream clothes shops like Marks & Spencer and C & A and fashion houses such as Armani's have taken to using "Asian" models to broaden their appeal and show off their clothes to a potentially lucrative market. An agency especially for "Asian" models has been formed and several of the top agencies are beginning to develop their Asian lists. In the article cited, the views of Dr Tasneed Ali from the Ethnic Minority Centre in Mitcham, Surrey, were noted, "There is definitely strong objection to Muslim girls doing this sort of thing. Although we know Asian girls are just as beautiful as other races; but according to their culture and religion, they are not supposed to expose themselves. There is a lot of objection to them going on the catwalk and being in magazines... If Asian girls want to pursue careers in modelling, then that's up to them, it's their personal choice". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 20]
The Asian Leukaemia Foundation is seeking people from Asian families to register as volunteers to be potential bone marrow donors should a patient with whom they match need a transplant. The scheme is being administered by Dr Nisha Nathwani who can be contacted on 0923-720187. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 20]
Khalid Rashid Dale, who was awarded an MBE for services to humanity with the International Red Cross (see BMMS for June 1994) in the Birthday Honours List was the subject of a profile in Q News (08.07.94). He has worked as a nurse in Kenya, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan during the last 14 years. He mentioned that some Muslims had criticised him for working with the Red Cross, which they saw as a Christian organisation, but he was at pains to point out that it has no Christian affiliation but is an international relief charity based in Switzerland. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 20]
The Home Secretary presented the government's response to the second review of the Race Relations Act 1976. Mr Howard said that the government was not yet convinced by hard evidence that there was discrimination based on religious rather than racial grounds. In the absence of such evidence, the government does not at present see the need for anti-religious discrimination legislation (Q News 08.07.94). He acknowledged that this was a major concerns for Muslims in Britain. Dr Syed Aziz Pasha of the Union of Muslim Organisations asked what further proof the government needs to convince it that religious discrimination exists. The Chairman of the CRE said that it would be part of their task to gather that evidence working in partnership with the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs under a new agreement drawn up with the Home Office. There is a certain "Catch 22" in the situation in that it is difficult to draw up hard evidence of actual cases of religious discrimination without the necessary law to test cases in the courts. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 20/21]
A 44 year old Muslim woman who was the first Somali woman to arrive in Scunthorpe 26 years ago was profiled in an article on battered women by the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph (13.07.94). She arrived aged 18 to contract an arranged marriage with a man who systematically beat and abused her over a period of ten years. Eventually she left the marital home with her six children for the Scunthorpe Battered Women's Refuge. She had been too terrified to leave beforehand for fear that she would lose her children if she divorced her husband. Rather than face the financial consequences of a divorce settlement, her husband left the country. She then took over the family home to make a new life with her children. She is now an active and committed counsellor in the Women's Refuge where she helps other women to work through the traumas of domestic violence. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 21]
Two Muslim youth camps have been announced for this summer. One is being organised in the Forest of Dean by Youth Adventure and Training. It will run over the August bank holiday weekend and will be a mixed camp with separate facilities for males and females. The other is being organised by the Islamic Foundation at their conference centre near Leicester. There will be an 11-16 girls' camp from 7-11 August and a boys' camp for the same age group from 21-25 August. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 21]
A unique experiment in multi-cultural faith and friendship took place in east London on 10th July when the Hackney Parliament of Religions was inaugurated with a multi-cultural day of festivities. Representatives from the major faiths in the area were present to see exhibitions and displays of cultural events from each tradition. The inauguration marks the centenary of the first World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 21]
A doctor who qualified in Bangladesh 30 years ago and has been carrying out male circumcision operations for more than 20 years was found guilty of manslaughter at Stafford Crown Court after he admitted giving 5-6 times the appropriate maximum dose of diamorphine to a nine year-old boy during a simple circumcision procedure. The judge was moved by a petition from over 1,000 of his patients asking that he might remain in his practice and by the obvious remorse of a dedicated and conscientious doctor. He was sentenced to a 12 month gaol sentence suspended for a year and ordered to pay £3,000 costs. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 21]
Muslim pupils from Carlton Bolling School in Bradford took the opportunity of shadowing local police officers as part of the works experience programme. In addition to building better community relations it also enabled the pupils to gain an insight into the nature and variety of police work. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 21/22]
Discussions between Walsall council officials and the Muslim community over burial provisions at weekends and public holidays have led to a partial solution to the Muslims' wishes (see BMMS for May 1994). The proposal under discussion would have permitted Muslims to nominate volunteer gravediggers and a cemetery registrar to oversee weekend burials. This did not prove possible. As a compromise solution, the council is to instigate a 12-month experiment of permitting burials on Saturdays whenever a cemetery official is available. In addition burials will be permitted on weekday evenings until 1930 during the months from May to August. These facilities will cost the family an additional £120 for each burial. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 22]
The Advertising Standards Authority highlighted the incident in which the McDonald's food chain used the flag of Saudi Arabia, and therefore words from the Qur'an, on a bag advertising the soccer World Cup (see BMMS for May and June 1994) in their annual report as an incidence of insensitivity to religious feelings. Other advertisements singled out for notice were the Benetton advertisement showing a priest and a nun kissing and the use of Qur'anic verses on a dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The report noted, "The majority of the public might well consider such imagery to be harmless humour but to those with strong convictions they can be extremely offensive... Creative treatments should not ignore and must be balanced against religious sensitivities" (Walsall Express and Star 20.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 22]
The issue of the continued expense of maintaining the armed protection officers to guard Salman Rushdie was raised by the former Conservative cabinet minister Alan Clark in an article in The Mail on Sunday (24.07.94). He regarded this as a waste of public funds and an improper use of stretched resources. He noted the vitriolic abuse which Mr Rushdie had poured on British society over the years and the insulting way that he struck at the roots of Muslim faith. His solution to the situation was to leave Mr Rushdie to fend for himself and return the guards to "real police duties". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 22]
A further incident occurred at the Bury Park mosque in Luton on Friday 22nd July (see BMMS for June 1994). Police were called after fighting erupted between rival groups who have been struggling for control of the mosque. A court order was in force which prevented certain men from entering the mosque and the dispute apparently arose after they tried to gain access. Some reports put the number involved in the fracas at 200 (Cambridge Evening News 23.07.94). During the disturbance one 57 year-old man died of a heart attack. One man was taken to hospital with a stab wound to the chest, another had head injuries and six others were treated for minor injuries. The police closed the mosque for some days to allow their investigations to take place. The High Court convened to investigate how its injunction had been breached. Eight men were arrested by police and released on bail pending further investigations. A full hearing in the High Court has been scheduled for 5th September (Luton Herald and Post 28.07.94). Local Muslim leaders have condemned the violent clashes and the prolonged dispute (Luton News 27.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 22/23]
The Islamic Society of Britain designated the week beginning 1st August as "National Islam Awareness Week". The intention of the week was to raise the awareness of the merits of Islam amongst non-Muslims and to spur Muslims to a closer attention to the Islamic way of life. Various activities were reported as part of the week's celebrations including those in: Nelson, Huddersfield, Luton, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bradford, Burnley and Sheffield. The Islamic Society of Britain, which has its office in Leicester, was launched in 1990 and draws its membership from a wide spectrum of British society. It aims to unite Muslims regardless of race, nationality, sect or language and has a well-established women's section as well as the Young Muslims branch. Its spokesman, Farooq Murad, told Q News (05.08.94) that, "We must shed our image of being an `immigrant' religion... Islam has much to offer British society". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 23]
The plight of Bangladeshi writer Dr Tasmila Nasreen, who had been forced into hiding in Dhaka after remarks about the re-writing of the shariah (or possibly of the Qur'an) and several campaigns for women's and minority rights, has been noted by the British press (see BMMS for June 1994). Her case was discussed by the EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels which called on the Bangladeshi government to protect her and offered her sanctuary in the EU (Daily Jang 22.07.94). Dr Nasreen appeared in court to answer charges of insulting Islam and was released on bail. She issued a statement to say that she had no intention of insulting religious sensibilities and had been misrepresented in the Indian press. There have been mass demonstrations in Dhaka calling for her execution as an atheist and renegade. On 10th August she arrived in Sweden secretly at the invitation of a writers' club where she will remain for an undisclosed time.
The wider issues involved in the case were explored in a major article in The Independent (01.08.94) by the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She pointed to the way in which religious leaders in various traditions were trying to control and subjugate women. Through interviews with several Muslim women activists, she described the way in which a struggle was raging between women who wanted to stand up for their rights and conservative religious leaders who condemned them as being under the influence of the West. She traced the path which Third World intellectuals must tread to reinterpret their own cultures and societies to bring out their strengths, with the help of Western critiques, whilst at the same time holding fast to the richness of their own heritage. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 23]
Clifford Longley, the former religious affairs correspondent of The Times, contributed a thoughtful article in the Daily Telegraph (29.07.94) on the interaction of Islam and Christianity throughout history. He traced the usual paths through which knowledge in a variety of disciplines found its way from the Islamic to the Christian world to bring the Dark Ages to enlightenment. "Without Islam, the Dark Ages would have continued indefinitely, and Europe would have remained a backwater". The development which Christian Europe made with the Muslim legacy enabled it to make rapid progress intellectually and technologically which equipped it to deal with "some of the profound difficulties of running sophisticated modern societies". This process was aided, in the author's opinion, by the division of spiritual and temporal power. He traced the struggle to respond to this within Protestant and Catholic Christianity as well as Marxism. He concluded, "The time for Islam's discovery of these same uncomfortable but liberating truths is upon us, and it too will be turbulent". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 23/24]
A report, entitled The Changing Childbirth Study, was commissioned by the East Lancashire Health Authority on the way in which it was meeting the needs of women around the time of having children. One of the clear findings of the report was the need for more female doctors, this was particularly apparent amongst women from the Muslim community. The publication of the report led one of the health authority's members to express the opinion that the Asian community was not doing its part in helping their members to come to terms with the situation. He offered the opinion that husbands' attitudes prevented women from making wider choices on the issue (Lancashire Evening Telegraph 19.07.94).
The member's comments were severely criticised by Rafique Malik, the director of Blackburn's Racial Equality Council. He said, "Asian women are under extreme mental pressure when they have to expose themselves to a male doctor. Many would only do it if their life was in danger... My own wife felt so depressed after she was examined by a male doctor she wanted to kill herself". The publicity elicited a letter from a native of Blackburn who married a Muslim man 32 years ago and has lived throughout that time in the Middle East returning here for annual visits. She pointed out that in her country of residence, where the population is overwhelmingly Muslim, women habitually attend male doctors for all manner of treatment. Indeed, amongst all her female in-laws, she was the only one who took the trouble to consult a woman doctor because of the empathy which she there experienced (Lancashire Evening Telegraph 25.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 24]
Around 300 people marched from Shepherds Bush Green to Kensington Town Hall on Saturday, 23rd July, where they were joined by up to 1,000 additional protesters. They were predominantly Iranian exiles who were demonstrating against the present regime in Iran as part of an international day of solidarity organised by the National Council of Resistance which has its headquarters in Paris. The protesters were calling for "freedom, liberty and victory" in their homeland where, they claim, human rights and power are being abused (The Gazette Hammersmith, Fulham and Shepherds Bush 29.07.94).
The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights, which supports Iranian refugees in Britain, has complained to the Home Office over new regulations whereby Iranian refugees are now obliged to go to the Iranian embassy to renew their passports when they elapse. On such visits the refugees report being asked questions which could prove harmful to themselves or their families. The Committee called on the British government to provide for their safety whilst they are in this country (Morning Star 02.08.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 24]
The Channel 4 series which focuses on women's issues, First Sex, carried an item on Islamic feminism in its programme of 26th July. The item was presented by the Muslim journalist Rana Kabanna and Dr Haleh Afshar. It focused on women converts to Islam in Britain and Muslim women struggling to express their faith in Turkey. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 24/25]
The Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Eire held a day conference on 16th July at the Institute of Education, London University, entitled Racial Harassment and Violence: its implications to British Muslims. Speakers included Khalwar Qureshi, a barrister, Moeen Yaseen of the Association of Muslim Schools, Chief Inspector Roger Kember, Community Affairs Division at Scotland Yard, and Narj Deva, MP for Chiswick. Calls were made for current racial discrimination legislation to be widened to include religious discrimination and for the root causes of economic and social deprivation to be addressed as a means of eliminating discrimination against Muslims. The under-representation of Muslims in the corridors of power and the judiciary was noted by the Hindu MP, Narj Deva. Other speakers included Noshaba Hussain, who traced the roots of anti-Islamic feeling through the history of Europe, and Makbool Javaid, the Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers. It appears that attendance at the conference was disappointingly small. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25]
The Army has retained the services of a firm of ethnic equality specialists to help them improve the rate of recruitment from members of the minority communities. Currently only around 1.3% of army personnel are recruited from these communities which make up around 5% of the population. One factor which will particularly be addressed is to assist recruiting officers to understand the cultural mores which candidates exhibit. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25]
Young offenders who are serving community service orders are to join teams of volunteers in cleaning up and refurbishing the Feversham First School in Bradford ready for its occupation by the Bradford Muslim Girls' School in September. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25]
Barry Malik, the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Bradford was among guests invited to meet the Princess Royal on a visit to Yorkshire to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Save the Children Fund. The Ahmadiyya Association has been responsible for raising over £20,000 for the fund over recent years. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25]
The discovery of used syringes dumped in the street in parts of Bradford has led the Muslim community there to ask the police for help in countering the problem and to organise special meetings for young people to talk about the dangers of taking drugs. There is the additional health risk which used syringes left in public places causes for younger children. Councillor Mohammed Ramzan indicated that this is a problem which needs to be sorted out before it gets out of hand (Burnley Express 22.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25]
Muslims in Keighley raised money from local businesses and welfare funds to send 45 men from the Sangaat Day Centre for Asian elderly people on a day outing to Knowsley Safari Park. The trip was so successful that a similar appeal has been launched to raise the money for a second trip for women from the centre. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 25/26]
A da'wah conference has been organised by the Young Muslim Organisation UK, Islamic Forum UK and Muslimat UK. It will be called "Reaching new frontiers" and will take place at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London on 14th August.
The 18th International Islamic Dawah Conference organised by the Ahl-e-Hadith in the Green Lane Mosque Birmingham was held on 30th July with a variety of speakers from around the world.
The International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Malaysian Students Department organised a weekend seminar in London on 16/17th July to support and guide the education of Muslim students who are studying in Britain. The IIIT was founded in the US in 1981 as a cultural and intellectual foundation to provide an intellectual underpinning to the development of Islamic thought and to guide the process of integrating modern technology within an Islamic framework. Some papers from the seminar were published by Q News (22.07.94).
The Islamic Propagation Centre International conducted a series of da'wah meetings in London, Bradford and Birmingham from 23rd to 25th July. Topics included "Search for the truth", "Development of the self" and the "Universality of Islam". An international list of speakers attended. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 26]
It has been reported that Councillor Najma Hafeez of Birmingham, who has been tipped as a prospective Labour candidate for the new Sparkhill parliamentary seat at the next general election, is to stand down as a local councillor (Birmingham Metronews 21.07.94). Councillor Hafeez has served for 11 years and has held important posts on the city's continuing education, social services and community affairs committees. She said, "I have some difficult family matters to sort out which are likely to command my full attention". It is further reported that "Her husband, Councillor Albert Bore is currently on bail following an assault on his wife in June" (Q News 05.08.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 26]
Muslims held a collection outside the mosque in Middlesborough to raise money to buy milk and supplies for refugees in Rwanda. A total of £224 was collected. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 26]
Amnesty International published a report in London on 27th July into human rights abuses in Pakistan. It indicated that the blasphemy laws in that country are increasingly being used to persecute religious minorities and dissenting Muslims. The plights of several Christians and members of the Ahmadiyya group were reported. In most cases, the report stated that detainees should be released immediately and all charges of blasphemy dropped (Daily Jang 29.07.94) [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 26]
A health promotion project aimed at people from Asian families in the Redbridge and Waltham Forest areas was launched by health minister, Baroness Cumberledge. The project has been funded by the London Implementation Group and will provide for an Urdu-speaking health worker to be attached to the Asian Centre to offer advice and guidance on a range of health matters. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 26/27]
BBC Radio 4 is running a six-part series on Muslims in Europe under the title Hidden Voices. The first programme was broadcast on 31st July and featured a couple from Liverpool who had converted to Islam after being unable to reconcile their Christianity with the death of their baby daughter. Having embraced Islam, they set out to explore the earliest Muslim establishments in Liverpool which they traced back to another convert William Henry (Abdullah) Quilliam who established the first Muslim institutions there in 1896.
The second programme in the Hidden Voices series travels to France where it investigates the issue of girls wearing headscarves in school and Muslim women with their desire to express their Islamicity by wearing the hijab in public. In subsequent programmes the focus will switch to Holland, Ireland, Germany and Spain. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 27]
Three important amendments were defeated in the House of Lords when they came to discuss the report stage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. The first was for a new offence of racially-motivated violence, the second was that racial motivation should be regarded as an aggravating factor in sentencing and the third that the current Northern Ireland offence of incitement to religious hatred should be extended to the mainland of Great Britain. The amendments were opposed by the government in line with the Home Secretary's earlier comments at a CRE meeting (Daily Jang 22.07.94 and Muslim News 05.08.94).[BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 27]
West Midlands police are to launch another recruiting drive to attract applicants from the minority communities. Currently the West Midlands force draws 3% of its officers from these communities, which is much better than any other force but still below the 17% representation of minority community members in the population which they serve. The £30,000 campaign, under the title "Securing the Future Together", will concentrate on advertising on busses as well as in the local press and on the radio. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 27]
Around 2,000 young people were reported to have attended the annual summer camp organised by the Young Muslims. This year the camp was in Newark which added the variety of Robin Hood-type adventure trails through Sherwood Forest. The camp was the usual mixture of games, talks and discussions. A spokesperson explained that "We want to bring young people from all over the country together in an Islamic environment... For a few days we want the brothers and sisters to benefit from being together and sharing a lifestyle which is in accordance with their faith" (Q News 05.08.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 27]
Cambridgeshire County Council has decided to invite a variety of religious leaders from various traditions to open their council meetings with prayer. The Chairman said, "We live in a multi-faith and multicultural society. It is important that we recognise this so that we can understand one another's beliefs and traditions" (Herts & Cambridge Reporter 29.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 27]
The 29th annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK was held from 29th to 31st July at the Islamabad Centre in Tilford, Surrey. The supreme head of the community, Mirza Tahir Ahmed gave the opening address which was simultaneously translated into eight languages and transmitted by satellite on the Muslim TV Ahmadiyya channel. Around 11,000 people were expected to attend the convention from many of the 140 countries where the Ahmadiyya have spread during their 103 years in existence. The opening of the convention was marred when it was discovered that £4,000 worth of loudspeaker equipment had been stolen. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 28]
The fourth Asian Mela in Halifax was scheduled for 7th August. There were many cultural attractions but the highpoint of the event was a fashion show organised by local clothes designers who had made the garments in women's workshops.
A year-long exhibition has opened in Preston to celebrate the Asian cultural heritage of people who have moved to the area from the subcontinent. There are exhibits which depict the traditions, habits and lifestyles of local Asian people with a special emphasis on textiles and clothing. Special "women-only" days are to be organised so that local Muslim women will feel free to attend and enjoy the exhibition. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 28]
The Brent Islamic Forum is to register an official complaint with the Radio Authority over the way in which Spectrum Radio broadcast its contact telephone number in the middle of a programme devoted to Jewish affairs on Wednesday 27th July. The programme concentrated almost exclusively on the Israeli bombings and linked them by association with the Kalifah Conference at the Wembley conference centre. It invited listeners who wished to complain about the (then) forthcoming conference to register their complaints by telephoning the Home Office, Brent Islamic Forum, Wembley Arena and the Wembley Police. This resulted in a series of irate telephone calls to the BIF. Members of the Forum were perturbed to receive these calls as they had nothing to do with the organisation of the conference. Spectrum Radio described the broadcasting of the 'phone number as an "unintentional error" but no apology was broadcast (Q News 05.08.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 28]
The desire to gain a good education and then to achieve upward social mobility amongst young men and women from Pakistani families was highlighted in a report in Asian Age (28.07.94). The tensions between living by family and Islamic mores in the midst of an "exciting" Western culture were explored with the men especially showing their desire to achieve the best of both traditions. There was a feeling of solidarity in being a Muslim but also a commonality with other young people from Asian families with different religious traditions. The continued expectations about being looked after by future wives in accordance with the way in which they had been brought up was noteworthy amongst the men [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 28]
The Islamic Relief Women and Girls Games 1994 will be held in Walthamstow on 21st August. Money made from the event will go to the Islamic Relief orphans projects. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 28]
Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the Edhi Foundation which is famous for its welfare work in Pakistan, made a two-week tour of Britain in July which included the International Conference of the Edhi Foundation. The Foundation's work began 40 years ago when Edhi bought an old van which he converted into a free ambulance. He now has 560 ambulances which includes three air ambulances. They work in concert with a string of 350 medical centres which provide free medical assistance throughout Pakistan. His aim is to extend the chain so that there is one centre for every 25 kilometres. From its most meagre beginnings, the Foundation now has an annual budget of $5.5m which is all met by goodwill donations from people who support his work. Ideally he would like to see this extend so that the people of Pakistan could, by their own efforts of self-help, have a welfare system based around the Edhi initiatives. In addition to the dispensaries and ambulances, there are also hospitals, homes for the elderly, infirm, orphans, widows and training establishments for nurses and helpers to work with the handicapped. It has also sent assistance as relief aid to a host of countries around the world. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 29]
Brother Muhammed Sulaiyman, the founder of the black African Shi'ite Muslim group known as Islaamic [sic] Action, was profiled in the Weekly Journal (04.08.94). He converted to Islam at the age of 19 through contact with Asian Muslims in Leeds where he grew up but he soon found that he was not really accepted in their society as a black man. Now aged 30, he formed Islaamic Action a year ago to help black people find their way in society towards a better self-image and economic and social prosperity. His views lack the stridency sometimes associated with Black American Muslim groups but he believes in the need to marry within the bounds of colour to protect culture and individuality. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 29]
Questions have been raised over the practices of the Labour Party in the Manchester constituency of Gorton where the sitting MP is Gerald Kaufman. In the period from September 1992 to May 1993 600 applications were received from people who wanted to join the party. Almost all of these applicants were Muslims of Pakistani origin. According to Labour Party rules, full membership of the party is normally confirmed after a period of eight weeks but these applications were still in the provisional stage in February 1993 when a formal inquiry was ordered by national headquarters after a request from the constituency party. This was not completed until August 1993 when no reasons were found as to why these prospective members should not be accepted. There was then a further delay until January 1994 when further irregularities were found in the case of some of the applicants. These concerned queries over their status with regard to reduced membership rates and queries over their names being checked against the electoral roll. This situation dragged on until after the 20th June deadline after which new members of the party are not eligible to take part in the selection process for the candidate at the next general election. The matter has now been addressed to the Labour Party chairman, David Blunkett MP for further investigation (Daily Jang 22.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 29]
Three Muslim brothers from Birmingham have been found guilty of kidnapping their sister and beating up her Sikh boyfriend because they did not approve of their relationship. The couple met whilst at college and kept their relationship secret. When the girl had finished at college, then aged 17, she ran away to live with her boyfriend. Her brothers found the couple five days later, kidnapped the girl and caused grievous bodily harm to the man by kicking and punching him and beating him with an iron bar, a hammer and a machete. The men were in the dock during the first day of the trial but ran away on the second after hearing their sister's evidence. The trial continued in their absence and the men were found guilty. Sentencing was postponed for six weeks whilst warrants are issued for the men's arrest. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 29/30]
"The British-based "Muslim Parliament" is running out of money, its founder and leader, Dr Kalim Siddiqi, has admitted." So ran the opening paragraph of an article in the Asian Age (10.08.94). The article went on to carry comments from Dr El-Essawy, the chairman of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance, and Dr Zaki Badawi, the principal of the Muslim College, to the effect that the venture had never really had a great deal of popular support. The article recorded that "Moderate Muslims accuse him [Dr Siddiqi] of conjuring up Halal Food Authority as a ploy to finance the `ailing institution'".
The report in the Asian Age was strongly denied by Dr Siddiqi in a comment which he made to the Daily Jang (12.08.94). "This is entirely untrue", said Dr Siddiqi. Dr Ghyasuddin, the administrator of the Muslim Parliament office said, "There is no truth in this load of rubbish... It is just a circulation stunt". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 30]
Over 1,000 Muslims in Britain, including "most leading Muslim educationalists" have signed a declaration which condemns grant maintained schools as an erosion of local democracy according to a report in the Times Educational Supplement (01.07.94). The declaration, called The Islamic Accord, calls for LEA's to be more responsive to Muslim needs in preference to moves towards the grant maintained system. "It also says that all faiths should be given adequate time in religious education lessons and that collective worship should abandon the "divisive" emphasis on Christianity."
The reasoning behind The Islamic Accord was summed up by Umar Hegedus, one of the co-ordinating team, by saying "It's not acceptable and it's not Islamic to disadvantage the majority for the benefit of a privileged minority. GM schools are getting an unfair share of the education money". Organisers have expressed the hope that teaching unions and other bodies will follow their lead. In a letter to the weekly journal Education (08.07.94), the press officer of Parents Opposed to Opting Out wrote, "Is it not time that other religious leaders stopped dragging their feet and followed their Muslim colleagues up onto the moral highground?" [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 30]
An application for outline planning permission to convert the former rehabilitation centre at Higham on the Hill near Nuneaton into a university status college concentrating on languages and Islamic studies has been submitted by London-based Faiz Saddiqi. The plans call for a conference centre and a 415-bed hostel to be built on the site. The idea was the brainchild of the late Abdul Wahab Siddiqi of Coventry and will contain a memorial in his honour. Initial reaction to the scheme has focused on the demolition of a stable block which was built 108 years ago. It is also feared that the historic building of Higham Grange will be swallowed up as the college develops according to the current £6m scheme without thinking of possible future expansion. There have been some voices of support raised also saying that the building is likely to fall into disrepair without the Muslim usage. The plans will come before the planning authority on 23rd August. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 31]
Up to 1,000 teachers are likely to lose their job if the current government plans to cut Section 11 funding go through (see BMMS for July 1993). Currently this funding pays for additional teachers and assistants to work with children whose first language is not English. The government's policy is to gradually transfer 50% of the burden for such projects from central to local government. Given that local government is already short of cash, such a transfer of responsibility will lead to job losses. It is also intended to put 50% of the government's contribution to Section 11 funding into the Single Regeneration Budget from next year onwards where language teaching will have to compete for the money alongside a whole range of inner city projects.
Teachers' professional associations and local politicians have been lobbying MP's and the Home Office in an attempt to have the current changes overturned. For schools serving predominantly minority populations, the loss of additional funding for language teachers would seriously limit the assistance which they can give children but the implications are far wider ranging from stunting the development of nursery education to a detrimental effect on vocational training. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 31]
Birmingham Education Department has announced plans to close 14 special teaching units designed to boost English language learning amongst children who do not speak language at home. The Language Development Bases are reported to have been described by the Home Office as "very expensive and possibly illegal" (Birmingham Evening Mail 12.07.94). The plans are being opposed by the Muslim Liaison Committee which has presented a petition to the council. There have been accusations that the plans were drawn up without due consultation with minority groups. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 31]
The North Kirklees Asian Governors' Forum held its first annual conference which was addressed by the local Labour MP, Ann Taylor, the Shadow Education Secretary, the Chief Education Officer, local Labour education spokesman and Akram Khan Cheema from the Bradford Asian Governors' Forum. A variety of issues to do with education and the role of governors were discussed. The Forum was welcomed by all speakers as an important contribution to developing a partnership in education. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 31]
On 23rd June 1993 John Patten made a visit to see the Islamia School in Brent for himself and then went on to visit the Hasmonean Jewish school in nearby Barnet. The Islamia school was refused its application for voluntary aided status in August 1993 on the grounds that there were too many surplus places in neighbouring schools. It has now emerged (Times Educational Supplement 05.08.94) that the Hasmonean school was successful in its application. The decision was given to the school last March but kept secret, "possibly because it would embarrass ministers".
Muslim reaction to the decision has been to charge the government with discrimination. Moeen Yaseen of the Association of Muslim Schools said, "It raises profound questions about the criteria adopted by the educational establishment towards the question of Muslim schools. It's time the DFE explained this apparent duplicity" (TES). Akram Khan Cheema, the chairman of governors at the Bradford Muslim Girls' School, said, "This is yet another example of the establishment discriminating against Muslims. They are not treating the Muslim community in the same way as the Christian and Jewish communities. The factors contributing to the decision by the DFE appears [sic] to be manifestly unjust" (Muslim News 05.08.94).
It is not clear exactly what is the state of surplus places in the area surrounding the Hasmonean school. This and other relevant factors would need to be known before any judgement can be made. What is important is that the government are clearly willing to grant voluntary aided status to schools which leaves them under the control of the LEA rather than insist that they apply for grant maintained status. This might have an important bearing on the Bradford application. It is further reported that the London Borough of Barnet has given its backing for two other Jewish schools to apply to the DfE for voluntary aided status (Jewish Chronicle 08.07.04). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 31/32]
With an estimated 3m Urdu speakers in the EU, it seemed appropriate to the Waltham Forest College of General Education to organise a Europe-wide conference on the teaching of Urdu. This took place from 28th to 30th July. The conference aimed to establish a network of Urdu teachers so that they could share common problems, teaching methods, use of Information Technology and language laboratories, resources and look to the future training of Urdu teachers.[BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 32]
Many of those who have been professionally and academically involved in the development of RE over the last two decades were unhappy with the fact that the SCAA model syllabuses for RE contained only two models, both of which took bodies of religious knowledge as their starting points. They looked for a possible third model which approached the question thematically working from the basis of questions which all human beings ask on the grounds of their common humanity. This prompted a group from the Conference of University Lecturers in RE to devise a third "alternative" model. Thus, as Joyce Miller, one of the authors of the syllabus explained, "rather than treating the six major religions as separate entities, their approach emphasised the questions common to all religions and belief systems - including that of the agnostic Humanists" (Times Educational Supplement 29.07.94). These questions include the human condition, the natural world, morality and religious practice.
Summing up the essence of the approach, Joyce Miller explained, "Religious education is essentially about children reflecting and responding and working things out for themselves, which is why the emphasis is on human questions". Copies of the syllabus are available from Catherine Bowness/Sue Sharples, The School of Education, Exeter University, Heavitree Road, Exeter EX1 2LU at £2 incl post and packing. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 32]
The Policy Studies Institute is to publish a report by Tariq Modood and Michael Shiner entitled Ethnic Minorities and Higher Education: Why are there different rates of entry? The report is based on data from 1992 and has been subjected to multi-variate analysis by the authors. It finds that many of the differences are explained by academic and social class related factors but there are unexplained findings, e.g. the poor admission rates of Afro-Caribbeans and Pakistanis into the "old" universities. The report will be available from the end of July (64 pages, £5.95 plus £1 p&p) from BEBC Distribution Ltd, PO Box 1496, Poole, BH12 3YD (0800-262266). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 33]
The application by the Woodford Islamic and Cultural Association to convert a derelict house into a madrassah for about 20 children (see BMMS for April 1994) has been turned down by Redbridge council. There was considerable opposition to the plans from local residents who were concerned that the school would add to traffic problems in the area. The secretary of the Association, who has lived next door to the proposed site for 16 years, expressed his concern that there was an anti-Muslim element at play in some people's minds. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 33]
Khadijah Knight and Umar Hegedus, both of whom served on the Muslim working party for the SCAA model RE syllabuses, contributed an article on the desirability of voluntary aided schools rather than grant maintained for the monthly journal Dialogue (August 1994). In a powerfully argued style, they pointed out that GM schools were funded by money being withdrawn from LEA budgets which meant less for all the other maintained schools in the area to share. This inevitably leads to a cut in resources. As part of the rationale of GM schools is that they will be in some way selective, this means that the most disadvantaged children suffer because they need a disproportionate amount of LEA resources which have been cut to fund GM schools. "The GM option can thus have little or no attraction for thinking Muslims as it undermines the principles of equity and natural justice on which Islam is based."
The precarious political future of GM status and the loss of an intimate working relationship with the LEA's who have given Muslims the only support in education which has been forthcoming, lead the authors to advocate the desirability of Muslims going down the VA route rather than the GM. By so doing they would ensure that they have parity with other religious schools and thus the protection of numbers and would have the backup of the full educational and social welfare services of the local council. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 33]
In a pioneering venture, Swarthmore Adult Education Centre in Plymouth has arranged a course for adults who want to study Islam and Christianity following the GCSE syllabus with or without a view to finally taking the examination. Initial interest in the course has been high. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 33]
Teachers, parents and volunteers at the Cedars Infant School, Blackburn, have created a series of stories based around the characters "Chapatti Man" and "Samosa Girl". The stories have been translated into Urdu, Gujerati and Bengali so that parents and children from the community of Asian heritage can have fun whilst they read them in the hope of boosting the habit and therefore progress in reading. Many of the stories have been based on traditional English tales which have been transposed to another cultural setting, so "Jack and the Beanstalk" becomes "Imran and the Magic Tree" which is set in Egypt. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 33]
The County Projects Manager for ethnic minority children in Buckingham told the County Council's "Racial equality in education panel" that "Teachers are trained with very little awareness of the cultural and religious background of the children" (Q News 08.07.94). The Council had commissioned a special report on the issue which indicated that there is a certain disparity between teachers' aims, methodology and expectations and that of some parents from different cultural backgrounds. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
The parents of a Muslim girl in Leicester have been prosecuted by the education authority for keeping her away from school. The girl had been allocated a place at Moat Community College because the single-sex school which the parents wanted was full. The parents claimed that their daughter had a fear of boys and so could not attend a mixed school (Q News 01.07.94). Eventually a place became available at a girls' school as from next September, which the parents have accepted, and so the prosecution has been dropped. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
The appointment of Gillian Shephard as Secretary of State for Education on 20th July has met with a mixed reception from Muslim educationalists. Her personal experience as a schools inspector give her an intimate acquaintance with schools which John Patten did not have. However, Mr Patten had proved to be a strong defender of the role of religion within education. One of the first major decisions which she will have to make which will affect the Muslim community is the decision over the award of voluntary aided status to the Bradford Muslim Girls' School which is on her desk at present. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
The Training and Recruitment Team of Birmingham Education Department mounted an exhibition at the Job Scene Careers, Education and Training Exhibition. It has been estimated that Birmingham will need to recruit 550 teachers over the next six years and it is hoped that a good proportion will come from minority groups. A Recruitment Officer told the Daily Jang (08.07.94), "We need the language and cultural skills of ethnic minority teachers in our schools, and ethnic minority pupils need role models to demonstrate that they too can aspire to a professional career". [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
Planning permission has been granted for a single-storey rear extension to the Islamic Education Centre in Preston New Road. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
Councillors from the planning committee have paid a visit to the proposed site for a new mosque off Salisbury Street and Gibraltar Street. There has been some opposition to the scheme on the grounds of insufficient parking and loss of amenities but a petition has also been received in favour of the project. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
The Willesden Green Central Mosque in Brent has begun work on a first storey extension. This is scheduled for completion later this year. Plans already exist to add a further storey to the existing underground mosque at some future date. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
Planning permission for the new mosque in the Broadfield area of Crawley (see BMMS for June 1994) has been given after the planners changed the entrance to the site to ease any possible traffic problems. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34]
Planning officers are recommending that plans to build a fourth mosque in Derby should not be approved after complains about the increase in traffic and problems with noise. There are currently three mosques in the area and local Muslim leaders, as well as members of the public, have questioned the need for this new addition. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 34/35]
Negotiations are continuing between the Jamia Rehmenia Educational and Cultural Trust and the Grand Metropolitan chain of leisure enterprises over an acceptable price for the purchase of the Castle public house in Castlefield which was given planning permission in April for conversion into an Islamic community centre (see BMMS for May 1994). A spokesman for the Trust indicated that negotiations had been slow due to the state of the building, which has been empty since 1991, after a serious fire damaged it earlier this year. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
A planning application has been submitted by the Charnwood Bangladeshi Islamic Society to convert a former furniture warehouse in Rendell Street into a mosque and community centre. This would be the second Bangladeshi mosque in the town but the existing facility is too far distant for many of the current community to reach on foot. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
Planning permission has been granted for a first floor extension to the UK Islamic Mission mosque in Oak Road, Bury Park. The extension will house a classroom and a library. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
Preliminary talks have begun between the United Muslim Association and Newham Council over the possible development of a mosque in the area of the Beckton District Centre. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
Planning permission has been given for the change of use of a two-storey building behind an existing mosque in Derby Street, Werneth. The building will be used for prayer, education and community needs. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
The Peterborough Mosque Committee is to apply for charitable status to improve its ability to attract funds for the building of the proposed purpose-built mosque in Link Road. To date, £160,000 has been raised to purchase the site but a further £300,000 to £500,000 will be needed for the building itself. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
A planning application has been submitted by the Gujerati Sunni Muslim Society for a new purpose-built mosque costing an estimated £400,000 to be built on part of their car park adjacent to Noor Hall in the Deepdale area. The community is expanding rapidly and current facilities are inadequate. The new building will be sound-proofed and plans allow for 70 car spaces for parking. No objections have thus far been made by neighbours. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
Planning permission was given in 1988 to replace a prefabricated building in the Wardleworth district with a permanent mosque. It had a five year time limit on it which lapsed last year. Now an almost identical application had been approved by the council; again, this is subject to a five year time limit. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
The long-running dispute over the sale of the redundant Southall town hall to either a local Muslim group or to the adjoining Hindu temple (see BMMS for January and March 1994) has taken a new turn with a decision in the Court of Appeal which allows Ealing council to reopen negotiations over who should purchase the building. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35]
The saga of the proposed mosque in the Pin Green district of Stevenage continues (see BMMS for December 1993 and May 1994). The decision has been shunted from one committee to another with each being reluctant to make the final decision. The Department of the Environment was called in but declined to take over the responsibility leaving it with the local council. The planning sub-committee referred it upwards to their parent committee and when they met in June they again referred it to a meeting of the full council. This meeting is expected to rule on the issue directly. There is considerable local objection to the plan. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 35/36]
County Councillors are being asked to reconsider their decision to sell part of a site in the North Star district of the town for the building of a mosque. The sale was agreed by the policy and resources committee in May (see BMMS for August and September 1993 and April and May 1994) but Swindon College had a prior interest in the land for an extension to their teaching facilities. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]
After the rejected application to convert the "Flamingo" pub into a mosque and the subsequent re-application (see BMMS for April and June 1994), further local tension is reported since an application has been made to convert another pub, the "Telegraph" on the Isle of Dogs, into a mosque. The pub has been on the market for months but there is strong opposition from patrons to it being converted (East London Advertiser 07.07.94). Local Muslims feel that they are under a certain amount of pressure not to make applications to the authorities for mosques (Asian Age 30.07.94). [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]
The Islamic Cultural Centre Project in Palfrey, which cost £1.3m and has been planned and under construction for 18 years, has finally been finished. The mosque will accommodate 400 worshippers and provide educational facilities for the local community. Money has been raised all around the world to assist the project including from well-wishers in Europe, America and from the King of Saudi Arabia. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]
The Popda Muslim Welfare Association has received permission from the local council to buy an area of disused land with a view to erecting a two-storey educational and community centre. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]
The Muslim Educational Trust has been using a terraced house in Lime Street, Penn Fields, for worship and educational classes for many years under temporary planning consent. When this consent was due for renewal in December '93 it was refused and the group were ordered to leave the premises. The decision was taken on the casting vote of the Conservative chairman. Since the recent local elections there is now a Labour majority on the planning committee and so an appeal has been submitted. The reason given for declining the renewal of planning consent was excess noise and parking problems. Planning officers have confirmed that they have never noted any problems with parking or noise and have recommended that, should the consent be renewed, the premises are limited to 30 people within the times of 0800 to 2200 and that there should be no use of loudspeakers. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]
The former postal sorting office which local Muslims wanted to buy to convert into a mosque and block of flats (see BMMS for November and December 1993 and January and March 1994) has been sold to a property developer for conversion into flats. Planning permission for the mosque had been refused by the local council last March but the Muslim group was preparing an appeal to the Department of the Environment. [BMMS July 1994 Vol. II, No. 7, p. 36]