British Muslims Monthly Survey for September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9
The question of the Muslim population of Britain was raised in an article by the Revd John Root in the Church of England Newspaper (09.09.94). He took issue with the figure given by Muhammad Anwar in his Muslims in Britain: 1991 census and other statistical sources (CSIC Papers: Europe, No 9). Root argued that Anwar had seriously over-estimated the proportion of people from African and Asian families who were Muslim. Without giving the foundation for his estimates, he claimed that two-thirds of Malaysians in Britain are non-Muslims and "most Africans in Britain come from the predominantly Christian southern areas of Nigeria and Ghana". As a result of these two factors Root sought to reduce Anwar's estimate of 1.5m to 1.1m. This would mean that the total number of adherents of faiths other than Christianity in Britain would be "just over two million".
On a second point, Root drew attention to the difference between having one's origins in a certain religious community and being an active and committed member of that faith community. Anwar's figures for Muslims, for example, included everyone who had their origins within the Muslim community and did not give any indication about the numbers who were committed to the following of Islam rather than just "culturally Muslim". Root went on to ask for comparisons to be made between religious groups on the principle of "like-with-like" rather than the current disparities. However, he indicated that there are no really comparable indicators. Religious commitment takes different forms within each religious group.
Finally, Root indicated several groups who might want to "talk up" the size of religious minorities in Britain. These included leaders of the faith communities themselves who wanted to increase their influence with policy makers in government, evangelical Christians who might want to spur their fellows to greater enthusiasm for making converts and liberal Christians who wanted in this way to show their broadmindedness by respectful references to other faiths. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 1]
Three men from Pakistani families in Manchester made an application in the High Court for an injunction to stop the Manchester Gorton Labour Party from proceeding with their process to select a candidate for the next general election "until proper annual meetings are held for ward branches and the seat's general committee" (Manchester Evening News 19.09.94). The case was part of a series of allegations that the Labour Party has broken its own procedural rules and is guilty of racially discriminating against around 600 applicants for membership, mainly from the Pakistani community (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for July and August 1994).
The case was ultimately rejected by the High Court. However, the Labour Party did give an undertaking that it would give further consideration to their complaint and "Mr Kaufman's confirmation as candidate by the party's national executive will be postponed" (The Independent on Sunday 25.09.94). The same newspaper published the exact figures of applications and rejections and noted that most of the rejections were because people either did not appear on the electoral register or gave false addresses. There are additional queries over the large proportion of the applicants who claimed to be unemployed and thus pay the reduced levy. Underlying the case on the party's side are fears that people are being manipulated into applying for membership so that they can affect the selection of a Muslim candidate but without taking any active interest in wider political matters. There are suggestions that persons unknown are orchestrating the applications and even paying applicants' membership subscriptions.
From the local Muslims' point of view, there are allegations that the Labour Party's inefficiency in processing their applications amounted to deliberate time-wasting with a view to ensuring that they did not have a say in the selection of the new candidate. This amounted to racism, in their opinion. The opinion that there were racial undertones in the Gorton situation was supported by the Anti-Racist Alliance and the Labour MP, Diane Abbott (Daily Jang 30.09.94). A petition was submitted to the Labour Party chairman, David Blunkett, by Mr Ghyasuddin Choudhury who is a leading figure in the British-Bangladesh Society of the UK and the Black Socialist Society which called on the National Executive Committee to investigate the situation. The NEC brought a motion before the party conference to the effect that every applicant for membership of a Constituency Labour Party must be on the electoral register in that constituency. This was supported by the conference (Daily Jang 07.10.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 1/2]
In a press conference timed to coincide with the opening of the UN Conference on Population and Development (see BMMS for August 1994), the director of the Muslim World League's London office, Bassim Alim, gave some clarification of the MWL's position on the controverted questions. He stressed that, "If family planning includes contraceptives which are not harmful to either husband or wife, they are within the limits of Islam... However, when something like abortion is classified as family planning, then Muslims must say 'enough is enough!'" (Q News 09.09.94). Mr Alim was moved to call this press conference because of distorted impressions of the Muslim position created by the non-Muslim press but, unfortunately, only Muslim journalists attended. Muslims were encouraged to oppose any impositions from the West which transgressed the norms of Islam. Within this context, the "true intentions" behind the UN document ("A Sexual Bill of Rights"), were held to be a licence for extra-marital sexual activities and homosexuality.
The general proposals of the UN conference, to increase the availability of contraceptives in an attempt to slow and ultimately limit the growth in world population, were approved by over 150 delegations in Cairo but several states with majority Muslim or Catholic populations entered the caveat that they would only implement and support the proposals to the extent which their religious traditions permitted (Daily Jang 16.09.94).
In a strongly worded, full-page article, the editor of Q News, Fuad Nahdi, attacked the conference as being "based on the same contempt for human beings that led to Hitler's extermination camps and the notorious Gulags of the Soviet Empire" (16.09.94). He expressed his total disagreement with the concept of over-population of the world and contended that, "The world actually faces a massive depopulation crisis in the immediate future, as a direct result of the anti-natalist campaigns of the last twenty years". Further, "The Cairo Conference must be opposed not simply because of its anti-family, anti-population orientation. It must also be stopped because it is part and parcel of a larger game-plan to make the United Nations the centrepiece of a new world empire, run by an ancient, evil oligarchy of families from Venice and their 'British' partners". Mr Nahdi went on to liken the current moves towards population control to the eugenics movement in the 1920s and 1930s which culminated in the 1932 Third International Conference on Eugenics. "If it is allowed to take place without challenge, the Cairo event will serve de facto as an update of the 1932 conference, ushering in a new era of deliberate, global depopulation which will fare [sic] surpass in savagery even Hitler's wildest dreams." [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 2/3]
The struggle for power amongst the Pakistani community in Slough has become rather more open (see BMMS for April and August 1994). It centres on the president of the Pakistan Welfare Association and the chairman of the Slough Islamic Trust [SIT]. The PWA held elections with a view to replacing the executive committee of the SIT. At the same time, the executive of the SIT took legal advice with a view to banning the president of the PWA from the Diamond Road mosque. Further, the grants sub-committee of Sough council deferred the grant of £1,500 for which the PWA had applied because they had "information concerning potential legal action within the PWA to challenge the constitutional position of the president" (Slough & Langley Express 08.09.94).
The Slough PWA elections resulted in seven new trustees being elected. The elections were officially observed by two prominent non-Muslim political leaders who certified that they were "conducted in a free and democratic manner" (Iver & Iver Heath Express 15.09.94). However, the current trustees of the SIT have refused to recognise the elections as they have no validity within the constitution of the Trust. They supported their position by publishing extracts from a letter from the Charity Commissioners dated 9th September which said, "The management and control of the Charity [SIT] lies with its trustees... Therefore, no purported election by members of the public of new trustees could be valid." (Slough and Langley Express 15.09.94)
The elections have thus done little to resolve the tensions which have existed between the two groups for an alleged ten years. The new trustees and the PWA have called on the existing trustees to hand over the keys and open the accounts to their inspection. The existing trustees have banned the elected trustees from entering the mosque and have questioned the bona fides of the PWA leadership. The existing trustees banned a "long running meditation group" from holding their meeting on 17th September and this led to the police being called after rival groups gathered in the street. The event passed off without any actual violence but there have been allegations of intimidation and "people being followed by men in cars carrying hockey sticks" (South Bucks & Burnham Express 22.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 3/4]
In the light of the Cairo conference on population, which had been attacked as a form of imposition of Western ideas on sexuality and feminism on women in developing countries, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown contributed an article in The Guardian (22.09.94) around the theme of just how much control over their bodies women in the West enjoyed. She focused on four women, one Catholic and three Muslims. The Catholic woman explained that she and her husband had been quite happy to use contraception until recently when he refused to continue making love to her if she remained on the pill. He was supported in this stance by his local priest. He argued that they had sufficient money to keep additional children if God wanted to send them but she responded that she wanted to exercise what she perceived to be her rights over her own body. They have ceased any sexual relationships.
The first Muslim woman reported that she had borne seven children in rapid succession and had to resort to deceiving her husband, with the aid of a health worker, into believing that they should abstain from sex for a year for the sake of her health. Her husband refused to permit any form of contraception and told her that God would never forgive her after he found out that she had had an abortion in secret out of desperation. They are now locked in a power struggle in which he is demanding to resume his "conjugal rights" and she is threatening to leave him with the children and return to her family in Bangladesh. The second Muslim woman was a French convert to Islam who had radically changed her "60s" views when she met the Algerian family of her husband. She now supports the idea of children as a blessing from God and disagrees with the use of contraception and abortion except in extreme circumstances. She, herself, has only two children because she has problems in becoming pregnant. The third woman had been brought up in an Asian Muslim family in Britain but knew little of religion. Her first marriage was to a man of similar background but it broke down after the birth of their first child. At this time she rediscovered her Islam and came to the understanding that contraception cheapens sex which is best respected by self-control and abstinence. She took these ideas into her second marriage to a Muslim man who she thought would understand her Islamic principles. He found her ideas difficult to accept and that marriage ended in divorce also. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 4]
It was reported last April that James Ogilvie-Grant, Viscount Reidhaven, the heir of the Earl of Seafield, had been freed from the control of an Islamic cult by "cult-busting experts" from America after he had been kidnapped by former SAS personnel on the instructions of his father (see BMMS for April 1994). Mr Ogilvie-Grant issued a statement to the press on 25th September to "clear innocent people who have been insulted and whose names have been blackened". The statement was covered by the Scottish Sunday Mail (25.09.94), the Daily Mail and Scottish Daily Express (26.09.94) and was the subject of an authoritative article in Q News (30.09.94) written by David Rosser-Owen who obviously had access to a great deal of background information.
It transpires that Viscount Reidhaven embraced Islam in June 1990 and joined the six-hundred year-old and widely respected Naqshbandi Order under the tutelage of Muhammad Iqbal Ali, a brother-in-law of Yusuf Islam of the Islamia Schools Trust. It was this Order and Mr Ali who were referred to in the press as an "Islamic cult" and a "guru" respectively. The fears that the Viscount had been "brainwashed" were apparently founded on discussions at the home of his father between himself and Mr Ali in which "matters were discussed which the Naqshbandi Order does not normally deal with outside meetings of adepts" (Q News 30.09.94). This was compounded by expensive gifts given to Mr Ali by Mr Ogilvie-Grant and the impression that he was not free to make any decision without referring it to the former's advice.
In addition to obvious concerns about his son's health and freedom of action, the Earl of Seafield was concerned about the administration of the Reidhaven Estate as well as the Strathspey Estates to which the Viscount is heir. Currently the Reidhaven Estate is being administered by a curator but the Viscount is applying for control to be passed back into his own hands. He has emphasised that he is and has always been a Muslim since the time of his conversion and has never been brainwashed by Mr Ali or anyone else connected with the Naqshbandi Order. Serious questions have been raised about the legality of the kidnapping of Mr Ogilvie-Grant and his detention in a secret Highland location. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 4/5]
The dispute over the constitution of Luton Central Mosque, which is currently awaiting a ruling from the High Court (see BMMS for January and April 1994), took a new turn when the former imam, Abdul Aziz Chisti, issued a writ in the High Court to claim £22,000 from the current committee in loss of earnings since they dispensed with his services in May 1992. It was in that month that the current management committee was elected in what Mr Chisti's faction believe to be an unconstitutional fashion. Mr Chisti has claimed that he held a permanent contract from which he could not be suspended and under which he could not be sacked unless "he has committed a religious sin". He has taken legal advice and thinks that he has a good chance of success. A spokesman for the current committee was of a different opinion (Luton on Sunday 11.09.94).
One of the men involved in disturbances at the mosque in March 1994 over the question of the contested elections, Jahangir Khan, was sentenced to six months in gaol after admitting that he had hit one of the rival faction in the face and then kicked and stamped on his head whist he was on the ground. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 5]
Bradford Council officers have submitted plans to the planning authority for the erection of a prayer shelter to protect Muslims from the weather when they attend funerals at the Muslim burial ground which forms part of the city's Scholemoor Cemetery. The proposal comes at the end of six years of discussions about improving the facilities at the cemetery. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 5/6]
The community action started by Muslims in the Balsall Heath district of Birmingham to counter street prostitution (see BMMS for July 1994) sparked similar protests in Derby and Nottingham. In Leicester, discussions are planned to discuss the problem without resorting to street protests. The discussions will take place between the organisation for Women's Health in Prostitution (WHIP) and local residents, councillors and the police. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 6]
A letter of complaint was sent to the director of social services in Luton after non-halal chicken had been served at an Eid feast organised at the Milan Day Centre for the elderly. A spokesperson for Bedfordshire County Council has pledged that all dietary requirements of people attending the centre will be met in future including the provision of halal meat and a vegetarian meal. Appropriate staff have now been recruited for the centre who will work in partnership with an elected committee. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 6]
The speakers at the Glasgow conference on population, "People Count", which was set up as an alternative to the UN conference and organised jointly by an Opus Dei-inspired Catholic group and the Committee on Population and the Economy, rejected the premises and findings of the Cairo conference (see BMMS for August 1994). Professor Khurshid Ahmad, the Pakistani senator and economist, held that the movement for population control was based on cultural imperialism rather than scientific fact. He said that food supply had always been ahead of population growth and so there was "no justification for any arbitrary movement for population control" (Daily Jang 16.09.94). Other speakers praised the efficiency of natural methods of contraception and drew a distinction between family planning, which empowered parents and increased their choices, and population control, which removes the choice from parents. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 6]
A house, which was formerly a hostel for Arab seamen in Newport, Gwent, but which contains a basement converted into a mosque by the owner in 1953, has been at the centre of a row amongst Muslims in that town. The daughter of the original owner appeared to put the house on the market together with the house nextdoor. Local Muslims complained that they were to be deprived of the mosque for prayer. The owner responded by saying that she did not intend to sell the house which contains the mosque, for her deceased father's sake, even though there was a "for sale" sign over both properties. She went on to note, "It is a shame that when my father was alive and he asked for help from the Muslim community to restore it, nobody wanted to know" (South Wales Argus 30.08.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 6]
The weekly protests by members of the deposed faction at the Bury Park mosque, Luton, have continued with no further violence being reported (see BMMS for June and July 1994). The High Court case, which it was hoped would settle the dispute, has been deferred until 24th October. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 6/7]
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK has chosen the Woodlarks Workshop Trust, Farnham, which specialises in work with the handicapped, as the beneficiary for money raised by the association in a sponsored walk in 1993. A cheque for £2,700 was handed to the Trust's representatives at a reception in the London Mosque. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 7]
Abdul Azeem Saunders, a professional photographer who embraced Islam in 1970, was profiled in Q News (09.09.94). The article coincided with the first exhibition of his work at the "Tapestry" gallery in Frith Street, London. Mr Saunders has travelled extensively in pursuit of his art and has executed many commissions on Muslim subjects including a photographic report of the hajj and an extended study of the renewal of mosques in Mecca and Medina. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 7]
Sandwell Council are considering a proposal to hand over the running of the Tipton Muslim Community Centre to a management team once they have been fully trained for the task. The proposal, which comes from the council's community development committee, suggests a three year transitional period during which training would be given and a phased hand-over enacted. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 7]
A survey has been conducted by the Rochdale Social Services Asian/Black Community Mental Health Project together with the University of Manchester department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences into the needs of patients of Asian origin in local hospitals. It found that there was a need for greater understanding of the cultural backgrounds from which patients came and a more integrated approach to the inclusion of complimentary and spiritually-based forms of medicine. Practically, the survey also showed a need for more nurses from the community of Asian heritage and the provision of copies of the Qur'an together with prayer mats and a place set aside for prayer. The recommendations are being considered by the Social Services Committee. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 7]
News of the IRA ceasefire in Ireland was welcomed by the UK Islamic Mission as a positive initiative towards lasting peace. The matter was addressed in an editorial in Q News (09.09.94) which called on Muslims in both Britain and Ireland to get involved in the process. Two reasons were given. "One cannot migrate to a country and live there with the irresponsibility of the tourist, yet all the time making a living there as part of the economy, or fecklessly living off the state's welfare provided by taxation levied on the endeavours of others." The second reason given was that "Muslims of these realms are required to face up to the moral consequences of the aid and comfort given to the so-called Irish Republican Army by the Muslim world". In addition to the USA, the Muslim states of Libya and Iran were noted as having contributed to the IRA's succour.
Muslims of Britain and Ireland were called upon "to ask themselves about their emotions towards the support given to the IRA by these countries, and, if they have agreed with it, what right they have to consider it justified. Moreover, they should be demanding that these vanguards of the Islamic Movement account for their conduct". [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 7/8]
The 24th annual conference of the Union of Muslim Organisations was held in London on September 3rd/4th. The theme of the conference was "The Role of Muslims in a Multi-Faith Europe" and speakers included Dr Ramazan Sonyel of London University, Dr Dawud Noibi of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Mr Justice Murtala, a judge from Nigeria. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
Muslims in Leicester welcomed an assurance from the McDonald's food company that only vegetable products and fish went into the preparation of their fillet of fish and chips. This was welcomed as an addition to the halal provision of food available for Muslims in the area. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
Surur Hoda, the general secretary of the Asia/Pacific Workers' Alliance, called on the Labour Party not to take British Muslims for granted in an article in Tribune (16.09.94). It noted that a "Muslims for Labour" group had been formed in July with a view to encouraging Muslims to take an active part in British political life and vote for Labour at the next general election. The group aims to speak in both directions by providing political education courses for local Muslims and by advising the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party on Muslim affairs. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
Falkirk District Council has approved a request from the Falkirk Muslim Association to set aside a house near to their mosque to be used as a home for the imam appointed to lead prayers there. The tenancy will be granted to the Muslim Association, rather than to a named individual, as the person appointed is likely to change from time to time. This brings the provision for Muslims into line with that accorded to other religious bodies. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
With plans to build a new Magistrates' Court in Gloucester, there is an increased demand for more magistrates to be appointed. The secretary of the local Advisory Committee has expressed the need for more magistrates to offer themselves for service from the communities of Asian and Afro-Caribbean descent. This is necessary to ensure that magistrates reflect the make-up of the whole community in whose name they administer justice. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
A new fact sheet called "A Guide to Community Care Choices for Older People" has been published by Council and Care of Twyman House, 16 Bonny Street, London NW1 9PG in eight community languages. The fact sheet sets out the options for a range of welfare services for the elderly. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8]
Home Office officials were in Kirklees at the beginning of September as part of a nationwide fact finding mission to gather local people's insights into the working of race relations legislation and a whole range of issues. They spent some time with the local Pakistan Kashmir Welfare Society where views of education, harassment, immigration and Section 11 funding were exchanged. The officials undertook to keep local people informed as the views expressed were reflected in legislation reforms. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 8/9]
Brent Council's Youth and Community Services are actively seeking more young people from Asian families to take up places on an employment scheme run under the auspices of the Prince's Trust Volunteers. The programme lasts for twelve weeks and all expenses are paid by the Prince of Wales' Trust. The Volunteers have a 70% success rate in finding full-time employment after completing the course. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 9]
The Shadow Environment Secretary, Blackburn MP Jack Straw, revealed the results of some recent analysis of people who are eligible to vote but lose their entitlement through failure to register. He said that the number of people not registering has risen from around one million in 1979 to two millions today. It is particularly noteworthy that 25% of all eligible black people are thought to have failed to register. This compares to 14% of people from Pakistani families and 7% of the white population. Mr Straw called on the government to do more to encourage people to place their names on the electoral roll. He noted that only £550,000 was spent to this end by the government last year compared to £17m on advertising BT shares and £1.6m on promoting the Citizens' Charter. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 9]
Four men burst into a mosque in Swansea and assaulted the congregation both verbally and physically just as they were lining up for prayers. Two worshippers were slightly injured and one needed hospital treatment. The four men are assisting the police with their enquiries. The mosque is to hold a meeting to discuss security. This attack follows on from an arson attack at a local Sikh-owned shop and an attack on an Asian couple in their shop at the end of July (South Wales Evening Post 05.09.94 and 06.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 9]
Forged letters purporting to be addressed to Douglas Hogg, the Foreign Office Minister, from the Prime Minister have been sent to Muslims in Cardiff. The letters were headlined "Wake up Muslims" and contained a rebuke to Mr Hogg who was reported to be in favour of arming Bosnian Muslims in their struggle with Serbian forces. The implication was that the British government is involved in a conspiracy to eliminate a Muslim state in Europe. The letters have been denounced as a forgery by Downing Street and are being investigated as a provocation to public unrest and racism (Western Mail 09.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 9]
The question of a "right to family reunification" was under discussion in a working group at the UN Conference on Population and Development. The notion of people having such a right is apparently opposed by several Western countries including the USA and Canada, both of which were "founded by immigrants" (Daily Jang 16.09.94). It is thought that the concept of a legally reinforcable right will be substituted by a "principle" which would still need to be enshrined in legislation before it could be enforced. One major issue at stake is the definition of "family" in "family reunification"; just how immediate or extended should this concept be? [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 9/10]
Bosnian refugees who have settled in South Ockendon, Essex, have reported attempts from local people to terrorise them with a view to driving them out of the local community. There have been several incidents reported to the police including verbal and physical attacks. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 10]
The city of Dundee enjoyed a reputation for harmonious race relations for over thirty years until an increase in racially motivated harassment during the past few years. This has led to an increasingly radical approach amongst younger members of the minority community particularly those from Asian families. They are not willing to accept the level of abuse which the older generation has accepted during recent years and have staged something of a coup on the Tayside Racial Equality Council. An underlying issue is one of class as the younger members feel that many of the older leaders had prospered sufficiently to be able to move out of working class areas were racial tensions are more pronounced. The REC is now calling on Dundee District Council to re-evaluate some of its anti-racist policies (Scotland on Sunday 11.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 10]
The series of programmes on Channel 4 under the generic name of Quarrels had a significant Muslim dimension. The programmes, presented by Hameed Haroon, commissioned by Farrukh Dhondy and produced by Mahmood Jamal, brought together people who were in dispute for a face-to-face discussion with the hope that some common ground might be found. Topics under discussion were Muslims opposing street prostitution in Leicester, the Hindu Temple at Letchmore Heath, Sikh/Muslim conflicts in Slough and Southall and Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities at the Westminster University Students' Union. The general impression of commentators was that the programmes were somewhat uninspired but a genuine attempt to see both sides of an issue from the protagonists' perspectives. The most positive critique came from Asian Age (12.09.94) which might connote a more empathetic understanding of some of the issues from the outset. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 10]
The National Heartbeat Fund has made a grant of £800 to the Calderdale Well Woman Centre to subsidise the costs of a weekly swimming session for women from the Asian community in Halifax. The move was prompted by two factors, namely that very few women from this community take part in any sports or leisure activity and that they suffer a high rate of heart disease. The project has been hugely popular so far and there may be the demand for a second session each week. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 10]
The An-Nisa Society seminar on Sex and Sexuality: the Islamic perspective was held in London on 13th September (see BMMS for August 1994) and was attended by around 20 parents, young people and social workers. The seminar began with an exploration of the central role which sexuality has in human life as an intrinsic part of being human. In Islam, sex is not something to be denied or marginalised but rather enjoyed and celebrated within the confines of marriage. The equality and mutuality of sex between partners was stressed and a whole series of issues concerned with the abuse of sex when it was used to dominate partners in a relationship was discussed. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 10/11]
Following the success of the Islamic Relief Women's Games in England, this year saw the first ever such games to be held in Scotland, at Stirling on 18th September. The men's games were scheduled for the day before and teams from the whole community were invited to come and share in a day of sports, recreation and fund raising for Bosnian refugees and Algerian earthquake victims. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 11]
Sixteen families from various minority communities in Derbyshire have been taking part in an awareness raising exercise with a view to improving race relations. The families have "adopted" a police officer to raise their awareness of cultural plurality in Britain. The scheme is part of a Home Office trial (see BMMS for August 1994). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 11]
The current interest in Muslim women converts to Islam was exemplified by profiles in the Leicester Mercury (15.09.94) and the Northampton Chronicle (08.09.94). The former concentrated on Batool Al Toma who was brought up as a Catholic in Ireland but became dissatisfied with the explanations given for Christian doctrines and thus was led to Islam whilst in Dublin. She is now a Resource and Education Officer at the Islamic Foundation in Leicester. The Northampton article featured two local women who had been brought up as Christians but became Muslims shortly after marrying their husbands. The main focus of the article was on the difficulties faced by "white Muslims", especially women who wear the hijab in public. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 11]
Three Muslim students from Rusholme, Manchester, have won their way through to the last round of The Lloyds Bank Film Challenge which seeks to find young talent for the television business. Out of 2,500 entries, the three men's film is now amongst 40 which will be criticised by a team of TV and film industry experts. If they are in the top eight, then their film will be professionally produced for Channel 4. The film traces the celebration of Eid in the Rusholme district where Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus join together for a feast. The young men intended to redress the public perception of the community of Asian heritage which is "presented as either weak and quiet or violent and rioting" (Manchester Evening News 15.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 11]
The question of Muslim children being taken to countries of family origin by their fathers against their mothers' wishes (see BMMS for August 1994) was revived in an article in The Mail on Sunday (18.09.94) under the headline, "Mummy was a nice Midlands girl. Daddy was a Pakistani kidnapper". The article traced the story of a Pakistani man who married a British woman and had two children. He then decided to take the children to Pakistan without the knowledge of his wife. She eventually followed him and they were re-united but life proved unbearable for the mother and children. The mother's parents came to Pakistan and rescued them. The result was that the eldest daughter has come to hate all things Asian and has lost any interest in Islam. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 11/12]
Even though the majority of deaths in Britain result in cremation rather than burial, there is an increasing shortage of burial space particularly in urban areas. This is of singular importance for Britain's Muslims with the Islamic prohibition of cremation and the practice of using a separate grave for each person which grave is not to be used again. In an effort to explore this situation, the burial authorities have commissioned the Cemetery Research Group to conduct some research on public attitudes towards the re-use of graves. The Group are expected to report in September 1995. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 12]
Manchester City Council, which took control of the Pakistani Community Centre, Longsight, after rent arrears of £37,000 were amassed by the managing committee (see BMMS for August 1994), has agreed to allow the property to remain in the use of the Pakistani community under the oversight of the Pakistani Community Association. It will continue to be administered by a council nominee until such time as an appropriate managing committee can be formed. The Pakistani Community Association has given an undertaking that, under their custodianship, the accounts will be properly kept, balanced and open for inspection (Manchester Evening News 05.10.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 12]
In the light of the Khilafah Conference (see BMMS for May, July and August 1994), the leader of the Muslim Parliament, Dr Kalim Siddiqui, contributed an article on the question of leadership to the Muslim weekly Q News (23.09.94). In the article, Dr Siddiqui thanked Hizb ut-Tahrir for drawing the attention of Muslims to the question of the caliphate. He went on to explore the way in which all authority, from that of the father in his household to the caliph himself, was derived from this caliphate model.
Dr Siddiqui pointed out that, whilst there was general agreement amongst Muslims for the ultimate necessity of one single global caliph, this does not militate against the establishing of partial caliphs around the world who would rule over sections of the population which were on the road of transition from being nation-states to becoming part of the universal caliphate. It is obvious to Dr Siddiqui, that different parts of the world population are at different stages in their development and have various resources at their disposal. Given that the ultimate desire is a universal caliphate, could it not be the case that there could be a variety of means utilised by these different communities in their approach so that we can see "competing approaches" to the same problem? In this process of moving towards the ideal, "we have to make sure that our approach is not a narrowly self-righteous, "party line". We must allow everyone the same chance of being right or wrong as we claim for ourselves... It is the all-inclusive, open and broad based "movement" that is much more likely to lead the Ummah to khilafah". [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 12]
The Belgian company Baladi is set to launch a supply of "the first halal chicken in Europe" (Muslim News 23.09.94) on 18th November. The area in which this claims to be different is that the chicken will be fed on halal food and kept in a natural environment before being slaughtered in the halal fashion. The company has claimed that the feed which is given to chickens habitually by other producers contains animal extracts which include derivatives from pork. The Baladi chicken and a halal margarine will be distributed through the Muslim Parliament's Halal Food Authority which has set up a partnership agreement with the Euro-Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EICCI) with a view to setting European standards for halal food provision. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 12/13]
A new research project has been launched in the Department of Sociology at Warwick University under the title "The Church of England and other faith communities in a multi-faith society". The project aims to generate information about aspects of civic religion and the public provision of pastoral care in England and an understanding of the distinctive contribution which they make towards the integration of all faith communities into English life. Such research is needed to discover how, and to what extent, people of all faiths have been, or can be, included in the symbolic ways in which communities mark or celebrate particular events. Similarly, investigation of hospital or prison chaplaincy will indicate the efficacy (or not) of the church's role as "broker" for pastoral provision to other faiths. One of the consultants to the project will be Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid of the Brighton Islamic Centre.
Once the project has gathered the data it hopes to disseminate it though seminars and publications which will have an impact on the initial and in-service training of caring professionals. The project director would welcome any comments or suggestions which might help to form the direction of the project. Such comments should be addressed to Dr Sophie Gilliat, Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 13]
Three feminists, one each from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, were asked to explain how they could reconcile their feminism with the apparent strictures of their religion for the monthly magazine Everywoman (October 1994). The Muslim woman, who was 27, single and a researcher, explained that she had grown up accepting the stereotyped image of Islam as cruel and oppressive to women because it had been reinforced by her own experience. Accordingly, she rejected the Islam which she had learnt from her parents.
It was only when she read the Qur'an in English translation that she began to understand the liberating richness of the Islamic tradition in its attitude to women which was exemplified in the revolutionary way in which Muhammad treated them. Unfortunately she sees contemporary Islam as being heavily overlaid with cultural accretions which militate towards the oppression of women. One instance of this which she gave was the way in which women are excluded from so many mosques today which means that they are deprived of the opportunity to be educated in Islam. Indeed, she asks if issues like the abuse of women and their low standards of education are ever addressed in Friday khutbahs? One solution which she suggests would be for women to have seats on every mosque committee so that they could ensure that women's rights within Islam were being respected. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 13]
The Hopscotch Project, which was founded in 1981 and is partially funded by Camden Council, exists to support women and children from Asian families. The majority of the women who attend are from Bangladesh and therefore much of the communication of the centre takes place in Sylheti. The centre provides a wide range of health and welfare support for clients and became newsworthy when it was formally visited by the Princess Royal in her capacity as president of Save The Children. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 13/14]
The sixth National Islamic Relief Games are announced to take place at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham on 13th November. As usual, there will be a host of sporting activities as well as stalls, exhibitions and entertainments. All profits will go to Islamic Relief projects around the world. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 14]
Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam [the Black American splinter group], was expected to address a rally of his followers at the Wembley Conference Centre on 9th October via a live satellite link-up but the meeting was ultimately cancelled. Mr Farrakhan was invited to address the Hackney Black People's Association in 1986 but was refused entry to the country by Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, on the grounds that his presence would not be conducive to the public good. "He is known in the United States as an anti-Semite and black supremacist" (The Guardian 05.10.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 14]
The Muslim Parliament's Halal Food Consumers' Association has issued a warning that British beef, which cannot be exported live to EU countries for fear of possible contamination with BSE, is being exported illegally to Ireland and from there to Muslim markets in the Middle East and North Africa (Muslim News 23.09.94). The Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland has described any such reports of illegal exporting as "pure speculation" and has said, "Apart from a few instances where action has been taken by the authorities in the Republic of Ireland and ourselves, we have no evidence of large scale illegal movement of cattle" (Q News 23.09.94). The HFCA is reported to be contacting all the embassies of Muslim countries in London to bring this situation to their attention. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 14]
The aims of the Euro-Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EICCI) were extolled in the Muslim News (23.09.94). The organisation, which has its headquarters in Antwerp, was set up in 1990 with a view to encouraging links between Europe and the Islamic world. In addition to providing information to members on European regulations and putting members in contact with potential clients through an extensive database, it aims to establish a network of joint-venture projects to finance members' activities. The Chamber is in the process of establishing a world agricultural bank, Agrislam, which will channel money as investment to develop food production in Muslim countries.
The EICCI has purchased a 3,000 m2 building in Antwerp to house a permanent exhibition on the Muslim world which is expected to open in January 1995. It also intends to establish the largest Islamic research library in Europe towards which it has already collected 80,000 volumes. Finally, it hopes to attract experts in shari'ah to discuss issues relating to Muslims in Europe and issue rulings based on the five major schools of Islamic law. Currently it is working on guidelines for the production of halal food in Europe and the export of such food to Muslim countries. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 14/15]
Christopher Javed Peter of Burnley is reported to be the first Pakistani Christian living in the UK to be trained for the ministry of the Church of England. Mr Peter was born and educated in Peshawar before working in Islamabad and Oman. Until recently he was a community worker with the Methodist Church in Burnley and has built up a good rapport with local Christians from Asian families as well as Muslims in the area. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 15]
The tension between living in two cultures was explored in an article in the Newcastle upon Tyne Evening Chronicle (26.09.94). It was prompted by a court case in which a man received a suspended sentence for kidnapping and threatening another man after he had allowed his brother and his wife, who had felt themselves forced to marry in secret because of family pressure, to live in his house. The kidnapper was related to the woman. This episode led to an extensive report of another case where a young woman was prohibited from marrying the man with whom she was in love because they were of different castes. After attempted elopements, a period in Pakistan and a failed attempt at abortion, the parents agreed to the marriage as it had already borne fruit in the form of the expected baby. The conclusion of the article was that parents might be more flexible in "arranging" marriages between young people who had already met and fallen in love. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 15]
Ruquaiyyah Waris Maqsood, herself an English convert to Islam, asked for publicity for a new project through the letter pages of the Muslim News (23.09.94). Her appeal was for similar converts to Islam to contact her with a view to contributing to a book about their experiences and the difficulties or joys which they had encountered on the way. She sees this project as part of a move seriously to examine the factors involved in the substantial number of English women who are converting to Islam. The contact address given in the paper was: 32, Westbourne Avenue, Hull, HU5 3HR. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 15]
A group of 24 professional people from Oldham have formed themselves into the Pakistani Forum to help young people in the area to think constructively about their future and take advantage of the opportunities offered for education and training for future employment. The Forum also hopes to be able to represent the views of young people to the authorities to gain a better provision of services where needs can be identified. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 15]
Abdul Matin, the Earl of Yarborough, was attacked by a gang of men as he drove to a fox hunt on his Lincolnshire estate. They were apparently hunt saboteurs who waited in a van until the Earl passed by. Then they started to beat his car with baseball bats. The incident continued for some minutes as the Earl drove away and then drove back at them. They were still beating his Mercedes estate car when the police, who had been summoned over the Earl's mobile telephone, arrived. Nine people were arrested. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 15]
Imran Madden, a former insurance broker in the city of London who embraced Islam five years ago and joined Islamic Relief, was profiled in Q News (30.09.94). He has just returned from the Sudan where he was project director for a community and training centre in Al-Obeid. He gave a detailed account of his work in the Sudan and the situation there in general. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16]
When the performance of Bolton Hospitals Trust's delivery of the Patients' Charter was being discussed, it transpired that halal meat was not readily available in Bolton hospitals but had to be specially ordered in response to patients' requests. This necessarily led to some delay in supply. The Chief Executive undertook to ensure that it would be available as standard in the Bolton hospitals (Bolton Metro News 22.09.94). The Patients' Charter says that health services must "ensure choice of meals for people from differing ethnic and religious backgrounds".
Patients at Rotherham General Hospital Trust have been avoiding hospital food and bringing in their own because they have been uncertain that it was halal and because they were being served re-heated rice rather than the chapattis which form a customary part of their diet. The Trust has undertaken to ensure that meat is certifiable as genuinely halal, that menus will be printed in English and Urdu explaining the content of dishes and that cooks will be trained in the production of fresh chapattis (Barnsley Star 29.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16]
The Calamus Foundation, in partnership with the Leo Baeck College for Jewish studies in London, is presenting a series of seminars throughout the autumn entitled "Where Muslim and Jewish civilizations meet". The seminars, which are being led by Jewish and Muslim scholars, will be held at the Leo Baeck College, 80 East End Road, Finchley, London N3 2SY (0181-349 4525) from whom further details may be obtained. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16]
Over 1,000 walkers took part in the Aga Khan Foundation Partnership Walk which took place simultaneously in a number of sites across the country. The idea was to raise funds for sustainable rural development projects in Gujerat. Over £150,000 was raised and an equal amount will be contributed by the EU. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16]
Seven Algerian Muslims, who are being held at HM Holding Centre Haslar, Hampshire pending investigation into their appeal for political asylum, are reported to be on hunger strike as a protest against the possibility of their being deported back to Algeria where they fear they will be tortured and imprisoned or executed. The men are believed to have entered this country from France where there has been a clampdown on Muslim activists. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16]
British Gas has launched a telephone helpline for non-English speakers in Bradford. The service operates through a special number at the Leeds enquiry bureau. Once the caller has indicated which language they wish to use, a three-way link up is made with an interpretation service in London. Up to 140 languages are said to be available. Posters advertising the service have been printed in Urdu, Punjabi, Gujerati, Bengali and Hindi and are being distributed around Bradford. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 16/17]
A conference is to be held on 17th October at the Policy Studies Institute organised by the BBC Schools Programmes and Channel 4 aimed at black and minority community programme makers who are interested in educational programmes for children. Areas to be covered include commissioning policy, career opportunities for black staff and the content of programmes. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
Two reports on the decline in funding faced by the black voluntary sector were launched at a London conference. One, "Agenda 2000: the black perspective", was delivered by the National Development Agency for the Black and Minority Ethnic Voluntary Sector. The other, "3Rs - Race, Recognition and Resources", came from a joint seminar funded by ITV Telethon and the London Boroughs Grant Committee. These three bodies, together with the CRE and the Equal Opportunities Commission, decided to form the 3Rs Steering Group to push for additional funding for the minorities voluntary sector. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
After a three year battle against deportation, a Muslim family from Djibouti, which contains a daughter who suffers from the genetic defect Fragile X and a mother who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, has been granted permission to remain in Britain on compassionate grounds. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
Amongst the 100,000 people of Asian origin in the Bradford area, there are many who have relatives in the far west of India which is affected by the outbreak of pneumonic plague. Prayers have been said for the victims in mosques in the area and support is being given to those who have relatives affected. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
A 37 year-old policeman, who was born in Pakistan but moved to Burton on Trent in 1969, has become the first officer from an Asian family in the Staffordshire police to reach the rank of sergeant. He was educated in Burton on Trent and at Wolverhampton Polytechnic before joining the police 12 years ago. In addition to fostering good community relations, he is working on a project, with the assistance of a local imam, to translate the Qur'an from Urdu into simple English so that it will be accessible to children. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
Lambeth Social Services are launching a recruitment drive to attract particularly women of Asian heritage to train and register as childminders to whom the social services could refer children who need looking after whilst parents are ill or at work etc. It is obviously desirable that such minders would share the same language, cultural and values background as the child in question. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17]
The Calamus Foundation is to stage its Sixth Calamus Distinguished Lecture at the Hotel Inter-Continental, London, on 31st October. The guest speaker at the dinner will be Abdullah Omar, the Minister of Justice from South Africa, who will speak about the religious, cultural and language rights in the new South Africa. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 17/18]
There has been concern for some years in certain quarters about the lack of black and minority recruits in the elite Household Cavalry and Guards divisions. In an effort to redress this imbalance, a Household Division Youth Team has been established to target young men from inner city schools. They hope to be able to take interested youngsters away for adventure training courses and to give them an insight into army life. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
The Somali refugee community in London was the subject of a profile in The Independent (29.09.94). The community is thought to number about 65,000, two-thirds of whom have arrived during the last five years as a result of the civil war. There is an extremely high rate of unemployment and many are still suffering the trauma of bloody fighting and dispossession. The family support, which is a dominant part of Somali life, is missing amongst the refugees who are often forgotten as the world's focus has moved on from their country. They now congregate in a Somali cafe. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
The Medena Mosque in Levenshulme, Manchester, has been plagued with vandalism for the past two years during which time they have had windows smashed, doors kicked in and office equipment stolen. They have now spent £7,000 putting wire mesh on all the windows. The latest affront is that youths have begun stealing the shoes of worshippers whilst they are at prayer. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
A house which belongs to the Pakistan Muslim Welfare Association in Walsall suffered £5,000 worth of damage in an arson attack when people broke in, switched on the gas fires and set a bedroom alight. The house was used as a mosque until a few years ago but was temporarily unoccupied during the fire. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
The Union of Muslim Organisations hosted a luncheon meeting at the Labour Party conference where a memorandum was presented by Dr Syed Aziz Pasha which called for a bill of rights to ensure that religious minorities received their just entitlements under the law and for a policy of positive discrimination in favour of Muslim candidates to ensure that Muslims are proportionally represented in Parliament and local councils (Daily Jang 07.10.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
A small semi-detached house in Colchester has served the local community as a mosque for more than two years. During this time it has gone largely unnoticed by the local population as Muslims are not numerous or prominent in the area. It was the subject of a profile in the Colchester Evening Gazette (23.09.94) when a member of the community placed himself at general disposal to promote a better image of Islam amongst the people of Essex. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18]
A Black and Asian Police Association has been launched by the Metropolitan Police where 679 out of 28,000 officers are from the minority communities. The association has been warmly welcomed by senior police officials and by the CRE. It hopes to represent and support members, improve race relations within the force and with outside agencies and the public, and raise recruitment levels from minority communities. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 18/19]
Dai el Fatemi Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb from Bombay, the head of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community world-wide, visited Leicester at the invitation of the Dawoodi Bohra community there. He gave an address to his people and met local dignitaries. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 19]
Six months after provisions were made for independent schools to opt-into grant maintained status, not a single formal application has been received, according to a report in The Independent (26.09.94). Four schools are reported to be preparing submissions: one Evangelical Christian, two Catholic grammar schools and one Seventh Day Adventist. The Funding Agency for Schools said that it received around 60 initial enquiries but most have now dropped out either because they cannot or will not comply with regulations for maintained schools or because they fear that a future Labour government will not support their position. A spokesman for the Association of Muslim Schools said "it was a sensitive issue and the implications were still under consideration". [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 19]
With the start of the university term, Q News (23.09.94) reflected on the pressures on Muslim students in an editorial. Firstly, it lamented the fact that modern universities had become "comprehensive schools for grown ups" where little attention was paid to the upbuilding of a moral life or character but the emphasis was on "churning out the maximum number of functional units". Into the moral vacuum came some Muslim associations which concentrated all their efforts on political issues without any real thought for deepening or expanding the horizons of Muslim students' vision of Islam. The result of this is that, when students leave university and face the pressures of working in non-Muslim situations, they have precious little to sustain them in an Islamic way of life.
There are no Muslim chaplains at universities and local imams "are usually ill-equipped to deal with the problems facing students on campus". It is not possible to introduce "Muslim counsellors" onto university campuses, "Their task would require both maturity and cultural compatibility, a combination which is at present nowhere to be found". The only solution which appears to be viable at present is to create a subset within university life where Muslims can be themselves and be supported and developed by their fellow students who share common ideals and objectives. Within this context, the Islamic Society at the LSE was singled out as an exemplar. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 19]
Of twenty candidates from the Islamia High School, Brent, for GCSE examinations last summer, all passed in English and recorded pass rates of 94% in Arabic and over 80% in Geography, Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Eight out of the candidates received a starred A grade which grades are generally confined to the top 3% of the country. The results are even more remarkable in that most of the girls were one or even two years younger than the usual 16+ for the examinations. The school is currently advertising for new pupils at an annual fee of £1,950 which is significantly less than most independent day schools. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 19/20]
The Gloucester Muslim Welfare Association opened a girls' school in the former Widdon Junior School building on 6th September with about 30 girls of secondary school age. The school has applied to the DfE for recognition as an independent school and hopes to attract public funding at a later date. The chairman of the association said that the school was necessary "because of cultural anxieties about sex education" (The Gloucester Citizen 22.09.94). The Gloucestershire education authority said that it learnt about the school on 21st September but it has no formal relationship with it. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20]
The Victoria and Albert Museum's education department is to run a day course on "Learning about Islam" for art teachers on 11th November at a cost of £40. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20]
The Labour Party spokesmen for the environment and for local government have announced that they intend to contact all Labour councils to gather details of the implications of the government's cuts in Section 11 funding so that a public campaign can be mounted to protect spending on education and minority community projects and inner city plans. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20]
Muslim women in Manchester are being offered a special women-only course at the City College designed for people who speak other languages. The course will concentrate on such practical skills as filling in forms and making appointments. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20]
The Muslim College in London has announced details of its short courses (Qur'anic studies, beginners' Arabic and Muslim organisations in Britain) and Undergraduate programme (Certificate in Arabic and Diploma in Islamic Studies) for the coming year. Courses are offered in conjunction with Birkbeck College in the University of London. Full details from 20/22 Creffield Road, London W5 3RP. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20]
In the wake of Muslim concerns over sex education offered by the outreach group Apna Sahara (see BMMS for August 1994), the same Bangladeshi Welfare Association has announced that it intends to advise parents to withdraw their children from sex education which is offered in local schools. A spokesman said that the classroom was not the place for teaching children about sex and he feared it could lead to a drop in the standards of education and family values. At best it could lead to embarrassing situations at home with parents and at worst could lead to children practising what they had been taught. The spokesman told the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph (14.09.94) that he found sex education "repulsive" and went on, "What I fear in my mind is that if we encourage this thing we will encourage a condom culture and there will be lots more homosexuals and lesbians in our society and there will be an increase in single mothers". He continued that there are no homosexuals or lesbians in Muslim society and sex before marriage was unthinkable. Parents do have the right to withdraw their children from all elements of sex education except those biological parts which are required by the National Curriculum in science.
The stance taken by the Bangladeshi Welfare Association was criticised by a local health education expert with extensive experience in schools and as an education adviser. She pointed out that, "Sex education encourages pupils to treat their bodies with care and respect. Sex education in our schools should always take place within a moral context and whenever possible should be a partnership between parents and schools" (Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph 17.09.94). She indicated that research had shown that sex education did not lead to promiscuity but enabled young people to withstand pressures to behave in inappropriate ways. "Sex education is not just about giving information on reproduction. It is about relationships and being in control of one's life." [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 20/21]
The Labour Party policy document on education, Opening doors to a learning society - a policy statement on education, was reviewed by Ibrahim Hewitt in the Muslim News (23.09.94). The document does not mention the possibility of VA status for Muslim schools but does say that it will return GM schools to the control of local democracy. Mr Hewitt welcomed several of the initiatives indicated such as the General Certificate of Further Education and the opportunity to combine education and training by the modularisation of GCSEs but he lamented the lack of any initiatives indicated to improve the employment situation which would give an incentive to students to achieve good qualifications in school. In general, the report found the document to be long on rhetoric but short on concrete proposals to give more scope for parental choice in education and work to eliminate underachievement in schools. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 21]
A sixteen year-old Bosnian girl who arrived in Britain eighteen months ago with no English was awarded four grade A and four grade B passes at GCSE in last summer's examinations. The girl attends Oriel Bank High School in Stockport and intends to proceed to A level studies in chemistry, physics and biology. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 21]
Derby City councillors approved plans to convert a house into a madrassah in spite of a recommendation from planning officers to turn it down. The school will operate from 1600 to 1900 daily. It will be situated in the same house for which planning permission was refused three months ago when an application was made to turn it into a mosque. The planning officers objected to the scheme on the grounds of additional traffic and insufficient parking. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 21]
The former Bradford Muslim Girls' School has now occupied its new premises in Feversham Street and accordingly changed its name to Feversham College. The school will operate on a split sight with the younger girls moving to Feversham Street and the older ones staying in Ryan Street. The school is currently the subject of an application for voluntary aided status which is with the Department for Education. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 21]
The Muslim Parliament is advertising a free students pack for all new university students. It contains information about their student loan scheme, lists of books and speakers which can be supplied, a copy of their magazine and information about their marriage bureau and opportunities for part-time and voluntary work. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 21]
The Bradford West MP, Max Madden, has been waging a campaign for many months to stop the government withdrawing from Section 11 funding for additional language support for children who do not speak English at home. He invited the new Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Shephard, to come to Bradford and see the problems for herself but she was too busy to spare the time. However, Mrs Shephard did agree to receive an all-party delegation from Bradford to explain their needs and concerns about the repercussions of the proposed cuts. The meeting was scheduled for 26th September. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22]
At a meeting of the Manchester Youth Foundation on 18th September, a new liaison body was formed to interact with the LEA. It will be called the Manchester Islamic Education Board. The meeting was called to discuss the implications of the latest education reforms in sex education. A call was made for Muslims not to withdraw their children but to attempt to use their influence to make sex education better for all pupils. There was also discussion about the dire need for suitable teaching materials to be used in schools. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22]
A County Durham mother, acting upon her Christian faith, has withdrawn her children from non-Christian RE lessons at school after one of them was invited to wash her hands before handling the Qur'an in a lesson on Islam. The mother regarded this as a "confessional act" (Newcastle upon Tyne Evening Chronicle 07.09.94). She said, "I am not against my children being made aware of other religions, but it is a different matter entirely when they are encouraged to participate... By getting Christian children to wash their hands, rather than teaching what Muslims believe, the school is actually declaring the Koran has divine authority. That is blasphemy". [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22]
Batley councillors have refused planning permission a second time to Muslims who use a portable classroom as a madrassah in the Staincliffe area. Permission was denied on the grounds that the building was unsightly, that it caused a safety hazard because there is no off-street parking and that it blocked access to garage areas. The first application was refused on similar grounds and local Muslims moved the building back a few feet before re-applying. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22]
The Association of Muslim Schools is reported to be considering making an application to join the Assisted Places Scheme whereby pupils whose parents have a joint income of less than £20,000 per annum can gain some financial assistance with their school fees at selected independent schools (The Independent on Sunday 25.09.94). Government guidelines for eligible schools indicate that they must have at least 60 pupils in each year and a well-established sixth form with at least 60 students. In addition they must offer the full National Curriculum plus Latin or Greek and economics. These requirements would rule out almost every Muslim independent school at present. They are caught in a familiar "catch 22" situation of having to expand and establish themselves on private fees before they can attract public support. The DfE has indicated that all its 35,000 assisted places are currently allocated and it is not able to consider any fresh applications to join the scheme at present. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22]
Proposals for a Muslim school in Cardiff were refused planning permission by the planning authority but the school has opened in spite of this refusal. Around 20 pupils have enrolled in the school which hopes to increase its numbers to 40 or 45 (South Wales Echo 24.09.94). The chairman of the school said, "We applied for planning permission last year but obstacles were put in our way. We want to provide our own education and had to start in September otherwise we would have to wait another year". There are two other schools within 200 yards of the new school, which occupies a former T-shirt factory, and traffic conditions are said to be problematic. The city council is monitoring the situation and considering whether to serve an enforcement order on the school which would close it. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 22/23]
Local residents in Flintham, Newark, who have been alarmed by the Al Jamia Al Islamia's application to build a cemetery and install five portable classrooms (see BMMS for August 1993; January and August 1994) have pointed out to the council that the school is in breach of the original planning permission granted in 1992 on six counts. These include access, parking provision, landscaping and enclosing the site. In response, the Rushcliffe Borough Council has served a breach of condition notice on the school which requires them to comply with these conditions or face court action. There has been no progress on the recent applications which will be discussed later in the autumn. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 23]
The 8,000-strong Muslim community in Bury are divided over a controversial plan brought forward by the local Muslim Education Trust to establish a separate Muslim school in the town. After objections to the idea of separatism from the Muslim former chairman of the Bury Racial Equality Council (Bury Times 26.08.94), only 70 people attended a public meeting. It was decided to launch a petition amongst Muslims in the town to gauge their support for the idea before making any concrete proposals about what kind of a school might be established. The Muslim Education Trust sees the founding of a school to be an extension of their basic rights under the law (Radcliffe Times 01.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 23]
A mosque in Connaught Road, Roath, which has been operating for some twelve years without planning permission has had an application for such permission turned down by the Cardiff City Council. There was considerable local opposition to the mosque on the grounds of traffic and noise. An enforcement order, which was enacted in the 1980s but never enforced, is to remain in abeyance for the time being with the hope that the local community will reduce their use of the building and thus avoid the necessity for prosecution. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 23]
Planning permission has been refused for the conversion of a former off-licence into a mosque in Sydall Street. The plans were objected to by local residents on the grounds that it would create noise and parking problems and would devalue their homes. Muslims from the local Jamia Mosque also submitted a petition to the effect that the mosque was unnecessary. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 23]
Permission has been granted for the conversion of a former furniture warehouse in Rendell Street (see BMMS for July 1994) into a community centre for the Bangladeshi Muslim community subject to the submission of detailed plans on the size and shape of windows which local people fear would overlook their bedrooms and bathrooms. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 23/24]
Planning permission has been refused for a former mosaic factory in the Trafford area to be turned into a mosque (see BMMS for August 1994). The planning authority felt that, although the mosque would only hold 70 people, the provision of ten spaces for car-parking was insufficient. There was also fear of additional noise and traffic problems in streets where children habitually play. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 24]
Meetings are planned between the local Muslim community and the county and borough councils to find a suitable site for a prestigious new mosque to be built in the town. The current mosque is grossly overcrowded and a new one is needed. Muslim leaders have announced that they are confident that the government of Saudi Arabia will help to fund the £500,000 project as they helped to fund the current building (Reading Chronicle 16.09.94). [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 24]
The UK Islamic Mission has submitted plans to demolish the two houses which it currently uses as a mosque and replace them with a purpose-built mosque which will accommodate 200 people in a building with a 14 metre high dome and a minaret of 16.5 metres. The mission also wants to buy adjoining land from the council for a car park. The plans have the support of local residents who have submitted a petition to that effect. A decision is expected in October. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 24]
The president of the UK Islamic Mission in Southampton was invited to contribute the guest column in the Southern Daily Echo (17.09.94) on the subject of the new mosque which his community hopes to be able to build in the near future (see BMMS for March, June and July 1993) but which is currently held up due to lack of funds. He emphasised that, "The mosque is not only a place of worship but a place for performing social, cultural and educational activities for the benefit of the Muslim community". [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 24]
An application for planning permission has been made for a house in Wellington Road to continue in use as a mosque. [BMMS September 1994 Vol. II, No. 9, p. 24]