British Muslims Monthly Survey for April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4
Channel 4 TV screened an hour-long programme in their Dispatches series on 3rd May which focused on three prominent religious leaders from the Bangladeshi community now settled in Britain who were alleged to have been implicated in atrocities during the war of 1971 when the former East Pakistan became Bangladesh by severing itself from the former West Pakistan which henceforth has been known simply as Pakistan. The programme was made by an independent company called Twenty-Twenty Television. The producers claimed to have unearthed evidence which linked the three men to drawing up hit lists and inciting people to torture and kill opponents. It is undisputed that such atrocities did take place but an investigation by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in the aftermath of the war found conclusive evidence difficult to find and a general amnesty was given by the first Prime Minister of the new Bangladesh (Q News 28.04.95). The men thus named are roundly protesting their innocence of the alleged involvement in atrocities.
The programme was widely noticed in advance by the TV columns of newspapers. One interesting comment was written by the TV critic of the Bournemouth Evening Echo (29.04.95), "I have no problem with exposing murderers and torturers - if such they prove to be. And I have no problem with exposing the intolerance of fundamentalism - whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish... I just wish that other Islamic voices got as much coverage as the extremists. You'd never think from reading the Western press that these people were not mainstream... You'd never know that its a complex religion with tolerance and compassion as its bedrock or that its perfectly possible to be a Muslim and a feminist."
To coincide with the broadcasting of the programme, The Independent (03.05.95) ran a major article naming the three men and explaining the depth of their involvement in contemporary Muslim affairs. Two are prominent in East End affairs and the other lives in Birmingham. Witnesses have apparently come forward to say that two of the men issued a fatwa "sanctioning the murder of their political opponents". This was promulgated at a public meeting attended by around 500 people. "A series of killings and torture of civilian opponents followed the meeting." The third man has been identified by witnesses as being part of gangs which were involved in the abductions of intellectuals. Denials of their involvement were published by the newspaper. Peter Shore, an East End MP and former cabinet minister who saw a preview of the programme, has called for an investigation by the British police to see if evidence exists to bring a prosecution and Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Solicitor General, indicated on the programme that the Geneva Conventions Act of 1957 was passed specifically with the intention of being able to investigate allegations such as these. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 1]
Foreign Ministers of the European Union countries have agreed to ask Iran to undertake that the fatwa against Salman Rushdie will not be executed in the countries of the EU. They have proposed that such a move could result in increased trade links between Iran and EU countries. The move comes after such an agreement was made between Iran and Denmark in February (The Independent 11.04.95). Dr Kalim Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament responded to the news by saying, "I don't think such an agreement will have any effect on attitudes of Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world towards Rushdie... Rushdie is clearly the number one enemy of Islam and Muslims, and will continue to be treated as such regardless of the policies of any government". However, Sahib Mustaquim Bleher of the Islamic Party of Britain commented, "I don't care whether the new plan to save Rushdie works or whether it doesn't. I don't think the fellow is that important that he should dominate domestic or international policy" (Q News 14.04.95).
The UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs has called for a shift in focus away from the inconvenience caused to Salman Rushdie by the fatwa issued against him to the hurt caused by his book The Satanic Verses to ordinary Muslims around the world but particularly in Europe and Britain following the attempts made by European Union Foreign Ministers to normalise the situation in discussions with Iran. Iqbal Sacranie, the convenor of UKACIA, said, "The insult perpetrated by The Satanic Verses against the Muslim community should be the focus of attention by the European Union and not the fatwa... Member states should not be sidetracked by the fatwa but should deal with the root problem - the insult contained in The Satanic Verses... The continued publication of which perpetuates the injustices against the Muslim community. No civilised society should allow the publication and promotion of religious abuse and sacrilege and of material that is calculated to incite religious hatred" (Daily Jang 21.04.95).
According to a report in the Muslim News (28.04.95), Iran has responded to the EU Ministers' approaches. "Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's president, said the issue 'is one of jurisprudence. That idea has been expressed by Imam Khumayni and it has already been expressed for thousands of years in our books and this is not something that can be changed'." [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 2]
The speed at which politicians, commentators and media people leapt to the conclusion that the Oklahoma bombing must be connected to "Islamic fundamentalists" caused considerable concern amongst Muslims and more balanced analysts in the US and in Britain. Such reaction might be typified by two letters published in The Independent (27.04.95). The first, from the Deputy Head of Mission at the Iranian Embassy in London, regretted the way in which such an act had been linked to Iran. "It is chokingly depressing to note that this is the second time in recent weeks that such unfounded 'analyses' have been published in your highly respected newspaper... The suggestion that Iranian embassies are involved in such unsavoury activities is highly defamatory and offensive. On a larger scale, you will agree that such fabrications create hatred and suspicion against Muslims and are most unhelpful in the efforts aimed at establishing mutual understanding between the Muslim world and the West".
The second letter was from the Vice President of the UK Islamic Mission who lamented the way in which "western media pundits put their accusing fingers on the 'Muslim fundamentalists'... It has now become fashionable for our so-called intellectuals in the media, whenever they find any smoke, to attribute it to Muslim arsonists... For a few days after the Oklahoma City tragedy, the situation was so fragile that anybody looking like a Muslim on the streets of any Western city, especially in the US, was prone to abuse and attack. The responsibility for this lies on the irresponsible pen and broadcasts of the so-called analysts of Islam and Muslims. Muslims are therefore quite justified in demanding an unconditional apology from these intellectual demagogues, and I hope that they will have the courage to do so." [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 2/3]
A Member of the Muslim Parliament from Bradford has claimed that the Bradford Council for Mosques' Halal Meat Committee has been involved in a cover-up after finding that a local butcher was falsely selling meat as halal (Q News 14.04.95). Mohammed Amber has claimed that the committee inspected chickens supplied by Medina Poultry and found that their methods of slaughter were suspect and thus their meat could not be guaranteed to be halal. The facts of the case were reported to the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Office, whose inspectors conducted their own enquiry but decided not to bring charges against the company "for a number of reasons". Mr Amber claims that four days after declaring the meat from the company to be haram [forbidden for Muslims], a spokesman from the Council for Mosques stated publicly that Bradford was free from all falsely described halal meat. A spokesman for Medina Poultry has claimed that the fact that the Trading Standards Office declined to prosecute vindicated the company. The General Secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques wrote to Q News (21.04.95) to describe the allegations of Mr Amber as "absurd and non-sensical". He defended the bona fides of the Council for Mosques and indicated that the attack was prompted by political motives to enhance the position of the Muslim Parliament's Halal Food Authority.
The annual report of the Board of Visitors to Winson Green Prison, Birmingham formally noted their concern that all meat served at the prison was now halal even though only 10 of the prison's 800 inmates are Muslims. The chair of the Board of Visitors said, "Although no-one has complained, we thought it was quite wrong that the so-called Christian population had to fall in line [with] a small Muslim minority... One of the board was so upset, he even went to the Muslim Advice Centre and went into the matter quite deeply." (Wolverhampton Express & Star 01.05.95) According to the same newspaper, "The board has now agreed to drop the issue". In a more wide-ranging account of the report's findings, the Birmingham Evening Mail (01.05.95) also noted that the general feeling of the Visitors was that "inmates had too easy a life and the regime needed toughening up to make prison a deterrent to criminals". Animal rights campaigners are reported to have criticised the provision of halal meat but a Prison Service official commented, "It doesn't cost any more than ordinary meat and we have had no complaints" (Birmingham Evening Mail 02.05.95).
Muslims in Rugby, Warwickshire have been celebrating the opening of the first halal butcher's shop in the area. Previously, local Muslims had to travel to Birmingham, Coventry or Leicester to obtain halal meat (Rugby Advertiser 06.04.95).
Muslims in High Wycombe have set up their own halal meat committee to ensure that all meat is genuinely halal. The move comes after complaints that the Muslim Parliament's Halal Food Authority is driving up the cost of meat by imposing a levy to cover the costs of their checks (Bucks Free Press Midweek 28.03.95).
The planning committee of Dudley Council has refused planning permission for a halal abattoir to be established in a disused shop in Talbot street, Lye (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1995), on the grounds that it was unsuitable in a residential area (Stourbridge News 13.04.95). The applicant is planning to appeal to the Department of the Environment. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 3/4]
Representatives of the Pakistan Welfare Association [PWA] and Slough Islamic Trust [SIT] met on 6th April under the chairmanship of the area police commander in an attempt to resolve their long running dispute over control of the Diamond Road mosque (see BMMS for April, August, September, October and November 1994; January, February and March 1995). SIT trustees took away with them a document detailing changes in the trust deed which the PWA representatives wish to see enacted. They have agreed to consider these points before meeting again on 30th May (Slough & Langley Express 13.04.95). The Charity Commissioners have become involved. A spokesman said, "We received a number of representations about that charity, expressing concern about the way the money was being dealt with... We have agreed to a meeting with trustees. Whether or not it will go any further than that, it's too early to say. It's not really an inquiry, as such. It's discussions" (Slough & Langley Express 04.05.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 4]
Newham College in London was the scene of the death of a Nigerian student earlier this year for which crime a Somali Muslim has been charged (see BMMS for February and March 1995). Now local Sikh community leaders have protested to the college principal that "Sikh students at the college are getting badly abused by Muslim fundamentalist students who are trying to force them to change their religion... The Muslims are against the Sikhs, the Christians and the Hindus. They are trying to establish their own religion in the college. If this intimidation continues, the Sikh community will have to do something." The college has issued a statement to say that, "The principal has held meetings with a number of community and religious groups to explain that we are a secular college, respecting all faiths, yet endorsing none" (India Mail 06.04.95).
The tensions at Newham College were featured in a television programme entitled College Wars screened by BBC2 on 22nd April. The focus of the programme was that "religious sects [are] infiltrating London's further education centres" (City of London Recorder 21.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 4/5]
The Harrow Council for Racial Equality has petitioned Harrow Council for the provision of a Muslim burial plot within the municipal cemeteries of the borough. It is estimated that there are 5,000 Muslim families in the borough but no provision for Muslim burial. At present, bodies have to be flown back to the person's country of origin or buried in another borough which incurs a double weighting on charges as the deceased person was not resident in the borough of burial. The environmental services committee in Harrow has agreed to look into the question and compile a report to be presented to the council in June (Stanmore Observer 30.03.95 and Harrow & Northwood Informer 07.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 5]
The Foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, has sent a signal of support to Arab governments in a speech at a banquet marking the 50th anniversary of the Arab League by dissociating himself from Arab dissidents resident in Britain. He said, "I very much regret that a very small number [of Arabs] abuse our hospitality by indulging in malevolent propaganda campaigns against our good friends in the region... These activities are as unwelcome to us as they are in their own countries" (The Guardian 07.04.95). The report speculated that his remarks referred in particular to dissidents from Saudi Arabia and Tunisia who are currently resident in Britain. Mr Hurd went on, "Our thoughts are with the government of Bahrain in the difficulties they face... As old friends they should know they have our full support as they work to ensure a stable and prosperous future for all the people of Bahrain." The speech drew some criticism from those who think that the Bahraini protestors are campaigning for the restoration of constitutional rights. The Liberal peer, Lord Avebury, wrote to Mr Hurd: "If you were a true friend of Bahrain you would be helping the people to escape from the Middle Ages and to enjoy the benefits of democracy, not attempting to prop up a system which is going to change anyway." [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 5]
A seminar for Muslim lawyers was organised under the patronage of the Muslim weekly Q News at the headquarters of the Muslim World League in Goodge Street, London on 6th May under the title Time for change: The role of Muslim lawyers. Speakers included Makbool Javed: Religious discrimination; Khurshid Drabu: Incitement to religious hatred; Sheba Haroon Storey: Immigration; Aina Khan: Family/Child care; Abdul Aleem Khan: Wills and inheritance; and Mahmud al-Rashid: Next steps - The Association of Muslim Lawyers. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 5]
Muslims in Bradford who live in the notorious prostitute area of Lumb Lane have protested against a television series called Band of Gold which focuses on the lives of prostitutes in the area (Daily Star 11.04.95). The President of the Pakistan Muslim League UK has indicated that he is willing to burn the scripts of the programme as a gesture of disgust at the practice of prostitution in the area which is being "glorified" by the series (Daily Sport 11.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 5/6]
Young thespians from the Oldham theatre company Peshkar have already found fame by being included in small parts in several television series such as Coronation Street, Brookside and Casualty. Now they are to stage a play called Chapatti and Chips about a family from Pakistan settling in Britain. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 6]
Muslim and Christian leaders were instrumental in staging the North Kirklees Interfaith Conference in Batley on 25th March. The day conference was addressed by religious and political leaders as well as the secretary of the Department of the Environment's Inner Cities Religious Council. The conference served to launch a Religious Council for the area which will seek ways of regenerating deprived areas locally. It was repeatedly stressed by speakers that religious bodies have a vital role to play in alleviating tensions within local communities so that barriers are broken down and tolerance enhanced. Together, the religious groups have a message to proclaim about care for all the people who live in such areas through groups working on topics such as community development, employment training, education, health and community care, housing, women's issues and enhanced community safety (Batley News 30.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 6]
The Muslim Women's Organisation in Nottingham will host a training course designed to give women from minority communities entrance to employment in the field of computer technology. The courses are being organised by First Data (Training) and will train the women to the level of the Royal Society of Arts Computer Literacy Certificate. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 6]
The problems of being black and Scottish were explored in a feature article in The Glasgow Herald (14.04.95). Young people from the black and Asian communities have formed the Lothian Black Youth Forum to explore ways of combatting racism in schools and in society at large. Several examples of pupils in schools being harassed because of their ethnic origin or religious practices were expounded and incidents of police harassment were also noted. There was a general agreement that segregation in education was not the way forward but rather the youngsters wanted to excel in education to provide good rôle models for the future. The general perception that racial and religious discrimination are not a problem in Scotland was denied and indeed an image of life being harder when one is in a smaller minority was communicated. There are supportive elements within the community when there is a significant number of minority members in a region which do not apply when the minority communities are very small. All too easily, this can result in the perpetuation of being made to feel "outsiders" in the country of their birth. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 6]
The House of Commons hosted a meeting to discuss Women, Islam and Human Rights which was organised by Amnesty International's British Section Ethnic Minority Network (Q News 07.04.95). The meeting was chaired by Claire Short MP and speakers included Tasleema Nasreen, the Bangladeshi writer; Angelika Pathak, researcher into Pakistani issues; Gita Saghal, from "Women Against Fundamentalism"; and "an Algerian feminist". The Muslim newspaper did not attend the meeting but was concerned about the under-representation of Muslim women from this country who could have spoken of their own experiences. Whilst it admitted that there are Muslim countries which mistreat women, it pointed out that this is not the sole preserve of Muslim states citing several non-Muslim countries with notorious reputations for the mistreatment of women. It was concerned that such a one-sided presentation should have been allowed in the Mother of Parliaments. As an editorial stated, "Now that the Muslim population of Britain is pushing the 3 million barrier [sic] isn't it time that leading Muslim women from this country are invited to talk about the issues facing Muslim women, and not imported outsiders with hang-ups from culturally different backgrounds?" [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 7]
A friend of the Blackburn Muslim man, Mukhtar Mohidin, who won £17.8m on the national lottery in December 1994 (see BMMS for December 1994) has announced that he is going to sue the winner for a share in the winnings. Ismail Lorgat, a friend of Mohidin's of fifteen years standing and his tenant in a Blackburn shop, claims that he provided four of the nine pounds which were used as the stake in the lottery. The four pounds were the change from £50 which Lorgat gave to Mohidin to pay an electricity bill at the shop. He claims to have told Mohidin to use the money to buy lottery tickets. "He became serious and said, 'If we win we'll share it', Lorgat claimed. After the win, however, he heard nothing" (The Sunday Times 16.04.95). Lorgat said, "I have had religious counselling about this money. I cannot keep a penny because of my religion. It will have to be given to good causes. It must be spent in the way of God. If the money is given to English people I am not committing a major sin. I want to settle this matter amicably".
Following the announcement by Ismail Lorgat, extensive unrest has been reported from the Muslim community in Blackburn. "Last week Lancashire police were alerted to the possibility of trouble - 'maybe even a riot' - arising out of the bad feeling after a visit from the [winner's] brothers to Mr Lorgat... 'The brothers told my wife that I could drop the claim,' [said Mr Lorgat]. 'They were drawing a line in the sand, saying that I should go no further. But they warned that any more pressure on their brother could start a riot in the town" (Scottish Sunday Express 23.04.95). An older brother of the winner told the Sunday Express (23.04.95) that, "The National Lottery is a terrible thing to happen in your own family. It causes trouble". The newspaper then went on to recount details of another family which had been split following a win on the lottery. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 7]
Muslims in the Croydon area have been buried in the Bandon Hill Cemetery in Wallington but it is now virtually full. Croydon Council has agreed in principle that another site should be set aside for Muslim usage at the Greenlawn Memorial Park in Warlingham but before this can be finalised an application must be made to the Lands Tribunal to have a 1937 covenant on the boundaries of the cemetery set aside (Caterham & District Advertiser 31.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 7/8]
At the annual conference of the National Union of Students (see BMMS for March 1995), a decision was made to elect the Bangladeshi authoress Tasleema Nasreen as an honorary vice-president and to condemn Hizb ut-Tahrir for the second year running. "Both moves have been interpreted by Muslim students as calculated acts of provocation and a further sign that the NUS is bent on excluding and alienating Muslims" (Q News 07.04.95). The only non-Muslim organised support for Muslims came from the Socialist Workers' Party which distributed a leaflet saying that Hizb ut-Tahrir was being used as a stick to beat all Muslims. An NUS spokeswoman said that "the award to Tasleema Nasreen has not been taken deliberately to spite Muslims".
The partisan nature of NUS resolutions was noted in a letter from the President of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Q News 14.04.95) who spoke of all Muslims being branded as fanatics when they voiced solidarity with suffering co-religionists in Bosnia, Palestine or Chechnya and of NUS support for oppressed groups such as homosexuals and women while failing to mention the oppression routinely experienced by Muslims on student campuses. Examples were given of attacks on Muslim students and the suppression of Islamic societies. An appeal was made for freedom of speech to be extended to include Muslims so that open debate and dialogue might be enjoyed by all. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 8]
The decision by a subcommittee of Calderdale Council to withdraw public funding to the Islamic Cultural Community Centre in Halifax after prolonged disputes about the management and accountability of the centre (see BMMS for December 1994; January, February and March 1995) was approved at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee in spite of sustained protests by the local Muslim community with the backing of Labour councillors. The suggestion was made that the decision was guided by party political considerations as it rested on the casting vote of the committee chairman who is also the leader of the Conservative group (Halifax Evening Courier 14.04.95).
The committee decided to continue withholding funds until a full meeting of the council on 26th April. The full council meeting decided to continue with the policy of withholding funds from the Islamic Cultural and Community Centre pending a meeting of all interested parties and the election of a new management committee (Halifax Evening Courier 27.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 8]
The offices of Q News were the subject of a burglary over the weekend of 1/2 April when thieves broke in through adjoining offices and stole computer hardware and software. Particular concern was expressed because the same building houses the Bosnian Embassy which could have been the target of a bomb attack by the same method of ingress. It was noted particularly that there was a delay of several hours before police responded to notice of the crime in spite of the fact that the embassy is under the protection of the Diplomatic Protection Group (Q News 07.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 8]
The Islamic Bakers and Confectioners of Banks Street, Dewsbury co-operated with various local environmental health organisations to run a course on its premises promoting basic food hygiene. Participants were awarded certificates in food hygiene by Dewsbury College. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9]
The relationship between the Nation of Islam and popular musicians was highlighted in an article in The Voice (04.04.95). The article covered the way in which Islamic impulses have changed the lives of musicians and influenced the lyrics of their songs. Nation of Islam groups have also been prominent in supplying bodyguards to musicians and have proclaimed their message to young people who have been attending concerts. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9]
Muslims in High Wycombe were honoured by a visit from one of the foremost Muslim leaders from Azad Kashmir, Alauddin Siddiqui. Mr Siddiqui's visit was aimed at reviving the spirit of Islam amongst his audience when he led prayers at the Jubilee Road mosque and spoke about the importance of the hajj [annual pilgrimage to Mecca]. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9]
The Jewish community in Luton is offering to sell its synagogue to Muslims and Hindus in the Bury Park district to provide a community centre. Currently the Milan Care Centre operates from a building owned by Mencap which will shortly have to close because of a decision to sell the property. No response has yet been received from councillors or community leaders. Both Bedfordshire County Council and Luton Borough Council are currently investigating the possibilities of providing the communities with a proposed £600,000 permanent headquarters (Luton on Sunday 19.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9]
Yorkshire television has launched a series for viewers of Asian heritage called Kaam Ki Battein featuring successful Asian rôle models in non-traditional occupations. The course aims to open up new career opportunities in professions like teaching, retail and financial sectors, the caring professions and in new technology. The initiators and main sponsors of the series are Bradford QED which wants to broaden parents' perceptions about successful careers for their children which are all too often limited to medicine, accountancy and the law. The series has been supported by the police, ambulance service and leading building societies who have all expressed an interest in recruiting more minority community members (Awaaz [community newsletter] April 1995). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9]
The Indian Muslim Welfare Society has agreed to the clauses imposed on the grant of £250,000 from Batley Action so that the money can be used to refurbish the Taylor Street Community Centre. There was a fear that the grant would be lost because of the Society's reluctance to agree to the clauses (see BMMS for March 1995) but the president of the Society said, "We have agreed to the twenty per cent and hope to raise the amount either in cash or kind... The inclusion of the clawback clause is the Department of the Environment's decision and must be accepted before we can get the money" (Awaaz [community newsletter] April 1995). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 9/10]
Muslims based in Barry have set up the Muslim Welfare Association of the Vale of Glamorgan to combat racism and promote good community relations. The association has been backed by police and politicians both locally and nationally. There are estimated to be around 800 Muslims in the area. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10]
A conference was held in the House of Commons on 29th April entitled The Gulf - A Crescent of Crisis under the chairmanship of George Galloway MP which discussed the current political situation in countries in the Middle East. As the meeting straddled the time for zuhr [midday] prayer, a space was prepared in the Members' Dining Room for what is reported to be the first formal salat [five times daily formal prayer] to be conducted in the Houses of Parliament (Daily Telegraph 02.05.95). The House of Commons catering staff prepared a halal buffet lunch for participants which was well-received (The Times 02.05.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10]
Bolton leisure services committee has accepted an application from the Bolton Asian and Afro Caribbean Advisory Centre to reduce the cost of graves for babies buried in the town's cemeteries (see BMMS for January 1995). The normal cost for a grave space is £210 but half-size plots will be made available for children at a cost of £105 and quarter-size plots for babies at £58 (Bolton Metro News 13.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10]
Four men have appeared in court following an assault on Muslims during prayer at a Swansea mosque on 4 September 1994 (see BMMS for September 1994). The men are alleged to have been drinking before they violently and racially abused Muslim men at the mosque which they had entered in a forceful manner. The trial continues (South Wales Evening Post 25.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10]
The principal of West Thames College, which was the site of a violent disturbance between Sikhs and Muslims in January of this year (see BMMS for January and March 1995), has sent invitations to the three local councils from which his students come asking them to appoint representatives to sit on a consultative forum with religious and community leaders in an effort to rebuild the good communal relationships which have always characterised the college (Brent, Chiswick & Isleworth Times 28.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10]
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is currently hosting a major exhibition of 126 pieces of Islamic art taken from the collection of Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the son of the Kuwaiti foreign minister and one of the world's leading collectors of the genre. The pieces are part of an estimated 20,000 items in the collection including 13,000 coins. The collection was built up over many years before the escalation of prices in the 1980s. Some of the most important works were housed in the Kuwait National Museum before it was destroyed by the Iraqis during the Gulf War. Fortuitously, the pieces currently in Cambridge had been sent to St Petersburg for an exhibition in the Hermitage Museum before the outbreak of hostilities and they have been travelling the world ever since. Much of the remainder of the collection was saved by the Sheikh's employees who hid it during the period of occupation although some 58 pieces have disappeared including three of the world's finest emeralds (The Independent on Sunday 30.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 10/11]
The popular women's monthly magazine Marie Claire (May 1995) ran a short article contrasting the lives of two cousins, one in London and the other in Karachi. The Londoner was 27, unmarried, a housing officer on £1,000 per month and living at home with her parents. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education and develop a career. "I'm allowed to wear what I want, but I am not allowed to go out with boys on my own. I would like to go on holiday with my girl friends but that would be frowned upon... Pakistan is a place to visit, not to live. I don't feel accepted there. People view me as British, although I don't feel fully British either. There is more choice here. If I don't get married, I could stand on my own two feet without it being frowned upon."
The Karachi woman was 24, a medical doctor earning £40 per month and living with her husband, a doctor in his forties, in the home of his parents. They married after her husband saw her at a wedding and appointed a mediator to make the arrangements between the families. Unlike many married men in Pakistan, he wanted his wife to continue working. "I have a busy social life and I go out with friends I made at medical school. Women never go out alone in Karachi because of the sexual harassment. There's an awful lot of it... People here tend to think Pakistani girls from Britain are fast, bold and outspoken... My main problem is finding a balance between my career and married life. [My husband] wants me to have children, but I want to wait until my career is established." [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 11]
Waltham Forest Council has convened a meeting of all interested parties to explore the idea of staging a "Summer Asian Festival" in 1996 comprising of sporting and cultural events to celebrate the heritage of the local community of Asian extraction. The festival, which hopefully will attract sponsorship, will be one of the council's major outdoor events of the year (Daily Jang 21.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 11]
The Duke of Edinburgh, as International President of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, was the host for a major international seminar on religion and conservation at Windsor Castle at the end of April. The seminar reviewed progress since religious leaders demonstrated their concern for environmental issues at the interfaith gathering at Assisi in 1986. Delegates to the seminar included Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, Professor Muhammad Hyder from Mombasa and Dr Ihsan Mahasneh from Amman (Q News 21.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 11]
Muslim anti-abortion campaigners joined with others in staging a series of silent demonstrations in 45 towns and cities throughout Britain on 29th April as part of a "Pro-Life Chain" (Asian Times 06.05.95). The Muslim side of the demonstrations was orchestrated by Dr Abdul Majid Katme who commented, "According to Islam, God is the Giver and Owner of life... It is He only who can give it or take it... The beginning of life starts from conception, and every being has to be protected by all means. At around six weeks of pregnancy, the soul is breathed in from the Creator" (Q News 21.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 12]
Stickers advising people not to take part in the recent council elections were seen in various parts of Britain particularly Birmingham and Derby. The stickers read, "None of the electoral parties in Britain represent Islam - DON'T VOTE, IT'S HARAM". They went of to quote the qur'anic verse "Those who do not rule/judge by whatever Allah has revealed, such are the kafir [rejectors of belief]" (Derby Evening Telegraph 04.05.95). Police in Derby are reported to be investigating the matter. A police spokesman said, "We are investigating whether an offence has been committed - the stickers could be contravening an election law". Muslim leaders and Muslim representatives from various political parties condemned the notices and advised people to ignore them. The secretary of one Derby mosque said, "It could be some kind of young hard-line organisation but I don't know what their motivation would be. We are living in a multi-cultural society and I would advise Muslims who want to vote to go ahead". [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 12]
Plans to build a new library and book shop at the Markfield conference centre of the Islamic Foundation have received the support of the planning department and are expected to be approved by the planning committee (Hinckley Herald 04.05.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 12]
The theme of Muslim under-representation in parliament was taken up in an interview with Robin Cook, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the Daily Jang (28.04.95). He said, "It is wholly unsatisfactory that a sizeable community should not be represented in Parliament. At the same time, it is not something you can direct. I just hope that someone will emerge very soon. I must say here that there is sometimes a patronising attitude among some members of the white establishment who regard the Pakistani community as one monolithic body. That of course is far from the truth; there are various opinions within the community. But I am sure that someone will emerge soon and it will be from the Labour Party". [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 12]
A "public notice" was published in Q News (28.04.95) bearing the photograph of a "man going by the name of Mr Mohammed A Hamid, age 46, of Kashmiri origin, [who] is dishonestly collecting funds claiming that it is for orphans and other needy people in Palestine and elsewhere. INTERPAL [a registered charity working for Palestinian relief] has learned that he has conned many people and other Muslim charities and he is currently wanted by the Police". [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 12]
The Sangat Day Centre in Keighley is staging an exhibition in the Muslim Community Centre. It will comprise of work painted by elderly members boosted by all manner of artifacts depicting the richness of Asian heritage drawn from the homes of local people. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 13]
Muslim community leaders in Heckmondwicke have pledged themselves to work with local councillors and Westminster politicians to build up the community through attracting inward investment and grants from the European Social Fund to improve derelict areas of the town. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 13]
The dearth of black and Asian journalists serving on the staffs of major newspapers was explored in an article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in an article in The Independent (25.04.95). She traced the apparent lack of concern about the problem, the fact that many jobs are not even advertised and the lack of any coherent training or recruitment initiatives aimed at the minority communities. "Change is long overdue. But it will only come about if editors actually think about ethnic representation and do not waste time finding reasons to defend the status quo." She called for a range of proactive measures including training schemes, bursaries, advertising in the ethnic press, offering places for work experience and opening up lines of communication between editorial staff and minority communities. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 13]
The issue of people of Asian heritage becoming involved in soft-pornographic videos and magazines was aired by a programme in the East series by BBC called Lifting the Veil which was screened on 25th April. Both male and female models appear in magazines aimed at the heterosexual and homosexual markets. Many of the models are British-born and see such work as a legitimate way of earning money. Those who defend the trade see it as a reflection of Britain being "a Godless society" whilst those who attack it see it as contributing to a breakdown in traditional family values. Some of those involved defend such photography as an art form and contrast it with hardcore pornography which comes out of the Indian subcontinent (India Mail 20.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 13]
The International Herald Tribune is currently running a series on immigration issues, the second of which was entitled Europe Bridles at Its Muslims (08.05.95). It concentrated on the larger European Muslim populations in France, Germany and Britain with a subheading of Racism, Poverty and Fear. Certain themes were seen to be running throughout Europe particularly the rise of right-wing political groups, unemployment and increased racism. In France there were particular fears of organised crime and drug abuse. The British focus was turned on the East End and Bradford where unemployment and the rise of racist political parties were identified as particular problems. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 13]
The Luton Islamic Cultural Association organised a panel discussion on the rôle of the United Nations, especially in the Muslim world. Speakers included Farid Kassim of Hizb ut-Tahrir and Simon Benjamin from the UN (Luton Herald & Post 20.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14]
Children aged 11 to 15 have been raising money in the Highfields area of Leicester under false pretences. The young people have been passing themselves off as collectors for the Islamic Relief Fund and have taken hundreds of pounds from donors who have not checked their identification. The charity has issued a warning and asked all potential contributors to check that collectors have official ID cards before parting with their money. The police are investigating the frauds (Leicester Mercury 15.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14]
Dewsbury District Community Health Council, with funding from Batley City Challenge, has produced a video film for hire to interested parties exploring the rôle of genetic counselling in consanguineous marriages. The film is directed by Dr Farooq Beg who has a long-term commitment to community health problems and who was instrumental in producing earlier materials on HIV and AIDS in the minority communities. He said, "Consanguinity is the second most sensitive issue in Muslim communities after HIV and AIDS... We have been accused of encouraging the wrath of Allah but all we are trying to do is challenge centuries-old tradition and raise awareness of the health implications for future children born of these unions" (Yorkshire Post 15.04.95). The film follows the story of a Muslim woman who is engaged to be married to a first cousin when genetic disorders are revealed in her brother through a health crisis. The woman is played by a 34 year-old professional singer from the Muslim community who saw health problems developing within her extended family at the time that her parents were intending to arrange her marriage to a cousin. She explained, "I wanted children but I did not want to suffer for the rest of my life and explained this to my parents... They had never thought about it when they went out looking for arranged marriages. It is part of tradition and consanguineous marriages have many social advantages and encourage stable links between good family groups but my parents had never realised the health implications". [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14]
Zahid Yaqoob, joint managing director of the Birmingham-based Halal Meat Company, is to join the board of the Birmingham Marketing Partnership which seeks to promote businesses in the area. Apart from his business interests, Mr Yaqoob is also involved in several charitable enterprises and is the chairman of the Birmingham Pakistani Business Executives Club (Asian Times 29.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14]
Four Muslim councillors were returned in recent local government elections in Scotland. They were all Labour candidates and will serve on Glasgow City Council. Bashir Maan, who was the fist Muslim councillor in Britain when he was originally elected in 1970, was re-elected after a break of eleven years. Mohammed Sarwar was elected in Pollokshields East and hopes to be a candidate in the next general election for parliament. The other two councillors are Shaukat Butt and Hanzela Malik (Muslim News 28.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14/15]
Councillor Taj Ali was elected for the Harehills district of Leeds in the elections in May 1994 as the first Muslim councillor in the city. He sits on the education committee, property services sub-committee and race equality committee. Unfortunately, Councillor Ali has not attended a committee meeting since 5 December 1994 and now faces disqualification because of his poor attendance record. Local authority rules require that every councillor must attend at least one meeting every six months although the norm would be that each would attend several dozen meetings during the municipal year (Yorkshire Evening Post 26.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 14/15]
An exhibition of lamps based on Islamic artistic principles is being staged at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The lamps are the work of Paul Vipond from Lancaster who has spent many years travelling in Muslim countries developing an understanding of Islamic impulses. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 15]
Around 100 members of the Asian community in Kirklees attended the inaugural meeting of the Kirklees One Nation Forum which supersedes the Kirklees Conservative Muslim Management Committee. The forum is supported by local Conservative councillors and Muslim members of the Conservative Party. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 15]
Three eighteen year-old Muslim boys were amongst those awarded bursaries under the Daily Telegraph Urban Bursary Scheme to facilitate their progress into higher education. The three, from deprived inner-city areas of London and Bradford, will receive £1,000 each. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 15]
Rochdale LEA has approved a new agreed syllabus for religious education in its schools which will make the study of Christianity and Islam compulsory at every key stage with the study of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism being options to be incorporated at the schools' discretion. Christianity will still form the predominant religion to be explored but the compulsory position of Islam has generally been welcomed (Rochdale Observer 29.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 15]
Manchester College of Arts and Technology has opened its new multi-faith prayer room which has been designed and furnished by students from the college. Students have worked on harmonious themes which are represented in the windows, prayer mats and prayer stools. It contains a clubhouse, "confidential room" and the prayer room itself with facilities for Muslim students to make wudu [ritual washing before prayer]. The college has 375 full-time teachers with 20,000 students split between three campuses. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 15/16]
Stratford School in east London was the scene of a bitter dispute between the headteacher and a faction of Muslim governors in the late eighties which led to the school opting out of LEA control in 1990. It has now been the subject of a third formal report from OFSTED which is again damning. The Education Secretary has taken immediate action in accepting the resignation of the chairman of governors and appointing four new governors including an industrialist and three senior educationalists. The Borough of Newham education committee has expressed a willingness to take the school back into LEA control but there would be no guarantee that it would not be closed as it is less than 50% full and has an appalling academic and managerial record (The Guardian 06.05.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16]
The application to build a madrassah on part of Sparrow Wood in the Thornhill Lees district of Dewsbury which attracted a good deal of opposition from environmentalists and local residents (see BMMS for March 1995) was considered by the planning authority on 21st April but it was decided to suspend discussion until a site visit could be made to enable councillors to assess the strength of both supporters' and opponents' views (Dewsbury Reporter 21.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16]
Following a meeting with parents at the Wilford Meadows Comprehensive School which was organised in conjunction with the Meadows Muslim Action Group, it has been agreed that the school will set aside a room for Muslim students to pray. The room will have wudu facilities and will operate on one day per week initially for a trial period. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16]
The Al-Muntada Al-Islami Trust has finally received planning permission to convert the upper storey of its teaching centre in Bridges Road, Fulham into residential accommodation to house up to fifteen senior students and teachers. The building is a converted warehouse which has served as a school since 1966. The current permission has been under negotiation for the last four years and will require the school's management to install frosted glazing to certain windows which overlook nearby houses. There has been significant opposition from neighbours who fear that the scheme will result in additional noise and parking problems (Hammersmith Chronicle 23.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16]
The Times Educational Supplement (28.04.95) ran a special report on art in primary schools in Kirklees. It was found that artwork with this age range ties in with many aspects of the school curriculum such as maths, science and history as well as making a signal contribution to exploring personal relationships. Particular notice was taken of the way in which Muslim sensitivities were respected in the investigation of Islamic art as well as non-figurative art from western artists such as Monet. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16]
The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has come in for some criticism over its failure to ensure that National Curriculum tests (SATs) in English, Maths and Science did not clash with the festival of Eid ul-Adha. As it was, the tests were scheduled for May 5th, 9th and 10th; the latter dates coincided with the Eid. The solution was to allow schools who were affected to postpone tests for 24 hours. "It's regrettable that when a large proportion of the British public has a religious festival the Government can't take it into account", said the headteacher of one London comprehensive (The Guardian 02.05.95). Concerns were expressed in Birmingham, where up to 20 schools were affected, that pupils whose tests were delayed would be able to find out the questions from friends at schools who took them on the pre-arranged date. According to the co-ordinator for assessment in the city, "We have had discussions with SCAA and I suspect they are a little embarrassed, but it was too late to reschedule all the tests. It will only be a problem where a school with a number of Moslem [sic] children is near a school taking tests on the usual days" (The Birmingham Post 03.05.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 16/17]
The Afro-Caribbean and Asian Forum in Nottingham has claimed that Nottingham County Council's failure to supply halal food in its schools is resulting in children turning to junk foods and thus suffering from a poor diet which in turn has a deleterious effect on their performance in examinations. The group cited the recent Rowntree Foundation research into inequalities in Britain as an indication of the realities of the problem. The council has undertaken to re-examine their position on this question which they say is limited by the additional cost of providing halal meat (Nottingham Evening Post 10.04.95). The same council rejected an appeal for money saved by not having to provide free school meals for Muslims fasting during Ramadan to be used to provide Eid parties in secondary schools (Nottingham Evening Post 06.04.95). The money thus saved has been used to offset educational expenditure generally. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 17]
Planning permission has been refused for the building of a new mosque and centre by the Baitul Aziz Islamic Cultural Trust in Dickens Square, Bermondsey. There are five hundred worshippers attending Friday prayers in the current mosque, the lease for which expires in 2005, but the plans only allowed for space to park 25 cars and thus they were rejected. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 17]
A noise limit order has been placed on the mosque which has been under construction since 1986 on the corner of Drewton Road and Darfield Street, Bradford. Objections had been lodged with the council which ruled that the amplified adhan [call to prayer] must not exceed 75 decibels and can only take place between 0800 and 2100. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 17]
Bradford Islamic Cultural and Educational Association was refused retrospective planning permission last year to continue using a domestic garage as a mosque. They appealed to the Department of the Environment and lost their appeal (see BMMS for November 1994; January 1995). Bradford Council then served an enforcement notice on the group to require them to stop using the garage as a mosque. The group has now appealed to the Department of the Environment to have the enforcement notice overturned (Bradford Telegraph & Argus 04.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 17]
The Bangladesh Mosque Committee in Coventry has applied for planning permission to convert a former public house into a mosque which would accommodate a maximum of 30 people at any one time. Planning officers are recommending that the plans be accepted but there is some local opposition to the additional noise and traffic congestion which are anticipated. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 17/18]
The Tayside Islamic Centre has lodged plans for the construction of a mosque with car parking facilities on Miln Street and Brown Street, Dundee. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
An application to build a two storey extension on top of an existing extension at the Central Mosque in Halifax has been rejected by the planning authority on the grounds that it would cut out direct light to the adjoining house and would not comply with regulations governing the space between houses. The occupant and owner of the adjoining house, who himself worships in the mosque, was wholly supportive of the extension but the planning authority ruled that this was insufficient to overrule their regulations as he might not always live in that property. The council has made it clear that a single storey extension which complied with regulations might be more favourably considered (Halifax Evening Courier 13.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
The Muslim Welfare Association in Hartlepool has applied to convert their current temporary planning permission to use the first floor of a house in Milton Road as a mosque into a permanent grant. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
The committee behind the Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre in Hounslow, which had been forced to halt building work on the £1.5m project due to lack of funds but which re-started work in February (see BMMS for February 1995), has now launched an advertising campaign for £335,000 to pay for the current phase. It is stressing that the mosque will serve Muslims passing through Heathrow Airport as well as local inhabitants. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
The Kingston Muslim Association celebrated their success in April when they reached the half-way point in their appeal for £100,000 to extend their mosque on East Road, Kingston upon Thames. There are now 5,000 Muslims locally which renders the twelve year-old mosque too small. The proposed extension will include facilities for women, library, office space and areas for social functions and youth activities. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the site of the present mosque on Berners and Bakewell Street, Leicester. The plans, submitted by the Leicester Muslim Society, call for the present row of four houses to be demolished and replaced by a purpose-built mosque at a cost of an estimated £800,000. Restrictions were placed on the amplification of the adhan which must not exceed 70 decibels, must be of less than two minutes duration, may only be made four times per day and then between 0730 and 2100. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
The Brick Lane Mosque in Aldgate, London is a grade II listed building having originally been built in the 17th century as a Huguenot chapel and later used as a synagogue. The committee are now applying for permission to add several minarets and a fibreglass dome to the structure. The local council is opposing the application which is held to be out of keeping with the Georgian architecture of this historic building. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 18]
Planning permission has been granted to the UK Islamic Mission in Manchester to build a three storey mosque and community centre in Cheetham Hill Road. The adhan is restricted to between 0800 and 2000 (Moston, Middleton & Blackley Crumpsall Express 30.03.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
The Lanarkshire Muslim Welfare Society has applied to Motherwell District Council to convert two disused factory units on an industrial estate into a mosque and community centre at an estimated cost of £400,000 (Hamilton Advertiser & County of Lanark News 07.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
The application by the Manor Park Islamic Centre to extend their premises in Romford Road, Newham (see BMMS for december 1994) has been withdrawn. Instead permission has been granted to convert an adjacent former grocery shop into a mosque and cultural centre. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
Reading Borough Council is to investigate the possibilities of building a mosque on the site of Battle Hospital. This follows an extensive public consultation. The local Friends of the Earth group has suggested that the building could be used to exemplify energy efficient building designs and techniques. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
Three hundred Muslims in Southall took to the streets to protest against an enforcement notice served by Ealing Council on the Abubakr Mosque in Villiers Road. The mosque occupies a four-bedroomed house in a residential area which is deemed inappropriate even though Muslims have pointed out that there is a church, a gurdwara, a school and two nursing homes in the same street. The Muslims are alleging discrimination and are challenging the enforcement procedures through the courts. They have pointed out that they were the highest bidders for Southall Town Hall when it was on the market last year but failed to have their offer accepted (see BMMS for January, March and July 1994). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
Southampton Mosque Trust has released an artist's impression of what their proposed £1m mosque in St Mary's Road will look like when it is completed (see BMMS for March, June and July 1993; September 1994). So far £200,000 has been raised and there are hopes of commencing work this summer. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
The planning authority in Stockton conducted a site visit in connection with an application to build a mosque and community centre on the site of Glebe House in Bowesfield Lane. There has been some opposition to the scheme based on increased noise and traffic congestion in the area. The planners decided to postpone a decision until they could gather further information. [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]
Muslims in Truro approached the local council with a view to hiring a room in the Truro Boys' Club for prayers on Fridays. The council has control over letting the property, which is not used at that time each week, and it is acknowledged that there are few public rooms to rent in the city. The council decided that using the building for public worship was inappropriate in terms of its lease which stipulates that it should be used for youth functions only (The West Briton 06.04.95). [BMMS April 1995 Vol. III, No. 4, p. 19]