British Muslims Monthly Survey for May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Khan wedding and the press

Arab dissidents in London

Sikhs and Muslims in Southall

The Muslims are coming

Circumcision on the NHS

Visit of Crown Prince Hassan

TV programme: Dispatches

Focus on Muslim Europe

Penetrating Islamic art

Short Reports

Ownership of Newport house mosque

London Ramadan Radio

Crawley mosque attacks

Rushdie latest

HFA criticised

Focus on Hizb ut-Tahrir

Muslim lawyers' meeting

Reporting Eid ul-Adha

The Last Temptation of Christ

Law lecturer wins case

Concerns over prostitution

Muslim second marriage

Dignitaries visit Muslims

'I' is for Islam

Electricity desk in mosque

Ahmadiyya and Save the Children

Asian entrepreneurs praised

Healthy exercise for women

Youth conference successful

Manchester community centre

Tragic deaths at Eid

Nazir-Ali: Mission and Dialogue

Pigs' heads in the street

Restaurateur with three wives

Alcohol and the Asian community

Glasgow social worker vindicated

Sikh death in Slough

Muslim Care seeks manager

Welcome for divorce law

Racial Harassment at Work

Welfare Attaché for Manchester

Multi-lingual dietary tapes

Extra cost for graves

Manchester Gorton re-selection

Harlow community centre plans

Aberdeen man admonished

Internal divisions, Halifax

Leicester interfaith gathering

Alliance of Religion and Conservation

Investment company formed

Iqbal and the fine arts

Housing association expands

Muslim woman for parliament?

From Ta'izz to Tyneside

Seminar on human rights

Birmingham grants for voluntary groups

Art exhibition roundup

Two imams profiled

Enfield race attack

Shortage of kidney donors

Reading Muslims seek youth grant

Mars factory: no time for Eid

Muslim cemetery for Nelson

Demonstration on Kashmir

Hindu temple fire, Oldham

Christie Hospital helps Lahore

Football for Chechnya

Bury: Jinnah Centre

Updates

Education

New chair for SOAS

Dance classes in Tower Hamlets

"Challenge 94" success

Muslims meet Gillian Shephard

Multicultural Dulwich College

Bradford's multilingual excellence

No seats on Havering SACRE

Leicester madrasah plans doubtful

Liverpool education conference

Mosques

Accrington

Barking

Bolton

Chesham

Edinburgh

Manchester

Oldham

Stockton

 

 

Features

Khan wedding and the press

The facts of Imran Khan's marriage to Jemima Goldsmith following her prior and independent conversion to Islam have now been clearly established but the way in which it was reported in the press is instructive. The Independent on Sunday (14.05.95) noted that Miss Goldsmith had converted "through her own convictions" after studying Islam but concentrated its attention on the effect of such a marriage on Mr Khan's political aspirations in Pakistan under the headline "Imran's big day could jeopardise his career". It carried a quotation from "one close observer of the Pakistani political scene" who said, "Imran's chances of entering politics on any kind of conservative platform will be shattered by this. It is very difficult to reconcile with his condemnation of Western culture and his insistence that Pakistanis should take pride in Islamic culture... Even if his wife became a Muslim, it would be no good as long as she remained a modern woman. To satisfy conservatives, she would have to wear the veil at all times and keep to her home".

The report in the Sunday Express (14.05.95) set the tone for a simplistic account of the life of a woman in Pakistani society by saying that Miss Goldsmith had "agreed to convert to his religion as part of her bargain to wed the former cricket star twice her age". The Wolverhampton Express & Star (15.05.95) repeated several erroneous reports that the couple had already been married secretly two months ago and continued, "And it was claimed this afternoon that he [Mr Khan] is set to impose the full strictures of Islamic law on Jemima... It was revealed that he will fiercely oppose any hint of feminism in married life and will demand that his wife must wear the traditional dark veils of the Chador".

The account in the Birmingham Post (15.05.95) typified some of the more balanced reporting by quoting extensively from Mr Khan's and the families' statements about how happy everyone was with the marriage. It revealed that the engagement ring was none other than a ring which Imran had bought for his mother which she returned to him on her death bed with the request that he should give it to the girl that he decided to marry. The report then went on to detail some of Mr Khan's earlier consorts including the assertion that he had been discussing marriage with one "until one month ago". Two Pakistani commentators were quoted to the effect that, "As a good Moslem he would have married a Pakistani girl who did not have a fortune" and "If it's true that he's going to marry the daughter of a Jewish businessman, and a strong supporter of the State of Israel, then politically he's dead".

Several newspapers took the opportunity of writing about other western women who had converted to Islam or married Muslim men (The Times 16.05.95, Edinburgh Evening News 17.05.95, The Guardian 17.05.95). The Manchester Evening News (16.05.95) organised a telephone poll with the question "Was she right to convert to Islam?". In favour of the proposal it listed the facts that Miss Goldsmith had made an intelligent, personal decision realising "the restrictions the Moslem religion places on a wife" and noting the numbers of women ministers in the government of Pakistan and the fact that more women than men are enrolled in the University of Karachi. She would be entering the "smartest Pakistani society, which is much more stimulating that most westerners... are suggesting". "In many respects, it is far from being a repressed society." Against the proposal, it noted "the fundamental changes they face in their lives". Amongst the "sacrifices" which Miss Goldsmith will have to make, were listed such things as being unable to drive a car, wear smart short skirts, drink champagne or going out on her own. It concluded, "Despite her ill-advised conversion, Pakistan doesn't tolerate outsiders easily. And however successful the marriage, she must always have one niggling thought on her mind: how many other wives will Imran Khan take?"

The press coverage prompted several Muslims to write to the letters column of The Independent (17.05.95). One noted that the future Mrs Khan would not have to "veil herself from head to toe" but could emulate the dress code of Benazir Bhutto and "wear the comfortable, gracious and modest shalwar qamiz (loose trousers and overshirt) with a gauzy chiffon scarf draped lightly over her head, not concealing even her hairstyle, let alone her face". Further, "There is nothing in Islam which forbids such a marriage; nor, indeed, is there any religious requirement for Jemima to embrace Islam, for Imran could, without violating Islamic law, have married a Christian or a Jew without her conversion". Another letter pointed out how well Queen Noor of Jordan had made the transition to Islamic society. "As for living in Pakistan, this should hardly prove too much of a problem for Miss Goldsmith. The élite in Lahore and Karachi, which the soon-to-be Mrs Khan will be part of, enjoys in most aspects better freedom and better standards of living than you would find here in the United Kingdom... As for alcohol, or dress codes, it is known that, as a host of a party, to hold a 'dry' party would be to invite disaster, as no one would bother to come. And, as for clothes, I have seen more skin in Lahore and Karachi than I have at any party in London". Finally, a third letter pointed out that, "There are thousands or career-orientated Muslim women throughout the world, even in Pakistan, where women are at least making headway in the fields of finance, politics, medicine, teaching and the social work spheres".

Writing in the media review of The Guardian (22.05.95), Anwar Tambe wrote of the press coverage, "No opportunity was missed to use and misuse every stereotype in the book. Much of what was written about how Muslims live was unrecognisable to the vast majority of Muslim men and women. You would be forgiven for thinking that Jemima, far from marrying one of the most glamorous men in the world, was in fact signing herself up for a spell in Alcatraz. Islam was reduced to the status of a cult with strange beliefs on a par with the Aum Supreme Truth... But the image of Imran as a mad mullah periodically thrashing his wife to show who was boss and taking up his quota of four wives somehow did not ring true". "For many it was yet another opportunity to bash Islam and, according to some writers, the inhuman way it treats women... The Daily Express described how Jemima appeared 'to be learning how to take second place to her husband'." And the former editor of the Sunday Times, writing in the Daily Mail, "warned how she seemed to be 'sleepwalking to slavery'."

A founder trustee of the Calamus Foundation, a Muslim organisation devoted to promoting better understanding between the Abrahamic faiths, writing in the Daily Jang (19.05.95) began his lengthy and devastating exposure of the press coverage by saying, "One of the most disturbing aspects of the over-whelming British media interest in Imran Khan's long-awaited marriage is the extent to which, almost without exception, it has been seen as a heaven-sent opportunity to express anti-Islamic, anti-Pakistani and racist views. The tone of much of the coverage has been vitriolic in the extreme - the kind of language that, if used about Jews, would immediately and rightly be challenged as unacceptably antisemitic. Yet, somehow, because the targets are Islam and a Muslim-majority country, it appears to be acceptable to articulate this undifferentiated hatred and venom. Fortunately for the journalists who express these views, there are no laws in Britain against vilifying a religion, and they must hope that they have kept their racism sufficiently veiled to avoid challenge in the courts... There have been all too few attempts, by more scrupulous commentators, to present a balanced argument, let alone to refute the Islamophobic nature of article after article, even in the so-called serious press. It is true to say, though, that the air media has been less vitriolic and more balanced than the print media." One particular visual image noted in the article is worthy of special mention. "The Times incidentally, is so ignorant of the culture of the subcontinent that they illustrated an article sub-headed "The strict Islamic lifestyle that Imran Khan's fiancée can expect in Pakistan" with a colour picture of Jemima in a plunging neckline alongside a black and white photo of a Hindu bride". [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 1-3]

 

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Arab dissidents in London

The theme of the unwelcome activities of Arab dissidents resident in Britain, which had been raised by a speech by the Foreign Secretary at a banquet in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Arab League (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for April 1995), was taken up by the Prime Minister at "an unusual luncheon meeting with 15 ambassadors and chargés d'affaires, as well as representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Arab League" (The Times 18.05.95). "He told the ambassadors that there was nothing Britain could do to halt the activities as long as Muslim radicals did not break British law. But his sharp remarks suggested that the Government is keen to discourage any more opponents of friendly Arab governments from seeking to set up opposition bases in London."

The report went on to detail specific Arab dissidents who are resident in Britain and concerning which the governments of Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have expressed concern. The pressure of the French government on Britain to curb the activities of Algerian FIS members was also noted. Two key factors were held to be attracting such dissidents to Britain: the fact that they were not required to renounce all political activity when they sought asylum here and the presence in London of the editorial offices of several prominent Arabic language newspapers.

The same issues came under scrutiny in an extensive article in The Independent (23.05.95). The main focus of the report was the activity in London of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR) which is a broad pressure group intent on the overthrow of the ruling house of Saudi Arabia. Its key figure is Mohammed Mas'ari, a Saudi physicist now in exile in London where he runs a freephone telephone service permitting people from Saudi Arabia to call without leaving any traces on their own accounts. The size of the operation can be judged by a telephone bill for the last quarter amounting to £27,000. Mr Mas'ari explored the impact of the Iranian revolution, war in Afghanistan, Gulf War and the decline in oil revenues on the people of Saudi Arabia which, he claimed, has led to disillusion and dissent. He predicted the overthrow of the House of Saud and outlined the kind of "Islamic state" which he would like to see. Concerning his relations with Britain, Mr Mas'ari said, "we have had barely any pressure from the British Government" which led the article to conclude "Perhaps they are quietly hedging their bets."

In a side article, attention was drawn to the activities of other Arab dissidents in Britain, notably from Tunisia and Bahrain, but including Iran and Iraq. The history of such exiles here was traced back to the Lebanese war of 1975. Particular notice was given to the way in which the BBC World Service in Arabic and Persian has an attentive audience throughout the area as well as the growing influence of BBC Worldwide Television.

The subject was also featured in an article in The Guardian (27.05.95). The article profiled the activities of groups opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, both by Iraqi dissidents and Iranian-backed groups. Similar dissident groups were reported from Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, the Gulf states and the Sudan. The article then went on to focus on the activities of groups opposed to the current regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Algeria. The recent comments of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were reported together with the inference that Britain is about to clamp down on the number and activities of such dissident communities in Britain.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 3/4]

 

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Sikhs and Muslims in Southall

Police in Southall issued a warning that they would clamp down on unruly behaviour during the Eid (Southall Gazette 05.05.95). There were fears that rival groups of Sikhs and Muslims were trying to out-do one another in the exuberance of their celebrations following on from the last Sikh festival which was boisterously celebrated in the same area. In particular, fear was expressed about the driving of fast cars on Southall Broadway. In addition to the reinforced police presence, Muslim community leaders acted as stewards. In spite of these precautions, serious disruptions occurred in which 500 Sikh and Muslim youths were reported to be in conflict over a period of 11 hours. Two hundred riot police were deployed and eighteen arrests on public order charges were made (Walsall Express & Star 11.05.95). Somewhat different figures were reported locally with 500 Muslims against 300 Sikhs and with 165 police making 25 arrests. Leaders from both communities were praised for their efforts to prevent the trouble which was caused in part by Muslim youths from Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham and Slough (Southall Gazette 12.05.95).

A Sikh temple in Villiers Road, Southall was desecrated by a gang of youths on Monday, 22nd May. A gang of up to 14 Asian and black youths are reported to have forced an entry through the front door of the temple and smashed windows, lights and fittings causing around £1,000 worth of damage. The secretary of the temple said that "Witnesses say they wore Islamic fundamentalist clothing" (Ealing & Acton Gazette 26.05.95). Muslim leaders arrived on the scene quickly to offer their sympathies. During the previous weekend two imams accused Sikh youths of being responsible for attacks on their houses in the area during which windows were smashed. In all the incidents, the youths left the scene before police arrived.

The tension between the two communities was investigated by the Muslim journalist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in a feature article in The Independent (06.06.95). She reported on local people's fears about the rise in tension and the way in which the police are adopting a higher profile to prevent problems developing. The way in which events have been written up in the press was criticised but a genuine fear exists nevertheless. For years, Southall was a model of racial and inter-religious harmony to which many people came to learn but now the politics of the subcontinent are having an impact with groups favouring the creation of a Sikh state of Khalistan and a counter-pride in the existence of Pakistan. An underlying cause of the tension was seen to be the social deprivation of the area and the exceptional rate of youth unemployment which led to rampant disaffection.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 5]

 

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The Muslims are coming

The Revd Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in London, contributed a four-part series of articles in the Christian Herald under the general title The Muslims are coming. The first (13.05.95) dealt with the early history of Muslims in Britain, the period of mass migration and spoke of those who came first to this country as refugees or students. It gave general statistics about the population of Muslims in Britain, their geographical distribution, age profile and the establishment of mosques throughout the country. What was otherwise a well-balanced article concluded with the paragraph, "Huge numbers of Muslim charities have recently been established in Britain, several hundred of which are registered with the Charity Commissioners. Giving to charity is an important part of the Islamic faith. However, many of these 'charities' do not have purely humanitarian aims; rather, they are raising money for fundamentalist opposition movements dedicated to the violent overthrow of various Muslim governments".

The second article (20.05.95) focused on the economic profile of Muslim communities looking at unemployment rates, the incidence of part-time and self-employed workers and the higher than average number of self-employed people employing others. The housing situation was explored. The relationship between Muslims in Britain and "fundamentalists" was examined with particular reference to the number of dissidents resident in Britain and organising opposition movements from this country. The activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir were explained at length and the way in which such groups are attracting young disaffected Muslims in this country. Islam's stand against racism was also an attractive facet for many. It was noted that, "The second generation of Muslims in Britain appears to be polarising into secular and fundamentalist, while their parents by and large remain in the middle of the spectrum and disapprove of both extremes." The article concluded, "With the growth and development of fundamentalist Islamic groups in Britain and other parts of Europe, there arises the spectre not merely of random acts of terrorism but even of the possibility of selective attacks directed against individuals or groups opposed to Islamic fundamentalism".

In the third article (27.05.95) he focused on Islam as a missionary religion. There was an unsubstantiated claim that Hizb ut-Tahrir "targets 2,000 people a week, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to re-educate the former and convert the latter". An extensive report was given of the activities of the UK Islamic Mission which has been in operation in Britain for over thirty years and now has 40 branches across the country. This included extracts from an interview given by the general secretary to Q News (see BMMS for August 1994). Mr Sookhdeo spoke of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 British converts to Islam of which "the majority [are] middle-class women" but include people from the aristocracy and academia. Several of the controverted questions about accommodating Muslims in Britain were discussed including the provision of Muslim schools, incorporating Islamic family law into the British legal system, providing halal meat, Muslims exercising their rights as citizens in the political system and acknowledging the multi-faith nature of British life in public affairs.

In the fourth and final article (03.06.95), Mr Sookhdeo concentrated on Muslim organisations which are active in Britain and which were held to be an indication of the strength and manner of Islam exercising influence in British life. "A broad spectrum of highly structured Muslim activity in the UK includes welfare, student and youth organisations, Muslim aid agencies, organisations that arrange Islamic funerals, Muslim mission agencies, advice centres, organisations concerned with correct Islamic education, Muslim media and research centres, Islamic terrorism organisations, professional bodies such as the Islamic Medical Association, and organisations for marriage-arranging." He spoke of the number of mosques established in Britain as a guide to the proliferation of Islamic influence, "Over 1,000 mosques are known nationwide."

Mr Sookhdeo then went on to catalogue some of the Muslim "agent organisations" which operate in Britain with sponsorship and control being exercised by Muslim countries and groups. In the political sphere he mentioned the Muslim Parliament, Muslim World League, UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, Muslim Welfare House and the Palestine and Lebanon Relief Fund. In the field of education, the Muslim Youth Student Association, Muslim Education Trust and UK Council of Imams and Mosques were outlined. In the field of media influence, attention was given to the UK Islamic Mission, Ramadan Radio, the Muslim Institute and the World Islamic Council. In the case of most of these organisations the supposed links to Muslim funding and political entities were stressed. Particular attention was given to attempts to introduce elements of Islamic law, "highly discriminatory Islamic law based on the Koran", in Britain. He suggested that, "The institutions of British society - the monarchy, political fraternities and the Church - have not yet awoken to the strategy of Islamic organisational and establishment [sic], nor to the role Islam plays in the international arena from growing power-structures in Britain". He concluded, "Whether through aggressive acts or ingenuity played out in various Islamic structures, Muslim influence within the UK is poised to increase".  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 5-7]

 

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Circumcision on the NHS

Sandwell Health Authority came in for criticism from Muslim community leaders when it decided that it would not provide male circumcision operations as part of the National Health Service. The operations, amounting to some 120 babies per year, would cost the authority an estimated £16,000. Community leaders claimed that the operations should be paid for because they were beneficial to health but this was contested by the health authority (Sandwell Express & Star 17.05.95). Currently the operations are conducted privately and it is feared that some will be done in an unsafe manner unless the health service steps in. In the light of sustained Muslim pressure, the health authority agreed to think again about its decision (Black Country Evening Mail 19.05.95).

The decision by Sandwell Health Authority was later reversed. Muslim leaders had claimed that circumcision was beneficial to health but the decision was based on a feeling that it would be safer to have the operations conducted on the NHS rather than leave them to be provided privately by doctors with limited facilities. A spokesman for the health authority said, "We have listened to the concerns of community leaders and we wanted to safeguard the residents of the borough as much as possible" (Sandwell Express & Star 29.05.95). A doctor in the area admitted manslaughter after a nine year-old boy died last year as a result of being given excessive doses of diamorphine and tranquilisers in preparation for a circumcision operation (Birmingham Post 31.05.95).

Conflicting reports were given concerning the availability of circumcision operations in other health authorities. "A spokesman for the West Midlands Regional Heath Authority said that they were not aware of any other local authorities which offered the operation and it was up to each district to decide on whether to provide the service" (Birmingham Post 31.05.95). However, "a Sandwell Health Authority spokesman said that other local authorities around Britain had already decided to give free religious circumcision on the NHS" (Sandwell Express & Star 29.05.95). The decision has provoked an angry response from one Sandwell councillor who said, "I have had a large number of people telling me how aggrieved they feel over this decision and I can understand that. This is not a racist thing or anything like that - it's simply that people feel that the money should be spent on live-saving treatment" (Black Country Evening Mail 31.05.95).  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 7]

 

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Visit of Crown Prince Hassan

It was announced last December that Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan would give an address during a service in Christchurch, Oxford (see BMMS for December 1994). The Prince is a former student of the college and has a daughter there at present who is due to graduate this summer. As the 4th June date for the event drew closer, certain Christian leaders voiced their concern. Dr Roger Beckwith, warden of Latimer House, said, "There is quite a bit of unease amongst people of various schools of thought. In a Christian church the Christian gospel is the message which is supposed to be preached. To invite a Muslim to preach, however eminent he may be, seems to me to be an inappropriate thing to do, because one would expect him to preach what he believes. If he believes in Islam that is not the message that is supposed to be preached from a Christian pulpit" (Oxford Journal 18.05.95). The Dean of Christchurch, who invited the Prince, said, "When people consider a matter like this it all depends on how they judge religion and my view is that what people morally achieve is extremely important... In this line the crown prince [sic] is a man who has achieved an enormous amount for peace in the political realm and also worked very hard for peace between religions... He has a very active interest in good relations between Islam and Christianity".

In the days preceding the address, the debate over the event amongst Christians continued. The Bishop of Oxford issued a statement strongly supporting the decision saying that, "It is important that the Christian Church should play a continuing role in developing neighbourly relations between Judaism, Christianity and Islam" (Oxford Journal 01.06.95). The Dean of Christchurch defended his decision in a radio interview saying, "Matters of peace, justice and goodness, and the sort of thing he has worked for and the sort of man he is, are actually central to the Christian religion" (Church Times 02.06.95).

Evangelical clergy were reported to be questioning the legality of a Muslim preaching in an Anglican church and seeking for legal redress to prevent a recurrence of the situation. The Revd Tony Higton, the founder of Action for Biblical Witness in Our Nation, said, "I think the cathedral authorities are quite wrong to invite him, although I mean no disrespect to the Prince... A sermon is the ministry of the Word, and a Moslem cannot minister the Word... We are dealing here with someone who does not believe the Christian faith and he's being asked to preach the Christian faith and that is wrong. It conflicts with canon law and I plan to raise the issue at General Synod to ask about its legality". He also criticised the Dean for not controlling the form of the service, "The Dean doesn't know whether the Prince is going to read from the Bible or the Koran" (Church of England Newspaper 02.06.95).

The address was reported in The Times (05.06.95), where it was stated that the Prince "called for tolerance between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, which shared common roots and aims". When the Prince began his address, "A male member of the congregation stood up and shouted: 'Jesus Christ is the only one who can reconcile you with God'."  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 8]

 

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TV programme: Dispatches

In the wake of the Channel 4 TV programme Dispatches (see BMMS for April 1995), Bangladeshi groups in the UK are calling for the alleged war crimes to be investigated. The Bangladesh Anti-War Criminal Committee, the Bangladesh Youth Movement and the Shapla Youth Force are urging the Scotland Yard War Crimes Unit to investigate the three men named in the programme (Asian Age 10.05.95).

A public meeting was held in the East End to which the programme makers were invited to rebut allegations of inaccurate reporting. The programme researcher told the meeting, "We are not saying that these men are guilty of war crimes. It is up to the British Government to look at the evidence and take action under the 1957 Geneva Convention... It is up to the Bengali community to sign petitions and send them to the Home Office, [and] Scotland Yard's War Crimes Squad to voice their demands. The Bengali community must not let this issue die with the programme" (Daily Jang 12.05.95). The Bangladeshi community in London are reported to be divided over the issue and a main focus of concern is why these events should have been given publicity 24 years after they took place. The Bangladeshi High Commission in London was reported to be non-committal concerning the events which are covered by a general amnesty in Bangladesh. The only place where proceedings are in any way likely to be begun is the United Kingdom.

One of the men named in the programme, Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, has been suspended from his job as a housing officer with a London housing association (Q News 19.05.95). The same report says that it has been claimed that "the accusations are part of a plot by secular Bengalis aimed at discrediting the growing Islamic Movement in Bangladesh". "The upshot of all this is to cast a cloud over the legitimate activities of Muslim individuals and organisations in Britain as unsavoury, loathsome and even criminal", according to Iqbal Sacranie of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs. There is concern in the Bangladeshi community about the motives of the programme makers given that little has been said about atrocities committed against Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya and by the government of Israel against Palestinians. Apparently, "a spokesman from Scotland Yard told Q News that there is no law that currently applies directly to crimes of the nature committed in Bangladesh. The Genocide Act is strictly limited to World War II. Any investigation into claims made by the Dispatches programme will be at the discretion of the Home Office".

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has cancelled meetings scheduled to take place on premises owned by them (East London Advertiser 18.05.95) where the organisers or speakers are associated with the three men named in the programme. The two meetings which have been cancelled were organised by Dawatul Islam and the Islamic Forum Europe. The reason given by the council was that there might be a "possible breach of the peace" (Q News 02.06.95).  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 9]

 

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Focus on Muslim Europe

The weekly news magazine Newsweek (29.05.95) devoted eight pages to an exploration of the Muslim communities of Europe, particularly in Belgium, Britain, France and Germany. The history of conflict between "Christian Europe" and Islam was traced without much emphasis on the more positive aspects of the interchange. In each country, the patterns of immigration were explained and the ways in which different countries had set about accommodating their Muslim communities. The French assimilationist approach was starkly set against the communal integration approach of Britain and the myth of temporary guestworkers in Germany. In Britain particular attention was drawn to the lack of political power amongst Muslims and their failure to develop a united communal infrastructure which would allow genuinely representative voices to emerge.

Special sections were devoted to particular topics. One dealt with the presence of Muslim dissidents in various European countries. Attention was drawn to the way in which they were developing new insights into Islamic living and thinking in the different atmosphere of Europe but likewise, readers were alerted to the potential for Europe becoming a recruiting ground for militants who can arm themselves here and engage in sorties into Muslim countries. Another special section was devoted to an interview with Hanif Kureishi, the author of several books which explore the cultural interface between communities of Asian heritage and the majority British society. He explained how disparate are the groups within the Muslim community in Britain today and likened them to the Trotskyites of the sixties who appeared to be cohesive from the outside but internally were riven by deep divisions. He spoke of the cancer of racism and the impact of the Rushdie affair in portraying Muslims as "lunatics" and "fanatics". There was a sense of frustration in the inability of Muslims to make inroads in political representation whether through mainstream parties or separately.

The contribution of writers, particularly in French but also in English, to providing insights into the lives of Europe's Muslims and people in Muslim countries was the subject of a third special section. Several writers of Arab extraction were cited who had become best-sellers but whose work passed largely unnoticed by literary critics. Intellectual ideas from the Arab world, as well as more tangible contributions like particular foods, were held to be ways of breaking down the barriers of mystique and suspicion. Similarly, such writers were held to be re-awakening memories of the contributions to European civilisation from the golden ages of Islamic history. This section concluded by saying, "If its true that over time, familiarity breeds content [sic], then there is ultimately hope for harmony between old Europe and its newest citizens."

The final paragraph of the entire report summarised the message, "The lines are being drawn, and resolving the conflict will be difficult. Two hostile civilisations that have hated each other for more than a thousand years are now living in the same space. But unless ways are found to bring the two cultures together, building a common future from a divided past, Europe may face countless years of turmoil to come."  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 10]

 

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Penetrating Islamic art

As part of a special section devoted to Islamic art, the Muslim weekly Q News (05.05.95) carried an extensive interview with Professor Keith Critchlow the director of the Visual and Islamic Arts Unit at the Royal College of Art, London. He explained that he first became interested in Islamic art through the study of philosophical geometry. Islamic geometry is "by far the most superior geometry that has ever been done by any particular culture". With Islam's prohibition on representational art, "the Islamic genius was poured into pattern and geometry, and it meant that sciences and the arts came much closer together in Islam". He spoke of Islamic art as being outside time, as a crystallisation of impulses from another dimension. "Art is a crystallisation of prayer, that means that the Islamic way of looking at the universe is that it starts from God and it comes down through a series of intelligences and becomes something." The particular manifestations of Islamic art might vary from one place to another and can be seen to "borrow" from other traditions but what makes them "Islamic" is this understanding of their relationship to divine impulses.

In response to a question about the principle features of Islamic art, Prof Critchlow said, "That is very simple: it is to remind you of God and your duty to pray to God. To inspire your soul and remind you of God". Because of the injunction against representational art, "there was a much greater tendency to look at what we now might call those realms which take place before perception - I would say that Islamic art brings into the sensible domain evidence of the intelligible domain: until we got a microscope we couldn't see how exquisite a snowflake was, and anything we have discovered by empirical science has confirmed that however finely we go into nature there is exquisite order, and usually geometric order. All the serpentine/vegetable forms in Islamic art represent the energy underlying life rather than representing a piece of life itself". He noted the way in which Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities had always been in contact in the sphere of art and pointed to the way in which Islamic carpets, for example, are often to be found depicted in Renaissance Christian art.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 11]

 

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Short Reports

Ownership of Newport house mosque

The dispute over a house in Newport, Gwent, which was formerly a hostel for Arab seamen with the basement converted into a mosque (see BMMS for September 1994), has recurred. Local Muslims complained when the daughter of the original owner put the house up for sale but the tension was defused when she agreed that the house would not be sold. Now the woman's son and daughter have moved into the house to live and stopped the use of the basement mosque. They claim that the house is semi-derelict and that the public access has led to abuse. The family claim that only one man has come to the house to pray in the five months in which they have been living there and that there are two other mosques within 200 yards of the house. Local Muslims are claiming that the original owner left the mosque to the community and are considering taking their claim to the courts (South Wales Argus 06.05.95).  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 11]

London Ramadan Radio

The three local radio stations which were set up in London during Ramadan and which operated under "Restricted Services Licences" where the subject of several complaints to the Radio Authority about their unbalanced broadcasts (see BMMS for February 1995). The stations were associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir and allegedly broadcast anti-Jewish remarks. The Radio Authority has responded to the complaints by saying, "We didn't know when we granted the licence who these people were... We have tightened up our procedures, asking more questions about religion or politics so that this does not happen again" (Evening Standard 19.05.95). Concern was expressed in Bradford, where Bradford Ramadan Radio, which has an impressive record of service to the community, has already been granted a licence for next year, that the Radio Authority was in danger of "tarring all Muslim broadcasters with the same brush" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus 19.05.95).  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 12]

Crawley mosque attacks

The half-built mosque in Broadwood Rise, Crawley, which is being built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, has been the subject of attacks by vandals for some months (see BMMS for January 1995). A workman's hut has been burnt, materials have been stolen, racist slogans have been daubed on walls and partially built walls have been knocked down. Community leaders have now begged the police to catch the culprits before community members lose control of their anger (Brighton Evening Argus 19.05.95). A local police inspector said, "We consider the damage to the mosque a serious issue and we are looking at ways of supporting the community and assisting with security... We want to reassure the community that they do not need to take their own steps, we do not want vigilante action". The community also has the support of local councillors.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 12]

Rushdie latest

According to "an exclusive report" in the News of the World (21.05.95), Salman Rushdie is now charging rent to the Special Branch officers who protect him. "At least two Special Branch minders live with Rushdie at any one time at a string of addresses around Britain". Protection for Rushdie "has so far cost taxpayers £6 million". Rushdie himself contributes thousands of pounds towards his own protection but "Senior Scotland Yard officers are furious at the deal and say Rushdie... should be happy they keep him alive".

According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph (21.05.95), there are substantial grounds for thinking that the Iranian government is seeking to distance itself from the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989. The move comes out of a desire by both Iran and the countries of the West to improve relations so that trade routes can be opened. The BBC reported that an initiative might be expected "within two weeks" (Daily Jang 06.06.95). According to the same report, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that the Iranian government is determined "to expand our relations with Europe". Further, "our government is not going to dispatch any commando to kill anybody in Europe".  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 12]

HFA criticised

The Muslim Parliament's Halal Food Authority has come under renewed criticism particularly from Zahid Qureshi, a butcher from Tooting, London who claims to have handed back his HFA licence. Qureshi claims that daily inspection visits by the Authority's inspectors are irregular and meat is tagged in the cold store rather than at the point of slaughter, therefore "the HFA cannot guarantee that the meat is 100 per cent halal" (Financial Times 23.05.95). The chairman of the HFA insists that Qureshi was expelled and did not resign. He claims that the few butchers who have withdrawn from the HFA scheme have done so because they were not willing to pay the levy to ensure that all procedures were properly carried out. A larger number has been expelled for mixing haram [forbidden for Muslims] meat with halal. This perspective was confirmed by "Mr Ahmed Versi, editor of the monthly Moslem News [sic], [who] says mixing halal and non-halal meat, rather than the authority's alleged laxity, has prompted the recent fall in membership from 20 butchers to 12".  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 13]

Focus on Hizb ut-Tahrir

The monthly magazine GQ (June 1995) devoted four pages to a special article on the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain under the headline "UK Jihad". The article catalogued a series of HuT-associated activities beginning with anti-Jordanian protests at the time of the peace deal with Israel and surveying student unrest in various colleges across London. The Khilafah Conference at Wembley Arena in August 1994 was a particular focus of attention and the historic roots of the HuT in the Middle East were traced. Anti-Jewish and homophobic references from HuT writings and speeches were cited although it was noted that leaders had carefully distinguished between opposition to the State of Israel and respecting the Qur'anic rights of Jews themselves. This was followed by a review of previously reported incidents ranging from the detention of Omar Bakri Mohammed in 1991 after comments about the legitimacy of assassinating the Prime Minister, through "infiltration" of various student bodies. Points of particular interest were, a claim that the HuT magazine Khilafah has a circulation of 150,000, a note that the Khilafah Conference is thought to have cost £55,000 and a reference to the Muslim Parliament, who's human rights spokesman was quoted, as "the umbrella grouping for Britain's 1.2 million Muslims".  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 13]

Muslim lawyers' meeting

The seminar for Muslim lawyers, staged under the patronage of Q News, which was held in London on 6th May, was reported in that newspaper (19.05.95). A total of 120 people attended to hear a programme advertised with six speakers (see BMMS for April 1995). Particular attention was given to three points in the report: an exploration of what constitutes "incitement to religious hatred" in law and the need for such a law on the UK mainland, the potential for interaction between Muslim family law and the British legal system, and the potential for the fledgling Association of Muslim Lawyers to contribute to the legal debate in Britain from the principles of Islamic jurisprudence.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 13]

Reporting Eid ul-Adha

The importance of the Hajj [pilgrimage to Mecca] and Eid ul-Adha in Muslim life was explained and celebrations were reported from Bradford, Burnley, Crawley, Ealing, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Halifax, Harrow, King's Lynn, Leamington Spa, Luton, Manchester, Nelson, Pendle, Rotherham, Scunthorpe, Southampton and Slough. In Birmingham, a new radio station was launched on 30th May to serve the community of Asian heritage but it was permitted to broadcast additionally for four days in advance of its official launch date to coincide with the Eid. The first live broadcast was by the Lord Mayor.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 14]

The Last Temptation of Christ

The decision by Channel 4 television to screen the controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ as part of a season of films celebrating the work of the director Martin Scorcese prompted immediate opposition from some Muslim and Christian circles. The film "contains a scene depicting Jesus fantasising on the cross about making love with Mary Magdalene" (Q News 19.05.95). It caused a storm when it was first released in 1988 which resulted in the BBC allowing its rights to screen the film to elapse. Iqbal Sacranie, the national convener of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs said that he would be mobilising opposition to the Channel 4 screening. He said, "We will be taking action. Any abuse or vilification of the figure of Jesus is simply not acceptable in a civilised society". The Revd Graham Stevens, Chairman of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, said that "It's a great shame that Channel 4 is to screen the film especially given the level of feeling against it. Had such a film been made about Muslim leaders it would clearly not have been shown for fear of the repercussions".

Extensive press coverage was given to the statement issued by the Islamic Medical Association protesting against the decision to screen the controversial film. The statement noted that, "All the British Muslims and Muslims of the world are shocked and angry with Channel 4 for its insistence to show this blasphemous film despite the continuous protest from the Muslims and the Christians... Jesus Christ was a man of God and is fully respected by the Muslims all over the world. To depict him 'making love to Mary Magdalene' is a big lie and an insult to both Muslims and Christians" (Shropshire Star 05.05.95).  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 14]

Law lecturer wins case

A Muslim law lecturer, who had been held back on senior lecturer grade for 12 years, took his case to an industrial tribunal. Dr Amir Ali Majid is employed by the London Guildhall University, formerly East London Polytechnic, where he proposed that two new posts of principal lecturer should be formed in 1990. He was promised that one of the job descriptions would be written so as to favour his application. In the event, in the adjudication of the industrial tribunal, the authorities in the university "established selection criteria which they knew the applicant could not meet and which they knew would give him a very slim chance of appointment" (Q News 19.05.95). The tribunal also found that he had been the subject of victimisation on three other counts including his lack of postgraduate supervision even though his progress to this function had been checked by virtue of an internal memo which said that to allow such a move would not fit in with the strategic plans of the department. Although the tribunal found in Dr Majid's favour, it has no power to order the university to appoint him to the principal lecturer grade.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 14/15]

Concerns over prostitution

The plight of people living in areas frequented by prostitutes was the subject of a report in the weekly magazine Best (23.05.95). It surveyed the situation in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol and Glasgow with particular reference to the action of Muslims in Birmingham, who had mounted street patrols, and the TV series Band of Gold which highlighted the situation in Bradford much to the annoyance of local Muslims. The problem of moving prostitution on from one area to another was exemplified and the question of "zones of tolerance" was explored. Of particular worry was the way in which violence and drug abuse seemed to be linked to the practice of prostitution and the effect which it had on neighbourhood children who had begun staging competitions to see who could find the most condoms on the streets in the area. Many examples were given of women and girls who are not involved in prostitution being propositioned by kerb-crawlers.

In the light of the television series Band of Gold which was set in the Manningham district of Bradford and explored the lives of fictitious prostitutes, the Sunday Telegraph (28.05.95) and Sunday Sport (04.06.95) both wrote up the real situation which is encountered there on the streets devoid of the glamour of the television series. The articles brought out the tensions between the prostitutes, their pimps and the local community who live in the area. Particular note was taken of Muslim pressure groups who are intent on forcing prostitution off the streets.  [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 15]

 

Muslim second marriage

The case of a Muslim man in Derby who contracted a second Islamic marriage with a woman that he had known for 12 years whilst remaining married to his first wife in Manchester, with whom he has had seven children, attracted press attention (Derby Evening Telegraph 19.05.95). The man has been dividing his time between the two women for some years and said, "I could have kept Janice on as a mistress but I thought 'why not marry her?' because my religion allows it". The second wife said, "He wanted to get married to make our child legitimate when it is born... Under Muslim law, he is allowed to have five [sic] wives. I don't feel that comfortable about just being one of them but I think his other wife is resigned to it now." A spokesman for Derby's Jamia Mosque commented that whilst Muslim men are allowed to take more than one wife, it is less common now. "This man will have to make sure he supports both equally and that he does not favour either of them". [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 15]

Dignitaries visit Muslims

The president of Bangladesh, Abdul Rahman Biswaf, who was in Britain for the VE Day celebrations, paid a visit to the Bangladeshi community in Folkstone during his time in this country. During his stay, he toured the Eurotunnel exhibition centre (Folkstone Herald 18.05.95).

The Mayor of Scunthorpe was the guest of the Scunthorpe Somali women's group at a dinner to mark the start of the hajj.

The Mayor and Mayoress of the Royal Borough of Maidenhead paid a visit to the Maidenhead Mosque to coincide with the local elections. It enabled the Mayor to address an assembly of Muslims and to learn more about the Muslim way of life (Maidenhead Advertiser 12.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 15]

 

'I' is for Islam

Currently, The Independent is running a series looking at modern beliefs following through letters of the alphabet. When it came to the letter 'I' the subject was Islam (17.05.95). By way of contrast to some of the other entries, this was "the one subject about which we wouldn't dare attempt flippancy". The item noted that many people are so busy making sure that they don't upset Muslims that they never bother to find out exactly what Islam stands for. "So we never notice that Islam can actually be spelt without 'ic fundamentalism' on the end". "The truth is that Islam in Britain is by and large a benign and privatised religion by contrast with states where it takes a more theocratic manifestation..." "British Islam forms a unique melting pot... Fundamentalists form a noisy minority which is difficult for Islamic moderates to challenge, but most British Muslims seem to be synthesising the best of their religion with the parts of the surrounding culture they find attractive". [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 16]

 

Electricity desk in mosque

The Seeboard Electricity Company in Croydon is considering setting up a customer service desk in the Croydon Mosque so that they can deal more efficiently with queries which people might have regarding their electricity bills. The company is exploring the possibilities of recruiting people with community languages to deal with customers and are negotiating with the mosque authorities about holding a weekly surgery there (Croydon Advertiser 05.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 16]

 

Ahmadiyya and Save the Children

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in Ilkley staged a charities evening at which cheques totalling almost £20,000 were given to various charities including Save the Children and the Roy Castle Cause for Hope Appeal (Ilkley Gazette 04.05.95).

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK, through its 45 branches, organised a 26 mile walk through the Yorkshire dales to raise a total of £10,500 for the charity Save the Children. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 16]

 

Asian entrepreneurs praised

Business entrepreneurs from the community of Asian heritage in Rochdale were praised recently at a seminar organised by Rochdale Enterprise and the newly-formed Business Link which has been set up by the Department for Trade and Industry to support businesses seeking to get established or expand. The seminar was backed by the National Westminster Bank and drew speakers from a range of professional services. It was noted that traditionally Asian businessmen have been reluctant to seek help from the wider business community but that now there were many professional advisers from within the Asian community who could offer direct assistance. The "major contribution" of Asian businesses was acknowledged with the hope that they would expand through links with the chamber of commerce and similar groups (Daily Jang 19.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 16]

 

Healthy exercise for women

Bristol Area Specialist Promotion, in collaboration with Avon and Bristol Asian Women's Network, Bristol City Council, Bristol University and Avon Health, has appointed a full-time health worker to investigate and promote a healthier exercise routine for women from the South Asian communities in the area. The idea was prompted by concern to reduce the women's risk of heart disease (India Mail 11.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17]

 

Youth conference successful

Young Muslims in Keighley organised a day conference in a local youth club with the expectation that around 70 people might attend. In the event, 150 people attended to hear lectures on Islamic subjects and poetry recitations in Urdu and English. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17]

 

Manchester community centre

The Pakistani Community Association has been given control of the Pakistani Community Centre, Longsight, Manchester which was repossessed by the council last year after financial irregularities (see BMMS for August, September and November 1994). The Association has set up a new management structure and will be given a licence to run the centre for one year initially subject to final agreement on terms and conditions (Manchester Evening News 11.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17]

 

Tragic deaths at Eid

An 18 year-old Muslim youth from Fallowfield, Manchester was driving a car along the A57 between Glossop and Sheffield when he apparently lost control on a bend whilst racing another car at an estimated 80 m.p.h. and plunged into a 50 feet deep reservoir. The driver and his four passengers aged 19 to 23 were killed. The car was hired in Manchester using the documents of an older brother as the driver had no licence. The accident has been linked to the modern version of the traditional horse races which have marked such celebrations of the great Eids. Mohammed Zalid Dar, a solicitor from Rusholme, told the press, "During the past seven years, there have been several incidents of young Asian drivers getting hurt while racing hire cars, particularly on the motorway towards Blackpool... It would not surprise me at all if this was the case here" (Manchester Evening News 19.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17]

 

Nazir-Ali: Mission and Dialogue

The latest book by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Mission and Dialogue: Proclaiming the Gospel Afresh in Every Age (SPCK, £8.99) was reviewed in the Dartford Times (11.05.95). The central theme of the book was held to be the concept of a God for all nations. In an historical overview, Nazir-Ali explored the links between Judaism, Islam and Christianity and cited references from the scriptures of the three traditions to show similarities expressed through prayers. The bishop concludes, "In the end, the great visions in the bible of people from many backgrounds, many tongues, many tribes, many nations, worshipping God must be what sustains us in our hope for humankind". [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17]

 

Pigs' heads in the street

Two cases of pigs' heads being left outside buildings have been reported in the Wanstead area. One was found outside a house in Wanstead and the other outside the Ilford Islamic Centre. The police are treating the second incident as being racially motivated and have appealed for evidence (Wanstead & Woodford Redbridge Guardian 11.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 17/18]

 

Restaurateur with three wives

An Iranian Muslim restaurateur from Kidderminster attracted attention when he took a 21 year-old local woman as his third wife. His two earlier wives are both Italians. The first he married in Istanbul in 1985 and the second in London in 1986. An earlier marriage, from which he has three children, ended in divorce because that wife could not accept the idea of his entering polygamous marriages (Birmingham Express & Star 15.05.95). The three wives apparently dress identically by their husband's choice and are reported to have an amiable relationship in which they all share a large farmhouse near Bewdley (Birmingham Post 16.05.95). Police are reported to be investigating the polygamous situation "to find out if an offence has been committed" (Worcester Evening News 18.05.95). The man protests that he has committed no crime as he did not enter the country with more than one wife and he has not attempted to have his subsequent Islamic marriages ratified in a civil ceremony. The restaurateur commented that, "In nature a lion has four females in his pride... I am not saying I am a lion, but I am the type of man who can give to more than one woman" (South Shields Gazette 16.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 18]

 

Alcohol and the Asian community

The Alcohol Problems Advisory Service in Nottingham held an open day to explore the problem of people from the Asian community abusing alcohol. Concern was expressed about people drinking in parks because it was not acceptable within their communities. At the same time it was held that both Muslims and Sikhs were drinking at home "behind closed doors because of religious and cultural reasons" (Nottingham Evening Post 11.05.95). An editorial in the same newspaper warned against making generalisations on this sensitive question. It took issue with the Alcohol Problems Advisory Service's claim that "a large proportion of the Asian community suffer with drink problems". By its nature, statistics on alcohol abuse are hard to find in any community and any suggestion that such abuse is abnormally high amongst British Asians could provide the grounds for others to make mischief. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 18]

 

Glasgow social worker vindicated

An industrial tribunal in Glasgow has found the Strathclyde Regional Council guilty of racial discrimination and unfair dismissal in the case of an Asian social worker who was denied promotion and was the subject of irregular practices in disciplinary proceedings which eventually led to his dismissal. The 59 year-old man was dismissed in 1989 and has been unemployed since. He is demanding over £200,000 in compensation to make up for lost earnings, pension rights, injury to personal feelings and loss of future employment (Daily Jang 12.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 18]

 

Sikh death in Slough

The death of a Sikh man in Slough has been linked by speculation to long-running tensions between the Sikh and Muslim communities in the town. The attack was perpetrated by at least two men armed with a baseball bat and an iron bar on March 12th. A car associated with the attack has been found and sent for forensic investigation. One of the men wanted by the police for questioning is reported to have flown to Pakistan. The police are cautious about attributing any intercommunal motive to the attack. A police spokesman said, "We cannot say for certain what the motive is. The fact that they are different religions could have been an element but I would not say it is a motive. We will not know why this has occurred unless we interview the person we want to talk to and we believe he is still in Pakistan. The police are doing everything they can to bring to justice those people responsible for whatever reason it occurred... We would urge people not to take the law into their own hands - the police can and will deal with this matter" (Slough & Langley Observer 05.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 18/19]

 

Muslim Care seeks manager

The charity Muslim Care, which specialises in promoting education, health and self-help among Muslims and other needy communities in third world countries, is advertising for a fundraising manager at a salary of £18,000 to £20,000 plus a car. The manager will be responsible for promoting the charity's work and undertaking future fundraising initiatives (Q News 05.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 19]

 

Welcome for divorce law

Plans to revise the law on divorce to introduce conciliation services and emphasise "no fault" divorces have generally been welcomed by Muslim lawyers. Aina Khan, a Muslim lawyer from London, said, "If adults come to the conclusion that they cannot live together, they shouldn't have to prove fault, to justify themselves or give reasons. If there is no hope, they should be able to leave the marriage with dignity and without mudslinging. In the Islamic model, the family plays an active rôle; it doesn't here, so it must be the Government that provides a legal way of sorting it out... We are just glad that they are coming round to our ideas" (The Guardian 22.05.95). Commenting on the legislation, Sheikh Darsh, the President of the UK Islamic Shari'a Council, said "The Islamic attitude is first to try and reconcile the couple internally, between man and wife. If that does not work then a representative of each family should try to get them back together and if everything fails - including the intervention of elders, friends and well-wishers, finally the break comes" (Q News 05.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 19]

 

Racial Harassment at Work

The Commission for Racial Equality has come in for further criticism of a lack of awareness of Muslim sensibilities when it organised the launch of a major new programme entitled Racial Harassment at Work to take place on Eid ul-Adha (Q News 05.05.95). To make matters worse, the principal example of the extremes of harassment in the workplace was the case of a Muslim man who had been abused at a Bradford foundry. The CRE told Q News that the timing was an extraordinary oversight on the part of their publicity department. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 19]

 

Welfare Attaché for Manchester

A new Community Welfare Attaché of Pakistan has arrived in Manchester to take up a permanent post there. He was welcomed by the local MP, Gerald Kaufman, and local councillors at a reception organised by the Al-Masoom International Foundation which is a Muslim women's international aid organisation (Manchester Evening News 19.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 19/20]

 

Multi-lingual dietary tapes

Dieticians from the Hammersmith Hospital in London have written scripts aimed at informing people about the health issues connected with kidney failure, diabetes and high cholesterol. As these conditions are particularly prevalent amongst Asian patients, they have had the scripts translated into Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati. They will then be recorded on audio tapes with a view to their being distributed locally and sold to other health authorities. An English language tape has also been recorded for blind people (Daily Jang 12.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 20]

 

Extra cost for graves

The environmental services committee of Dudley Council is to consider a proposal that Muslim burials should be subject to an additional payment to offset the cost of the extra excavation needed to allow for wooden planks to be inserted into the grave above the coffin so that the soil does not touch it (Dudley Express & Star 03.06.95). Currently all burials in the borough cost £257 and the proposed Muslim levy would be £35. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 20]

 

Manchester Gorton re-selection

Labour Party members from the community of Asian descent in Manchester are challenging the way in which the re-selection of MP Gerald Kaufman was conducted (see BMMS for July, August, September and October 1994). Fresh evidence was claimed by a BBC2 TV programme in the East series to the effect that party rules had been broken which led to irregularities which "could have been instrumental in securing the ticket for Mr Kaufman without the need for a one-member-one-vote ballot of the constituency membership" (Manchester Evening News 24.05.95). A potential candidate for the constituency, Ahmed Shahzad of London, speaking at a meeting of the Black Socialist Society in Manchester, said that he would renew his candidacy if the bid to overturn Mr Kaufman's selection was successful. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 20]

 

Harlow community centre plans

At a public meeting called to hear what plans the Muslim community had for the future use of Northbrooks Pavilion, Harlow, the chairman of the Herts. and Essex Muslim Cultural Association said that they wanted to lease the building for social and educational activities including teaching English to "Muslim families wanting help... to enable them to integrate into society" (Harlow Star 25.05.95). Lessons would also be given in community languages and culture so that young people might be made aware of their heritage. The proposals are due to be discussed at an area committee meeting in June. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 20]

 

Aberdeen man admonished

A Muslim man from Aberdeen appeared before Banff Sheriff Court where he pleaded guilty to illegally using a farm as a slaughterhouse, slaughtering animals without using an instantaneous method and without the required licence. The case resulted from the man arranging with a local farmer to slaughter 14 lambs on his farm in May 1994. The man told the court that neither he nor members of his community for whom he had acted knew that they were acting illegally. He was admonished by the court (Aberdeen Press & Journal 06.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 20]

 

Internal divisions, Halifax

Calderdale Council set the date of 8th June for a special meeting to be held under the chairmanship of the council leader to discuss the future of the Islamic Cultural Community Centre in Raven Street, Halifax which has been the focus of a prolonged dispute over management and funding (see BMMS for December 1994; January, February, March and April 1995). A general invitation has been issued for all interested parties to attend and present their views on the future running and activities of the centre (Halifax Evening Courier 06.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Leicester interfaith gathering

An interfaith gathering was held in Leicester at which Christian and Muslim leaders spoke on a theme of Theological perception of the Other. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Alliance of Religion and Conservation

Following the international seminar on religion and conservation held at the end of April at Windsor Castle (see BMMS for April 1995), a new foundation was established called the Alliance of Religion and Conservation. The main objective of the alliance is "to promote the protection of the natural environment throughout the world in accordance with the teachings and beliefs of the world's religions" (Muslim News 26.05.95). A total of nine faiths are represented in the alliance, including Islam, which seeks to promote the great responsibility for the environment which ought to be felt by all people of faith. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Investment company formed

A number of Muslim businessmen and financial advisers have formed a company called Northstar International Ltd which will act as an independent investment and insurance broking service based on Islamic principles. The company has already promoted insurance services and is planning to launch an investment fund (Muslim News 26.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Iqbal and the fine arts

The Iqbal Academy UK has announced plans for a three-day international conference and festival on the theme of Iqbal and the fine arts. The festival will begin in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London on 13th October with an address by Professor Annemarie Schimmel on Creativity in Islamic Art. The exhibition and conference will then move to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham on 14th and 15th October where it will include an address by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Islamic art and religion. The festival will include a workshop on calligraphy as well as concerts of music and poetry recitals (Asian Times 10.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Housing association expands

The Millat Asian Housing Association, which is currently building a housing scheme in south London for homeless elderly people from the Asian community, has announced a business plan which calls for a £10m expansion to provide 350 new homes by 1998 (Daily Jang 07.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 21]

 

Muslim woman for parliament?

Pola Manzila Uddin, the deputy leader of Tower Hamlets Council, was profiled in the Daily Jang (08.06.95) as an up-and-coming politician who has had a meteoric rise in her nine years in local politics. As a woman, mother and professional social worker she is passionately concerned about local politics and the contribution which women can make to political life. Her name has been linked with the selection of a Labour candidate to contest the seat of Bethnal Green and Bow which will become vacant at the next general election when Peter Shore retires from parliament. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22]

 

From Ta'izz to Tyneside

Richard Lawless, formerly the director of the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Durham, has published a new book on the Arab communities in South Shields from the turn of the century onwards. The book, From Ta'izz to Tyneside, examines the economic, social, political and religious life of one of the first concentrated settlements of Muslims in Britain with many illustrations and recollections taken from the period. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22]

 

Seminar on human rights

Coventry Muslim Community Association is organising a seminar on human rights in the Muslim Resource Centre on 11th June. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22]

 

Birmingham grants for voluntary groups

Birmingham City Council has approved a total of £2.5m in grants to 52 voluntary groups in the city who are all involved in urban regeneration schemes. One of the groups to receive a grant was the Haroonia Islamic Centre in Alum Rock which will receive £45,870 (Birmingham Evening Mail 01.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22]

 

Art exhibition roundup

Oldham is playing host to a major arts festival entitled Asian Summer which will run in the town until 25th June. The festival will consist of music, comedy, poetry and drama drawn from the subcontinent culture. There has been a musical play drawn from the reminiscences of local pensioners about their childhood years in India. An Urdu drama for women is planned with the title We sinful women which will explore the lives of Asian women. There will be concerts of classical music and a comedy cabaret including the use of mime and dance (Oldham Evening Chronicle 22.05.95).

An exhibition of embroidered hangings has been staged in Sandwell by various Asian groups in the area. The exhibition will continue in various Midlands locations until early July. The works will eventually be taken to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where they will form part of an exhibition in a Mughal tent in 1996. The tent will eventually contain work of a similar nature drawn from 50 women's groups throughout Britain.

The An-Nisa Society in Wembley, London staged a festival of Islamic art, music and crafts from 30th May to 4th June. Items on display included calligraphy, tile-making, painting, story-telling, drumming, rap artists and talks about wedding traditions. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22]

 

Two imams profiled

Two imams were profiled in the press. Maulana Asif Ali was brought up in High Wycombe before being educated in Milton Keynes, Lahore and al-Azhar university in Cairo, the oldest in the world. In addition to relief work at the mosque in High Wycombe, he is currently teaching in the Jamia al-Karam college in Eaton Hall, Retford, Nottingham where he is educating the next generation of imams to serve in Britain (Bucks Free Press 19.05.95). By contrast Dr Abduljalil Sajid is an experienced imam who has been working in Brighton since 1974 after an earlier career as a university teacher in Pakistan and Bangladesh. He was profiled in the "new job" series in The Guardian (24.05.95). He spoke of his community work in Brighton in addition to which he is also a JP, an adviser to the Home Office and the assistant general secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 22/23]

 

Enfield race attack

Police in Enfield are appealing for witnesses to an attack by two white youths on a group of four elderly Bangladeshi men who were walking home from the mosque at 2255 on 13th May. The men were kicked and punched but not seriously injured (Enfield Advertiser 24.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 23]

 

Shortage of kidney donors

An epidemiologist from Luton University has published the results of some research on kidney transplants within the local Asian community. The demand for kidneys has gone up at double the normal rate over the past six years. People waiting for transplants have to wait 50% longer than the average for a suitable organ due to a shortage of donors coming forward. One reason is held to be that some Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus erroneously believe that it is contrary to their religion to leave their organs for transplantation. Another problem is that blood group B is found in 40% of Asian people, which is five times the proportion in the general population. It appears that 25% of all those waiting for a kidney transplant in the area are of subcontinent extraction whilst they only represent 10% of the total population. The reasons why this might be the case will be the subject of further research (Which? Way to Health June 1995). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 23]

 

Reading Muslims seek youth grant

The Muslim Action Group in Reading has asked the borough council for a grant of £700 to provide facilities for young Muslims in the area who, they say, are currently loosing out on developing social skills through lack of opportunity to mix in single-sex youth clubs. The group has also spoken about the mistaken ideas of many Muslim parents who keep their children at home so that they are "safe" but overlook their need for social mixing (Reading Evening Post 30.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 23]

 

Mars factory: no time for Eid

Some Muslim workers at the Mars chocolate factory in Slough have complained about the company's reluctance to give them time off for the celebration of Eid. They claim that this is a recent phenomenon as the company used to allow them to take holidays to coincide with religious festivals but now they can get plenty of cheap temporary labour and so staff relations have deteriorated. A company spokesman said, "We do respect the religions of our associates while taking into account the needs of the business" (Slough & Langley Observer 26.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 23]

 

Muslim cemetery for Nelson

In spite of considerable opposition from local residents and a forceful recommendation from the chairman of the environmental health and control committee that the council's policy was to favour "full integration of various ethnic groupings" (see BMMS for January and February 1995), it was decided by Pendle Council to set aside 350 grave spaces exclusively for Muslims in the Walton Lane cemetery, Nelson. One councillor commented, "It is a denial of their rights if these Muslim people are not allowed to be buried here"(Nelson Leader 25.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

Demonstration on Kashmir

A major demonstration was organised by the Pakistan People's Party (UK) to call on the Prime Minister to intervene in the continuing violent situation in Kashmir (Daily Jang 26.05.95). Around 1,000 people are reported to have taken part with a contingent travelling from Slough (South Bucks, Burnham & Iver Express 01.06.95). A similar rally was organised in Bradford by the Bradford Council for Mosques (Bradford Telegraph & Argus 02.06.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

Hindu temple fire, Oldham

The Indian Association temple in Oldham was the subject of an arson attack on 21st May in which flammable materials were ignited at the front and rear of the building. Three youths of Asian appearance were seen running away from the scene. The blaze was brought under control by the fire brigade but damage has been estimated at several hundred pounds. It is feared that the attack "may have been carried out by local Muslim groups in response to Indian actions in Kashmir" (The Oldham Advertiser 25.05.95). A similar incident has also been reported from Slough. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

Christie Hospital helps Lahore

The Christie Hospital in Manchester, which is world-famous for its pioneering work in the treatment of cancer, has an established link with the Imran Khan hospital in Lahore. The experiences of a specialist nurse who spent five weeks in Lahore on loan to the hospital were reported in the Manchester Evening News (24.05.95). She spoke about the difference in conditions which she experienced between the two hospitals and the stream of 80 patients per day coming to the hospital for treatment. Her task was to train local nurses in appropriate techniques and procedures. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

Football for Chechnya

The Islamic Society at Havering College of Further Education organised a charity football event to raise money to relieve the sufferings of people caught up in the fighting in Chechnya. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

Bury: Jinnah Centre

Bury Council has provided £80,000 to build a new community centre, the Jinnah Centre, to serve the needs of the elderly from the local community. However, there has been a dispute about the management committee of the centre which certain Muslim leaders are claiming is comprised of hand-picked people chosen by the council without due regard to the existing leadership within the community. They are suggesting that when the community centre is finished and opened it will be boycotted by significant sections of the community on these grounds (Bury Messenger 18.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 24]

 

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Updates

Education

New chair for SOAS

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has endowed the School of Oriental and African Studies in London University with £1m to enable them to found a chair of Islamic Studies to enhance understanding between the West and the Muslim world (Peterborough Evening Telegraph 18.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 25]

 

Dance classes in Tower Hamlets

Thirteen Year 7 and 8 pupils from the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets have been taking part in a scheme exploring ancient Indian dance routines under the guidance of an acclaimed choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. The scheme is sponsored by the Women's Playhouse Trust and has been enthusiastically welcomed by the girls and the school which has a 98% Muslim intake. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 25]

 

"Challenge 94" success

A group of pupils, teachers and people from industry from the High Wycombe area took part in a week-long series of activities and challenges called "Challenge 94" organised in the River Dart Country Park on Dartmoor. One of them was 15 year-old Henna Yussuf who did so well on the project that she was selected to address a gathering of chief education officers to tell them about the course. Henna said, "I was, I felt, quite lucky that I was able to go as I am a Muslim girl... A lot of Asian girls especially don't get a chance on a week away, so I felt very lucky that my parents let me go" (Bucks Free Press 12.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 25]

 

Muslims meet Gillian Shephard

A group of Muslim educationalists were invited to attend a meeting with the Education Secretary to discuss education problems in the Muslim community. It appears that "Mrs Shephard tried three times to talk on funding Muslim schools, but we refused to discuss the issue" according to Akram Khan Cheema (Muslim News 26.05.95). Instead the Muslim group focused the discussion on the problems faced by Muslim children in state schools covering underachievement, racism, curriculum content, RE and collective worship, cultural misunderstandings, teacher expectations and the use of Section 11 money. Mrs Shephard undertook to arrange for the group to meet with representatives from OFSTED and the Teacher Training Agency. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 25]

 

Multicultural Dulwich College

The multicultural nature of Dulwich College, the prestigious public school for boys in south London, was extolled in an article in The Times (12.05.95). It has a thriving Islamic Society and "boys with the surname Patel now outnumber, by more than three to one, all the Smiths in the school". Many of the boys come from Indian families who came to Britain from East Africa where they were well-established in the professional classes in countries such as Uganda. Since arriving in Britain, they have had to work their way back into their professions and up the social ladder, "They are almost more British middle-class that the white British middle-class". According to the Master of Dulwich College, "Asian boys who are bright recognise this and try to apply themselves much more than white boys might. They work extremely hard to make the most of their abilities. Also, it is inevitable that their sense of family is rather different. Most of them seem comfortably able to straddle the two cultures". The article concluded by noting that there are many other children from Asian families who do not have the privileged background of the Dulwich boys. Those who came from Bangladesh with little or no English at home and with no tradition of education in their families "have yet to match the performances of many of their classmates of Indian origin". [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 25/26]

 

Bradford's multilingual excellence

Belle Vue Girls' School in Bradford draws 96% of its intake from families of Asian heritage, the majority of whom are bilingual. This inspired the new headteacher to develop ideas of establishing the school as a centre of multilingual excellence. Responding to a scheme announced by the Secretary of State for Education to establish language colleges, the school is preparing a bid for additional finances to allow it to add German, Arabic and Japanese to the French, Spanish and Urdu which it already teaches. The school serves an impoverished area, 66% of all the girls are on free school meals, and so the biggest hurdle to be overcome in their bid to become a language college is likely to be the need to raise £100,000 in private sponsorship to qualify for government help (Times Educational Supplement 19.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 26]

 

No seats on Havering SACRE

Muslims and the Free Church Federal Council in Havering applied to be granted seats on the council's Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education but their applications were turned down. The council replied that they gave co-opted seats to Roman Catholics and the Church of England as they ran voluntary aided schools in the borough but "The question of representation for ethnic minorities and Free Church members can be answered by reference to the democratic framework whereby elected members represent their constituents whatever their religious or cultural background" (Romford Leader 12.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 26]

 

Leicester madrasah doubtful

The Islamic Education Centre in Leicester is applying for planning permission to convert an end-terrace house and former builder's workshop in Harewood Street into a madrasah for 30 children but the plans have met with opposition from local people who fear that there will be traffic congestion in the area. City planners are recommending the planning committee to refuse the application on grounds of traffic congestion and concerns over increased noise levels which might disturb the adjoining house (Leicester Mercury 20.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 26]

 

Liverpool education conference

Muslims in Liverpool organised a conference in the Airahma Mosque in Toxteth to focus on the needs of Muslim pupils in maintained schools. Keynote speakers included Akram Khan Cheema, the chairman of the Muslim Education Forum, and the headteacher of Archbishop Blanch C of E school who spoke about the ways in which Muslim pupils were accommodated in her school. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 26]

 

Mosques

Accrington

Planning permission has been refused to build a two-storey extension to the mosque in Segar Street, Accrington which was formerly Emmanuel Church. The extension would have provided offices, a meeting room and toilet and washing facilities but the planners felt that the extension was just too large for the current building and usage. It would have opened the way for the building to take on fresh uses which would attract more people and thus cause parking problems (Accrington Observer 19.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 26/27]

 

Barking

After 25 years of planning, the £1m Barking Mosque has finally been completed and officially opened by the Mayor in the presence of the MP, local dignitaries and leaders from the other religions in the area. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Bolton

Planning permission has finally been given for the construction of a mosque and madrasah at the junction of Salisbury Street and Gibraltar Street, Deane, Bolton. The approved plans contain parking spaces for eleven cars and the building has been significantly reduced in size. Inadequate car parking provision was the reason why earlier applications to build on the same site had been rejected (see BMMS for January 1995). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Chesham

Muslims in Chesham, who were refused permission to convert a former brush factory into a mosque because the site was designated for industrial uses (see BMMS for June 1993; November and December 1994), have been further dismayed to find that the recently published Local Plan which sets the building priorities for the next ten years makes no mention or provision for a site on which a mosque might be built. The council has agreed to consider their grievances (The Bucks Examiner 26.05.95). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Edinburgh

Muslims in Edinburgh have been given permission to use a former shop in Temple Park Crescent as a mosque provided that there is no singing or communal recitation. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Manchester

A formal Department of the Environment public inquiry is due to be convened on 14th June to investigate an appeal lodged by local Muslims who have been refused planning permission to convert a former mosaics factory in Blackburn Street, Manchester into a mosque (see BMMS for August and September 1994). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Oldham

Planning permission has again been refused for a mosque and teaching centre in Lees Road, Oldham. A previous application was rejected due to lack of parking and traffic problems (see BMMS for February 1995). [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

Stockton

Outline planning permission has been given for the erection of a new mosque and community centre on the site of the former Sea Cadets base in Bowesfield Lane, Stockton in spite of considerable local opposition from residents on the grounds of traffic congestion. The plans did call for a 20 space car park in a neighbouring street but residents objected to this also. The planning committee decided to remove the car park from the plans on the grounds that most of the people using the mosque would live locally. [BMMS May 1995 Vol. III, No. 5, p. 27]

 

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