British Muslims Monthly Survey for March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3
On 8 March the Charities Commission froze the bank accounts of the London-based charity, Interpal, which the Israeli security forces claimed was supporting Hamas (Financial Times, 09.03.96). Before the funds were frozen but as soon as he was aware of the Israeli allegations, Essam Mustafa, vice chairperson of Interpal, stated: "We categorically deny the insinuation that we are in any way connected to any political organisation. The funds collected and distributed by Interpal are appropriately documented and the sources and destinies are certain". A few days prior to this, Michael Howard, the home secretary, said that the British police and security forces had "seen no proof to support allegations that funds raised in the UK are used directly in support of terrorist acts anywhere". Professor Paul Wilkinson, of St Andrew’s University, and an expert on counter-insurgency, said: "If the Israelis had the evidence to back up their claims, they would have passed it on to the British security services by now and action would have been taken. I am sceptical that such precise evidence exists" (Financial Times, 09.03.96). Mahmoodel Hassam, for Islamic Aid and Fadi Itani, for Islamic Relief, both denied that money was going from British-based Islamic charities to Hamas for political ends. Said Fadi Itani: "This claim has been made before but it is still untrue and absolutely unjustified. We raised £2 million last year but, due to the poverty in the Gaza Strip and Palestine, there is still a tremendous shortage of basic needs. We give money to schools and hospitals and there are many more projects" (Daily Telegraph, 02.03.96). Within days of the bank accounts being frozen, after what Stuart Cruikshank of the Charity Commissioners described as "a very constructive meeting with Interpal", the charity was cleared of any wrongdoing and its bank accounts were unfrozen (Wembley Observer, 14.03.96). Abdul Rahaman Daya, chairperson of Interpal, which is also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, commented that, since the freeze had lasted for less than two weeks, it would not have any serious effects. He added: "We are not worried about fundraising. In a year’s time, the publicity will double our income" (Financial Times, 12.03.96).
Q-News (15.03.96) claimed that the complaint to the Charity Commissioners originated with the Jewish Board of Deputies, whose spokesperson Mike Whine claimed that their complaint had been pre-empted by the Commissioners’ own announcement of an investigation. The Leicester MP Grevill Jenner called for an investigation of all Muslim charities (Morning Star, 11.03.96).
Omar Bakri Mohammed, who relinquished leadership of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1996) to lead a new umbrella group, al-Muhajiroun, in contrast to most of Muslim leaders in Britain, apparently told the Observer (10.03.96), that his party should offer "financial and physical support" to Hamas.
Sher Azam, of the Bradford Council of Mosques, said: "I would like to see concrete evidence from the Board of Deputies otherwise they should apologise to Interpal. During my visit there I saw the poor living conditions of the Palestinians - no proper sanitation, housing etc - and saw many houses which were demolished by the Israelis. If some charities, with meagre resources are helping them, instead of banning them, they should be encouraged to do their humanitarian work". Muslim News (29.03.96) carried an editorial on the subject, explaining how the press were informed of the freezing of the charity’s funds before Interpal itself had been officially informed. A further article in the same paper claimed that, following a report by the Sunday Times (17.03.96), Muslim families were living in fear because that newspaper had claimed that their building housed the headquarters of Hamas in the UK. One of the occupants was reported as telling Muslim News: "We want to clear our name and house. We are just an ordinary family like any other living peacefully". [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 1]
Two Muslim chefs, Lakhdar Bouterfas, 30, and Abdelouhab Safouane, 25, are taking their former employer, Joseph’s Ltd, to court for racial discrimination (Q-News, 09.03.96, Daily Mirror, 09.03.96, The Sun, 09.03.96). They are of Algerian and Moroccan origin respectively. Mr Bouterfas had been working at Joe’s Restaurant in Harvey Nicholls department store in central London for 18 months, and Mr Safouane for three years before they lost their jobs in December 1994. The men claim they were sacked whereas the restaurant claims they left after being threatened with demotion to kitchen porters for taking excessive time off to pray (Daily Mirror, 09.03.96). Q-News reports that the two chefs refused to comply with an order by the head chef, Raymond Hanna, a Coptic Christian, that they shave off their beards [a sign of piety amongst Muslim men] and that this led to their dismissal (Q-News, 15.03.96). Mr Hanna claimed the reasons for the dispute were that they: "... had started taking prayer time outside their half hour lunch break, sometimes exceeding it by 15 or 20 minutes and were also taking extra breaks...I also found them washing their feet and faces in the salad sink" [apparently for ablutions before prayer] (Leicester Mercury, 09.03.96). Mr Bouterfas says that when he complained that someone had urinated on his prayer mat, Mr Hanna did not investigate the complaint. Mr Bouterfas and Mr Safouane are alleging that the employers acted in ways that were racially discriminatory, anti-Muslim and against North Africans. A former head chef, Paul Matthias, told the tribunal that he had been present at a meeting where Mr Hanna, and Morris Joseph, one of the directors, had agreed not to employ North Africans, because "they’re too much trouble" (Q-News, 15.03.96). The two chefs also told of instances when Mr Hanna had told them to tell Muslim customers who asked that food was halal when it was not (Daily Telegraph, 09.03.96, Q-News, 15.03.96, Daily Mail, 09.03.96) and that on one such occasion, Mr Hanna had said: "They are only stupid Arabs. They don’t know what they’re eating" (Daily Mirror, 09.03.96).
Another recent case concerned the wearing of hijab [headcovering for Muslim women] at work. Rubina Shakoor, aged 19, from Walthamstow lost her case at an industrial tribunal alleging unfair dismissal and racial discrimination (see BMMS for January 1996). Ms Shakoor claimed that she was sacked from the firm of Ann Gray Associates, a management consultancy firm, for wearing hijab. The managing director, Ann Gray, claimed that Ms Shakoor’s adoption of hijab: "seemed to indicate an attitude which made it difficult for her to develop interpersonal and communication skills and this change came from whatever it was that made it a requirement for her to wear it. Hijab was not the problem - it was the attitude" (Q-News, 22.03.96). Ms Shakoor, whose case was supported by the Commission for Racial Equality, was angry at the tribunal’s decision and is hoping to appeal.
A white, non-Muslim chef helped a Muslim colleague to win a case of unfair dismissal against a Jewish school where they both worked. Brian Young, who brought the case with the aid of the Commission for Racial Equality, was then victimised and subsequently dismissed himself during the following weeks by his employers, a Reading industrial tribunal decided (Q-News, 22.03.96). He was forced to resign from his post as head chef at Carmel College, a Jewish boarding school in Oxfordshire because he had given evidence in support of another chef, Mohey Khalaf, two years previously in a case of racial discrimination. Mr Khalaf had been removed to another catering contract after the chairman of the governors had started rumours that he was a Palestinian spy. Mr Young will be awarded compensation for victimisation. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 2]
Three cars belonging to Muslims were set alight on 28 February, and another car belonging to a Muslim family was set alight on 1 March and a brick thrown through the window of their house (Slough & Langley Observer, 08.03.96). Chief Inspector Steve Evans of Slough police said: "It is possible that it could be linked to problems we had just before Eid between groups within the community, and we would not discount that" (see BMMS for July, August, September and December 1995; February 1996). An explosion which destroyed a halal butcher’s shop in the town was believed by police not to be part of rivalry between Muslims and Sikhs. Chief Inspector Evans commented: "There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this is anything to do with inter-religious or inter-gang rivalry" (Slough & Langley Observer, 08.03.96). During a violent confrontation between groups of Muslim and Sikh youths in Slough’s Queensmere Centre, a security guard was attacked with a noxious spray. Sgt Bob Elliott, sector sergeant for the town centre patrol, said: "Several officers dispersed gangs of youths from both Muslim and Sikh communities who were committing various public order offences at the centre. There have been no arrests made at present. I understand the young people involved were of school and college age" (Slough & Langley Observer, 22.03.96).
Two men are hoping to organise a peace conference in Slough to "examine ways to encourage better integration, understanding and tolerance between all members of the community" (Slough & Langley Observer, 08.03.96). They are Derek Norbury, who is Hindu, and Amerjeet Singh Bamra, who is Sikh. Sajidah Chaudary, of Slough Race Equality Council, commented on their initiative: "Slough Race Equality Council would be supportive of anything that improves community relations and encourages people to respect one another." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 2/3]
Nine Muslim students have been expelled from Bradford and Ilkley Community college after reports of assault and intimidation on campus. The college principal, Dr Paul Gallagher, said that the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT) had been linked to some of the anti-social activities on campus (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 01.03.96). When Hizb-ut-Tahrir held their annual meeting in Bradford on 3 March, one of the matters on its agenda was these expulsions (Yorkshire Post, 04.03.96). At Derby College, in January, the Special Branch was brought in following protests by students at the governors’ refusal to provide a permanent prayer room and because of female Muslim students allegedly being harassed over Islamic dress codes.
Derby College’s principal, David Croll, justified bringing in the police by saying: "One of our biggest concerns was Muslim community leaders’ strong disapproval of HUT. We have acted in the interests of Muslim parents and of female students" (Times Educational Supplement, 01.03.96) The activities of HuT in universities and colleges in Scotland were on the agenda of the annual conference of the National Union of Students Scotland on 16 March. Douglas Trainer, president of NUS Scotland, said: "Practical steps can be taken (against HuT on campuses) and we must make sure that these steps are not seen as anti-Islamic. Student associations need to work with progressive Islamic societies to find a middle ground. But we have to say that we will not tolerate extremism or intimidation" (The Scotsman, 16.03.96) (see BMMS for October and December 1995; January and February 1996). The Scottish conference of NUS issued a condemnation of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and approved moves to warn all students about the organisation (The Scotsman, 23.03.96).
At its annual conference at Blackpool the National Union of Students (NUS) voted to draw up a code of conduct with its member student unions and the vice-chancellors of universities to ban groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Jewish Chronicle, 29.03.96, Evening Standard, 29.03.96, Q-News, 22.03.96). Q-News (22.03.96) and the Asian Times (30.03.96) are concerned that the banning of so-called extremists from holding office in students’ unions could have serious discriminatory effects against Muslim and ethnic minority students. Ru Tarafdr, Student Affairs officer at South Bank University, London, described how, after he and other Asian and black students won their college’s union elections, rumours were spread about them. He said: "We have no doubt that the rumours were fanned by the NUS. Their new policy would not impact on the HuT but on people like us, ordinary Islamic students" (Asian Times, 30.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 3]
The Kirklees school meals service has worked together with the Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence to produce a computer database of halal food products, to ensure that pupils are served authentic halal meals (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 15.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 3]
Edinburgh University students are demanding an investigation into the appointment of Dr Yasin Dutton, lecturer in the faculty of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (Observer, 17.03.96). The student union newspaper has claimed that for many years Dr Dutton has supported the Murabitun and Jewish students are particularly concerned about the alleged anti-Semitism of this group (see BMMS for November 1995). An anonymous spokesperson for the University authorities is reported as saying: "Dr Dutton’s private views are his own. He has stated that he is not a member of any sect. There is no evidence that he promotes anti-Semitic or racist views. I am advised that his teaching and research are of the highest standard" (Observer, 17.03.96).
Two weeks later, the Observer carried an article investigating the ideas of the Murabitun and its activities in Britain (31.03.96). This article discusses the mosque dispute in Norwich (see BMMS for August, September, October, November 1995; February 1996), and gives a brief history of the movement, which was formed in 1968 by Ian Dallas, later Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Murabit. The Observer also interviewed a former member of Murabitun, Tabil Fehlhaber, who claims he was sent to Germany to recruit neo-Nazis there: "They have tried to tie in Islam with National Socialism. It is a perversion of Islam. How can they call themselves Muslims when they are excluding people from the House of God?" [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 3/4]
Amer Rafiq, the waiter who lost an eye whilst under arrest on Eid is unlikely to be charged with any offence (Manchester Evening News, 06.03.96). Police were considering sending Mr Rafiq a summons in the post as he was too ill to answer bail and possibly be charged with a public order offence (see BMMS for February 1996). The Manchester Evening News believes that police chiefs will recommend that it would not be in the public interest to proceed against Mr Rafiq, taking into account his injuries and the relatively minor nature of any charges against him. The 21-year-old was recovering at home and his sister Racine said: "We are very grateful for all the support we have received from the community. But we would still ask that any more witnesses from that night come forward and contact the enquiry team to tell them what they saw" (Manchester Evening News, 06.03.96).
The demonstration in support of Amer Rafiq took place in central Manchester on 11 March. Estimates of the numbers attending varied between 800 (Manchester Evening News, 11.03.96) and 500 (Q-News, 15.03.96). The police and press all agreed that the demonstration had been peaceable. Chief Inspector Mike Downes said: "Everyone acted with responsibility and dignity" (Manchester Evening News, 11.03.96). Also as a protest, Malik Mohammed Azram, a friend of the family, chained himself to Manchester’s Albert Memorial in a 48-hour hunger strike. He is demanding the suspension of the officers involved in Mr Rafiq's arrest and a full enquiry (Manchester Evening News, 08.03.96).Gay Cox, former chairperson of the old Greater Manchester police committee has condemned the decision not to suspend the four officers involved in the case. She said: "When there is a serious allegation, people are suspended on full pay without any assumption of guilt. The fact that these officers have not been is a serious drawback for many people and I cannot understand why they were not". A judicial inquiry is being called for into the incident (Manchester Evening News, 20.03.96). A demonstration was held outside the first police community consultative meeting, demanding that the officers involved should be suspended and persuading Asians to boycott the meetings until this happens. They were eventually removed from operational duties pending investigations, but not suspended (Manchester Evening News, 01.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 4]
At the Basildon Moslem Association’s Eid celebrations, Safraz Sarwar, founder member of the Association, renewed his commitment to raise £80,000 in order to build an Islamic community centre. He said: "The short-term goal is to find somebody who can loan us the use of their house or restaurant or wherever for our meetings. But we need a permanent base. I want to open a community centre which anybody interested in the Moslem faith could visit. It would be somewhere for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians or whoever to talk and pray together" (Basildon Standard Recorder, 29.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 4]
The Association of Muslims with Disabilities (AMD) in Brent, who were refused funding by their borough council (see BMMS for February 1996), may yet be successful. Councillor Paul Lorber (Liberal Democrat) intends to table a motion to award the group £35,000, following a disclosure that their previous application was not out of time (Paddington Times, 29.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 4]
On 26 March 1996 the High Court in London rejected an appeal brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) against the refusal of Social Security benefits to asylum seekers (see BMMS for December 1995). An application for judicial review following refusal of benefit made by JCWI was also rejected. JCWI was now considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to protect the rights of asylum seekers (Daily Jang, 27.03.96).
A meeting on the Asylum and Immigration Bill and its effects locally and nationally was held in Rotherham (Daily Jang, 02.04.96). Speaking about the denial of welfare benefits, Councillor Nazir Ahmed said: "More than 30,000 asylum seekers are expected to be affected and this will put an unnecessary and inequitable pressure on charities, mosques and churches to provide the basic needs of these disaffected (sic) peoples." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 4/5]
Derby Pride stakeholders’ forum, which influences how City Challenge funds are spent in Normanton and adjacent areas, is again being criticised by Muslim residents. Problems have previously arisen when elections were held in Ramadan (see BMMS for January 1996). Now over 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for a re-run of the elections, at which Hardial Singh Dhamrait was chosen as representative, although he lives outside the City Challenge area (Derby News, 29.02.96) [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) has planned a workshop on attitudes to Islam, followed by a recruitment evening for VSO, which sends volunteers to work in poor countries, on 13 March at Leicester University (Leicester Mercury, 01.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
Children attending lessons in Muslim culture in Nelson have raised £100 to help poor people in Kashmir (Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 01.03.96). At Ravensthorpe Infant School children raised £162 for Islamic Relief Worldwide’s work in Bosnia, where the money will be used to buy school books and equipment (Dewsbury Reporter, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
The fatwa, or religious decision, issued against Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 remains in force, according to Dr Kalim Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament (The Times, 30.03.96). The relevant section of Dr Siddiqui’s press released speech said: "The Muslim Parliament was conceived in the heat of the conflict generated by the insult and abuse heaped upon Islam in The Satanic Verses. The fatwa of the late Imam Khomeini, sentencing Salman Rushdie to death...was and remains an order that must be carried out" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 30.03.96). Dr Siddiqui’s pronouncements, however, come at a time when the authorities in Iran appear to be relenting on the question of the implementation of the fatwa (Independent, 30.03.96). During a visit to the Leipzig Book Fair on 29 March, Mr Rushdie urged Germany to put pressure on Iran to drop the death sentence (Exeter Express & Echo, 30.03.96). Germany, however, is apparently reluctant to take any action unilaterally and would prefer to do so within the framework of the European Union (Plymouth Evening Herald, 30.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
GS Radio, a London-based Asian radio station, organised a charity show for Islamic Relief and in only four hours was able to raise £10,000 from its listeners (Eastern Eye, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
At the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, a three-day conference of Muslim and Jewish scholars took place, organised by the Maimonides Foundation, a charity concerned with Muslim-Jewish understanding. Scholars came from Europe, Israel, the Arab world and the United States to discuss the shared history of Jews and Muslims (Jewish Chronicle, 22.03.96). Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, Saudi envoy to the United States, has agreed to be a member of the advisory group of the Foundation. They also hope to have a joint conference later in the year in Amman, with the Jordanian Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (Jewish Chronicle, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 5]
On 17 February over 2000 demonstrators marched from Lambeth to Trafalgar Square to commemorate al-Quds Day, which falls on the last Friday of Ramadan each year. The Day was instituted by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to show solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially the Palestinians (Q-News, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6]
An Iraqi PhD student, Sabah Jassim, and Nottingham University’s Professor of Microbiology, Gordon Stewart, have been testing an extract of pomegranate rind which might be used to combat HIV (Q-News, 08.03.96). Professor Stewart said: "Plant derived virucides are not new... but they typically have only modest activity... however, the new (pomegranate-derived) virucide is profoundly active over short exposure times". Q-News, in its 8 March edition carried several feature articles on: the benefits of the pomegranate as described in the Qu’ran and Hadith; Islamic medicine; and the history of the cultivation of this fruit. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6]
The convenor of the National Forum of British Muslim Councillors, Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, has written to the Pakistani High Commissioner questioning the need for the formation of the Association of Pakistani and Kashmiri Candidates (Daily Jang, 15.03.96). Mr Ahmed believed that the new Association, which is being set up by the high commissioner and George Galloway MP, would have a divisive effect and would focus only on selection and deselection issues. Locally, Councillor Ahmed defended the Labour Party's record as regards equal opportunities, claiming that in Rotherham, the Party reflects the cultural mix of British society. At a recent public meeting he said: "Over fifty delegates attended the Constituency meeting and only four were from the local Kashmiri community and all four were elected to the Executive" (Daily Jang, 20.03.96).
In Luton, one of the Conservative candidates for Biscot ward in the local elections, Mohammed Riaz, is Muslim, as was the previous Labour councillor for the area, Mohammed Ali (Luton on Sunday, 24.03.96). The Conservative agent, Stewart Lister, said: "Labour promised all to the ethnic minorities but has delivered nothing in the way of grants and help with the establishment of mosques". Council leader Roy Davis, also standing for Labour at Biscot, commented: "The Labour Party does not chose its candidates by religion and never will...I don’t think the major faiths represented in the town want to see it either." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6]
The Bolton Evening News (12.03.96) carried a front page "exclusive", which was soon copied by other newspapers, both local and national. This concerned an aubergine, which, when those who had bought it, Racine and Salim Patel of Bolton, cut through it, showed the name of God spelled out in the pattern of its seeds. They were very excited and took the aubergine to Abdullah Patel, guardian of the nearby Masjid-e-Gosia Mosque. He said: "It is a miracle and is the first time I have seen anything like this. I am very excited about it. There is no doubt that the seeds spell out Allah in Arabic. We will put the aubergine in a protective case and place it in our mosque...These things only happen to good people, so Mr Patel and his wife should feel very honoured." A few days later, another Bolton Muslim, Musa Patel, wrote to the editor, objecting to the front page headline, "Food of the Gods!" (Bolton Evening News, 15.03.96). He writes: "I trust the editor will correct the false impression of Islam given in the article. Islam is strictly a monotheistic faith, not polytheistic." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6]
Religious books were torn and thrown over the floor by vandals who attacked the Muslim prayer room at Dewsbury District Hospital. Police are investigating this incident and after a series of thefts and attacks upon people and property, security has now been increased (Dewsbury Reporter, 23.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6]
Two of the three suspects in the Manchester bomb trial, Iftikhar Sattar and Shafi ur-Rehman have been found not guilty of all charges against them (see BMMS for February 1996). The third accused, Faisal Moustafa, was found guilty of firearms offenses but intends to appeal (Q-News, 22.03.96, Manchester Evening News, 28.03.96). Faisal Moustafa, in his evidence at Manchester Crown Court (Manchester Evening News, 05.03.96), had claimed that the arms and explosives found at his home were for his own pleasure and for experiments and making fireworks.[BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 6/7]
The Lancashire Council of Mosques and the county’s Church of England representatives called a meeting on 2 March to start to make links between organisations and individuals from the two faith communities. Abdul Hamid Qureshi, for the Council of Mosques, said: "Christians and Moslems can share a lot here, as well as mutual concern for young people, education and much more. This meeting will both demonstrate our shared concern and provide an opportunity for many community representatives to come together to work creatively for the common good" (Blackburn Citizen, 29.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
A tapestry designed by two Keighley men, Fazal Ahmed, 68, and Abdul Razzaq, 68, depicting the town’s Emily Street mosque, is to form part of a wall-hanging commissioned by Age Concern (Keighley News, 15.03.96). The wall-hanging is intended to demonstrate the contribution elderly people can make to the community and the skills they possess. Fulmodina Begum Ali, who teaches textiles at the Sangat Day Centre, made the design into a tapestry using a rag rug technique. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
The Roman Catholic bishop of Leeds, David Konstant, sent the message for Eid from Cardinal Arinze, together with his own message on the need for good relations between Christians and Muslims, to Heckmondwike’s Muslim community. Waseem Riaz, a representative of the town’s Pakistan and Muslim Welfare Society, said: "We warmly welcome the Bishop’s and Cardinal’s message of hope, and wish to thank them for acknowledging the value of Islamic beliefs, especially those of Ramadan fasting by sending us greetings on the day of Eid" (Spenborough Guardian, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
Nottingham University’s Islamic Society has planned a Muslim Awareness Week, starting on 4 March (Nottingham Evening Post, 29.02.96, Herald & Post, and Long Eaton Herald, 07.03.96). One of the guest speakers will be Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, the singer. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
On the evening of 19 March, the Prince of Wales visited the Dawoodi Bohra community’s new mosque complex in Northolt, north London. During the following days, this visit to the Mohammedi Park Masjid complex was reported in a great many newspapers, both national and local. Very few focused on the new mosque itself, most describing the Prince’s white shawl and white and gold cap. Only the Guardian (20.03.96, see Mosques section here) had a photograph of the mosque. The Daily Jang (21.03.96) also was unusual amongst the British press in reporting on the community and its mosque in some detail and quoting some of the words of the community’s spiritual leader, Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd Fatimi Dai. In his message to the Prince, he said: "This visit further demonstrates your concern for all citizens of your esteemed nation, whatever their religious and ethnic background". His son, Prince Qaidjoher Ezzuddin thanked the Prince of Wales for his efforts in protecting the shrines of Karbala and Najaf during the Gulf War, and also made reference to Prince Charles’ 1993 Oxford speech, in which the latter had advocated sharing and mutual tolerance between Islam and the West (Daily Jang, 21.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
The Isle of Wight Fellowship of Evangelical Churches is objecting to the IQRA Trust’s Islamic Experience Exhibition being shown to children. The Islamic Exhibition will form part of the island’s festival, and was defended by Malcolm Lloyd, secretary to the organising committee and former principal education officer, who said: "The IQRA Trust is an educational foundation which does much work with local education authorities, and this particular exhibition was designed in conjunction with LEA curriculum advisors on the mainland" (Isle of Wight County Press, 01.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7]
The Runnymede Trust has appealed to a United Nations committee to consider the rise of anti-Muslim feeling in Britain and to recommend legislation against religious discrimination (Q-News, 01.03.96). Every two years the UK government reports to CERD (the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) on the measures it has taken to eliminate racial injustice. To start to combat injustice against Muslims in the UK, the Trust’s Report, entitled The Multi-Ethnic Good Society - Vision and Reality, suggests that: "...the Race Relations Act could be replaced by wider equal opportunity legislation, perhaps similar to that which has been recently introduced in the Netherlands. It would include reference, amongst other features, to religion and to ethno-religious identity."
The CRE (Commission for Racial Equality) has begun a series of consultations on religious discrimination in order to assess the nature and scale of the problem and to explore how best to combat it (Q-News, 15.02.96). The initial work involves gathering factual evidence and examining the experiences of other countries. The CRE is linking with a Church of England working party on the subject and other faith groups will be involved through the Department of the Environment’s Inner Cities Religious Council. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 7/8]
The Daily Jang (20.03.96) reviewed an exhibition, entitled ‘Being Here’ of the work of Birmingham photographer Ernest Dyche, who specialised in portraiture of Birmingham’s Asian and black communities in the 1950s. The curators of the exhibition, Pervaiz Khan and Jennie Gentles at The Drum arts centre would like anyone who was photographed by Dyche to contact them on: 0121-693-3616. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 8]
A report by the CRE, Race and Equal Opportunities in the Police Force, whilst highlighting the need to combat other forms of discrimination, has not addressed the problems of Muslims in the police force, claims Q-News (01.03.96). The paper interviewed PC Akhtar Aziz, who stressed the problems Muslims face with the police culture: "When I first arrived here I was expected to buy everyone a drink because that was the ‘done thing’. I didn’t because this was against my religion and they could not understand this. In a way I have been treated differently because of that: I haven’t been accepted..."
A campaign by Strathclyde Police to recruit more members of ethnic minority communities to the force has been so successful that targets have been increased. Bashir Mann, a leading member of Glasgow’s Muslim community and chair of Strathclyde Community Relations Council welcomed this recruitment drive. He said: "I believe members of ethnic minorities should become involved in every walk of life because that is the only way they can achieve their proper place in society...over there [eg Pakistan] those who are better off, have influence, or have a better education, can go straight into the police as subinspectors or even as deputy superintendents of police. Ethnic minority parents don’t realise that here every chief constable has been at some time in his career a bobby" (The Scotsman, 01.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 8]
When Medi Siadatan’s third wife, Sarah, gave birth to their daughter Ayesha in Kidderminster Hospital, his two other wives, Stefania and Cinzia were there to help her (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 04.03.96). This is the fifth child born to the family. Mr Siadatan is not committing any offence because the women are not married to him under British law, but under Islamic law (Daily Mail, 07.03.96). Mr Siadatan, the owner of a chain of Italian restaurants, commented: "I am a husband three times over and that means I shoulder the responsibilities of being a husband. The worst emotion for a man and woman to feel is jealousy. That eats at the heart and turns love bitter. In our home, we are all honest with each other...the world would be happier if more men lived as I live" (Black Country Evening Mail, 12.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 8]
Manchester Airport expects that over 4,500 pilgrims will fly from there direct to Mecca to do Hajj this year (Manchester Evening News, 22.03.96, Blackpool Evening Gazette, 29.03.96). Previously, pilgrims from the north could only fly from Heathrow. Eighty of Gloucester’s estimated 3,000 Muslims are planning to do Hajj this year (Gloucester Citizen, 20.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 8]
A new Muslim marriage bureau has been set up in Wembley (Wembley Observer, 07.03.96). It has been started by a married couple, Kate and Abdul Butt, and has a register of single people aged between 20 and 50. The advantages of clients being able to talk to a woman or a man about finding a suitable partner were explained by Mr Butt thus: "Some men can’t talk to a lady on these matters. It is like having your hair cut - some men only see a barber". [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 8/9]
Amjad Mohammed, described as "the Moslem equivalent of a priest" (Black Country Evening Mail, 20.03.96), has been signed for a year with Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Amjad is a Hafiz, and recites the Qu’ran in mosques in Birmingham, Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent. The chairperson of Worcestershire, John Chadd, said: "With a vicar (county secretary Mike Vockins) and a Muslim priest at the club, maybe God or Allah will come to our aid at times!" (Worcester Evening News, 20.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 9]
Emma Habeeb, whose estranged husband kidnapped their children and took them to Egypt (see BMMS for February 1996), has apparently been told that a fatwa has been issued against her in a religious court in Egypt (Sunday Telegraph, 03.03.96). Ms Habeeb said: "I am under threat even in the streets of my own city. I dare not set foot in Egypt as I have been told that I would be killed immediately." Leeds police have installed an alarm in her home and are taking the threats to her life seriously. [It is difficult to determine under which terms of Islamic law such a fatwa could have been issued, especially as fatwas are not issued by religious courts]. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 9]
Fasl Bodi, a former Manchester University student, is taking the Students’ Union to court for discrimination against Muslims (Q-News 22.03.96). He first brought the action two years ago, because the Union was blocking his motion which called for improvements in services for Muslims, such as improved prayer facilities and a scholarship scheme for Bosnian students. Having been denied legal aid, Mr Bodi is now representing himself. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 9]
The News of the World (03.03.96) carried a feature article about Muslim men, predominately Pakistanis, who marry a UK citizen under British law and a woman from their home country under Islamic law. The newspaper further claims that both wives can receive housing and other social security benefits. [This seems highly unlikely in view of the Home Office’s requirement that the UK based spouse must be able to support and maintain the newcomer and without recourse to public funds]. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 9]
Two newspapers, the Daily Mail (20.03.96) and the Wolverhampton Express & Star (27.03.96), have articles on the success of Balsall Heath’s residents’ campaign against the activities of prostitutes in their area. The area is now to receive £6 million from the European Union for regeneration, money which the campaigners believe would not have been granted had it not been for their success in cutting down on prostitution and related crime in the area. Muslims have been prominent in this anti-prostitution activity (see BMMS for February 1996). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 9]
The governing body of Villiers High School are concerned that the Abubakr Islamic Group may be given youth centre premises in the school grounds without consultation with the school. The Muslim group has been without premises since the borough council prohibited its use of residential premises nearby (Hammersmith, Fulham & Sheperds Bush Gazette, 01.03.96). 9
An independent enquiry by Labour’s National Executive Committee has found that there were some voting irregularities in the candidacy selection in Govan where Mohammed Sarwar lost on a technicality of the voting procedures (see BMMS for August and December 1995; January and February 1996). Mr Sarwar had hoped to become Britain’s first Muslim MP. Further enquiries are now taking place. The Scottish Nationalist leader, Alex Salmon, has accused the Labour Party of racism and has welcomed the setting up of a new organisation, called Scottish Asians for Independence (Eastern Eye, 08.03.96).
The Scotsman, in its weekend supplement (30.03.96), has a feature on Mr Sarwar. Commenting on the part he played in returning an abducted woman and her daughters to Glasgow from Pakistan, where the daughters had been subjected to forced marriages, he said: "Many of the people who came here from Pakistan 40 years or so ago don’t realise things have changed...It is unacceptable to impose marriage on your daughter and son if they don’t want it. I say this with conviction - but you will always make enemies...I am a Muslim and I know Islamic principles. This kind of behaviour is not permitted in Islam - no marriage can take place until both parties consent."
This alleged kidnapping is now being investigated by Strathclyde police following their return to Glasgow. It is claimed that Abdul Haq abducted his wife and daughters when they went to Pakistan for a holiday and forced two of his daughters, one of whom was only 13, and so under the minimum age for marriage in Pakistan, into marriages against their will (Daily Jang, 01.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
Atia Idrees, who is the sole carer for her disabled 75 year-old grandmother, Alum Bibi, is facing deportation to Pakistan, unless a judicial review succeeds in reversing the Home Office decision (Q-News, 22.03.96). Social services in Oldham have admitted that they cannot provide the specialist care required for an elderly Muslim woman. Very few Muslims are amongst the 300 people who have written to the Home Office protesting about the decision. Atia Idrees appealed for more Muslim support: "I do feel abandoned by my own Muslim community and psychologically this does have an effect on my confidence. Perhaps to them it is just another case of a denied visa." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
On 27 March 1996, Q-News celebrated its fourth anniversary (Q-News, 22.03.96). This British Muslim fortnightly paper admits that it is facing some financial difficulties but is hoping not only to survive but to improve. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
Dewsbury car parts salesman Ifikhar Raja has received an offer of £45,000 for a number plate, B15 MLA. This resembles the word ‘Bismillah’, which means "In the name of God", and is said by Muslims on starting any action, such as before driving. Mr Raja bought the number plate from DVLA for £400 (Yorkshire Post, 25.03.96, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 25.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
A Leicester University professor has been awarded £60,000 to research Muslims and the Media. Professor Annabel Sreberny-Mohammadi’s project is focusing on Iranians in London and is in collaboration with Professor Charles Husband at Bradford University. The Bradford University team is researching the Pakistani community there. The grant was made by the Economic and Social Research Council (Leicester Mercury, 22.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
The Daily Jang (26.03.96) reviewed a report by the National Association of Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, (NACAB), which shows how UK immigration controls are dividing families. Ann Abraham, NACAB chief executive, said: "UK immigration policy is certainly firm, but it is nor fair. It is hard to see how the restrictive approach to family life favoured in its immigration policy - with the devastating consequences for so many families - fits in with the commitment to family values expressed elsewhere by this Government." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
A sheltered housing scheme for the elderly in Gloucester has failed to attract Muslims, for whom some of its facilities were specifically designed (Gloucester Citizen, 26.03.96, Western Daily Express, 26.03.96). Only one Muslim couple live at Apna Ghar Court and the prayer room for Muslims is now being used for playing bingo. Mahmood Patel, former chairperson of the housing society, was reported as saying that it was a long-term project and that he hoped there would be more Muslim residents in the future (Gloucester Citizen, 26.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
The Independent (27.03.96) reviewed the work of a British Asian Muslim stand-up comedian, Jeff Mirza, who works in clubs in London. He has been a comic for three years and originally his family were puzzled when he left a career as an engineer. He said: "I understand what our parents wanted - security for all of us. But, I mean...where’s the fun in all that?" [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 10]
According to journalist Mary Kenny, there are now more Muslims in Britain than Methodists (Daily Express, 27.03.96). She calculates that the numbers of Muslims are increasing daily not only because of demographic factors, but because: "About five British people a day convert to Islam. There are more than 500 mosques in Britain, including one serving a Moslem community in the Outer Hebrides". She believes that Islam is especially attractive to young men, both those who decide to embrace Islam and those born into Muslim homes and rediscover their faith.
Echoing some of Mary Kenny’s themes, such as her view of women in Islam, is a feature article in the Southend Evening Echo (27.03.96) about three generations of a Muslim family of Pakistani origins, in Pitsea. The Muslim community in the town is hoping to raise £80,000 for an Islamic community centre. Mary Kenny’s article subsequently attracted a letter from a reader, a Mr M H Faruqui, correcting what he saw as misunderstandings on her part regarding the masculine and the feminine in Islam (Daily Express, 29.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
At the Muslim Community Development Conference in Markfield, Leicester, on 29 March 1996, Muslims were praised by a Home Office Minister. Timothy Kirkhope told the conference that: "Voluntary activity is very strong and self-help, independent traditions within the Muslim comunities are a vital part of this" (Daily Jang, 03.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
A guide to Bradford’s voluntary organisations, the first of its kind jointly produced by the city council and the Council for Voluntary Services, has had to be withdrawn (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 02.04.96). The reason for its withdrawal was that it offended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, who had been omitted from the section on Muslim groups and instead placed in the section for ‘others’. The director of social services, Liam Hughes, explained that this was a mistake, because it was "contrary to the principle of self-ascription, and an infringement of the basic right of freedom of faith, as members of the association refer to themselves as Muslims." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
Cambridge University has been given almost £1.2 million by a charitable foundation for a post in Islamic Studies. For the first time, the university will have a religious lecturer specialising in Islam. The endowment comes from the Zayed bin Sultan Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation of Abu Dhabi, which also funds the Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Lampeter (The Times, 02.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
A Nigerian student, Ayotunde Obanubi, was stabbed to death in an argument over table tennis just outside Newham College, on 27 February 1995 (Docklands Express, 23.03.96). The four accused, Saeed Nur, 27, Yusuf Sofu, 20, Umran Qadir, 17, and Kazi Rahman, 18, are Muslims. The prosecution at the Old Bailey alleges the fatal knife wound was inflicted by Saeed Nur (Daily Jang, 19.03.96), who had previously threatened the victim, saying, "don’t mess with Muslim boys and my religion" (Docklands Express, 23.03.96). The case continues. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
The installation of the new rector of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Keighley was the occasion for different Christian denominations and the Muslim community to meet (Keighley News, 15.03.96).
The new rector, the Rev Michael Hardy, was previously at an ecumenical church in Durham. St Andrews is shared with the Methodists. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
A man believed to be a Shi’ite was attacked by four men whilst distributing religious leaflets outside a mosque in Forest Gate. A spokesperson for Forest Gate police said: "It is possible that this dispute involves religion. We are aware of tensions that occur between some religions and we do what we can to monitor things" (Newham Recorder, 20.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11]
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, speaking at a Millennium lecture at Manchester Business School, said that religious leaders should come together and form their own Millennium commission, with the aim of developing a new consensus on morality. Munaver Rasul, the Muslim speaker, agreed with Rabbi Sacks (Manchester Evening News, 21.03.96).[BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 11/12]
Jews and Muslims in Dorset visited each other’s places of worship as part of a religious exchange organised by the county’s SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education). Lynda Ford-Horne, who is Jewish and the vice-chair of Dorset’s SACRE, said: "In the current state of unrest between some factions of both religions, we feel it is important for us to build bridges between the two communities and to show people that Jews and Muslims can respect each other’s differing beliefs and live in peace" Bournemouth Evening Echo, 01.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 12]
Dr Kalim Siddiqui told the 11th session of the Muslim Parliament that he had written a letter to Prime Minister John Major denying any British Muslim involvement in the funding of the Palestinian group, Hamas (Daily Jang, 01.04.96). He assured the Prime Minister that Muslims were a law-abiding community (Daily Jang, 20.03.96). He also denounced growing Islamophobia in Britain, which he compared to the campaign of demonising Islam and Muslims in the United States following the bombing in Oklahoma: "The campaign here followed no bombs in this country, but three bombs in Palestine that shook the Zionist entity. Clearly, the powerful Zionist lobby saw the bombs in Palestine as an opportunity to demonise Muslims in Britain. The British Government obliged by unleashing MI5 dogs at our heels" (Glasgow Herald, 01.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 12]
Three British MPs, Conservatives Gary Walker (Keighley) and Harry Greenway (Ealing North) and Labour’s Tom Cox (Tooting) have expressed their condemnation at the recent murder of Kashmiri leaders and human rights activists by the Indian security forces in Indian controlled Kashmir (Daily Jang, 04.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 12]
Dr Siddiqui was a platform speaker at the demonstration on 23 March 1996 in London called by the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) to protest against the government’s immigration and asylum policies (Morning Star, 25.03.96, Q-News, 22.03.96). He was the speaker for Muslims Against Racism (MAR), whose representative was originally to have been Omar Bakri Mohammed, formerly of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (see BMMS for November and December 1995). The Trades Union Congress, National Union of Students, the Indian Workers Association, many Jewish organisations and several individual unions threatened to boycott the demonstration if Mr Mohammed was on the platform. After discussions, the ARA agreed that it would be best for Mr Mohammed to be substituted by Dr Siddiqui (Jewish Chronicle, 22.03.96, Morning Star, 25.03.96). However, it appeared that many groups had still boycotted the event, as the turnout was much lower than expected. Estimates varied between 250 (Guardian, 25.03.96), 500 (Morning Star, 25.03.96) and 1000 (Q-News, 22.03.96). Narendra Makanji, chairperson of the ARA denounced the boycott by some groups and welcomed Muslims: "It is time we recognise the discrimination faced by our Muslim brothers and sisters. We heartily welcome them into the anti-racist movement." Professor al-Mas’ari, the Saudi Arabian dissident, was also on the platform (Q-News, 22.03.96).
According to the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Mohammed is on record as having denied the historical validity of the Holocaust and to have said that it was the duty of Muslims to support a holy war against Israel. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 12]
Asylum seeker Ibrahim Sey, who was arrested following a domestic disturbance, died after being sprayed with CS gas (Q-News, 22.03.96). Mr Sey was arrested at his home in East Ham, reportedly by ten police officers, who took him to Ilford police station. He was then taken to King George’s hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Muslims Against Racism are calling for an independent enquiry. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 12]
A meeting was called between education officials and Muslims to try to end the boycott of religious education (RE) in Batley, Kirklees (see BMMS for January and February 1996). Terry Piggott, Kirklees Council’s advisory manager, said: "The meeting will give parents the chance to spell out their concerns again and to consider how we can allay their fears" (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 05.03.96). After a two and a half hour meeting between eight members of Batley’s Muslim Association, four Kirklees Council education officials, and two head teachers, the matter was still unresolved (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 06.03.96), although all sides were happy that some progress had been made. The MP for Colne Valley, Graham Riddick lent his support in the House of Commons to the parents’ campaign. He said: "It would be unrealistic, and frankly not right, to try to force Muslims to adopt the Christian faith. That is why I think it sensible for Muslim children’s religious education to be predominately about Islam" (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 05.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 13]
Debate continues in the press, both secular and religious, around separate Islamic RE at Birchfield School (see BMMS for February 1996) and the issues it raises about RE in British schools generally. Answering critics who claimed that Islamic RE at Birchfield was divisive, Mohammed Mukadem, the parent governor who proposed the new teaching in the school, wrote : "It is time for people of all faiths to take up the initiative and preserve our inherited faith traditions in our children...I sincerely hope that my fellow Christian citizens will follow the Birchfield example and have proper Christianity taught to their children" (Weekly Telegraph, 06.03.96).
Schools in Leicestershire are unlikely to follow Birchfield’s example, according to the County Council’s advisor/inspector on RE, Dilip Kadodwala (Loughborough Mail, 07.03.96).
In the Catholic Herald (08.03.96), parents were advised by Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Education Council, to inform themselves about the RE available in schools: "We strongly advise parents to be fully informed about a school’s RE programme before sending their child. They can also seek advice from their parish priest or an RE adviser in the diocese". [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 13]
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, during his two-day visit to Bradford, discussed the healing process after the disturbances of last summer; inter-faith relations; and RE, particularly in relation to Muslim and Christian children. He suggested that the city’s example of RE might be a model for Batley to follow: "Much has been written about events in Kirklees and I can understand some of the concerns. I hope that Bradford’s example will be looked at very seriously as one to follow" (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 13.03.96). Bradford’s new RE syllabus is called Faith in our Future and has recently been issued to all schools in the city (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 15.03.96). At the Interfaith Education Centre, the Archbishop held talks with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists and Christians. Sher Azam, of the Bradford Council of Mosques, commented on the environment of trust that had been created amongst the different faith communities: "This has made it easier to deal with some difficult problems when they have arisen. But those relationships are very patchy. They don’t exist in every diocese" (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 13.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 13]
The chairperson of Bolton’s Taiyabah Mosque and Islamic Education Centre in Bolton, Mr Aziz, has stated that his organisation is happy with the town’s current policies and practise of teaching RE with a multifaith approach (Bolton Metro News, 29.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 13]
A recently published book, Freeing Education, outlines ways in which small, independent schools, such as those in the Third Sector Schools Alliance could receive state funding. It discusses arrangements in Holland and Denmark which permit more parental choice and from which Muslim schools have benefitted. It also outlines clauses in the 1988 Education Act which permit opting out of all or part of the national curriculum. (Review in The Times Educational Supplement, 01.03.96, of Freeing Education, by F Carnie, M Large, and M Tasker, eds., Hawthorne Press, £9.95).
The Alliance is sending an information pack to MPs (Independent, 18.03.96). The group’s secretary, Colin Hodgetts, said: "I believe Muslims are being scapegoated: the satanic mantle that rested on communist shoulders is now being placed on Muslim shoulders. To prevent this happening would on its own be a good enough reason for supporting Muslim schools." In addition, he countered one of the government’s reasons for refusing funding, that there were surplus places in nearby schools: "We do not accept that. If you are going to have a choice, you are going to have spare places." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 13/14]
The Islamia School in Brent is £140,000 in debt and may have to close unless it can find this sum by April (Paddington Times, 07.03.96). In the past, the school is said to have relied heavily on funding from Saudi Arabia but this has apparently been cut (see BMMS for December 1995; February 1996) . A spokesperson is quoted as saying that the school is still hoping to arrange a meeting with the Saudi ambassador to try to resolve differences. Islamia has had a mixed report from Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education) following its inspection (Q-News, 22.03.96, Independent, 27.03.96, Guardian, 27.03.96). The report acknowledged that "behaviour is good and relationships between teachers and pupils positive" but criticized the use of corporal punishment, which would not be allowed were the school to receive state funding. The primary school was criticised for its teaching methods, which were insufficiently adapted to individual ability levels (Independent, 27.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Attempts to co-educationalise two of Manchester’s five remaining single-sex schools are being firmly opposed by Muslims, whose children represent 70 percent of those at Burnage and Whalley Range High Schools. Mohammed Hatahet of the Muslim Education Council told a public meeting of parents and the education authority that: "Intake is on the increase at Whalley Range. It is a success story and we shall fight to retain single-sex status right up to the end" (Q-News, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Richard Lindley, director of education for the Birmingham (Anglican) Diocese, writing in a personal capacity in Education (15.03.96), argues that the issues raised by Birchfield and Kirklees, by the demand for state funding for Muslim schools, by criticisms from many sides around the content of RE and collective worship in schools, and by the admissions policies of church schools, are interrelated. He maintains that politicians have vested interests which lead them to pursue fragmented, partial solutions, and concludes that, "...the answer might be to depoliticise the whole field with a non-partisan national commission to break new ground." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Leaders of a Muslim girls’ school in Bradford, Feversham College are hoping to raise more than £1 million in order to move to a new site in Cottingley (Bradford Telegraph & Argos, 18.03.96) (see BMMS for November and December 1995). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Q-News (22.03.96) has printed in full a prize-winning essay, written by 14 year-old Safeera Laher from Leicester, for the city’s Council of Faiths competition. The title is: "How should religions work together to make a better life for us all?" [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Aylesbury Vale District Council have agreed to sell Muslims the land next to the mosque in Havelock Street for a community centre and extension to the present mosque (see BMMS for January 1996). The buyers will pay the market price for the land, which is between £140,000 and £150,000 (Bucks Herald, 13.03.96). The council has promised that the money from the sale will be used to build homes. Some objections had been raised about possible traffic congestion (Bucks Advertiser, 01.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Following the refusal of planning permission for a new mosque and community centre in Bletchley (see BMMS for December 1995), a working group has been set up by councillors to discuss the needs of the town’s Muslim community (Woburn Sands, Cranfield & District Citizen, 07.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14]
Consultation meetings have been held to try to reconcile objectors to the leasing of Carshalton’s Wentworth Hall to the Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association of Sutton (Sutton Guardian, 21.03.96) (see BMMS for February 1996). Lal Hussain, secretary of the Association, said: "We are putting the hall to very good use and we have not caused any inconvenience so far. Many of the residents have said that they support us." Local objectors felt that more consultation should have taken place before the MCWAS were granted the 20 year lease (Sutton Herald, 20.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 14/15]
The Waltham Forest Muslim Welfare Society is to close its community centre in Chingford Mount Road, following complaints by some residents and councillors that it had been used as a mosque during Ramadan (Chingford Guardian, 14.03.96). The planning committee called upon council officers to work with the Muslim society to find a suitable property for their centre. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
Planning permission has been granted to the Muslim Welfare society for the building of a new mosque in Cumbernauld (Glasgow Evening Times, 14.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
The West London Islamic Centre, part of the UK Islamic Mission, has announced that it intends to move to a new site. The site for which planning permission is being sought is a former warehouse in Brownlow Road, West Ealing (Southall Gazette, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
Muslims in Barry have been granted £2,750 to study a renovation project for their centre in Holton Road. The improvements would enable them to carry out more educational and cultural activities (South Wales Echo, 05.03.96).[BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
Lack of space for prayers during Ramadan has made the committee of the mosque in Jubilee Road, High Wycombe, realise that their plans for expansion may be inadequate (see BMMS for December 1995).
Commenting on plans to expand and incorporate an adjacent house, a spokesperson said: "We would not gain very much out of the one house. I don’t think in the long run that would be cost effective. Perhaps, if we can acquire a couple more houses, maybe to have one full block, that would be another option" (Bucks Free Press, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
The Islamic Society of Hornsey has applied for planning permission to build a new mosque in front of the building it presently uses (Hornsey & Crouch End Journal, 21.03.96). There will also be meeting rooms, computer areas, offices and two flats in the new buildings, with the old building being converted into a community hall. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
Jamia Masjid Anwar-e-Madina mosque in Huddersfield has been granted permission to perform civil marriages (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 14.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
A project to convert buildings in Leagrave into a mosque is being investigated because a councillor noticed that one of the buildings was being used as a business, which could be a breach of the Muslim organisations planning application (Luton Leader, 20.03.96) (see BMMS for September 1995). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
The Anjuman-E-Islamia in Manor Park have submitted new scaled- down plans for a mosque (see BMMS for February 1996). Planning Officer Viv Ramsey said that the group have abandoned the idea of underground parking and that the building will be smaller than originally proposed (City of London Recorder, 15.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
The Qatari government has obtained planning permission to convert a former drinking club in Shepherd Market, the Maisonette Club, into a mosque (Sunday Telegraph, 10.03.96). A spokesperson from Westminster’s planning department was quoted as saying: "We have had plenty of people wanting to convert old churches into licensed premises. But this is the first time we have been approached by someone wanting to turn a licensed premises into a place of worship" (The Independent, 14.03.96). A condition of the permission was that there should be no external calls to prayer or other broadcasting from the building (West End Extra, 01.03.96). A restaurateur who lives opposite, John Campbell, commented: "After two very sleazy uses for the building, a little bit of Muslim uplift will do the area good" (Evening Standard, 18.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 15]
The Chair of the Development Control Sub-Committee in Morden, Councillor Danny Connellan, has written to the Putney News (08.03.96), explaining some legal aspects of planning permission. This is in relation to the council’s recent approval of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association’s application to build on the former Express Dairy site (see BMMS for December 1995; January and February 1996). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
Over 3000 residents of Beckton, in the borough of Newham (see BMMS for October 1995), have signed a petition against proposals to build a mosque and Islamic community centre (Docklands Express, 23.03.96). One of the organisers of the campaign against the mosque, Mrs Urvashi Owen, who is Asian, said: "This is not a racial issue and is certainly not anti-Muslim. there is just too much development congestion around the site...We strongly condemn racist behaviour and attitudes and will have no part in them." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
The new Mohammedi Park Masjid Complex in Northolt has been described by the Guardian (20.03.96) as "one of the largest and most beautiful mosques ever built in Britain". On 19 March the mosque was visited by the Prince of Wales, who has taken a great interest in this reinterpretation of the traditional architecture of Fatimid Egypt, as has Keith Critchlow [the author of Islamic Patterns], one of his architectural advisers. The Mohammedi Park was built by the Dawoodi Bohras, who are Shi’ites originating in Gujerat. The complex cost £8 million and comprises a religious centre and 22 houses, built on a former industrial site, about which there had been some controversy. Ms Lubaine Tyebji, spokesperson for the complex explained prior to the visit: "We understand the Prince is interested in the architecture at the site. It is a great honour he has shown us and naturally we are delighted" (Greenford & Northolt Gazette, 15.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
A new mosque is being built in Preston, called Masjid-E-Noor, or Mosque of Light. The central dome will be made of glass, providing natural light for the building - hence its name. The mosque will have enough space for 800 worshippers (Lancashire Evening Post, 12.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
An application to double the size of the Jalalia Mosque in Rochdale has been approved by the Township Planning Sub-Committee (Rochdale Observer, 24.02.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
Heeley Council is meeting with representatives of the Makki Mosque in the town, who want to build another mosque on a site which protesters say should be left as open space (Sheffield Telegraph, 15.03.96). A 241-signature petition in support of the mosque plan has been sent to the planning committee, but it is reported that 400 protestors want the land to be used as a park (Barnsley Star, 13.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
Council officers have recommended refusal of an application for an extension to a mosque owned by Stratford Islamic Association (City of London Recorder, 08.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
The Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association, which leases the Wentworth Hall in Carshalton from the local council, is holding a meeting with local residents, who are objecting that the hall is being used as a mosque. The Association denies this. Their secretary, Lal Hussein, explained: "It so happens the use of the hall coincided with the start of the holy month of Ramadan when a number of Muslim scholars were invited to lecture and meet the Muslim community" (Sutton Herald, 06.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
Controversy continues over plans to build a mosque on former allotments in Watford. Watford Council claims the site is worth up to £400,000, depending upon eventual use, but they are prepared to let the mosque committee have it leasehold for £50,000 (West Herts & Watford Observer, 15.03.96). The mosque committee would also have to find £140,000 for an access road to be built from the A41 to the road on which the mosque would be sited (Asian Times, 23.03.96, West Herts & Watford Observer, 08.03.96), which should ease any traffic problems.
Possible traffic congestion apparently forms the main part of the objections, which are as yet unwritten and informal (West Herts & Watford Observer, 01.03.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 16]
The West London Islamic Centre, part of the national UK Islamic Mission, has applied to convert a warehouse in Brownlow Road, West Ealing into a mosque (Ealing Leader, 08.03.96). They have a mosque in nearby Oaklands Road, but it is too small for their present needs. [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 17]
The coroner for Blackburn, Andre Rebello, has been criticised by a local Muslim, Salim Mulla, concerning autopsies (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 02.04.96). Mr Rebello replied: "I fully appreciate that the requirements of certain religions are that burial should take place as soon as possible. Bearing this in mind, I make decisions seven days a week and authorise post-mortem examinations to take place as soon as practicably possible. I can understand Mr Mulla’s frustration, but I don’t know what he expects me to do." [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 17]
Following a request from the Wessex Shi’ite community, East Hampshire District Council officers are to recommend that space be set aside for Muslim burials in Havant Council’s cemeteries (Portsmouth News, 01.04.96). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 17]
Oadby and Wigston Borough Council has received a request for part of Wigston Cemetery to be allocated for the burial of local Muslims. The organisation making the request, the Anjuman-e-Saifee claimed that Muslims from Wigston had to be buried in Leicester, who charged double for those from outside their own borough.
Wigston’s official in charge of burials, Mike Hibbit, commented: "Changes would have to be made to our current system. At the moment, our policy is to have two burials per plot, but the Muslims have one per plot. They would all have to face Mecca. Muslim burials take place 24 hours after death, so we’d have to set up a system with grave diggers to work at short notice" (Oadby & Wigston Mail, 07.03.96) [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 17]
An additional burial site for Muslims, and an ablutions block next to the existing site set aside in the city’s Eastfield cemetery have been refused by Peterborough Council’s environment committee (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 20.03.96) (see BMMS for February 1996). [BMMS March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 17]