British Muslims Monthly Survey for August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8
A great many papers have carried news and comment on the Rally for Revival planned for 8 September [subsequently cancelled], organised by Al-Muhajiroun, the group led by Omar Bakri Mohammed, formerly of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1996). The East London Advertiser (22.08.96) had an article expressing concern that the event was due to take place at the London Arena. According to this local paper, the manager of the venue, Alec McCrinley, said: "If there is any transgression of the law this event will not take place" and Scotland Yard had issued a statement saying: "We are aware of the event. We are not prepared to discuss policing arrangements" (East London Advertiser, 22.08.96). Some MPs have made representations to the Home Office, asking Michael Howard to investigate. Conservative MP David Wilshire said: "If Mr Mohammed [Omar Bakri] does have the right to be here, I will ask whether what he is doing is a criminal offence, in which case, he should be charged. If it involves incitement to violence, the police should act." Another Conservative MP, Terry Dicks’ view was that: "The government ought to stop it taking place. The local authority ought to say enough is enough" (Liverpool Daily Post, 23.08.96). The Jewish Chronicle (23.08.96) claimed that to promote the event, Hizb ut-Tahrir had distributed advertising material in London with the slogan "Peace with Israel is Haram". On the same day, the Evening Standard had an editorial headed "Test of tolerance", which outlined a variety of Omar Bakri Mohammed’s more forceful statements, and concluded: "We should treat extravagant rhetoric about a ‘holy war’ as simply that - rhetoric. But where there is clear evidence of active support for terrorism, or incitement to hatred, our tolerance comes to an abrupt halt".
By 27 August (USA Today, Aberdeen Press & Journal, Guardian, Shropshire Star), news started to appear about Egyptian governmental concern regarding the rally. The Egyptian foreign minister, Amre Moussa (Guardian, Shropshire Star, 27.08.96) said: "There is a question mark over this issue. We, and many other countries, don’t understand this (Britain’s) position. Egypt will contact the British government to find out the truth of the matter and to discuss the possible consequences of such an unfortunate step". By 29 August, President Mubarak had expressed his disapproval: "I am surprised that this conference, which includes many of the elements which support terrorism, will convene. This does not serve the fight against international terrorism" (Bolton Evening News). The Guardian (30.08.96) noted that, in addition to Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Israel and British Jewish organisations had all made formal representations to the British government against the rally. This paper quoted Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, speaking from Pakistan: "People who wish to hold conferences of course don’t need to seek permission from the government in Britain".
The Daily Mail (29.08.96) was indignant that Omar Bakri Mohammed is in receipt of welfare benefits, and headed its article: "Militant ‘sheikh’ gets £300 handout - Refugee on the dole, plotting revolution". Conservative MP William Powell, chair of the Gulf Region Parliamentary Group, said: "There should be an investigation as to whether benefits are being properly paid." Omar Bakri Mohammed replied to the Daily Mail’s criticisms: "There’s no contradiction at all. If I am living under a system Islam allows me to take the benefit that system offers. I am fully eligible - I am disabled, with no ankle joint on my left leg. And the negative publicity I get makes it very difficult for me to get a job. Most of the Islamic leadership is on benefit."
The Board of Deputies of British Jews asked the Home Secretary to deny entry to Britain for the rally to many of those invited, particularly speakers from Palestine and Lebanon and all members and suspected members of Hamas and Hizbullah.
The Board of Deputies called for their exclusion on the grounds that their presence would be "contrary to the public good" (Jewish Chronicle, 09.08.96, Time Out, 14.08.96). Well-known speakers who were invited included: Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi national who has funded one of the groups in the Afghanistan conflict; Sheikh Muhammad Fadhlallah, of the Lebanese Hizbullah; and the Saudi dissident, Dr Al-Mas’ari. Some speakers, who would have been unable to attend in person due to reasons beyond their control, would have sent films of their speeches. These included: Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, jailed for conspiracy to bomb the World Trade Centre in New York; Sheikh Obeid, who was abducted in 1989 from Lebanon and has been held since without trial in Israel; and imprisoned members of the FIS in Algeria (Q-News, 02.08.96, Sunday Times, 18.08.96). The Evening Standard (22.08.96) carries a full-page feature interview with Omar Bakri Mohammed at his London School of Shariah, where he teaches Islamic jurisprudence. Commenting on the speeches from prison, particularly that of Sheikh Obeid, he pointed out that: "When someone goes to prison he doesn’t lose his right to speak out."
Muslim News (30.08.96) saw the Jewish Board of Deputies’ representations to the government demanding that it stop the rally as being part of a wider context of anti-Muslim actions. This article quotes Iqbal Sacranie, spokesman for the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs: "The Board of Deputies of British Jews should seriously consider what action they take on this matter because of the detrimental effect on community relations which could result. Taking a hostile view towards scholars who wish to come to this country to present their points of view at a conference will not serve good community relations..." The Jewish Chronicle (30.08.96) reported on the concern of some Middle Eastern governments that the rally would be allowed to take place, and the Home Office’s refusal to ban it. An editorial in that paper called for vigilant policing of the rally. On this subject, the Daily Telegraph (31.08.96) says that: "Police could arrest anyone who calls for attacks on Jews, or shows a video that does so". The same paper also claims that: "The Board of Deputies of British Jews...has won a promise that no-one known to have links with terrorist organisations will be allowed into the country to attend".
Q-News (30.08.96) asserts that, in fact, eight delegates to the conference, amongst them two EU citizens, were banned from entry to Britain on the grounds that their presence was not conducive to the public good [The EU citizens were presumably banned at point of entry, since they would not need visas. This implies that the authorities would have had foreknowledge of their arrival. Ed.]. Makbool Javaid, for the Society of Muslim Lawyers, regarded this as an abuse of its powers by the Home Office: "There is nothing illegal about the conference. If there was anything untoward the government would have banned it by now. Thousands of British Muslims are going to participate. They, like their French counterparts, are also members of the European Community. If the Home Office wants to be consistent then it should also stop every other participant on the same grounds". A similar view was expressed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Muslim News (30.08.96) and the Church of England Newspaper (30.08.96) both see the reporting of the rally as likely to contribute to a deterioration in inter-faith relations. The Sunday Times (01.09.96), the Times (02.09.96), and the Independent (02.09.96), all review a small number of Middle Eastern papers which condemn the rally, principally Egypt’s Akhbar Al-Yom. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 1/2]
The new leader of the National Union of Students (NUS), Douglas Trainer, has reaffirmed his intention to have Hizb ut-Tahrir and what he calls "other such organisations" banned from university campuses in Britain (see BMMS for October and December 1995; January, February, March and May 1996). He also praised the Campus Watch project, which is a telephone advice service run by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and the anti-racist organisation, Searchlight. Claiming that Campus Watch had taken hundreds of phone calls from students who had been verbally abused by far-right groups and Islamist groups, Douglas Trainer said: "It is a massively important project. NUS has a great relationship with the UJS and I am confident that together we can continue with Campus Watch and bring forward new ideas" (Jewish Chronicle, 23.08.96). Omar Bakri Mohammed, former leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir and now leader of Al-Muhajiroun, in an interview with the Guardian (23.08.96), said that his group intends to organise on university campuses under different names and through existing student societies. He said: "They will not be able to ban peace and human societies. If they do, it will only backfire...We will use other people". Lucy Manning, the Guardian journalist, claimed that Al-Muhajiroun planned to target Oxford, Cambridge and Durham universities, and that it had already established a presence at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University College London, and the London School of Economics.
Jennie Bristow, a student at Sussex University, wrote an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement (02.08.96) pointing out the dangers of NUS’ attitude for civil and human rights in Britain. She details the history of the NUS ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir and shows how the NUS’ actions have contributed to the rise of Islamophobia in Britain. She writes: "Creating a distinction between ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ forms of Islam has done nothing to lessen anti-Muslim prejudice, and everything to intensify it. Now religious freedom in colleges has become conditional on what a particular religion preaches, and it is acceptable for NUS to impose rules on Muslim groups, dictating what they should say and how they should organise". A letter to the New Christian Herald (10.08.96) from Sohail Nakhooda, director of Islamica, the Journal of the Islamic Society of the London School of Economics, makes similar points. His letter is in answer to an article by Dr Sookhdeo, of the London based International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, who suggested in an earlier article in the New Christian Herald (13.07.96), that the marginalisation of Muslims could lead to violence. Mr Nakhooda refutes this, saying: "The problems of marginalisation that Muslims face in inner cities are no different from the ones which other religious/ethnic/economic groups also suffer".
According to a report by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), extremist Islamic groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir pose the most serious threat to lesbian and gay staff and students in universities and colleges in Britain. The report, entitled Fighting Extremist Homophobia, by Peter Purton, describes Hizb-ut-Tahrir as "in equal measure anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, anti-Hindu, anti-feminist and homophobic". The report urges NATFHE branches to support the ban on groups involved in homophobic and other oppressive activities (The Times Higher Educational Supplement, 16.08.96).
Hizb ut-Tahrir posters, denouncing the Middle East peace process, have been stuck on lamp posts across the Old Trafford area of Manchester (Manchester Evening News, 22.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 2/3]
The Police Complaints Committee (PCA), has finally sent the results of its investigation into the case of Amer Rafiq (see BMMS for February, March, April, May and June 1996) to the Crown Prosecution Service (Manchester Evening News, 07.08.96, 16.08.96, Q-News, 16.08.96). Mr Rafiq, a young waiter and part-time student,lost an eye as a result of injuries sustained whilst in police custody at Eid in February. The PCA report is confidential, but all the newspapers now reporting on the case state that it exonerates the police and will recommend that no criminal charges be brought against the arresting officers. Mr Rafiq’s brother-in-law, Azar Iqbal, gave the family’s reaction: "We’d like to see the report but we can’t. I know it’s not justice, but what can we do? At the end of the day it is the police investigating themselves and we wouldn’t be surprised if this was another cover-up" (Q-News, 16.08.96). On 10 August more than 100 people joined a demonstration in support of justice for Amer Rafiq, blocking the traffic in Manchester’s Wilmslow Road (The Pink, Manchester, 10.08.96, Manchester Evening News, 12.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 3]
The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Milad-an-Nabi, was clebrated by pocessions in many towns and cities at the end of July or at the start of August. Some examples were: Luton (Luton News, 01.08.96); High Wycombe (Bucks Free Press, 26.08.96, 30.07.96, 02.08.96, 09.08.96, South Bucks Star, 02.08.96); Bolton (Bolton Evening News, 02.08.96); Blackburn (Blackburn Telegraph, 05.08.96); Halifax (Halifax Evening Courier, 27.07.96); Nelson (Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 26.07.96, Colne Times, 02.08.96); Slough (Slough & Langley Observer, 02.08.96); Leicester (Leicester Mercury, 12.08.96); Keighley (Keighley News, 09.08.96). In general, only men and boys participated in the processions. Two of the above accounts, those of Luton and Slough, mentioned separate women’s celebrations of this special day. The Chingford Guardian (01.08.96) pointed out that, coincidentally, holy days in two other religions occurred at the same time as Milad-an-Nubi this year. They were the birthday of Haile Selassie, a day sacred to Rastafarians, and Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 3/4]
The decision by the Office of National Statistics not to include a question on religious affiliation in the 2001 census, has been reported by only two newspapers, the Daily Telegraph (30.07.96) and Q-News (02.08.96, 09.08.96, 16.08.96). Professor Leslie Francis, chairperson of the religious question working body for the ecumenical group, Churches Together in England, was disappointed about the decision: "I suspect that, within the next decade, government departments will be aware that they need that information" (Daily Telegraph, 30.07.96). He blamed the secular political culture in Britain: "It is an indication of the resistance of policy-makers to take the religious variable seriously. It may have something to do with the fact that most of today’s policy-makers were educated in the 60's when the secularisation thesis was strong and religion was thought to be becoming increasingly irrelevant" (Q-News, 02.08.96). Sahib Mustaqim Bleher of the Islamic Party said: "Without accurate statistics we will never be clear about what provision is needed for our community. It is quite evident by now that the ethnic minority classification has become old hat. You increasingly find Muslims with very English sounding surnames. The extrapolation of Muslims from ethnic classifications doesn’t work any more and it leads to all kinds of inequalities" (Q-News, 02.08.96).
Sabnum Dharamsi, chair of the Muslim Womens Helpline, commented: "The majority of the members of the faith communities have needs and problems which can only be understood and effectively dealt with if they are recognised as religious and not as racial. Increasingly, statutory bodies do realise this and the lack of effective monitoring and evaluation, which a religious question would afford would hamper effective service delivery" (Muslim News, 30.08.96). Jenny Taylor, writing in the New Christian Herald (31.08.96), appears to be in favour of what she sees as "secularism" and, although she acknowledges that: "Clearly Britain does need a better idea of its religious make-up", she does not want the religious question to be included in the census: "...it is surely to the Government’s credit that it avoided the bait of further politicising religion, though why it did is unclear". [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 4]
A billboard advertisement featuring a man and a woman wearing only underclothes has been "covered up" by graffiti artists. Muslims have dressed the woman in purdah and given the man trousers and a beard. Some local Muslim residents found the poster offensive, particularly as it was opposite the mosque in Audley, Blackburn (Blackburn Citizen, 15.08.96, Daily Star, 20.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 4]
The chief constable of West Yorkshire, Keith Hellawell, has called for the legalisation of prostitution. He said: "I think we ought to have legally controlled brothels. We ought to control prostitution for the security of the females and to safeguard health. Brothels could also be taxed and the government could get some revenue for it. I can’t see any disadvantages except the one that says prostitution is wrong" (Q-News, 02.08.96). A supporter of this point of view is Raja Amin, chairperson of Streetwatch in Balsall Heath, Birmingham (see BMMS for February 1996), an organisation dedicated to chasing prostitutes off the streets of its locality. Raja Amin said: "The government has to open its eyes to what is going on. It must be better to regulate this profession and tax the women, than to ignore it" (Asian Times, 01.08.96). Liaquat Hussain of the Bradford Council of Mosques was of the opposite opinion: "In times of economic hardship especially it [legalisation] would serve as an invitation to lots of young girls to enter the trade. We can’t legalise things simply because laws are not working" (Q-News, 02.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 4]
Police in the Portsmouth area have interviewed worshippers at the Fareham Shia Mosque in their attempt to identify a man found buried in a field at Warsash. Members of the Muslim community have cooperated fully with the police, but had no positive information to offer. Police believe the murder victim to be Asian (Portsmouth News, 01.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 4/5]
The Mathaf Gallery in Motcomb Street, London SW1, currently has an exhibition to celebrate its 21st year. The gallery claims to be a world leader in Islamic Art, and "to serve the Muslim community as well as collectors of all faith and nationalities worldwide in the provision of paintings of the Orientalist School" (What’s On in London, 07.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
The deportation of a sick man with a mental age of three to Pakistan from Manchester Airport on 1 August was postponed as there was no escort available to care for him on the flight. Mohammed Bashir, aged 36, has lived with his brother in Birmingham for the past three years. There are no family members to care for him in Pakistan (Manchester Evening News, 01.08.96). A date for the judicial review of the case has been fixed for 26 September.
The Black Country Evening Mail (30.08.96) comments: "If that handicapped man is put on a plane back to Pakistan, Britain will have shown the world the sort of behaviour we expect from Saddam Hussein or the mad and bad dictators of Africa".
Also threatened with deportation is Mohammed Nasir, a Pakistani asylum seeker whose wife, Joanne, is English. Mr Nasir is being held at a detention centre at Manchester Airport. Joanne Nasir explained: "There had been some political trouble and he was charged with causing a man’s death but he swears he is innocent. We had been hoping that the authorities would allow him to stay here permanently but suddenly, without reason, they have decided to send him back. Our marriage is absolutely genuine. We met through a friend and wed twice - once in a traditional Muslim ceremony, then at a register office. My whole family have accepted him, particularly my mum. She has already suffered a heart attack and can’t cope with all this" (Manchester Evening News, 30.07.96, 01.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
The Islamic Cultural Community Centre in the St John’s area of Halifax, which was receiving an annual grant of £42,000 from Calderdale council, has finally been closed because of mismanagement. A new project has been drawn up by the council and the West Central Halifax Partnership and will be run by a new management structure (Halifax Evening Courier, 14.08.96, 15.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
Pir Syed Mohammed Hasmi Mia, a spiritual leader from India, visited Blackburn on 11 August. Hundreds of Muslims from all over the north west of England came to greet him. After the procession to mark the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Pir Hasmi Mia gave a speech at the Ghausia Mosque and gave advice to individuals (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 13.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
The 31st annual convention of Ahmadiyya Muslims was held in Tilford, Essex at the end of July. More than 10,000 people from all over the world were expected to attend, including the head of the Ahmadiyya movement, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmed (Leicester Mercury, 27.07.96). The actual attendance was over 15,000, with participants coming from 63 countries. The Asian Times (01.08.96) explained that: "Part of the purpose of the convention was to relate and reiterate the beliefs of the Ahmadis and proceedings were telecast via satellite to countries around the world. The Ahmadiyya is established in 152 countries and, despite the military persecution of this community in Pakistan where they are declared ‘non-Muslims’, its global membership is growing at an increasing rate." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
The Scotsman (12.08.96) carries an obituary of Amatul Majeed Zafar, a prominent member of the Ahmadiyya community in Scotland. Mrs Zafar was one of the first people to teach Urdu in a Scottish secondary school. She was killed in a car accident whilst travelling with her husband and daughter to London for the annual Ahmadiyya convention. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 5]
Although the procession to mark the Holy Prophet’s birthday and the Asian Mela Festival apparently passed of without any negative incidents, the chair of the committee organising the Mela, Iftakhar Ahmed, believed that the date chosen for the procession was provocative. He said: "Everyone knows the Asian Mela in Slough is always held in the last week of July...I see this as a personal attack on me which arises from my position in the Pakistani Welfare Association and my enemies will use any opportunity to attack me...I respect all religious beliefs but I think it is wrong when leaders use religion for political or malicious aims." The organiser of the Muslim procession, councillor Mohammed Arif, said: "It’s absolute nonsense, Sunday is the proper day in the Islamic calendar to hold the march. I booked it three months ago because all events of this kind have to be registered with the police..." (Slough & Langley Observer, 26.07.96). A separate dispute concerned fighting between gangs of Muslims and Sikhs at a Sikh wedding. Eight young men, three Muslims and five Sikhs, were bound over for 12 months to keep the peace by Slough magistrates as a result of the fight on 5 May this year (see BMMS for July, August, September and December 1995; April, June and July 1996). Magistrates heard that one of the youths had an iron bar which he claimed he had taken off another youth to stop anyone being hurt, and that one member of the gang had shouted insults about another person’s mother, causing more trouble (Slough & Langley Observer, 26.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 6]
India Mail (23.08.96) reports on the recently established Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia (see BMMS for July 1996). They quote the chair of the commission, Professor Gordon Conway, of Sussex University, who says that: "An important issue for Muslims is education, particularly the teaching of religious education as well as the need for state funded Islamic schools, similar to the existing Jewish and Christian denominational schools". Another commissioner, Dr Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College and an active participant in inter-faith matters, commented: "All too often people represent Muslims as singularly extremist, separatist and sharing identical religious beliefs". The commission is due to publish a final report in the summer of 1997, with recommendations for policy-makers, public bodies, religious organisations, the media and the educational system. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 6]
A programme on BBC2 on 27 August about the large numbers of black prisoners, particularly in Pentonville Prison, who are embracing Islam, provoked comment in the Muslim and non-Muslim press. A photograph of the Black Britain reporting team, who made the programme, featured in the Wrexham Evening Leader (27.08.96) and the Bath Chronicle (27.08.96). Molly Blake of the Birmingham Evening Mail (28.08.96) was cynical: "Conversion? Don’t make me laugh. These were thumping crooks who’d do anything to while away their time inside. The Black Britain team will have to be more convincing than this". Q-News(23.08.96) discussed the phenomenon of conversions in Pentonville in considerable detail. They report that: "This Ramadan alone, 42 brothers declared the shahada". Q-News attributes some of the growth of Islam in Pentonville to the hard work and personality of Imam Muraduddun, who is likely to become Britain’s first full-time Muslim prison minister. The Muslim parliament plans to discuss the issue of Muslim prisoners in British jails at their next session in October. The Muslim Parliament’s deputy leader, Jehangir Mohammed, said: "We are receiving an increasing number of grievances from prisoners about their conditions, treatment and denial of rights. We would like to hear from anyone who can add to the information we already have. In particular, we wish to hear from Muslim prisoners themselves" (Q-News, 23.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 6]
Fazlun Khalid writes an article in Q-News (16.08.96) showing how care for the environment is not only in humankind’s own interest, but is enjoined upon us by God and revealed in the Qur’an. He says: "Although we are equal partners with everything else in the natural world we have added responsibilities. We are decidedly not its lords and masters". [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 6]
Q-News has two articles (23.08.96, 30.08.96) examining the possible impact of reforms to the monarchy on British Muslims. The particular potential reforms on which the articles concentrate are all concerned with changes in the relationship between the monarchy and the Church of England. Dr Zaki Badawi was quoted as being in favour of Prince Charles’ suggestion of broadening the monarch’s role to include a defence of many faiths (see BMMS for May 1996). He said: "At the moment we [Muslims] are not recognised as a community. If the monarch was to pledge to give us certain rights then that would certainly constitute an improvement. There is nothing in our law [Shariah] that prohibits us from seeking the protection of members of other faiths" (Q-News, 23.08.96). The other article wants the Church of England to allow Prince Charles to remarry and still to be able to become king. The opinion is expressed that: "From a Muslim point of view, Charles is not so much the violator of a moral order as he is its victim. ‘Moral order’ is perhaps a misnomer - since it is this very machinery that hampers his ability to marry his mistress, and thereby legitimise relations with her" (Q-News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 6/7]
The Independent on Sunday (25.08.96) carries a thoughtful article by Dido Sandler examining ethical investment from the viewpoint of religious groups, particularly Christians, Jews, and Muslims. She writes that: "Devout Muslims have the greatest problems. Previously, wealthy, devout Muslims were restricted to investments such as leasing finance which complied with Shariah (Islamic) law but offered relatively low returns. Now, according to Mushtaq Parker, the editor of the Islamic Banker magazine, there is more choice including Islamically-acceptable stockmarket investment funds and Islamic bonds." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7]
Thousands of people attended the Young Muslim Summer Camp held at the Three Counties Show Ground in Malvern from 29 August to 1 September (Luton Herald & Post, 25.07.96, Eastern Eye 23.08.96, Slough & Langley Observer, 02.08.96). Inayat Bungawala, a spokesperson for the organisers, said: "Many worshippers have come here from the West Midlands area. We are trying to teach young people about Islam and how to live as Muslims in Britain" (Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, Birmmingham Post, 30.08.96, Birmingham Evening Mail, 29.08.96). [The first three of these articles were accompanied by very positive images of Muslim women in hijab enjoying themselves in the Malvern hills. Ed.] Yusuf Islam, director of the Islamia Schools, was one of the speakers at the gathering (Worcester Evening News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7]
The Volkswagen Foundation has awarded a million DM (over £600,000) to a research consortium including Warwick University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations to study young people of Turkish origin in Europe. Most of the British fieldwork will be carried out in the London borough of Hackney, where 40,000 of the UK’s Turkish minority live (Q-News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7]
Four members of the same family, accused of an attack on a mosque committee member in the Masjid Bilal Islamic Centre, Haslingden, have been cleared. They are: Mohammed Salim (48), his sons Shafquat (22) and Furquat (17) and Mr Salim’s brother, Mohammed Jamil (35). The case against Rafaquat Salim (19), accused of stabbing Uman Gul in the mosque, continues (Rossendale Free Press, 16.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7]
Kamal Siddiqui, President of the Essex Islamic Trust, had threatened to call on members of Havering district’s Asian communities to stop paying local taxes, saying that services such as education, health care, and social services were proving difficult to access. This brought an angry response from some of the Havering Yellow Advertiser’s (16.08.96) readers. A Mr J Murphy commented: "All of the community has had to suffer cut backs. I suggest self funding as my local cub pack and gardening club do. Issuing threats is not the way forward". Mr Siddiqui claimed that improvements were needed in the consulting of ethnic minority groups. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7]
Following the success of his tape and CD version of The Life of the Last Prophet last October (see BMMS for August and September 1995), Yusuf Islam has now published a book of the same title. The book is published by Mountain of Light Productions (Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7/8]
Sumeyya Aslam, writing in Q-News (30.08.96), explores the actual and possible use of the internet for Muslims. She writes: "I’d argue that the Internet has more potential for da’wa than any medium yet invented, so we have a duty to harness its power. What we need is for our major emergent writings (articles to be published in journals) and the debates and decisions of our scholars (both from the English-speaking ones, and translations of theological developments in the Islamic lands) be pasted [sic] onto the Internet, and all this material be catalogued resourcefully and effectively. We should set up interactive games, allowing people to learn about Islam in an enjoyable way (have we forgotten what that means?) and we should have a database of information and statistics to do with Muslim communities in particular countries." Q-News’ e-mail address is: email@example.com [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8]
Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, invited a select few British Muslim leaders to breakfast in July. He emphasised that Malaysia’s policies have a "moral and ethical dimension". Dr Hani al-Banna, director of Islamic Relief, presented Mr Ibrahim with a painting by a twelve-year-old refugee from Grozny, Chechnya (Muslim News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8]
Twelve Bosnian families had dinner with Yusuf Islam at the Bosnian community centre in Cricklewood to say thank you to him. All the families included people who had been severely injured in the war, and Yusuf Islam had paid for them to have modern artificial limbs fitted. Halima Mediha, one of the organisers of the gathering, explained: "In Bosnia itself during the war, amputees were simply fitted with a piece of wood. The progress being made by these men and their families now is truly remarkable" (Muslim News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8]
Restaurants at Manchester Airport now offer halal food on their menus (Wilmslow Express Advertiser, 08.08.96). This provision is particularly important with increasing numbers of passengers from Manchester who are doing Umrah or Hajj (see BMMS for April 1996). Airport chairperson Graham Stringer said: "The expansion of our flight network to the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent is extremely important to the airport. We are determined to provide facilities for our customers from many parts of the world with different religious and ethnic backgrounds" (Bury Times, 06.08.96, Radcliffe Times, 08.08.96, Bury Times, 15.08.96). The idea apparently first came from Liaquat Ali, chair of the Bury Islamic Centre and Mosque, and former chair of Bury Racial Equality Council. Mr Ali also persuaded the airport to provide a Muslim prayer room (Bury Times, 13.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8]
A Qur’an teacher in Huddersfield, Farooq Ahmed, was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm to a seven year old pupil, and was fined £150, and ordered to pay £75 compensation and £50 court costs. Mr Ahmed hit the boy when he allegedly misbehaved in the Qur’an class. When the child arrived home, his mother noticed bruising on his face and neck, and the boy fainted. Police were called and the boy was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Abdul Haq, defending, said on behalf of his client: "...children do misbehave from time to time and it is the duty of the teacher to keep them in order. On this occasion Mr Ahmed may have been a little bit excessive. He accepts that and is remorseful" (Huddersfield Examiner, 01.08.96, Yorkshire Post, 01.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8]
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has rejected an application from Bradford and Leicester Universities for funding a content analysis of how Islam is presented in the mass media. This was to form part of their larger project on Multiculturalism, Muslims and the Media, which the ESRC is funding (see BMMS for March 1996). A disappointed Professor Charles Husband of Bradford University commented: "There is adequate evidence to show that Muslim communities are perceived as a threat by certain states. There is a clear need to record the way in which demonisation is proceeding. One of the best ways to do it is through properly funded research. Indeed, this is one of the functions of social science - to provide relevant data to inform public policy." Sarah Sleet, spokesperson for the ESRC, explained the rejection thus: "the proposal has to clear several hurdles and many experts before it is approved or disapproved and our panellists are all experienced specialists themselves in the chosen field. They all felt that the programme should be funded but felt that the researchers were looking at too broad an area. Because it was too wide ranging, it was felt that it could damage the rest of the project" (Q-News, 30.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 8/9]
Young Muslims from Preston’s twin town of Nimes spent 10 days on an exchange in Lancashire. Their visit followed a trip to Nimes by some of Preston’s young Muslims in 1994 (Preston Evening Post, 29.07.96). [Information on EU funding for youth exchanges may be obtained from: European Commission, Directorate General XXII (Education, Training and Youth), Directorate C/2, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium] [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9]
An international conference, organised by the Sunni Youth Movement in Rochdale, had speakers from France, Pakistan, and the United States, and was attended by over 200 participants (Rochdale Observer, 27.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9]
The Rossendale Free Press (19.07.96) has a feature article by Taslima Choudhury, a 15-year-old student at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School who is with the newspaper on work experience. She discusses the lack of appropriate youth leisure provision for girls in Haslingden. Ms Choudhury has interviewed both service providers and service users. Rugina Chowdry, aged 15, explained: "The problem with a place like Haslingden is that because the [Asian Muslim] community is very closely-knit, there is a lot of gossip. If someone sees you out at night talking to a boy or a white teenager, they immediately assume you are doing something wrong and the rumours that go round are blown out of all proportion." Farida Munira, leader of Haslingden Asian Girls Group, commented: "We try to make parents more confident of sending their daughters to us by making house calls and discussing the activities that we do, but some parents just refuse to listen." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9]
A group of young Muslims from the Himmat Project in Halifax took part in clearing the streets around the Madni mosque. Project leader Mohammed Aslam said: "If they clean up their own area, maybe next time they will think twice before dropping litter" (Halifax Evening Courier, 27.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9]
A women-only meeting on the Israeli occupation of Palestine due to be held at the Victoria Hall, Harrow, was cancelled when the trustees of the venue decided that the meeting would be anti-semitic. The secretary of the trustees, Bill Matthews, and the hall bookings manager, Cynthia Province, recommended that the meeting be cancelled after seeing a pamphlet advertising it. Mr Matthews said: "I have seen the leaflet and it carried a certain amount of incitement. That is not within our remit for the use of the hall so we told them the meeting could not go ahead and returned their deposit". A statement in the advertising material which apparently caused offence was: "The blood of Muslims runs freely while our leaders compete with each other to shake the hands that drip with this blood. This is the reality of Israel. This is the reality of the peace process" (Jewish Chronicle, 02.08.96, Harrow Observer, 25.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9]
Members of an eight-person strong Bangladeshi poetry circle based in London’s East End, have been interviewed by Special Branch officers about their writings, particularly those concerned with the continued presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia (Asian Times, 01.08.96, The Observer, 04.08.96, Sunday Telegraph, 04.08.96, East London Advertiser, 08.08.96, Q-News, 09.08.96). Abdu Shukur was interviewed by Special Branch detectives at his home about an article in the group’s journal. He said of the officers: "They were both very polite. They said that the United States wanted to know about our group and then asked questions about America, terrorism and the bombings. They stayed about half-an-hour and I explained that we are a non-political organisation which sometimes publishes views on the Qur’an" (Asian Times, 01.08.96). The Foreign Office have apparently denied all knowledge of the investigation (Q-News, 09.08.96).
The Metropolitan Police have issued a statement that: "Officers are making enquiries in connection with a broadsheet produced by the group featuring articles discussing the removal of foreign groups from Saudi Arabia which could be interpreted as racially inflammatory" (Observer, 04.08.96). The Special Branch had fixed an interview with the author of the article, Mohammed Jalal-Abadi, who is also British correspondent for the Daily Millet, a Bangladeshi newspaper, but subsequently seem to have abandoned the investigation. Mr Jalal-Abadi said of the officers’ preliminary visit: "I asked them who had sent them and they said the Foreign Office because the Americans had taken offence to what I wrote" (Q-News, 09.08.96). The work of the Bangladeshi Muslim Literary Circle is publicly available, its poetry and essays appearing on the internet (Observer, 04.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 9/10]
The Highbury & Islington Express (23.08.96) has a full-page and very sympathetic article concerning Algerian refugees in the area of London the paper serves. The article is written by Reda Hassaine, a former Algerian newspaper editor who has been in exile in Europe since 1992. It gives a brief recent history of the present conflicts in Algeria, and interviews members of the Algerian Refugee Council and Solidarity With Women’s Struggle in Algeria. A spokesperson for the latter organisation, who is anonymous for fears of reprisals, said: "We, Algerian women living in Islington, are aware of the dangers endured by our sisters, mothers, friends, and others at home. While various organisations abroad are reporting on the atrocities indiscriminately committed against all sections of the population, our aim is to give a voice to women in Algeria still active in their struggle. In Algeria, you are not killed because you have done something wrong but because you are either a woman or you are enlightened. The continuing suppression does not make big news any more. The media, unfortunately, are more interested in those fighting for power than in ordinary citizens fighting for human and civil rights." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 10]
Muslims in Leicestershire are very concerned about racist leaflets, distributed in Leicester and other Midlands towns, inciting violence against black people. The leaflets claim to come from an organisation, calling itself Islamic Jihad - 786 and Khalifa - 786 and are of a virulently racist nature. Aadam Muhammed, who alerted Q-News to the leaflets said: "They are appearing outside mosques and are bad news for black Muslims. There has always been tension between Asian Muslims and black Muslims. Many Asians say that blacks convert to Islam to get Asian women but this is not true. I certainly did not convert to Islam to get Asian women" (Q-News, 30.08.96). A spokesperson for the Federation of Muslim Organisations Leicestershire said: "The contents of these publications are totally un-Islamic and we as Muslims find this abhorrent and totally unacceptable. As followers of Islam we are totally committed to live in peace and harmony with people of all races and religious affiliations." Inspector June Webster of the race and community relations unit said: "The publication and distribution of these leaflets is illegal under the Public Order Act, and we take the matter very seriously. We believe they have been published by an extremist group who want to stir up trouble for their own ends, and we are investigating" (Leicester Mercury, 20.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 10]
The two Muslim chefs who were sacked from Joseph’s Restaurant Bar for saying their prayers at work, refusing to shave off their beards, and talking Arabic amongst themselves have lost their case alleging discrimination at an industrial tribunal. The tribunal did find, however, that one of the two, Abdelouhabe Safouane, had been unfairly dismissed and ordered Joseph’s to pay compensation. Ahmed Thompson, legal representative of Lakhdar Bouterfas and Abdelouhabe Safouane, had argued that the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory and which prohibits discrimination on religious grounds, should be brought to bear on the case. The Society of Muslim Lawyers commented: "...the decision of the tribunal acknowledges that the discrimination faced by Muslims in employment is increasingly of a religious rather than racial nature". [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 10/11]
Andrea Shamomi of Palmer’s Green, London, was denied unemployment benefit because social security offers found that she had left work "voluntarily". Ms Shamomi, who had embraced Islam in the period after her interview for the post of receptionist at the Kensington Palace Hotel but before starting the job, left the employment after her employers refused to let her wear a longer skirt than the regulation uniform. Ms Shamomi said that she was subjected to a long and denigrating interview at the benefit office, where they refused to accept that she had good cause to leave the job. She said: "What this amounts to is a penalty for converting to Islam. I didn’t think the questions they asked me were relevant but I answered the ones that were to the best of my ability" (Q-News, 02.08.96). The case bears some similarity to one in March, where a woman was sacked for deciding to adopt hijab (see BMMS for January and March 1996). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11]
Sarah Sheriff, writing in Muslim News (30.08.96), reviews the report, Children and Racism, A Childline Study, published by ChildLine 1996. In contrast to the Q-News review of the same publication (see BMMS for July 1996), Ms Sheriff does find specific mention of Muslim children’s problems. She writes: "Two hundred and sixteen children described religious or cultural pressures on them as second or third generation British youngsters living with parents who insisted on traditional norms: ‘My family is Muslim and very strict’, ‘I am fed up with my family and living at home. They never let me do what I want. My cousin and uncle follow me to work’, ‘Neelam was 16 and had a white boyfriend. Her family had found out and beaten her severely...a marriage was being planned. She said her parents had threatened to kill her if she did not agree to the marriage. She felt like killing herself and wanted to run away’". One of report author’s Mary Macleod’s, recommendations is that there should be increased counselling and advice for young people both "within and outside their communities" and here she stresses the role of religious and community leaders. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11]
A Muslim woman in Newhaven, Asia Khandokar, has requested women-only sessions at her local swimming pool. She has been supported in this by other women, including non-Muslims. Diana Carter, who is disabled with arthritis, said: "I would welcome a women-only sessions as it is not very dignified being lowered into a pool in front of energetic young men". Lewes district council has promised to look into the matter (Sussex Express, 16.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11]
An 18 year-old woman from Birmingham, Shazia Shaheen, realised that her father intended to marry her off forcibly in Pakistan when he returned from the ticket desk at Manchester Airport with a one-way ticket. Her distress brought the intervention of airport staff and police, and she is now at a women’s refuge. Q-News (23.08.96) commented: "The continuing practice of duping or forcing girls into marriages abroad has been a source of great embarrassment [sic] to the Muslim community. Muslim scholars recommend that fathers seek their daughters consent before giving them away in marriage but the stipulation is often overlooked by parents..." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11]
A review of the statistical report, Social Focus on Minorities, highlights concern about the health and economic status of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. Q-News (23.08.96) asked Noshaba Hussain of the Al-Nissaa Academy, Birmingham, for her comments, based on her research in Birmingham, Bradford and Nottingham. She said: "Women who are being discriminated against are those who have been educated in this country and can speak English. From my experience of Muslim women using the health and social services, Muslim women are not seen as a separate client group and are lumped together in the ‘Asian’ or ‘ethnic’ category. It is no surprise that they are reluctant to approach health service professionals". [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11]
Vicky, the "agony aunt" in Birmingham’s Metronews, advised a Muslim woman who wrote to her about being physically and emotionally abused by her husband’s family, to contact the Muslim Women’s Helpline (0181-904-8193). The "agony aunt" said approvingly of the helpline: "Their counselling is founded upon the Islamic model of the self and based on teachings from the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions. It offers a positive approach. Get in touch with them. They will also be able to put you in touch with helpful Muslim organisations in your area". [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 11/12]
The Association of Muslim Schools has produced the Summer 1996 edition of its newsletter, al-Madaris. The AMS newsletter can be obtained from: 88 Sparkenhoe Street, Leicester, LE2 0TA, phone and fax 0116 251 9519. [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
Following discussions between the Islamia Schools Trust, the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS), and Her Majesty’s Inspectors, a compromise has been reached enabling the schools concerned to teach music in such a way as to meet the demands of the national curriculum. Up till now, music has been omitted from the curriculum of the Islamia Schools, who were criticised by the Inspectorate for this omission (see BMMS for March, April and June 1996). The pupils will be taught musical theory and notation which would then be applied to the composition and performance of choral works, with computers being used to teach keyboard skills using programmes producing chorale or percussive sounds (al-Madaris, Summer 1996). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
Ducie High School in Moss Side celebrated the first anniversary of its £6.5 million refurbishment with a multifaith ceremony in which Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Humanists, Muslims and Sikhs all participated. The school’s headteacher, Dawn Peters, explained: "We are a multi-racial, multi-faith school, so it seemed only fair to invite along as many representatives from different religions and faiths as we could. They all joined with us in a unique ceremony enjoyed by all" (Manchester Evening News, 26.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
The Bradford Telegraph & Argos (14 August 1996) commemorated Pakistan’s national day with a colour supplement. One article, actually an advertising feature about the Rolex Bookshop in Bradford, begins: "This year is the tenth anniversary of a significant step in Bradford’s multicultural progress. For it was in 1986 that the Local Education Authority funded the pioneering Interfaith Education Centre that provided teaching assistants from all the city’s faith communities, including Muslims. It was more than an example of educational forward-thinking. It was also something of a symbol that Bradford’s Asian community had really come of age..." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
Members of Waltham Forest Islamic Association have complained about a deterioration in communications between the Muslim community and schools. The Governing Bodies Unit of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, who can be contacted on 0181-527-5544 extension 5360 or 5019, point out that one way in which minority communities can improve communications with schools is for members of those communities to become school governors. Ethnic minority groups, many of whom are Muslims, account for 30 percent of the borough’s population as a whole, and form 40 percent of the under 18s, but only 25 percent of school governors are from minority groups (Walthamstow Guardian, 15.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
The Hijaz College, near Nuneaton, is hoping to expand and become Hijaz University. They have applied for planning permission for extensions to: student accommodation; lecture rooms; a library; prayer room; changing rooms; and a principal’s flat (Nuneaton Evening News, 20.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12]
A girls’ boarding school which is sited in Blackburn’s former Royal Albert Hospital had an open day, prior to its opening to the students in September (see BMMS for April 1996). Ibrahim Hewitt, development officer of the Association of Muslim Schools, was favourably impressed and commented: "There is a lot of effort going into trying to get girls a good education. We’re trying to create an environment where people are confident about having their girls educated. We feel that if our mothers are well-educated then this will benefit the whole community" (Lancaster Guardian, 23.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 12/13]
At a public meeting of Newham council’s planning and environment committee on 3 August, councillors agreed that, in principle, a mosque is a suitable development for the vacant council land off Kingsford Way (see BMMS for April, June and July 1996), (City of London Recorder, 07.08.96, Newham Recorder, 07.08.96, Asian Times 15.08.96). The United Muslim Association, who have put forward the plans for the mosque, are now reported to be split into two groups. According to the City of London Recorder and the Newham Recorder (same article, syndicated, 07.08.96), one group is led by Shah Syed, a founder member of the UMA 15 years ago, and the other by Latif Chowdhury. Mr Syed’s group’s plans are for a smaller mosque and community centre than the one originally proposed, and Mr Chowdhury’s scheme would develop only one third of the site as a mosque, leaving the remainder for other community facilities.
However, accusations and counter-accusations regarding a racist motive for opposition to the mosque in Beckton continue. The objectors, who collected 3,000 signatures on a petition against the mosque, are now intending to appeal to the Secretary of State (Docklands Express, 10.08.96). Sheikh J. Rahman, in a letter to the editor of the City of London Recorder (23.08.96) writes: "The United Muslim Association had said that they would be building a smaller mosque than the one which was originally proposed. They also said that there will be no call for prayer and there will not be any wedding services which generate noise pollution. There are nine churches in the Beckton district area and no mosque for the 1,000 plus Muslims in the area." The United Muslim Association has applied to Newham Council for permission to erect a temporary marquee on the mosque site (Docklands Express, 24.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 13]
Self-defence vigilante groups are being formed by Asian Muslim youths in Birmingham to protect mosques and homes from the Ku Klux Klan, which is suspected of attempting to organise in the Midlands (see BMMS for July 1996). Police community affairs officer Inspector John Brown said that a group of armed youths outside a mosque in the city had been questioned by police. "They said they were protecting the mosque", said Inspector Brown (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 08.08.96). He continued: "We spoke to members of the city’s Asian community and it appears some people have become extra sensitive because they think there is a threat from the Ku Klux Klan" (Birmingham Express & Star, 08.08.96). The Birmingham Central Mosque plans to tighten security there by installing closed-circuit television cameras and a new alarm system. Mr Abubakr Siddiqui, the Central Mosque’s secretary, explained: "Many visitors to the mosque have expressed their fear of attacks from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan" (Walsall Express & Star, 08.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 13]
Following objections to the local government ombudsman from groups opposed to the enlargement of the Zakaria Mosque on Peace Street on the grounds of maladministration, the council has been ordered to pay compensation to a residents’ association. However, the ombudsman is not intervening in the actual decision. Both the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Peace Street and Birkendale Gardens Residents’ Association claim to have the support of the majority of the community and have submitted petitions in favour of their viewpoints (Bolton Evening News, 14.08.96). A report to the planning committee recommending approval for the mosque was due to be considered on 22 August. Pat Tippington, a spokesperson for the Peace Street and Birkdale Residents Association, who have opposed the plans, said: "We have done all we can. We never said we did not want to see the mosque built, what we objected to was the size of the mosque" (Bolton Metro News, 22.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 13]
Plans for a two-storey mosque and madrassah in Gibraltar Street are being resubmitted (see BMMS for July 1996), (Bolton Metro News, 08.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 13]
Muslims in Chichester have now raised approximately £70,000 towards the mosque they want to build in the city (see BMMS for April, June and July 1996), which they estimate will cost between £150,000 and £200,000 (Chichester Observer, 25.07.96). The Portsmouth News (27.07.96) carried a short editorial calling for tolerance, concluding about the opponents to the mosque that: "If they really were Christians, they would be finding out what they had in common with their neighbours, not seeking to widen old divisions." The Brighton Evening Argus (15.08.96) has a feature article which gives a history of the opposition to the application for a mosque in Chichester. The article also cites experiences from other relatively nearby communities, such as Worthing, Crawley, Hastings, which show that, although there may have been some initial local resistance to the idea, the mosques have proven to be an asset to all members of the respective communities. It also reprints a cartoon which is part of the propaganda distributed by the extreme right-wing Surrey Border Front. The editors justify their action by saying: "Offensive though it is, we print it because we believe it is important for people to understand how the debate can be hijacked by right-wing extremists with their own nasty agenda." Racist leaflets, produced by the Front, have also been plastered on the noticeboard of a Chichester church close to the guide hall where Muslims meet for prayers, and some have been distributed to homes in the neighbourhood. The rector at St George’s, Whyke, said: "In my sermon at mass I said how awful it was. It is intended to increase suspicion and to cause division between peoples, and I strongly condemn it. The only reason I can think of for why the Whyke area was targeted is that an Islamic community meets in the guide hall. We of the church must as Christians resist these kind of groups and their activities" (Chichester Observer, 22.08.96, Portsmouth News, 21.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 13/14]
Plans for a mosque on the site of the former HMS Mercia Royal Naval Reserve headquarters, Smith Street, Coventry, have met with opposition from some local residents, mainly on the grounds of possible traffic problems. The Coventry Bangladesh Islamic Society has already obtained a mortgage to buy the building. A member of the society, Rois Ali, said: "Coventry is desperate for a mosque and this is ideally situated. The building has great potential and we have a car park at the rear for over 100 cars. There will certainly be no more traffic than there was before. Many of the people using it live nearby and will be walking to it" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 28.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14]
Delays in the completion of the mosque in Nicholson Square, Edinburgh have left it looking very unattractive, some local residents claim. The mosque was started in 1989, but funding problems have meant that although the main building has been finished, the facade is still only of concrete. Eventually, the concrete should be clad with sandstone and granite, and there will be stained-glass windows. Most of the finance for the £3 million building has come from Saudi Arabia and the delays have been largely due to difficulties in raising the final £1 million (Edinburgh Evening News, 13.08.96, 16.06.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14]
Planning permission has been granted for the conversion of an empty shop into a mosque in Govanhill, in spite of some local protests. The main objections have been about possible noise nuisance and parking problems (Glaswegian, 22.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14]
A Muslim cultural, social and religious centre was formally opened at Pump Lane, Hayes, by the town’s mayor on 21 July (Hayes & Harlington Gazette, 24.07.96). A spokesperson for the centre said: "It is a focal point for the community for social and cultural activities. It is a place of learning for everyone, not just Muslims. Anyone who wants to learn about Islam is welcome to go along. We want to work with the community." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14]
Plans to enlarge the Berners Street mosque have been recommended for approval, in spite of some local opposition concerning possible traffic congestion (Leicester Mercury, 02.09.96). The Leicester Muslim Society, which was granted permission to demolish some buildings on Berners Street and Bakewell Street in order to build a mosque on the site has been asking permission to demolish an additional house (see BMMS for July 1996). The Muslim Society wants to have more space for worship and for other activities (Eastern Eye, 23.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14]
The owners of the flat at 246 Old Brompton Road, presently used without planning permission as a mosque intend to appeal against the council’s enforcement notice (see BMMS for May 1996). The community using the mosque has sent a written appeal to John Gummer, the secretary of state for the environment (Chelsea News, 08.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 14/15]
A rare tree, a Norway Maple, in the car park of the mosque at Upper Park Road has been discovered severely damaged. A report to Manchester’s planning committee says the tree is protected by being in a local conservation area. The report says the Central Mosque had asked an employee to prune the tree lightly, but he had got "carried away". The leaders of the mosque may be liable to prosecution over the matter (Manchester Evening News, 13.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15]
A plan for building a mosque in Ronald Street, Oldham, has been re-submitted. Although substantially the same as the plan rejected in January 1995 (see BMMS for January 1996), the applicants were proposing improved lighting and supervision of children before and after classes. An appeal against the previous refusal is due to be held in December. At the same council meeting, an the decision on an application to turn a pub, the White Stone, into a mosque, was also deferred (Oldham Advertiser, 22.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15]
A report to Oxford city council’s planning committee has recommended approval for the mosque proposed in Manzil Way, provided that parking problems are addressed (see BMMS for June and July 1996). The architect, Mohammed Ehsan, did his dissertation on mosques in Britain when a student at Oxford Brookes University in 1974 (Oxford Mail, 27.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15]
Plans by the Muslim Community Education Centre (MCEC) to build a mosque on a sports ground in Oakthorpe Road, Palmers Green, are meeting opposition from local residents who want the area to remain a green space (see BMMS for July 1996). The planning committee’s discussion on the application from the Muslim group has been postponed until the autumn (The Enfield Advertiser, 31.07.96). In a feature article (06.08.96), the Enfield Advertiser interviewed committee members of the MCEC, Khawar Shaikh and Sabir Shaikh, and two campaigners from Oakthorpe Action to keep the Sportsground, Pat Rhodes and Marian Abraham. The MCEC plan to keep the majority of the land, which they own, as a sportsground. MCEC secretary, Khawar Sheikh, explained: "The design (of a community centre with prayer facilities) will be in keeping with the character of the rest of the houses in the area. We intend to have a nursery for all communities, a little library and 50 car parking spaces. The community centre will only take up a tenth of the five acres we own. Oakthorpe isn’t even being used as a sports ground at the moment and we want to make it a proper sports field again." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15]
A great many local and national Scottish newspapers have reported on a planning application, which could result in the foundation of Britain’s smallest mosque, with dimensions of 19 feet by 39 feet. The building concerned is a disused grocery shop in Prestwick, South Ayrshire. Councillors and planning officers made a site visit and went to visit the Noor Mosque in Glasgow. Permission was granted on 8 August.
A public meeting was planned for 29 August to discuss the mosque. The councillor for the area, Rita Miller, explained: "I just hope people can be good neighbours and that’s what this meeting is about. Mr Safiq will be there to explain to people exactly what goes on in a mosque" (Ayr Advertiser, 21.08.96). In the same article, Mr Safiq, a spokesperson for local Muslims, outlined his hopes for understanding and co-operation: "I am well known in the area and I have been in Scotland for 30 years. In that time I have always fitted in well - but there have been some people talking about fears of fundamentalism. They think that because we have a mosque we are going to change overnight into Muslim fundamentalists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope at this meeting we can sit down in a relaxed environment and look at any concerns." Ann Galbraith, in an editorial headed "One woman’s view" in the same paper (21.08.96), wrote: "All most of us know about the Moslem faith is what we see on the telly - and that usually concerns bother of some kind or another... Which is why I am delighted that the Moslem behind the proposal has suggested a meeting with local people to allay their fears. What is being suggested after all is a place of worship and not an all-night disco." [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15]
A ceremony of laying the foundation stone was held at the new Idara Taleem-Ul-Islam Mosque, Rochdale, on 3 August. Muslim leaders from Mecca, Pakistan and India were invited (Rochdale Observer, 03.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 15/16]
A scheme for a mosque in Rochdale, on land between Lower Sheriff Street and Holland Street has been rejected by Rochdale planning committee (Manchester Evening News, 26.08.96, Rochdale Observer, 28.08.96). The main objection was that the developers, the New Golden Mosque Committee, had underestimated the amount of parking space needed for such a large public building. Councillor Colin Thompson said that the council’s rule on car parking would require spaces for 140 cars for a building of this size, and further commented: "My feeling is that the principle of developing a mosque on that site is perfectly reasonable, but the present proposal is far too big" (Rochdale Observer, 28.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Discussion continues around the question of permission, which has been granted, for azan once a week from the Moorgate Road Mosque in Rotherham (see BMMS for July 1996), (Rotherham Advertiser, 19.07.96, 26.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Residents opposed to the way that Sandwell Council handled the planning application for a mosque at Plant Street, Cradley Heath (see BMMS for June, July, August, September, October, November and December 1995; January, February and July 1996) have made an application to the local government ombudsman to conduct an investigation (Halesowen Chronicle, 09.08.96). Subsequently, the ombudsman’s office sent an investigator to inspect files at the borough planning offices and may visit the proposed site of the mosque at a later date (Halesowen News, 15.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Councillors in West Bromwich planned to visit the proposed site of a mosque in Dartmouth Street, West Bromwich (see BMMS for July 1996) before taking any further decisions on the proposals, following protests from some residents in the vicinity (Black Country Evening Mail, 26.07.96, Birmingham Express & Star, 29.07.96). Mohammed Zulfiqar, of the Birmingham based developers Z Partnership, said his firm would appeal if planning permission were refused: "This will be a place of worship and people will come and go quietly. It will benefit the community and create better citizens of the youngsters educated there" (Birmingham Express & Star, 29.07.96, 16.08.96). Sandwell borough’s chief planning officer, Malcolm Hinks, had recommended refusal of permission, largely because of concern over traffic and noise (Black Country Evening Mail, 14.08.96). On 15 August, at a packed and noisy public meeting in Sandwell council house, councillors voted in favour of the mosque scheme. A spokesperson for the mosque said: "We are proud of our track record [the old, smaller mosque was in Victoria Street, West Bromwich] and have never had any complaints of noise. Calls to prayer will be made inside the building and not broadcast outside. Also most major functions we hold are carried out in Birmingham" (Black Country Evening Mail, Birmingham Evening Mail,16.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Building has started on the mosque in St Mary’s Street, Southampton. The foundation stone was laid on 17 August (Southern Daily Echo, 24.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Councillors in Swindon have voted to continue to support the Islamic Association’s bid for the former Queenstown School site. The secretary of state for the environment, John Gummer, had refused to let the council sell the site to the Islamic Association for £500,000, which is approximately a quarter of its market value (see BMMS for July 1996). The council and the Islamic Association now hope that the department of the environment will find acceptable an offer twice that of the original. The Church of the Latter Day Saints is also being invited to make an offer for the site. Some Conservative councillors wanted the council to offer the site on the open market, but were outvoted (Swindon & District Messenger, 26.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16]
Following approval by John Gummer, secretary of state for the environment, the Berry Avenue site in Watford (see BMMS for March, April, May, June and July 1996) will now be rented to the Watford Mosque and Welfare Association for a nominal rent for 250 years. Deputy leader of the council Mike Matthews said: "It is good news for the mosque committee and good news for the community in the area. Whatever building is given planning approval it has to give community use" (West Herts & Watford Observer, 16.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 16/17]
Councillors have reversed their earlier decision not to allow kerb stones to be placed around a Muslim grave in Leamington Cemetery (see BMMS for April 1996). It had been pointed out that such stones were permitted in the same cemetery around the graves of Anglicans and Catholics. Councillor Ian Dove (Labour, Brunswick ward) said: "If the public are to have any faith in our grievance procedure, then we should allow this despite the fact that it goes against our previous decision" (Warwick Courier, 26.07.96, Kenilworth Weekly News, 26.07.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 17]
Nuneaton’s Muslim Society has contacted the town’s leisure and amenities committee, who wanted to pay for alterations to the now disused building in the Oaston Road cemetary. Nuneaton and Bedworth council’s leisure and amenities committee were against the idea, as no decisions have yet been made on possible future uses for the building and alterations have not yet been budgeted for. Councillors said that they wanted to take a broad view of possible future uses for the building and intended to consult with many religious groups in the town to discuss interest in the site (Heartland Evening News, 09.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 17]
Letters have been sent to the editors of several Rochdale newspapers concerning a proposed mortuary at the mosque in Mitchell Street, Rochdale. Correspondence in support of the mortuary appeared in the Rochdale Observer (07.08.96), and against the proposal (Rochdale Observer, 27.07.96, 17.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 17]
Objectors to the plans for a mosque at Cradley Heath in Sandwell district (see BMMS for June, July, August, September, October, November and December 1995; January, February and July 1996) have discovered that a burial ground formed part of the original application. A local objecting resident, Robbie Robinson, said: "There was never any mention of the burial ground - all the association [Cradley Heath Muslim Association] said was that it wanted a place of worship and education. We took up our complaints with the ombudsman after Labour councillors ignored our fears over parking and safety and this was the best move we’ve ever made considering the latest bombshell. The ombudsman has made sure we’ve had copies of all correspondence within the council and this is how we got hold of a document which states the association’s intention for a burial ground. Now it has the Plant Street site it will obviously look to put the burial ground there" (Halesowen News & County Express, 25.07.96). The chairperson of the Cradley Heath Muslim Association, Mohammed Yousaf, denied that there was an application for a burial site in Plant Street: "We categorically deny that there will such use of the land. We appeal to people living in and around Plant Street to contact us so that their fears can be dispelled." Sandwell environment and development services director Malcolm Hinks confirmed this: "Confusion arose because residents misunderstood the nature of the document, submitted purely for information. While one of the Muslim Association’s objectives was to provide a burial ground, that was never associated with the Plant Street site and was never on the development plans" (Halesowen News & County Express, 01.08.96). [BMMS August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 17]