British Muslims Monthly Survey for April 1997 Vol. V No. 4

 

Contents

 

 

Features

General Election news

Hajj and Eid news

Tottenham Ayatollah

 

Reports

 

Community

Prince Charles

Muslim mortgages

Marriage booklet

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Atia Idrees stays

Sangat Centre, Keighley

Tunisian fraudster update

Refugee centre, Dewsbury

Leicester Kokni elections

Mosque building

Chris Eubank and Islam

Cancer donation

Convert for love

Celebrations tension avoided

Bookshop article

Ahmadiyya charity ride

Slough disturbances

Muslim Association celebration

Labour to abolish ‘primary purpose’?

Shoe complaint

Derby street disturbance

Gloucester imam deportation threat

Man brings Qur’an to court

Campaign to ease building rules

Batley Experience project

Batley Muslim Welfare Society

Huddersfield community profile

 

Education

Muslims on campus

Luton Muslim school

Feversham College

Madrassa bid in Keighley

Richmond Hill approval

Bearded boy banned

Complaint to CRE

Jewish schools’ funding success

Leeds anti-racist resources

 

 

Politics

East Ham mayor controversy

Derby to have Muslim mayor

Tory mosque donations claim

UMO call for Bill of Rights

 

Racism

Runnymede update

Sutton racism

Birmingham CRE meeting

 

 

Women

Welfare association job threat

Swansea conference

Solicitor’s firm hijab case

Dartford Muslim association grant

 

Youth

Youth worker harassed

Young Muslims Hockey Club

 

Interfaith

Interfaith marriage meeting

Christian group’s leaflet

 

 

Halal

Hospital halal food report

Hospital food complaints

Halal slaughter protest

 

Health

Abortion donation

Hospital shaving error

Replacement for chapel

Blood donation at mosque

 

Employment

Oxford imam sacking

 

Mosques & Burials

Batley, Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton

Beckton, Kingsford Way

Blackburn burials

Blackburn, Eldon Road

Bletchley

Bradford, Leeds Road

Crawley

Dewsbury, Stoney Bank Street

Leeds, Bilal Mosque

Leeds, Shadwell Lane

Lincoln

London, Steatham, Mitcham Lane

Newport, Cedar Road

Oadby and Wigston burials

Oldham, Coldhurst

Palmers Green, Enfield

Preston, Noor Street, Deepdale

Solihull burials

Southampton, St Mary St.

Wakefield, Back Hatfield St.

Walsall, Milton St.

Wigan, Hindley Prison

 

 

Features

General Election news

[Reports on the election results and their aftermath will appear in the next BMMS. The present issue has been written as of 1 May]

Muslim interest in the elections continued to be reported throughout April right up to the general election. Dialogue (01.04.97), a Shia Muslim publication looks at the main parties’ policies on human rights, saying that Labour are committed to incorporating the European Convention on Human rights into British law, and the Liberal Democrats are proposing a Bill of Rights. Muslim News (25.04.97) prints eight pages of news and views on the election, including an article by the Saudi dissident, Muhammad al-Mas’ari (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for January 1997), who argues in support of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s view that voting and political participation in a non-Islamic state is forbidden to Muslims. Q-News (01.05.97) had five pages devoted to the election, including two produced immediately after 1 May, entitled ‘How they voted’. Awaaz (01.05.97) had three articles on the elections and related issues, with a local flavour. Muslims in Leicester condemned the posters put up by the group Al-Muhajiroun, which urged Muslims not to vote (see BMMS for February 1997). Manzoor Moghal, a member of a campaign which encourages Muslims to participate in the political process, told the Leicester Mercury (25.04.97): "If Muslims want to change things they have to participate in the whole democratic system. But I don’t think many Muslims will pay any attention to their propaganda, Muslims have been voting in elections for a long time". Although advice given by imams in sermons and during specially convened meetings generally urged Muslims to consider the issues rather than recommending specific candidates, there were exceptions. One such was the Balham Mosque and Tooting Islamic Centre (Eastern Eye, 25.04.97). The Daily Jang (30.04.97) featured an ‘Election 97 Special’, discussing issues of concern to British Muslims and estimating the chances of various Asian and Muslim candidates.

Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats, claimed to be the first party leader during this election campaign to formally meet Muslim leaders. He outlined some of his party’s policies to Muslims: "There will be a manifesto commitment to bring together the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality into a single, powerful, overarching Human Rights Commission. I will make it clear at the time that the new Commission will cover religious discrimination" (Asian Times, 03.04.97). The Tablet (12.04.97), in its report of the meeting, said that Mr Ashdown "said he was against denominational schools in principle, but that Muslims should be treated in the same way as other religious groups". Emma Nicholson, formerly a Conservative who defected to the Liberal Democrats, and a campaigner for the Marsh Arabs, said: "One of the reasons I left the Conservative party was because of the extent of religious prejudice against Muslims..." (Asian Times, 03.04.97). Roy Hattersley, who is retiring and was Labour MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook, looks back on his 33 years as the MP for that constituency in the Black Country Evening Mail (08.04.97). He said of his involvement with the Rushdie affair that, after talking with Muslim friends in Birmingham: "I decided a word had to be said in support of those Muslims who were mortally offended by what Rushdie had written and I therefore suggested, as an act of grace, that he should make the gesture of withdrawing the paperback". Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, recently toured several places of worship in the Labour-held marginal seat, South Ilford. The visit to the local mosque was a surprise visit for security reasons and Mr Howard said: "I’m delighted to have had the opportunity of visiting your lovely new mosque". Joe Joseph, reporting the Home Secretary’s visit in The Times (09.04.97), remarks: "We waited for Mr Howard to mention that Salman Rushdie was a man who also had to keep his movements secret as a result of death threats from certain quarters. But Mr Howard did not get where he is today without realising that what counts at elections is votes not virtue". He also visited the Brick Lane mosque in east London, accompanied by the local Conservative candidate, Dr Kabir Choudhury (Times, 18.04.97). The Daily Jang (09.04.97) notes that the Socialist Labour Party’s candidate in East Ham is Imran Khan, the solicitor in the case of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was murdered by racists in 1993. East (10.04.97) carries an article by Iqbal Sacranie, spokesperson for the UK action Committee on Islamic Affairs, on why Muslims have a duty to vote (see BMMS for February and March 1997). The Independent (11.04.97), in an article on gender differences in voting, interviews, amongst other women candidates, Aina Khan, a Muslim solicitor who is the Liberal Democrat candidate in Ilford South. She said that when out canvassing, she was encountering the problem that sometimes, particularly amongst ethnic minorities, the male head of household dictates how the whole family should vote. She said: "Nearly always the women will say, ‘My husband will want me to vote Labour’, and they have an instinct to vote Liberal Democrat and they are almost torn in loyalties".

Mohammed Sarwar, Labour Party candidate for Govan (see BMMS for March 1997) has clarified where he stands on Scottish independence: "I am completely behind what the Labour Party believe and that is that we have found the perfect middle ground between what the Tories want to do - maintain the status quo - and the aims of the SNP (full independence). It makes full sense to let the Scots control their affairs, but let the government, our Labour government, handle the finances" (Asian Times, 10.04.97). Bashir Ahmed of Scots Asians for Independence, interviewed by the same paper, said: "As someone who has voted Labour every time for 35 years I am now fully behind the SNP. I think that a lot of Asian people are realising that they have more of a chance of seeing a fairer society in an independent Scotland". A journalist from the Times (09.04.97), Magnus Linklater, recently accompanied Mr Sarwar on a door-knocking mission in a poor part of the constituency, a tower-block in Ibrox. Mr Sarwar, who hopes to become Britain’s first Muslim MP, felt that there was very solid support in the area for himself and his party. He said: "It’s better than I could possibly have imagined" (Times, 09.04.97). Meanwhile, there has been wide reporting of a dirty tricks campaign against Mr Sarwar (Scotland on Sunday, 20.04.97, Glasgow Herald, Scotsman, 21.04.97, East, 24.04.97). According to these reports, a London-based Indian called Mohan Singh is supposed to have contacted Mr Sarwar’s friends and colleagues offering around £250,000 for any information on sexual scandals involving Mr Sarwar. Andy Hakim, a friend of Mr Sarwar, said: "Singh wasn’t interested in anything to do with business, only sex. For instance, if Sarwar had been in saunas or with prostitutes" (Scotland on Sunday, 20.04.97) Mr Sarwar said there was no scandal waiting to be uncovered. He did not know who was behind the smear campaign: "People have said it could be Muslim fundamentalists or it could be Indians. I’m not in a position to say as I don’t know. I have very good relations with the Indian community and I would be surprised. I certainly won’t be pointing the finger at anyone until I’m certain"(Glasgow Herald, 21.04.97). East (24.04.97) reported that Singh claimed to be working for the company which owns the Sun and News of the World, but those papers denied all knowledge of him. Both East (24.04.97) and Scotland on Sunday (20.04.97) claim to have sent a woman posing as a reporter to Singh to find out more about his offer of a large sum of money and relocation outside Glasgow in return for damaging information.

Marsha Singh, the Labour Party candidate in Bradford West, appealed to Muslim voters to cast their votes on the issues that concerned them rather than along religious lines at a meeting at the Pakistan community Centre on 27 April (see BMMS for January and February 1997). According to the Daily Jang (29.04.97): "Turning to the Kashmir issue, Marsha Singh said he would fight injustice whether it be in Bradford or Kashmir". The Yorkshire Post (30.04.97) predicted Marsha Singh’s victory in Bradford West, even though his Conservative opponent, Mohammed Riaz, is a Muslim. Their reporter writes: "The Tories will be hoping that their man will pick up the tribal and religious vote...In Mr Singh it might be thought that Mr Riaz has the ideal opponent. But that is to underestimate the tenacity of the man and the sophistication of the Kashmiri voters. Most will know that Mr Singh is not an advocate of Sikh politics. His background, as the founder in the early 1980s of the Asian Youth Movement, is in a secular and expansive kind of politics". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 1/2]

 

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Hajj and Eid news

There have been many reports about Hajj and Eid ul-Adha. Special charters for pilgrims to Makkah went from Manchester Airport (Stretford & Urmston Messenger, 03.04.97) for the second year running (see BMMS for March 1997). Raja Amir Dad Khan’s column in the Bucks Free Press (04.04.97) provided his usual concise explanation of the significance of Hajj and the accompanying festival of Eid ul-Adha. Amir Dad also comments that this year, by coincidence, the Sikh festivals of Hola Mohla and Vaisakhi fall around the same time. The Ascot & Sunnigdale Observer (11.04.97) invited Mohammed Atiq Quraishy, a retired teacher and a Muslim scholar, to write about Hajj for their religious affairs column, Word for the Week, and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph (17.04.97) has an advertising supplement on Hajj and Eid, written by Fatima M D’Oyen of the Islamic Foundation of Leicester. Fatima D’Oyen is the author of a book on sex education from a Muslim perspective, ‘The Miracle of Life’. The pages of the supplement are sponsored by local public bodies: Burnley College; Blackburn College; the Borough of Blackburn; Blackburn Racial Equality Council; Lancashire Constabulary; ELTEC; East Lancashire Careers Service; Accrington and Rossendale College; Lancashire council of mosques; Hyndburn Partnership; Burnley council; and Pendle council. Of attendance at Eid prayers at the mosque, Fatima D’Oyen writes: "This is an obligation on adult males, and recommended for women and children as well, despite the custom in some communities to the contrary. The Prophet requested that even menstruating women be present with the rest of the community, despite the fact that they cannot join in the ritual prayer".

However, this year’s Hajj was overshadowed by the news of the death of over 340 pilgrims, caused by a fire spreading through the tents outside Mecca. Muslim families in many parts of Britain were very concerned about the safety of family members and friends who were doing Hajj. The Daily Jang (17.04.97) quotes Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in London, Dr Ghazi Algosaibi: "Investigations indicate that the fire was an accident. We are faced with a human tragedy which has no political implications"." Articles about the anxious wait for news concerning the fire appeared in the Hull Daily Mail (16.04.97), Peterborough Evening Telegraph (17.04.97), Northampton Chronicle (17.04.97), Swansea Evening Post (17.04.97), Leicester Mercury (18.04.97), Peterborough Evening Chronicle (18.04.97). Canon Peter Berry, Provost of Birmingham, and chair of the Birmingham International Council, wrote to the Birmingham Post (17.04.97) offering his condolences to Muslims on the occasion of this accident. The Peterborough Evening Telegraph (17.04.97) states that: "The British pro-consul has been to Mecca to investigate but still the Foreign Office, which described the situation as ‘confused’, is not certain how many Muslims left Britain for the Hajj as many hold dual nationality". The Swansea Evening Post (17.04.97) and the Leicester Mercury (18.04.97) both put the estimated number of those dead as being over 340, mostly from the Asian sub-continent, and report that the parties which left their towns had been in touch to say that they were all safe.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Dr Konrad Raiser issued a statement, saying: "Christians throughout the world join with Muslim friends in their grief and sorrow following the terrifying blaze that killed and wounded so many Muslim pilgrims from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, gathered in Mecca for Hajj...The World Council of Churches expresses deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. They are very much in our thoughts and prayers" (Methodist Recorder, 24.04.97). Concern was expressed for the dead, injured and bereaved, and special prayers said in Batley (Batley News, 17.04.97), High Wycombe (Bucks Free Press, 18.04.97), Oxford (Oxford Times, 18.04.97), Keighley (Keighley News, 18.04.97), Southampton (Southern Daily Echo, 19.04.97), and Northampton. Nev Johnson, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office, said seven Britons were in hospital in Saudi Arabia and that "Six people are suffering from smoke inhalation and the other is more seriously injured" (Northampton Chronicle, 24.04.97).

With regard to Eid, the Derby Evening Telegraph (21.04.97) printed a letter from a Muslim highlighting the difficulties caused by different groups of Muslims celebrating on different days. M N Saleem wrote: "Now, the reasons why so many Muslims celebrate the Eids on different days from each other have nothing to do with Islam, but politics and divisions (factions) within the Islamic society. And due to this, so many disruptions occur - like when members of the same family, Muslim pupils of the same school, and employees of various shops, factories and organisations cannot celebrate Eid on the same day". In Aldershot, there were no protests about the ritual slaughter of sheep at the P C Turner abattoir in Sherbourne road, unlike last year, when people living near the premises objected to seeing the slaughtered sheep being carried along the street (Aldershot Mail, 22.04.97). In Southall (see reports on Slough and Southall), Eid was celebrated peacefully and without incident, in spite of police fears about possible conflict due to the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi occurring at approximately the same time. Speaking after Eid, Supt Mike Smith of Southall police said: "I am pleased to say there was no serious disorder and no damage to property and the local people of Southall are very pleased that April passed without serious problems for the town. I have had umpteen letters and phone calls thanking us for the way we policed events" (Southall Gazette, 25.04.97). Celebratory events, some out-of-doors such as in Rusholme, Manchester (Manchester Evening News, 21.04.97) were reported in Hyndburn (Accrington Observer, 18.04.97), Blackburn (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 22.04.97), Worcester (Worcester Evening News, 22.04.97, 24.04.97) and Nelson (Colne Times, 25.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 2/3]

 

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Tottenham Ayatollah

‘Tottenham Ayatollah’ was the title of the Channel 4 documentary about a year in the life of Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the Islamist group, Al-Muhajiroun. The documentary was shown on Tuesday, 8 April, and so reports of the programme on or before that date are in fact, previews. Omar Bakri Mohammed had news of the previews of the programme and had contacted the press to protest about the content of the documentary, as well as the way in which the research was carried out and had made his views know on the Internet (see BMMS for September 1996; February and March 1997). Asian Age (09.04.97) reported that, even before the broadcast, Omar Bakri Mohammed had threatened to sue Channel 4 and in a letter to the producers, dated 7 April, his supporters state: "The programme is nothing more than a vicious attack on Islam and Muslims in general and Sheikh Omar in particular. It is part of the Islamophobia trend we have witnessed in recent years". On 10 April the Asian Times quoted Makbool Javaid, chair of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent the programme being shown: "The general thrust of the programme was the demonisation of Omar Bakri, and not the representation of his Islamic principles and ideology, as he was led to believe". The article continues: "Sheikh Bakri, whose views on women, homosexuals and western society, have already caused public controversy in the past, said: ‘This film only serves to incite more controversy and animosity between Muslims and Jews, and even among Muslims themselves. I have no alternative but to sue’". The broadsheets (Times, 09.04.97, Scotsman, 09.04.97, Daily Telegraph,09.04.97, Independent, 09.04.97, Scotland on Sunday, 13.04.97, Observer, 13.04.97) tend to review the programme and Sheikh Omar’s reactions to it as part of their usual television reviews and so praise the entertainment value of the documentary. Tabloids and most local papers, however, report on what they see as political and historical facts revealed by the programme. Papers local to Crawley, such as the Crawley Observer (16.04.97) and Crawley News (09.04.97), report that the local council have cancelled the lease of a hut rented out to al-Muhajiroun, because the television programme alleged that it was being used as a training-camp "to mould militants into Islamic warriors" (Crawley Observer, 16.04.97). Sheikh Omar Bakri told the Crawley News (09.04.97): "We hire out a hut for two hours every week. It is just a youth club". The Tablet (19.04.97) included in its review of the programme, a concise account of the cancellation of the Rally for Revival (see BMMS for August and September 1996. They write: "His [Omar Bakri Mohammed’s] supporters fly-posted by night...and 28 London boroughs complained. Omar appeared on television to defend his rally; Egypt threatened to break off diplomat relations if the gathering were to go ahead; the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, told the House that he could not stop the rally unless the law was broken. The managers of the venue thought otherwise. They demanded vast sums for security, more than Omar could provide. The rally was cancelled, his deposit returned. That was a blessing in disguise. Only 3,000 (of 14,000) seats had been sold; the video messages from Islamic leaders worldwide had not turned up; so certain financial disaster had been averted". The Guardian published a letter signed by Dr Richard Stone, of the Maimonides Foundation for Jewish-Muslim Action; Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Sussex Muslim Society; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Institute of Public Policy Research; and Dr Philip Lewis, Interfaith Adviser to the Bishop of Bradford, which concludes: "Presenting only the tiny extremist voice of any community does endless damage to the hard, slow work of dialogue and co-operation between the diversity of people who make up Britain today". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 3/4]

 

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Reports

 

Community

Prince Charles

A minister of the Associated Presbyterian Church in Inverness, Rev Malcolm MacInnes, has criticised Prince Charles’ recent speech at Wilton Park on Islam (see BMMS for December 1996 and January 1997). He considered the Prince’s remarks misguided: "It is my understanding of Islam that we do not have to go to Islam to learn about Christ...Until such time as His Royal Highness shows more positive interest in Biblical Christianity, a question stands opposite his suitability for the Throne" (Inverness Courier, 25.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 4]

 

 

Muslim mortgages

The Muslim mortgage scheme recently launched by London branch of the Bank of Kuwait (see BMMS for February and March 1997), has received publicity from Investment International (01.04.97). The bank has told the paper that it would consider offering finance for investment property as well as for homes under the scheme. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 4]

 

 

Marriage booklet

The Asian Times (03.04.97) reports that there has been a mixed reception to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Consular Services’ advice booklet on Forced Marriages (see BMMS for March 1997). Jahangir Mohammed, deputy leader of the Muslim Parliament, suspected the Foreign Office had a hidden agenda: "General opinion in the West falsely perceives Islamic women to be oppressed and forced marriages to be common. This leaflet only serves to strengthen that public opinion. The Foreign Office strictly follows its own agenda which is that it wants to prevent Asian people married overseas from bringing their spouses over here". Researcher Salma Choudry, however, believed that many people were still being pressurized into marriages but that: "A change is coming about because the British-born children of Asian immigrants have more independence and autonomy". According to the Foreign Office, 15 cases of forced marriage were reported in 1995, and 37 in 1996. The Edinburgh Evening News (09.04.97) interviewed Mohammed Shaffi, chair of the Pakistani Society of Edinburgh, who welcomed the leaflet, pointing out that "Islamic law forbids marriage without consent". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 4]

 

 

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (see BMMS for February and March 1997) has applied for planning permission to build a permanent institute in the centre of Oxford, in St Cross Road (Oxford Mail, 08.04.97, 15.04.97). In a letter to the Oxford Times (04.04.97), the Registrar, Dr D G Browning, writes of the centre’s international links, and that: "The centre is proud to have co-operated with the City of Oxford in the award of the first Lord Mayor’s Refugee Scholarship - to a student from Bosnia who recently completed his research degree at the University". Referring to the plans for its new buildings, designed by Egyptian-born architect Abdel Wahed al-Wakil(Independent on Sunday, 27.04.97, The Times, Daily Telegraph, 28.04.97), Kate Miller, planning secretary of the Oxford Civic Society commented: "The style mixes Gothic and Islamic but then that is what makes Venice so beautiful" (Independent, 27.04.97, The Times, 28.04.97). The article in the Independent (27.04.97) is explicit about the Islamic roots of much of Oxford’s architecture, thus emphasising that the building will be aesthetically appropriate: "The collegiate university model itself is originally Islamic. It was picked up by the medieval west in the 12th century and flowered into the great universities at Paris, Bologna and Oxford. The arched cloister quadrangle of the college, where the medieval Christian masters held forth, is the twin of the mosque’s arched courtyard, where the Islamic teacher held his classes. Even the pointed Moorish arches of Al-Wakil’s design mirror Oxford’s ubiquitous Gothic arches". The writer sees the design as having a more than superficial significance, and concludes: "So far, the diplomatic design and the softly-softly approach of the centre’s staff have averted any storm such as the one that scuppered the last major Oxford project using Arab money, the proposed business school funded by the Syrian Wafic Said". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 4]

 

 

Atia Idrees stays

Atia Idrees, whom the Home Office wanted to deport although she is the sole career of her frail, ill grandmother (see BMMS for March, May and June 1996; March 1997), has finally had the threat of deportation removed and has now been given permission to stay in Britain for as long as her grandmother, Mrs Alam Bibi, needs a carer. Mr Justice Lightman decided that Home Office letters supporting the deportation order were "badly worded" (Oldham Advertiser, 10.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Sangat Centre, Keighley

Keighley’s Sangat Centre (see BMMS for February 1996), based at the Muslim community centre in Emily Street, has won a Citizenship Award from the scheme run jointly by the Commission for Racial Equality and the TSB. The centre was nominated because of its homework scheme and its links with industry (Keighley News, 11.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Tunisian fraudster update

Nottinghamshire Police believe that they are about to locate and arrest Sammi Lofti (see BMMS for August, November and December 1995; February and July 1996; February 1997), who is alleged to have conned Muslims out of more than £300,000. DC Fretwell of Arnold police station said: "We have had one or two incidents in the last few days which make us strongly believe that Lofti is at an address in the Hayes area. They were not criminal incidents. But now we’re hopeful that we can flush him out. He has used in excess of 30 different names so far. Most of them are foreign sounding" (Nottingham Evening Post, 18.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Refugee centre, Dewsbury

A centre for Bosnian refugees, called the Ljiljan Centre, after Bosnia’s fleur-de-lys emblem, was opened in Branch Road, Dewsbury, recently. The centre was opened by Mugdin Pasic, the charge d’affaires for Bosnia and Herzogovina. John Sharpe, mental health unit manager at Dewsbury Hospital, and a Batley doctor, John Warwick, initiated plans for the centre three years ago when refugees from Bosnia began arriving in the Dewsbury area (Dewsbury Reporter, 28.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Leicester Kokni elections

A new committee has been elected by the Leicester Muslim Kokni Association. The new chair will be Abdul Aziz Mukadem (Leicestershire Mercury, 15.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Mosque building

The Sunday Business (06.04.97) has a full page feature on the subject of the construction of non-Christian places of worship. One of the builders interviewed is Atba al-Sammarie, of Bullen construction (see BMMS for February 1997), who explained that fundraising is often a gradual process: "Nine-tenths of the time they’ll have some money they’ve accumulated to start it off. But usually they need building work to begin before the rest can be raised". John Taylor, of W & J Tod of Weymouth is supervising the construction of the domes for the Bilal Mosque in Leeds (see this mosques section) as well as the interior design of the Turkish mosque in east London. Mr Taylor spent 15 years working in Saudi Arabia. He explained that mosque contracts in Britain were hard work: "Often you have to make a submission to the whole organising committee, and they mainly comprise of successful businessmen. They’re clever, and well educated, and they drive a hard bargain. It’s always a very rigorous regime, you can never relax. They expect first-class products, and they want them at the minimum price. It’s certainly not easy money. The mosques can take years to finish. I know of half a dozen where the roofs are ready, but they’ll have to open it up again when they can afford the dome. It can take a long time - we’ve been working on the Bilal mosque since 1993". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Chris Eubank and Islam

Tony Sewall, writing in the Voice (07.04.97), the paper of Britain’s black communities, discusses Chris Eubank’s reported conversion to Islam, which he contrasts unfavourably with that of Muhammad Ali. He writes about Muhammad Ali: "When Ali became a Muslim he lost everything. Christian Middle America saw him as a threat on a par with Communism. It eventually led to him being stripped of his title when he refused to go to Vietnam". The article also informs readers that: "He [Chris Eubank] has adopted the name Hamdan, meaning ‘thanks to God’, after Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates’ finance minister who has sponsored Eubank’s latest trip to the Middle East". The Sun (17.04.97) has an article on conversion, which focuses on his style of dress. Q-News (01.05.97) also has a feature on the reported conversion. The writer quotes the editor of the Boxing News, Claude Abrams, who, whilst sceptical about Eubank’s original motivations, saying "By converting to Islam, Eubank has become a more marketable commodity", sees many positive aspects of an Islamic lifestyle for boxers. He considers that many embrace Islam for "discipline reasons. I don’t know that much about Islam, but I know you don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t go partying. Muslims lead a spartan life and, for some boxers who crave the wild life, Islam can be an ideal disciplining force". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Cancer donation

Worshippers at the Islamic Centre in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent have collected £161 for cancer relief work at the Douglas MacMillan Hospice. Mohammed Iqbal, secretary of the Centre, said: "The hospice is something which serves every member of the community, and we wanted to help. Some of our members have been treated there too and we are very grateful" (Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel, 07.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5]

 

 

Convert for love

The magazine Eva (09.04.97) has an article about Ian Stone, a fire officer from Ashton, who became a Muslim prior to his marriage with Shadea, a Muslim, on 30 November 1996, and decided to be circumcised. He said: "As soon as I met Shadea I knew I wanted to marry her. But as she’s a Moslem, it was important that I got things right. Most Moslem men are circumcised. Of course, I could have lied and said I’d already been ‘done’. But I didn’t want to be a fraud. I wanted to prove my love". Shadea said: "I’ve no doubt that Ian is the right man for me. He’s a great man in our community because he’s an outsider who took on our faith. I’m proud that he decided to become circumcised. I know he went through a lot of pain but he didn’t hesitate. My friends are so impressed" (Eva, 09.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 5/6]

 

 

Celebrations tension avoided

Police in Southall and Brentford were concerned that celebrations to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha and the Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi would coincide and that there could be trouble around public processions to mark the events. In fact, the two faiths’ celebrations were held more than a week apart (Brentford, Chiswick & Isleworth Times, 11.04.97, Southall Gazette, 11.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Bookshop article

West End Extra (11.04.97) has an article about the Al Hoda bookshop at 76 Charing Cross Road. Al Hoda sells books on the Middle East and Islam, in English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu. The shop’s manager is Rizvi Mohammed, who said: "There are other book shops in London which deal with the same sort of material as we do. But the thing about working here is the excitement of being on Charing Cross Road. It is good being in a row of book shops. The area is really busy. As well as the people who make a special trip here because there is something they want, we get quite a lot of passing trade. It’s 50/50 I’d say". He went on: "We have quite a few CD-Roms. They are in Arabic and we import them into the country from Egypt". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Ahmadiyya charity ride

The sponsored bike ride organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association of Slough and surrounding areas raised £1,200 for charity (see BMMS for March 1997). The event was filmed for the Ahmadiyya satellite global 24-hour television station (Slough & Langley Observer, Windsor & Eton Observer, 16.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Slough disturbances

Violence between rival gangs of Sikh and Muslim youths has once more flared up in Slough (see BMMS for February 1997). The Observer (27.04.97) reports that on the night of 25 April at least 60 Sikhs smashed shop fronts, cars and house windows in a predominately Muslim area of town. The Independent (28.04.97) reported that the Sikh gangs came from Southall in London. The newspaper quotes a spokesperson for Thames Valley Police, who said: "This incident is the latest in a long-running dispute between Sikh and Muslim gangs in the area. Disputes flare up quite often and happen in both Slough and Southall but this was particularly bad". The Slough police said: "We liaise closely with police in Southall to try to pre-empt these clashes happening. We are not aware of any specific cause for the fighting - it tends to be younger members of the community who are involved". Meanwhile, in Southall, police drafted an extra 100 officers into the area, in anticipation of revenge attacks by Muslims from Slough, according to the Evening Standard (28.04.97). This newspaper believes that: "The roots of the recent disturbances lie in clashes between Sikh and Muslim youths at West Thames College, in nearby Isleworth, two years ago. since then, each side has sought revenge, resulting in a spiral of retaliation..." On the night of 29 April, a 16-year-old Sikh boy was attacked by six or seven Muslims at a fair in Slough, resulting in head injuries and his being in intensive care in Wexham Park Hospital (Cardiff Western Mail, The Times, Independent, 30.04.97). The Daily Jang (07.05.97) reported that members of the World Muslim Sikh Federation, the World Muslim Federation, and the Council of Khalistan visited Slough, in particularly areas such as Chalvey which have been especially affected by the violence, on a fact-finding and reconciliation mission. The Brentford, Chiswick & Isleworth Times reported on 18 April that the Hounslow police were on red alert following clashes between Sikh and Muslim youths in Southall and Slough during the Sikh festival of Vaishaki [ there were no reports from Slough of any trouble during the Vaishaki celebrations]. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Muslim Association celebration

The Muslim Association of Greenwich in south London recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Founder member and chair, Nawazish Ali, hosted a dinner for 150 guests, including the Mayor of Greenwich, Janet Gilman (Eltham & Greenwich Times, 17.04.97, Eltham News Shopper, Greenwich & Charlton News Shopper, 23.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Labour to abolish ‘primary purpose’?

Awaaz (01.05.97) features the case of Sumiya Aslam, a victim of the ‘primary purpose’ rule, immigration legislation which requires married couples to prove that their relationship was not entered into primarily for reasons of migration of the non-British spouse to Britain. Mrs Aslam, who was married in September 1995 and whose husband’s visa has been refused, welcomed the Labour Party’s announcement to abolish this rule: "It’s a step in the right direction. Immigration rules should be firm and fair. This one isn’t because it’s so subjective. Immigration officers can use anything to ‘prove’ that the marriage isn’t genuine". Dewsbury solicitor Robert Brackup, who specialises in immigration, points out that the rule has been used in a discriminatory way, particularly if the spouse is a man from the Indian sub-continent: "the system imposes Western European values on non-western culture. The features of arranged marriages are used against couples. They will say it isn’t traditional for a husband to leave his family to join his wife, for example, therefore the marriage is just a means to gain entry into Britain and isn’t genuine". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6]

 

 

Shoe complaint

Muslims in Slough have called for a boycott of Nike trainers because the latest model carries the Arabic for ‘Holy God’ on the heel and sole. Sabir Hussain Chaudhry, president of the Pakistan Welfare Association of Slough called the shoes ‘an open insult’ and said: "All the mosques in the town have been informed to make an announcement at Eid prayers for the boycott of Nike" (Slough & Langley Observer, 18.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 6/7]

 

 

Derby street disturbance

During Eid celebrations in Normanton Road in Derby, a fight broke out between a Muslim and an Afro-Caribbean non-Muslim and bottles were thrown. About 200 people were involved, although no arrests were made (Derby Evening Telegraph, 19.04.97). On 20 April about 700 people attended a meeting at the Pakistani Community Centre to discuss the incident. At the meeting Detective Superintendent Phil Harding said: "Friday’s incident has obviously caused a lot of concern amongst the community and I want to pass on my assurance that we intend to do all that we can to monitor the situation. We will undertake to increase the number of patrols in the area for the foreseeable future, subject to a review"(Derby Evening Telegraph, 21.04.97). On 23 April, about 350 members of the local Afro-Caribbean community attended a meeting at the Mandela Centre to discuss how to improve community relations in Normanton following the incident. Councillor Milton Crosdale said: "We have 10 or 12 people who are prepared to form a working party to look at how we can pull together the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities. I know there are a lot of angry people, but we must now build for the future and not let this community fall apart" (Derby Evening Telegraph, 24.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Gloucester imam deportation threat

Shabir Gangat, an imam at the mosque in Ryecroft Street in Gloucester, was informed by the Home Office at the beginning of April that his permission to stay in Britain will not be renewed and that he, his wife and their five children must leave the country immediately. Under the Asylum and Immigration Act of October 1996, there is no right of appeal. Douglas French, the former MP, said that he was confident of persuading the Home Office that the wrong application forms were used. Pamela Dennis, director of the Gloucestershire Racial Equality Council, said: "The imam’s departure would be a great loss to the Muslim community in Gloucester. I have written to all the parliamentary election candidates, asking them to intervene on the community’s behalf". The Gloucester Citizen (21.04.97) has a leader article in support of Mr Gangat. The editor argues: "Instead of deporting him, and after a lengthy legal debate allowing him back, it seems to me there should be a sort of ‘legislative lay-by’ in which people like Mr Gangat can be parked. The crux of the matter is accommodation and income. Why not let Mr Gangat stay on condition he is sponsored by his relatives, friends and/or colleagues until such time as the Home Office can decide his fate?" [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Man brings Qur’an to court

An Edinburgh sheriff was given a copy of the Qur’an by a man she convicted of fraud. At his first appearance in Edinburgh sheriff’s court Zahid Sheikh wanted to swear on the Qur’an, but there was none available. When he returned to court for sentencing, he brought a copy and presented it to the court. The sheriff said that she was not certain if the court could accept the gift of a Qur’an. Zahid Sheikh was sentenced to 60 hours of community service for attempting to obtain £93 from Marks and Spencers by deception (Edinburgh Evening News, 22.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Campaign to ease building rules

The Islamic Men and Women’s Association of Bradford is petitioning the council to change their planning rules and allow full-length dormer rooms in roofs in order to ease overcrowding. Ms Mubarik Iqbal, chair of the association, explained: "It is well known that a lot of the extended Asian families have large groups in one house and it is often a cramped situation, but these full-length dormers would ease the problem". The limitations on the size of loft conversions were introduced in 1994 and the council claim there was a full public consultation on the issue. Anyone who wants to support the petition can contact Bradford 411799 for further information (Bradford Star, 24.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Batley Experience project

Awaaz (01.05.97) carries a notice from the Batley Experience, a regional arts organisation which is linked to the UK Year of Photography and Electronic Image, that they are looking for experienced professional photographers and other artists to run workshops in Batley. For further details contact Susan Banton, Projects Director, The Batley Experience, 12 Alfred’s Way, Batley, phone/fax: 01924 359925 [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Batley Muslim Welfare Society

The Indian Muslim Welfare Society of Batley now has a new manager, Waqar Azam from Halifax. He has extensive experience in youth and community work and told Awaaz (01.05.97): "For a number of years I’ve been interested in the way community organisations can become self-sufficient. In the way they can generate funds but at the same time balance that with their community responsibilities". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7]

 

 

Huddersfield community profile

"Thornton Lodge in Huddersfield is just like any other Muslim community in the north of England. The elders first arrived in the 1960's and worked long hours in the thriving textile mills for little pay. Now, as the textile industry wheezes its last breath, the community is hit hard. But they are rallying, working hard to create opportunities and a future for their youth". So begins a feature article in Awaaz (01.05.97). The main problems in the area are unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and poor housing, but in spite of these difficulties, many young Muslims in Thornton Lodge have high aspirations. Barbara Green, manager of the Pakistan Association, acknowledges the severe socio-economic situation, but says: "...I think it’s a close community. I’ve seen instances where the community has rallied to resolve problems, where they’ve really pulled together. The old style ‘English’ community no longer exists but that spirit is still alive in this community". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 7/8]

 

 

Education

Muslims on campus

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) has been in discussions with the Home Office on ways to "tighten restrictions on militant Muslims operating on British University campuses" (Jewish Chronicle, 04.04.97). They gave the attempt to have an anti-Zionist motion debated at Manchester University as an example of the need for new legislation (see BMMS for October and November 1996). The UJS has the support of the Conservative MP John Marshall and the director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Stuart Polak. The Home Office Minister Timothy Kirkhope promised to send the UJS a list of offenses under the present Public Order Act. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Luton Muslim school

Approaches are expected to be made to Luton’s education department about the possibility of a Muslim girls’ school in the town. Syed Rizvi, secretary of the town’s International Islamic Mission, said: "There is a demand from Muslim parents that there should be a school, particularly for girls. Muslims are reluctant to send girls to mixed schools. I am in favour but there may be difficulty in getting a grant from the education department". Luton’s director of education, Tony Dessent, responded: "Our religious education advisory group is currently consulting parents and schools and this question may well be raised" (Luton on Sunday, 23.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Feversham College

Feversham College, the Muslim girls’ school in Bradford (see BMMS for November and December 1995; March, September and December 1996; March 1997), is continuing its fight for state funding (East, 03.04.97). The Asian Times (03.04.97) reports that a government decision is expected by early June; however, the TES Scotland (04.04.97) believes that some delay is due to the general election. They quote one of the governors Akram Khan Cheema, who said: "Islamophobia is so great that people are even frightened to acknowledge it. It is playing havoc with what we are trying to do. I’d be very surprised if the government approved these schools before the election". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Madrassa bid in Keighley

The Keighley Ghosiyah Muslim Association is hoping to gain planning permission for a religious school in premises in Skipton Road. This will be the third time that the association have made a planning application (Keighley News, 04.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Richmond Hill approval

Planning permission has been granted for the building of a new madrassah to be built beside the mosque in Richmond Hill. It will replace an earlier one which was destroyed by fire. The new two-storey building will have 10 classrooms, a guest room, office, toilets, washroom, lecture theatre and library. Parking will be available on the corner of Mowbray Street and Moss Street West (Ashton & Audenshaw Reporter, 10.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Bearded boy banned

The Express (10.04.97) reports that Syed Dohan, aged 15, from the Isle of Dogs in east London, was excluded from George Green School for refusing to shave his beard on religious grounds. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Complaint to CRE

Muslim News (25.04.97) reports that the Commission for Racial Equality has agreed to support Mehmood Ali in his complaint against Trafford Council, Greater Manchester, for refusing to fund his daughter’s school fees at Manchester Islamic High School for Girls, although it is funding 472 pupils attending a private Catholic school (see BMMS for July and September 1996). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Jewish schools’ funding success

Muslim News (25.04.97) reports that just before the general election, two Jewish schools received state funding, whereas both Al-Furqan School in Birmingham (see BMMS for November 1996; January and March 1997) and Islamia Primary in Brent (see BMMS for December 1995; June, July and November 1996; January 1997) were told that they had to wait until after the election for a decision on their applications for Grant Maintained (GM) status. The newspaper claims that Prestwich Jewish Day School in Manchester applied for GM status in December 1996 and this was granted in less than three months; that the Jewish community in Harrow applied for Voluntary Aided status for a school before it was even opened; and that the King David High School in Manchester was granted GM status for its sixth form. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Leeds anti-racist resources

Awaaz (01.05.97) reports that students at Lawnswood High School in Leeds have produced a video and a resource pack to help teachers discuss race and racism. The video deals with issues such as cultural identity, religious faith, undercover racism, and dealing with harassment. Resource packs are available from John Donegan on 0113 247 4450. Awaaz contrasts this instance of cooperation between students and teachers with on-going tensions at Howden Clough Girls School (see BMMS for January, February and March 1997). The Muslim Parents Association in the area has written to Kirklees education authority, saying: "The community expects Kirklees LEA, the Head [of Howden Clough Girls School] and the governing body to act according to its own procedures and dismiss four teachers". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8]

 

 

Politics

East Ham mayor controversy

The Mayor of Newham, Shama Ahmad (see BMMS for March 1997), believes that damage to the glass front door of her home was sexist harassment by men from the Indian sub-continent. She said: "I have a feeling this is harassment by people who do not believe in the rights of women. I have made sacrifices to represent the borough. Duties have forced me to close my print shop on occasions, but I still do it. I have raised £74,000 for charity, the biggest ever sum by a Mayor of Newham. Why are they making threats against me and my family?" (Docklands Recorder, 26.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 8/9]

 

 

Derby to have Muslim mayor

Derby will have its first Muslim mayor next year. The Labour group on the council proposed Councillor Abdul Rehman. Councillor Rehman was born in Mirpur, Kashmir, and came to England in 1957. He became the city’s first Muslim councillor in 1990. He has been actively involved in the Pakistani community Centre and was founder chairperson of the Derby Jamma Mosque, Rosehill Street (Derby Evening Telegraph, 19.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9]

 

 

Tory mosque donations claim

Rumours that mosques in east Lancashire have been making secret donations to an international fund for the Conservative Party have been strongly denied. The president of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Adam Patel, who has been a Labour Party member since 1965, said: "As far as I know no mosques in Lancashire or Merseyside have made donations. I find it very hard to believe. Mosques don’t collect political contributions. They can’t contribute to any party. It must be a rumour" (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 28.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9]

 

 

UMO call for Bill of Rights

The Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) has called upon whichever party that wins the general election to adopt a Bill of Rights, which would outlaw religious discrimination (Swindon Evening Advertiser, 29.04.97, Daily Jang, 30.04.97). Dr Syed Pasha, general secretary of the UMO, told a news conference just before the election: "As a religious organisation, we have not made a recommendation which party to vote for...We suffer from racial and religious discrimination. We are victims of both" (Daily Jang, 30.04.97). Dr Pasha proposed a 10-point Bill of Rights, plus government funding for Muslim schools, allowing Muslims to perform their prayers at work, and two national statutory Islamic holidays per year. The UMO also called for the application of Muslim Family Law through legislation, and expresses concern about the future of British Muslim youth. On this latter theme, having warned of the dangers of drugs, alcoholism and teenage pregnancies, the UMO stated: "The danger that assimilation poses is far more serious than the authorities visualise. A young generation which is uprooted from its cultural roots will easily succumb to the temptations of a secular and promiscuous society and cause sociological problems whose containment might prove costly and divisive" (Daily Jang, 30.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9]

 

 

Racism

Runnymede update

Members of the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia (see BMMS for July, August and December 1996; February and March 1997) have been visiting the East End of London on a fact-finding mission. Members of the group met councillors and council officers and visited schools and community groups (East End Life, 14.04.97). In discussing the Runnymede Trust’s document, Third Way gives some quotes from what appears to be a debate on Islam between Dr Philip Lewis, a member of Runnymede’s commission on Islamophobia and the advisor to the Bishop of Bradford on inter-faith matters, and the novelist Fay Weldon, who is a friend and supporter of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. The article concludes with a criticism of the Runnymede document by Leslie Newbiggin, a Christian theologian, who is disappointed that it does not deal with the broader question of the role of religion in the public domain: "...it does not really address the serious issues or recognise the real challenge which Islam is posing. Certainly, condemn hatred of Muslims; but we won’t effectively deal with that if we don’t face the genuine questions which Islam raises for our whole secular society, such as ‘What, if anything, is the reason for our life together?’ Many of these are also questions Christians must raise". The Runnymede Trust is keen to receive comments on its discussion paper, Islamophobia - its features and dangers. This is available by sending an SAE to the Runnymede Trust, 133 Aldersgate Street, EC1A 4JA, phone: 0171 600 9666. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9]

 

 

Sutton racism

An article in the Sutton Guardian (03.04.97) looks at racism in the borough and what could be done to make the area more welcoming to ethnic and religious minority residents. The writer points out that: "Over the last year there have been 87 racial incidents in the borough and in October last year a Muslim cultural and welfare centre in Carshalton, Wentworth Hall, was targetted with racist graffiti and covered in BNP stickers" (see BMMS for February, March, July and October 1996; January 1997). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9]

 

 

Birmingham CRE meeting

On the day before the Commission for Racial Equality’s public meeting in Birmingham on religious discrimination, Jonathan Walker, of the Birmingham Post (12.04.97) interviewed the conference organiser, Hans Kundnani. Mr Kundnani explained: "The issue of religious discrimination has been growing in importance...In a lot of racial discrimination cases in the past few years there has been an increasing use of religious slurs, for example to do with the person being a Moslem or a Sikh rather than an Asian". The writer comments that: "Race relations legislation only outlawed discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality and ethnic or national origin. This meant that a person victimised because of their religion had to show the discrimination was indirectly aimed at their race in order to take successful action at court such as an industrial tribunal". Hans Kundnani outlined possible legislative measures to combat religious discrimination: "One possibility would be to add religion to the provisions of the race relations act. The second option would be to create a new piece of legislation parallel to the existing act, which may involve creating a new commission. The third possibility would be to introduce legislation against discrimination at European level". The CRE’s regional campaigns officer, Pushpa Dougall, stressed the need for the public’s involvement in this consultation exercise: "We want as many people as possible from different religions to take part" (Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, 12.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 9/10]

 

 

Women

Welfare association job threat

A campaign has been launched by the Woking Asian Women’s Association (WAWA) to persuade the Pakistan Muslim Welfare Association (PMWA) to employ advice worker Nyla Saeed on a permanent basis. Ms Saeed was employed originally on a one-year contract, which the PMWA has not renewed. Mrs Mahpara Hussein, who has taken up Nyla Saeed’s case with Woking Council, said: "After Nyla took over people flocked to the centre and they’ve kept coming - it’s a shame that just as she’s built a service up from scratch she has to give it all up. People feel they are losing a friend and someone who they can all tell their problems to. She has built up relationships with them all and now they feel she is being taken away. The PMWA is there to serve the people. All we want is for them to listen to what the people are saying". Sabir Hussain, chair of the PMWA replied that: "The salary for that position has gone up by £3,000 and no employee can expect to get that kind of rise so it’s my duty to find the best person for the job. If she’s the best person, then she’ll get the job" (Woking News & Mail, 17.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10]

 

 

Swansea conference

A conference in Swansea was held to launch a report about the difficulties experienced by women from ethnic minorities in accessing public services. The conference, entitled ‘Making Voices Heard’ was organised by the Swansea branch of Minority Ethnic Women’s Network. Research by the group had concluded that Muslim women especially were concerned about being examined by male doctors, and many did not use leisure facilities because there were no women only activities (Cardiff Western Mail, 24.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10]

 

 

Solicitor’s firm hijab case

Muslim News (25.04.97) and Q-News (01.05.97) carry reports of the case of Sufiah Abbasi, who claims she was dismissed from her job as an ‘outdoor clerk’ with a firm of solicitors, Russell Clayton of Wembley High Street, because of wearing hijab. Ms Abbasi, a trainee solicitor, represented herself at the North London Industrial Tribunal on 10 April, alleging racial and sexual discrimination. Makbool Javaid of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, which is advising Sufiah Abbasi, commented: "Muslim women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination because they are more visible in their practise of Islam. It is time the [Muslim] community took note of the appalling suffering, instead of ingratiating themselves with the establishment" (Muslim News, 25.01.97). Ms Abbasi has a postponement of her case until July, after her Bar exams. She expressed her determination to pursue the case to Q-News (01.05.97) : "For every sister who takes her case to court there must be thousands who walk away and do nothing. People don’t realise how much discrimination women who wear hijab have to suffer. I want them to take action against these bigots". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10]

 

 

Dartford Muslim association grant

The Dartford Muslim Association received £700 from Kent County Council social services as part of the council’s grants for pre-school care. The grant was to provide a crèche facility whilst mothers attended English courses (Dartford News Shopper, 23.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10]

 

 

Youth

Youth worker harassed

Harassment and threats against a female Asian youth worker in Bradford continue (see BMMS for February 1997). A group called Muslim Awareness claims that the worker is a lesbian and threatens in its leaflets to reveal her home address and telephone number unless she is removed from her job with Bradford council. Despite the protection which the police and the council have provided, the youth worker has had her car vandalised and is afraid to return to work. Diane Fairfax, chair of the council’s equal rights sub-committee said: "This council has a clear equal rights policy and we will not hesitate to take every step necessary to protect our staff from any such victimisation. I have been to her home to offer support and I’m appalled that an individual should be caused so much distress by such a poisonous and anonymous leaflet". Toller Lane division police confirmed that enquiries to trace those responsible were continuing (Yorkshire Post, 12.04.97) but protection by the police of the woman has been increased, although the Yorkshire Post (25.04.97) reported that, following the latest distribution of the leaflets giving personal details, the youth worker had been advised by the police to leave her home and offered her emergency accommodation. An editorial in the Yorkshire Post (30.04.97) commented: "The victim of this intimidation has been off work since February. Rather than offer her a new job in a less volatile climate, they appear to have left her to face her enemies at home. While the police have offered her some protection, it seems that they too are admitting defeat. Yesterday they suggested that she quit her home. This smacks of surrendering to the mob. If this woman is under threat, then those who are threatening her should be rounded up and given the sternest of warnings. The tragedy is that the Islamic elders could have prevented this. Instead, their silence offers comfort to the moral vigilantes". Sergeant Roy Wensley said: "She has been given police protection. We are trying to find the source of the material and would appeal to any printer out there who handled the job to contact us" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 29.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10]

 

 

Young Muslims Hockey Club

The South Manchester Express Advertiser (03.04.97) reports that the Young Muslims Hockey Club ended their winter season with two draws in the North West Hockey League Division One. They are now in fourth position in the league. New players, both juniors and seniors are welcome. For details of training sessions, contact Asif Chaudhry on 0161 881 0632, or Zahid Bokhari on 0161 227 9093, or Zahid Rizvi on 0161 226 3307. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 10/11]

 

 

Interfaith

Interfaith marriage meeting

The religious dilemmas faced by a couple of different faiths in bringing up their child was the subject of a meeting in early April of the Beaminster and District One World Fellowship. The speakers were Sajda Curragh, a Muslim and her husband Andrew, a Christian. They explained why they had decided to bring up their son Hanan as a Muslim (Bridport News, 18.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Christian group’s leaflet

Q-News (01.05.97) maintains that the anti-Islamic literature of a Christian fundamentalist group is endangering community relations and inter-faith harmony. The Huddersfield Dawah Centre is coordinating the Muslim response to the pamphlets, which have titles such as ‘Islamic invasion - confronting the world’s fastest growing religion’, ‘The Moon-god Allah’ and ‘Allah had no son’. This literature has been distributed in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and some parts of London. The Huddersfield Dawah Islamic Centre would like to hear from people who have received anti-Islamic literature through their letterbox. Their address is 285 Blackmoorfoot Road, Crosland Road, Huddersfield, HD4 5RL. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Halal

Hospital halal food report

A report from Crawley’s community health council was critical of the lack of halal food provision in Crawley Hospital, claiming that newly-delivered mothers were going home early because of this. Mary Mayne, a spokesperson for the community health council, said: "The ethnic minority patients generally have food brought in from home as there appears to be very little choice for vegetarians and halal meat is not available". She also pointed out that lack of vegetarian and halal food in their canteen affected hospital staff: "An example of this was that the only vegetarian food available on a recent night was chips and that had been fried in the same oil as chicken nuggets" (Crawley Observer, 26.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Hospital food complaints

Following complaints from Asians and Muslims that the food served to patients at Northwick Park Hospital was too spicy, a discussion and food-tasting session was organised by Adam Hassan, of the Harrow Council for Racial Equality. Mr Hassan explained: "The groups at the meeting represented patients from places as diverse as Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, India and Pakistan. Everyone felt this diversity should be represented in the hospital menus. A blander curry, and weak soup that would suit everyone from Asian Muslims to non-Asian Muslims and other ethnic groups, might solve the problem". Julia Denney, quality manager at Northwick Park, insisted that the hospital did already offer milder alternatives to spicy dishes: "...we do offer a choice of hot, medium and mild for some dishes, as well as a wide range of menus - kosher, halal, ethnic vegetarian and standard. We don’t want any patient to go home dissatisfied and our catering staff are always happy to address individual complaints and see if we can sort them out" (Pinner Observer, 27.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Halal slaughter protest

A vegan charity, Viva!, has called for an end to the ritual halal slaughter of sheep and other animals at Eid. A Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson said that the religious slaughter of animals in Britain is carried out in licensed premises, not in open areas or people’s back gardens, as Viva! suggest. Viva! is also concerned that Britain exports thousands of sheep to France for the Eid festival there and is opposed to the practices of Muslims in that country. Laurent Le Marchand, a spokesperson at the French Embassy in London, said: "The French government, indeed, international governments, respect their [Muslims’] religious beliefs. But we also respect the rights of animals so veterinary inspectors control the open slaughters" (Teletext, 14.04.97). On Friday, 18 April Viva! held a protest rally in London against the ritual slaughter of sheep and other animal. According to the secretary of Solihull Animal Aid, Ursula Bates, the protest was not only about Eid, but against halal and other ritual slaughter generally. She said: "We are protesting against all ritual slaughter where the animal is totally conscious when it has its throat cut" (Solihull News, 18.04.97). The Cardiff Western Mail (19.04.97) reported that Viva!’s protest involved splattering red paint, to symbolise blood, on the French embassy in London, because the animal rights group are against the export of British sheep to France for Eid. In Northampton, Viva! campaigners appear to have given incorrect information to the Northampton Chronicle (19.04.97), because they are reported as saying that halal slaughter should "be outlawed in line with the laws in other EU countries". Q-News (01.05.97) reports that only 300 people attended the rally, whereas Viva! claimed the figure was 500. However, in spite of the action at the French embassy, the protest failed to attract the interest of television news, as the organisers had hoped. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Health

Abortion donation

The Catholic Herald (11.04.97) reports that Muslim Aid has donated £5,000 to Cardinal Winning’s fund to help pregnant women who, without such financial help, might otherwise have abortions. The article says: "Over the last few years, there has been an increase in Muslim women seeking early terminations. Many of these women have come to seek counselling from the pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children"(see BMMS for July, September, October and November 1996; January and March 1997). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11]

 

 

Hospital shaving error

The family of a Muslim whose beard was shaved off when he was unconscious in Whipps Cross Hospital have now made a formal complaint to Forest Healthcare Trust, via the Waltham forest Islamic Association. Mr Rashid died three days after being admitted to hospital. A family friend, Chaudhry Hussein, explained the seriousness of the matter: "We were horrified. He was a very religious man, and had been on pilgrimages to Mecca, and the beard was very important to him. He would never have shaved it off. If it was the case that he needed to lose his beard to save his life, we would have no problems with that - there’s no religious difficulty with that happening - but none of the family was ever consulted. What we can’t understand is why they shaved off the beard. As far as we could tell he had received no treatment which would have needed him to be shaved" (Leytonstone Guardian, 10.04.97). A spokesperson for Forest Healthcare said that the matter was under investigation, adding: "We want to reassure patients that we adhere to the Patients’ Charter, which states that patients can expect the NHS to respect their religious and cultural beliefs at all times and all places, although exceptional circumstances, such as medical reasons, may prevent this" (Leytonstone Guardian, 10.04.97, Epping Forest Independent,Waltham Forest independent, 11.04.97) [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 11/12]

 

 

Replacement for chapel

A new multifaith centre is being planned to replace the chapel at St James’ Hospital, Leeds. At the launch of an appeal for funds for the centre, the senior hospital chaplain, Philip Evans, said of the old building that it was "simply not an appropriate place of worship and prayer for the large number of patients, visitors and staff who come from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other faiths. At worst it is offensive to them. The presence of those other faiths within the hospital is now significant, and the present chapel prevents us from meeting the national Patient’s Charter standard of respecting every patient’s religious and cultural needs". The old chapel, built in 1861, may be converted into a lecture hall and conference space (Yorkshire Post, 16.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 12]

 

 

Blood donation at mosque

The Shia Muslim community in Birmingham is organising a blood donation session at the Clifton Road mosque to commemorate Muharram. Hussain Merali, a member of the mosque’s management committee, explained: "Throughout the world Shia communities commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions on 10 Muharram which this year will fall on Saturday 17 May. In a mark of sympathy, support and loyalty to those Martyrs, Shias in Birmingham are organising a mass blood donation through the Birmingham Centre of the National Blood Service. The martyrdom of their leader had an underlying message for the salvage of Islam and humanity and in a small way by donating blood are demonstrating their contribution to the salvage of humanity by a tangible gesture to save other human lives" (Daily Jang, 06.05.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 12]

 

 

Employment

Oxford imam sacking

The imam at the mosque in Bath Street, Oxford, has been sacked because his employers alleged that he had gone on the pilgrimage to Mecca and been absent from work for seven weeks without their permisssion (Oxford Mail, 05.04.97). The imam, Amir Abdullah Khan, took his employers to an industrial tribunal on 7 April (Oxford Mail, 07.04.97). The industrial tribunal in Reading turned down Mr Khan’s appeal against unfair dismissal, on the grounds that he was not an employee with a contract in the normal sense, but a spiritual leader (Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Oxford Mail, 08.04.97, Oxford Star, 10.04.97, Oxford Times, 11.04.97, Eastern Eye, 18.04.97). The tribunal heard that the Oxford Mosque Society paid Mr Khan £250 a month, out of the donations of worshippers at Friday prayers. However, the tribunal insisted that it could not hear the case because Mr Khan was not an employee. Mr Khan claimed he had signed a contract, and regarding the Mosque Society’s claim that he had been absent without permission, he said: "Whenever I went on holiday I gave written notice and I knew if I was late I would get the sack. I am asking for fairness and what is due to me" (Daily Telegraph, 08.04.97). Katherine Gollop, representing the mosque, used earlier cases involving Methodist, Sikh and Muslim leaders, as precedents, arguing that their spiritual roles had denied them employee status. Duncan Bain, of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, representing Mr Khan, denied that those rulings had any bearing (Daily Telegraph, 08.04.97). Mahmud Khan Hasrut, former chair of the Oxford Mosque Society, welcomed the ruling: "When we employ our imam we don’t think he will take us to court. We never think that any kind of legislation is needed to cover our imam. We employ him on trust, not in the sense you employ a factory worker, or, for that matter, a barrister...We are delighted. The tribunal has made a sensible decision" (Oxford Mail, 08.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 12]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Batley, Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton

Letters have been sent to the editor of the Batley News (17.04.97) complaining about plans to turn a disused chapel into a mosque and madrassah. The premises are in Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton. The objections are mainly concerned with traffic congestion. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 12]

 

 

Beckton, Kingsford Way

Newham council has apparently decided not to sell the site in Kingsford Way to either of the two groups who want to build a mosque there (see BMMS for April, June, July, August, September and November 1996; March 1997). The City of London Recorder (11.04.97) quotes the council leader, Councillor Robin Wales, as saying: "It’s been decided not to sell them the land and to take it off the market. The council are in no hurry to sell. We’re taking the long view". Syed Shah, of the United Muslim Association (Beckton) said: "This is news to me. We made an offer two months ago and have heard nothing since. We will be contacting the council". The Recorder believes that a contributory factor to the council’s decision may be that although both the rival Muslim groups modified their plans, and both agreed to meet the council’s asking price of £200,000 for the land, they had asked for deferred payment. The council believed that this meant that the groups would have difficulty raising sufficient money for several years, and meanwhile, a temporary mosque would be built on the site. Councillors have also subsequently rejected an application from the Beckton Muslim Association to have a temporary mobile cabin for use as a mosque on the site in Kingsford Way. Newham Council is now expected to take the site off the market (City of London Recorder, 25.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 12/13]

 

 

Blackburn burials

Problems are continuing with the overcrowding during Asian Muslim funerals, and other mourners being consequently turned away, from the Pleasington Cemetery in Blackburn (see BMMS for May 1996 and March 1997). Rafique Malik, director of Blackburn Racial Equality Council, blamed bad council management: "They should research how many people are likely to attend for a funeral at the time it is booked". He also pointed out that there is no prohibition in Islam concerning people of other faiths being present at the time of a burial (Blackburn Evening Telegraph, 03.04.97). The Muslim Burial Committee has written to Blackburn council, asking to buy a piece of land for a Muslim cemetery in order to alleviate the difficulties. Committee member Musa Ismail, who is also head of Islamic Relief to Bosnia, said: "We would like to buy a piece of land which would be used for Muslim burials and for which we would be responsible. We feel that this would solve the problems which have been experienced at Pleasington Cemetery and help maintain the good community relations which have existed for almost 40 years. We are willing to pay whatever the asking price might be" (Blackburn Evening Telegraph, 08.04.97). An editorial in the Blackburn Evening Telegraph (14.04.97) welcomes Musa Ismail’s suggestion, but believes a more immediate solution is needed to the present problems at the Pleasington Cemetery. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Blackburn, Eldon Road

Following approval of plans for a mosque in Eldon Road, Blackburn (see BMMS for March 1997) details are now emerging of the conditions attached to the consent (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 23.04.97, 26.03.97). These include the provision of car parking spaces, a ban on weddings and funerals at the premises, and no external call to prayer. Some Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors claimed that the approval was rushed through without any debate, but Labour claimed that opponents of the scheme missed their chance to speak out because they were not paying attention to the proceedings (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 26.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Bletchley

Work is progressing well on the new mosque and Pakistani community centre in Bletchley (see BMMS for December 1995 and March 1996). Mohammed Akhtar, who is in charge of the project, said: "Work started two months ago and we are confident everything will be in place come August" (Milton Keynes City Observer, 26.03.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Bradford, Leeds Road

Bradford Council has received a planning application from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association for an extension to its mosque in Leeds Road, Bradford (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 28.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Crawley

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Crawley is looking for a small building to use for prayers and as a base in their work of feeding the town’s homeless. Ahsan Ahmedi, president of the group said: "We have daily worship but can only fit about 25 to 30 people into houses - there is not enough room for the women. We would like to find a facility where 60 to 70 people could congregate for our daily prayer meetings. We wrote to the council asking for land but they could only offer us huge pieces of land which were well out of our financial reach" (Horley & Gatwick News, 23.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Dewsbury, Stoney Bank Street

The Heavy Woollen Planning Sub-committee of Dewsbury has given its approval to the building of a mosque and community centre at Scout Hill, despite objections from Kirklees Council’s Highways department concerning parking and traffic (see BMMS for March 1997). The building was formerly a carpet warehouse. The Salfia Centre, who will run the new building, have undertaken not to use it for weddings and to end the use of their current buildings. Councillor Razaq, a former Salfia Centre committee member, commented: "I’m pleased because this will give all young people, both Asian and white and especially those living in Scout Hill, a real opportunity to supplement their education and provide a much-needed community facility" (Dewsbury Reporter, 25.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Leeds, Bilal Mosque

The Dorset Evening Echo (09.04.97) reports that a Weymouth firm, W & J Tod, has won the contract to construct the main dome, two smaller domes, and a half dome for the mihrab, for the Bilal Mosque in Leeds. The firm is currently working on several projects for religious and cultural buildings. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13]

 

 

Leeds, Shadwell Lane

Residents opposed to a house in Shadwell Lane, Leeds, being converted into an Islamic community centre have sent a petition to the local government ombudsman about the proposals. They claim they have not been informed of the development, but a spokesperson from the council said that notices had been posted on lamp-posts on Shadwell Lane and the Inner Ring Road in Moortown on 7 September, 1995. She explained that planning permission had been granted, but subject to conditions: "The premises can only be used between the hours of 9am-10pm Monday to Friday and 10am-8pm Saturday to Sunday and are next to an existing community centre at 168 Shadwell Lane with a similar car park at the rear" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 03.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 13/14]

 

Lincoln

Following the introduction of resident’s-only parking in the streets around the Lincoln mosque, worshippers at Friday prayers have had to park on double yellow lines and pay heavy fines. A dozen of the attenders at the mosque have protested to the council, and pointed out that church worshippers do not face the same restrictions on Sundays.

Community spokesperson Harun Miah said: "Some of us have no choice but to park on the double yellow lines and face the fines. We have had to pay at least £1,000 in parking tickets. We must go to prayers and it has become very difficult to find somewhere to park. Some of us work as doctors and have to drive in from all over the area. It is not possible to rely on the buses. It is only for an hour each week but now there are so many restrictions on parking in the streets near the mosque and it is a real problem when the main car parks are full" (Lincolnshire Echo, 08.04.97).

Following protests by Muslims attending Friday prayers, the County Council has agreed to a meeting. Speaking on behalf of the local Muslim community, Harun Miah said: "We have written to Councillor Parker about our situation in the hope that something can be done...we have a number of proposals to put to him which we believe will help ease the situation..." A council spokesperson said: "We have received a letter from Mr Miah explaining the situation and we are looking into it. We have invited him along to discuss the matter to see if something can be done" (Lincolnshire Echo, 21.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 14]

 

 

London, Steatham, Mitcham Lane

The Surrey Border Front, a neo-Nazi group who were organising against the mosque in Chichester (see BMMS for April, June, July, August and October 1996) have now struck in Streatham (Streatham Mercury, 03.04.97). They have plastered ‘NO to the mosque posters’ around Mitcham Lane, where permission has been given to build a mosque on the site of a former fire station (see BMMS for February 1997). Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, commented: "We think this group has carried out other anti-mosque campaigns. We believe them to be a fairly small bunch of neo-Nazis. They are acting out of pure race hatred. They should be caught and locked up". Mr Ijaz, secretary of the Islamic Centre, said: "I have never heard of the group - it obviously has a racial tone. They are offensive - somebody wants to create friction in the community. I’ll just simply ignore them. The police, I think, should be made aware". The posters, which, from the description given by the Streatham Mercury, sound very similar to those put up in Chichester, carry a Croydon address. The paper’s repeated attempts to contact the organisation at that address have been unsuccessful. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 14]

 

Newport, Cedar Road

Some Muslims living near the Islamic study centre in Cedar Road, Newport, are amongst those complaining that the building is being used as a mosque, for which the owners do not have permission from the council. Abdul Hye, one of the complainants, lives next to the building in question. He said: "I attend the other mosque in Harrow road. But everyone thinks the building in Cedar Road is a second mosque, which it is not". A spokesperson from Newport County Council said: "We have taken up Mr Hye’s complaints and prosecutions have been made against the owners of the building which resulted in a £500 fine being imposed" (South Wales Argus, 18.04.97, Newport News & Weekly Argus, 24.04.97) [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 14]

 

 

Oadby and Wigston burials

Muslims in Oadby and Wigston have welcomed the council’s decision to help with the cost of burials outside the district’s area, in Saffron Hill Cemetery in Leicester (see BMMS for March 1996 and March 1997), but believe that it can only be a temporary measure. Mohammed Omarji, chair of the Muslim Burial Council, said: "We are pleased that Oadby and Wigston council has agreed to this. It was only our first approach to them and they were sympathetic...However, we would prefer a cemetery in Oadby because there are a number of Muslims living in the area. If all Muslims are to be buried at Saffron Hill surely spaces will run out, so in the circumstances I think it would be better for Oadby to have its own cemetery" (Oadby & Wigston Mail, 27.03.97).

Councillor Sheila Mitchell, chair of consumer services of the borough council, also wants to see a Muslim burial ground in the district. She wrote to the same edition of the paper: "Obviously, the arrangement [subsidising burials in Leicester] will act as an incentive to the council to identify a burial ground as soon as possible, in order to convert this cost into income for Oadby and Wigston". Other letters to the editor of the Oadby & Wigston Mail (03.04.97, 10.04.97, 17.03.97) have mainly concentrated on whether the £13,500 allocated by the council for Muslim burials was, in fact, a subsidy to individuals and if so, whether it is just to allocate money for such a purpose. Albert Mosely, a retired Methodist minister from Oadby, wrote to the Oadby & Wigston Mail (03.04.97) in support of the council’s decision: "The families are charged in excess of the normal fee not because they use the Muslim area [in neighbouring Leicester], but because they live outside the city boundary. According to your report, they asked to be given their own area in the Wigston cemetery, but there is not sufficient spare room...People of all faiths, or none, are often in deep distress when a loved one dies. It is good that the community should do what it can to avoid making any group pay excessively for funerals". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 14]

 

 

Oldham, Coldhurst

Plans have been presented for the first phase of a mosque in Coldhurst, Oldham (Manchester Evening News, 21.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

Palmers Green, Enfield

Negotiations between Enfield Council and the Muslim Community and Education Centre (MCEC) concerning an alternative site for a mosque which the Muslim group would like to build on the Oakthorpe sports ground in Palmers Green (see BMMS for July, August, September and October 1996), appear to have reached an impasse. Councillor Richard Course, chair of the council’s environment committee, explained: "We made an open resolution months ago where we said we would consider planning consent for the mosque provided the rest of the land is given to the council. The MCEC will not agree to giving us the land so we will refuse to grant planning permission" (Enfield Gazette, 03.04.97, Enfield Town Express, 04.04.97). Letters to the Enfield Advertiser (02.04.97, 09.04.97, 16.04.97) have all stated opposition to the mosque proposal, most citing the need to preserve green space in an otherwise built-up area, and likely traffic and parking problems if permission were given for the building of a mosque. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

Preston, Noor Street, Deepdale

The Preston Lancashire Evening Post (21.04.97) carries a photo of workers polishing the copper domed roof of the almost completed Masjid E Noor (Mosque of Light) in Noor Street, Deepdale (see BMMS for March 1996). The New Christian Herald (26.04.97) also publishes a photo of the Masjid E Noor from a different angle, describing it as "an impressive new mosque...its traditional mid-orient style contrasting strangely with the red-brick solidity of English northern civic prosperity". The article goes on to contrast the building of mosques in the town with the change of use of two churches: "...Anglicans are turning two prestigious but dying parish churches, St John and St George, into community centres, with nursery and arts facilities and scope for conferences". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

Solihull burials

Muslims in Solihull have requested same-day burials and burials on Saturdays. The Rugby Evening Telegraph and the Nuneaton Evening Telegraph (07.04.97) report that councillors are likely to agree to the same-day burials, providing the extra costs can be recovered, but will probably refuse the request for Saturday burials. [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

Southampton, St Mary St.

Progress is being made on the work of the new Medina Mosque in St Mary’s Street, Southampton (see BMMS for August 1996; February and March 1997). The steel girders of the building were due to be erected on 4 April. Mohammad Aslam, chair of the mosque committee, said: "I would like to thank everyone on the committee, their families and friends as we reach this milestone" (Southern Daily Echo, 03.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

Wakefield, Back Hatfield St.

An arson attack on the Back Hatfield Street Mosque in Wakefield resulted in some damage to the floor. The blaze was put out by firefighters at 1.30am on Saturday, 29 March. Wakefield police are asking for witnesses. They can be contacted on 01924 293277 (Wakefield Express, 04.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

 

Walsall, Milton St.

Walsall council has agreed with worshippers at the Milton Street mosque (see BMMS for February 1997) that a proposed car wash at the Palfrey Service Station in Wednesbury Road that such a development would be detrimental to the mosque. Planning permission for the car wash was refused at a planning committee meeting on 16 April (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 17.04.97). [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

 

 

Wigan, Hindley Prison

Space for a mosque has been created at Hindley Prison in Wigan (Wigan Evening Post, 11.04.97). The idea originated with Ahmed Nasier, who visits the prison to preach about Islam and to give religious education about other faiths. He explained: "I thought it would be fair to the Muslims in the prison to have their own place of worship. The Muslim faith requires prayer five times a day and with 16 Muslims in the prison I thought there would definitely be a demand for a mosque. But it’s not just for the benefit of the Muslims but also to help the other prisoners learn about all kinds of religions. I give lessons every Sunday on other religions from Hindu and Sikh to Christianity. The mosque can be a place of education as well as worship. It will help everyone at the prison understand each others religions and that can only be a good thing". Allen Tallentyre, head of activities at the prison, has consistently given his support to the scheme: "A couple of buildings became available and we liked Mr Nasier’s idea. We think it will make a positive contribution and it’s important to provide facilities for minorities. We hope the mosque will give all the prisoners a wider understanding of other people’s faiths and that this will broaden their general understanding in life. We would like to think this could benefit them when they are released". [BMMS April 1997 Vol. V, No. 4, p. 15]

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