British Muslims Monthly Survey for January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Muslim schools funding 

Ramadan and Eid 

Mecca name protest 

 

 

Reports

Community

Couple escape 

Leicestershire murder inquiry 

Daughter burial delay 

MBE for community worker 

Bournemouth profile 

Savings account warning 

Burial Plea 

Batley centre funding 

Home-loan disappointment 

Lecturer interview 

Cartoon review 

Religious discrimination bill 

Jack and Zena book reviews 

FO forced marriages pamphlet 

Oxford centre 

Dog picture controversy 

Walk cheque handover 

Research updates 

Glamorgan centre expansion 

Rushdie update 

Aga Khan's art collection 

Policeman interview 

Belfast Islamic centre plans

Amex Haj plans 

Islamic Experience exhibition 

Prostitute campaign 

 

 

Education

Permission refused again 

Glasgow schools controversy 

Schools’ links 

Sandwell school plans 

Single sex school threat 

Preston College prayer room closure 

Community languages A-levels 

University prayer room campaign 

 

 

Politics

Sarwar update 

Dissident extraditions call 

University meeting ban 

Nation of Islam room hire 

Call to withdraw suspensions 

Q-News article attacked 

Nation of Islam 

 

 

Racism

Race Forum event 

Race conference

 

 

Women

Hijab victory 

Sandwell workshops 

TV programme on intermarriage 

Helpline prize 

Youth

Bradford youth worker

 

Interfaith

Batley vicar's hopes 

Interfaith Network anniversary 

Three Faiths Forum news 

Leaders compare 

ICRC press release 

Interfaith marriage guidance 

 

 

Halal

Anti-slaughter campaign 

Bristol school meals 

 

 

Health

Barnsley hospital prayer room 

Hospital chapel opened 

 

 

Employment

Navy recruitment campaign 

Northampton centre sacking 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Batley, Bromley St 

Cheltenham, High St 

Chesham 

Derby, Porter Rd 

Hounslow, Wellington Rd South 

Kettering burials 

Leicester, Evington Rd 

London, Whitechapel 

Northampton, St George's St 

Palmers Green, Oakenthorpe Rd 

Pendle, Brierfield 

Reading 

Southall, Oswald Rd, Abu Bakr Trust 

St Albans, Hatfield Rd 

Stockton, Westbury Street 

Swindon, Turl St 

Walsall burials 

West Green 

Worcester, Middle St 

 

 

 

Features

Muslim schools funding

On 9 January the first state funding for Muslim schools was announced by David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education. The two schools which have had their application for grant maintained (GM) status accepted are the Islamia Primary School in Brent, London (see British Muslims Monthly Survey, January, June, August, September, October, November and December 1997) and the Al-Furqan Primary School in Sparkhill, Birmingham (See BMMS for January, June, August and December 1997). Amjad Ahmed, chair of trustees at Al-Furqan, said: 'We are delighted. It means that the school will be Government- funded from September". The school now hopes to proceed with their plan to convert the former Birmingham Women's Hospital to provide much larger premises (Birmingham Evening Mail, 09.01.98). Zahida Hussain, the principal of Al-Furqan, said: It means there is at last equality for Muslim children in education at least ... Many families had had to do without extra food or clothing to send their children here because they appreciate our unique environment" (Guardian, 10.01.98). She also said: "At last there is equality for Muslim children and we know the Government understands that we're an important section of the community" (Daily Telegraph, 10.01.98). Aqeela Jehan Monie, head teacher at the Islamia Primary School said: "We feel spiritually elated and mentally elated. We have suffered many disappointments, but it has been well worthwhile" (Guardian, 10.01.98).

The Bishop of Birmingham welcomed the news. He commented: I welcome this decision. For many years there have been Church of England, Roman Catholic and Jewish Schools in the maintained sector. It is a matter of justice that Muslims and other faith communities should have the same opportunities. No community should believe itself to be the victim of unjust discrimination" (Diocese Of Birmingham Bulletin, 01.02.98). The Catholic Church has also welcomed the decision. Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Information Service, said: "The bishops have consistently supported the principle as long as those schools adhere to the demands of the National Curriculum as Christian and Jewish schools are required to do" (Universe, 18.01.98). Funding was also approved for three Jewish schools at the same time, two new ones in Hertfordshire and the Matilda Marks-Kennedy School in Mill Hill, London. An editorial in the Jewish Chronicle (10.01.98) comments: "As for the decision to bring two Muslim schools under the state umbrella, there should be no quibbles from the Jewish community.

Muslims may be a more recent element of British society and be less prominent than the Jewish community in many areas of society, but they are far more numerous. If the state can back specifically Christian schools as well as Jewish ones, there can be no logical reason for excluding another major religious grouping" (Jewish Chronicle, 16.01.98).

The Northern Echo (10.01.98) explains that the two Muslim schools and three Jewish schools granted GM status had to be delivering the National Curriculum and offering equal access to boys and girls. The newspaper quotes David Blunkett as saying: I am satisfied that the new schools should provide a good standard of education and will be financially viable". The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, also welcomed the news. He said: 9t is good news. Two million people in this country are Muslims and pay their taxes in the same way as Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and Jews, who all have their own schools supported by the state. It is a way of binding Muslims into our society and being fair to them. If there are Muslim schools in Blackburn and East Lancashire which meet the criteria, they will also be approved but it is primarily a matter for the Muslim community in the area" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 10.01.98). Rehana Shafquat, the head teacher of Feversham College (see BMMS for March, April, May June and November 1997), which applied for GM status in 1994 but was turned down, felt encouraged by the Government's decision. She said: I think it's wonderful that the Government has decided to offer grant maintained status to a Muslim school; that's a real breakthrough". Feversham has addressed the problem of gaps in their curriculum and is looking for a suitable site on which to build a bigger school (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 10.01.98). Support for the Government's decision also came from the Bishop of Rippon, David Young, who is chair of the Church of England's Board of Education. He thought the move would be good for community relations: "One of the things such schools are able to provide is confidence for those coming from minority cultures that their children will be schooled in a setting of their own culture, with a strong religious dimension. That means they will have increased confidence in themselves as communities and will be able to contribute to society in a much stronger and more confident way". A spokesperson for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "This is not divisive but a proper response to the diversity that is increasingly becoming apparent in Britain" (Yorkshire Post, 10.01.98). The only widely-reported dissenting voice regarding the rightness of the Government's decision is that of Ray Honeyford, the former Bradford headmaster who was dismissed for allegedly making comments which were offensive to Pakistanis and to Muslims. He was of the opinion that few non-Muslim children would attend Muslim schools and that therefore: "Children are less likely to have cross-racial friendships, which are the key to good race relations" (Sun, 10.01.98).

The Leytonstone Guardian interviewed the chair of the locally based Indian Muslim Trust, Shamsuddin Agha. He said: "We`re very happy that at last the Government has recognised support for Muslim schools. So much time has been wasted - this should have been done about five years ago. I imagine that in about five years there will be a state-funded school in this area. I feel that there's a need for a junior and infant school in Leytonstone. If someone announced plans for one tomorrow, people would flock to it like anything". Leyton and Wanstead MP Harry Cohen agreed. He said: I think it's possible that in a few years we could have such schools in the constituency, but the standards will have to be high. It will need to follow the National Curriculum, for example. It seems to me there's a need which isn't being met at the moment and there's a good case for having one in Leyton or Leytonstone" (Leytonstone Guardian, 22.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 1/2]

 

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Ramadan and Eid

The Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) Board of Ulema, UK announced that Ramadan would begin on 31 December 1997, according to astronomical calculations and the sighting of the moon. Similarly, they have calculated that Eid-ul-Fitr will be on 29 or 30 January 1998 (Daily Jang, 11.12.97). Eastern Eye (12 * 12.97) reports that prominent Muslims who are talking about Islam on a four-part series on BBC television during Ramadan include: the former cricketer, Imran Khan; fashion tycoon, Shami Ahmed; a recent convert, the world boxing champion Chris Eubank; and Fun-DaMental rapper, Aki Nawaz. In Middlesborough, a Ramadan radio station, called Tees Fast FM, broadcasting on 106.617M, was looking for volunteers and financial support. The organiser of the project is Maqsood Sadiq, who can be contacted on 01642 821560 or 0421 389090 (Middlesborough Evening Gazette, 17.12.97).

As in previous years, the fast of the month of Ramadan has attracted the attention of the press and Muslims have been given the opportunity to explain this and other pillars of their faith. In Buckinghamshire, Raja Amir Dad in his weekly column stresses the importance of charity at this time and concludes with a hint to Muslim readers: "Please remember that High Wycombe Scanner appeal is still fundraising" (Bucks Free Press, 09.01.98). Professor Akbar Ahmed is a contributor to Eastern Eye (16.01.98) with an article on Ramadan. He points out that Ramadan should be a month when spirituality is given priority and when the rich and those who have enough for their needs are able to understand what life is like for the poor. However: "Some of the wealthy spend much of the fast in a stupor watching videos. They eat the morning meal and then sleep late. In this manner they pass the difficult hours of the day. And at the evening meal they compensate by overeating". In Leyton, the Mauritian Islamic Welfare Association together with the Waltham Forest Noor Ul Islam Trust organised a collection of non-perishable foodstuffs. In three hours they collected over two tonnes of food, most of which will go to the Refugee Advice Centre, which is based in the High Road, Leyton (Chingford Guardian, 15.01.98). At St Thomas's Church of England School in Wemeth, breakfast was served daily to the children during Ramadan in order to help fasting parents. The bilingual support worker whose idea this was, Mrs Malik, explained that although most of the children would not be fasting, since it was a primary school, the parents were, which meant that breakfast was served very early in the morning in those households. She said: "The parents are really pleased that we are doing this. In the past, we know that some children had to come to school without breakfast. St Thomas's is a very caring school and we have done this out of respect for religion and care for the children. The majority of our children's parents will be fasting during Ramadan...At St Thomas's, we celebrate all the religious festivals. Stories about Mohammed will be told during assembly, as we told stories about Jesus over Christmas" (Oldham Evening Chronicle, 13.01.98). In several areas, Muslim groups had won temporary licenses to run radio stations for the month of Ramadan and local papers carried news of these stations. Some examples were Tees Fast FM in the Teesside region (Asian Times, 06.01.98); BBC Radio Sheffield (East, 31.12.97, Sheffield Telegraph, 02.01.98); and Radio Ramazan in Nottingham (Nottingham Topper, 07.01.98).

In many areas, local health promotion teams have joined with Islamic organisation to suggest to smokers that, if they are able not to smoke during the hours of fasting, then maybe they should give up the habit permanently. In Birmingham the Muath Welfare Trust and Smoke Free Birmingham were promoting this message (Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, 01.01.98). The Ramadan antismoking campaign in London and the telephone help service Asian Quitline nationally had the support of former cricket star, now politician, Imran Khan (City of London Recorder, 12.12.97). He said: "The positive practice of abstaining from smoking during daylight hours is an ideal opportunity for Muslims to give up for good" (South London Press, 02.01.98). The Ramadan timetable produced by the Coventry Muslim Resource Centre in Red Lane, Foleshill, Coventry features healthy eating messages and an exhortation to give up smoking along with the times for fasting. Recent surveys have shown that Muslim men smoke more than the national average and that more young people from Muslim backgrounds are becoming smokers. The Rugby Evening Telegraph (17.12.97) explains the timing of this campaign: "During the fasting month, Muslims pay particular attention to spiritual well-being. It is felt that placing an emphasis on this will have a positive effect on health matters". Other aspects of health, such as healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle in general, are featured in many other places, for example, on Ramadan timetables (Barnsley Star, 31.11.97, Rotherham Advertiser, 24.12.97). In Leicester, diabetics have been given advice about how to fast safely from the Diabetes Care Unit at the General Hospital (Leicester Mercury, 01.01.98).

Q-News (01.01.98) has produced some guidelines for schools on Ramadan and Eid. Ironically, this issue having appeared when Ramadan had already started, the authors state: "The story is the same every year. Come Ramadan or Eid and everyone is shuffling around trying to make last minute make-shift arrangements. What is needed is for Muslim parents, teachers, and the education authorities to collectively co-ordinate in advance how the situation is to be approached and make the necessary arrangements in a systematic manner. In the meantime however, we thought we'd take the initiative and produce some rough guidelines for teachers and parents". The guidelines have the rules of fasting and prayer as applicable to children and young people; suggestion's on how Ramadan and Eid can be made more meaningful to both non-Muslim and Muslim children in schools; and class work related to the festivals. The following organisations are cited for those who would like more information: IQRA Trust on 0171 491 1572; the Association of Muslim Schools on 0116 2519519; the Muslim Educational Trust on 0171272 8502; and the Muslim College on 0181992 6636.

Eid was celebrated by most Muslims in Britain on Thursday 29 January this year. As usual, Ramadan and Eid attracted considerable press attention, both local and national. The Asian Times (20.01.98) reported that the Asda supermarket had bought many extra cases of dates, to sell to Muslims for breaking their fast. Khaddim Hussein general secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said: 1t is a great sign. They finally realise that the Muslim community is living in Bradford now". In Slough, a park and ride scheme introduced to get worshippers to the Diamond Road Mosque during Ramadan for prayers was discontinued due to the low take-up (Midweek Observer, 21.01.98). In Edinburgh, there was a celebration for Eid held in the Meadowbank Sports Centre on Sunday 1 February, organised by the Pakistan Society of Edinburgh and the East of Scotland (Edinburgh Evening News, 21.01.98). Festive illuminations were provided in Batley - they were fourteen lights left in place after Christmas plus an Eid Mubarak sign (Batley News, 22.01.98). By common consent, all Asian restaurants in Malden, Heybridge and Chelmsford closed on Eid to allow their workers to have a holiday. The move was instigated by restaurateur Abdul Kadir, who can be contacted on 01621 850985 (Malden & Burnham Standard, 22.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 2/3]

 

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Mecca name protest

On 6 January Muslim leaders in Luton met representatives of the Rank group to discuss their request that the name of the local bingo hall be changed from "Mecca" to some other name and that the sign with this name on be taken down (see BMMS for December 1997). Not only Muslims in Luton apparently found the naming of the bingo hall offensive, but so did Muslims elsewhere in Britain. Tahir Khan, of the Unity Organisation in Southwick, Sunderland, commented: "The name Mecca holds a special place in Muslim faith and culture. Using the name Mecca for bingo halls creates the wrong image" (Sunderland Echo, 09.01.98). In Bradford, Khadim Hussain, general secretary for Bradford Council for Mosques said: 'It would be greatly appreciated if the name could be changed. I am sure the community would welcome it". David Fitch, of the Interfaith Education Centre in Bradford said: 'It's their holiest city world wide and to have that city associated with gambling is a matter of concern. Some will feel it's offensive and others will just not like it. I can understand Muslims' concerns" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus,08.01.98). Finally, after further talks, on 15 January the Rank group removed the offending sign from its Luton bingo hall (Western Daily Press, Stafford Express & Star, Derby Telegraph, Heartland Evening News, Nottingham Evening Post, Worcester Evening News, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Halifax Evening Courier, Wrexham Evening Leader, Dundee Evening Telegraph, Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Evening Mail, Birmingham Express & Star, Daily Mail, Daily Record, The Times, Guardian, Mirror, Eastern Eye, Sun, Daily Telegraph, Birmingham Post, Hull Daily Mail, Kettering Evening Telegraph, 16.01.98, Asian Age, Manchester Evening News, 17.01.98). Akbar Dad Khan, general secretary of the Luton Islamic Cultural Society said: I don't think anybody has given in over anything. We had two lengthy discussions and at the end of the day it's the company's decision, and they know how best they can advertise and run their business. From the Muslim point of view a case was put to them and they listened carefully and whatever decision they have taken, that discussion must have had some bearing on it. If the situation improves as a result of material decisions I think that's the best way forward, and here clearly there is an example that by co-operation and discussion a positive result can be achieved" (Luton News, 28.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 3/4]

 

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Reports

Community

Couple escape

Bedfordshire on Sunday (04.01.98) has published a clarification regarding their article of 7 December 1997 (see BMMS for December 1997) concerning Romeena Khan and her white partner, who had to leave Bedford because of threats to their lives. The article explains that: "Bedford's Muslim population as a whole is not involved in any threats made to the couple. The article was not intended to create anti-Muslim feeling and referred to Romeena Khan's immediate circle, not the general Asian population". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 4]

 

Leicestershire murder inquiry

Leicestershire Constabulary have sent BMMS a press release entitled Help sought from Muslims in murder hunt. They are distributing posters with a photo of a man they are seeking in connection with a murder inquiry. The text of the poster is multilingual. In English, it reads: "Hamza Latif. Also known as Osron Oscar Samuel (29). He is black, 511 " tall with brown eyes. When last seen he had a beard and moustache. He wears Muslim clothing and a prayer hat. The above man is sought for interview in connection with the murder of father of six, Mr Costin Tucker (41) who was shot and killed in Leicester in the early hours of August 8th 1997. Do you have any information about the murder or the whereabouts of Hamza Latif. If so, please contact the murder incident room on Leicester 2 222 222 and ask for extension 6808 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. All calls will be dealt with in confidence". The news release quotes DC1 Michael Grant, who is in charge of the inquiry: "We know that Orson Samuel visits mosques and was in the north of England in the later part of last year.

We want to trace him so that we can speak to him as part of our on-going enquiries. There are still a number of people who were in the area at the time when Mr Tucker was shot, including several Asian men, and we want to speak to all of them as they may have valuable information". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 4]

 

 

Daughter burial delay

The family of a murder victim, Farah Deeb Khan, aged 20 are asking the coroner to speed up procedures and release her body so that it may be flown to Pakistan for burial. Ms Khan was discovered dead at her home in Windsor on 19 November. Her husband, Imran Khan, is in custody awaiting trial on a murder charge. Ms Khan's uncle, Liaqat Ali Khan, said: 9t is getting unbearable. We cannot grieve properly. We have approached the Muslim community at large and people are ready to demonstrate. Farah's father has got high blood pressure and this is making it much worse. We have been patient enough, it is becoming ridiculous" (South Bucks & Burnham Express, 31.12.97). Eventually, the coroner released the body on 2 January and the funeral took place at the Diamond Road Mosque in Slough the same day. The burial was at Slough cemetery. The mourners believed that the release of the body was due to the local paper's intervention. Liaqat Ali Khan told the Windsor & Eton Express (08.01.97): "We cannot thank you enough. It isn't just the Khans in Slough who are thankful, but all the Khans all over the world". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 4]

 

 

MBE for community worker

Three Sutton papers, the Sutton Borough Independent (07.01.98), the Sutton Guardian (08.01.98) and the Sutton Advertiser (09.01.98) have reported on Lal Hussein being made a member of the British Empire for his services to community relations in the borough. Mr Hussain, a former science teacher, has lived in Sutton since 1965. He firmly believes in the need for minority involvement in the wider community: 1t is important for Asians to be involved in the wider community. That brings in a lot of understanding and bridges those gaps caused by misunderstanding and extremism" (Sutton Advertiser, 09.01.98). He helped establish the Wentworth Hall as a Muslim community facility and to set up an Elderly Asian Day Centre there and has served as secretary of the Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association for 17 years. He is a founder member of Sutton's Race Equality Council, a past vice chair of Sutton's Police Consultative Group, a member of the Crime Prevention panel in the town, and a member of the parole board at Downview Prison. Whenever he is invited, he lectures on Islam, both to live audiences and via radio broadcasts. On 4 March, 1996 he led the prayers which open the full council session, the first time this has ever been done in Sutton by any other than a Christian priest. He said: "This was the greatest occasion of my life, the chance to bring understanding to people, the opportunity to read from the Qur'an and people are willing to listen" (Sutton Advertiser, 09.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 4/5]

 

Bournemouth profile

The Bournemouth Daily Echo (07.01.98) has a feature article on Tariq Palmer, a convert to Islam who now works at Bournemouth Islamic Centre liasing with schools and serving as an adviser on religious education committees. He embraced Islam after 15 years of working in Saudi Arabia and sees the Hajj to Mecca as being one of his greatest experiences: "You're all equal. I could have been standing next to a king or a bus driver, it didn't matter". He sees it important to explain what Islam is not: `What I see happening in Algeria, Luxor and Cairo - people committing atrocities - that's not Islam. These people are not Muslims. Nowhere in the Koran does it say we should kill innocent people. And I detest what is going on in Afghanistan. These Taliban are ignorant, not allowing women to be educated. Mohammed's daughter Aisha was one of the important scholars of Islam ... Islam is birth, death, marriage and relationships, using a part of your wealth for the betterment of your brothers and sisters. One tries desperately to live by the Koran and the example and sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 5]

 

 

Savings account warning

The acronym for the savings account which will replace TESSAs is ISA (Individual Savings Account). There are rumours that some Muslims will object to this name, because it is the Arabic for Jesus, whom Islam reveres as a prophet (Independent, Financial Times, 09.01.98). The leader of the Muslim Parliament, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui described the word ISA as "trivialising the honour of someone we see as a great prophet" (Financial Times, 09.01.98). The Financial Times has its own suggestions for names, which it knows are unlikely to be acceptable to the regulator: ROBBO - Routinely Offered by Bored Bank Officials - and GEOFF -Growth Excellent Offshore. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 5]

 

 

Burial plea

Greenwich's Muslim community has launched a campaign for the release of the body of murder victim Muhammed Khan, which the coroner's court decided should be kept for 28 days, following the fatal stabbing on 6 January in his shop, Think Big, in Plumstead High Street. Ahmed Coowar, spokesperson for the local mosque said: "Under Islamic teachings a body must be buried 24 hours after death. We accept the laws of the country, yet we feel the police should respect our religion and release the body to us" (Greenwich News Shopper, 14.01.98). Raheel Khan, the son of the murder victim, who has organised a petition requesting the early release of his father's body for burial said: "We are Muslims and our prophet told us we should bury the body within one day or 24 hours or before the next sunset after the death. They know what our situation is. It channels our emotional beliefs as well as our belief that the body should not be delayed. All we ask is that they do what they can to release it". He has also contacted Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin, who wrote to the Home Office Minister Lord Williams of Mostyn about the case. Lord Williams expressed some sympathy with the case, but said: 'We do not believe, however, that separate procedures for those of different religious beliefs would be justified. It is vitally important to avoid any premature action which might affect criminal proceedings" (Eltham & Greenwich Times, Sidcup & Blackfen Times, 29.01.98).

Police have described the murder as a "bungled robbery" and have detained a 16 year-old youth in connection with it (Greenwich & Charkon News Shopper, 14.01.98). The local Anti-Nazi League, in an area notorious for racist attacks, however are convinced that the motive was racial. They held a vigil outside Mr Khan's shop in his memory. An ANI- spokesperson said: "Any attack by white people on Asians like shopkeepers has racial overtones". Ahmed Coowar rejected this interpretation of events: "The ANI- was irresponsible for using Mr Khan's name on its campaign leaflets. Mr Khan was a well respected man in the community by both white, Asian and blacks. His murder was something that could have happened to anyone. Yet here, for no good reason other than furthering its own cause, is the ANI---. By holding what was actually a demonstration they created and fuelled a tension among our young people. We urged them not to go but to act calmly, let the police carry out their investigation and to let things take their course". The Greenwich and Charlton News Shopper (14.01.98) however, does continue: "Asian community leaders said they believed the attack to be racially motivated, despite a police statement ruling out their claims". Police are appealing for help regarding the incident. Anyone with any information should call Inspector Chris Home at Shooters Hill on 0181 853 1212. The Greenwich Borough Mercury (15.01.98) has an article and a photograph of a small demonstration held by the murdered man's friends outside Greenwich Hospital calling for the release of his body and protesting against the post-mortem which has been carried out on the body and the likelihood that there will be a second post-mortem and therefore more delay. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 5/6]

 

 

Batley centre funding

The Batley News (15.01.98) reports that the Hyrstlands Community Enterprise Centre in Track Road, to be known as the Al-Hikmah Centre is one of only four projects in Yorkshire selected for recognition by the Duke of York's Community Initiative. The Hyrstlands building, a Grade 11 listed building, is being carefully restored by the Indian Muslim Welfare Society, who bought it from the Salvation Army. Funding has come from English Partnerships, Batley City Challenge, the European Regional Development Fund as well as the IMWS itself. The facility will be used to train over 600 people per year in vocational subjects and its halls will be hired out for weddings, conferences and other functions in order to raise money for running costs. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6]

 

 

Home-loan disappointment

The Times (17.01.98) reports that there has been a disappointing response to Manzil, the so-called "Muslim mortgage" launched by the Islamic Investment Banking Unit (I1BU) of the United Bank of Kuwait in May 1997. Keith Leach, Islamic financial services manager at the IIB U thought that perhaps clients had been discouraged by the 0.75 per cent arrangement fee charged by the 1113 U, or the fact that the borrower would not be eligible for tax relief on the transition in the way that they would be for relief on mortgage interest payments. Additionally, translated into conventional mortgage terms, the Manzil repayment rate would be about 03 to 0.75 per cent more than a conventional home loan, Mr Leach conceded. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6]

 

 

Lecturer interview

The Dundee Sunday Post (18.01.98) has an interview with Dr Mona Saddiqui, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Glasgow University. In answer to the question "What are the main differences between Islamic cultures and the, West?" she points out the responsibly the media has in promoting stereotyped and conflict images. She replies: "Contrary to what we see on TV or read in the newspapers, Islam and the modem world are not always at loggerheads. One of the reasons the religion continues to grow is because it can exist in tandem with modem life. History has shown Islam, Christianity and Judaism can do-exist. There are some Muslims, fundamentalists, who want to "purify" Islam, but fundamentalism is usually allied to political movements". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6]

 

 

Cartoon review

Following protests by some Muslims Channel 4's Welsh arm, S4C (see BMMS for December 1997), is to make some amendments to the animated life of the Prophet, The Life of the Prophet, Peace be Upon Him, which it first showed on Christmas Eve 1997 (Q-News, 15.01.98, Muslim News, 30.01.98). Dr Mashuq Ally, formerly a lecturer in Islamic studies at Lampeter University, who was one of the consultants used by S4C, was of the opinion that the criticism was unreasonable and negative: "The programme makers are sincere and would have been willing to listen to informed criticism, however, this criticism should have been tactful and sensitive, not over the top and concentrating on minutiae ... The makers of the widely acclaimed Message took a lot more liberties than S4C did and their work was approved by Al-Azhar" (Muslim News, 30.01.98). The most vociferous criticism has come from 1qbal Sacranie and the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs. Discussions are continuing between the programme makers and the UKACIA. A spokesperson for S4C said: 'We have punctiliously avoided visualising the Prophet and sought to be as accurate as possible. I don't know what the outcome of our correspondence with UKCAIA will be but we are examining the issues of detail that have been raised" (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6]

 

 

Religious discrimination bill

The second hearing of the private member's bill to outlaw religious discrimination was due to be heard in the House of Commons on 30 January (see BMMS for April, June and December 1997). The bill is being introduced by John Austin, who is also applying for a Ten-Minute Rule Bill to allow him to address the Commons on the issue. This could be scheduled some time after mid February (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6]

 

 

Jack and Zena book reviews

Several reviews have appeared in the press of the recently published book, Jack and Zena, about a married couple who live constantly on the run because of death threats from her family, who are opposed to the relationship because she is Asian Muslim and he is white (see BMMS for September and October 1997). The review in The Times Magazine (31.01.98) is very sympathetic to the couple's plight and the reporter has gone to some trouble to meet Jack and Zena - these are pseudonyms - and interview them personally. The articles on the subject in Q-News (15.01.98) particularly the one by Usama Daneshyar are much less understanding. Ms Daneshyar writes: "Jack and Zena is essentially the story of a man with no honour running away with a woman who has no shame. As an average Muslim muddling along under the misapprehensions imposed by her Pakistani parents, Zena hardly cuts the figure of a rebel consciously challenging the strictures of her inherited ways. Quite the reverse, in fact. Zena displays an incriminating lack of awareness about her right under Islamic law to resist being married against her will". She continues: "Even discounting the religious dimension, Jack and Zena do not strike one as a likely match. He is in his mid-thirties, scruffy and balding, comes from a single-parent family, and is insolvent with few prospects. She is in her early twenties, attractive and well-presented, has a loving extended family, and does not drink (at least at this stage)". Shagufta Yaqub, also writing in Q-News (15.01.98) sees the story of Jack and Zena as being in a context of the problem of forced marriages amongst Muslims in Britain, particularly Pakistani Muslims. She quotes Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College on the issue. He said: "Muslims restrict their daughters too much by not allowing them to be in situations where they may meet Muslim boys of adequate age for marriage. Marriage in Islam is all about love and affection but the family pressure to consent to an arranged marriage is sometimes so great that many people end up living a miserable married life. Muslim women clearly have a say in the choice of marriage partner and these rights should be exercised and made known to them because forced marriages are totally unacceptable in Islam. In fact it states in a hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that in the situation that the girl's consent is not given at the time of marriage the marriage can later be annulled". Jack and Zena is published by Cassells, 1997, price £15.99. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 6/7]

 

 

FO forced marriages pamphlet

The Daily Jang (22.01.98) carries an article on the mixed reactions amongst Muslims to the pamphlet produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to warn young Asians, in particular young Pakistani-origin women of the dangers of forced marriages and what to do if one is at risk. The leaflet advises: 1f you suspect that you may be coerced into marriage, tell a reliable friend of your expected date of return before you travel. In the event that you do not return on that date, your friend should contact the consular division with your full name and address". The article states that: "Last year saw the Foreign Office handling over 200 cases of 'forced marriages' - all involving daughters, all involving a 'holiday' to Pakistan. The incidence of cases have obviously been deemed widespread enough to warrant a media campaign aimed at young Muslim and Asian women. The campaign effectively warns its target audience of the dangers of being married abroad under duress". Although the writer stated that: "Muslim leaders are unequivocally critical of forced marriages% all of those he quotes who are against the phenomena have remained anonymous. Only Masoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, gives an attributed opinion. He condemns the FCO initiative as: "...a policy born out of Islamophobia rather than common sense. One can't help but condemn a forced marriage of any sort although these ill treatments are not the routine but extremely rare exceptions. But what campaigns like these, especially when hastily profiled by the mainstream media, do is to reaffirm Islamophobic and racist views about Muslims being barbaric, uncaring and potentially harmful. After all, if you are deemed uncaring for your family, what good are you?" (Daily Jang, 22.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 7]

 

 

Oxford centre

Merton College, the owner of the 1.6 acre site between Magdalen College and St Cross Church which is leased to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (see BMMS for February, March, April, May and June 1997), is taking its case against the Islamic studies centre to the High Court. Merton College wants to end the lease agreement, because of its objections to the architecture of the new building proposed by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (The Times, Oxford Times, 30.01.98). The Islamic studies centre is still hoping that court action can be avoided and a compromise reached. David Browning, the centre's registrar said: 'We value our relationship with Merton very much and are actively trying to have consultations to reach an amicable solution" (The Times, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 7]

 

 

Dog picture controversy

Q-News (15.01.98) reports on how it contacted The Times (Times Weekend Supplement, 03.01.98) to complain about a photograph of a dog eating out of a plate decorated with the name 'Allah'. The editor, Andrew Yates responded that: "...it was not worth apologising. It will only inflame more people than hitherto by drawing further attention to the picture. It's just one of those things we don't have any control over. There is not a single person here who reads Arabic and we just don't have the resources to put pieces that we publish past every religious sect that may find them offensive". Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission responded: `What arrogance! We can accept that the photograph was a mistake but to say that they are not then going to try and redress things sounds like complete indifference. I'm sure they would not abuse the beliefs of Jews or Christians. We might accept that they didn't know what they were doing but are they now saying they don't care as well?". The Times bought the picture from Pet Subjects Ltd of Woking, whose spokesperson Clare Horton-Bussey said using the bowl as a dog bowl was a mistake. She promised: "We have warned the studio and they won't be using the plate again. The photo will not be used again either" (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 7/8]

 

 

Walk cheque handover

At the end of January, members of the Ahmadiyya Youth Association handed over a cheque for £250 to the ward manager of the Trent Ward at Upton Hospital in Slough, Sister Bain Dhillon. The money had been raised to help elderly patients by means of a sponsored walk from Slough to Windsor. Atiq Bhatti, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Youth Association, said: "Once they were as fit and agile as us and brought their children up to the best of their ability. And today, in their old age, they have only a prayer and a wish to be given health" (Slough & Langley Observer, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8]

 

 

Research updates

Both Q-News (15.01.98) and Muslim News (31.01.98) carry reviews of the research carried out by at the University of Derby Professor Marie Parker-Jenkins and her team on Muslim women, education and careers. A research paper summarizing their findings, entitled Trying twice as hard to succeed: Perceptions of Muslim women in Britain was presented to the British Educational Research Association in September 1997. The paper describes "five major categories emerging: school experience, post-school experience, family background, attitudes to work and self-motivation" (Muslim News, 30.01.98). The research is supported by the Leverhulme Trust as part of a three year study examining the career destinations of Muslim women. The other project mentioned by Muslim News (30.01.98) is a European Union sponsored one headed by Dr Fatima Hussain at the University of North London in Islington, which has the Indo-Pakistan Cultural Centre and the Race Equality Unit in Islington as local partners, as well as partners in several other European countries, including Belgium and Italy. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8]

 

 

Glamorgan centre expansion

Work has begun on a refurbishment programme at the community, education and welfare centre for Muslims in the Vale of Glamorgan, based at Weston Hill in Barry. The building was formerly a police station and the first phase of the work includes the demolition of former cells to form an extension. The project recently received a grant for £35,000 from the Vale of Glamorgan council for the building work and the remaining £65,000 is coming from the UK Muslim community. The chair of the Vale Muslim Welfare Association, Manzoor Ahmed said: "We have been based at the centre for around 25 years and are extremely grateful to the Vale council for their support. We hope to complete the whole project over the next couple of years" (Cardiff Western Mail, 28.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8]

 

 

Rushdie update

David Caute, former literary editor of the New Statesman and the author of nine novels, has been unable to find a publisher for his latest novel, Fatima's Scarf, which is a thinly disguised fictional version of the Rushdie affair. In an interview by The Times (24.01.98) Mr Caute accuses British publishers of cowardice. He said: "There is a pervading culture of timidity, of huge cowardice even. The events in Bradford and the Ayatollah's fatwah left an indelible mark on publishers ... My novel is sympathetic to the Islamic community, but not to fatwahs, extremists and book burners. It is difficult to satirise Islam, but I have attempted to do so". He has now published the book himself, under the imprint of Totteridge Books. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8]

 

 

Aga Khan's art collection

The Times (22.01.98) reports that Princess Alexandra was a guest of honour at a dinner held on 21 January at the British Museum to mark the opening of an exhibition, Princes, Poets and Paladins: Islamic and Indian Paintings from the Collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. Prince and Princess Aga Khan were also present at the dinner, together with members of many royal families and Alistair Duncan of the Altajir World of Islam Trust. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8]

 

 

Policeman interview

Q-News (15.01.98) carries an interview with Mohammad Mahroof, a Muslim who has won the Metropolitan Police's Community Constable of the Year Award for the second year running. In answer to the question "How would you describe your experience as a Muslim in the Metropolitan Police?", he replied: "The experiences of a Muslim officer are no different from those of any other officer. I carry out my duties in much the same way as others. I certainly don't expect preferential treatment and neither do I get any. However I appreciate that I am better equipped to deal with some incidents because of my experiences and insight into Muslim culture. In general a Muslim has that much more learning to go through and has to harden up to deal with certain tasks and enforce the law no matter how much he disagrees with them because of his faith. The experience is the same as if you imagine a non-Muslim police officer in an Islamic country having to enforce Islamic laws" (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 8/9]

 

 

Belfast Islamic centre plans

A proposed Islamic centre for Belfast has failed in its bid to buy its preferred site at Musgrave Park playing fields. The centre had offered Belfast City Council £70,000 for the site but councillors voted to accept £1m from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education for a new secondary school instead (Belfast Telegraph, 17.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Amex Haj plans

A UK-based Muslim group, called the Islamic World Organisation, in conjunction with American Express, is to launch an electronic Haj Cash Card for use by pilgrims on Hajj to Mecca and Medina. Sajad Khanzadah, Samili Ajiani and H Oukach realised that it took more than 45 minutes on average to cash a travellers cheque during the Hajj season in Saudi Arabia. The holder of the card can withdraw money in multiples of $10 by having it swiped at a local bank (Asian Age, 20.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Islamic Experience exhibition

The Islamic Experience exhibition has come to Bradford, where it was anticipated that it would be seen by three thousand local schoolchildren plus other members of the public (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 24.01.98, 28.01.98). Akram Khan Cheema, chair of the Muslim Education Federation, said the Muslim community was sometimes accused of demanding too much, but that: "This is an opportunity to show we can give something back (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 28.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Prostitute campaign

Patrols of Muslims have organised themselves to try to move streetwalking prostitutes away from Spitalfields. Groups of up to 30 people stand near the prostitutes and wave banners with messages such as "You are being watched", "No soliciting" and "Move away or else". The Muslim campaigners claim that, over the past year, they have driven away 15 women who used to solicit in the Shoreditch/Spitalfields area (Evening Standard, Walsall Express & Star, 02.02.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Education

Permission refused again

Even though the Jamiah Rahmaniah school's board had made changes to its plans to convert a disused builder's yard in Lancaster Road, Waltham Forest, into a boarding school (see BMMS for December 1997), planning permission has again been refused. Tony Gammage, spokesperson for the residents' group opposing the plans for the school, said: "They were trying to put the school in a ridiculous location". Sarij Mahmood, architect for the Jamiah Rahmaniah Secondary School, said that he had changed the plans to make them acceptable to the council and was very disappointed with the outcome (Chingford Guardian, Walthamstow Guardian, 31.12.97). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Glasgow schools controversy

The Glasgow Evening Times (07.01.98) carries an article especially commissioned from Dr A Z Sayeed Chowdhury, condemning Glasgow education authority's plan to close seven secondary schools in the area and denouncing the low academic achievement he sees as prevalent in the city. Dr Chowdhury is director of the UK Islamic Mission in Glasgow, was a head teacher in Bangladesh and has taught in schools in Glasgow. He is also the parent of a pupil at Hillhead High in the city. Dr Chowdhury points out that the report recommending closures and the formation of specialist schools does not mention tackling under-achievement in English, maths and science. He is even doubtful if genuine savings will be made by the closures in the long-term, taking into account the costs of amalgamation with the remaining schools and paying off the debts the council plans to take out to pay for the changes. He predicts that class sizes will inevitably rise, as will pupil teacher ratios. He concludes: 1t is hard to believe the council's priority is raising academic standards, not balancing the books to meet in part the demand to cut around £23 from the education budget". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Schools' links

Pupils at St Richard's RC School in Sandy Lane, Skelmersdale have built up links with a predominately Muslim school in Bolton, Pike's Lane Primary, after teachers set up a pen friend scheme between two classes. A spokesperson for St Richard's said: 9t soon became evident that the children really enjoyed the writing and looked forward to their letters" (Skelmersdale Advertiser, 08.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Sandwell school plans

Local Muslim leaders are determined to continue their fight for planning permission to turn a former factory in Guns Lane, West Bromwich into a residential school and prayer hall (Sandwell Chronicle, 09.01.98). Sandwell Council rejected the Muslim group's application in December, against the advice of planners, who favoured the madrasah in preference to more industrial development (see BMMS for September, October, November and December 1997). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9]

 

 

Single sex school threat

Community opposition to the threat to make Clapton Girls' High School coeducational continues (see B MMS for December 1997), reports Q-News (15.01.98). The schools league tables of results have shown Clapton Girls' to be a very successful school in terms of academic achievement. One of those campaigning to keep the school girls-only is Sakina Hafezi, whose daughter left the school last year with nine GCSEs. She said: "One would think that a school doing so well would be rewarded but this is what we get. If it ain't broke, why fix it? The only reason I can see is that the council does not want Muslims to do well". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 9/10]

 

 

Preston College prayer room closure

For a number of years, Muslim students at Preston College have had the use of a classroom for prayers during Ramadan. This year, that arrangement was ended by the college authorities, who instead, provided a minibus to take students to the Islamic Centre in Watling Street Road for prayers. Shiraz Pate], chair of the college's Multi-Faith Group, said that the new arrangements do not meet students' needs: "Students are frequently inconvenienced by the new arrangements. It now takes more than 45 minutes for a student to take part in a prayer service at the Islamic Centre instead of the five before". He added: 1n 1995 a report was commissioned to find out what the college does for its Asian students and it came back saying that it did very little. Since then there have been no improvements. Runshaw College in Leyland has better facilities for its Muslim students even though it has fewer on the register. There is a carpeted prayer area with adjoining washing facilities for ablutions and shelves with copies of the Qur'an. Students there are also given time out of lectures to break their fast during Ramadan and the canteen provides halal meat. Runshaw is providing these facilities to attract more students, but because Preston College is in the middle of town, it seems to be taking its popularity for granted" (Lancashire Evening Post, 16.01.98). Liz Esnouf, marketing manager at the college, maintains that the minibus provided to go a nearby mosque was an improvement on the previous arrangement. She said: 'There has never been a permanent prayer room in the college. Students were using a classroom to pray in and the toilets they used for washing were also inappropriate". Shiraz Patel maintains that, with the closure of the prayer room, the college is not complying with its equal opportunities policies. He said: "We intend to contact the local MP to assist us. We are only requesting what is right" (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 10]

 

 

Community languages A - levels

Abdul Khokar, president of the Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society has asked why A-levels in community languages, such as Urdu and Punjabi, are no longer available at Barking Abbey Comprehensive School. The head teacher, Tony Maxwell, explained that GCSEs in Urdu and Punjabi were still available at the school, but it was felt there was insufficient demand for A-levels in those languages (Barking & Dagenham Post, 28.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 10]

 

 

University prayer room campaign

Muslim students at Bristol University are campaigning for a place to pray on campus. At the moment, the students' union provides a room for Friday prayers, but because of the pressure on space, this is usually a different room each week. The moving around was time-wasting, said M F Taniq, president of the University of Bristol Islamic Society. Union president Sally Purves said: It's a terrible state of affairs for Muslim students. The university is keen to attract overseas students because they pay full fees. It ought to provide them with somewhere to practise their religion" (Bristol Evening Post, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 10]

 

 

Politics

Sarwar update

Several newspapers reported on the MP who has been suspended by the Labour Party, Mohammed Sarwar (see BMMS for March, April, may, June, August, September, October, November and December 1997) making his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 14 January (Glasgow Daily Record, 14.01.98, South East Cornwall Evening Herald, Glasgow Herald, Asian Age, The Times, 15.01.98, Express, 16.01.98). The fullest account of the Muslim MP's speech is in the Glasgow Herald (15.01.98). This article reports that Mohammed Sarwar began his maiden speech: 9 start in the name of Allah who is the most beneficent and the most merciful. I have taken this opportunity to prefix my maiden speech in the traditional Muslim manner by starting in the name of God. This I believe is a testament to the fact that Britain is now a multicultural and multi-religious society, of which we are all members". As is customary in maiden speeches, his primary focus was on the needs of his constituents, but he did mention the question of Islamophobia and he welcomed the government's recent decision to grant funding to two Muslim schools. He said of his constituency: "Govan is a rainbow state, representing Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Chinese, Africans and Caribbeans, and who reflect professionals, academics, the self-employed, employees and employers. Some would say that the political spectrum in Govan is perhaps too awash with colour. We have right-wingers, old Lefties, Blairites, Liberals, Communists, Militants, Nationalists, and even the odd Tory can be seen on a Sunday morning" (Glasgow Herald, 15.01.98). Muslim News (30.01.98) reports that he said of Islamophobia that it is "A real enough phenomena which has come to affect the everyday lives of Muslims in this country and, which unless stopped, will spread and come to have an ever more pernicious effect on our society". He also denounced the poor representation of Muslims in the House of Commons and "the total exclusion of Muslims from the House of Lords" (East, 21.01.98, Muslim News, 30.01.98).

The Sunday Telegraph (25.01.98) has a long sympathetic feature article about Mohammed Sarwar by Audrey Cillian, who is chief reporter on Scotland on Sunday and who accompanied Sarwar to Pakistan when he rescued the girls of the Haq family and their mother from forced marriages and imprisonment by Abdul Haq and his relatives. Ms Gillian shows in her article that all of the smear campaigns and strange alliances against Sarwar date from his involvement in the rescue of the girls. Ms Gillian maintains that, on his return to Scotland from Pakistan in December 1996, Abdul Haq formed an alliance with Peter Paton, who was standing as an independent Labour candidate against Sarwar in Govan. She also claims that Mr Paton helped Abdul Haq launch a defamation suit against Mohammed Sarwar and that furthermore, Peter Paton, Jamil Abbasi the independent Conservative candidate, and Badar Islam who was another independent Labour candidate, were all friends and had secretly formed an alliance to try and ensure that Sarwar could not be elected. She further maintains that Mohan Singh, a reporter who claimed to be working for the News of the World was also involved with these would-be Govan MPs and offered her £250,000 to reveal potentially damaging information on Sarwar. In addition, Ms Gillian had first come across Mohan Singh in Pakistan, where he was attempting to report on the abduction of the Haq girls and their return to Britain and had first made the acquaintance of Abdul Haq. Ms Gillian also writes that it was Peter Paton who made the allegations of electoral malpractice against Mohammed Sarwar following his victory in the general election in May 1997. She concludes her article: I asked his wife if she thought her husband regretted becoming involved with the Haq family. Perveen resolutely shook her head and said no: she believed that Sarwar - who now faces the prospect of a highly publicised court case and the possible loss of his seat in Parliament - would do it again if he had to" (Sunday Telegraph, 25.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 10/11]

 

 

Dissident extraditions call

Bahrain may ask for the extradition of Shia Muslim dissidents living in exile in Britain. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, Bahrain's foreign minister, was quoted to this effect in the Bahraini newspaper, Akhbar al-Izaleej. A court in Bahrain last year convicted in absentia eight dissidents of conspiring to overthrow the government, to terms of imprisonment ranging from five to 15 years. Seven of the eight are believed to be living in Britain, which has no extradition treaty with Bahrain, following their expulsion in 1995 from their homeland after they were accused of inciting anti-government protests (Financial Times, 12.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 11]

 

 

University meeting ban

The Jewish Telegraph (09.01.98) has reported that, although the Rep Council of the Board of Deputies had been assured by Manchester University's vice-chancellor, Professor Martin Harris, that a meeting about Israel had not taken place following Jewish protests, they had received contradictory reports from several Muslim students, who said that the meeting had taken place. In reply to Jewish concerns about the meeting, entitled "Israel: Poison in the Body of the Islamic Ummah (Nation)" Professor Harris said in a letter to Sonny Fromson, president of the Rep Council: "His matter has been raised with the Students' Union and the Islamic Society. It seems that the Islamic Society, which is in no way associated with the leaflet, first became aware of its existence at the start of the academic session. The chair of the society took immediate steps at that time to make clear to those responsible for the material that it was not acceptable and that the Prayer Centre should not be used for this purpose. It was understood that these activities then ceased. Further steps are now being taken by the society to ensure that this is, in fact, the case". The Jewish Telegraph (09.01.98) however, interviewed two Muslim students who maintained that the meeting had taken place on campus. One, Sabdullah Ibn Hussein, said: "We have had meetings on many issues. We are not attacking any faith or belief. We have not yet had another meeting on Israel"  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 11]

 

 

Nation of Islam room hire

Following a meeting of the Nation of Islam (Nol) at Peckham Leisure Centre on Saturday, 10 January, the local council is to review its policy concerning lettings, because of concerns about the alleged racist views of the Nol. The council has promised to investigate the group's views. A council statement said: "We are aware that there are concerns voiced about some of the views attributed to the Nation of Islam. Access to council buildings is a major component in the review of the equal opportunities policy currently being undertaken. As part of this review, we will also be studying the views of the Nation of Islam and how the local branch of the organisation interacts with the international body. We will also be raising the matter with the Association of London Government equalities unit to ensure there is a continuity of approach from boroughs across London. future bookings will be considered in the light of this new policy" (Southwark News, 15.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 11]

 

 

Call to withdraw suspensions

A majority of Birmingham's Labour councillors are calling for an end to the party suspensions which led to the de-selection of Councillor Raghib Ahsan (Labour, Sparkhill). Labour's West Midlands executive committee chose lan Jamieson instead and also de-selected Haider Zaman, a Handsworth councillor. The executive made their own choice of candidates in the eight inner-city wards which were suspended over three years ago amid allegations of membership irregularities. Several of these wards are areas where Pakistani Muslims form the majority of the population and are very active in the Labour Party. Out of the 86 Labour councillors on the Birmingham City Council, 63 have so far signed a petition in favour of lifting the suspensions. One of those who signed, Councillor Roy-Benjamin, said: 9t demonstrates a considerable strength of feeling. A majority of members of the Labour group feel that party members should be heard in the selection of their candidates and not have them imposed by the regional party" (Birmingham Post, 16.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12]

 

 

Q-News article attacked

The Jewish Chronicle (23.01.98) carries an article expressing concern about a piece in Q-News by Sumayyah Hassan, who depicts a scenario where, should the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem be destroyed, then British Muslims would attack British Jews. She is quoted as having written: "Outnumbering Britain's Jews by a ratio of seven to one, and with little to lose, Britain's Muslims would certainly eliminate much of the Jewish population, along with the entirety of identifiable synagogues. This grim prospect would represent the largest civil war in this country since Cromwell". Q-News editor Fuad Nahdi defended his having published the article. He said: I might not agree with the conclusion, but it is someone's perception". Iqbal Sacranie, spokesperson for the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, dismissed the civil war scenario as "plain hyperbole". Douglas Kriker, director of the Maimonides Foundation which promotes understanding between Jews and Muslims rejected Ms Hassan's ideas as "beyond the realms of credibility" (Jewish Chronicle, 23.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12]

 

 

Nation of Islam

In spite of calls from some Muslims for it to be banned, the Nation of Islam (Nol) held a rally in Peterborough on 31 January in Cathedral Square (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 31.01.98, 02.02.98). The rally went ahead with the approval of the city council and the police. The main speaker was Leo Muhammad and there was no trouble. Ghulam Shabir, secretary of the Peterborough Pakistan Community Association, had called for the rally to be banned. He said: "The Nation of Islam has radical and racist views that the 10,000 Muslims in Peterborough do not share" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 31.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12]

 

 

Racism

Race Forum event

The first social event of the North East Lincs Racial Justice Forum took place recently and participants pronounced it a great success. Representatives came from the Hindu community, Humberside Police, the Jewish community, the regional council, the Grimsby Council of Churches, the Esperanto Society, the Islamic Society of Great Britain and the Guru Nanak Temple. The forum recently advertised for a part-time equalities outreach worker and Joyce Guest, head of North East Lincolnshire Council's support services, said there had been a good response. The Forum will be holding a public meeting at Grimsby Town Hall on 23 February at 7pm (Grimsby Evening Telegraph, 07.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12]

 

 

Race conference

As part of the European Year Against Racism a symposium was jointly organised by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and the Netherlands Committee Against Racism (NCA). The title of the symposium was From the Margins to the Centre - Ethnic Minority Women in the European Media. The three-day conference was held in Rotterdam from 12 to 14 December 1997. Sameera Mian, a researcher on the subject of Muslims in the media, who attended the symposium and wrote the report for Muslim News (30.01.98) found it a positive experience, but: "Although the conference aimed at stressing the importance of accepting and including ethnic minority women in the media and emphasising that they be represented fairly, there was still am anti-Muslim sentiment felt by the Muslim women who attended. From being told that the only way to be successful in the media was to bum not only your bra, but more importantly your veil, to being subjected to anti-Islamic films exploring women's sexuality. Homosexuality is forbidden in all three monotheistic religions and not just Islam, but somehow Islam is always used to present the intolerant view, which further perpetuates the existing misconceptions of Islam as being a misogynist faith" (Muslim News, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12]

 

 

Women

Hijab victory

On 14 January an industrial tribunal in Bedford ruled that Farida Khanum, an electronics technician at IBC in Luton had been unfairly dismissed because of wearing hijab (see BMMS for November 1997). Ms Khanum had experienced harassment and bullying when, after a visit to Mecca, she started wearing a headscarf at work. The industrial tribunal accepted her claim that her dismissal stemmed from her decision to wear the hijab, and argued that, if safety was a consideration, as 1BC maintained, she should have been given the option of some possible compromise on headgear. Furthermore, the tribunal found that IBC had mishandled the disciplinary process and Ms Khanum's appeals and had not followed its own rules in handling this type of dispute (Independent, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 12/13]

 

 

Sandwell workshops

Ranbir Kaur, the community artist who has been running workshops at the Tipton Muslim community centre is looking for an exhibition venue for the Indian fans which the young women involved in the latest round of workshops have made. Anyone who knows of a possible venue is asked to phone Ranbir Katir on 0121-557-0395 (Great Barr & Erdington Chronicle, Kidderminster Express & Star, 09.01.98) [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

TV programme on intermarriage

Inside Story on BBC1 at 9.30pm on 3 February was concerned with the cases of young British Muslim women of Pakistani origin who wanted to marry non-Asians and the opposition they encountered from their families (Saturday 31.01.98, The Times, 31.01.98, Mirror, 02.02.98). Saturday (31.01.98) summarizes the three cases: "One was taken out of university, locked in her room and kept hungry, despite the fact that her boyfriend had converted to Islam out of respect. Another was banished from her family, and a third couple sleep with knives under their pillows for fear of attack by the girls' relatives". A drama which dealt with a similar theme was Flight (BBC2, 25.01.98) which told the story of a Hindu girl who fell in love with a Muslim boy and their elopement. The reviewer concludes: "...it also showed the claustrophobic closeness of Asian family life, and the protection which is the other side of oppression. It is a culture being eroded as its youth absorbs influences from contemporaries across the old racial boundaries. Something is lost but much is gained" (Wrexham Evening Leader, 26.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

Helpline prize

The Muslim Women's Helpline has won a prize of £500 for its part in the event held in October 1997 at the London Central Mosque to mark World Mental Health Day. Its project for the day included a video, leaflets in community languages and a speech on mental health issues. The Muslim Women's Helpline can be contacted on: 0181 908 6715 (Muslim News, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

Youth

Bradford youth worker

Q-News (15.01.98) reports that the police investigation into the death threats and harassment suffered by a Muslim female youth worker whom her persecutors accuse of having "brainwashed our Muslim sisters with lesbian propaganda" has now ceased (see BMMS for February, April, May, June and December 1997). The youth worker is no longer under police protection and is expected to return to work soon. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

Interfaith

Batley vicar's hopes

The new vicar of St Thomas's Church, Batley, the Rev Peter Benson, who is currently chaplain at Dewsbury District Hospital, has said he wants to improve the links between Muslims and Christians in the town. He said: I would like to see a greater cooperation with other Christian churches in Batley and a deeper understanding between Muslims and Christians in Batley". He explained that he had a good relationship with Imam Faheem Mayet of the Medina Mosque, Purlwell, who also worked part-time at the hospital (Batley News, 01.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

Interfaith Network anniversary

Q-News (15.01.98) has reprinted the speech given by Brian Pearce, director of the Interfaith Network on the occasion of the celebration of the network's tenth anniversary held in November at Lincoln's Inn, London. Amongst the network's recent achievements, Brian Pearce cites the production, together with Paul Weller at the University of Derby, of the multi-faith directory, Religions in the UK; the leaflet, Building Good relations with People of Different Faiths and Beliefs; participation in discussions on working out guidelines for the celebration of the Millenium, on the review of collective worship in schools, and on the issue of whether there should be a question on religious identity in the 2001 Census and, if so, what form it should take. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13]

 

 

Three Faiths Forum news

Q-News (15.01.98) has a feature article on the Three Faiths Forum (see BMMS for January, February, March and November 1997) and a shorter piece explaining why Sir Sigmund Stemberg, vice-president of the Council of Christians and Jews resigned and became the co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum instead. According to the shorter article: "Sir Sigmund Stemberg said that his resignation was 'an expression of frustration' over the CC.1's stubborn decision to exclude Islam from its goal towards promoting understanding and mutual respect between the religions". At the first consultative conference of the Three Faiths Forum, Sir Sigmund said in his address: "it is our aim, through dialogue conducive to friendship and trust, to widen the contacts between preachers, teachers and writers from all three faiths, as well as between grassroots communities". He also announced the setting up of regional bodies affiliated to the Three Faiths Forum in Dublin, Glasgow, Bournemouth, Brighton and Barking. Other speakers at the conference included: Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College; Dr Aly El-Samman, chair of the Egyptian High Council for Islamic Affairs; Dr Richard Stone, chair of the Jewish Council on Racial Equality; D C Vaness, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; Helen Seaford, director of the recently founded Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain; Rev Marcus Braybrooke, joint president of the World Congress of Faiths; Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and Clifford Longley, a journalist on religious affairs. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 13/14]

 

 

Leaders compare

The Wolverhampton Express & Star (24.01.98) has an article on the experiences of Melvyn Bragg, the author and television presenter, in making a series of programmes with the leaders of six of Britain's major religious groupings. He said: "What I found very surprising was the similar problems they face, like how to interest young people in their faith. We talked about what they believed in and what their problems are. I hope people will learn something new about each faith after watching the programme". The first episode of the series Faith in Our Time was due to be shown on 1 February. Those to be interviewed are: Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury; Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales; Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Dr Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College in London; the Rev Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance; and Inderjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

ICRC press release

The Inner Cities Religious Council (ICRC), a body established by the then Environment Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1992, has published an appeal to all those interested in interfaith matters and urban regeneration to contact the ICRC to participate in its review of its role and the way forward. The review team is being led by John Austin, Bishop of Aston and Roy Taylor, former Chief Inspector of Probation. Views should be sent by 28 February to: The Review Secretary, Kate Dixon, Public Policy Consultancy Services, 3 Catherine Place, London SW1 6DX, or faxes on: 0171 828 9145. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

Interfaith marriage guidance

The Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CCBI) has just published a guide to the issues involved in interfaith marriage between Christians and Muslims. The editor is Canon Dr Christopher Lamb, commission secretary for the Churches' Commission for Inter-Faith Relations. Copies of Marriages between Christians and Muslims: Pastoral Guidelines for Christians and Churches in Europe are available from CCBI, 35/41 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7RL, price £2.95 plus 75p postage and packing (Methodist Recorder, 29.01.98, Church Times, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

Halal

Anti-slaughter campaign

Animal rights campaigners are aiming to stop the halal slaughter of lambs at Lockerbie Meat Packers in Scotland. They argue that the method of slaughter causes unnecessary suffering to the lambs (Cumberland News, 09.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

Bristol school meals

Following a trial last spring, Bannerman Road Primary School is to introduce halal meals on a permanent basis (Bristol Evening Post, 22.01.98, 23.01.98). Bannerman Road's head teacher Elaine Hicks said that Muslim pupils, who form over half of the total, currently ate vegetarian meals, even though they were not vegetarians, because no halal meat was available at the school. She said: "The pupils thoroughly enjoyed having halal meals, and their families appreciated it as well" (Bristol Evening Post, 22.01.98). The Evening Post of 23 January comments: "Oh how I'd love to be a kid again -especially one at Bannerman Road primary school in Easton, Bristol. Councillors have just given the go ahead for Muslim meals such as Lamb Masala and Chicken Korma on dinner menus. What a joy to be free of savoury mince, cabbage and that awful pink custard". [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

Health

Barnsley hospital prayer room

Following a request by a group of doctors, a room at Barnsley District General Hospital has been set aside to be used as a Muslim prayer room. Patients will also be able to use the room (Barnsley Chronicle, 16.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14]

 

 

Hospital chapel opened

On 19 January the multi-faith place of worship in Cottingham Hospital, East Yorkshire was opened. There was a short service of dedication attended by Christians, Jews and Muslims. The hospital chaplain, Peter Dodd said: "We are extremely happy to have this valuable amenity at Castle Hill and very grateful to the League of Friends, who donated the furniture. We hope the multi-faith room will be used as an oasis for prayer, peace and thanksgiving" (Hull Daily Mail, 20.01.98). A spokesperson for the East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: "There is quite a diverse culture in East Yorkshire and so it was decided to make the room available to people of all different religions". Bishop James Jones commented: "It is important to have a chapel in a hospital because healing is about spiritual well-being as well as physical health" (Hull Daily Mail, 16.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 14/15]

 

 

Employment

Navy recruitment campaign

Moves by the Navy to attract more recruits from minority communities, in particular Muslim women continue to attract the attention of the press (see BMMS for December 1997). Commander Keith Manchada, ho is leading this recruitment drive, is confident of success: "Once we get one or two coming through the system we can use them as role models and once we have that we will get an influx" (Walsall Express & Star, 06.01.98). The Scotsman (07.01.98) reprints the poster which the Navy is using in this campaign. The Pakistani origin Glaswegian Muslims interviewed by the Scotsman were dubious about the campaign's likelihood of success. Bashir Maan commented: "They will find few Muslim women who will come forward. It's a wasted effort that would have been better directed solely at men. No first generation family would allow their daughters to join. Our girls are increasingly liberated ' and they are allowed to work where there is not much intermixing. However, it would be difficult for women to conform to the regime for cultural and religious reasons". The Portsmouth News (08.01.98) has a feature article on Muslims and members of minority communities in the Navy. This article features Able Seaman Ali Mubarek, a Muslim of Turkish origin, who serves on HMS Manchester. He says that he has never experienced racism and that the Navy caters for Muslim needs such as diet and prayers. The South East Cornwall Evening Herald (10.01.98) interviewed Clive Owen of the firm Owen Uniforms, which produces uniforms for the Navy, on the question of dress which would be acceptable to both the Navy and the Muslim women joining it. He stressed the need for research on the question: "One would have to link that [Islamic religious traditions and the practices of other navies] with the Navy's own military requirements. One of the first things to do is to ask the Home Office what arrangements were put in place as regards Muslim women in the police force. You've got to bear in mind as well that we're dealing with the whole range of naval clothing, including the working uniform, the dress uniform and tropical uniform".

The Asian Times (20.01.98) explains that: "It [the Navy] aims to increase its current rate of 0.99 per cent of officers from ethnic minorities and 1.03 per cent of other ranks to seven per cent of its 45,000 personnel". East (21.01.98) in its reporting of the issue discusses a case being brought by Mark Parchment, a former Royal Marine commando, who is claiming compensation for racial harassment and bullying during his two years in the Navy. Commander Keith Manchada, the ethnic minority recruitment officer whose idea it was to try to recruit Muslim women, admitted that news of Mark Parchment's case could adversely affect the recruitment drive. He commented: "Bad news travels like a bullet, good news doesn't". When talking to Muslim News (30.01.98) Commander Manchada denied there was a problem of sexual harassment in the Navy and claimed that: "Religious observance has not and will not be a problem on board". He said that, amongst others, the Navy now has a Muslim woman graduate engineer who is planning to join the Navy in September. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 15]

 

 

Northampton centre sacking

An industrial tribunal in Bedford was trying to decide if Abdul Haleem, formerly development worker at the Islamic Pakistani Community Centre in Northampton, had been wrongfully dismissed, or dismissed in line with the procedures which he himself had drawn up. The chair of the tribunal, Peter Rojant said: "The document [outlining the centre's disciplinary procedures] says the organisation can and will dismiss an employee immediately if gross misconduct has taken place. It might be argued by Mr Harrison that, however ham-fistedly they conducted this dismissal, they did so on the basis of that paragraph Mr Haleem put in front of them". Mr Haleem was dismissed after allegedly making threats of violence towards a member of the centre (Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 28.01.98). Raja Usman, president of the centre, giving evidence on behalf of the employing body claimed that the reason the centre's management committee refused to consider Mr Haleem's appeal against his sacking internally was that any hearing would have been disrupted by the sacked man's friends and supporters. He said: 9t would have been another chaos and riot within the community" (Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 27.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 15]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Batley, Bromley St

The Batley News (08.01.98) reports that temporary planning permission is likely to be granted for a further year to the Al-Habib Welfare Trust to renovate their building, a former Methodist chapel, in Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton (see BMMS for April and November 1997). Renovation has started on the building, since the trust has already had a year of temporary permission, but the building is not yet ready to be used as a mosque and madrasah. There has been considerable opposition from local people, including Mike Wood MP. The main objection is that a mosque in the area would cause more traffic congestion and more risk of traffic accidents. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 15/16]

 

 

Cheltenham, High St

The Cheltenham Muslim Association laid the foundations of their new mosque in 1993 but have been unable to continue with the building work due to lack of funds (see BMMS for May and June 1997). Now the Al-Birr Foundation UK has offered to pay for the mosque to be finished, but only if the mosque agrees to hand over the deeds to the foundation. Cheltenham Muslim Association members are divided over the offer. Trustee Bashir Kamathia said: "People have expressed fears over the conditions which will apply. I feel it is important for us to remain united and maintain an open mind until our questions have been answered ... We're all working class and do not have a lot of money to spend on the mosque. We've tried but haven't been able to raise the money". It would cost about £200,000 to complete the mosque. The Cheltenham Muslim Association can be contacted at 416-418 High Street, Cheltenham, GL50 3JA (Gloucestershire Echo, 13.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 16]

 

 

Chesham

Muslims in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, have the support of the Chesham Partnership in their aim to have a bigger mosque in the town (see BMMS for October 1997). An economic development study commissioned in 1996 by the Chesham Partnership made several recommendations for improving the town centre. One was to provide the minority communities with a place for worship and social and educational activities. A mosque sub-group was formed to investigate the possibilities. District Councillor Mary Cooper, spokesperson for the sub-group, said of the way in which the partnership links the council, businesses and the voluntary sector on this and other issues: "We all trust it will be the first of many because better facilities in Chesham for all groups can only lead to integration and understanding, and assist people to enhance and develop their own cultural heritage" (Chesham Bucks Examiner, 09.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 16]

 

 

Derby, Porter Rd

The Jamia Mosque Committee wants to make permanent a religious education centre in Porter Road, which has had temporary planning permission for the past year. They are also asking for an extension of the hours of use, to allow the five daily prayers to be said there. In summer, this could be starting before 4am. Jonathan Guest, planning services director, says in his report to councillors that while prayer itself is quiet, people arriving and leaving could cause a disturbance to residents at certain times. He is recommended that the hours of use are kept as previously agreed, that is from 3.30pm to 6.30pm on weekdays and between 9am and 12.30pm on Saturdays. Deputy Mayor Abdul Rehman, a Muslim who himself prays five times a day, said: "Most Muslims can and do pray at home. I don't think there's a need for people to gather somewhere else before 4 am" (Derby Evening Telegraph, 13.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 16]

 

 

Hounslow, Wellington Rd South

The Jamia Masjid in Wellington Road South , Hounslow (see BMMS for May 1997), opened for worship during Ramadan, even though all the construction work is not yet finished. Councillor Mohammed Chaudhary, spokesperson for the mosque said. it is satisfying to be able finally to use the mosque. The building work has taken longer than scheduled but we now have a respectable place to worship in. I would like to thank the council for its patience and for extending the completion period. Part of the problem was that we were expecting a large donation from the Middle East but it never arrived. Thankfully, the community has since been very generous in its contributions" (Hounslow, Feltham & Hanworth Times, Brentford, Chiswick & Isleworth Times, 23.01.98) [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 16]

 

 

Kettering burials

Members of the local Muslim community have been in discussions with Kettering Council about being allocated space for Muslim burials in a cemetery in or near the town. Rothwell Cemetery in Kettering Road is one possibility being discussed. A spokesperson for the Muslims, Bisharet Ali, said: "We are very impressed with the way the council has listened to our concerns. There is a growing Muslim community in the area and we feel there must be some provision for the deceased" (Kettering Evening Telegraph, 12.01.98). At a meeting of the Kettering Council's environment committee on 12 January it was decided to look at the possibility of using any of the cemeteries in the borough, rather than restricting considerations to Rothwell alone and to consult with the general public, parish and town councils and the Church of England (Kettering Evening Telegraph, 13.01.97). The cemetery chapel at Rothwell is currently out of use and it is possible that it could be restored and used by mourners of faiths other than Christianity. Councillor John Richardson commented: I have no objection but I wouldn't like to think that this was handing over the chapel to Muslims and rendering it unsuitable for other people to use". Paul Smith, head of environmental services, assured Councillor Richardson and all the other councillors that there would be wide public consultation, including with many faith communities, before any decisions were made (Kettering Herald & Post, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 16]

 

 

Leicester, Evington Rd

Plans have been unveiled for the construction of the Masjid-e-Tabtiq, to be built in Evington Road as a replacement for the existing mosque and madrasa there, which are currently located in two houses. Planning permission for the new mosque was granted in November 1997. Abdul 13ham, vice-chairperson of the Evington Muslim Educational Trust said: "We received planning permission from Leicester City Council in November for the construction of the mosque to serve the spiritual, social, and cultural needs of the Muslim community of Evington. The dome and minarets are essential elements for a mosque and are intended to be visible landmarks. The ground floor will be used as a communal space with classrooms for religious education, while the first floor will be the main prayer hall. The public area in front will be developed to provide an attractive pedestrian plaza and, in consultation with the local authority's highways department, traffic calming measures and restricted parking zones are planned to protect local residents and ensure road safety" (Leicester Mercury, 26.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 17]

 

 

London, Whitechapel

Tower Hamlets council have turned down planning permission for a development of flats next to the Whitechapel East London Mosque (see BMMS for October, November and December 1997). The development was opposed by the mosque, the neighbouring synagogue and various community groups under the umbrella of TELCO. The assistant secretary of the mosque, Abu Hasan said: "We are naturally delighted with the decision. The mosque is a very busy centre for the community, holding regular programmes that run late into the evenings. Having residential homes directly next door would create many social problems". The mosque now hopes to be able to 17, purchase the site to develop it as a community facility. Abu Hasan explained: `We have called on the council to help the community in purchasing the land for local use. There is an ever growing Muslim community in this area from several ethnic backgrounds with ever growing needs. The council needs to commit itself more to catering for the spiritual and social needs of local Muslims" (Eastern Eye, 09.01.98,Asian Times, 16.01.98).

Muslim News (30.01.98) reports that the local council did not support the suggestion arrived at jointly by the mosque and the development firm, that the land be sold by the council at an affordable price to the mosque for community facilities. Both Q-News (15.01.98) and the East London Advertiser (29.01.98) report on the anonymous threats that were made to the planning sub-committee of the council on the issue. The mosque's vice-chairperson, Chowdhury Mueen Uddin condemned such behaviour saying: "We have great plans for the mosque and the community which comes here. We want to expand to facilitate a library /education centre and generally make this a bigger and better mosque for all the Muslims who come here. There is no place here for the people who want to threaten the council and developers. We live in a democratic society, with no room for bullies" (East London Advertiser, 29.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 17]

 

 

Northampton, St George's St

Planning permission has been granted for the extension of the prayer room at the Al-Jamaat Mosque in St George's Street. Some objections had been received from surrounding businesses but a revised plan addressed these criticisms (Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 30.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 17]

 

 

Palmers Green, Oakenthorpe Rd

Enfield Conservative councillors have approached Tim Yeo, shadow environment minister, with their objections to the plan to build a mosque on part of a sports ground in Palmers Green (see BMMS for April and December 1997). Tim Yeo has written to John Prescott, the deputy prime minister and minister for the environment, asking him to intervene to stop the building of the mosque. Terry Neville, the Conservative councillor who leads Enfield's opposition on the council, said: I am delighted that Tim Yeo has taken this matter up. Neither Tim nor I begrudge the Muslim community another mosque in the borough. What concerns us is the loss of open space in Palmers Green and the precedent this decision could have on the future of the Green Belt in Enfield". Councillor Richard Course, chair of the environment committee which approved the plans for the mosque, saw the Conservatives' action as being based on a fundamental misunderstanding: "Far from being a loss of open space, this is the best possible way of preserving and protecting 70 per cent of the site for the benefit of local people. If this solution goes ahead, there would be no more planning battles needed to protect this open space" (Enfield Gazette, 22.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 17]

 

 

Pendle, Brierfield

Planning permission has been granted for a mosque to be constructed on the site of a former garage in Arthur Street, Pendle. At the Pendle Council's policy committee meeting on 22 January, concerns were again raised about traffic issues but eventually it over-ruled Brierfield town council's earlier decision. The question of potential traffic congestion and a rumour of possible sectarian disputes around the new mosque, were the main objections when the same application was rejected by the Brierfield and Reedley Committee in December 1997 (Nelson Leader, 23.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 17/18]

 

 

Reading

Reading's Muslims are hoping to find a suitable site for a new, purpose-built mosque soon. They are in discussions with Reading Borough Council. Councillor Christine Bogars explained: "We have had regular meetings with members of the Muslim community to try and help them find a suitable site for a new mosque. They have told us their current premises in Alexandra Road is too small and they would like to construct a purpose built mosque in East Reading. We have stressed that using the Mockbeggar site will need to go through the council's planning process". Rajinder Sohpal, director of Reading Council for Racial Equality, said: "Muslim people will be absolutely delighted. There's a demand for a large purpose-built mosque in Reading which will hopefully ease some of the pressure from Alexandra Road. There a recurrently around 6,000 people in the Muslim community and in recent years there has been some movement of people converting to Islam and this looks set to grow in the future" (Reading Chronicle, 30.01.98).  [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 18]

 

 

Southall, Oswald Rd, Abu Bakr Trust

Fresh controversy has arisen over the question of premises for a mosque for the Abu Bakr Trust (see BMMS for March, May, September and October 1997). Superintendent Mike Smythe has denied reported leaks to the effect that he expressed worries about the possibility of the mosque being located on Oswald Road, very close to a Sikh temple. John Birch, Ealing Council's environment director, wrote that: "Superintendent Mike Smythe has indicated that the police have, community safety and social order concerns in relation to the location of this Islamic facility in an area of Southall Broadway close to the Rarrigharia Singh Saba" (Southall Gazette, 09.01.98). But Supt Sinythe said: "I'm not sure who fed that to John Birch. I never expressed that view in public or in private. Whether he (Mr Birch) got views third hand I don't know. People who know me know I don't play those sorts of games. In Southall, life is very complex with the different religions. I tread the middle line and that's where I intend to stay. My approach is one of sitting firmly on the fence" (Southall Gazette, 09.01.98). A further complication in the matter is that the council chief executive, Gillian Guy, has asked two planning committee members, Councillors Madhav Patil and Ranjit Deer, to explain why they met members of the Abu Bakr Trust, together with Southall MP Piara Khabra for a meal at the Lahori Karahi restaurant prior to the December planning committee meeting (Southall Gazette, 09.01.98, 16.01.98). They denied that they did anything wrong, but Councillor Gurcharan Singh, chair of the planning west sub-committee, said: "Certain inquiries are being undertaken. In the circumstances and to ensure that the procedure is beyond reproach, it is felt inappropriate to deal with this application tonight. He postponed consideration of the trust's application until the next planning meeting on 11 February (Southall Gazette, 16.01.98). Two councillor who are Sikhs and a number of others have received leaflets purporting to come from Al-Muhajiroun which threatened communal violence if the application is not granted. The two councillors, Gurcharan Singh and Manjit Mahal, have also received telephone threats. Councillor Mahal said: "I've always looked at planning applications on their merits and I'll do so in this case. These are silly individuals and I've no time for them. I do worry, though, that it is getting out of hand and that I may be the subject of a demonstration or attack. I fear there's a chance these threats are carried out, and my wife is asking if it's all worth it (Southall Gazette, 16.01.98). Abdul Shahid, spokesperson for the trust, said the letters were bogus. He explained: "There are not going to be battles as this letter says - it is all fabricated. The logo has nothing to do with us. We have never seen it before, and the moon and star symbols on it should be the other way round". He stressed the widespread support the mosque plan has, including that of some Hindus and Sikhs: "People have tried to portray us as fanatics. That's not true. We have good relations with all communities" (Southall Gazette, 23.01.98). Mr Shahid also wrote a detailed letter to the Southall Gazette (23.01.98) disassociating the mosque committee and worshippers from any threatening behaviour and stressing the benefits the mosque, community centre and sports centre would bring to the area. [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 18]

 

 

St Albans, Hatfield Rd

Planning permission has finally been granted for an extension to be built at the mosque in Hatfield Road, St Albans. Permission was granted when sufficient space had been allocated for car parking (St Albans & Harpenden Observer, 14.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 18]

 

 

Stockton, Westbury Street

Some residents who live in the vicinity of the Thornaby Mosque on Westbury Street are opposed to its having a dome. They claim the 7ft by 6ft dome will be an eyesore and lead to road accidents. Pauline Langstaff, who lives opposite the mosque, said: 9t would be such a distraction to passing motorists, I dread to think what could happen". Mohammed Anwar, secretary of the mosque said: "we have been in the community for 25 years and residents have been very good. We do not want to upset anyone but we feel the dome will not be much bigger than the chimney stacks on the rest of the houses in the street (Middlesborough Evening Gazette, 16.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 18/19]

 

 

Swindon, Turl St

Wiltshire County Council have announced a deadline of 27 February by which time, if the Swindon Islamic Association has not come up with the money to buy the 1.5 acre site allocated for a new mosque (see BMMS for November and December 1997), the council will put the land back on the open market (Q-News, 15.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 19]

 

 

Walsall burials

Muslim sections will be opened at three Walsall cemeteries when space runs out at the present site (see BMMS for September 1997). Council officers and members of the Muslim Burial Committee have agreed on areas of suitable land in the North Walsall, Willenhall Lawn and Streetly cemeteries (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 20.01.98, Cannock Express & Star, 24.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 19]

 

 

West Green

The Ahmadiyya Association of West Green are looking for a site in the town on which to build a mosque. One possibility which the group's leader, Ahsan Ahmedi, looked at was a disused warehouse in Spencers Road. He said: I only looked around on an unofficial basis to get an idea of what it is like. It is the kind of place we are looking for because there is plenty of space. We are very keen on integrating with local communities. We meet every Saturday at Furnace Green Community Centre and the neighbours don't even know we are there" (Crawley Observer, 21.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 19]

 

 

Worcester, Middle St

The Muslim community in Worcester is experiencing difficulty in finding a suitable site for a new mosque. They have been looking for a site since 1985, but have twice had their planning applications rejected. Councillor Nurul Haque, spokesperson for the mosque, explained that lack of parking space had been a reason given in the past for rejection. He said: "There are about 2,000 Muslims in the city, and I can't understand why we are having these problems with the planners. The room we have is very small, and was only meant to be temporary anyway. There doesn't seem to be these problems with the old churches in Worcester, or the Cathedral, which don't have parking provision". Peter Yates, Worcester's principal planner, explained why parking provision was so important in an application like this: "On the question of whether local people use the mosque, that's anecdotal. Asian people live all over the city. There is also the issue that when planning permission is granted for a place of worship, we can make no distinction about which religion uses it. It could start as a mosque, close down and become a church, with people driving to it from all over the place" (Worcester Evening News, 30.01.98). [BMMS January 1998 Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 19]

 

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