British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2
Mosques & Burials
(The editors have invited Ibrahim Hewitt, Development Officer of the Association of Muslim Schools (UK), to contribute this piece following the Opinion of Bishop David Young on Muslim schools and state funding, featured in the October issue of BA&IS.)
British Muslims have arrived at an important juncture in the development of the community. The decision to admit two currently independent Muslim primary schools into the state system opens a door through which Muslims have to decide how far and in what numbers to go. David Blunkett's "yes" to Islamia. and AI-Furqan Primary Schools has implications beyond the realms of education for our schools do not exist in a vacuum.
Now that Muslim schools are officially recognised as legitimate education providers (something full registration as independent schools has never quite managed to achieve) there is a growing interest in applying for state aid. However, reality suggests that there are only a handful of Muslim schools in Britain in a position to give serious consideration to a state funding application. If we think of the application procedure as a marathon, most Muslim schools are still at the warm-up stage with a long way to go to reach the starting line. Moreover, it is debatable if state funding really is the best option.
Looking beyond the obvious attraction of the relative financial security that comes with maintained status, is dependence on the non-Muslim state for Muslim educational institutions really beneficial in the long term? Interaction is important, no doubt, but on whose terms and at what cost to the aims and objectives of Islam and education?
Islam takes a holistic approach to education and should be cross-curricular, enriching pupils' understanding of every subject. Many independent Muslim schools are unable to take such an approach, so how far this can be achieved in state funded Muslim schools remains to be seen. Although not theoretically impossible, the nature of the National Curriculum suggests that it may take a great deal of commitment and imagination to bring about genuinely Islamic education in a state sponsored environment (although difficulties with music, for example, have been ironed out). Staffing policies, the involvement of local authority appointed governors and other minor issues all add up to potential problems. Islamia and AI-Furqan may well find that getting state funds was the easy part and the real test is still to come.
What about those schools remaining independent? The all-embracing concept of Islamic education remains conspicuous by its absence and Muslim schools must grasp opportunities for innovative curriculum development to bring a dynamic Islamic curriculum to the fore. With the principle of state funding for Muslim schools no longer an issue Muslim educationists must focus their attention elsewhere. Teacher training is an obvious target, as is the curriculum. They are linked because the training given to teachers will determine how they deliver the curriculum. Now is the time to introduce the Islamic philosophy of education into teacher training and beyond that into the classroom. In partnership with well-informed and supportive parents Muslim schools can then set about nurturing the Islamic personality of the children in their care while providing an education to equip them for this life and the next. In this respect, there is a strong argument for bringing parents themselves back into the classroom to teach them 'Islamic parenting' and education concepts.
Does an apparently separatist proposal contradict the existence of Muslim schools in the state sector? Not really if we regard the latter as an important benchmark for multi-culturalism in Britain. A pluralistic education system is essential to allow the component cultures to flourish. Difference has to be tolerated and encouraged. The watchword must be caution, though for the dividing line between tolerance and oppression is thin. The positive encouragement of minority identities and cultures relies for its success on the same appeal to threatened beliefs and practices used by others to encourage potentially ugly ethnic nationalism. Too little integration spells ultimate alienation and vulnerability, too much could result in the disintegration and complete assimilation of the community. Limited integration of the kind illustrated by a handful of Muslim schools in the state sector alongside many more independent schools involved it in ground breaking development work may provide a practical example for the community at large to follow. That is why the Muslim community must take a long hard look at itself and ask searching, sometimes painful, questions about the relationship with the authorities in Britain if a positive future is to beckon. As always, Allah knows best. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 1/2]
A great many newspapers have reported on demonstrations against the possibility of a war against Iraq by British Muslims and of their view on the question and that of the effect of sanctions against Iraq (Sheffield Star, 18.02.98, Dundee Courier & Advertiser, Harrow, Stanmore, Kingsbury Times, 19.02.98, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Portsmouth News, Sheffield Telegraph, 20.02.98, Daily Telegraph, Portsmouth News, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Dundee Courier, 21.02.98, Portsmouth News, 23.02.98, Muslim News, 27.02.98, Q-News, 01.03.98). In Sheffield, Raja Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Conference Sheffield, said: "A diplomatic solution should be sought to the situation, but if there is a strike we will protest outside Sheffield City Hall. We are Muslims, but we are British and would fight for Britain in a just war. This is not a just war" (Sheffield Star, 18.02.98).
Demonstrations against the potential bombing of Iraq were held in Dundee, organised by members of the city’s Islamic Centre with support from Socialist Worker (Dundee Courier, 19.02.98, 21.02.98); Portsmouth, in a march to the naval base organised by Muslim students at Portsmouth University (Portsmouth News, 20.02.98, 23.02.98); in Bradford, Bishop David Smith gave a sermon on the subject at the Carlisle Road Mosque and prayers for peace were said in mosques and churches across the city (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 20.02.98, 21.02.98). Q-News (01.03.98) and Muslim News (27.02.98) both condemn what they see as ambivalence on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, on the subject of whether war against Iraq could be regarded as a "just war". In an article in Q-News, Dr Carey’s view is contrasted with that of the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Hume, who said: "I must confess to having strong doubts personally about whether it is possible to identify a specific military objective which stands a good chance of being secured by the use of force at this time without causing disproportionate harm". Ten Anglican bishops have written an open letter to the government, reprinted in full in Q-News (01.03.98), in which they question the ethical basis of the use of military force in this situation, and point out the suffering caused to the Iraqi people by sanctions.
Muslims in Bradford have written to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to protest against the idea of bombing Iraq. Khaddim Hussain, general secretary of the Council of Mosques, said: "You can’t solve these problems with guns. The Iraqi people have been suffering badly for seven or eight years because of sanctions. It’s not just Muslims in Bradford that oppose air strikes, it’s the whole of the Muslim community throughout the world and all peace-loving people" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 11.02.98). In mid-February a protest was held in Bradford by Muslims against war with Iraq. At the same time, CND also held a protest against aggression towards Iraq, in Bradford, Leeds, York, Hull and Hebden Bridge (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 16.02.98).
Several papers (Northampton Chronicle, Heartland Evening News, Kettering Evening News,11.02.98) have reported on the opposition by 10 Anglican bishops, in an open letter to the government, who argue that the bombing of Iraq would not constitute a "just war". A statement signed by several Islamist organisations and individuals, including Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the group Al-Muhajiroun and the Saudi dissident Muhammad Al-Mass’ari, based on a fatwa by shaykhs in the Middle East, says: "We...call upon the Muslims around the world including Muslims in the USA and in Britain to confront by all means whether verbally, financially, politically or militarily the US and British aggression and to do their Islamic duty in relieving the Iraqi people from the unjust sanctions" (Daily Jang, 12.02.98).
During a debate in the House of Lords on 17 February, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries warned of the possibility of a rise in Islamophobia and hostility towards British Muslims if military action took place. He said that during the Gulf war seven years ago, "children were taunted in the playground" for allegedly being supporters of Saddam Hussein. In the same debate, Baroness Williams of Crosby, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "There is a perception in the Middle East of double standards which we must deal with by making it plain that the UN resolutions should be obeyed, to whoever they apply. It is now sadly plain that some at least of the resources available to Iraq were supplied by this country". She called for a "more rigorous" control of UK arms exports (Guardian, 18.02.98).
Mohammed Sarwar MP has also given his views on the current situation regarding Iraq: "Millions of women and children in Iraq are languishing and dying, in a situation which is no less than a perpetual nightmare because of the UN sanctions. I find it shocking to see that while UN resolutions on Palestine remain unimplemented, distant and unaddressed for years and years by these UN members, they seem so determined on bombing Iraq in order to ensure implementation of UN resolutions there. This is a sad paradox. We have to expose these double standards of these countries and highlight the plight of people who are suffering oppression and victimisation all over the world" (Daily Jang, 12.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 2/3]
During the night of 9 to 10 February, arsonists attacked the Hussainia Mosque in Regents Park Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, causing damage variously estimated at amounts between £175,000 and £500,000 (Birmingham Post, Birmingham Evening Mail, 11.02.98, Birmingham Evening Mail, 12.02.98, Asian Age, 13.02.98, Birmingham Evening Mail, 14.02.98). The president of the mosque, Sakhawat Hussain Shah, said: "It is hard to imagine who could do something like this to a house of God. It is unbelievable" (Birmingham Post, 11.02.98). Prayers for members of the mosque and the people of Small Heath were said in Birmingham Cathedral on the day following the fire. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Reverend Mark Santer, expressing his sympathy with the Muslim community, said: "Places of worship have importance, not only to the people who build them and maintain them, but to the whole neighbourhood" (Birmingham Post, 11.02.98). Mr A Khan, councillor for the Small Heath ward, commented: "It is a really terrible thing to happen. Thank God no-one was injured or killed. It is too soon to speculate who might be responsible for the attack. It could be racial or sectarian as the mosque still under construction is a Shia mosque" (Asian Age, 13.02.98). Community leaders opened the fire-damaged mosque to visitors so that they could see the damage caused by the arsonists. Wasif Shah, an executive member of the mosque committee, said: "We are inviting people in so that they may appreciate the full extent of what has happened" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 14.02.98).
There are hopes that the mosque could still open on time in April. The mosque committee have been fundraising for the past 14 years and so building work had been progressing relatively slowly and the fire had been an additional severe setback. However, Sakhawat Shah explained offers of help had poured in. He said: "People have been coming here to look at the damage and we have had offers of money to help. Everyone has been very kind and while we are still waiting on builders’ estimates we are going to try our best to open in April" (Evening Mail Solihull, 19.02.98). Those responsible have still not been found, although West Midlands Police believe the attack was not racially motivated. Mr Shah said: "It is hard to imagine who could do something like this to a house of God. It is unbelievable" (Eastern Eye, 20.02.98, Asian Times, 24.02.98). Anyone wishing to contribute to the appeal should call 0121 773 6212 or 0121 771 0868. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 3]
Q-News (01.02.98) has two articles about the views of Shaykh Nazim concerning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The first article is a review, written by his secretary Zahra Thrya Quensel, of the Shaykh’s book on the subject. The second article consists of extracts from this book, Princess Diana’s Death. From the extracts quoted, it appears that Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani believed that Diana died because: she had not given anything in charity on the day of her death; she should have covered her body and face "in an Islamic way"; she was having a sexual relationship with a man outside of marriage; and she had been drinking alcohol and so had her companions.
Q-News (01.03.98) subsequently printed a letter in response to the article, entitled "Haqqani far from truth", from Dr Amina Coxon, physician to Dodi Fayed for the last eight years of his life. In her letter, the doctor refutes various assertions and implications made by the shaykh concerning the death of Princess Diana in an article in Q-News. Dr Coxon writes: "Anyone who assumes the name of al-Haqqani has the responsibility to speak the truth at all times. He apparently said that all the occupants of the car were drunk. Forensic analysis after the accident showed a significant level of alcohol in the blood of the driver, Henri Paul, but it is now accepted by French authorities that this was not the cause of the accident. Dodi Fayed had negligible quantities of blood alcohol, and none was registered in the blood of Princess Diana...The importance of charity was well known to Princess Diana. Many of those mourning her had personal knowledge of the help given, secretly, unseen, with a deep genuine concern. Many of these were people sick in NHS hospitals, the young homeless on the streets, old people forgotten and alone. She would go out late at night, without security or press, to comfort whoever she could find in distress. How many Muslims following Sheikh Nazim can claim similar actions?".
The Peterborough Evening Telegraph (19.02.98) has a report, with photograph, of the meeting of Shaykh Nazim at the Werrington Sports Centre in Peterborough. More than 200 people came to hear him speak. Fatima Raana Bhatti, co-founder of the Sufi Society, which had organised the meeting in conjunction with the Peterborough Interfaith Council, said: "It was out of this world. I don’t think any of us have come down. There were Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs but his messages of love, peace and mercy were a unifying force, everyone was enthralled. It was very exciting that he could come to Peterborough, we were getting calls from all over the country asking to attend the event and we simply ran out of space". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 3]
Several newspapers (Independent on Sunday, 08.02.98, ISM, Birmingham Post, 14.02.98, Daily Jang, Western Daily Press, 17.02.98) have articles which are occasioned by Salman Rushdie entering the tenth year since the fatwa against him (see British Muslims Monthly Survey, January 1998). Paul Vallely’s article in the Independent on Sunday (08.02.98) uses Rushdie’s case as a starting point to expose other cases of human rights abuses, some very severe, against writers. Amongst others he discusses the cases of Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh; Vincent Macombe, a playwright from Uganda; Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed in Nigeria in 1995 because of his defence of the Ogoni people against the uncontrolled activities of the oil companies; Wole Soyinka, the first Black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; Alexander Nitikin of the CIS; San San Nue of Burma; Alicia Partnoy, imprisoned and tortured during Argentina’s "Dirty War"; Faraj Birqdar, tortured and still imprisoned in Syria. The extracts Vallely quotes are from This Prison where I Live published by Cassell and much of his information comes from PEN, an organisation which helps persecuted and censored writers, amongst them Salman Rushdie, and Amnesty International. Another article in the literary review section of the same edition of the Independent (08.02.98) is a recent interview with Rushdie, in which it is pointed out that the reward for killing him remains. The other papers all point out that the death threat is still in force, on this the ninth anniversary of the Iranian fatwa, which fell on 14 February.
The Daily Jang (17.02.98) reports that on 16 February the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, met Mr Rushdie and pledged the government’s support in trying to get the death threat lifted. Mr Cook said: "I have given him [Rushdie] an assurance that working to remove the threat to his life will be a central priority of this Government’s policy in relation to Iran and that we will be working to get the maximum support for that from our European partners". Iqbal Sacranie, spokesperson for the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, commented: "We deplore the recent meetings of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, with the author of the deeply offensive Satanic Verses which was ill advised and will only stir up feelings against the author and severely damage the esteem and credibility of Her Majesty’s government in the eyes of Muslims. The meeting can only be construed as showing insensitivity towards the feelings of the British Muslim community who are continuously being hurt by the circulation of the book...It is about time the British Government accepts the reality that the issue of the Satanic Verses is not an Iranian issue. It is a Muslim issue. To focus on the fatwa is a diversion from the main issue which is the right to commit sacrilege and vilify the whole Muslim community" (Muslim News 27.02.98).
The Asian Times (17.02.98) reports that now Britain has the presidency of the EU, Salman Rushdie is keen that the present government publicly show its support for him. They quote the novelist as saying: "I’m optimistic about what I can do. I can show this hasn’t defeated me. But what I can’t do is solve the problem. Britain must take the lead. If the (EU) presidency ends without a major show of initiative, it’s empty. They had their chance. I very much hope they will take it". Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, insisted however that it was impossible to overturn the fatwa. He said: "We supported the fatwa when it was first imposed and our position remains the same today. Rushdie has never repented his actions. Even if the Iranian government abandoned its stance, it wouldn’t stop other Muslims around the world from carrying out the fatwa. It cannot be reversed". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 3/4]
Q-News (01.02.98) reports that Muslims and Islam will be represented in the "Spirit Zone" of the Millennium Dome at Greenwich. Iqbal Sacranie of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, explained: "This is a national event as well as a religious festival. We are not going to be participating in Christian services. Since the community at large consists of more than one faith then it is important that the message which comes out reflects that". Maulana Shahid Raza of the Muslim College and, like Mr Sacranie, a member of the interfaith advisory ‘Lambeth Group’, echoed similar sentiments: "We need to demonstrate how Muslims have contributed to the values and life of Britain" (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 4]
The Luton Leader (05.02.98) reports that the Rev Ken Reynard of Luton’s Central Baptist Church, has written in his church’s monthly magazine Contact: "I see that Mecca are no longer allowed to use their name [on their bingo hall in Luton], as it causes offence to Muslims (see BMMS for December 1997 and January 1998). I do not see any evidence that their declaration on their mosque that ‘There is one God and Allah is his name’ is going to come down because it causes offence to me. Of course, there is one God, who is tripersonal. Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit is his name. Islam has got it quite wrong!". Q-News (01.02.98) envisages the move to make the Rank Group take down its Mecca sign on leisure facilities as likely to spread. The Muslim paper quotes Manzoor Moghul, chair of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicestershire: "Muslims are living all over Britain so a uniform policy would be far better than piecemeal change". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 4]
Much of the reporting on this issue has been catalysed by the Inside Story documentary on BBC1 on 3 March [see Report below]. Q-News (01.02.98) reports briefly on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office leaflet giving advice to young people who might be at risk of being taken to countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh and married there against their will (see BMMS for January 1998). The newspaper quotes Neville Johnson from the FCO: "We are constantly approached by many people who are worried that their parents were arranging a holiday that looks suspicious". The northern edition of The Big Issue (02.02.98) says that: "Last year 264 young people contacted the Foreign Office frightened they would be forced into marriage. That’s just the tip of the iceberg..." Most of these were young women from Pakistani families, but there were also calls for help regarding marriages in India, Bangladesh and various north African countries, like Morocco. As well as the FCO, the Big Issue researched the article by talking to community groups and women’s refugees in the north of England, Southall Black Sisters, and the Manchester Domestic Violence Helpline. They give the phone number of this helpline, which is 0161 839 8574 and which has multilingual advisors staffing the phones on Monday and Tuesday mornings and Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 4/5]
Reporting continues on the case of Jack and Zena the couple whose marriage has placed their lives at risk from some members of her family and local community and who were helped to write their story by John McCarthy (see BMMS for September and October 1997; January 1998). The reporting, on 3 February (Dorset Evening Echo, Southern Daily Echo, Liverpool Daily Post, Eastern Daily Press, Newcastle Journal, Walsall Express & Star) and continued on to 4 February as reviews (The Times, Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph) all consists of comment on the issues raised by Inside Story: Forbidden Love, shown at 9.30pm on BBC1 on 3 February, featuring not only Jack and Zena, but also "Richard and Shazia" and "Nasreen and Paul". The other two couples’ stories are similar to those of Jack and Zena, in that the parental reaction to their daughters falling in love and wishing to marry a non-Pakistani man, even where he had or was willing to convert to Islam, was intimidation, illegally imprisoning the woman and violence towards her, with threats of violence to the man. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Guardian (16.02.98) discusses the Inside Story documentary and Flight, a drama on television which dealt with a romance between a Hindu and a Muslim in Britain, in the context of questions of race in the media. Ms Alibhai-Brown has a chapter on this subject in Race Relations in Britain: A developing Agenda, edited by Tessa Blackwell and just published by Routledge in February of this year. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5]
Asian Age (04.02.98) has an article about the attempt by local residents, mostly elderly Muslim men, to try to stop prostitutes soliciting in certain streets in the East End. As well as the groups of residents patrolling the streets at night (see BMMS for January 1998), there has been increased liaison with the police over the issue. Councillor Mohammed Ali of Weaver ward in Bethnal Green said that: "I took the issue to the local police and they have taken steps to increase the number of patrols in the area. They have also stopped people walking on their own to prevent kerb-crawling. Of course the initiatives taken are not enough but I would not encourage people to take the law into their own hands and abhor vigilantism". Mr Mufthi of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association in Whitechapel said: "We have urged the council to increase street lighting so prostitutes don’t come into the area". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5]
Eastern Eye (06.02.98) and the Oxford Mail (09.02.98) both report that Merton College, which owns the land upon which the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies wants to build its college (see BMMS for February, March, April, May and June 1997 and January 1998), has condemned the proposed plans as: "a mish-mash of Eastern and Western influences which cannot preserve or enhance the special character of Oxford". Both newspapers believe the High Court in London will fix a date for the hearing of the dispute between Merton and the Oxford Centre shortly. Merton College have brought the court action with the aim of terminating the Oxford Centre’s lease, on the basis that it was not consulted by the centre’s trustees about their building plans. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5]
A great many newspapers, particularly the tabloids and local papers, have reported on the marriage of the world featherweight boxing champion Prince Naseem Hamed to his fiancée, Eleasha Elphinstone. Last year, she had decided against marrying him because she did not want to convert to Islam and he was insisting on this (see BMMS for July 1997). She now embraced Islam before the Islamic wedding ceremony at an undisclosed location in Sheffield, Naseem Hamed’s home town. The couple said: "We are very happy and it has been a very special day for both of us" (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Cardiff Western Mail, Sun, Birmingham Post, Wrexham Evening Leader, 10.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5]
The Keighley News (20.02.98) reports that a new Muslim community association has been formed in Keighley (see BMMS for April, May, June, July and November 1997). The new Keighley Muslim Association Committee has as its spokesperson Javed Bashir. It runs social and educational activities at the Emily Street community centre, and at the Highfield Lane centre, the Racial Equality Council premises in Albert Street and various supplementary schools in other premises. Younis Qamar, general secretary of the KSCA, said support for his group was shown by their charity fund-raising during Ramadan which was £22,000 via Radio Ramadan and £15,000 through the Ghousia Association. Mr Bashir claimed that the £26,000 donated to his group to mark Eid is a measure of community support for the KMA (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 10.02.98). The KMA separated from the Sangat Association after the latter’s decision to accept funding from the National Lottery. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5]
The Independent on Sunday (15.02.98) has an article which reviews the various Islamic financial arrangements on mortgages, savings and investment available to Muslims in Britain. Those he deals with in some detail are: Manzil, the Morabaha "hire purchase mortgage" of the Islamic Investment Banking Unit (see BMMS for January 1998); the IIBU’s forthcoming Musharaka, or "shared ownership" arrangement; the now defunct Musharaka arrangement of the Albaraka Bank; the Oasis Fund for investments, a financial product of Robert Fleming, the City of London Bank (see BMMS for March 1997); and the Halal Mutual Investment Fund, managed by Al Tadaman Ltd and advised by Kleinwort Benson. The writer quotes Dr Abdelkader Chachi of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, who is an expert in Islamic finance: "You can’t judge anything as 100% Islamic. But if the choice is between two evils then Muslims should go for the lesser evil". The business editor of the Southern Daily Echo (10.02.98) prints a letter from a Muslim reader who is interested in buying a house under an interest-free arrangement, in line with Islamic law. In the reply, the advisor explains about the Manzil scheme: "While a conventional mortgage involves borrowing money and then paying interest on the lump sum, the IIBU Manzil involves the IIBU buying the property and then selling it at a higher price to the client, who becomes the registered owner and pays fixed monthly instalments". [See Interfaith section for another item related to interest-free finance]. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 5/6]
Planning permission has been applied for to turn a shop in Station Road in Llanelli into an Islamic Community Centre. One of its main aims will be to provide teaching in community languages for children (Cardiff Western Mail, 09.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
Mariame Saleh of Mossley Hill, Liverpool has been appointed as a JP. She is Liverpool’s first Muslim magistrate. Ms Saleh is a school governor, runs various community projects and has four children. Liverpool Magistrates are currently recruiting and are particularly interested in having greater diversity and more women (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
Q-News (01.02.98) reports on the immigration appeal case of Samia Batool, who has asked for her residence in Britain to be made permanent on compassionate grounds, because she and her four year-old daughter have no relatives in Pakistan. The newspaper believes there are parallels with the case of Atia Idrees, also of Oldham, who was allowed to stay after a long campaign on her behalf (see BMMS for March and April 1997). Ms Idrees was eventually granted leave to remain on compassionate grounds by Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, because her frail, elderly grandmother had no relatives in Pakistan to care for her. In Samia Batool’s case, she initially arrived in Britain on a six-month visa, following an arranged marriage. She later returned with the child of that marriage on a visitors visa, only to find that her husband did not want to see her. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
An article by Jeremy Rosenblatt, author of Children, International Law and Practice to be published in the autumn by Jordans, in the Independent (04.02.98) explains how child abduction by one parent to certain countries where Shari’ah is in force becomes even more complicated than child custody and abduction cases usually are. The article looks at the implications for children abducted out of, and into, the UK. The cases cited are: Re S (minors, abduction) 1994 Family Law Report 297, and Re Ja (child abduction: non-convention country) 1997 2 Family Law Report 5. A case reported on in the East Anglian Daily Times (05.02.98) is that of Karen Elliot, whose five children, Maryam, 13, Muhammad,11, Musa, nine, Sofiya, six, and Sarah, four, have been taken by her estranged husband, Ahmed, back to his home country of Malaysia. Ms Elliot said: "I feel like I am back to square one. I now know my only hope of getting the children back is to return to the country and fight through the courts. I do not regret marrying Ahmed because I have five lovely children. You have to learn from your experiences...I will have to give up my studies and I am already in debt. My only hope is to prove I am a good Muslim mother and if that means going to live over there again on my own I will do it. It is very daunting and I feel very much alone. But I will go back and fight for my children" (East Anglian Daily Times, 05.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
Zafar Khan, a British Airways agent at Heathrow, is continuing to train for the Luxor marathon for charity, in spite of its having been postponed due to the massacre of tourists in Egypt last November (see BMMS for November 1997). He has been rather unlucky so far regarding marathons: he turned up a week late for the Beijing marathon and was unable to get a flight in time for the Honolulu race. He said: "But I’m very determined to complete a successful trip to collect money for these charities". He intends to donate the money raised to Islamic Relief, the Hounslow Jamia Mosque and the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
The Mount Pleasant Islamic Trust in Batley has given a donation of £4,000 to Dewsbury Health Care Trust following a fund-raising effort during Ramadan. The money will be divided between the Trust’s Maternity, Children’s and Intensive Care units at Dewsbury Hospital. The chair of the Health Care Trust, John Hemingway, said: "This is a most generous donation from the local community and we are delighted. The money will be used to help us to purchase important medical equipment" (Awaaz, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
Kali Mountford, MP for Colne Valley, has been appointed honorary vice-president of the Huddersfield Society for Islamic Affairs and Huddersfield Victim Support. She expressed her desire to be actively involved in both organisations: "I am keenly interested in the work of them both and hope I can play an active role" (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 10.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6]
Batley’s Indian Muslim Welfare Society has been awarded the Duke of York’s Community Initiative Charter in recognition of its work in developing the Al-Hikmah Centre. The Charter, which is for a "contribution to the quality and vigour of life in the community and the encouragement of a practical and effective community spirit" was given personally by the Duke of York to representatives of the centre (Awaaz, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 6/7]
Ethical questions are being raised about the investments of the pension fund which covers workers in 16 organisations in the north of England, including all five West Yorkshire councils and the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority. The West Yorkshire Superannuation Fund, which is run by Bradford Council, has invested in the alcohol industry. The ex-general secretary of Bradford Council of Mosques, Faquir Mohammed, said thousands of Muslim workers would have objected had they known about this investment. He said: "Muslims should not even work in a place where alcohol is sold or produced. It is in the Koran. I think it is wrong" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 03.02.98, Eastern Eye, 13.02.98). The leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, believed that Bradford Council should have an ethical policy regarding its investments. She was particularly concerned about investments in the oil industry: "Given the Council’s commitment to sustainability and Local Agenda 21 it is interesting that the fund invests in such industries as the oil industry. We feel that members of the superannuation fund scheme should be given the chance to decide whether or not they are happy with this present state of affairs. People should be given ethical statements so they know exactly what they are paying into" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 03.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
The Vale of Glamorgan’s Muslim community association, based at Weston Hill, Barry has received a grant of £35,000 for the first phase of work on its new community centre from the Vale Council. The chair of the Vale Muslim Welfare Association, Manzoor Ahmed said of their plans for new, improved facilities: "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" (Penarth Times, Barry & District News, 05.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
Islamic Relief Worldwide, based in Blackburn, is appealing to the people of East Lancashire to give food, medicines, blankets or cash to help the relief effort to the earthquake-stricken regions of Afghanistan. Relief worker Athman Khan said: "About 16,000 people are homeless and the temperatures are around freezing. The situation is very difficult and we hope people in East Lancashire will help us". The contact number for this appeal is 01254 676318 (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 14.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
The body of Mohammed Rafique Khan, the shopkeeper who was stabbed to death during a robbery at his shop in Plumstead, has now been released (see BMMS for January 1998). This follows protests by Muslims because the burial was delayed and the fact that a suspect has now been charged with the murder (Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
The owner of an Italian restaurant which is next to a mosque has won his two year battle for a license to sell alcohol in spite of objections from users of the mosque. Q-News (01.03.98) reports that the restaurateur had the support of the Italian consulate and over 1,000 customers. The licensing authorities accepted his argument that his business would suffer if he is not allowed to serve customers drinks with their meals. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
Amer Rafiq, the Manchester waiter who lost an eye whilst in police custody and was subsequently released without any charges against him (see BMMS for March 1997), has been awarded an out of court settlement. Q-News (01.03.98) reports that it is believed to be in the region of £130,000 but that there is still no recognition of liability on the part of the police. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
Mahmood Hussain Mattan, a Somali seaman who was hanged in 1952 after being convicted of murdering a Cardiff shopkeeper (see BMMS for October 1997), has had the murder conviction overturned. His family, including his widow Laura, have fought a long battle to clear his name. On 24 February, three Appeal Court judges in London decided that there was new evidence showing Mr Mattan’s innocence (Daily Jang, 25.02.98, Q-News, 01.03.98). Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Lord Justice Holland and Mr Justice Penry-Davey said: "It is, of course, a matter for very profound regret that in 1952 Mr Mattan was convicted and hanged, and that it has taken 46 years for that conviction to be shown to be unsafe. The court can only hope that its decision today will provide some crumb of comfort for his surviving relatives" (Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7]
Several newspapers (Harrow Observer, 12.02.98, Birmingham Evening Mail, 18.02.98, Muslim News, 27.02.98, Q-News, 01.03.98) have reported about the talents of eight year-old Muhammad Hussein Tabatabaee, who can not only recite the whole Qur’an, but also give any verse from its first one or two words and "converse" using the words of the Qur’an on any topic. At present, Muhammad, who is from Qum in Iran, is touring mosques in Britain demonstrating his knowledge of the holy scriptures. He visited the Central and Clifton Road mosques in Birmingham, where Sakhawat Shah of the Hussainia Mosque, Small Heath, said: "He is remarkable. You only have to read him one or two words and he can tell you which chapter, page and line they come from. Yet he is just like any other boy, he likes to run up and down and play" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 18.02.98). His father, Muhammad Mahdi, devised a system to develop his son’s ability, which began to manifest itself at the age of two. He explained: "The method is a good approach for teaching all pre-school age children. It is a type of sign language. Each sign reminds the child of a meaning, while a combination of signs implies a more abstract meaning. Young children can memorise the Qur’an word by word while they start learning the meanings, and eventually they come to be able to analyze the meaning of the text" (Muslim News, 27.02.98, Q-News, 01.03.98). Muhammad Tabatabaee’s tour included Birmingham, London, Harrow and Manchester. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 7/8]
Lancashire Police distributed Eid cards similar to Christmas cards, with a message to drive safely over the festival. The initiative was welcomed by Muslim community leaders and local businesses who are keen to co-operate with the police in such ventures. Al Yusuf, Sponsorship and Fundraising Officer, said: "Businesses are delighted to get involved with initiatives where they can help and give something back to the community they serve" (Asian Times, 17.02.98). Letters printed in the Barnoldswick & Earby Times (13.02.98), all anonymous, were against the scheme. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
The West Midlands branch of Islamic Relief is appealing for help for the victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan in February. As many as 4,000 people are feared dead and several villages have been destroyed. In the bitter winter weather of Afghanistan, the victims risk death from exposure. To make a donation call Aflak Suleman on 0121 773 4111 (Birmingham Metronews, 19.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
The Glasgow Herald (20.02.98) reports on a case in which a Muslim woman, Tasneem Noor, claimed she was stalked by an admirer, Mateen Asghar, and that his unwelcome attentions continued even after she had married her cousin, Mr Noor. Mr Asghar, however, claimed that it was Mrs Noor who pursued him. He said: "In our religion, marriages are arranged and she tried to get me through my mother and my sister". An enmity subsequently developed between the two men. The jury took only a few minutes to find Mr Asghar not guilty of deliberately driving his car at Mr Noor and causing an accident on purpose. Mr Asghar said in his defence: "I was pulling into my driveway in Gower Street when a jeep and a motor cycle came at me. I thought it was people after me and that I was in danger. As I accelerated away, I collided with a bike and did not know it was Noor because he was wearing a helmet. Because I had threats on my life I drove to my shop in Castlemilk and remained hiding there for four days". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
Magistrates in Bedford gave a conditional discharge to Anita Begum, a 19 year old woman who had been convicted of stealing £350 of goods from Bedford town centre, on hearing of her circumstances. She had been allegedly kidnapped by her brothers, taken to Pakistan and forced to marry a 13 year-old boy. After suffering considerable physical and mental abuse, she starved herself in order to be sent back to Britain. Once back in Britain, she was finally able to escape to a women’s refuge, but still lived in fear of her brothers and her child husband’s family (Daily Jang, 25.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
At Leicester Crown Court 18 year-old Amrick Thandi, a Sikh, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for an attack on the Muslim who married his sister. Amrick Thandi hit Shiraz Patel with an iron bar causing a head wound needing several stitches. A fight broke out when Mr Patel went to the Thandi house to break the news of the marriage and was thrown out (Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
The Guardian (28.02.98) has an article by Dr Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College, on the subject of the disestablishment of the Church of England. In the article, Dr Badawi appears to approve of the present British constitutional system, which he compares with those of France and the USA. He concludes: "I think the present arrangement remains satisfactory until someone provides us with a better model. It is often said the British muddle through. In this regard they have muddled through brilliantly". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
A new Muslim association, based in Kilburn but with a national brief, has recently been set up. It is called the Muslim Association of Britain and, like the Muslim Council of Britain (see BMMS for November and December 1997), claims to be an umbrella organisation to protect the collective interests of Muslims in Britain (Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
Zahid Shams, aged 22, was jailed for 21 days because he refused to work with pigs as part of his community service order. Mr Shams’ solicitor asked that his client be given a suspended sentence in view of his religious convictions but magistrates refused on the grounds that this would give the wrong message (Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
Q-News (01.03.98) has an interview with Nafees Nazir, a worker with the Human Relief Foundation, which is especially concerned with the suffering of the people of Iraq. The interviewer, Shagufta Yaqub, asked him: "What are the biggest problems Human Relief is dealing with?". Nafees Nazir answered: "Dealing with the problem that Muslims and non-Muslims in this country are not really aware of what is happening in Iraq today. The British public is unaware of the disastrous impact both of the air strikes and sanctions on the Iraqi people. It has been a struggle to raise awareness about what is happening in Iraq. We have a small budget because we are a small scale charity and try our best to fund-raise but our overall output and achievements are very good and very high compared to the fundraising we do. But yet that is not the main problem, fundraising can be tackled. If people are aware they will support us more so we need to raise awareness". The Human Relief Foundation can be contacted on 01274 392727. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8]
Q-News (01.03.98) has a review of an exhibition of contemporary Iranian art, held at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London recently to mark the ninth anniversary of the Iranian revolution. There were paintings, Islamic calligraphy, photographs and crafts. The exhibition was organised by the Islamic Society of England, an Iranian foundation which has the support of the embassy, particularly as a means of showcasing Iranian culture. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 8/9]
Q-News (01.03.98) carries a tribute to the life of John Yahya Cooper, who died in France in February from a heart attack. He was born in 1947 and on graduating from Oxford he went to Morocco to teach English. From there he went to Iran and in 1976 was teaching physiology at Ahvaz University. It was during this period of his life that he embraced Islam. On his return to Britain he completed an M.Phil. in Medieval Arabic Thought and then did a doctorate on the philosophical foundations of Shi’ite law. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and translations. In 1990 he was awarded the E G Browne Lectureship in Persian Studies at the University of Cambridge. His Janaza was held at the Burton Street Mosque in Peterborough. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 9]
The decision by the Secretary of State for Education to allow state-funding for two Muslim schools, Al-Furqan in Birmingham and the Islamia Primary School in Brent, north London (see BMMS for December 1997 and January 1998), continues to attract comment in the press, most of it favourable (Area News Today, 23.01.98, Q-News, 01.02.98, Awaaz, 01.02.98, Church Times, Slough & Langley Observer, 06.02.98, Birmingham Evening Mail, 09.02.98). Q-News (01.02.98) has an interview with Ms Zahida Hussain, the headteacher of Al-Furqan School in Birmingham. The interviewer asked her: "If the proposed European Convention on Human Rights comes into effect in Britain as it stands this would mean that any public or religious body will not be able to specify that it requires staff to be a member of any particular faith. Do you regard this as a potential problem for Muslim schools?" Zahida Hussain replied: "The way we employ is by having a job description and criteria that we are looking for and of course the member of staff we would generally be looking to employ would be somebody suitably qualified to teach both the national and the Islamic curriculum that is being delivered, and someone who has the ability to uphold and respect the ethos. Whoever can do that job in the best possible way would be our first choice and so I do not really see a problem".
The Tablet (14.02.98), a Catholic weekly paper, has an article by Dr Shabbir Akhtar, a researcher in Oxford looking at the life of St Paul, on the subject of Muslim schools in Britain. The article has an underlying theme of Muslim identity and citizenship within a plural society. Dr Akhtar shows how, as a minority community becomes increasingly settled, so its aspirations change: "It is the younger and more confident British Muslim citizens and white converts to Islam who have argued in detail the case for Muslim schools. The older generation of earlier immigrants accepted second-class status with resignation. These are simple men and women schooled in, and comforted by, the stoic principles of destiny and fate. Their sons and daughters are more assertive, and know their rights - though the society that has taught them the language of democratic power has not often encouraged them to put forward their own political representatives. They do not see their campaign for schools as a controversial initiative, or part of a politically subversive agenda. For them it is to do with equality of choice and opportunity in a mature democracy".
Like Dr Akhtar, Simon Rocker, a journalist with the Jewish Chronicle, compares the Jewish and Muslim experiences regarding the establishment of schools for their own faith community. He begins his article in the TES (27.02.98) by writing about the government’s approval of state funding for two Muslim schools and points out that: "...along with the Muslim break-through came approval for three more voluntary-aided or grant-maintained Jewish schools, two of them still to be built. The expansion of Jewish schooling has received little attention but it is significant for a minority community long held up as a model of integration". An article in the 20 February edition of the TES by Dennis Richards, headteacher of St Aidan’s Church of England High School in Harrogate argues that the acceptance of Muslim schools into the state framework could have benefits for interfaith relations. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 9]
A school with 95 per cent Muslim pupils has changed its school day to facilitate the children’s concentration in the afternoons. St Benedicts Primary School in Small Heath, Birmingham now finishes the day at 2.30pm, with only a short break for lunch (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 9]
Mount Pleasant Islamic Trust raise £32,000 for a new madrasa in Batley on the night of Lailat al-Qadr during Ramadan. Mufti Faheem Mayet and Maulana Suleman Bodiyat delivered speeches on the importance of this new project and the phone lines were jammed with people pledging their financial support. By the end of Ramadan, thanks in part to appeals being broadcast by radio, over half a million pounds had been donated. It is hoped that construction work will start in April. The madrasa will have 33 classrooms, a kitchen, library, toilets and ablution facilities and a mortuary. There are currently 430 students using the madrasa facilities run by the trust but the new building should permit over 600 to be taught (Awaaz, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 9]
Awaaz (01.02.98) reports on an open evening held recently at the children’s Arabic classes at the Jam-E-Masjid Abu Bakr on Church Street, Huddersfield. Hafiz Sabir Hussain, a teacher-organiser at the mosque, invited local councillors and representatives from Huddersfield Technical College, Social Services, Education, Careers Service and Kirklees Road Safety Unit. He explained why he had recently changed his teaching methods and how: "I wanted to know why children seemed to enjoy going to school but not so much to mosque, so
I’ve been to the school, talked to the teachers and looked at the kind of things the children were doing in school. Through my experiences I have learnt and changed my methods. Over the last six months the children have been enjoying coming to the mosque more, they are happier and when children are happy they learn more. I am also enjoying teaching now more than ever before". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 9/10]
Three primary schools in Toxteth, Liverpool are to merge to create a voluntary sector, multi-faith, but predominately Muslim school. A joint statement has been issued by the chair of Liverpool’s education committee, Councillor Neville Bann, and Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Councillor Paul Clein. They said: "This is an extremely exciting proposal which would recognise and celebrate the cultural diversity of this area of the city" (Liverpool Echo, 04.02.98). Some parents, however, are unhappy about what they see as a lack of consultation and about the school closures the merger will involve. Linda Harwood, mother of two children at Tiber Street School, said: "We are concerned because Tiber Street is a multi-faith school run by the local authority. The whole community in Lodge Lane revolves around this school and if it closes, the area will be decimated. We want the education committee to know how we feel. It will mean that there will be no state schools within the Granby Triangle, and no Roman Catholic school for that matter. Some parents are already talking about taking their children to schools outside the area". The plan has been welcomed by the Liverpool Muslim Society (Liverpool Echo, 10.02.98). The Catholic Herald (13.02.98) reports that: "The Archdiocese has made available to the Local Education Authority the site of St Bernard’s Catholic School, Toxteth, which is closing because of falling rolls". The parish priest, Fr Peter Morgan, has been asked by the Liverpool Muslim Society to join discussions about the future of the proposed school. He said: "The unique element in the proposal is that a school is established, largely Muslim in character, which is open to receive other children and respond to their needs...This is an initiative the that the people of Liverpool should be very proud of" (Catholic Herald, 13.02.98). The two councillors quoted above have responded to criticisms about the lack of consultation with parents. They said: "Their views [i.e. parents’] and the views of all parties affected by proposals to create a new school with a predominately Muslim ethos will be heard during the formal consultation" (Liverpool Echo, 14.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
Abdul Khokar, a Muslim community leader in Barking, is continuing his efforts to persuade the local education authority to teach community languages, such as Urdu and Punjabi, at A-level in local schools (see BMMS for January 1998). He has enlisted the help of the local MP, Margaret Hodge (Barking & Dagenham Post, 04.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
The Sangat Centre in Keighley is looking for volunteers, preferably trained teachers or graduates, to help teach core subjects such as maths, science and English, as well as Islamic Studies at its support classes for Asian youngsters in the evenings and at weekends. For more details about the scheme, phone Keighley 610263 (Keighley News, 06.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
Bromley Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education is supporting a competition for school children sponsored by the Darul Uloom London, the Islamic Academy in Chiselhurst and the Penge Islamic Centre, who are providing the cash prizes. There are three age groups. Primary school children have to submit a project about Islam and students in key stages three and four have to produce an information pack on the practical implications of being a Muslim in Britain. Sixth-formers are asked to submit an essay on one of three topics: One and only one God, Muhammed as the Last Messenger of Allah, or The Qur’an as the Book of Allah (Bromley & Beckenham Times, 12.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
Just two months after refusing planning permission for a Muslim school and prayer hall, Sandwell Council has reversed its decision. The decision on the site in Guns Lane, West Bromwich was taken at the council’s planning meeting on 17 December (see BMMS for September, October, November and December 1997; January 1998). Paul Walker, a spokesperson for local residents who have been campaigning against the plans, said: "This same scheme has already been refused by the committee just a matter of weeks ago and I can’t see what has changed or why that original decision to throw it out can’t be upheld" (Birmingham Post, Black Country Evening Mail, 18.02.98). West Bromwich East Labour MP Peter Snape gave his support to those local residents who are opposing the plans. He said: "The extra traffic, noise, parking problems which would arise if this proposal goes ahead will seriously erode the quality of life of the residents". (Black Country Evening Mail, Birmingham Evening Mail, 13.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan, has contributed over £1 million towards the study of Islam and other faiths at the University of Lampeter. Hence, the newly-opened centre, which brings together the study of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism under one roof and was officially opened on 20 February, is to be known as the Sheik Khalifa Building (Cardiff Western Mail, 18.02.98). This new centre has two lecture halls, a library, post-graduate study-rooms and offices and serves a department of religious studies with 17 full-time staff, ten part-timers, over 150 undergraduates and 100 postgraduates (Cardiff Western Mail, 18.02.98, Liverpool Daily Post, 21.02.98, Q-News, 01.03.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10]
The Lancaster Guardian (20.02.98) has a feature article on the Jamea Al Kauthar Muslim girls’ boarding school, based in the former Royal Albert Hospital buildings (see BMMS for January 1997).
The school has been in operation for 16 months now and has 250 girls aged between 11 and 17 from all over Britain, as well as South America, Germany, Norway and Canada. In addition to the Islamic curriculum, maths, science and English are taught and there are plans to introduce information technology and humanities soon. The headteacher, Mr Patel said: "There’s nothing that’s taught that was not taught 30 years ago when I used to go to school in Lancaster. People are a bit disappointed with mainstream education. We put an emphasis on general morality. If you look at children at 10 and 11 getting pregnant and having babies, I can appreciate people saying it’s only a one off but why did that one off happen?". He denied that the school was a closed institution by pointing out that there are often casual visitors: "It’s quite an open environment. It’s not a strict regime like a lot of boarding schools". The school has vacancies for full-time qualified teachers. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 10/11]
A group of Muslim entrepreneurs has started to look for premises suitable for a Muslim school in Glasgow. Hanzala Malik, chair of the West of Scotland Community Relations Council said that the decision by Glasgow City Council to convert the city’s last girls’ only school, Notre Dame, to co-education, was "the straw which broke the camel’s back". She said of the Muslims’ plans: "There is much good at the heart of this. There is a will to see the school come alive. There are fewer and fewer single sex schools for a growing number of Muslim children. Primarily the Muslim community is concerned about girls’ education and single sex education for girls. There are a number of plans at the moment. The first is to have a primary school, some want to go for a secondary school as well, or the third is to opt out a school in a predominately minority area. Of course the parents and the governors would hope to apply for status and cash help. The last thing any of us would want to see is our children going to school and suffering" (Scotland on Sunday, 22.09.98). There is a possibility that help in setting up a Muslim school or schools in Glasgow could come from Yusuf Islam, founder of the Islamia Schools in Brent, north London (Glasgow Evening Times, 18.02.98) [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11]
Muslim students at Strathclyde University are objecting to a poster produced by a candidate for the post of Vice-President welfare. The student concerned is Kenneth Trainer, whose election poster shows him standing up amongst a congregation of Muslims bowed in prayer. The mosque leader of prayer at the university, Ibrahim El-Farargy, said: "As a Muslim I find someone standing up in the middle of prayer like this very offensive. It is very upsetting and I feel as if we have been placed under attack. Many of the students are very angry". Mr Trainer, a student of English and Politics has apologised. He said: "This has got totally out of hand and was not what I meant. It could have been a bunch of soccer fans or anyone at all bowing down". Mr Trainer’s rival in the student union elections, Vanessa Taylor, described his poster as "extremely insensitive". She added: "I do not know what he intended by using this poster. It is unfortunate that it has cast a shadow over the whole elections. Obviously feelings are running very high and I want to campaign on positive issues" (Glasgow Evening Times, 25.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11]
Q-News (01.03.98) reports that students at Bristol University are demanding a permanent Muslim prayer room for students’ use (see BMMS for January 1998). The university authorities have responded by saying that the university is a secular institution and its charitable status prohibits it allocating funds for facilities for religious groups. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11]
Muslim News (27.02.98) has a detailed and very thorough article on the subject of collective worship in schools. The author, Nasim Butt, begins by showing that the underlying debates are very old, as she quotes from Aristotle’s The Politics: "At present there are differences of opinion as to the proper tasks to be set, for all peoples do not agree as to the things that the young ought to learn". Aristotle then classifies educational activities as being: "pursuits which are practically useful" and "activities which are morally edifying". The author goes on to explain that in August 1997, three national organisations concerned with religion in schools, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education and the Inter-faith Network, established a steering committee to look at the question of collective worship in schools. The Muslim Educational Trust (MET) has participated in and responded to this consultative process. Some of the results of the MET’s discussions can be found in their booklet, produced in December 1997, entitled Comments on the Government’s White Paper: ‘Excellence in Schools’. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11]
The Islamic Experience exhibition was due to be on display for three weeks from the end of February at the Islamic Centre for the South West in York Road in Exeter. Devon County Council is giving its support to the exhibition, which the organisers anticipate will be seen by over 2,000 school students and members of the general public (Exeter Express & Echo, 24.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11]
Speaking at a forum convened by the Daily Jang, Mohammed Sarwar MP (see BMMS for March, April, May, June, August, September, October, November and December 1997; January 1998) asserted that his election campaign had been conducted with the maximum transparency and that he was confident that he would be cleared of all the charges against him, such as that of electoral fraud. Speaking of the attitude of the media towards his case, while acknowledging that some media reporting had been sympathetic, he commented: "While I am immensely proud of my Muslim and Pakistani heritage, I really do wonder, why does the media find it of such intrinsic importance to describe me as the ‘first Muslim/Pakistani MP’. Has any Jewish or Hindu MP been ever described as such or as an ‘Indian MP’. I am also described as a ‘millionaire MP’, which is quite ironical in the sense that many other British MPs who indeed are multi-millionaires are never identified as being so. I suppose it GRAD just suits the media". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 11/12]
Although there had been calls by some local Muslim leaders for the banning of the recent Nation of Islam rally in Peterborough (see BMMS for January 1998), it passed off peacefully. One of the event’s organisers, Fred Muhammad, said: "This appearance [of Leo Muhammad, guest speaker for the Nation of Islam] was part of a national tour and we come in peace to spread the message of Allah. We think that the truth should never offend anyone and we believe in freedom of speech. It is better to hear what we have to say and then to judge". One of the main objectors to the rally was Ghulam Shabir, secretary of the Pakistani Community Association, who claimed that the Nation of Islam has racist and radical views not shared by the city’s 10,000 Muslims (Peterborough Citizen, 05.02.98). Q-News (01.02.98) reports that several MPs are asking Jack Straw to continue the ban on the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, entering Britain (see BMMS for July, October, November and December 1997). They include the Labour MP Andrew Dismore and former MP John Marshall, who is now chair of the Anglo-Israel Association. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12]
Councillors Phil Murphy and Roy Benjamin have been reprimanded for organising an Eid party at the Council House. One of the objectors, a fellow Labour Party councillor, Chaman Lal (Labour, Soho) said: "A number of Labour members feel very strongly about this and the letter is a collective response from councillors to remind them that they can’t celebrate one thing in isolation. These councillors are the first to accuse people of being racist but we feel that this party shows considerable ignorance and they ought to know better. As far as the sandwiches are concerned, ham is the most offensive thing they could have served. It’s not that we’re anti-Muslim it’s just we don’t want anyone to feel they’ve been overlooked". Councillor Murphy responded: "Councillor Benjamin and myself thought this was quite an important festival for the Muslim community. It’s as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians. We have time off to celebrate Christmas and Easter and all we did on this occasion was offer people some orange juice, sandwiches and samosas at the end of our committee meeting. We bought the refreshments out of the equalities budget but they probably only cost £5" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 11.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12]
In its reporting of the Eid party held at the House of Commons on 5 February, Q-News (01.03.98) reprints in full the speeches of Humera Khan, spokesperson for the An-Nisa Society of north London, and chair of the board of trustees of the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Mahmoud Hammoud. In contrast, the Asian Times (17.02.98) simply points out that ham sandwiches were served at the event - pork being forbidden to Muslims. Muslim News (27.02.98), in an editorial, sees this occurrence as indicative of a general lack of respect on the part of the government towards Islam. In an editorial they write: "Not only do Muslims get the brush off by the government, but it is clear they [the government] do not even respect Islam. During the first ever ‘Id celebrations in the ‘mother of parliaments’, Muslims were fed with ham sandwiches; earlier Prince Charles invited Muslims to a lecture in which he expressed his respect for Islam - but the event was held at Jum’a time; the Department of Education held yearly SATS during ‘Id al-Fitr. One can go on and on". Q-News (01.03.98) does not mention ham sandwiches being served at the House of Commons celebration, but does report that they were served at the Eid celebration held in Birmingham City Hall and organised by two Labour non-Muslim councillors [see Report above]. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12]
Q-News (01.02.98) reports on the march through central London, culminating in a demonstration on 24 January in Hyde Park, London, to commemorate Al-Quds Day, whose purpose, according to the paper is to show that: "the Muslim ummah will never accept the current situation in Palestine; that Palestine is a Muslim land, and that invasion, ethnic cleansing, oppression and every other injustice, cannot change that". The marchers numbered about 3,000 and the main speaker at the rally in the park was Faiz Siddiqui, president of the International Muslim Organisation. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12]
The Labour Councillor for Aston, Mohammed Afzal, has been arrested, charged with fraud, and released on bail to appear before magistrates in Birmingham on 13 March. Councillor Afzal is accused of "obtaining £18,764 from the Benefits Agency by falsely representing that he was unemployed and entitled to claim Income Support" and "evasion of his liability to pay council tax over an unspecified period of time". Councillor Afzal has been a councillor for 16 years and recently lost out to Roger Godsiff for the nomination as the parliamentary candidate for the new Birmingham constituency formed by a merger of Sparkbrook and Small Heath. Councillor Afzal denies all charges and maintains he has been framed (Daily Jang, 18.02.98, 19.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12]
At a festival to celebrate Eid held at Chalvey Youth and Community Centre, Elias Farid Azzam Power, a member of the Al-Muhajiroun group, verbally attacked the Labour Party and Slough’s mayor, Councillor Lakhbir Singh Minhas, who was present at the celebrations in his official capacity. Mr Power, who was not part of the planned programme, but was given permission to speak, said: "The only way of life is Islam and it is a complete way of life. We don’t worship chains of office like the mayor. We worship none but Allah. The only law, the only belief is Islam. The Labour Party...it doesn’t even have policies on homosexuality and abortion which are against Islam". Councillor Minhas responded in his address to the audience: "We are living in a multi-cultural society, we should learn to respect other communities. How can you expect to have any self-respect if you do not respect other cultures? Fiona Mactaggart MP replied to Mr Power’s comments: "The Labour Party believes issues like homosexuality and abortion are a matter of individual conscience. I know what the Labour Party believes, you know about Muslim beliefs. It seems to me to be important to learn from each other" (Slough & Langley Observer, 06.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 12/13]
The All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference UK invited local Bradford and Halifax MPs and the Lord Mayors to attend a conference on the subject of Kashmir on 15 January in Bradford (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 16.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13]
On 3 March John Austin, Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, introduced his private member’s bill, the Religious Discrimination and Remedies Bill (see BMMS for April, June and December 1997; January 1998), into the House of Commons. Mr Austin said: "Racial abuse and racial harassment are a fact of life for many of our citizens...incitement to racial hatred is a criminal offence, but what if the harassment or abuse or incitement is based not on your colour, race or nationality, or ethnic or national origin, but on your religion?" (Daily Jang, 04.03.98). An article in Muslim News (27.02.98) points out that the bill is unlikely to become law during the course of this parliament as it does not have the support of the government. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13]
Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College and Ms Nighat Mirza, former headteacher of a Muslim girls’ school, are to be commissioners on the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. There are some dissenting voices amongst Muslim leaders about the sincerity of the commission towards the community, however. Massoud Shadjareh, spokesperson for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "Isn’t it just the height of hypocrisy? It’s incredible that they should disregard their own conclusions in such a blatant manner. It’s more than just the name. The Commission is operating on the basis that Britain is a multi-ethnic society whereas all the signs indicate that in the next century it is faith that will play a greater role in shaping people’s lives". Sir John Burgh, chair of the Commission, responded to the criticism made by some Muslim organisations: "We gave it a lot of thought [the choice of title for the commission] and considered a variety of alternatives. I don’t think Muslims ought to feel excluded. We’ve made every effort to ensure their representation on the Commission" (Q-News, 01.02.98). Muslim News (27.02.98) has an article expressing some misgivings about the new research commission. The new commission’s brief is to assess "how far Britain’s political and social institutions will meet the needs of our diverse communities in the 21st century". The commission will look at five areas: democratic institutions, common culture, family support, employment and crime and justice. The author of the Muslim News article criticises the Runnymede Trust for not having pursued issues for concern which it uncovered in its Islamophobia report before starting on a new venture (see BMMS for February, March, April, May, July, September, October and November 1997). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13]
The Asian Times (03.02.98) has printed an apology regarding an article entitled A Modest Statement in its edition of 27 January, saying that a quotation may have been taken out of context. The core of the statement reads: "Umm Sufyann, of the House of Hijaab, would like to point out that an increase in the popularity of the hijaab among young college girls has come about through a growing awareness of Islam. It is not part of a fashion trend, as may have been suggested. We would like to apologise to both the House of Hijaab and to our readers for any misunderstanding or inconvenience this may have caused". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13]
Islamic, Green and Christian groups are campaigning together for a recognition that there are workable alternatives to interest-bearing loans at all levels. The Campaign for Interest-Free Money to Advocate Financial Tools for Exchange Free from Debt, Interest and Inflation was launched at the end of January at the Global Cafe in London. The groups which are members of the campaign include the Islamic Party of Britain, the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, the Green Money Network, the Neutral Money Network and the Institute for Rational Economics. Canon Peter Challen, who is chair of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, pointed out that all the monotheistic faiths condemn usury and he quoted from Ezekiel: "‘If you lend money to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them’. The complexity of debt, at personal, corporate and global levels, is enormous and counter-productive. It’s time to change the accepted system. Usury is an inappropriate way of generating economic activity". The campaign’s strategy is to attract fifty or sixty ‘third sector’, NGO groups to give them a base so that politicians will take them seriously and to have constituents in every constituency lobbying their MPs. The Campaign for Interest-Free Money to Advocate Financial Tools for Exchange Free from Debt, Interest and Inflation can be contacted at the Global Cafe, 15 Golden Square, London W1R 3AG (Church Times, 06.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13]
The Methodist Recorder (19.02.98) reports that the presidents of the Council for Christians and Jews (CCJ) have re-emphasised that they want the organisation to remain bilateral, rather than including Muslims as well (see BMMS for January, February and March 1997). The general secretary, Peter Mendel, said: "Christians and Jews have a very special historical and theological agenda. The council has been in successful bilateral dialogue for other 55 years and the presidents wish for that dialogue to continue bilaterally". The presidents are: the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sachs; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey; and the Moderator of the Free Church Council, the Rev Kathleen Richardson. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 13/14]
Muslims and Christians worshipped together at a special service to mark "Education Sunday" at a Catholic church in Rainham recently. At the service at La Salette Church, organised by Havering Council’s SACRE group, passages from the Holy Qur’an were read and one of the Muslim representatives gave a sermon on the fundamentals of Islam. The Muslims performed their afternoon prayers and a representative returned to the pulpit to give a more general sermon, encouraging the congregation to live according to God’s commandments (Barking & Dagenham Post, 11.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14]
Q-News (01.03.98) has reported news of a forthcoming conference at the University of Loughborough, called "Writing the bodies of Christ: The World, the flesh and the Church". The paper reports that members of Loughborough’s Muslim community are angry over the conference and are threatening a picket. One of them, Zafar Khan, said: "Jesus is a Prophet of God. It’s not right to insult Prophets. Today it’s Jesus, tomorrow they’ll be referring to Muhammad in the same way. This is like Salman Rushdie all over again". Conference organiser Dr John Schad, who lectures in English, defended the use of titles such as "The Lesbian Body of Christ". He said: "Nobody’s going to stand up and say Jesus is a lesbian. It is simply a look at the cultural connotations surrounding the medieval question of how to represent the body of Christ. The purpose of the conference is to invite people who wouldn’t normally go within miles of a conference which is dealing with Christian themes. We are not a homosexual group or anti-religion or anything". Nick Royal, of Sterling University and author of "The private parts of Jesus Christ" - one of the papers is entitled "The private parts of Jesus Christ: Circumcision, Confession and Secrecy in Derrida" - said there was no intention to cause religious offence: "But it is very difficult to imagine how one can write about the work of Derrida without engaging with ideas that are controversial or contentious". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14]
Q-News (01.02.98) has published an article which claims that: "Four out of every five New Zealand lamb and mutton cuts in your supermarket fridges and freezers are halal. But you are being prevented from knowing exactly which ones because stores are pandering to Islamophobes, aided by a small yet vocal group of halal-meat experts who insist that their minority interpretation of the shariah should prevail". John Mabb, spokesperson for the New Zealand Meat Marketing Board explained that: "Many years ago, New Zealand aligned its processes with those of Muslim countries to solve the problem of having two separate processes each for halal and non-halal. It didn’t make any sense to use different methods when one was acceptable for the whole world". Tesco, however, via its spokesperson Alan McLoughlin, claimed that in Britain: "We have had talks with representatives of the Muslim community who rejected New Zealand meat because its production involved electrical stunning. We are aware that it is a very sensitive area and we are afraid of treading on religious sensibilities". The Halal Food Authority, which acts under the auspices of the Muslim Parliament, does not accept that pre-stunned meat can be halal. Zaki Badawi condemned such a stance. He said: "If almost the entire Muslim world is happy with this meat then I don’t see why a minority viewpoint should be allowed to prevail. There are a very small number of scholars, most of them from the Indian sub-continent, who don’t accept stunning" (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14]
A halal slaughter house at Hatton, near Warwick, has been fined £10,000 for not removing the innards from its slaughtered chickens. The firm is A S Audhuli Farm Gate Fresh Poultry, of Five Ways Road. The firm’s director, Alia Salah Audhuli told Leamington Spa magistrates court that he mainly supplied the halal meat trade and that many of his potential customers would either buy elsewhere if the meat was not prepared with the innards left inside, or buy live chickens to slaughter at home. Ian Besant, defending, said: "The older generation of the Muslim communities like to see that the chicken has been killed in the traditional method". The company was fined £2,000 for each charge and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4,342 (Leamington Evening Telegraph, 26.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14]
Sainsburys supermarket chain is to begin selling 30 kosher products, all approved by the Beth Din. They have no plans to stock halal meat. A spokesperson for the company explained: "We would not consider stocking halal meat at the present due to the restrictions regarding ‘halal’ slaughter that we place on our suppliers. We have no plans to change this policy in the foreseeable future" (Muslim News, 27.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14]
Mosques & Burials
Four men who were arrested following clashes between rival factions at the Aylesbury Mosque have been bound over to keep the peace (see BMMS for January, March and December 1997). The four defendants, Nasir Khan, Mohammed Khan, Zahid Khan and Wajid Akbal were found not guilty of wounding with intent, unlawful wounding, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and inflicting grievous bodily harm, in a case in which the prosecution offered no evidence. Judge David Morton Jack, at Aylesbury Crown Court, said when binding the men over for the sum of £750: "The least said about the background to this matter, the better. The important thing is that there should be no fresh violence or threat of fresh violence in the future...Let me make it clear - if you are convicted of further trouble arising out of this particular quarrel you will almost certainly lose your £750 as well as being in danger of imprisonment for the fresh offences" (Bucks Herald, 04.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 14/15]
A year’s temporary permission has been granted to the Al Habib Welfare Trust to use a former church in Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton, as a mosque and madrasa (see BMMS for April and November 1997; January 1998). Objections have been raised by some local residents by means of letters and petitions and by local councillors, especially about traffic congestion and road safety matters. In answer to these objections, Councillor Ghulam Maniyar (Labour, Batley East), said: "I think you [Councillor Kath Pinnock and other objectors] are living in cloud-cuckoo land. If this application was for a chapel, not many people would object to that. Mount Pleasant Mosque is the biggest in Batley, with about 600-700 going to prayer every week. There has not been a single accident there and it is on one of the busiest roads in the area. Some 400 children attend the madressah there between 5.30-7.30pm and there are no problems with local residents. The mosque has never caused any problems in the Batley or Dewsbury area" (Batley News, 12.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 15]
The Islamic Mosque Committee (IMC) of Blackpool has applied for planning permission to convert a joinery workshop and warehouse into a mosque. The site is bordered by Central Drive, Grasmere Road and Westmoreland Avenue. No major changes are planned to the exterior of the building although refitting will be required inside. There is already parking space for nine cars. Dr Abdul Ghafoor Baloch, chair of the IMC was confident that the application would meet with success. He said: "I am proud and pleased to say we have had no complaints from neighbours at our existing premises or from users of Revoe Library. I can assure people that we will be a good neighbour and will cause no disturbance at all" (Blackpool Gazette, 21.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 15]
Muslims who claim that they have been using a wooden structure at the rear of St George’s Road, Bolton, as a mosque for about 16 years, have taken Bolton Council to court in their claim for ownership of the land, preparatory to building a more permanent structure there. Dr Alaama Mulana Musa Qafmi, chair of the committee formed to defend the mosque, explained: "This dispute has been going on for a long time. The land should be our land because we hold these rights but the council disagrees. To compromise, we agreed to a surveyor putting a price on the land, and were agreeable to the amount he came up with. He said with the rights we hold we should be able to offer about £5,000 for the land, and £15,000 if we did not hold the rights. But the council say they want £50,000. We offered £5,000 but the council turned us down. We want to solve the problem in any way we can, but it seems the council is not willing to let us have the land to build a mosque at any price" (Bolton Evening News, 14.02.98, Manchester Evening News, 16.02.98). However, the centre has lost the first round of its fight. Although the judge at Bury County Court decided that Bolton Council had the title to the land, he criticised the council for the length of time it had taken them to act, which had then had the effect of "lulling ordinary, decent folk into a false sense of security" over the future of their mosque. Although the Muslim community claim that they had been using the land since Dr Kasmi took over the adjoining newsagents at 183 St George’s Road in the 1970’s, the judge decided that they had failed to show continuous use of the land for over 12 years, whereas Bolton Council produced documents showing ownership since 1923. Judge Richard Holman therefore granted possession of the land to the council by 30 March. The Islamic Centre’s solicitor, Liaqat Malik, said: "We are definitely going to fight it all the way". Dr Alaama Mulana Musa Kasmi said: "All the community are behind us and the Council have no right to close the mosque. Our case is so strong we are going for appeal" (Bolton Evening News, 17.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 15]
Bournemouth’s Muslims are demanding an apology from councillors, whom they claim made "abusive and inflammatory remarks" (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 10.02.98) when a planning committee turned down an application for an extension to the Bournemouth Islamic Centre. Tariq Palmer (see BMMS for January 1998), development worker at the Bournemouth Islamic Centre said in his letter of protest at the conduct of the meeting, which he copied to John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment: "I cannot ever remember hearing such bigoted, narrow-minded, opinionated, prejudiced warped and intolerant views about fellow human beings of a major religious calling". Architect Richard Pierpoint, acting for the centre at the planning committee meeting, said: "What was a little bit surprising was the manner in which it was refused. There was no discussion of planning matters. The chair [Councillor Margaret Hogarth] came straight in and said: ‘I don’t think we need to discuss this. It’s totally unsuitable and we should move to refuse it’. She asked what planning approval the centre was operating under and said it should be investigated. The inference was that they (Muslims) were not very nice people, liable to be aggressive, violent and intimidating. The committee should recognise there’s a true Islamic need in the town" (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 10.02.98). Councillor Hogarth responded by saying that: "I do not need to be reminded by him [Tariq Palmer] or anyone else of the government’s support for a multi-racial society, but that does not mean preferential treatment for minorities...Neither I nor my committee have any intention of being bullied into either a planning permission or an unwarranted apology. I hope responsible members of the Muslim community will realise an apology is due to me and my committee" (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 12.02.98). The Bournemouth Daily Echo (11.02.98) has reprinted Tariq Palmer’s letter in full; printed a long, detailed letter of support for the mosque from the chair of Dorset Racial Equality Network, Frank Holman (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 13.02.98) and an editorial comment which maintains that: "Not to dwell on disputed matters, it still appears the councillors, as a planning authority, could have been more helpful in suggesting an alternative when they could not allow what was being proposed" (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 10.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 15/16]
The Times (17.02.98) has a photo of work being carried out on the dome of Bradford’s new Central Mosque. The caption comments: "The mosque, combining Yorkshire stonework and Islamic architecture, will be the first to be built in Bradford’s city centre". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Pakistani Muslims in Burnley are hoping to build a large new mosque in Oswald Street, just a short distance from a site already earmarked for a Bangladeshi mosque in Burns Street. A businessman, Paul Drew, plans to build 90 houses on the site but is willing to sell part of the land to the mosque committee if they obtain outline planning permission by 1 August (Burnley Express, 17.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
A disused Methodist chapel in Parker Street, Burton-on-Trent, is to be converted into a mosque. Keith Burchell, superintendent of the Burton Methodist Circuit, said: "We have sold the chapel which has been empty for some time to our Muslim friends and the sale was completed at the end of January". A spokesperson for East Staffordshire’s planning department explained that as the building was currently listed as a place of worship, planning permission would only be necessary if substantial alterations were to be made to the building. This will be Burton’s third mosque - the other two are in Uxbridge Street and Princess Street (Burton Mail, 20.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Q-News (01.02.98) reports that the Cheltenham Muslim Association is still divided as to whether or not it should accept a donation from the Al-Birr Foundation UK in order to complete their new mosque (see BMMS for May and June 1997; January 1998). The foundation has offered to build the mosque on the condition that the deeds are handed over to them. Bashir Kamathia, a trustee of the association said: "People have expressed fears over the conditions which apply. If agreement cannot be reached I’m sure an alternative method of reaching our goal will soon be reached". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Following the promise of help by the Chesham Partnership for Muslims who worship at the Bellingdon Road Mosque to find a suitable site and to construct a new, bigger mosque (see BMMS for October 1997 and January 1998), members of the local council and others involved in the Partnership’s mosque project sub-committee made a visit to a mosque in High Wycombe to see its facilities (Q-News, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Plans to turn an industrial unit into a mosque have been rejected by Calderdale Council Development Subcommittee. Residents near the proposed site in Hopwood Lane had complained that there would be traffic congestion problems if planning permission were granted. Councillor Stuart Greenwood (Lib. Dem., Luddenden Foot) said his main concern was the loss of industrial land (Halifax Evening Courier, 18.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
The Hounslow Borough Chronicle (05.02.98) reports that the Hounslow Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre in Wellington Road South is nearing completion and was used for worship during Ramadan (see BMMS for May 1997 and January 1998). A total of £1.93 million has been spent building the mosque and it is estimated to take another half a million to complete, which the mosque committee are confident of raising. Tahir Aslam, the general secretary said: "During the end of Ramadan celebrations we raised a staggering £200,000, which is incredible. Until now people have had to worship in their homes. This is the first time they will have somewhere purpose built to go and they are obviously as keen as we are to see the work completed". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
A dispute has broken out between some residents of Downsell Road and worshippers at the nearby Tawheed Mosque in Leyton High Road (see BMMS for January, November and December 1997). The residents are angry about worshippers parking their cars in the street. The mosque claims it urges members not to park in Downsell Road. Tawheed Mosque secretary Mohammad Sethi said: "We cannot stop people parking there and never encourage it. In fact we tell people not to park there. But all these people do pay road tax. We have received one or two complaints on the matter. People have to park somewhere. We cannot take responsibility for other people’s actions. I think the complaints are racially motivated" (Leytonstone Guardian, 29.01.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
For the third time, the Anjuman-E-Islam mosque, currently based in High Street North, Manor Park is applying for planning permission for a new Islamic centre, which will have youth and community facilities and a burial preparation area (see BMMS for September 1997). The mosque committee is now seeking planning permission in respect of premises at 250-252 High Street North, which is currently a decorators business (City of London Recorder, 20.02.98). In the past two years, the mosque committee has made two unsuccessful applications in respect of open land in Wordsworth Avenue. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Councillor David Harvey of Victoria ward in the borough of Westminster has asked that a plot of land in the council-run Mill Hill cemetery be set aside for Muslim burials. He told the council’s planning and environment committee that the cemetery made a decision in the 1930’s to allow only Christian burials, but that the population of the borough has changed since then (City of London Post, 05.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16]
Lanarkshire’s Muslims could soon have a new place of worship, if approval is given by the Secretary of State for Scotland. North Lanarkshire Council have granted permission for a mosque to be built in Mossend and are selling the site to the Lanarkshire Muslim Society, which currently has a mosque at Carfin Cross, but needs new and larger premises (Motherwell People, 13.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
Planning officers in the Crawley/Horley area are investigating allegations that a house in Northgate is being used as a mosque, without permission. The claim relates to the same property for which the planning committee gave permission for a toilet extension to be built on the side. Planning chief Ted Beresford-Knox explained: "The alleged activity is being investigated by the enforcement officer. We are in discussions with the owner. But the extension is a separate issue to a change in use" (Crawley Observer, 11.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
Following the granting of planning permission to the Zeenat-Ul-Quran Trust to build a mosque and madrasa in Arthur Street, Brierfield (see BMMS for January 1998), the trust now have three years in which to fundraise and to finalise their plans. It has already been decide that the building should not exceed two storeys in height, in order to be in keeping with the surroundings and not to deprive others of light (Nelson Leader, 06.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
A group of Muslims in Peterborough have applied for planning permission to convert a former hotel in Alma Street into an Islamic community centre and mosque. A spokesperson for the council said: "They [the applicants] have stressed it isn’t a mosque in the accepted sense. It will be on a much smaller scale and will be a neighbourhood place of worship. The building is a former hotel so it couldn’t take that many people" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 19.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
Muslims in Reading are asking the council to help them find a suitable site for a new mosque, as at present the town’s 4,000 Muslims only have the very limited space that four converted terrace houses provide (see BMMS for January 1998). This is inadequate all year round, but particular at the times of festivals. Zara Ahmed, of Bulmershe School, writing in the Bracknell News (12.02.98) and the Reading Chronicle (13.02.98) points out that this situation is particularly bad for Muslim women. She writes: "Muslim women cannot pray with the men, an alternative place is needed for them. Women have been restricted to pray from the home. Women have been denied the right to pray as proper Muslims". The Daily Jang (03.03.98), reporting on an Eid and Pakistan Day party at the Pakistan Community Centre in Reading, which was attended by local Labour politicians, says of David Sutton, leader of Reading Council: "Mr Sutton was addressing the question of a new mosque in the city. He said that it was important to the project’s eventual success that the Muslim community approach the Council with one voice and one purpose. Otherwise the council would find it very difficult to help them with their plans for a mosque". The chair of the mosque, presently sited in Alexandra Road, said: "Friday is like a Sunday for Christians. This place is very small and we have people praying in the street. We asked the council for a site of one-and-a-half hectares, with maybe a car park also, and I think that will solve our problems". A possible site is in Whiteknights Road, Mockbeggar and Councillor John Hartley, councillor for that ward, said: "There is resistance to any development on the site. Far more intensive development has been proposed in the past, and the council feels this is a good compromise between the need for community development and the desire of residents to keep as much of their green space as possible" (Reading Evening Post, 03.02.98, Reading Standard, 05.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
Temporary permission has been granted for Muslims to use a house in Abbeyfield Road, Pitsmoor, as a prayer house. The local planning committee has given the permission for a year, on condition that the numbers of people using the building would be limited and the hours of use controlled (Barnsley Star, 14.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
The Soothill Mosque and Madrassa in Soothill recently held their AGM and elected new officers. The new committee’s main task in the coming year will be to fundraise for the building of their new premises on their recently acquired plot of land in Broomsdale Road. Further details may be obtained from: the Masjid and Madrassa Talimuddin, 2/4 West Street, Soothill, Batley, West Yorkshire, WF17 6PQ (Awaaz, 01.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
A Muslim community centre in Cowley Mill Road, Uxbridge, is falling into disrepair and so its owners are applying for planning permission to replace it with a new building, at a cost of around £100,000. The treasurer of the Mosque association, Mohammed Hoque, said: "The building is falling into disrepair and is not strong enough. The new building will be more suitable for our needs" (Harefield Gazette, 11.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
The Watford Observer (06.02.98) has an editorial article which is highly critical of the local council for giving permission for a mosque to be built in Berry Avenue, north Watford (see BMMS for December 1997). The writer claims that: "Two years ago, a proposal to build a mosque in north Watford stunned the community. Councillors said they would embark on a lengthy consultation exercise to appease worried residents. In reality they were saying: ‘We will listen to your views, then ignore them’". The main objections to the proposed mosque mentioned in the article, besides the allegation that the council ignored the results of the public consultation, is that traffic congestion will result and that the building will be too imposing. [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 17]
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in West Green are feeling very frustrated that, nine years after setting up their association in the town and with their numbers having increased from 30 to 80 in recent years, they still have not found a site for a mosque (see BMMS for January 1998). The president of the local association, Ahsan Ahmedi, said: "I know a lot of churches which struggle to fill their services with 20 people. We have 80 and can’t find anywhere - it’s frustrating. There just doesn’t seem to be anything available - I don’t know where to look any more. It is very important for us to find a site so the community can keep in touch" (Crawley Observer, 18.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 18]
At a meeting of West Norfolk Council’s environmental services committee held at the beginning of February, it was decided that a surcharge of 75 per cent for burials taking place at weekends for religious reasons would be discontinued. Last September, some councillors raised the issue that the extra charges discriminated against groups such as Muslims, whose religion demands burial within 24 hours (see September 1997). Previously, Muslims were having to pay an extra £400 if they wanted to have a burial at the weekend (Lynn News, 06.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 18]
Muslims in Wolverhampton have won their appeal over the use of a house in Penn Fields for worship, although permission to expand into the house next door was refused (see BMMS for January, March and July 1997). The retrospective planning application was supported by several local councillors and by a petition from 500 residents. The planning inspector judging the appeal decided that there were no traffic hazards and that there was adequate curbside parking for residents. He also rejected arguments about noise disturbance (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 24.02.98, Stafford Express & Star, 25.02.98). [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 18]
Nazrul Islam, a voluntary community worker with Bangladeshis in Worcester who is studying for a degree in social work and intends to stand for the All Saints ward in the May council elections, has given his support to the idea of a new mosque for the city (see BMMS for January 1998). He said: "The mosque is an essential part of our lives, and it was packed at Eid. The argument about parking should not apply here, especially when people attending nearby churches park on the pavements every Sunday morning" (Worcester Evening News, 03.02.98). Mr Islam made his statement before planning permission to allow a new mosque to be built at the Arboretum was refused. His argument was echoed by an editorial piece in the Worcester Evening News (09.02.98). The writer maintains that: "Worshippers at the Al-Madina centre have twice been refused planning permission for a new mosque, based on this argument [over parking spaces]. What about the city’s churches, most of which don’t have any car parking spaces?...there are degrees of flexibility in planning law, and its interpretation. It should be possible to bend the rules a little, especially when 500 people have to cram into one room in Middle Street to worship". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 18]
Raja Amir Dad, in his regular column in the Bucks Free Press (06.02.98) has made a plea to the council regarding burial services for Muslims. He writes: "I would like to highlight the issue of the burial of Muslims, to Wycombe District Council officials. The funeral and burial of a Muslim is carried out the same day that death occurs, to avoid distress to the bereaved family. To help the bereaved family, the burial service in the district should be extended over the weekends and holidays, similar to other essential services like police, fire brigade, hospital, sport and leisure". [BMMS February 1998 Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 18]