British Muslims Monthly Survey for March 1998 Vol. VI,  No. 3

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Glasgow death & aftermath 

Coventry Muslim school 

Birmingham Labour problems 

Rap interview 

 

 

Reports

 

Community

Shaykh Nazim visits 

MCB talks 

Rushdie review 

Oxford update 3

Murder suspect spotted 

Cartoon protests 

MBE received 

Mecca sign update 

Llanelli centre 

Yusuf Islam records again 

Banbury clash 

Chichester centre plans 

Bristol lottery grant 

Hospice gift 

Young convert 

Imam cleared 

Ismaili meeting 

Batley project nears completion 

Children flee fire 

Muslims in prison help 

Midlands imam appointed adviser

Management election planned 

House too small 

Islamic Relief plans 

Norman Calder death 

Muslims in the media complaint 

Slough & Southall: TV review 

Muslim Association of Britain 

Shaykh Nazim update 

Child’s Qur’an recitation

Birmingham prostitute campaign 

Bookshop opens 

Poisoner case 

Kensington hall 

Madonna henna craze 

Conference gay dispute 

Hajj news 

Football controversy 

Muslim millionaires 

Union recognition? 

Nuneaton centre expansion 

Finland seminar 

Islamic Council of Europe launch 

Eid in prison 

Sufi play 

 

 

Education

Ismaili Award 

Teaching centre planning

Urdu classes in Barking

Glasgow Muslim school 

Weekend school 

Islamic Experience exhibition 

Centre visit controversies 

Islam Awareness Week 

Education centre opens 

Gloucester school expansion 

Tower Hamlets report 

New London college 

 

 

Politics

Iraq conflict 

Security agents flee 

Eid tea 

Islamic militants refusal 

Walthamstow councillor dies 

Palestinian exhibition 

Chechen leader visit 

 

 

Racism

Religious discrimination legislation 

Bristol taxi dispute 

 

 

Women

Hijab case compensation 

Somali woman JP 

 

 

Youth

Gloucester youth work 

Moroccans and crime prevention 

 

 

Interfaith

Britain reformed? 

Jewish school visits mosque 

Education service 

ICRC in Blackburn 

Muslims Universe article 

Qur’an reading bishop update 

Derby Pride service 

Essex anniversary 

 

 

Halal

College halal meals 

Hospital halal 

Eid slaughter 

 

 

Health

Dewsbury chaplains 

Wolverhampton prayer room 

Female patient harassed 

Muslim sex education 

 

 

Employment

Muslims in army 

Factory prayer problem 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Blackheath, Long Lane 

Blackpool, Central Drive 

Bury, Parker St 

London, Whitechapel Rd 

Luton burials 

Manor Park, Romford Rd 

Peterborough, Alma Rd 

Plymouth 

Rochdale, Ramsey St 

Southall, Abu Bakr Mosque Trust 

Southampton, Lower Alfred St 

Walthamstow burials 

 

 

 

Features

Glasgow death & aftermath

Newspapers in Scotland (Glasgow Evening Times, 27.02.98, 03.03.98, 09.03.98, Scotsman, 28.02.98, 05.03.98, 06.03.98, 07.03.98, 09.03.98, 13.03.98, Glasgow Daily Record, 06.03.98, 09.03.98, Glasgow Herald, 07.03.98, 09.03.98) and the Asian Times (17.03.98) have reported on the murder of 15 year-old Imran Khan, a student at Shawlands Academy in Glasgow who was killed by four youths in a racist attack and the demonstrations which have followed his death. Imran’s funeral service was held at the Glasgow Central Mosque on 28 February and was attended by over 2,000 mourners, including hundreds of school children and many teachers, amongst them the head of Shawlands Academy, Jean Murray (Glasgow Evening Times, 03.03.98).

A rally was held in George Square, Glasgow, protesting at the murder and what are believed to be hundreds of racially motivated attacks in the city over the past year. Councillor Mohammed Shoaib, the convenor of the Imran Khan steering committee, said that young people blamed the older community leaders, such as his fellow Labour councillor, Bashir Maan, for ignoring the increasing racism in the city. He said: "They feel racism has been increasing and the elders have not taken notice" (Scotsman, 09.03.98). Bashir Maan did not attend the rally and had urged others to boycott it, as he felt it could be inflammatory. He said later: "The numbers [estimated at about 300 by the Scotsman] have shown the majority are not going to support such a rally because it is not going to do any good. Dialogue, education and patience is the best way forward" (Scotsman, 09.03.98).

The article in the Asian Times (17.03.98) gave more space to the views of the demonstration’s young organisers, particularly Tariq Mahmood of the Islamic Unity Project and Aamer Anwar of the Anti-Nazi League. The latter said: "Our so-called ‘leaders’ were so worried about violence at the rally that they didn’t understand what it was all about. It was about bringing Black and White people together in peace, to deal with the problems of racism that exist. And they [the Asian elders] are just not equipped to deal with that".

The Daily Jang (26.03.98) reports that the local Pakistani community in Shawlands, Glasgow and the family of Imran Khan are demanding an enquiry into the treatment Imran received in the Victoria Infirmary. Reports state that after the stabbing, a passer-by rushed Imran to hospital but he died a week later on 21 February. It was reported that during his stay in hospital, he was sitting up, talking and appeared to be getting better. A death certificate issued at the hospital shows the first cause of death as being septicaemia and chest drain and the second reason as "stab wound to the chest". The MP for Glasgow Govan, Mohammed Sarwar, has called for an inquiry into Imran Khan’s care at the hospital and has written to the Scottish Health Minister, Sam Galbraith, about the matter (Daily Jang, 26.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 1]

 

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Coventry Muslim school

Coventry City Council’s education department claimed that they had no knowledge of a private Muslim primary school in Paradise Street, Foleshill until the school asked for retrospective planning permission (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 06.03.98). Planning officers recommended to the planning committee that they grant permission, but councillors decided to postpone making a decision until they had seen the school. The Paradise Muslim School has 25 pupils aged between four and 11 and three teachers and is housed in a former shop and terrace house. It has been operating for just over a year and has provisional registration with the Department for Education. The schools’ inspectors have asked for certain improvements to be made in order to give it full recognition. Although some councillors expressed concern about the suitability of the premises, Councillor Shabbir Ahmed (Labour, St Michael’s) argued that it was essential that the school be enabled to continue: "It is of paramount importance that we recognise the needs of differing cultural and religious aspects of ethnic minorities" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 17.03.98). Ibrahim Hewitt, development officer of the Association of Muslim Schools, in an open letter, argues for the school to be supported by Coventry, saying: "Councillor Dave Edwards [an opponent of the school] admits that the local education authority has ‘no jurisdiction’ over the school (so why the rush to close it down?) and then says: ‘I would be very surprised if they (the school) can teach Association of Muslim Schools, in an open letter, argues for the school to be supported by Coventry, saying: "Councillor Dave Edwards [an opponent of the school] admits that the local education authority has ‘no jurisdiction’ over the school (so why the rush to close it down?) and then says: ‘I would be very surprised if they (the school) can teach the full national curriculum...with just three teachers’. The school has 25 pupils and even if two of those teachers are part-time, that means a staff-pupil ratio of 1:12.5. How many state schools can match that? The latest communication from HM Inspectors expressed their satisfaction at the steps taken following HMI advice" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 17.03.98).

Following a site visit on 18 March, councillors ordered an enforcement notice to close the school at the end of the current school year. This was contrary to the advice they had received from the planning officers, who had urged them to look solely at planning concerns, not educational ones and to grant consent, since the disturbance to nearby properties was minimal (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 18.03.98). School trustee and founder member Sirrag Kara said they were considering appealing, claiming that councillors had gone beyond their remit: "The planning committee is supposed to make a decision on planning issues only, but councillors were considering educational standards, and even whether they’d send their own children here" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 19.03.98).

The Rugby Evening Telegraph (20.03.98) has a comment article supporting the school. The journalist writes: "Councillors were given legal advice that they could only discuss planning matters. They were not sitting as an education committee and were not able to consider anything relating to the national curriculum. The best the committee could come up with was a complaint that the tiny play area at the school wasn’t good enough for proper exercise. Why don’t they just admit that they don’t want private schools in Coventry - whether they are for white, black or yellow skins? Muslim parents must be getting the message loud and clear. Equal opportunities apply only if you play by the council’s own rules". Meanwhile, another Muslim school has been discovered by the city council to have been operating without planning permission, although registered with the Department for Education as a school. It is at a former dentist’s premises at 643 Foleshill Road and has about 40 children aged from five to 16. It is not known if this school is full or part-time. It was registered with the Department for Education in October 1993. The article concludes with the information that: "Operating without planning permission only becomes illegal at the point where an enforcement notice is served and its conditions are not met" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 25.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 1/2]

 

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Birmingham Labour problems

Councillor Raghib Ahsan is taking the Labour Party to a tribunal alleging direct and indirect racism. In December 1997, he was rejected as candidate to contest the forthcoming May local elections for the Sparkhill ward in Birmingham by a committee especially appointed by the Labour Party’s National Executive (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1997). Councillor Ahsan said: "I was an extremely good councillor and did a lot for the Sparkhill ward. The selection panel was made up of three white men who were not even from anywhere near Birmingham. And they have achieved what they wanted all along - they have put a white man in my place. It was not done on merit and they are guilty of both direct and indirect racial discrimination...It is terrible what Labour are doing. They have deliberately tried to decrease the number of Pakistani Muslim councillors in Birmingham. It is just pure Islamophobia".

Out of Birmingham’s 83 Labour councillors, 63 have signed a petition supporting Councillor Ahsan, together with 3,000 Sparkhill ward residents (Asian Times, 10.03.98). Roy Hattersley, former MP for Sparkbrook before it was suspended by the Labour Party and then merged with the neighbouring constituency to form Sparkhill, has written in the Guardian (19.03.98), under the title "Ousting a Muslim" in full support of Raghib Ahsan. He traces the history of the suspension of Sparkbrook Labour Party, explaining that it was one of several which was taken over by the national party and was not reinstated, even though the allegations of fraud around housing improvement grants; irregularities concerning the electoral register; and irregularities concerning Labour Party membership were never proven. He goes on to explain the racist element: "One ward, Fox Hollies, was however allowed to resume business. Fox Hollies is generally a white housing estate. In the three wards which remain suspended, the party membership is largely Muslim and Sikh. Nobody suggests that they are victims of calculated racism. The prejudice is unconscious. The Labour leadership claims to believe in a multi-cultural society. Unfortunately, it is determined to create a one-culture party". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 2]

 

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Rap interview

Aki Nawaz, lead singer with Fun-da-Mental, is the subject of an in-depth interview in Q-News (01.04.98). He explains that he was born in Pakistan and brought to England aged three. He grew up in Bradford and a turning point in his life was when he went to New York and came into contact with the Nation of Islam. He said: "I noticed a great kind of noor [sic] coming out of African Americans who had converted to Islam. The amount of information they had from studying their religion (from their perception and their context) really made me think about something I had just put on hold all these years. We were fighting the politics of racism but had not really got involved in the religious aspect of things. It gave me a little kick to see the Nation of Islam brothers and whatever anyone may think of them I think they have a lot of very good things to talk about. Another influence was Malcolm X who came from being a pimp and a drug dealer to a convert to Islam. Reading into him I found a lot of things that connect with people of colour in their everyday lives".

However, he rejects the description of Fun-da-Mental as "a militant Islamic rap group": "Fun-da-Mental is not essentially an Islamic rap group because not everyone in the group is Muslim. And I don’t think it’s militant because there is nothing militant about Islam - it’s just the truth and people are using words like radical, militant, fanatical, fundamentalist all in the wrong context...we never had a problem with our religious differences because we could agree to disagree and respect each other. The name Fun-da-Mental itself came as in the late 80’s the word was being increasingly used against Muslims. It’s a bit like rap groups like Public Enemy who acknowledged certain terms they were being assaulted with and they tried to reclaim them". Aki Nawaz has some interesting answers to questions such as "But where do you draw the line between what is art and what is not?" and "What purpose do you think cultural forms of expression like art and music can serve for Muslims?" [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 2/3]

 

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Reports

Community

Shaykh Nazim visits

As part of his lecture tour (see BMMS for February 1998), Shaykh Nazim, leader of the Naqshabandi Sufi Order, visited the Orpington Methodist Church. The organiser was 17-year-old Jennifer Claughton, a student at Newstead Wood School. The Shaykh was accompanied by a party of over 40 Muslims, including a Malaysian prince. Ms Claughton said: "Muslims are always very friendly when you visit them and I was worried that Christian churches are not always as hospitable. But they were overwhelmed that we made them so welcome". According to the Bromley & Beckenham Times (26.02.98), Shaykh Nazim surprised his audience by expressing his belief in the second coming of Christ. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3]

 

 

MCB talks

The Muslim Council of Britain held its official inaugural meeting on 1 March (see BMMS for November and December 1997). According to the Bradford Telegraph & Argus (04.03.98) the aims of the MCB include: working for a more enlightened appreciation of Muslims and Islam in the wider society; establishing a position for Muslims in British society which is fair; promoting co-operation and unity amongst Muslims; working to eradicate discrimination. Amongst those elected to key posts were Iqbal Sacranie as secretary general, Basil Mustafa as deputy secretary general; Abdul Bari as assistant secretary general and Yusuf Islam as treasurer. Amongst those addressing the assembly was Professor Tariq Modood of the Policy Studies Institute, speaking on the theme of the British Muslim community and social trends and stressing the needs of young Muslims (Daily Jang, 06.03.98). The MCB can be contacted at PO Box 52, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 0XW, or on 0181 903 9024. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3]

 

 

Rushdie review

According to an article in the (Asian Times, 10.03.98), it appears that the Iranian government has assured Mary Robinson, the present United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, that it will not attempt to carry out the death sentence on Salman Rushdie (see BMMS for January and February 1998). However, Mohammed Javed Zarif, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister who gave this assurance, also said that it was impossible to revoke the fatwa pronounced against Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Dr Robinson made her announcement at a press conference at the end of a two-day seminar on human rights which she was attending in Iran. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, maintained that the situation has not changed with this pronouncement. He said: "We supported the fatwa when it was first imposed and our position remains the same today. Rushdie has never repented for his actions" (Asian Times, 10.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3]

 

 

Oxford update

Although both sides in the dispute between Merton College and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies claim they are hoping for an amicable settlement to their argument, the date for a High Court hearing is fast approaching (see BMMS for February, March, April, May and June 1997; January and February 1998). A spokesperson for Merton, who are unhappy about the scale of the proposed Islamic Studies Centre building and its design, said: "The negotiations are continuing between Merton and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. But the matter has been set down for a High Court hearing date prior to the summer vacation" (Oxford Mail, 07.03.98, Oxford Times, 13.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3]

 

 

Murder suspect spotted

The man Leicestershire Police want to question in connection with a murder in Leicester, Hamsa Latif, also known as Osron Samuel, has been seen in Milton Keynes. The police had put up wanted posters in mosques and contacted Islamic organisations across Britain asking for information on the suspect’s whereabouts (see BMMS for January 1998). Detective Inspector Bob White said: "The bid to trace him has been stepped up with the launch of the posters...We have had a number of unconfirmed sightings of him in Milton Keynes" (Milton Keynes on Sunday, 08.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3]

 

 

Cartoon protests

The animated version of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (see BMMS for December 1997 and January 1998) was shown in an amended form on 10 March on Channel 4, following protests by some Islamic groups (Asian Age, 10.03.98, Daily Jang, 11.03.98, Asian Age, 12.03.98, Church Times, TES, 13.03.98). Channel 4 accepted, after consultation with Muslim scholars, that the visual depiction of the Prophet himself was not permissible in Islam and could cause offence, but maintained that the depiction of the Companions of the Prophet was a more ambiguous question. A spokesperson for the broadcasters said: "We accept that it is not permissible to show the Prophet, his wives or the four Khalifs but there is no clear line over whether this includes his Companions.

We are not seeking controversy but we believe that the Muslim religion is too important to be left out of an educational series such as this". The cartoon is part of a series on world faiths aimed at schoolchildren aged from seven to 11. On the advice of Dr Mashuq Ally, formerly of the University of Wales at Lampeter, who has been the consultant from the beginning, the names of Hazrat Bilal and Hazrat Ibn Thabit were dropped from the script and other minor changes were made (Observer, 08.03.98). However, some but not all the changes to the film demanded by the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs (UKACIA) were made. The UKACIA has not given up its fight to have substantial changes made, or the film to be withdrawn completely. It is waiting for a fatwa from Al-Azhar supporting its view that not only must the Prophet and his family not be depicted, neither must any of the companions. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3/4]

 

 

MBE received

The Sutton Guardian Extra (10.03.98) and the Sutton Borough Independent (11.03.98) both carry photos of a smiling Lal Hussain, MBE who received his honour at Buckingham Palace on 3 March, in recognition of his many years of voluntary work in the Wallington and Sutton area (see BMMS for January 1998). Mr Hussain was the founder member of the Sutton Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association and helped to set up the Elderly Asian Day Centre. A JP, he has also held positions on the police consultative group and the crime prevention panel. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 4]

 

 

Mecca sign update

A vicar in Luton has condemned much of the discussion around the removal of the Mecca sign from the local bingo hall as racist and intolerant (see BMMS for December 1997, January and February 1998). In the St Christopher’s parish magazine, the Rev Barry Etherington wrote: "Sadly, the controversy has brought out some unsympathetic and racist views judging by some of the letters in the local press. I wonder how happy some serious-minded Christians would be if such a place were called Jerusalem or Calvary? But then, we Christians can sometimes be a tolerant, even apathetic, lot". Barry Etherington explained Muslims’ opposition to gambling with a quote from a translation of the Qur’an: "Games of chance are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Satan seeks to cast enmity among you by these and to turn you from remembrance of God and from prayer" (Luton Leader, 12.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 4]

 

 

Llanelli centre

At the March meeting of the Carmarthenshire County Council’s development sub-committee it was confirmed that there was no objection to the change of use proposals in respect of the premises which the Muslim community in Llanelli want to turn into a Muslim community centre (see BMMS for February 1998). The applicant, A R Zaki, explained that there were unlikely to be traffic congestion problems, as the centre would be used primarily for instructing children in religion. He said: "The children generally will be collected by a teacher or instructor who will occupy the first floor of the premises and as such, traffic to and from the premises should not cause any problem" (Barry Port Star, 12.03.98).[BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 4]

 

 

Yusuf Islam records again

A great many newspapers both local and national (Nuneaton Evening Telegraph, Walsall Express & Star, Worcester Evening News, Birmingham Evening Mail, Liverpool Echo, Bristol Evening Post, Aberdeen Press & Journal, Lancashire Evening Post, South Wales Evening Post, Wigan Evening Post, 16.03.98, Daily Jang, Western Morning News, Eastern Daily Press, Birmingham Post, 17.03.98) have reported on the new album just released by Yusuf Islam, formerly the singer Cat Stevens, which has been inspired by the struggle of the Bosnian people. After embracing Islam in 1977 the singer decided to leave pop music completely. He has now re-evaluated his position. He explained: "I am not a professional musician any more. Music has its place and I do it for love of a noble cause. It is the difference between the music business and the sex, drugs rock and roll associated with it and culture". He explained that he had the idea for an album about Bosnia, with the proceeds to support the rebuilding of that country, when he met the Bosnian foreign minister, Dr Irfan Ljubijankic, in 1995. Dr Ljubijankic, who was killed shortly afterwards, gave Yusuf Islam a cassette with a song he had written on it. He said: "I felt I must do something with it and I wanted to raise awareness throughout the world of what happened in Bosnia and also enable the beautiful music of the country to reach new audiences". Yusuf Islam told Muslim News (28.03.98) that the album is "the result of co-operative effort, constructed thoughtfully with the intention of arming Muslims with a desperately needed cultural weapon in order to protect and strengthen ourselves. We will watch its effect on the public with interest, praying that it will also open many hearts to the light of Islam and the harmony which it can bring to society and human civilisation". The album is entitled "I have no cannons that roar" and was launched on 16 March at the House of Commons by Yusuf Islam, Martin Bell MP, and a representative of the president of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Birmingham Post, 17.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 4]

 

 

Banbury clash

Police in Banbury have denied that a fight involving two gangs of young men was evidence of Sikh/Muslim communal tension in the town, although the prosecutor at Banbury magistrates court, Orlando Gibbons, believed this to be the case. The prosecutor was giving evidence against Ashad Mahmood, who admitted possession of a hockey stick at the fracas at a Sikh wedding. He said: "There had been a previous incident between the Sikh and Muslim communities. During the party on December 13 police were called to deal with a disturbance between the two communities". Inspector Robin Gardner of the Banbury police did not subscribe to this view, however. He said: "The argument was not Sikhs against Muslims. It was just a dispute among groups of youngsters. We are happy in our minds there is no Sikh/Muslim divide". It appears fighting started over parking spaces. Arshad Mahmood was given a 12-month conditional discharge for possessing an offensive weapon and ordered to pay £50 costs. He was also fined £50 for failing to appear in court on 19 January, to which he pleaded guilty (Banbury Guardian, 26.02.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 4/5]

 

 

Chichester centre plans

Muslims from Chichester and Bognor Regis are applying for planning permission to convert a former car showroom into an Islamic community centre. A spokesperson for the Muslim families who would use the proposed centre, Rup Miah, said: "The plans for the Longford Road building are completely different from a mosque. A mosque is specifically for religion and just for praying" (Chichester Observer, 12.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Bristol lottery grant

The South Bristol Muslim Women and Girls Association, which helps fight the isolation faced by Muslim women living in the Bristol area, has been awarded a £1,500 grant by the National Lottery under the Small Grants Scheme. The Small Grants Scheme is only available to voluntary organisations with incomes of less than £10,000 (Bristol Evening Post, 26.02.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Hospice gift

The Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking has given £300 to the Woking Hospice. A cheque for this amount was handed to Rod Lofting, chair of the hospice’s trustees, at a ceremony recently (Woking News & Mail, 26.02.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Young convert

The Rochdale Observer (28.02.98) has an article about a ten-year-old convert to Islam, formerly called Joss Hughes and now Mohammed Sharukh Khan. He is a regular attendee at the Golden Mosque in Sheriff Street, where he goes with his friends and their fathers. He fasted during Ramadan this year and is learning to say his prayers in Arabic. His mother, Marysia Hughes, a nursery school teacher, says he was brought up in a "non-religious background". She said: "He is already showing a new sensitivity to things. For example, when he was fasting he saw an Oxfam advert on TV and said he knew what it felt like to be hungry. I am pleased he said that. The conversion ceremony was short but moving. People came as witnesses and he had to repeat prayers and say that he wanted to respect Allah. It is a big thing for a small person to do, but I want him to find his way". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Imam cleared

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court recently returned a not guilty verdict against Syed Khaled Miah after the prosecution offered no evidence. Mr Miah, an imam at the Sunderland Mosque, had been accused of rape nine months ago, but the woman who made the allegation had been unable to pick him out at an identity parade and the police and prosecution could find no evidence to link him to the case. Robin Patton, defending Mr Miah, said: "He has cooperated in every way with the police. It is right to say there is no link at all between him and the attack". Mr Miah said: "I’m very glad the truth has come out. I’m really, really happy and very relieved the truth has come out" (Darlington Northern Echo, 03.03.98). He told the Asian Times (31.03.98) of his relief at being cleared of rape charges. He said: "It’s been a terrible thing hanging over me all the time - I haven’t slept properly at all. I was very surprised when the police stopped me because I never did anything. I don’t know why they arrested me or why the woman made the complaint. I’m very glad the truth has come out. I’m really, really happy and very relieved. I prayed to God for the truth to be told and I believe in justice". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

Ismaili meeting

The National Council of His Highness the Aga Khan, which represents Ismaili Muslims, met the Mayor of Harrow Keith Toms, the Mayor of Brent Mark Cummins and Brent North MP Barry Gardner in Stanmore at the beginning of March. Harrow and Brent have one of the largest Ismaili populations in Britain (Pinner Times, Harrow & Stanmore Times, 05.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Batley project nears completion

The redevelopment of the Hyrstlands Community Enterprise Centre, to be renamed the Al-Hikmah Centre has now reached its final phase. The project is funded by the Indian Muslim Welfare Society, Batley City Challenge and the European Regional Development Fund. (Yorkshire Post, 05.03.98). The centre was recently visited by the Employment Minister, Alan Howarth. In particular, he had come to see the New Start project, a skills training project aimed at local people, particularly those from ethnic minorities. Mr Howarth said after his visit: "People from ethnic minority communities face substantially higher unemployment rates than their white counterparts. This is completely unacceptable. The Government intends to build an inclusive and modern Britain and that means recognising and releasing the talents of all sections of society. I was impressed by the work of the Batley centre to improve the employability of local people who are facing difficult barriers to work" (Awaaz, 01.04.98). It is hoped the centre will be opened in May. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Children flee fire

A hundred people, including 60 children at their classes at a neighbouring mosque, had to be evacuated when a plastics factory caught fire. In the evening of 5 March, Whiteburner Products Ltd in Lewisham Road, Smethwick caught fire and the fire spread to the roof of the neighbouring mosque. A West Midlands Fire Brigade spokesperson said they were treating the case as arson (Kidderminster Express & Star, 06.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5]

 

 

Muslims in prison help

Asian Age (07.03.98) has an article on a project based on collaboration between the IQRA Trust and the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences at the University of Central England which is training imams who work with Muslims in prison. The recent initial training day was organised by Dr David Wilson, who is a former prison governor and course director of the master’s degree in Criminal Justice, Policy and Practice at UCE. The day attracted over 50 imams and was attended by Dr Yamani, ex-Secretary of State of Saudi Arabia, who flew to Birmingham especially for the launch of the programme. Together with Douglas Sharp, Dr Wilson is the author of Visiting Prisons: A Handbook for Imams, which has also been translated into Arabic. Dr Wilson told Asian Age: "We hope to carry on this venture with British IQRA Trust into the future. It is an opportunity to combine the work of the imams with the work on our postgraduate degree course at the university. The visiting imams do a wonderful job of boosting the morale of Muslim inmates and as a former prison governor I am aware of how important that really is. It is also important for the students to know this as well". Dr Wilson also has an article in the Birmingham Post (14.03.98) in which he explains that last year, on behalf of the Council of Europe, he visited Tirana to advise the Albanian authorities about the reform of their prison service. He compares his experiences in Eastern Europe with reflections on the situation regarding Islamophobia in Britain. He states that: "Research commissioned by the IQRA Trust in London, and conducted by MORI in 1991 showed that 60 per cent of our population did not know any Muslim people, and a mere four per cent said they had neighbours who were Muslim...Bringing all of this full-circle I do find it interesting to note that Muslims now make up six per cent of our own prison population - some 4,000 people, or the equivalent of ten prisons - and that, as a consequence, the IQRA Trust is considering setting up a welfare group for Muslim prisoners, under the guidance of Salah el-Hassan". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 5/6]

 

 

Midlands imam appointed adviser

Maulana Bostan Qadri, secretary general of the Confederation of Sunni Mosques and president of the All Party Kashmir Coordinating Committee, has been appointed official adviser to the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Recently Maulana Bostan Qadri was honoured at an event hosted by the Pakistan Business Forum at the Al Hamra Centre in Birmingham. As secretary general of the Confederation of Sunni Mosques the Maulana has tried to bring supplementary schools together to provide better services for the community. He has also been an advocate of introducing Muslim festival holidays for local and national government employees and of agreements between different groups of Muslims to celebrate Eid on the same day (Daily Jang, 09.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6]

 

 

Management election planned

The Afro-Caribbean Asian Forum has planned elections for the Meadows Muslim Action Group for 22 March at the Muslim centre in Collygate Road. Elections are by a show of hands (Nottingham Evening Post, 09.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6]

 

 

House too small

Sonawar Ali, of Starbank Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, has failed in his High Court action aimed at forcing Birmingham City Council to pay £24,000 for an extension to his house so that he can pray downstairs facing Mecca. Mr Ali is a frail, elderly man who is blind in one eye and needs a walking frame to move around. He lives with his son Mohammed, his wife and their five children in a house where the living room is too small, he maintains, to put down a prayer mat. He claims that the city council is acting irrationally in refusing him a grant to pay for a downstairs bedroom and toilet extension. The council claimed it had offered Mr Ali a stairlift and modifications to his bedroom but these had been rejected. Mr Ali said: "It is increasingly difficult for me to carry out my prayers. I need the extension so I can live out my final years in privacy, dignity and in keeping with my religious values. I intend to take this matter further". A spokesperson for Birmingham social services said: "We accept there has been some delay in this case because what we originally offered to provide was challenged. Throughout, however, we have tried to reach a compromise with the family" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 13.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6]

 

 

Islamic Relief plans

The Leicester branch of Islamic Relief is appealing for money to help the victims of flooding in the Turbat region of south west Pakistan. Salim Ingar, the charity’s East Midlands fund-raiser, said: "At the moment we’re looking at money for tents, blankets and food items. The actual cost of the emergency relief will be £30,000 and we have allocated £10,000 from our Emergency Action Plan". In February, the charity launched an appeal to help the flood victims in Afghanistan and raised about £4,700 locally. Mr Ingar added: "Our Pakistan field officer says the devastation caused by the floods is even worse than that in Afghanistan". For further details, please contact Salim Ingar at Islamic Relief, 56 Chatsworth Street, Leicester, LE2 0FP (Leicester Mercury, 14.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6]

 

 

Norman Calder death

The Guardian (18.03.98) has published an obituary to Norman Calder, a Muslim scholar who died of cancer on 13 February aged 47. Dr Calder’s most recent academic post was at the University of Manchester, where he taught Arabic language and literature, where he modernised the teaching of Arabic and persuaded colleagues to reform the whole Middle Eastern Studies teaching programme. His speciality was Islamic jurisprudence, which he had studied in Iran and Saudi Arabia. His doctorate was entitled: "The structure of authority in Imami Shi’i jurisprudence" and one of his most famous works was "Studies in Early Islamic Jurisprudence". He also pioneered a sophisticated literary approach to the reading of the Qur’an, which was controversial. He had time to prepare for his death and planned his own funeral service, which was attended by Jews, Christians, Muslims and those of no religious faith. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6]

 

 

Muslims in the media complaint

The Birmingham based Pakistani and Kashmiri Listeners Forum have sent a documented protest to the BBC regarding what they see as a "sustained and concerted drive to exclude Muslims from the media". They claim that there are no Pakistani background senior journalists or programme producers within the BBC Asian Network, resulting in what they regard as domination by Asians of Indian origin. They also say that the BBC Punjabi language programmes, broadcast three times a week, play only Punjabi music from India, ignoring Punjabi music from Pakistan, which is where the majority of Punjabis in Britain have their origins. The article in the Daily Jang (20.03.98) ends: "In his response to the letter the BBC Secretary General Christopher Graham maintained that the corporation was an equal opportunities employer and sought to recruit staff with relevant qualifications and experience, irrespective of ethnic or national background. He claimed that the BBC Asian Unit has made considerable efforts to ensure that important Pakistani issues are included in their programmes". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 6/7]

 

 

Slough & Southall: TV review

A television documentary showing an attempt to bring peace between warring groups of Muslim and Sikh youths in Slough and Southall (see BMMS for February, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and December 1997) has attracted considerable press attention (Chester Chronicle, Deeside Chronicle, 27.03.98, Independent, 28.03.98, Independent on Sunday, 29.03.98, Glasgow Herald, Financial Times, 30.03.98). The peacemaker was Dudley Weeks, who many papers depict next to a sign post pointing to the Ramgarhia Sikh Gurdwara and the Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre. He has worked in conflict resolution in South Africa, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and in his native Texas. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and has been awarded the United Nations Peace Award. He explained: "My goal became being a peace-builder, developing processes that proved effective in any situation" (Chester Chronicle, Deeside Chronicle, 27.03.98). Over a six-week period, Mr Weeks achieved considerable success in getting the two sides to talk to each other and started a conflict resolution course for young people in Slough. [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

 

 

Muslim Association of Britain

Another Muslim umbrella organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) has recently been launched in London (see BMMS for February 1998). The body is formed of members from various professional and academic backgrounds and is largely aimed at the Arabic-speaking Muslim community. Dr Husayn al-Katib, chair of the Shura Council of the MAB, explained that "we mainly come from Arabic communities and therefore Arabic will be MAB’s first language and English the second language". Azam Tamimi, one of the founder members of the MAB, said the organisation "is not going to be a mere addition but a contribution by virtue of the fact that the founders are a brand of people who are the cream of society and come from diverse backgrounds and are highly qualified in respective fields" (Muslim News, 28.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

 

 

Shaykh Nazim update

Q-News (01.04.98), following their interview with Shaykh Nazim on the subject of the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed (see BMMS for February 1998) and the correction on certain matters of fact from Dr Amina Coxon, private physician to Dodi Fayed, now publishes a reply to Dr Coxon. The reply is from Zahra Thyra Quensel, secretary to Shaykh Nazim, and further elaborates the Shaykh’s view. For instance, she writes: "It is not important whether Diana or Dodi had been drinking alcohol on the night they died. It is a general rule and it affords overall protection against accidents - just like the giving of a daily sadaqa with that intention does". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

 

 

Child’s Qur’an recitation

Muhammad Hussein Tabataba’i, the six year-old who has not only memorised the whole of the Qur’an but can converse on any subject using only Qur’anic verses and who is currently touring Britain (see BMMS for February 1998), has been awarded a doctorate by the Hijaz College in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Q-News (01.04.98) reports that: "Hijaz College, pointed out Mawlana Siddiqi, was not giving an honorary PhD to the young scholar. It was awarding him its highest accolade after an intensive examination that few even at Al-Azhar university in Cairo would even contemplate to take. Young Muhammad Tabataba’i was grilled by half a dozen leading Qur’an scholars for more than three hours. The result - an over 90 per cent pass mark..." [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

 

 

Birmingham prostitute campaign

Q-News (01.04.98) carries an interview with Raja Amin, one of the initiators of the campaign to banish street-walking prostitutes from Balsall Heath in Birmingham (see BMMS for February 1997). Raja Amin repeatedly stresses that the whole community is united behind the campaign. He said: "The whole community is behind it. When you talk about community you talk about every section of it. When you start talking about religion you mean just one. From the first night we never said it was a religious issue. It cannot be a religious issue because it is affecting Christians, Hindus and Sikhs". He continued: "We’re fighting a tactical battle. We have promoted the Qur’anic command to promote the good and forbid the evil without even mentioning Islam". [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

 

 

Bookshop opens

An Islamic bookshop, the Natural Way Centre, has opened in Belgrave Road, Keighley. The owners are a husband and wife team, Bahiya and Sufyan Gent. Bahiya Gent, who runs the shop, said: "We’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time now, and thought it would be a good idea for Muslims and non-Muslims to help them understand Islam more. Many of the schools also need Islam education. There’s a lot of misconception about the religion, so this is a good way to make people more aware" (Keighley News, 13.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7]

Poisoner case

Zoora Shah, the woman who was convicted of poisoning Mohammed Azam, the brother of Sher Azam, a former president of the Bradford Council for Mosques, is currently asking for a retrial. Edward Fitzgerald QC argued that the December 1993 conviction for murder should be set aside as unsafe and a retrial granted. He told the judges that Ms Shah was in a state of diminished responsibility at the time of the killing in April 1992. In the original trial it was alleged that Zoora Shah murdered Mohammed Azam so she could take possession of his house. She claims that at the time of the killing, she was suffering severe depressive illness brought on by the physical and sexual abuse of the victim towards her. The case is proceeding (Leeds Yorkshire Evening Post, 31.03.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 7/8]

 

 

Kensington hall

Progress is being made on the Cultural Heritage Centre, a Muslim community centre to be based in Aclam Road in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The chief advisor to the project, Rumman Ahmed, said: "The centre aims to promote harmony between Muslim communities and their neighbours and to encourage greater understanding of Muslim culture and heritage" (Kensington & Chelsea News, 19.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Madonna henna craze

The Oxford Mail (19.03.98) reports that the painting of patterns on the hands using henna has become fashionable in Britain, due to Madonna having her hands painted in this way in a recent music video. Henna, or mehndi, is often used by Muslim women of Indian sub-continent origin in Britain.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Conference gay dispute

The Observer (22.03.98) and Time Out Magazine (25.03.98) have reported on a conference on Islamophobia at King’s College, London, at which the question of homosexuality proved to be controversial. Raza Griffiths, who asked a question about homosexuality, said: "I couldn’t believe the death threats and abuse from the crowd. I think they wanted to kill me. Their behaviour reinforced the very stereotypes of Muslims the conference was set up to counter".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Hajj news

The Grimsby Evening Telegraph (24.03.98) has a short piece on a follower of the Sufi Shaykh, Shaykh Nazim Al Haqqani, Afifi Lehman, who was planning to go Hajj. Ms Lehman said: "We follow a form of Islam but it is not mainstream. We are mainly concerned with mysticism. I first met Sheik Nazim, our leader, 18 years ago in London. He is a Turkish Cypriot. I recently spent three weeks with him at a priory in Tottenham and he persuaded me that now was the right time to go to Mecca". Faris Badawi, an administrator at the Muslim College in London, has a piece in the Financial Times (28.03.98) in which he meditates on the meaning of Hajj for Muslims living in societies where they are in the minority. He concludes the article by saying: "Muslims do not go on the pilgrimage in a spirit of separation from the rest of humanity. Far from it. They see themselves as responding to God’s invitation on behalf of humanity as a whole. They see the Hajj as confirming God’s love for everyone, regardless". A leading figure in the Pakistani community in Huddersfield, Bashir Ahmed, died suddenly in Madina when on Hajj. His funeral was held there the next day. Mr Ahmad, who was aged 63, taught in Huddersfield schools before becoming an educational welfare officer for Kirklees until he retired three years ago. He was a founder member of the Huddersfield Liaison Committee, forerunner to the Kirklees Racial Equality Council, and was vice-chair for many years. He was also general secretary of the Huddersfield Council for Islamic Affairs and a founder of the Muslim Community Centre in Clare Hill. He leaves a widow, four children and two grandchildren (Huddersfield Examiner, 31.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Football controversy

Footballs imported by a Yorkshire firm have caused offence to Muslims because they have the Shahada, the statement of faith, written on them and they are likely to now be withdrawn from sale (Yorkshire Evening Post, Barnsley Star, Yorkshire Post, Daily Star, 25.03.98, Daily Jang, 27.03.98). The football features the flags of all 32 countries competing in the World Cup and features the full Saudi Arabian flag, rather than simply the Saudi national symbol of scimitars and a palm tree. Dr Ghazi Algosaibi, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, said: "The Saudi flag contains the Muslim Shahada and it must be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Saudi Arabia never allows its flag to be used in any commercial. The company that put the flag to commercial use during the Football World Cup did an unauthorised and irresponsible thing. I warn that such actions are irresponsible and will not be tolerated by the Saudi government" (Daily Jang, 27.03.98). It appears that the alarm was raised first in Rotherham. Councillor Nazir Ahmed warned the Saudi Arabian embassy of the existence of the balls and contacted Rotherham’s trading standards department. Although not legally obliged to do so, the owner of the shop selling the footballs agreed to withdraw them from sale anyway. Councillor Ahmed commented: "To have the Shahada written on a football and for it to be kicked about causes great concern and offence to Muslims. There is no way we could allow anything like that to happen". Iqbal Jagpal, a director of ISJ Ltd of Ilkley, the firm importing the balls, said they were not acceptable and he had contacted the manufacturers, AG Enterprises in India to advise them of the problems caused (Yorkshire Post, 25.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Muslim millionaires

On 25 March the Prime Minister attended a dinner in honour of Britain’s wealthiest 200 Asians amongst whom were many Muslims. These included Ajaz Ahmed, aged 24, who set up an Internet consultancy firm five years ago which is now estimated to be worth £8 million; Alia Khan, aged 31, who runs her own software firm worth £5 million; Waheed Ali, managing director of the TV production company Planet 24; and Parveen Warsi, who has made her £45 million fortune from supermarket curries. The Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie Blair, wore an embroidered oyster satin sari, designed by Bubs Mahil, who owns Chiffon Fashions. Ms Mahil said Cherie Blair often wears eastern designs because she finds them so comfortable (Daily Jang, 26.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 8]

 

 

Union recognition?

The Tribune (20.03.98) has an article by Ross Davies, a GMB union official, about the fight for recognition of that union by the workers at Noon Products in Southall. The millionaire owner of the convenience food business, Gulam Kadir Noon, has refused to recognise the GMB, even though 80 per cent of the 320 employees belong to it. The GMB is supporting ten workers, including GMB shop stewards, who are taking cases of unfair dismissal and victimisation to industrial tribunal, and five west London MPs are tabling an Early Day Motion critical of Mr Noon’s employment practices. Ross Davies comments in his article: "Mr Noon’s employees include men and women of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Tamil origins. His two-fisted campaign of victimisation at work and of divide and rule outside the factory gates is winning support for his employees and the GMB. Employees report that Mr Noon has been using his fast-waning prestige in west London to lean on local religious and community leaders to condemn the solidarity of their co-religionists with ethnic and religious groups. This is having the opposite effect of uniting people, irrespective of their origins..."  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Nuneaton centre expansion

Nuneaton’s Khalifa Muslim Society have applied for planning permission to further extend their premises at their community centre in Edward Street. Planning officers are recommending that the application be approved (Nuneaton Heartland Evening News, 26.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Finland seminar

The British Muslim author, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, recently participated in a seminar in Helsinki, Finland, on the subject of "Living as a Western Muslim". Ms Maqsood had the opportunity to learn about two problems faced by Muslims in Finland. These were the difficulties in arranging a Muslim burial for those Muslims who are not Tartars, and the high number of divorces taking place, often as a result of the ill-treatment of women in marriage (Muslim News, 28.03.98).   [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Islamic Council of Europe launch

Muslim News (28.03.98) carries a report on the formation of a new Islamic Council of Europe (ICE). Present at the launch was President Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen leader. The ICE aims to unite the Muslim communities of western Europe with those of the former communist and soviet blocs. The idea of the council was conceived two years ago in Istanbul during a conference on peace in Chechnya and the reconstruction of the Caucasus. The spokesperson for the ICE is Mansour Jachimeczyk, who said that President Maskhadov "listened very carefully to the leaders of the British Muslim community - scholars, religious leaders, politicians - and there was almost a unanimous view that the Muslims world-wide are lacking proper leadership". Lord Alistair MacAlpine, leader of the Referendum Party, was also present at the launch of the ICE, as he was at other meetings attended by President Maskhadov in London.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Eid in prison

Q-News (01.04.98) reports that Muslim prisoners in Maidstone Prison in Kent were forced to spend Eid ul-Fitr just like any other day and they were worried that the same would happen on Eid ul-Adha. The about 40 of the aggrieved inmates have written a letter of complaint and sent a petition on the matter to Muslim organisations. They are being represented a local solicitor, Tasneem Osmani, who, together with the imam of the prison, Imam Ahmed, has written to the governor about the matter and to other bodies who oversee the rights of prisoners. She said: "This matter represents a gross abuse of prisoners’ rights and I am determined that the relevant prison officer or officers are appropriately dealt with".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Sufi play

A review of a production of the Sufi classic, The Conference of the Birds, is printed in Q-News (01.04.98). The play was staged by Post Mortem Productions at the Albany Theatre in south east London. Faisal Bodi, the reviewer, criticises the production, saying: "Without direction it bobs along, resembling flotsam - a fragment of its former self, a parody of the original. When overlaid by an eclecticism that draws on Hindu chants, Christian and pagan symbolism, this detachment can serve only to bolster the feeling that a Muslim classic has been hijacked in the service of a homespun Bohemian theosophy".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Education

Ismaili Award

Nabihah Sachedina, a 17-year-old student at Croydon High School, has won the Ismaili Award for Excellence. Nabihah gained nine GCSE passes at A-star grade, plays the violin and the piano and is working towards a Duke of Edinburgh award. The purpose of the awards is to recognise members of the Muslim community who have demonstrated high levels of achievement in one or more fields of individual pursuit. Ms Sachedina was presented with her award at a special ceremony at the Ismaili Centre in South Kensington (Caterham & District Advertiser, 20.02.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Teaching centre planning

Rochdale Township Planning Sub-committee has been given a continuation of temporary permission to Atfaq Hussain Shah to continue using a house in Morley Street, Rochdale as an Islamic teaching centre for children. Mr Shah was hoping for permanent permission to run the madrasa in the building, as he said that the temporariness of the enterprise made it difficult to attract teachers who would stay. The sub-committee said that, if after a further six months, there were no problems, such as complaints from neighbours, then it probably would grant permanent planning permission (Rochdale Observer, 25.02.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9]

 

 

Urdu classes in Barking

Abdul Khokar, the former Barking councillor who was protesting at the unavailability of Urdu A-level teaching in local schools has now set up his own classes at the Muslim Community Centre at The Triangle, Barking (see BMMS for January and February 1998). The classes are on Saturday and Sunday mornings and for all levels of students. Mr Khokar said: "I’ll help anyone who wants to learn the language, or needs help with translation from English to Urdu and vice versa" (Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 11.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 9/10]

 

 

Glasgow Muslim school

Discussions are continuing between Muslim parents and businesspeople about the possibility of setting up a Muslim girls’ secondary school in Glasgow should Notre Dame, the last state-run girls only school in the city, be made co-educational (see BMMS for February 1998). Woodlands Councillor Hanzala Malik explained: "Although this is primarily a Catholic school no-one, including Muslim parents, wants any change. The parents’ main concern is that their children are educated in single-sex establishments. If the co-education proposals are carried out, parents will set up their own fee-paying school in the city with backing from Muslim businessmen - the logic behind this is that, if we have to pay for single-sex education, we might as well pay for our own" (Bearsden, Milngavie & Glasgow West Courier, 27.02.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Weekend school

Ahmed Ali Hussein, who runs a Saturday school teaching children Arabic and Qur’an, has bought a minibus in order to take the children to and from their homes and the Laygate Mosque where the school is based. Mr Hussein said: "I’m hoping to open the school five days a week eventually. It is very popular". Mr Hussein can be contacted at the Laygate Mosque on South Shields 4552527 (South Shields Gazette, 03.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Islamic Experience exhibition

The interactive Islamic Experience exhibition, which visited Exeter in February and March has been judged a success by the organisers (see BMMS for February 1998). Shabir Ahmed, a trustee of Exeter’s Islamic Centre, said: "The exhibition is being brought to the south west for the first time and lets people experience what Muslims do and what a mosque is. There are misconceptions that all Muslims are terrorists and there is widespread Islamophobia. The exhibition is trying to get to the root level and show children that if you want to learn more about Islam, just come and see us. It’s a religion of peace and progress". For more details, the Islamic Centre can be contacted on 01392 250597 (Exeter Express & Echo, 06.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Centre visit controversies

Two Peterborough councillors, investigating complaints by some residents that a newly-opened Islamic education centre was also being used as a mosque, for which there is no planning permission, are now at the centre of a controversy. The Pakistan Community Association claims that Councillor Pamela Kreling entered the building wearing shoes and that she should not have done this. Furthermore, they claim that the councillor and her colleague, Councillor Barry Payton, interrupted the first parents evening at the Dogsthorpe Road centre. Councillor Kreling responded: "I had complaints from some of my constituents that their afternoon was being disturbed by worship, which should not have been going on in the building. As the building is not a place of worship I didn’t feel I should take off my shoes, so I didn’t". Councillor Payton added: "The people inside are clearly not allowed to worship and we had been informed that was what was going on" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 18.03.98). Ghazanfar Ali of the Pakistani Community Association said: "We are not using this hall as a place of worship. We are perfectly happy to discuss this matter with councillors" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 19.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Islam Awareness Week

Muslim News (28.03.98) has an article about the Islamic Awareness Week in Sheffield. Various events were held on the campuses of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities. There were speakers from the US, including Imam R Mohammed, a former US marine and prison officer, now working as an imam in Chicago. The organiser of this year’s week, Enamul Haque, said it was the most successful ever.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Education centre opens

More than 2,000 Muslims from all over Britain and overseas attended the opening ceremony of the recently complete education centre at the Khoja Shia Ithna-Ashari Mosque in Clifton Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. The education centre, which is next to the mosque, has 22 classrooms and will be used for a variety of religious teaching. The opening ceremony was the highlight of a week’s events celebrating the presence of the Shia community in the area over the past 25 years. Other events included a conference on marriage, a women’s night and sports events for men (Solihull Evening Mail, 19.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Gloucester school expansion

Gloucestershire Islamic Secondary School for Girls is now ready to move into its new premises in Widden Street, Gloucester (see BMMS for October 1997). The Widden Street building is owned by the Muslim Welfare Association and until now has been rented for a nominal sum by the Gloucester Law Centre. The law centre will move to 75/81 Eastgate Street, where many of the city’s voluntary organisations are housed and the city council will increase their grant to enable them to pay the rent at the new premises (Gloucester Citizen, 19.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10]

 

 

Tower Hamlets report

An article by Sarah Sheriff, Muslim News’ education correspondent, analyses a report by the education services in Tower Hamlets concerning the progress being made by the Bangladeshi community in the school system. The report, an analysis of the 1997 GCSE results by pupil background factors, published by the Tower Hamlets Education Strategy Group, Education and Community Services Directorate, shows that where Bangladeshi background students are fluent in both English and Bengali, then they achieve more GCSE passes at grades A-C than the national average. This is despite various indices of educational and social deprivation in the borough, such as the high proportion of children receiving free school meals. Ms Sheriff explains that: "58 per cent of fluent English-speaking Bangladeshi pupils got five high grade GCSEs. Bilingual pupils achieved more GCSE passes, with 83 per cent gaining five or more A-G grades compared to 72 per cent of monolingual pupils. The performance of Tower Hamlets full fluent bilingual pupils exceeds that of pupils nationally, with 58 per cent gaining 5 or more top grades compared to 45 per cent nationally. In a typical Tower Hamlets secondary school, Mulberry School for Girls, 40 per cent of the mostly Bangladeshi sixth formers went on to university". However, in spite of these exam successes of many, there is still a substantial minority who need additional help with English in order to achieve their potential. Another problem is that children are often taken on extended holidays during term time to Bangladesh, which adversely affects their school performance (Muslim News, 28.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 10/11]

 

 

New London college

A new Islamic college has been founded in London, called the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, based in the north west of the capital. It will offer 16 different A-level subjects and a BA equivalent sandwich course in which the third year will offer students the opportunity to travel abroad. More information may be had by phoning 0181 451 9993 (Muslim News, 28.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11]

 

 

Politics

Iraq conflict

Mohammed Salim, who stood as parliamentary candidate for the Islam Zindabaad Party, of which he is a founder member, in the last general elections, organised a protest march in Rochdale at the end of February against what he sees as the aggressive stance of Britain and the US towards Iraq (see BMMS for February 1998). He said of Saddam Hussein: "He’s not done any harm to the British or the Americans. He’s not attacked us. We haven’t any interest there in order to justify an attack. For the sake of the Iraqi people they should stop this aggression"(Rochdale Observer, 25.02.98). The Glasgow Govan MP Mohammed Sarwar was one of 25 MPs who voted against the proposal to bomb Iraq during the House of Commons debate on the subject in February. His two main reasons were that: "Saddam Hussain will not suffer but the innocent people of Iraq will suffer" and that double standards were being applied: "Why US and Britain are not enforcing the resolution against Israel which is in breach (of the UN resolutions)" (Muslim News, 28.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11]

 

 

Security agents flee

Israeli sources claim that three Mossad agents were recently foiled in their attempt to put a bugging device in the London home of a Hizbollah militant. They claim the attempt was abandoned when they were seen behaving suspiciously by the police and that the reason for their failure was that they only had two days in which to prepare their operation rather than the more usual two weeks (Sunday Times, 15.03.98, Daily Jang, 16.03.98). However, the Daily Jang (16.03.98) points out that: "British officials and police said they had no knowledge of the Mossad operation. If that is true, the act of executing a covert operation in a friendly country without the knowledge and approval of the host country is usually seen as an unfriendly act in diplomatic terms. It therefore remains to be seen what action is taken by the British government for the Mossad operation". Muslim News (28.03.98) gives details of other Mossad operations against Islamic militants in various European cities over the past few years. The newspaper claims Mossad has been active in Paris, Rome, Athens, Madrid, Geneva, Bern, Nicosia and London.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11]

 

 

Eid tea

Muslim News (28.03.98) has printed a letter from the writer Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood urging Muslims not to be too judgmental concerning the Eid-ul-Fitr tea at the House of Commons at which ham sandwiches were inadvertently served (see BMMS for February 1998). Ms Maqsood writes: "...as soon as it was noticed that some [sandwiches] contained ham, the staff were tipped off and discreetly removed them as swiftly as possible, to be replaced by other foodstuffs - tuna, egg, cakes. The staff were extremely apologetic and embarrassed by their blunder and acted immediately to put it right. Since very few guests had approached the tea or the food at this stage, I find it hard to believe that more than a couple of Muslims had the chance to eat ham; and if they did so, without realising, then no sin was committed in any case". She concludes: "Personally, I enjoyed the event very much, and was so pleased that the House of Commons had actually put on such an event. It’s petty-minded to be so touchy and pompous about it, or to blow things up out of all proportion. Let’s count our blessings, and not pick faults".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11]

 

 

Islamic militants refusal

Three Egyptian lawyers and an unknown number of invited conference participants from Europe, Morocco and Jordan have been refused visas to enter Britain in order to attend a conference in London convened by the World Islamic League. The Guardian (31.03.98) comments that: "The ban is a first victory for the Egyptian government’s campaign to persuade Britain to crack down on fundamentalists accused of involvement in terrorism and will be welcomed by other regimes facing similar problems at home" (see BMMS for November 1997). Abdul Halim Mandour, one of the Egyptian lawyers refused a visa, said: "I told them I was going to give a lecture about prisoners of conscience. I wasn’t going to take part in terrorism" (Guardian, 31.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11]

 

 

Walthamstow councillor dies

Walthamstow is mourning the loss of Councillor Mohsin Beg, who died of a heart attack, aged only 48, on 15 March. The Mayor of Chingford, Sylvia Poulsen, said: "We have lost a colleague and, for many of us, a dear friend. Mohsin will be missed by us all". Councillor Beg served on the social justice and personnel committees of the council and then became chair of the arts and leisure committee and the grant aid members panel. He was a businessman, a JP at Waltham Forest Magistrates Court, chair of the Race Equality Council and founder of the Pakistani Mela in Waltham Forest. He was a keen sportsman, especially at cricket and he set up the Asian Cricket and Sports Club 25 years ago. His funeral was held the day after his death at Lea Bridge Mosque and he was buried at the Muslim Burial Ground in Walthamstow.

Fellow Labour councillor Liaquat Ali said: "The whole community has lost. We have lost a caring community worker, a hardworking councillor and a great promoter of closer community relations through sport. In his life and work Mohsin demonstrated that it was possible to be true to one’s faith while serving the whole community". Councillor Beg leaves a widow, Sofia, two adult sons and a 12 year old daughter (Chingford Guardian, 19.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 11/12]

 

 

Palestinian exhibition

Muslim News (28.03.98) reports that Khalid al-Zighari, a photo-journalist, had an exhibition of his work on view at the Kufa Gallery in west London from 25 February to 4 March. The exhibition, organised by the Palestinian Return Centre, was opened by the Lebanese Ambassador, Dr Mahmud Hammoud. The photographs deal with the everyday life of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12]

 

 

Chechen leader visit

Q-News (01.04.98) has an article about the visit of the Chechenian president, Aslan Maskhadov to Britain recently. President Maskhadov was the guest of Imran and Jemima Khan at the Commonwealth Institute in London on 12 March. Other guests included Dr Rana Kabbani, Yusuf Islam, Charles le Gai Eaton of the Islamic Cultural Centre and Dr Zaki Badawi. Imran Khan had originally planned to hold the gathering in Pakistan but was forced to change the venue after the Pakistani government withdrew its invitation to the Chechenian leader. The main organiser of the London meeting was Lord MacAlpine, who, since the death of Jemima Khan’s father, Sir James Goldsmith, has been the leader of the Referendum Party, which opposes federalism and is for regional autonomy. Q-News further explains: "Lord MacAlpine, who owns the construction firm of the same name, is also keen to exploit the opportunities for reconstruction in Chechenia now that a tentative peace is in place. Chechenia is seeking to develop ties with the West in order to rebuild the shattered economy". President Maskhadov also met the families of John James and Camilla Cart, British aid workers who were kidnapped in July in Chechenia. It is believed their captors are demanding a ransom of $2 million.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12]

 

 

Racism

Religious discrimination legislation

Several newspapers (Dudley Chronicle,13.03.98, Jewish Chronicle, 27.03.98, Muslim News, 28.03.98, Q-News, 01.04.98) report that Muslim organisations in Britain are making renewed calls for legislation against religious discrimination (see BMMS for April, June and December 1997; January and 1998). Relevant legislation at present under discussion could include the Bill being proposed by John Austin MP to outlaw religious discrimination, a clause in the Crime and Disorder Bill intended to strengthen the laws against racially-motivated crime, and an amendment to Britain’s incorporation of the European Human Rights Convention.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12]

 

 

Bristol taxi dispute

Q-News (01.04.98) reports that about 20 private hire cab drivers in Bristol are intending to sue Bristol City Council for racial discrimination and are threatening to expose bribe taking in the local authority. At the beginning of this year the city council carried out an investigation and found that around 30 private hire drivers had badges which had been obtained illegally. They had neither passed the Bristol Knowledge Test nor obtained a minicab drivers licence. The council then withdrew licences from 21 of these drivers, all of whom except for one, are of Somali origin. The investigation was restricted to City Cabs, a business ran by a Somali with a majority of Somali drivers, even though there are over 20 other taxi firms in Bristol. One of the taxi drivers who has been deprived of a livelihood because of the action was Abdul Yaqub, aged 42. He said: "All right, I didn’t have a legitimate driving licence, but why is it they picked on our cab firm? The council says it was just a coincidence that virtually all the drivers they struck off their list in the first batch were Somali. I think it was racism. I’m on the dole now and have very little money to support my wife and children.

But I’m studying for the Bristol Knowledge Test and once I pass it I shall apply to drive again". Q-News (01.04.98) comments: "Whilst the Licensing Department has exposed minicab drivers with illegal badges and numbers, they have not bothered to raise the question how they were obtained in the first place. Is that because they are defending their own backs? Might not their own colleagues be corrupt?".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12]

 

 

Women

Hijab case compensation

The amount of compensation received by Farida Khanum, who was sacked from IBC in Luton for wearing hijab (see BMMS for November 1997 and January 1998) has been variously given as £26,000 (Q-News, 01.04.98) or £30,000 (Muslim News, 28.03.98). Muslim News adds: "The Tribunal compensated her for unfair dismissal, loss of earnings and the hurt of suffering sex and race discrimination. However, because she enrolled on a university course in October 1997, and therefore was not deemed to have suffered unemployment and great loss of earnings, her compensation was a little less than she was expecting and her legal team is appealing against the award in order to get it increased". Q-News reports that Ms Khanum refused the option of reinstatement or re-engagement as: "There are some really nasty people in there and after all that has happened I don’t think I want to depend on them for progress".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12]

 

 

Somali woman JP

Muslim News (28.03.98) has a brief interview with Mariame Saleh, the Liverpool woman of Somali origin who was recently appointed as a JP (see BMMS for February 1998). Ms Saleh said she looked forward to being able to serve the community more in her new position. She said: "Many people just don’t understand how the system works and so they have a perception that it is working against them, which is not always true. I hope I can use my position together with my links with the community to break down the barriers that exist and help people understand how things work, what is allowed and what is not". Ms Saleh emphasised that she saw no contradiction in administering non-Islamic law in the course of her duties. She said: "We all have to obey the laws of this country if we are living here".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 12/13]

 

 

Youth

Gloucester youth work

The Gloucester Citizen (12.03.98) has a feature article about youth work amongst youngsters from minority communities in the Gloucester area. Those interviewed were Mohammed Hansdot, who is youth worker with young Gujerati origin men aged 16 to 25; Miah Nu who works with young men from the local Bangladeshi community; and Maryam Sharif, who, in addition to her work with girls and young women, is an IT teacher at Gloucester Islamic Girls’ Secondary School (see report in the Education section of this BMMS). Ms Sharif has just started a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme with her youth group and last year she took a party to the Islamic Relief Games, where they won at netball. Ms Sharif commented: "Ideas have changed, views have changed. It’s not just the domestic woman who sits in the kitchen and cooks any more. My job is to help get them motivated to work out what they want to do with their lives. Many of the parents are quite conservative and being girls we really have to co-operate, but there are issues they just can’t talk about at home - sex for example. I’m obviously not trying to corrupt them, but these are issues they want to talk about and need to be aware of in daily life. These are very intelligent girls and have great potential, but they need to believe in themselves. We have to give them encouragement in that".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

Moroccans and crime prevention

Notting Hill police inspector Peter Vincent recently expressed concern that some young Moroccans are getting involved with soft drugs and vandalism and wanted community leaders to play a more active part in crime prevention. Moroccan community newspaper owner Mohammed Assou argued that a more integrated approach was necessary. He said: "Police action and meetings tend to happen on an emergency-only basis and the police need to come to grips with Moroccan culture such as Islam and our social structures in order to avoid confrontations. On the surface increased police presence and CCTV contribute towards reducing crime but the solution to the problem of increased crime is to help youths find jobs, training and to provide outlets such as youth clubs for them" (Kensington & Chelsea News, 26.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

Interfaith

Britain reformed?

The Church Times (13.03.98) has an article which examines the attitudes of leading thinkers of several of Britain’s faith communities regarding the possibility of constitutional change, in particular, changes in the role of the monarchy and of the relationship between Church and State. Dr Zaki Badawi defends the constitutional status quo as likely to promote the best atmosphere for Muslims. Dr Inderjit Singh, speaking on behalf of the Sikh community, expressed rather different views in that he wanted to see the disestablishment of the Church of England, and, although, like Dr Badawi, he wanted the monarchy to be retained, he believed the laws of succession to the throne should change to reflect greater equality of women.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

Jewish school visits mosque

Daniel Cohen, aged 10, from the Akiva Jewish School in Finchley, north London, has his account of his class’ visit to the Central Mosque in Regent’s Park printed in the Jewish Chronicle (06.03.98). He explains that as part of learning about the world’s major religions, his class have already had an exchange with a Catholic school. He concludes: "My classmate, Danielle Seigal, thought our visit to the mosque was a good idea because most Jewish schools wouldn’t take a class to a mosque. All in all, I think my whole class enjoyed the visit".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

Education service

A service held at Our Lady of La Salette Roman Catholic Church in Rainham on 8 February to mark Education Sunday, included a substantial contribution from Muslims. Kamal Siddiqui, president of the Essex Islamic Trust, said: "The only similar event was when the Grand Ulema of Saudi Arabia performed the midday prayer in Strasbourg Cathedral in 1974 - but they were not given the opportunity to explain Islam to the congregation. The Muslim community welcomes the opportunity to explain the truth about Islam at events such as this. We call on other non-Muslim organisations, Christian and non-Christian to open their forums to Muslims in a similar manner". After a reading from the Qur’an in Arabic and English, a sermon was given by one of the Muslim representatives explaining the fundamentals of Islam. The Muslims present then performed the midday prayer, followed by a more general sermon. Jews and Christians also told the congregation about their faiths and children from six local schools took part (Romford Recorder, 20.02.98, Hornchurch & Upminster Yellow Advertiser, 27.02.98)  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

ICRC in Blackburn

The Inner Cities Religious Council (ICRC) regional conference was planned for the beginning of March in Blackburn. Matters on the agenda were isolation within the various faith communities, combating drug abuse and multi-faith ways of marking the Millennium. Representatives from Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh organisations were invited, as well as officers from government agencies (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 28.02.98). The venue for the conference was Blackburn Rovers Football Club at Ewood Park. Conference organiser Ian Urquhart felt the event had been positive. He said: "We had a very good cross-section of faiths and a good range of presentations. There was a feeling that there was a strong need to continue this type of interfaith dialogue. The faith communities are strong voluntary bodies and they ought to be there when statutory bodies are preparing plans for things like the Single Regeneration Budget. It is very much down to the local people as to how they want to take it [the work discussed at the conference] forward. We would hope we have facilitated the discussion and created contacts" (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 04.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 13]

 

 

Muslims Universe article

The Catholic publication, the Universe (15.03.98) has an article on Islam by Fr John Redford, who is director of the distance learning degree in theology at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. In this article, he deals with beliefs Muslims and Catholics share, concentrating on the explanation given in the Second Vatican Council’s decree, Nostra Aetate, and differences between Catholics and Muslims. He recommends two publications on Islam to his readers, Mohammed by Edward Hulmes, published by CTS, and How to Understand Islam, by Jacques Jomier, published by SCM.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Qur’an reading bishop update

Q-News (01.04.98) reports that the bishop who read the Qur’an every day in Lent last year, instead of the Bible had not followed the same practice this year (see BMMS for February and March 1997). According to Q-News, the Rt. Rev Alan Smithson felt that it had been a valuable exercise, however, as "the Qur’an had helped him challenge and sharpen his own faith".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Derby Pride service

On 25 March a multifaith service of thanksgiving was held in Derby Cathedral to celebrate five years of Derby Pride. At the service, schoolchildren from Hardwick Infant School in Normanton sang Islamic songs. Speeches were made by representatives of the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim faith communities and members of charities and other organisations who had been helped by grants from Derby Pride also attended, as did the Mayor of Derby and the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire (Derby Evening Telegraph, 26.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Essex anniversary

A celebration was recently held in Romford to mark the tenth anniversary of the Essex Islamic Educational Trust. It was intentionally a multifaith gathering. President of the Trust, Kamal Siddiqui, said: "It was a huge gathering with several hundred people attending including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jews. All religions got together and celebrated. Various activities were performed by the Trust School and prizes were presented by Eileen Gordon, the MP for Romford" (Romford & Havering Post, 28.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Halal

College halal meals

Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College’s Equal Opportunities and Development Forum met at the end of February, when it was announced that the college intends to provide halal food in its canteens. Muslim members of the forum were keen to provide practical advice to ensure that the Muslim students would have confidence that the food was truly halal (Bucks Free Press, 27.02.98). The forum also heard from Alan Warner, associate director and Chauhdry Shafique, head of equal opportunities, that the college had provided a prayer room during Ramadan.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Hospital halal

The local Community Health Council (CHC) has published a report which claims that Muslim patients at Dewsbury District Hospital are not receiving halal food at mealtimes, simply because they are unaware that it is available. Halal lamb and chicken are currently supplied by the Pakistan Muslim Association in Newcastle, but during the CHC survey of the children’s ward, all the mothers were unaware that they and their children could have halal meat. Staff are now trying to raise awareness in the community that halal food is available in the hospital (Awaaz, 01.03.98). As a consequence, Awaaz (01.04.98) has had considerable feedback from its readers. Several local people who had used hospital services in Dewsbury told the newspaper that they did not know halal food was available and that they were not given any information about the food in the hospital. One Awaaz reader continued: "There have been other things. For instance, the fact that I’m entitled to half-price food because my son is in hospital or that I can have a parking permit simply if I ask, no hospital staff told me about these things, I just overheard some other visitors talking about it. I speak good English so I can find things like this out, but for patients who only speak a little, it must be extremely difficult". Awaaz has asked their readers to contact them regarding opinions with the service Dewsbury Hospital provides.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Eid slaughter

The minister for Farm Animal Welfare, Elliot Morley, has voiced concerns about the live export of sheep to France for slaughter at Eid Ul-Adha. He said: "This has led to sheep being inexpertly killed without stunning and sometimes with blunt knives". Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, chair of the Halal Food Authority of the Muslim Parliament, agreed that sharp knives should be used and that any problems should be taken up directly with the French government: "It is the lack of co-operation and support from the French government and French abattoirs that has led to these situations" (Muslim News, 28.03.98). The Scotsman (30.03.98) has printed a letter from Les Ward, the director of Advocates for Animals, based in Queensferry Street, Edinburgh, who has written in response to an article in the Scotsman (26.03.98) on the subject of the live exports to France for Eid. He says: "Surely the least we can do for our farm animals is to provide them with decent conditions while they are alive and grant them, when the time comes, a quiet and painless death".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Health

Dewsbury chaplains

In February Dewsbury District Hospital officially welcomed two local Muslim scholars to the hospital chaplaincy. Mufti Faheem Mayat and Munera Vania have been working on a sessional basis at the hospital since last August, but now their appointment has been made official. Maulana Haseeb Ahmed opened the ceremony with a recitation from the Qur’an, which was followed by an address by Akram Khan Cheema of Bradford (Awaaz, 01.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14]

 

 

Wolverhampton prayer room

A multifaith prayer and meditation room has been opened at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital. It was created following discussions with the Wolverhampton Inter-Faith Group and the chaplain at New Cross Hospital, the Rev Richard Martin. He said: "The new room is an important improvement of facilities and provides a quiet place for personal prayer or reflection". The facility is based in Wrekin House. Improvements have also recently been made to the hospital chapel so that it can be used by Muslims for worship (Kidderminster Express & Star, 23.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 14/15]

 

 

Female patient harassed

Mrs Hasna Motin has made a written complaint to Luton and Dunstable hospital complaining about a consultant who, she alleges, made sexually harassing remarks and insulted her religious beliefs. When Mrs Motin went for an ante-natal check-up she found out that she was to be seen by a male doctor. She explained: "I’d been several times previously and always specified that I wanted to be seen by a female. I assumed that because they knew my requirements there would be no problem. I told him that I wished to see a female but he said there weren’t any female consultants available. I explained that in that case I would prefer a female registrar". Mrs Motin claims that the consultant then proceeded to question the validity of her objections by asking: "Where in the Qur’an does it say you cannot see a male doctor?" and that after the examination she was asked suggestively: "Now wasn’t that more interesting than a female?" (Q-News, 01.04.98). Q-News goes on to point out that although, under the Patient’s Charter, requests such as Mrs Motin’s should be met, many hospitals have insufficient numbers of women doctors.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 15]

 

 

Muslim sex education

Q-News (01.04.98) has several articles on a Muslim approach to sex education. One article is by Fozia Bora and reviews a series of booklets on the topic by Humera Khan, entitled Cycle of Life. Another is by Humera Khan herself, reviewing the process of writing the booklets and the issues arising during their production. The third is by a young Muslim woman, Fatima Qamar, who is from the age group the information contained in the Cycle of Life is particularly aimed at. Humera Khan writes that: "Hostility to Muslim sensibilities over the subject of sex and sexuality by professional workers borders on the Islamophobic. A good example is the way the whole concept of ‘safe sex’ is peddled about and imposed on the community. Propagators of this approach do not normally want to accept the fact that for Muslims the only ‘safe sex’ is sex within marriage. Failure to appreciate and respect such a fundamental right can only lead to failure and tears. And there is nothing but racism that can explain the action of fully-fledged health projects being dedicated solely towards persuading Muslim women to take contraception ‘in order to reduce family size’".  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 15]

 

 

Employment

Muslims in army

The Cardiff Western Mail (06.03.98) has a feature article about ethnic minorities in the armed forces. The article begins by giving some historical background, explaining how Welsh Somalis and Welsh Sikhs have fought in two World Wars for Britain but that their descendants are reluctant to join the armed forces, for fear of racism (see BMMS for June 1997). On 5 March the Guards, including the Welsh Guards, held a special open day designed to attract ethnic minority recruits. Abdikarim Abdi Adan, co-ordinator of the Somali Advice and Information Office in Cardiff, was asked if he would advise any Somalis to enlist. He replied: "It depends on the individual. As an organisation we insist that procedures and terms of employment are correct and the tackling of racial harassment is pursued, things which the Army has not taken into account recently. We are not asking for special treatment, just for fairness". Mr Adan was amongst a group of community leaders who had been invited by Major-General Evelyn Webb-Carter, who is in charge of this latest ethnic minority recruitment drive, to come to London for the open day. His reaction was that the armed forces need to be wary of tokenism; to recruit sufficient numbers of ethnic minority members so that they can support each other; to pay attention to the question of halal food; and to be vigilant regarding racial harassment. Muslim News (28.03.98) has an article about the open day. The Guards’ target is that over 30 months they will have recruited at least 200 soldiers from Britain’s ethnic minorities.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 15]

 

 

Factory prayer problem

Awaaz (01.04.98) has an article in which it claims that Muslim workers are being forced to pray in secret, or not pray at all, at Fox’s Biscuits factory in Batley. Some Muslim workers claim they are not allowed to pray even during their breaks and that non-Muslim workers would report them to the management for doing so. When asked about this, the personnel manager at Fox’s Batley plant, Mike Johnston, denied that Muslim workers had been disciplined for praying, or that any employee had been asked to report others so doing. In reply to Awaaz’s allegations, Fox’s stated that any Muslim worker who prays during scheduled breaks on their premises can do so without fear of reprisal.  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 15]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Blackheath, Long Lane

The Sunday Mercury (29.03.98) has a report on the delay in finishing the new mosque and community centre of the Blackheath Islamic Centre. For more than six months no work has been carried out at the site in Long Lane. According to the newspaper, work began in 1992 after the trust received a grant of £40,000 from Dudley Council’s Urban Programme. Another £100,000 was raised through private donations. There were delays in construction and then in December 1995 the project received £88,860 from the National Lottery Charities Board. About £72,000 of this was earmarked to complete the building, the remainder being for running costs. However, two years later the project was still not completed and so the Lottery Board have demanded that £16,000 be repaid. Nazir Saghir, secretary of the Blackheath Islamic Mission, said: "We thought the original estimate would have been enough to finish the job but this was not the case. We are angry with the builders because we feel they misled us over the amount of money needed. They spent it all with work still left to do. We have spent all the Lottery grant and have been forced to pay back £16,000 and will now look to raise more money from the local community. The building firm are Toba Technical Services of Birmingham. The owner’s son, Hamid Mirza denied that the problems were the firm’s fault. He said: "The company did go into liquidation last year but that was completely unrelated to this contract. It has been a nightmare from start to finish and I reject any allegation that we are to blame". A spokesperson for the National Lottery Charities Board commented: "We are investigating this. We have asked Blackheath Islamic Mission to repay £16,000 which will be held by us until they can prove the project will be finished. We take this kind of matter very seriously and monitor all grant recipients" (Sunday Mercury, 29.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 15/16]

 

 

Blackpool, Central Drive

Cartmell Signs has relocated from its premises at the rear of Central Drive (see BMMS for February 1998), which have been bought by the Islamic Community Centre and Mosque (Blackpool Evening Gazette, 02.03.98). Some local residents have collected 350 signatures on a petition opposing the mosque development, largely on the grounds of parking, traffic congestion and the possible difficulties of access for emergency services, particularly the fire service. The chair of the mosque committee, Dr Ghafoor Baloch said: "The majority of worshippers don’t use cars because they live in the area". He also pointed out that eight to ten parking spaces would be allocated within the grounds of the mosque and that: "It will have to be passed by the fire authorities before we get final approval. They will ensure there is no problem. We certainly have a lot of regard for our neighbours and we’ll make sure there is no disturbance" (Blackpool Citizen, 05.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

Bury, Parker St

A fight over the control of the recently completed mosque in Parker Street, Bury could be settled in court (see BMMS for November 1997). On one side are the executive of the old mosque in Cook Street, who saw the new Parker Street mosque as a replacement for their old building, which was cramped and unsuitable. However, four people who invested a total of £92,000 in the Parker Street Mosque, together with three others, appointed themselves as trustees for life and intend to select a ten person management committee. They have dropped the word Khizra from the name of the mosque and instead registered the name as the Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre. The rival group had control not only of Cook Street but also of the Khizra Mosque in Walmersley Road, Bury. The previous Cook Street administration say that the dropping of the name further undermines their claim to continuity of management regarding the new mosque. Their committee chair, Mohammed Riaz, said that they wanted elections to be held. However, the chair of the trustees of Parker Street, Dr Baig, claimed that the old executive, headed by Mr Riaz, had never been properly elected in 1994 (Bury Times, 20.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

London, Whitechapel Rd

On Sunday 8 March a demonstration was held outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel (see BMMS for October, November and December 1997; January 1998) because Tower Hamlets Council may give permission for flats to be built next to the mosque (East London Advertiser, 05.03.98, Independent on Sunday, 08.03.98, Docklands Recorder, 11.03.98, East London Advertiser, 12.03.98, Eastern Eye, 13.03.98, Asian Times, 17.03.98). One of the organisers of the rally, Shofiur Rahman, explained that Muslims wanted to buy the land "so we can expand facilities for our growing community" (Docklands Recorder, 11.03.98). The journalist writing in the Independent on Sunday (08.03.98) believes that one reason worshippers at the mosque are opposed to a housing development next door is that at present, the call to prayer is allowed to be broadcast from the mosque. This permission would probably be revoked if there were homes next to the mosque. Young Muslims were particularly visible at the demonstration. Muslehuddin Faradhi, president of Islamic Forum Europe, explained: "Muslims will no longer tolerate Islamophobia and remain passive, nor will we let anyone treat us as foreigners...we are British Muslims. Our youth have been born and brought up in this country. The car park land, adjacent to the East London Mosque, is vital for the future of Islam and Muslims in this borough and, indeed, in Britain" (East London Advertiser, 12.03.98). Estimates of the numbers of participants at the demonstration ranged between 2,000 and 3,000. The mosque’s board of trustees are due to have a meeting at the end of March to buying the land from the developers (Asian Times, 17.03.98) and the Tower Hamlets planning committee is having another meeting to discuss a solution on the same day (Docklands Recorder, 11.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

Luton burials

Gulam Kadir, aged 21, has been awarded the Top Young Shell Live Wire Entrepreneur Award in respect of his success as a funeral director (Luton News, 11.03.98, Luton Herald & Post, 12.03.98). Mr Kadir began the Ruhani Muslim Funeral Service in Waldeck Road, Luton in September 1996. He was judged on the financial success of his business as shown in the cash flow and forward planning but said: "The hardest part was trying to exhibit a funeral business in front of a panel of judges" (Luton Herald & Post, 12.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

Manor Park, Romford Rd

Manor Park Islamic Cultural Centre in Romford Road have applied for permission to use the premises adjoining the present ones as a mosque (City of London Recorder, 06.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

Peterborough, Alma Rd

Peterborough City Council has given permission for a former hotel in Alma Road to be converted into a mosque (see BMMS for February 1998). The same meeting gave temporary permission until March 2000 for the upper floor of the former Conservative Association building in Dogsthorpe Road to be used as a learning centre where Muslim children could be taught Arabic, Urdu and religious studies (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 11.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16]

 

 

Plymouth

Muslims in Plymouth feel that the Church of England’s unwillingness to sell them a disused church to convert into a mosque may be due to religious prejudice. Shamsuddin Al-Sada, spokesperson for the town’s Islamic Centre, said that he enquired about St Augustine’s Church in Lipson last August and had put in an offer of £80,000. However, he received letters from the Church of England’s property management services saying that other organisations wanted to buy the building. He has now heard that it may be demolished and the site sold for housing. Muslims in Plymouth have a terraced house in North East Road as a base but this is too small and so they have to use a room at Plymouth University for Friday worship. Mr Al-Sada said: "We are interested in buying it and were surprised to read that no-one wanted it. We should have been first in the queue. If I went there as a private individual I would have had it by now. We are totally ignored. As far as I am concerned we are one, and supposed to be living in harmony. If a Christian wanted to use a mosque for a religious purpose we wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it’s not reciprocated". Mark Beedell, spokesperson for the Bishop of Plymouth, said: "The parish want to retain a Christian presence on the site, providing something appropriate for the needs of the new Millennium. The prospective purchaser has accepted this and following proper procedures the church commissioners have accordingly reached a decision on the future of the site" (Plymouth City Evening Herald, 28.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 16/17]

 

 

Rochdale, Ramsey St

Rochdale Council’s environmental health department has received complaints that the call to prayer is being broadcast with a loud speaker from a mosque in the Ramsey Street area. A spokesperson from the department said: "We are investigating, but so far we have been unable to identify which mosque is actually responsible. We have also spoken to some of the Muslim leaders about the complaints. If it’s an old building, the calls to prayer could well be part of their planning consent. But if it is a new building, or an extension, there could be noise restrictions. In any case we will be asking religious leaders at all the mosques to try to reduce the volume of calls to prayer if it is causing a nuisance to people living close by" (Rochdale Observer, 25.02.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 17]

 

 

Southall, Abu Bakr Mosque Trust

A Southall councillor, Manjit Mahal and a local businessman, Harbans Sandhu, claim that they were verbally and physically abused following a planning sub-committee meeting which deferred the decision on the application made by the Abu Bakr Mosque Trust in respect of a former office block on Southall Broadway (see BMMS for March, May, September and October 1997; January 1998). Councillor Mahal described the situation after the meeting, saying: "When I came into the main foyer there were still about 30 people milling around. About eight or nine of them came towards me as two security guards were trying to stop a local businessman [Mr Sandhu] being attacked by other members of the group. They accused me of being the only councillor against the application and threatened to ‘sort me out’. I was grabbed, pushed and kicked. It was horrendous and will not achieve anything". Mosque secretary Abdul Shahid admitted there was anger about the delayed decision but accused Councillor Mahal of exaggerating the incident: "I didn’t see anyone kicking him. People were shouting at him and I told him to leave because there was anger at the injustice of the council" (Southall Gazette, 13.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 17]

 

 

Southampton, Lower Alfred St

Planning permission has been granted for Southampton’s second mosque, which will be built in Lower Alfred Street, St Mary’s. Conditions have been imposed, which, amongst other matters, relate to noise control. The building will have to be soundproofed and no externally broadcast calls to prayer will be allowed. The Southampton Mosque Trust hope that building work will be completed in two years’ time. The new mosque will replace the current place of prayer, a converted house in Northumberland Road, which will revert to residential use (Southampton Daily Echo, 09.03.98, 12.03.98).  [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 17]

 

 

Walthamstow burials

Mohammed Malik, who had a 36-inch high gravestone erected on his wife’s grave in the Walthamstow Muslim Cemetery, was shocked to find that the stone had been chopped in half. Officials of the Walthamstow Muslim Burial Trust claim the proportions of the stone breached cemetery regulations and this is why they chopped it in half. Mr Malik, however, claims that no objection was raised when the stone was initially placed on the grave and he has informed the police and intends to pursue his claim against the cemetery (Q-News, 01.04.98). [BMMS March 1998 Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 17]

 

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