British Muslims Monthly Survey for May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Birmingham Kashmiri success 

Drugs problem 

Brick Lane article 

China pigs controversy 

 

 

Reports

 

Community

Nike shoes controversy 

Keighley update 

Conman reappears? 

Oxford Centre 

Slough conflict 

Football protest 

Muslim mortgages 

Aristocrat’s nuisance calls 

Ashura marked 

Fundraising by doctors 

Sebastian Poulter obituary 

Dr ad-Darsh on experiments 

New Muslim’s view 

Deportation suicide threat 

Preston centre reopened 

British Council conference 

Call for arson case review 

Lawyers’ conference 

Pakistan Muslim Centre funding 

Housing Association’s new boss 

Eid drink-driving 

Kureishi film at Cannes 

Luton police liaison 

Nuclear test reactions 

Khayaal Theatre Company 

Attack on Sikh 

Glasgow conflicts 

Batley police tour 

Leicester Muslims praised 

Ahmadiyya charity walk 

Hinduism and Islam article 

 

 

Education

Girls’ school meeting 

All-Muslim winners 

College prayer rooms 

Minister’s visit 

Darul Uloom to close? 

Madrasah site visit 

Coventry Muslim schools 

Leeds head award 

Glasgow girls’ school to remain 

Call to end school prayers

 

 

Politics

Sarwar libel case 

Website closed 

Azad Kashmir PM’s visit 

Kashmir protests 

World Cup bomb? 

Derby mayor

MN’s interview with Mike O’Brien

 

 

Racism

Legislation calls update

Soldier harassed 

Glasgow initiative 

Harassment victims unable to sue 

BBC anti-Muslim? 

Crime and Disorder Bill meeting 

 

 

Women

Veil exhibition 

Chador discrimination case 

Suicide increase 

Domestic violence report 

 

 

Youth

Halifax fitness grant 

Wembley trip 

Careers fair 

 

 

Interfaith

Oxford mosque visit 

Tariq Ali interview 

Reduced Shakespeare Co. 

British lawyers’ appeal 

 

 

Halal

Prison halal update 

Eid slaughter issue 

 

 

Health

Blood donation 

"Our Healthier Nation" 

Abortion protest 

 

 

Employment

Q-News adverts 

Whitehall report 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Brent, Chilcot, burials 

Bury, Parker St 

Clitheroe, Holden Street 

Glasgow, Central Mosque 

Kettering, Grasmere Road 

Luton, Cromwell Road 

Luton, Westbourne Road 

Manor Park, Church Road 

Palmers Green, Oakenthorpe Rd 

Portsmouth, Victoria Rd North

Prestwich, Sedgley Park 

Rochdale, Ramsey Street 

Sheffield, Wolsey Road 

Slough, Stoke Poges Lane 

Swindon, Fleming Way 

Trowbridge, Longfield Rd 

Watford, Berry Avenue 

 

 

 

Features

Birmingham Kashmiri success

The Daily Jang (19.05.98) reports that voters from the predominately Kashmiri Muslim community amongst former Labour supporters in three inner-city Birmingham wards surprised the party by voting for Kashmiri protest candidates in the May local elections. In Small Heath, Washwood Heath, Sparkhill and Ladywood there were FRAQC candidates. FRAQC stands for "Free Riaz and Qayyum Campaign", referring to the two men who were imprisoned for killing an Indian diplomat in 1984. In Small Heath, the FRAQC candidate, Allah Ditta, won the election, beating his Labour Party rival, G Khan, by 2,374 votes to 1,934. In Washwood Heath and Sparkhill the FRAQC candidates came second.

Aslam Lone, the activist who co-ordinated the Birmingham FRAQC election campaign, explained that although Qayyum Raja and Riaz Malik were sentenced to 10 and 15 years respectively, the intervention of various home secretaries, first Conservative and now Labour, means they are still in jail. He said: "These men have served their judicial sentence, it is now only due to the intervention of the home secretary that the men are still in prison. All we are asking for is a release as they have paid their penalty for their crime". Another local community activist, Shafaq Hussain, said: "...the local people were also voting in protest; the needs of the local Kashmiri community in areas such as education and youth employment, are not being addressed...We have ineffective Pakistani Labour councillors who are restricted by both party policy and the party whip and subsequently don’t deliver for the community".

The Birmingham Evening Mail (20.05.98) has an interview with Councillor Ditta. He believes there are many reasons why the Asian Muslims of Small Heath voted for him. He said: "They always used to vote Labour but I don’t think they will any more because of the way this area has been neglected. We need more and better schools, housing conditions are shocking, and the roads in the ward are potholed - yet we are being ignored". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 1]

 

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Drugs problem

Muslim News (29.05.98) has an article on Muslims and drug abuse (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for November and December 1997) by Shabnum Dharamsi, a trainer in Islamic counselling and management consultant who has over eight years experience working in the drugs field. Her article is partly a response to the government’s White Paper, Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain. She points out that the government’s discussion paper advocates specific services for ethnic minorities, but that: "The limited research that has been done indicated that specific services are effective, but as yet there are scant services targeted towards ethnic minorities and fewer still towards Muslim communities. Many such services are often unable or constrained to provide treatment or prevention according to eurocentric models, which is often inappropriate to the needs of diverse communities. There is a lack of recognition of faith groups, and a tendency to provide one black worker to cover all the diverse groups. Again, my experience suggests that employment for those who have none, is one of the most effective treatments. This however would need to be carefully planned and linked to support systems". She notes with concern the use of qat amongst Somalis and Yemenis and that: "Young people of Pakistani origin are often sent ‘back home’ to get them sorted out if they get into trouble or aren’t turning out right. I have worked with drug users who then find themselves cheaper sources of heroin in Pakistan"

Q-News (15.05.98) has published the key findings of a report on Muslims and drug abuse, the copyright of which remains with the north London women’s group, An-Nisa Society. The report is based on research in Harlesden, but its authors believe the findings may be generalisable to Muslim communities throughout Britain. They believe that many Muslim girls and women are suffering particular pressures which lead to their taking illegal drugs and prescribed tranquillisers and anti-depressants. The article also points out that women are adversely affected by the substance abuse of their menfolk. It gives the use of qat as an example. The report calls for services which are more aware of religious and cultural dimensions to be available and well-publicised and the development of such services in collaboration with Muslims. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 1/2]

 

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Brick Lane article

The Independent on Sunday (24.05.98) has a long feature article by Hilary Clarke, who has worked on a Bangladeshi community newspaper in Tower Hamlets, with photographs by Stephen Gill, called East Side Story - The changing face of Brick Lane. In this article she covers many issues: racial violence and harassment and the victims’ self-organisation for defence; the campaigns by Muslims to remove street-walking prostitutes (see BMMS for January and February 1998); ethnic businesses in the area; the campaign by Muslims and other local community activists to oppose development on the car park next to the East London Mosque (see BMMS for October, November and December 1997; January and March 1998); the excellent exam results at the 97 per cent Bengali Mulberry Girls School; the return to Islam by young Bangladeshi-origin Muslims; the wearing of hijab by young, educated women; and drug abuse, particularly amongst young Bengalis. She interviews several members of the Tower Hamlets Community Drugs Team. One of these, Monza Ahmed, explains that the falling price of heroin means that much younger people are becoming addicted than previously. One of his colleagues, Kieran Burke, explains that the practice of sending addicted youngsters ‘back home’ to Bangladesh is counter-productive. He says: "Over there heroin is cheap and pure and so the kids are laughing. They just come back and start selling it here".

The article concludes with some observations on local politics in the area. Former Labour councillor Phil Maxwell commented: "In some ways Bangladeshi councillors are closer to the old white working-class, East End political tradition, which meant you could knock on your councillor’s door if you had a problem. They are more recognisable than the new breed of white politicians, many of whom are barristers and college lecturers who don’t come from this area". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 2]

 

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China pigs controversy

The Times (26.05.98) reports that: "Nancy Bennett, 49, who faces possible prosecution after complaints from Muslims over a display of china pigs in the front window of her home in Leicester, had a quotation from the Koran alongside them, it emerged yesterday". The first national newspaper to report on the case was the Sun (25.05.98). To date, there has been no reports from Leicester papers. The Independent (26.05.98) reports that Ms Bennett, who lives near the Highfields Mosque, claims the complaint about the pig ornaments "was made after she went to the police to report allegations of harassment. It is understood that the pigs were displayed alongside a quote from the Qur’an which said: ‘Let there be no coercion in religion’. Leicestershire Police were investigating the matter and would be sending a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, who might consider bringing charges against Ms Bennett under the Public Order Act (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 25.05.98).

Ms Bennett explained that on 24 May: "I arrived home to find the police about to break into my house. They had a warrant. They said they had had complaints about the pigs from neighbours, they considered it was a public order matter and took about 17 of them. I have been told not to replace them. I am sure I am not the only person in Britain who collects ceramic pigs". Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations’ spokesperson, Yaqub Khan, said that people believed Ms Bennett was aware of the possibility of causing offence, particularly as her house was on the main route to the Central Mosque. He said: "There are a number of people who keep china pigs in their houses and we have never objected to those" (Kidderminster Express & Star, 25.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 2]

 

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Reports

 

Community

Nike shoes controversy

Nike sports shoes with a sticker over a logo which looks like the Arabic word Allah are still being sold in shops in Britain and various Muslim groups (see BMMS for April and June 1997; April 1998), such as the Bradford Council for Mosques, are continuing to protest against their sale (Bradford Star, 30.04.98, Asian Times, 05.05.98, Eastern Eye, 08.05.98, Glasgow Evening Times, 14.05.98, Q-News, 15.05.98). At the beginning of May, Nike announced that the dispute over the logo had cost the firm $15 million world-wide and they are prepared to discuss the issue with Muslim representatives. Ghulam Rasul, president of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said: "We are pleased Nike has recognised what they have done wasn’t right. I am satisfied something is happening. They are listening to us" (Eastern Eye, 08.05.98).

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus (20.05.98) reports that on 20 May Khadim Hussain, general secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, announced that the Muslim organisation had asked Nike, sportswear manufacturers, for a copy of a disputed agreement with the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Nike claim the American Islamic organisation had agreed to a sticker covering a logo, which some Muslims find offensive, saying it resembles the Arabic word Allah, on trainers. CAIR deny this, saying they wanted the complete withdrawal of the offending trainers. Mr Hussain said: "We asked [Nike] for some of the trainers to show our scholars to find a way out of this. They said we could have the trainers and they’d come back to us in due course". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 2/3]

 

 

Keighley update

Muslims in Keighley held a festival at the Muslim Community Centre in Emily Street recently. The aim of the gathering was to create a sense of unity where there have previously been warring factions (see BMMS for April, May, June, July and November 1997; February 1998). Another aim was to increase the participation of Asian Muslims in improvement and regeneration schemes in the area (Keighley News, 01.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Conman reappears?

Q-News (15.05.98) reports that police officers in Nottinghamshire who are searching for Sammi Lofti (see BMMS for February and July 1996; February and April 1997), the conman who preys on Muslims, often claiming he needs money to send sick relatives home, believe he has surfaced again. PC Mick Fretwell, who has been trying to catch the 33-year-old Tunisian for the past four years, believes he saw his picture on the BBC programme Crimewatch. The police officer said: "I saw a picture on the television of a man the Lincolnshire officers are looking for. It looked just like Sammi Lofti". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Oxford Centre

The new plans for the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (see BMMS for February, March, April, May and June 1997; January, February, March and April 1998) have met with approval from the city’s chief planner, Maureen Christian, who said of the proposed Marston Road/King’s Mill Lane site: "It’s a good place for an Islamic centre. This is an amenity that Oxford, as an international centre, would welcome. The site is in a conservation area, but the playing field is not in the green belt. We think that the centre’s tower would be an asset to the Oxford skyline" (Oxford Star, 30.04.98). The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, has written to the Oxford Mail (04.05.98), welcoming the news that the centre has found a suitable site and concluding: "Christian-Muslim dialogue is of crucial, growing importance in today’s world and retaining the centre in Oxford will ensure that the dialogue continues at the most serious level". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Slough conflict

The Slough & Langley Observer (01.05.98) has a short report on the continuing violence between Sikh and Muslim youths in Slough (see BMMS for February, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and December 1997; March and April 1998). At the end of April, about 30 youths from the two communities gathered and a fight broke out between rival gangs, resulting in one 17-year-old Sikh having a fractured skull and an 18-year-old Sikh suffering a broken nose, black eye and bruises. A police spokesperson said: "We are trying to ascertain if it was a pre-arranged fight or something that happened spontaneously".

The Slough & Langley Observer (15.05.98) and the Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead Observer (15.05.98) have printed an open letter, "from a Muslim youth who says he is proud to be so, but frightened to identify himself because of possible reprisals" concerning violence between Sikh and Muslim youths in Slough. He writes: "If there are Sikhs or Muslims out there who want trouble - don’t involve religion, and go somewhere else, because we don’t want this trouble in a town which used to be a nice place to live. At the end of the day - ‘God is One’ and whether anybody likes it or not - we are all branches of the same tree". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Football protest

World Cup footballs bearing the Saudi flag, with the Islamic Shahada, or Declaration of Faith (see BMMS for March and April 1998), continue to be sold in shops in the north of England, in spite of Muslim protests. Some have now been found in a sports shop in South Shields. Muhammad Erfan Miah, owner of a grocery store in Ocean Road, South Shields, said: "When I saw the ball for sale in King Street, I was disgusted. How such an important symbol of the Islamic faith and religion could be put on to a football to be kicked about. It is infuriating to me and utterly disrespectful" (South Shields Gazette, 14.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Muslim mortgages

Publicity continues regarding the Manzil home purchase plan, or so-called "Muslim mortgage", a financial service of the Islamic Investment Banking Unit (see BMMS for January, February and April 1998). The Independent (02.05.98) has a brief explanation about how the scheme works, whereas Scotland on Sunday (10.05.98) features Afzal and Abida Wahla, restaurant owners in Glasgow, who are hoping to buy a home under this scheme when the arrangement is finally incorporated into Scottish law in a few month’s time. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Aristocrat’s nuisance calls

Viscount James Reidhaven, heir to a fortune estimated to be worth £40 million, and former follower of a Naqshabandi Sufi teacher has been accused by neighbours in Hildenborough, Kent, of making nuisance calls from a payphone in the village. The Sunday People (03.05.98) relates that Viscount Reidhaven’s father, the Earl of Seafield "was forced to hire two ex-SAS men to rescue his son after the Viscount fell into the clutches of an Islamic cult...The Earl hired American ‘de-programming’ experts to counsel his son and then bought him the Kent mansion with 25 acres". Viscount Reidhaven has been released on police bail and will appear before magistrates on 1 June. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Ashura marked

Shia Muslims in many areas held processions to mark Ashura, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, upon which day the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain, is remembered. These processions attracted the attention of the press in Blackburn, Peterborough and Manchester (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Manchester Evening News, 07.05.98, Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 08.05.98, Peterborough Citizen, 14.05.98, Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 18.05.98). The Clifton Road Mosque in Birmingham held a blood donation session to coincide with this holy day (see report in Health section of this issue of BMMS), as it has done in previous years. The photograph in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph (08.05.98) showed women and girls in a procession carrying banners. Zulfikar Manji of the city’s Husaini Islamic Centre said: "Ashura is not only a day of sorrow and remembrance of ultimate sacrifice but a day of protest against oppressive rule, a day of solidarity with all oppressed people on earth. This day teaches us that people who stay on the side of truth and righteousness may die but are never forgotten" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 08.05.98). Approximately 300 Muslims marched through the streets of Blackburn (Blackburn Citizen, 22.05.98) and in the High Wycombe area, special meetings were held at the Jamia Rehmania, the Wycombe Mosque in Jubilee Road, and at the Hilltop Community Centre. In his weekly column in the Bucks Free Press (22.05.98), Raja Amir Dad Khan explained the significance of the martyrdom of Hussain and why Muslims continue to commemorate it. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 3/4]

 

 

Fundraising by doctors

The newly-formed Young Pakistani Doctors Association recently held a fundraising dinner in London in aid of the Edhi Foundation of Pakistan. The founder of what is probably Pakistan’s largest and best-known NGO, Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi, received a cheque for £3,100 for his charity from the event’s organisers. The sum was raised to £5,000 by further donations during the course of the evening. The Edhi Foundation runs an ambulance service including air ambulances, a marine rescue service, drug rehabilitation programmes, hospitals, burial services, clinics, blood banks, and children’s homes. The Young Pakistan Doctor’s Association is an initiative of two young women doctors, Hina Ansari and Aliya Siddiqui, and their friend, Ms Bibi Tabassum. The association aims to provide social activities for its members; to help in career advice and development; to give guidance to agencies in Britain dealing with Asian health issues and to increase awareness generally about Asian health needs; and to help charitable organisations in Pakistan, particularly those that provide clinics in rural areas (Daily Jang, 19.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Sebastian Poulter obituary

The death was recently announced of Professor Sebastian Poulter, Reader in Law at Southampton University and Professor of Law at the University of Lesotho. The Association of Muslim Lawyers Newsletter (01.06.98) writes of him: "Prof. Poulter was a rare ‘outsider’ that sought to understand Islam and Muslims from an ‘internal’ perspective. Author of a wide range of publications on the interaction between the English legal system and the traditions and values of ethnic minority communities, he will be remembered by the Muslim community for his sympathetic expositions of their problems in this respect, and his endeavours to find appropriate solutions for them". His works include English Law and Ethnic Minority Customs (1986), Asian Traditions and English Law (1990) and Ethnicity, Law and Human Rights: the English Experience (1998). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Dr Darsh on experiments

Q-News (15.05.98) has printed an article by the late Dr Syed Mutawalli Darsh on the question of animal experimentation. In this article, Dr Darsh condemns the use of animals in cosmetics experiments entirely. He begins his article: "Animal experimentation is a new development resulting from the advancement of medical and clinical research. Such practices that we see today did not exist at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and an Islamic answer to this issue has to be based on inference analogy". He concludes the essay: "...it has to be stressed that animals are not play-things for us to inflict trouble upon. God has given us permission to make use of them for our needs, but this permission is conditional upon our being merciful and considerate. Any act of this is an act of transgression and wilful sin". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

New Muslim’s view

Q-News (15.05.98) has an article written by Abdel Halim Es-Salaam, who embraced Islam just over a year ago. He explains his motive in writing: "I know a number of Muslim converts here in Bradford. I am talking here of my white and Afro-Caribbean Muslim brothers and sisters. For the most part our experiences are very similar. I want to share these with you so that various issues can be aired and noted and may start a process where positive change can result. My fear is that as more and more disillusioned people start to look to Islam for answers, they will turn back again because they will not like what they see there (and I am talking about the people not the faith). It is only my personal faith in Islam that has prevented me from dropping out. Others may neither be as strong nor as patient". Mr Es-Salaam complains about the lack of welcome in mosques for converts; the lack of sermons and radio programmes in English; racism by Asian-origin Muslims towards Afro-Caribbeans and whites; the poor standards in many halal butchers shops; and the way in which women are banned from many mosques. On this latter point he writes: "I understand that in Pakistani/Mirpuri culture women do not attend the mosque (either through choice or not) but that has very little to do with us English Muslims. Going to the mosque is an essential spiritual process for all of us, so why deny it to our sisters? How many English women have tried to convert in Bradford and found the masjid door slammed shut in their faces? The situation is unacceptable and fills me with much anger. Islam is the faith that treats both men and women as true human beings, so why do we have such a backward and sexist community? Denying women entry to the mosques and therefore denying them an Islamic education is a recipe for disaster. Women are for the most part responsible for the education of children. If our wives are uneducated then our children will be too". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Deportation suicide threat

Nazreen Khan, a 25 year old convert to Islam, has threatened to commit suicide if her husband is deported. Her husband, Khurshid Ul-Haq, is an asylum-seeker from Pakistan, was served with a notice of deportation to take effect on 19 May. The couple have been married for 15 months and Ms Khan has already attempted suicide once. She told Q-News (15.05.98): "I can’t see me continuing without him. I couldn’t face it if he is forced to leave the country". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 4/5]

 

 

Preston centre reopened

Preston’s Muslim Forum building has been reopened after major repairs necessitated by a flood six months ago. Money for repairs and for improvements to the premises came from the Single Regeneration Budget through the Greater Deepdale Partnership. The centre provides information and guidance on training, education, job-seeking and welfare rights to the unemployed in the local Muslim community. Ishmail Rawat, one of the centre’s directors, said: "We are delighted to have it re-opened. It has been an important part of the Deepdale community for many years. We have received a lot of help for which we are grateful" (Lancashire Evening Post, 07.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

British Council conference

The British Council is planning to hold a conference on Islam and Britain from 7-10 February 1999 in Brighton at the Grand Hotel (Leicester Mercury, 02.05.98, South Wales Echo, 08.05.98). Dr Peter Clark, organiser of the conference, said: "I expect the conference to explore the positive and fruitful links between Britain and Islam" (Leicester Mercury, 02.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Call for arson case review

Q-News (15.05.98) has an article about the case of Idris Balaifa, a devout Muslim who is serving a nine-year sentence for arson. The article recounts that: "He was awoken on 30 December 1992 by armed burglars in his shop [in Liverpool]. After being robbed and gagged, his hands and feet were tied. The shop was dowsed with petrol and set on fire. He awoke next morning to find himself in hospital: he had first degree burns to 40 per cent of his body and was in a coma for three weeks. After this nightmare, another began. He was arrested, charged and imprisoned for attempting insurance fraud. Even though he was convicted of the last charge, he has never actually made an insurance claim!" Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, believes Idris Balaifa’s imprisonment is "a gross miscarriage of justice - and a lot of it has to do with him being a Muslim...the case ought to be reassessed and re-examined...One of the main reasons Balaifa is languishing in jail is because Muslims are not organised and not bothered about the case". A Liverpool campaign group, The Friends of Balaifa, has taken up his case. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Lawyers’ conference

The Association of Muslim Lawyers Newsletter (01.06.98) has an article on the Minority Lawyers Conference 1997, which some AML members attended in an official capacity. An AML spokesperson raised the question of the elimination of religious discrimination at the conference and felt that fellow-lawyers present were sympathetic to their Muslim colleagues’ point of view. The AML has formally asked the Law Society to include a prohibition of religious discrimination in its Solicitors’ Anti-Discrimination Code. This is a move which has already been made by the Bar Council in its equality Code for the Bar. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Pakistan Muslim Centre funding

Sheffield’s Pakistan Muslim Association will have its projects and progress report discussed in private session by its main funders, the regional Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) Partnership. Following the receipt of further information from the Pakistan Muslim Centre, the SRB is now satisfied that there are no financial irregularities, but wants to discuss the projects run by the Muslim centre in more detail (Barnsley Star, Doncaster Star, 19.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Housing Association’s new boss

Saif Ahmad, who holds an MBA degree and has over 15 years management experience in both the public and private sector, has been appointed as the chief executive of the North London Muslim Housing Association. Mr Ahmad wants to see the housing association progress not only in the provision of housing, but also in its wider urban regeneration and community development activities (Q-News, 15.05.98) [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Eid drink-driving

Naseem Ul-Haq Kashwana, the owner of an import business in Salford, appeared before Rochdale magistrates charged with drink driving. Mr Kashwana explained that he had been celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid by drinking whisky with a business associate. When stopped by police for erratic driving and breathalysed, he was found to be considerably over the legal limit. He was banned for 12 months and fined £175 with costs (Rochdale Observer, 09.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Kureishi film at Cannes

Q-News (15.05.98) reports that Hanif Kureishi’s latest film, My Son the Fanatic was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May and is now on general release in Britain. The article gives the story of the film and criticises Kureishi’s portrayal of Muslims, concluding: "Political activism, alienation within families and prostitution as part of the social environment, are all issues of some concern to Muslims in Britain. My Son the Fanatic recognises this but Kureishi and his producers and directors have all opted to frame these concerns as a perverse spectacle where gimmick and cynicism take the place of aesthetic quality and maturity". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Luton police liaison

The general secretary of the Luton-based International Islamic Mission, Syed Rizvi, who is involved in liaison between Luton police and the Asian community, maintains that recent actions by Bedfordshire Police have been successful in their crack-down on the drugs trade. As a result, maintains Mr Rizvi, crime amongst the Asian, mainly Muslim community in Luton has reduced considerably in the past month. He said: "I think the police surveillance is working. There is a great check on their movements" (Luton on Sunday, 10.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Nuclear test reactions

Concern has been expressed by some Muslims in Britain over India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests. The Stoke-on-Trent branch of the Muslim League UK has written to the Prime Minister Tony Blair, House of Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd, and local MPs Joan Walley and George Stevenson. Prior to the Pakistan testing, the deputy general secretary Khurshid Hashmi told the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel (20.05.98): "We are very worried about this development. India’s decision to experiment with weapons of mass destruction has imposed a threat to world peace. It could drag neighbouring countries including Pakistan into an atomic race as the issue of Kashmir is still a great conflict in the region. We want the whole world to take strict action". Similar concerns were expressed to Tony Blair by Muslim community leaders in Oxford (Oxford Mail, 26.05.98). In Northampton, the town’s Islamic Pakistani Community Centre (IPCC) issued a statement welcoming the nuclear tests by Pakistan, which were in response to the ones in India. Borough and county councillor Jaswant Singh Bains was worried about the effect such statements would have on community relations. He said: "We are all living in this town and should work together. I don’t want to see what is happening in Asia mirrored here. All this arguing does nothing for the community". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 5/6]

Khayaal Theatre Company

The Khayaal Theatre Company held its official company launch at the Commonwealth Institute in London on 16 April. Its Conference of the Birds has been playing at the Tabernacle Theatre in west London from the end of May. Luqman Ali, director of the company, said of this their first major production, that it is an allegorical tale "reflecting on the humanity and the need for every person to seek the high potential within himself". Luqman Ali is an African-American writer, playwright, translator and scholar of Arabic and Persian with previous theatrical experience in the US and the Middle East. Part of Khayaal’s aim is to bring an appreciation of Islamic wisdom and heritage to English-speakers, particularly Muslim youth. The Khayaal Theatre Company can be contacted at 203B Ladbrooke Grove, London W10 6HQ (Muslim News, 29.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6]

 

 

Attack on Sikh

A 21-year-old Sikh who had spent the evening at a bhangra night in the Complex nightclub in Parkfield Street, north London, was attacked by a Muslim gang as he came out. He needed treatment for a wound to the head (Highbury & Islington Express, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6]

 

 

Glasgow conflicts

The Daily Record (19.05.98) and the Scotsman (21.05.98) both have articles on violent conflicts amongst Glasgow’s Asian Muslims. Both articles have as their point of departure news that a car bomb was exploded as part of the conflict between rival gangs recently. The Daily Record, which has a diagram of the car bomb, believes Shia/Sunni conflicts may be part of the cause of the tension, combined with territorial youth gangs and so-called "crimes of honour". The councillor for Pollockshields East, Mohammed Shoaib, told the Scotsman that he felt the seriousness of the car bombing had been exaggerated by commentators: "I think that people are going rather over the top about this. It seems there is a problem among a couple of families, which resulted in this incident. But I do not accept that there is a huge problem". He admitted there were some tensions in the Asian Muslim community in Glasgow and attributed these to deprivation and marginalisation: "We [community leaders] have been involved in initiatives for a number of years. However it is true to say there are no long-standing facilities for the young Asian community. But this comes down to a lack of resources which we see across the board in local government". Police believe the car-bombing may be linked to conflicts between families over a forbidden romance, which led to a 16-year-old boy having a finger cut off by a gang as a warning. Superintendent Ian Gordon of Strathclyde Police commented: "Looking at the incidents, we believe they are linked. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is extensive drug dealing or firearms involved in this situation. We refute suggestions that gang warfare is rife among the Asian community. The evidence...does not bear out these claims at all" (Scotsman, 21.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6]

 

 

Batley police tour

On his first visit to Batley, the newly-appointed Chief Constable for West Yorkshire, Graham Moore, went to meet the imam and other committee members at the Medina Mosque, Purlwell Lane and then on to the new Al-Hikmah Community Centre in Track Road. At the community centre, Mr Moore gave a speech on community relations and answered questions from the audience. One of these was about West Yorkshire Police’s policies on ethnic minority recruitment. He answered that there was a freeze on all recruitment at present, but that members of minority communities were very welcome to become special constables (Batley News, 21.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6]

 

 

Leicester Muslims praised

The annual dinner of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, Leicestershire, took place in mid-May at the Melbourne Centre, Highfields, Leicester. Guests included the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor John Mugglestone, church representatives, businesspeople, MPs Patricia Hewitt and Jim Marshall, city councillors and other civic leaders. All the invited speakers praised the Muslim communities in general and the Federation of Muslim Organisations in particular for helping to create a truly multicultural city of Leicester. The Leicester Mercury (22.05.98) said of Patricia Hewitt MP that she was "dressed in a bridal pink salwar kameez suit embroidered in gold". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6]

 

 

Ahmadiyya charity walk

The United Kingdom Muslim Ahmadiyya Youth Association has succeeded in its aim of raising £25,000 for charity by means of a sponsored walk (see BMMS for April 1998). The charities benefiting are the Save the Children Fund, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Age Concern. The Ealing Leader (22.05.98) and the Greenford & Northolt Gazette (22.05.98) concentrated on reporting on the participation of the local Greenford and Southall Muslim Ahmadiyya Youth Association. The newspapers quoted Syed Yahya, national president of the UK Muslim Ahmadiyya Youth Association said: "I am immensely impressed by the efforts of the organising committee, and have seen how hard the Southall and Greenford youth have worked towards this event". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 6/7]

 

 

Hinduism and Islam article

The Independent (27.05.98) has an article written by Randeep Ramesh, who, judging by his name is presumably himself a Hindu, arguing against what he believes to be Hindu extremism and contrasting the lack of adverse publicity which Hindu "fundamentalists" attract in comparison with Muslims. The core of the full-page article is where he writes: "But Hindus have had little of the opprobrium that has been heaped upon Muslims. This may be because is not perceived as a threat to the West. The American political theorist Samuel Huntington predicted that, in the search for a new enemy after the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, the great conflict of the 21st century will be between Islam and America and her allies". He concludes the article with some observations on ethnicity and identity in Britain, ending: "There is nothing wrong with the plurality of the black experience in Britain - but it is somewhat unjust to elevate one of those non-white ethnicities above another". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

Education

Girls’ school meeting

The East Birmingham Plus Parents’ Association and the Saltley Parents’ Association held a joint meeting recently at the Naseby Centre in Alum Rock, Birmingham, to carry forward their demand for an all-girls’ school in the area (see BMMS for May and November 1997). Councillors Abdul Malik, Amir Khan, Mohammed Azam and Mike Ward, together with hundreds of members of the public, attended the meeting. MPs Roger Godsiff and Terry Davis sent messages of support (Daily Jang, 07.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

All-Muslim winners

An all-Muslim team from Moseley School in Birmingham came third in the national final of the 1997/8 National Investment Programme. The five members of the Moseley team, Aleem Sarwar, Syed Moffazal Ali, Amjad Qadir, Sharkat Zafeer and Fiaz Mahmood, each receive a £50 cash prize, plus a multi-media computer for their school. To reach the final, the teams had to run an imaginary £50,000 portfolio of stocks and shares. Justin Urquhart Stewart of Barclays Stockbrokers, which helped run the competition, said: "Each year the level of financial understanding shown by the children amazes me" (Birmingham Post, 02.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

College prayer rooms

The Islamic Society at Tower Hamlets College has succeeded in persuading the college authorities to provide two prayer rooms, one for women and one for men. Mark Vincent, assistant principal, said: "Tower Hamlets college is a secular institution but we need to be responsive and reflective of the diverse cultural needs of students who come here to study. It is important that we seek to provide for that". The president of the Islamic Society, Mr Rahman, explained: "We are trying to get away from the traditional Asian Islamic community towards a multi-cultural Islamic society. By having English as the medium for communication, we have created a new identity - a British-Muslim identity rather than the old segregated Muslim one. But we still stick by our religious principles. The Islamic Society has helped raise awareness of Islam at the College to those who knew little about it and its community. Encouraging the practice of religion in a place of education could only be a positive thing as it draws on self-discipline and occupies a student’s time" (Asian Age, 16.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

Minister’s visit

Mike O’Brien, Home Office Minister for Immigration and Nationality, recently visited the al-Zahra school for girls and al-Sadiq school for boys in Brondesbury, north-west London. Mr O’Brien, a former teacher of seven years experience, was impressed by the schools’ atmosphere. He said: "This is a school which not only teaches the National Curriculum but ensures that Islam is its ethos. The education system has to include the teaching of values; they may vary from community to community but there needs to be a structure of values in a multicultural way. We in Britain are forming a new culture, one that recognises all the traditions that have come here - a British culture which embraces all those traditions and sees the benefits of diversity". Yusuf al-Khoei, director of the schools, felt the minister’s visit went well: "We wanted to show him that there was a real need for this kind of schooling and to break some of the stereotyped images people have of Muslim schools" (Q-News, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

Darul Uloom to close?

The al-Islamiyyah Darul Uloom in Bolton in may have to close after being served with a notice of complaint by government schools’ inspectors (see BMMS for January, July, August and September 1997). The notice relates to inadequate teaching, concerns over the students’ welfare and accommodation, and neglect of the secular curriculum subjects (Q-News, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

Madrasah site visit

The Uxbridge planning sub-committee decided that a site visit should be made before a final decision could be made on planning permission for the rebuilding of the Uxbridge Islamic Education Centre at 4 and 5 Cowley Mill Road. Councillors had received representations from the public both for and against the proposed development (Uxbridge Leader, 22.04.98, 29.04.98, Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, 29.04.98). The chair of the planning committee, Councillor John Lonsdale, said: "I think we should have a look at this one, because I have received a lot of correspondence from both sides" (Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, 29.04.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 7/8]

 

 

Coventry Muslim schools

On 20 May Coventry city councillors gave one year’s temporary planning provision to the Coventry Muslim School in Foleshill Road (see BMMS for March and April 1998). During the coming year, councillors warned the school that it should make certain improvements or find more suitable premises (Coventry Evening Telegraph, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 21.05.98). Like the Paradise Muslim School (see BMMS for March and April 1998), the Coventry Muslim School is a government-registered independent school but had been operating without planning permission. The Paradise Muslim School in Cromwell Street was closed down by the planning committee in March. This forced closure was given by Councillor Shabbir Ahmed as one of his reasons for defecting to the Conservatives (see BMMS for April 1998). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Leeds head award

Ms Nighat Mirza, the former head of Leeds Islamia Girls’ School, whose £20,000 salary was cut by £6,000 and who was then told her job was to be advertised, has won her claim for unfair dismissal (Bradford Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, 21.05.98, Eastern Eye, 29.05.98, Asian Times, 02.06.98). The Leeds industrial tribunal awarded Ms Mirza £6,075.36 compensation for hurt feelings, and strongly criticised Nisar Ahmed, acting deputy chair of governors at the time. A statement was issued that: "The conclusion of the tribunal was that the applicant was a good head teacher. She had good reports following HMI inspections and the school was a successful one. Its only problems were financial". Ms Mirza is currently teaching physics at Greenhead Grammar in Keighley and will become head of RE at Belle Vue Boys’ School in Bradford in September. She said: "I wanted to vindicate myself, to make sure justice was done and to make sure no-one else is treated in this way. I am very pleased with the decision" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 21.05.98, Eastern Eye, 29.05.98). Her representative, Val Rowlands of the Bradford-based Northern Complainant Aid Fund, said of Ms Mirza: "Her treatment by her employers was disgraceful. She is very well qualified, very experienced and would be an asset to any school" (Bradford Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, 21.05.98, Eastern Eye, 29.05.98, Asian Times, 02.06.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Glasgow girls’ school to remain

Members of the Glasgow council Labour group have voted overwhelmingly against a recommendation of their own executive to move towards making the all-girls Notre Dame Roman Catholic High School co-educational. Muslim girls comprise about 200 of the current role of 830 at the school and the Muslim community in Glasgow has been at the forefront of opposition to any changes (see BMMS for November and December 1997). A Muslim spokesperson said: "It’s wonderful news because it shows the feeling inside the council is that we should have choice for parents. It is not a religious issue on its own. It’s an issue where we’re addressing the needs of the community and what the community wants to see. It’s also about the fact that the educational standards of single sex schools are so good. Why fix something that’s not broken?" (Glasgow Herald, 27.05.98). The Muslim trust which has bought the former Bellahouston Academy for £300,000 to turn it into a fee-paying school for girls still intends to go ahead with its plan (Glasgow Herald, 25.05.98, 27.05.98), (see BMMS for February, March and April 1998). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Call to end school prayers

In Bristol, the head of St George School, Ray Priest, is publicly supporting the call by the National Association of Head Teachers to end daily religious assemblies in schools. Mr Priest said: "We are a multicultural school and about 40 per cent of the 800 pupils are Muslim. It’s quite inappropriate for us to have Christian worship. Ofsted has twice noted the fact but the last report agreed we were meeting pupils’ spiritual needs". The chair of Bristol’s education committee, John Ashton, expressed sympathy with Mr Priest’s point of view: "Many find they just cannot find the time for daily worship, and there are also questions in a multicultural city like Bristol as to whether it is applicable" (Bristol Evening Post, 27.05.98). The Bradford Telegraph & Argus (28.05.98) interviewed several teachers and religious leaders, who presented a wide spectrum of views on the question. Khadim Hussain, general secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said: "Of course we welcome any religious input in schools, but if the majority of teachers across the country want this change so that they can spend more time on the basics of education, then we will back them. For Muslims there are five prayers during the day which are compulsory. The majority of Muslim children in Bradford pray in the morning and after school, which is sufficient". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Politics

Sarwar libel case

Q-News (15.05.98) reports that the Glasgow Govan MP, Mohammed Sarwar (see BMMS for March, April, May, June, August, September, October, November and December 1997; January and February 1998) is attempting to hasten a decision in his case against the News of the World. At the beginning of May, Mohammed Sarwar argued in the Scottish Court of Session that the articles published by the newspaper, claiming he was guilty of bribery and corruption, were defamatory. He further maintained that the court should rule the articles to be so and make him a summary award of the damages he is claiming, which amount to £750,000. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Website closed

The Jewish Chronicle (08.05.98) reports that the Jewish Community Security Trust has been successful in having an anti-Israeli website run by the Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun closed down. The Web Factory, which serviced the site, said that it had discovered that the site disseminated supposedly "inflammatory" material. The sales director of the Web Factory, Alan Morris, told the Jewish Chronicle he had received several complaints about e-mails sent by Al Muhajiroun: "We don’t generally make moral judgements. But when we looked at the material, we considered it inflammatory to Jews". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 8/9]

 

 

Azad Kashmir PM’s visit

During his visit to Britain, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Chaudhry Sultan Mahmood, denounced the lack of action on the part of the G8 nations regarding India’s recent nuclear testing. Speaking at a civic reception in his honour in Aylesbury, he said: "The G8 were unable to take any meaningful action against India’s actions. I was especially disappointed by Tony Blair’s attitude. He urged Pakistan not to carry out its own nuclear test but let us not forget that it was a Labour government that left behind the mess in Kashmir. The British government is responsible for the suffering of the Kashmiri people. The G8’s attitude represents a betrayal of Pakistan". The reception was also addressed by the mayors of Aylesbury Vale and Aylesbury Town, as well as the deputy mayor of the town, Raja Khan (Daily Jang, 19.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9]

 

 

Kashmir protests

Under the heading "Muslims protest in capital" the Bucks Free Press (08.05.98) reported that the Kashmir Freedom Movement in High Wycombe organised a demonstration of over 200 people, who went to London and presented a petition to Tony Blair, condemning the continued Indian occupation of Kashmir. The protest letter condemned a recent human rights atrocity in which the Indian armed forces were said to have invaded Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir and massacred 21 villagers. The petition also asked the British government to intervene to find a solution to the Kashmir problem. This massacre was also condemned by the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Sultan Mahmood, during his speech to the All Parties Friends of Kashmir Parliamentary Group on 19 May (Daily Jang, 20.05.98). In Glasgow, Mohammed Sarwar MP spoke on related subjects at a rally in the recently-opened multicultural centre in Kenmure Street, Pollockshields. He said: "The Muslim Ummah throughout the entire world is under terrible pressure. Israel and other countries are being bombarded with financial assistance and modern technology while the innocent nations like the Palestines, the Kashmirs and other Muslim states are being threatened with harmful consequences if they continue to pursue their struggles for the right and just causes they have been fighting for over the past few decades" (Daily Jang, 11.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9]

 

 

World Cup bomb?

Eight men, believed to be members of the Algerian Groupe Islamic Armee (GIA), were arrested on 12 May in London following a tip-off from French police. They were apparently being questioned about a plot to bomb the World Cup finals in France, although Scotland Yard have refused to confirm details (Evening Standard, 13.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9]

 

 

Derby mayor

Derby has a new mayor, Councillor Abdul Rehman, who is a Muslim (Derby Telegraph, 21.05.98, Derby Evening Telegraph, 21.05.98, 22.05.98). For the mayoral charities in the coming year, he has decided to prioritise those that help the blind and partially-sighted. He is aware of the problems faced by the blind, as his daughter Nazir (18), has been partially-sighted since suffering an illness in childhood. The charities chosen are the Derbyshire Association for the Blind, Vision Aid, which recycles spectacles, and the Rainbows Hospice in Loughborough. Founder chair of the city’s Jamia Mosque, Councillor Rehman said he wanted to learn more about the city’s different faiths during his year of office. He said: "I hope to visit all the city’s communities during the year and in some small way bring people together for better understanding. I will look for those things which will bring us together rather than divide us" (Derby Evening Telegraph, 21.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9]

 

 

MN’s interview with Mike O’Brien

Muslim News (29.05.98) has published an interview with Mike O’Brien, Home Office Minister for Immigration and Nationality, Concerning the question of the inclusion of the concept of "religiously aggravated" attacks in the Crime and Disorder Bill (see report in the Racism section of this issue of BMMS). The minister justified the government’s position on not including religion in the proposed law by saying it "was not appropriate at this time", would "extend the scope of the offences considerably" and "would risk diluting the emphasis on race". He also claimed that there was insufficient evidence of religiously motivated crimes: "Although we have had anecdotal evidence in the past one of the difficulties has been the lack of systematic evidence". The Conservatives, in contrast to their policies when in power, are now supporting the inclusion of the concept of religiously aggravated crime into British law. The CRE is also supporting the proposed amendment. A spokesperson for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "We support the amendment to the Bill. We have recommended legislative changes on the issues of blasphemy and incitement to religious hatred in the Second Review of the Race Relations Act 1976 in 1992". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9]

 

 

Racism

Legislation calls update

A variety of publications (Third Way, 01.05.98, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 12.05.98, Muslim Council of Britain Press Release, 22.05.98, Association of Muslim Lawyers Newsletter, 01.05.98) are continuing to discuss the need for legislation against religious discrimination and how Muslims in particular may be in need of such legal protection (see BMMS for April, June and December 1997; January and March 1998). The article in Third Way (01.05.98) concentrates on the need for a question on religious affiliation in the Census, and quotes Peter Riddell of the London Bible College. Dr Riddell says:

"Just asking the question means that the Government is saying that religion is significant. While it’s important that minorities have a sound statistical basis from which to lobby, the Government will find itself having to take into account the Judaeo-Christian majority in its legislation, as often happens in Australia". The Bradford Telegraph & Argus (12.05.98) quotes Dr Philip Lewis, the Bishop of Bradford’s Interfaith advisor: "At the moment we have got a legal system which seems to be confused and is shockingly inconsistent. When it comes to religious issues, it is shot through with inconsistencies and anomalies. We have some rights as a racial, ethnic group but if you are Muslim then in a sense you are not protected because Islam is not considered part of an ethnic identity because, like Christianity, it’s world-wide". Dr Lewis is amongst those who would like to see an amendment to the proposed Crime and Disorder Bill, which would add "or religious" included in the Bill where it refers to racially aggravated offences.  [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 9/10]

 

 

Soldier harassed

Bombardier Nasar Khan, aged 33, is making a formal complaint about the years of racial and religious abuse he has suffered in the British Army. This abuse became worse during the Gulf War. Ironically, Nasar Khan, a fluent Arabic speaker, won the Gulf War Medal for his part in interrogating Iraqi prisoners. In his report, Mr Khan concludes: "Throughout my career I have been subjected to severe racial abuse, including physical attacks. Even when I reported it nothing was done. I always received the worst jobs, even when people junior to me stood around and did nothing". Mr Khan’s wife, Meenaz, said: "Our lives have become a nightmare. The Army is supposed to have cracked down on racism - but they have just turned a blind eye to it. Nasar is determined to fight this all the way" Q-News (15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

Glasgow initiative

The Daily Jang (21.05.98) reports that Glasgow City Council has reorganised its work on equality issues, by establishing working groups on race, gender and disability. The council is also pledged to tackle racist violence, such as the attack which resulted in the death of 15-year-old Imran Khan (see BMMS for March 1998). The council have decided to work in closer cooperation with the police, as well as with the ethnic minority communities, to combat a situation where racially motivated violence may be increasing. Strathclyde Police say that in the last six months, 137 racist incidents have been reported to them within the Glasgow area, compared with the same amount for the preceding 12 months. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

Harassment victims unable to sue

Mal Hussain and his partner, Linda Livingstone, who own a shop on the Ryelands estate in Lancaster and have suffered seven years of racial harassment from gangs on the estate have been told that they cannot sue Lancaster City Council for failing to take action by evicting the troublemakers. Three Court of Appeal judges in London on 14 May decided that although the abuse was "atrocious by any standard", they did not have the right to sue the council, but must rely on action by the police. Mr Hussain, who has evidence of 1,500 instances of harassment, including two serious incidents of arson, said: "From the first day that we moved on to the Ryelands estate we have suffered harassment to ourselves and our business. Yet the attitude of the authorities was that we should just put up with it, it was par for the course on the Ryelands estate, and we were trouble-makers for raising this issue". Mr Hussain and Ms Livingstone now intend to take their case to the House of Lords (Daily Jang, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

BBC anti-Muslim?

The Birmingham-based Pakistani and Kashmiri Listeners Forum continues to allege that the BBC’s radio services, particularly the Asian Network, are biased both regarding recruitment of staff and the content of programmes (see BMMS for March 1998). Mohammed Saleem, spokesperson for the forum, claimed in a letter to Nigel Chapman, BBC’s Controller of English Regions, that the Asian Network staff does not reflect the diversity within the British Asian community. Mr Saleem alleged that, after running training courses for ethnic minorities and having met "its set target of 8 per cent with recruitment from mainly Indian and non-Muslim applicants, the agenda to exclude Muslims and Pakistanis from the Media continues with elaborate but unconvincing explanations". The content of programmes, especially music, was again criticised by the forum, who said: "still 99 per cent of the music played continues to be of Indian origin and as we pointed out, even the Punjabi language programmed on Sunday, Monday and Friday is boycotting Punjabi music from Pakistan. This is beyond any logic and justification". Mr Saleem also claimed that when viewed in the total context of the coverage of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim festivals, the BBC’s coverage of Ramadan was not very much (Daily Jang, 28.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

Crime and Disorder Bill meeting

Eastern Eye (29.05.98) and the Asian Times (02.06.98) have reported on a meeting at which the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) (see BMMS for November and December 1997; March 1998) met the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Brian Mahwinney and the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Affairs spokesperson James Clappison to discuss the Crime and Disorder Bill (see BMMS for April 1998). The Muslim organisation is urging politicians to support the amendment which would recognise religiously motivated acts to be aggravated crime in the same way as racially motivated ones. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

Women

Veil exhibition

An exhibition about Muslim women and the veil, called Concealed Visions - Veiled Sisters, has been on view at the 198 Gallery, 198 Railton Road, Herne Hill, London SE24. Artist Sabera Bham said: "I wanted to create images that would allow veil wearers to be able to express themselves" (Sutton Guardian, Esher & Elmbridge Guardian, 07.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 10]

 

 

Chador discrimination case

A disabled Muslim woman who wore the chador to work was mockingly told by her line manager that she should go for a swim. Farah Raja is disabled with severe asthma and multiple sclerosis. In September 1996 she started a job as a research and co-ordination officer with Lewisham and Guy’s Mental Health Trust. At her interview, she specified certain requirements relating to privacy, access and health to which the employers agreed. However, she was not given any facilities to do her job for five weeks, was subjected to rudeness and verbal abuse by managers and fellow-workers concerning her Islamic dress and her refusal to shake hands with men, and had no fixed place for prayer. She is now taking the employing body to court for racial and religious discrimination. The Islamic Human Rights Commission, which is supporting Ms Raja, said: "This is the tip of the iceberg. It highlights again the need to have a mechanism in place to record these incidents and places in the community where victims can receive counselling" (Q-News, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Suicide increase

Following national concern that statistics indicate that the number of suicide attempts among young Asian women is soaring, mental health workers in the Preston area are holding training in cultural awareness for health professionals. Community psychiatric nurse Chandra Limbachia, who works as part of the Guild Community Healthcare Trust’s team, explained: "The rates of suicide attempts have increased among young people generally but we are finding more and more Asian girls are taking overdoses as they face many complex and cultural worries. Traditionally in Asian religion the females are the upholders of the family. If they do anything wrong it is quite serious and can tarnish the whole family, whereas men can have more freedom. They can go out more and get educated whereas the girl may not be allowed to further her education and leave home to go to university. She can become disillusioned". Those who are feeling suicidal are urged to contact their GP for referral to the mental health support services, or to phone the Samaritans (Lancashire Evening Post, 22.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Domestic violence report

Muslim News (29.05.98) has a report on the Conference on Migrant and Ethnic Minority Women and Domestic Violence, which took place at the University of London in October 1997. Subsequently, the conference report had its launch in the House of Commons on 27 April 1998. The launch was presided over by Oona King MP. Two case studies from the report were highlighted at the launch, covering the situation of Bangladeshi women in Tower Hamlets and Newham and the difficulties they face in accessing help if they are subject to abuse, and the difficulties of Filipino women, particularly domestic workers. Sarah Sheriff’s reporting of the conference and the report concludes: "The Report also presents wide-ranging recommendations from the Workshop sessions of the Conference which cover issues such as women fleeing from domestic violence should be eligible for temporary housing regardless of their immigration status, more effective measures to protect children where contact is ordered with an abusive ex-husband, re-examining the impact of the One Year Rule, greater cultural and religious sensitivity, overcoming language barriers and more funding and resources for services". Two letters to the editor in the same issue of Muslim News deal with related issues. One correspondent argues that Muslim organisations are not responding to the issue of cruelty to women in marriage, and the other expresses concern about the plight of women who have converted to Islam and whose marriages subsequently break down. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Youth

Halifax fitness grant

The Calderdale and Kirklees Health Authority has given a grant of £500 to the International Islamic Mission’s centre in Hopwood Lane, Halifax, to buy sports equipment for the use of local boys. One of the centre’s activities organisers, Mohammed Tariq, said: "The equipment means we can provide activities at the centre rather than taking them to the park. We’ve bought football nets, a table tennis table, basketball hoops and a punch bag for boxing" (Halifax Evening Courier, 05.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Wembley trip

A group of 19 boys and eight men recently had a trip to Wembley to see England and Saudi Arabia play football in a pre-World Cup friendly game. The trip was organised as part of Nuneaton Muslim Welfare Association’s community development programme. The group were seen off by Councillor Cliff Baldry, who is a keen supporter of the Muslim community initiative (Heartland Evening News, 23.05.98, 27.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Careers fair

On 18 April the Association of Muslim Researchers (AMR) and Sisters in Islam organised a Careers Fair for young Muslims aged 14 to 25 in Ponders End, north London. Stall holders included the diplomatic corps, the Army, Metropolitan Police, and professionals from law, information technology, journalism and mass media, medicine, and academia. Many of those who attended as role models have offered to provide mentoring and guidance to the young people interested in their fields, because "...although many employers such as the Police have implemented policies to ensure greater equality of opportunity for the ethnic minorities and action on racism and discrimination, peer pressure to conform - especially socially - can be very difficult for practising Muslims leading to a difficult and distressing working environment" (Muslim News, 29.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11]

 

 

Interfaith

Oxford mosque visit

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries was among local dignitaries invited to a special ceremony at Oxford’s Madina Mosque. Other guests included the lord mayor, Bill Baker; the lord mayor elect, Carole Roberts; and Inspector Peter Shepherd of Oxford police (Oxford Mail, 16.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 11/12]

 

 

Tariq Ali interview

The Sunday Telegraph (03.05.98) has an interview with the left-wing intellectual, Tariq Ali. A writer and the director of a film production company, he is currently writing a trilogy of historical novels about the relationship between Islam and Christianity. He explained: "The first one is about the decline of Islam in Spain, and the second is about the crusades. The third will be set now. My aim is to show that medieval Islam is far more advanced socially and culturally than it is today". Tariq Ali’s latest book, Fear of Mirrors, was due to be published by Arcadia on 15 May. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Reduced Shakespeare Co.

Q-News (15.05.97) reports that some Muslims are joining with a group of Christians to urge the public to boycott the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s play The Bible, the Complete Word of God (abridged). An Essex solicitor who is a committed Christian, Tony Bennet, is investigating the possibility of taking the theatre company to court for blasphemy. Iqbal Sacranie, joint convenor of the UK Action Group on Islamic Affairs, supports this course of action. He said: "Sacrilege and blasphemy do not hurt and pain Muslims alone, they are undermining the very fabric of our society in which the line between right and wrong is getting more and more blurred". Sarah Mitchell, a spokesperson for the theatre company, said the play had toured the Bible-belt of the USA and the Middle East, including Jerusalem, without any problems. She added: "The play is not blasphemous...and its critics merely lack a sense of humour". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

British lawyers’ appeal

A panel of British Pakistani lawyers, headed by the former mayor of Rugby, James Shera, is to appeal to the government of Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws, which have often been used against Pakistan’s religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Daily Jang (13.05.98) reports that the British lawyers were of the opinion that: "As an Islamic country it was incumbent upon Pakistan to safeguard the rights of her religious minorities. There should be no reason for conflicts erupting between Muslims and Christians in Pakistan". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Halal

Prison halal update

The Church Times (01.05.98) reports that the prison service is investigating the extent to which halal meat is served to non-Muslim prisoners (see BMMS for April 1998), with a view to clarifying the prison regulations. The Rural Dean of Worksop, the Rev Glyn Jones, who has expressed concern over the practice in Ranby Prison, Nottinghamshire, said: "I think people should have a choice: knowing if meat has been offered in the name of Allah, and knowing the way it’s been killed". A spokesperson for the prison service, John Church, said that the matter was being researched: "We know it happens at a number of prisons but it is not general practice and it is not encouraged by us" (Worksop Guardian, 01.05.98). Peter Stevenson, legal director of Compassion in World farming, one of the organisations campaigning on the issue, told Q-News, (15.05.98): "It now seems that as a result of the publicity, there is some real movement. I welcome the fact that the Prison Service is looking at this seriously and very much hope they will issue instructions to all prisons that halal meat must not be served to non-Muslim prisoners". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Eid slaughter issue

Correspondence continues to appear in some local papers (Romford Hornchurch & Upminster Recorder, 15.05.98, Blackburn Citizen, 15.05.98) on the subject of the halal slaughter of sheep at Eid-ul-Adha (see BMMS for April 1998). These letters are opposed to halal slaughter completely and one correspondent believed, mistakenly, that it was against the law in Britain. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Health

Blood donation

The mosque in Clifton Street, Birmingham offered the National Blood Service the use of its facilities for a day to collect blood donations from the local community, both non-Muslims and Muslims. A spokesperson for the Blood Service said that hospitals in the West Midlands use around 230,000 pints of blood a year. He said: "We need thousands of new donors as well as encouraging regular donors to make sure they attend their local sessions, so an offer like this from Clifton Road Mosque is invaluable" (Black Country Evening Mail, 01.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

"Our Healthier Nation"

The north London Muslim women’s group, the An-Nisa Society, has published a response to the government’s Green Paper "Our Healthier Nation". Whilst welcoming the discussion document’s emphasis on the social and economic causes of ill-health, the An-Nisa Society is concerned that religion in general and Islam in particular, have been ignored. They write: "The glaring omission of culture and religion in the report is staggering: to a large extent it makes most of its goals and ideals irrelevant to the Muslim community, the largest minority in the country. If it is to be implemented the way it is now it will ensure that the Muslim community continue to be disadvantaged, marginalised and impoverish even more their physical and mental well-being" (Q-News, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Abortion protest

Christian and Muslim anti-abortion campaigners joined together in a demonstration in Rawtensall, Rossendale recently. Members of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child were joined by representatives of the Shah Jalal Mosque, led by the imam, Mohammed Isa Miah (Rossendale Express, 29.04.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12]

 

 

Employment

Q-News adverts

Q-News (15.05.98) has an advertisement for Royal Navy recruitment (see BMMS for December 1997 and January 1998), which stresses its desire to recruit a multiracial force, and one for the Muslim newspaper’s own training scheme. This scheme to train young Muslims as journalists, is run in association with the Department of Employment’s Welfare to Work and New Deal schemes. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 12/13]

 

 

Whitehall report

The Leicester MP Keith Vaz has produced a report entitled Whitehall Remaining White, about racial discrimination in the public administration, particularly on quangos. The review in Q-News (15.05.98) criticises the report for not giving statistics about the under-representation of Muslims, rather than simply Asians, in such employment. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Brent, Chilcot, burials

A plant nursery in Brent, the Chilcot Nursery, may be closed and the greenhouses and education centre demolished, to make way for a Muslim cemetery. Brent Council have decided that the nursery is trading illegally because it has more business from private customers than from the local authority and so the council wants to sell the land. Local people are opposed to this, as the nursery includes a nature reserve, public open space, an education and garden centre. The Muslim cemetery is one of over twenty proposals for the site (Wembley Observer, 14.04.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13]

 

 

Bury, Parker St

The Bury Times (08.05.98) reports that rumours of a meeting between the two sides in the dispute at Bury’s Parker Street Mosque (see BMMS for November 1997; March and April 1998) have been denied by one of the parties, Dr Mohammed Baig. Dr Baig said: "There are no behind-the-scenes moves going on". However, the leader of the other party in the dispute, Syed Zahoor Hussan is reported to have approached religious leaders outside the dispute to intervene as go-betweens. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13]

 

 

Clitheroe, Holden Street

About 60 Asian Muslims held a protest march in Clitheroe against the council’s recent refusal to grant planning permission for a mosque in Holden Street, culminating in handing a petition to a councillor who had voted against the proposal, Councillor Howel Jones (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Clitheroe Advertiser & Times, 20.05.98). Councillor Jones lives in Warwick Drive, close to the proposed site of the mosque and education centre. A former Brookside County Primary School pupil, when Councillor Jones was headteacher there, handed over the petition. Farooq Hussain, now himself a primary school teacher in Blackburn, said: "Councillor Jones, you used to teach us to be tolerant of other people’s religions - shouldn’t you practise what you preach? You said you would provide us with a suitable site for a mosque: can you please show us where it is?" After several minutes of intense but polite discussion, Howel Jones responded: "I will certainly read it [the petition] and acknowledge it, but I can’t do any more at this stage. The final decision ultimately rests with the Ribble Valley Borough Council" (Clitheroe Advertiser & Times, 20.05.98).

The Islamic Education Centre in Holden Street had asked Ribble Valley Borough Council for permission to build a mosque on their present site. There had been opposition from some local residents to the plan. Mohammed Arshad, speaking as a trustee of the Islamic Education Centre, said: "Muslims have been in Clitheroe for over 40 years. I have lived here for 33 years. All we are asking for is a place where we can pray and follow our religion...The disruption to the people on Holden Street would be practically nil. Nearly every other borough council, where there are Muslims, has given similar plans permission; we are only asking Ribble Valley Borough Council to do the same" (Clitheroe Advertiser & Times, 30.04.98).

On 18 May Clitheroe Town councillors voted by five to three to refuse the planning application, on the grounds that it would be "unneighbourly". The council chamber was packed with both supporters and opponents of the mosque scheme. There are Muslims on both sides. A Muslim opponent, Mohammed Amin, who lives next door to the proposed development and who handed in a petition signed by 60 objectors, said: "You may be surprised that a Muslim family is objecting to a mosque, but it is on the grounds of noise, parking and access. This facility will be used at all times and the people using an Islamic education Centre at the site already have no regard for the feelings of people living in the street. I have lived in Holden Street for 20 years and this is a totally inappropriate site" (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 19.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13]

 

 

Glasgow, Central Mosque

Work has begun on the £1.3 million extension to Glasgow Central Mosque. The new building will include a cafe, library, and multi-purpose hall. Existing facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities attending day centres will also have improved access. A spokesperson said work was on target and was expected to be completed by October (New Local News for Govanhill, Gorbals and Kinning Park, 01.05.98). The Glaswegian (21.05.98) reports that the mosque, which will be the biggest in Scotland, looks likely to be completed on time. In is expected to be completed by January 1999, the start of the Year of Architecture. Supporters of the project include Mohammed Sarwar MP and his friend, the owner of Global Video, Maq Rasul, who is reputed to be Scotland’s richest Asian (see BMMS for January and February 1998). Spokesperson for the project, Tariq Ramzan, said: "This will be a beautiful and useful addition to Glasgow just in time for the Year of Architecture. This will predominately serve Scotland’s massive Muslim community but we want to contribute to everyone in the area". [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13]

 

 

Kettering, Grasmere Road

On 28 May Kettering council’s planning sub-committee rejected an application to convert an empty shop in Grasmere Road into a mosque and madrasa (see BMMS for April 1998). The main objections were on the grounds of possible problems with parking and traffic congestion (Kettering Evening Telegraph, 29.05.98). Bishret Ali, speaking on behalf of the Muslim group, had invited objectors to come and talk to him. He said: "We won’t be building a dome or using music or bells. They won’t even know we are there. The best thing to do is to meet so we can overcome their fears" (Kettering Evening Telegraph, 16.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 13/14]

 

 

Luton, Cromwell Road

Complaints have been received by Luton Council that the users of the Masjid-e-Noor in Cromwell Road are breaking the conditions of planning permission (see BMMS for December 1996; February and March 1997). Use of the car park is only permitted between 9am and 7.30pm, but the complainants claimed the car park was being used outside these hours and that there were problems with noise (Luton News, 29.04.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Luton, Westbourne Road

The supporters of Abdul Aziz Chisti, who was the first imam at the Luton Central Mosque and was influential in its leadership for several years, have failed to win back control in a recent ballot. The vote was supervised by an independent body, Electoral Reform (Ballot Services) Ltd, because the management of the mosque has been the subject of an acrimonious and expensive legal battle for some years now (Luton Leader, 14.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Manor Park, Church Road

The Muslim Patel Association has applied for permission to use 2A Church Road, Manor Park, as a centre for worship and education (City of London Recorder, 08.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Palmers Green, Oakenthorpe Rd

Controversy continues about plans to build a mosque on former playing fields in Palmer’s Green, even though planning permission was finally granted some months ago (see BMMS for January 1998). The leader of the opposition Conservative group in the local authority, Councillor Terry Neville, claims to have information from the former chair of the environment committee, ousted Labour councillor Richard Course, that there was a secret meeting of the applicants, the MCEC (Muslim Cultural and Educational Centre) and a specially selected, small number of councillors, prior to the official planning meeting. Councillor Neville and Mr Course allege that the MCEC was promised that it would get planning permission at this secret meeting. Councillor Neville has taken his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (Enfield Independent, 29.04.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Portsmouth, Victoria Rd North

Planning permission has been given for a former bingo hall (see BMMS for April 1998), originally built as a cinema in 1928 in the art deco style, to be converted into a mosque (Portsmouth News, 20.05.98, 21.05.98). Portsmouth’s Muslim community has outgrown its base in Marmion Road and the listed building in Bradford Junction can be easily converted with no significant changes to its character, according to the applicant’s agent. [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Prestwich, Sedgley Park

The Jewish community in Sedgley Park has said that it is very pleased that Muslims have obtained permission to convert the disused Brooklands library into a mosque. Sonny Fromson, president of the Jewish representative council, reacted angrily to rumours that there had been opposition from Jews to the proposal: "How can we, as Jews, object? We must hold out the hand of friendship to everyone". Frank Adams, a member of the Zionist Central Council’s speakers’ panel, said: "There are 200 Muslim families in the Sedgely ward, and we should be pleased that they feel at home among the Jewish community" (Jewish Chronicle, 01.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Rochdale, Ramsey Street

Both non-Muslim and Muslim residents of the area around the Ramsey Street mosque have presented Rochdale council with a petition, signed by 500 people, asking that a vacant site on South Street, near the mosque, be used for a car park (see BMMS for March 1998). They are concerned that instead, the council may sell the land to Ashiana Housing Association for housing. The petitioners claim there is an urgent need for more parking facilities for the mosque (Rochdale Observer, 06.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Sheffield, Wolsey Road

Sheffield Islamic Centre want to build a new, larger mosque and community centre at their premises a in Wolsey Road. Trustees of the mosque are talking to council officers about the possibility of extending the building at the rear to the car park on the opposite side of Gifford Road (Rotherham Star, 09.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Slough, Stoke Poges Lane

The temporary premises of the Slough Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre (see BMMS for May 1997) were destroyed by fire in what is believed to have been an arson attack, on the night of Friday, 1 May (Slough & Langley Observer, 08.05.98). On 22 April, the trustees of the mosque gained planning permission to demolish their old building in Stoke Poges Lane, build a new mosque on that site, and use the old Naval Club in Elliman Avenue as a temporary mosque for two years while the building work takes place (Slough & Langley Observer, 01.05.98). The fire at the temporary mosque caused about £250,000 worth of damage and is a considerable set-back. Mohammed Asghar, treasurer of the Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre, said: "We have spent a lot of money on this project, and what has happened is very unfortunate. We were hoping to start building work in the very near future, now we will have to find somewhere else first". Firecrews from Slough, Langley and Windsor rushed to tackle the blaze, which took three hours to extinguish (Slough & Langley Observer, 08.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14]

 

 

Swindon, Fleming Way

The Islamic community in Swindon has been given more time by the local council to try to raise money to buy a site for a new mosque in Fleming Way. The site, a former primary school, has been valued at £535,000 but is being offered to the Thamesdown Islamic Association at £267,500 by Wiltshire County Council (Swindon Evening Advertiser, 07.05.98, Western Daily Press, 08.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 14/15]

 

 

Trowbridge, Longfield Rd

The Trowbridge Islamic association has had its request for £3,500 for a security fence and floodlighting rejected by West Wiltshire District Council. Officers said the council has a policy not to give money for this purpose to religious organisations. Councillor Adrian Fox, supporting the mosque’s application, said: "I think this policy is rather outdated. This council is about to embark on an anti-poverty strategy which will focus on poverty and those faced with social exclusion. The Trowbridge Mosque provides a community centre for the Islamic community of West Wiltshire and therefore it is very much involved in many of the issues we are most concerned with, and we should offer it our support". Councillors asked council officers to go back to the mosque to explain that money might be available for more community-based projects (Wiltshire Times Trowbridge, 01.05.98., Wiltshire Times Bradford-on-Avon, 01.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 15]

 

 

Watford, Berry Avenue

The mosque to be built in Berry Avenue in Watford (see BMMS for December 1997 and February 1998) became an issue in the local elections, according to some commentators (Watford Observer, 15.05.98). The North Watford Action Group, who had unsuccessfully campaigned against a mosque in Berry Avenue in the Leggatts ward, had leafleted hundreds of homes, urging voters not to vote for Labour at the council elections. Jagtar Dhinsda, the Labour candidate, lost by less than 100 votes to Steve O’Brien, the Conservative candidate. The ward has been Labour for many years. Mr O’Brien said of his victory: "This is a victory for the people. Leggatts’ residents were fed up with being ignored and kicked around by the council and showed their disgust at the polls. I hope to persuade the council and the Muslim community that it is not in their interests to build a mosque in this ward. Other sites have to be looked at and hopefully this shock result will be enough to make the council reconsider" (Watford Observer, 15.05.98). [BMMS May 1998 Vol. VI, No. 5, p. 15]

 

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