British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Census update 

Merton Council 

Yusuf Islam interview

 

 

Reports

Community

Plea for peace 

China pigs controversy 

New homes scheme 

Stroud Islamic committee 

Police break-ins warning 

Football club name change 

Safer cycling course 

Honour for environment work 

Day of learning for children 

Award for project 

Protests to save pool 

Backyard transformed 

Call to end mixed swimming sessions 

Disability centre launched 

Family angry with council’s move 

Judge’s comments condemned 

Park to be transformed 

Television station for Ramadan 

Exhibition and fashion show 

Poverty trap research 

Honorary awards 

‘Id for inmates 

Charity aids fundraiser 

Quiz runners-up raise money 

Insight into Islam 

Muslim advisor appointment 

 

 

Education

Al-Hikmah education conference 

Nation of Islam school accepted 

Interest-free loan call 

School mosque visit 

Prayer room cash 

School application rejected 

School project 

Madrasa assurance 

Girls’ school success 

School improvement 

 

 

Politics

Anti-terrorist arrests 

MP broadcasters call 

Peers’ maiden speeches 

Jack Straw interview 

 

 

Racism

Religious Discrimination update 

 

 

Women

Ten year celebration 

Security device for women 

 

 

Youth

Youths riot in Bradford 

 

 

Interfaith

Jewish and Nation of Islam dialogue 

Religious harmony event 

Inquiry into councillor’s comments 

New Muslims 

Jewish-Muslim dialogue at university 

Lunch success 

Jail convert 

International Council mosque visit 

 

 

Health

Subsidy for NHS circumcisions 

Female circumcision debate 

 

 

Employment

McDonalds hijab case 

Woman receives settlement 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bury, Parker St 

Clitheroe burials 

Glodwick, Greengate St 

Isle of Wight, Newport, Chapel St 

Leicester, Manor Farm 

Liverpool, West Derby Rd 

London, Hainault burials 

London, Folly Lane burials 

London, Whitechapel Rd 

Luton, Bury Park Rd 

Luton, Drayton Rd 

Manchester, Mauldeth Rd 

Redditch, Smallwood 

Sheffield, Wolseley Rd 

 

 

FEATURES

Census update

The Sunday Telegraph (15.11.98) carried a report that the Government plans to ask people their religion in the Census 2001 (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for August, September and October 1998). This has not been done since 1851. There has been opposition to such a move on the grounds that the gathering of statistics on religion will undermine personal liberty. Professor Graham Zellick, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, together with other members of the Jewish community, believes that the proposal is dangerous. He said: "It is wholly inconsistent with our traditions of freedom and personal privacy to ask a question about a person’s religious beliefs, presumably on pain of criminal prosecution for a refusal to answer. Although I am not paranoid, and I do not expect a government to misuse the statistics in the near future, if history has taught us anything, it is that such information can be abused. It is only two generations ago that religious affiliations were used against people in a terrible manner. We must guard against such a thing ever happening again." Other religious groups, including other Jews, support the inclusion of the question. Muhammad Usamah, education officer of the Muslim Education Trust, said: "We are constantly being asked how many Muslims there are in this country, and at the moment no one knows. It seems sensible to plan future services in this country on the basis of facts given in the census. Areas such as social services, adoption, schooling and so on could all be influenced by religion. I take Professor Zellick’s point and I acknowledge there are worries, but if this country were ever to fall into the wrong hands, I don’t think they would need census information to identify religious or racial groups."

In an interview with Muslim News on November 7 (see article in Politics section), the Home Secretary Jack Straw emphasised his support for the inclusion of the religion question in the Census 2001. He said: "We have published it as a proposal in the Census 2001 White Paper coming out later this year." He also said that if there is general agreement on the religion-question, the 1922 Census Act would be amended to include these changes (Muslim News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 1]

 

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Merton Council

There have been reactions from Muslims following the failure to prosecute a member of the British National Party for distributing material offensive to Muslims in Morden (See BMMS for October 1998). The president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association whose headquarters are to be based at Morden, the mosque site targeted in the literature, said: "The British laws are not in any way lacking in provision for religious groups and ethnic minorities - it is the application of those laws which needs attention. But if the laws can be improved to give greater security and protection to minority groups then of course we are behind any action taken by the council" (Wimbledon News, 30.10.98). Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: "At the moment, we are second class citizens, unequal before the law, with no protection against discrimination and harassment…This episode in Merton confirms what Muslims have been saying all along - that we are not covered by the Race Relations Act. As a result, Britain’s three million Muslim citizens are truly unprotected and vulnerable. The existing law either needs to be extended or new legislation brought in" (Eastern Eye, 06.11.98).

Ahmad Thomson, a Muslim barrister who handles discrimination cases, said: "At present British justice does not extend to protecting people from religious discrimination or to providing any legal recourse to being granted compensation if direct loss is suffered as a result. If you are sacked because you are black, you have a remedy at law. If you are sacked because you are a Muslim, tough. This policy is neither justifiable nor just." However, there were some Muslim organisations that were pleased that the court ruling had gone against the council. Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Our worry was that Muslims might have been deemed to be a racial group…Incorporating Muslims into the Race Relations Act would only be a partial solution because you have so many Muslims who do not belong to an ethnic minority. There needs to be an amendment to the law that includes religious communities." (Q News, 01.11.98, No.298).

There are also fears that this ruling has made Muslims an easy target and may encourage far right groups to target Muslims knowing that they will be able to do so without being prosecuted. The Home Office has said it will announce invitations for a research project on religious discrimination. The 18-month study will allow the government to make a decision on whether new laws on religious discrimination will be drawn up (Muslim News, 27.11.98, Awaaz, 01.12.98).

Following a meeting of the Three Faiths Forum with the Race Equality Minister Mike O’Brien, a statement was released where Mr O’Brien said: "We will study the decision of Mr Justice Tucker in the High Court with care. We would welcome contributions from the Three Faiths Forum and other organisations about the issue as part of our current examination of the Race Relations Act." The issue of blasphemy laws was also raised with the minister (Muslim News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 1/2]

 

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Yusuf Islam interview

The Harrow, Stanmore, Kingsbury Times (19.11.98), contains an interview with Yusuf Islam. He is asked questions regarding his views on topics such as the war with Iraq, the death sentence on Salman Rushdie, Islamaphobia, his work in the community and his conversion to Islam. On the Iraqi situation he says: "I am not a supporter of Saddam Hussein, nor is I think any right-thinking Muslim. But for the sake of the people and the children suffering, those are the ones who are still held hostage by the sanctions." Asked whether he supported the Ayatollah Khomeni’s fatwa, whether he agreed with the lifting of it, and whether he believes Rushdie should live or die, he said: "I have nothing to do with the fatwa or its lifting, so it bypasses me…In Islam he [Rushdie] broke the law. In Britain he broke no law. That is what the fundamental issue is. If there is going to be an international acceptance of what is right and wrong, what is a criminal act, there has to be much more appreciation of the values that people hold dear, which for many Muslims includes religion." He believes that the whole issue was blown out of proportion, especially the comments reported in the media that he believed Rushdie should die. This fits in with his views on Islamaphobia, where everything to do with Islam is portrayed as something to be avoided: "We were told the same about the Communists. If we thought there was a KGB or Russian sitting next to you on the tube, you’d be shaking. The fear built up about these people were not deemed to be human anymore. I think the same kind of process is happening about Muslims, using people from extreme views as a model to judge everybody by. Not every Catholic is a member of the IRA, but it seems that everybody Muslim is treated with the same brush."

A lot of this is blamed on ignorance of Islam, and this is why he has spent a lot of time working in the community, allowing people to learn more about Islam. One such event he was involved in was the ‘Friendship in Brent Day’, organised with other community leaders. Finally, asked whether he regretted leaving his background of wine, women and songs, for something seen as too restrictive, he said he had no regrets: "Freedom breeds insecurity. Freedom has to be utilised in a careful way in order to build and construct a life that would bring satisfaction, peace and contentment." [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 2]

 

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Reports

 

Community

Plea for peace

A Sikh woman, whose brother was severely injured during a street battle in Slough, has appealed for peace (See BMMS for October 1998). The fight, between a group of eight Muslims and six Sikhs and Hindus, resulted in three men being treated in hospital for blade wounds. A Sikh man had his hand sliced off with a sword. One man was arrested in connection with the fight but was released on police bail (Slough & Langley Observer, 06.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 2]

 

 

China pigs controversy

The woman who displayed china pigs in her front window, which were considered offensive to Muslim neighbours in Leicester, has been told she will not face prosecution for racist behaviour (See BMMS for May and June 1998). Of the seven pigs, however, only three have been returned to Nancy Bennett as the other four were accidentally smashed, for which she was sent £150 compensation (The Daily Telegraph, 10.11.98). Mrs Bennett said: "I am angry about the waste of time and resources. I have been classed as a racist when I have got many Asian friends and have been a good neighbour to them all. It is ridiculous. … It is beyond belief because I have had the pigs in my window for years and I usually bring them out around Christmas time. Why people should suddenly take offence to them I don’t understand. When they were seized I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry - it just seemed so ridiculous." She is considering a private prosecution against a group of Muslims whom she alleges stalked and harassed her (The Express, 10.11.98). The decision not to prosecute was condemned by Manzoor Moghal of the Leicester Federation of Muslims, who said: "She deliberately tried to insult the local community" (The Times, 10.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 2]

 

 

New homes scheme

The North London Muslim Housing Association is asking private donors in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to help raise £500m to build 10,000 houses for Muslims living in Britain. The scheme is designed to rejuvenate areas for the Muslim community, who will also be asked to contribute donations (See BMMS for October 1998). Saif Ahmad, the association’s chief executive, said: "There is a general perception of Britain as a wealthy country, but I will be arguing that the Muslim community is poor in comparison." The association already owns 400 homes and was founded ten years ago (The Times, 17.11.98, Eastern Eye, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 2/3]

 

 

Stroud Islamic committee

The formation of an Islamic welfare committee for Stroud is to be discussed at a meeting organised by Mohammad Khurshid Akhtar, proprietor of the Bengal Balti take away (Stroud News & Journal, 28.10.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Police break-ins warning

Police in Crawley have warned that burglars are targeting the homes of Hindus and Muslims while they are out celebrating religious festivals or attend- ing meetings. PC Graham Saunders said: "It’s not an epidemic but rather it seems a pattern is emerging. It just seems that Hindus and Muslims are being targeted. We don’t know why but we’re working on it … I don’t want people not to go to their meetings because they fear their homes will be burgled. I just want people to be aware" (Crawley News, 28.10.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Football club name change

Spen Valley League football club, Islamic F.C., have changed their name to Mount F.C. and have made an impressive start to the season. They have won four and drawn one of their first five league fixtures (Awaaz, 01.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Safer cycling course

The Indian Muslim Welfare Centre teamed up with Kirklees Road Safety Unit, providing a course to promote safe cycling. The course ran at the Al-Hikmah Centre, Batley, and ran for two days. Ismail Lorgat from KRSU, who organised the event, said: "I am pleased that we got so many children turning up wanting to learn about safer cycling. They really enjoyed it, and so did all the organisers. We hope to do something similar in the future" (Awaaz, 01.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Honour for environment work

Mohammed Farooq, aged 60, of Saltley in Birmingham, is to be honoured for his environmental work as part of the Queen Mother’s Birthday Awards. He has, over the past four years, been involved in recycling paper and card from local homes and businesses. The cash raised has been donated to UK Islamic Relief. Mr Farooq said: "It’s a very rewarding thing to do, and I reckon I have raised nearly £300 for the Relief fund." The awards have been organised by the Tidy Britain Group of which the Queen Mother is patron (Birmingham Evening Mail, 10.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Day of learning for children

The secretary of the Muslim Culture and Welfare Association of Sutton, Councillor Lal Hussain, organised an event for children from the Muslim community, where they could learn about the history and culture of Islam. ‘Seerat-un-Nabi’ gave the children an opportunity to learn about the life of the last Prophet and to perform their own readings. Members of Parliament from the borough, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, and the Mayor of Sutton, Cllr Janet Lowne, also attended the event (Guardian Extra, 03.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Award for project

A scheme set up by Slough Borough Council and Thames Valley Police, has won a Philip Lawrence Award – established in memory of the murdered London head teacher. The scheme was triggered by the visit of Dudley Weeks, an international ‘peace-maker’ based in America. When he came to Slough, tension between Muslim and Sikh communities was running high and he was asked by the council to run a training course in conflict resolution for a group of people aged between 14 and 26 from the relevant communities. Young people have since come together leading seminars, and attending discussions in schools, colleges and youth centres. They are also planning to write a drama highlighting the problems and tensions, which they hope to stage next year. Detective Inspector Steve Neale of Slough Police commended the efforts of the youths, saying: "It was an act of courage just to come forward, given the background of violence and tension which existed at the time." The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is to present the award to the youths at the end of the year (Slough & Langley Observer, 06.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Protests to save pool

Protesters are fighting to prevent a swimming pool in Liverpool from closing. The council is considering closing Breckside Park Pool next month. Labour spokesman on leisure and tourism, Robbie Quinn, is leading the fight to save the pool. He said: "The pool is important because it is used by disabled groups and Muslim women who need special facilities." It is estimated that repairs to the pool would cost around £200,000 (Liverpool Echo, 12.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

 

 

Backyard transformed

Volunteers in Deepdale have worked to transform the backyard of the Preston Muslim Forum from a rubbish dump to a beautiful urban garden. The yard was developed by the Asian and Bengali Women’s Group from Open House. They felt there was a need for more green spaces in Deepdale and so asked the help of experts. Lancashire Global Education Centre offered it’s services, while funds came from the Gatsby Foundation and the Civic Trust Local Projects Fund, part of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Rubber tyres and other recycled containers were used for planting, and broken tiles were used to make a decorative mosaic. A spokesman said: "It will hopefully encourage and enthuse others to develop their own yards, thus contributing to improve the local environment. This demonstrates how the most dismal of backyards can be transformed into a beautiful retreat on a limited budget" (Lancashire Evening Post, 13.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 3]

Call to end mixed swimming sessions

Councillor Arshad Hussein has called for an end to mixed-sex swimming in Bradford schools where there is an Asian majority, saying that it is against their religious beliefs. He is said to have handed in a 257-signature petition to Scotchman Middle School, where currently 115 pupils aged nine and ten, participate in mixed sessions. Cllr Hussain said: "This is an issue of great cultural and religious importance to many parents and we feel it’s only right that the school should adopt a sympathetic attitude to the wishes of the majority…I mentioned it at the Mosque on Toller Lane and many people didn’t know it was happening even though it goes against our culture and religion." He added that the local authority should be doing more to help communication between parents and schools. A spokesman for Bradford Council said: "Schools are advised to take account of parents’ views and concerns on all cultural matters, and this would obviously include policies on single-sex swimming classes. We are aware that the governing body, which includes Asian parents, voted in favour of mixed-sex swimming sessions last year." The schools’ head teacher said that although this issue has come out of the blue, it will be discussed at the next governors meeting (Yorkshire Post, 13.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Disability centre launched

A new initiative has been started at a Pakistan Muslim centre to help Muslims with disabilities. The Muslim Disability Network’s spokesman, Matloob Hussein, said the aim of the group was to raise the profile of issues of disabilities amongst Muslims, but would also help non-Muslims (Sheffield Star, 18.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Family angry with council’s move

A family of nine are considering taking legal action against Brent Council, after being told to accept new accommodation, next to a pub, or face being thrown out on the streets (Q News, 01.11.98, No.298). Aurangzeb Siddiqui turned down the offer of a five bedroom house which had become available because the property backs onto a pub. Mr Siddiqui said he was repulsed by the constant smell of alcohol coming from the pub. He also claims that the only access to the house comes from a narrow alley adjacent to the pub, and that passing through the beer garden was unpleasant, as well as there being the possibility of him and his family being targets of racists and drunken thugs. David Byron, the council’s Senior Homeless Persons Officer said in a letter written to Mr Siddiqui’s solicitors: "The family are clearly not being asked to enter the Public House. Their religious beliefs do not prevent them from walking past a Public House on the road…it would be impossible to reside in Brent and be segregated from the influences of alcohol." Lawyers acting for Mr Siddiqui are considering applying to the courts for a judicial review of Brent Council’s decision. His barrister said the council were putting unacceptable pressure on Mr Siddiqui to move to a place which violated his right under the new Human Rights Act. [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Judge’s comments condemned

A man who was hoping to have a retrial of his matrimonial case, had the case dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Azmi Jibeili, of East London, appealed for a retrial after feeling that the residing judge had not given a fair trial. It was claimed that in 1995, when Mr Jibeili requested more time with his daughter so he could introduce her to Arab culture, Judge Goldstein said: "Spending time with a child is about fun and McDonalds, not jamming her throat with Arabic text books and the holy book." In a letter written to the Lord Chancellor, Mr Jibeili points out that Judge Goldstein’s comments were discriminatory and based on stereotypes. Lord Irvine replied to this letter saying: "The Judge tells me that the purpose of the contact he had in mind was so that you could reintroduce yourself to your daughter, then still under three years old, to have some quality, fun time with her, rather than to take her to religious education, which he believed could come later. He assures me his remarks were in no way racist." Katherine Gieve, lawyer at a leading London firm, said the remarks were "culturally insensitive in the extreme," and that "it’s certainly not a proper comment for a judge to make" (Q News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Park to be transformed

A Park in Chesham which is notorious for alcoholism and vandalism, is to be transformed under a Chesham Town Council project. The local community have shown their support, including Mohammed Saleem, president of the Chesham mosque committee. He said the Muslim community will help in working towards a long-term solution, and that parents would be encouraged to take responsibility where Muslim children were involved (Bucks Examiner, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Television station for Ramadan

Muslims in the Bradford area will benefit from a cable channel during the month of Ramadan, which will broadcast religious programmes for two hours each evening. The idea came from Yaseen Rahman, who said: "The programmes will highlight the meaning of Ramadan, the most important religious event in the Muslim calendar. Content will be restricted to religious matters. Programme features will include film footage gathered locally, discussions, information, prayers, recitations, fasting and food." Groups or individuals with programme ideas, or topics for discussion, should contact the station at Unit 38, Carlisle Business Centre, 60 Carlisle Road, Bradford BD8 8BD (Yorkshire Evening Post, 19.11.98 and Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4]

 

 

Exhibition and fashion show

Members of the Abu Bakr Girls Group, a social club based in Cambridge, organised a fashion show for Muslim women, to show how they can dress fashionably while keeping to the Islamic dress code. Leila Aboukhshem, aged 17, and Amina Sefiani, 18, came up with the idea after discussions with youth workers and other members of the group about self-image. Amina said:

"By showing clothes available in local high street shops, we hope to show to Muslim women how it is possible to dress fashionably but appropriately. There’s no need for them to go to specialist shops in London…There will be three sections to the show. The first will be traditional, cultural clothes modelled by women of all ages wearing their own clothes. The second will be high street fashions and the third will be clothes designed and made by the Muslim Girls Group." The group were given a grant from Cambridge City Council to help stage the event (Cambridge Evening News, 23.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 4/5]

 

 

Poverty trap research

Research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published on 23rd November, shows that Pakistani and Bangladeshi families in Britain are almost four times as likely to be living in poverty as white households. Incomes of 2,500 ethnic minority households were examined, which showed that high unemployment among Pakistani and Bangladeshi men, together with low pay and large families, contribute to 60% of them falling below the poverty line, compared to 16% among white households. Professor Richard Berthoud of Essex University said: "Lack of appropriate education and training provides part of the explanation and could be part of the solution to poverty in this community. Account also needs to be taken of Islamic traditions in relation to female employment and large family sizes. Purely economic factors are also important – such as the collapse of the textile industry in which so many Pakistanis were employed" (The Guardian, 23.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Honorary awards

Honorary awards in recognition of service to race and community relations in the UK, were presented by the Home Secretary Jack Straw, on behalf of the Queen, to members of Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities. Dr Zaki Badawi received the award for the Muslim community, and was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his outstanding personal contribution to race relations. From the Christian and Hindu communities, Mr Jerome Mack and Mr Om Parkash Sharma also received OBE’s for their outstanding work (Muslim News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

‘Id for inmates

Mr M. Conway, Governor of Maidstone Prison in Kent, has said he will look into grievances about ‘Id arrangements made by Muslim inmates. After last Ramadan, Muslims were not allowed to celebrate ‘Id on the 30th January, but Mr Conway asserts that this was not "a deliberate act to cancel the feast", but rather occurred because of "confusion about when and how the feast of ‘Id al-Fitr was going to take place." He said the authorities were more informed and prepared since: "This was demonstrated in the arrangements for ‘id al-adha, and we will endeavour to ensure the same mistakes are not recurring" (Muslim News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Charity aids fundraiser

A woman hoping to cycle in Cuba to raise money for charity, has been given help from Muslim Hands. Clare Allies, aged 30, needed to raise £2,000 in sponsorship to help deaf children, but found herself £500 short, so the charity stepped in to back the fundraiser. She said: "Muslim Hands saved me. Without its help I would have had to abandon the ride. I’m very grateful as there is nothing really in it for them." Fazal Malik, media manager of Muslim Hands, said: "As a charity we feel it is important to improve children’s chances to laugh, play and feel safe, regardless of their religion" (Nottingham Evening Post, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Quiz runners-up raise money

Three Adult Education workers who came second in BBC2’s quiz show Q Asia, won £300 which they will give to the world-wide social deprivation charity Muslim Aid. English lecturer Rabia Patel, interpreting and teacher training lecturer Fiaz Rashid, and bilingual support worker Navneet Bhogal all work at Marsh Adult Education Centre in Huddersfield College’s community outreach service (Huddersfield Examiner, 01.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Insight into Islam

Twenty Coventry city schools participated in an exhibition of religious art, organised by the Muslim Resource Centre. The centre’s manager, Ghulam Choudri, said the exhibition included paintings from various sources, including shots of Mecca, as well as of the Christian and Jewish faiths. He said it looked at different types of architecture, and added: "We wanted to help children come to a better understanding of different religions. We held an exhibition like this in 1995 which was a great success and we have had a lot of interest this time." More than 2,000 children are said to have come to event held in Smith Street Mosque (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 02.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Muslim advisor appointment

The Prison Service had advertised an appointment for a Muslim advisor to help it develop its policies towards the 4,000 Muslim prisoners in England and Wales. It will be a two-year appointment, full or part time, and will carry a salary between £27,000 and £43,000 a year. The prisons’ minister, Lord Williams, said it was important that the prison service be aware of Muslim faith issues (The Times, 02.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Education

Al-Hikmah education conference

A conference titled "Education of Muslim Children in State Schools" was held by the North Kirklees Asian Governors Forum at the Al-Hikmah Centre. The conference attracted over 130 representatives from the local community, including teachers, bi-lingual support workers, literacy development workers, parents, governors and councillors. Amongst the main speakers were Akram Khan Cheema, a Muslim education consultant, and Rob Vincent, Executive Director of Kirklees Metropolitan Council. Saied Laher, Kirklees Community Education Development Officer, said: "The message that came through very clearly on the day was the need for collaboration and partnership and for the schools to work closely with parents, governors and most importantly their local madressahs. It is important for schools to try and meet the special, but not separate, needs of Muslim children" (Awaaz, 01.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 5/6]

 

 

Nation of Islam school accepted

The Nation of Islam have been granted a temporary licence for the Star Chamber Academy in Hammersmith to operate (See BMMS for August and September 1998). It allows the school to continue private teaching, pending a further inspection. Hammersmith and Fulham Council, however, said that the licence did not mean that the school could continue to use the Simba community centre. A spokesperson for the centre said: "The new licence is nothing to do with us at all. We are only interested in trying to relocate the group from our community centre because we don’t think it’s right that they are running a school there." He added that a verbal agreement had been reached that the school leave the centre in March 1999 (Hammersmith & Fulham Guardian, 19.11.98). The group have recently been protesting against the council’s decision to stop the Nation using the community centre illegally as a school. Now the Education Secretary David Blunkett has said that the school can be provisionally registered. It will be inspected later in the year, and if it passes the inspection, will be allowed to register as an independent school (Caribbean Times, 13.11.98). A spokes- man for the Department for Education and Employment said: "The fact that the organisation may be controversial is no reason to refuse to register it. Provided they offer a broad and balanced curriculum and satisfy inspectors, they could be fully registered" (South London Press, 03.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Interest-free loan call

A legal student is threatening to sue the Department for Education and Employment for failing to provide interest-free loans as an alternative to its Career Development Loan scheme, for funding professional examinations. Mr Suleman Kazi had failed to obtain a local authority grant to cover the fees and was forced to consider the CDL scheme. However, this involved the payment of interest and a non-interest bearing loan was refused by the banks involved in the scheme. Mr Kazi claims that the situation is putting the Muslim community at a disadvantage as many Muslims will refuse to pay interest on a loan. He said: "The policy affects me adversely as a Muslim because as long as the CDL contains interest it is against my beliefs to accept such a loan. If there had been consultation with the Muslim community, prior to or during the course of the CDL, then a suitable non-interest bearing scheme could have been created. … I am not saying that Muslims will only accept a loan that does not require a repayment figure in excess of the loan". It is considered acceptable to pay an administrative fee for the loan to guard against inflation. The Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Mike Wood, has written to the Department for Education and Employment concerning the increasing number of complaints from Muslims concerning this situation. He said: "It’s a situation that’s not been allowed for and I’m getting the Department to look at how the problem might be overcome. I’ve suggested that if they are prepared to consult Muslim scholars it might be possible to have an arrangement which satisfies Muslim religious beliefs. … The response so far has been quite encouraging and I am now waiting for a reply from the Lifelong Learning Minister, George Moodie." Mr Kazi is having to use the 1976 Race Relations Act for his case as there is no law against religious discrimination (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

School mosque visit

Pupils from St Matthew’s Primary School in Rosewell, made a recent visit to the new Edinburgh mosque, in connection with a project they are doing on Islam. The head teacher, Mr Pat O’Malley, said: "A lot of people have ideas about Islam and the people that we met were extremely friendly and very hospitable and they went out of their way to explain everything in really great detail" (Midlothian Advertiser, 19.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Prayer room cash

Fundraising, which has raised over £4,000, has meant that work on a prayer room at Greenhead [school] has begun. Contributions were received from the Keighley Asian Business Forum, Keighley Muslim Association, the Sangat Centre and the Ghosyan Association, as well as individual donations. The room aims to provide Muslim students with a place to pray during school hours. It is hoped that the room will be ready by mid-December when Ramadan begins (Keighley News, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

School application rejected

The Medina Islamic Community in Oldham have had a planning application to run a madrasa turned down. Previous planning applications for a mosque and madrasa together, at the same site in Clydesdale Street, have been rejected. Temporary permission had been granted, but there had been complaints from residents about noise and disturbance. The new proposal had limited the hours of use to between 3.30pm and 6.30pm and included measures to reduce traffic problems (Oldham Advertiser, 26.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

School project

The Sunday supplementary school, Husayni Madrasa in Harrow, organised their annual summer project with the theme Muslims in Britain. This included a map of the UK, made of clay, which had 27 questions concerning important landmarks. Amongst the questions were those relating to the first Muslims in the House of Lords, the coinage of King Offa of Mercia, which was inscribed with the kalima (declaration of faith), and Woking Mosque (Muslim News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Madrasa assurance

The community in Thornhill have won a the fight to secure the future of a madrasa in Field Road. Temporary planning permission expired at the beginning of 1998 and a renewal application was refused. The Thornhill Muslim Welfare Trust appealed to the planning inspectorate who overturned the Kirklees Planning Committee’s decision and granted a further two years planning permission. The community have invested £35,000 in the madrasa project (Awaaz, 01.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 6/7]

 

 

Girls’ school success

The 1998 school performance tables have shown that the Mohammed Zakaria school in Bradford is near the top of the A level league. The school, which was set up six years ago, currently teaches 300 girls. It has increased its average A level score from 5.4 in 1997 to 8.9 for 1998 (on a scale that gives 10 points for a Grade A pass). Its position in the all-England league table has risen from 941st to 13th (Yorkshire Post, 01.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

School improvement

The King Fahad academy, in Acton, west London, is the fastest-improving establishment in England, after a 44 per cent improvement in GCE [sic] performance since 1995. The girls’ results have always been good, but the school claims that the increase in performance has been the result of the boys’ ‘catch-up’ rate. The head teacher, Dr Ali Mughram al-Ghamdi, said: "We are a relatively new school and we have worked incredibly hard to attain the highest standards. Our position in the league tables will help to underline the academy’s good standing and drive us to do even better. There is still scope for a great deal of improvement in our A level performance, but not to the detriment of the other work we are doing here" (Guardian, 01.12.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

Politics

Anti-terrorist arrests

Following armed raids at addresses in London, police have arrested three men accused of trying to smuggle dangerous chemicals out of the UK for use by Algerian terrorists (See BMMS for August, September and October 1998). The men are allegedly members of Groupe Islamique Arme. They had fake identities which they had used to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards, store cards and loans (South London Press, 30.10.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

MP broadcasters call

MP Denis McShane has requested that broadcasters stop using the expression ‘Islamic terrorism’. He said: "We don’t speak of ‘Christian’ terrorism in Northern Ireland, or ‘Orthodox’ terrorism in Albania, or ‘Jewish’ terrorism in the Middle East" (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). Muslim News (27.11.98) reports on an article in The Express in September, which used the headline ‘Moslem plot to bomb London’. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) complained to the paper who published an apology the following day. However, the apology itself used the term ‘Islamic extremists’. A meeting between the MCB and the newspaper in October resulted in some positive moves to try and avoid future stereotyping of the Muslim community. [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Peers’ maiden speeches

The two new Muslim peers in the House of Lords gave their maiden speeches. Lord Nazir of Rotherham (See BMMS for June, August and September 1998) drew attention to the problem of racism in the law enforcement system and the increase of Muslim prison inmates and the need for special provisions in prisons. Baroness Pola Uddin of Bethnal Green (See BMMS for June, August, September and October 1998) gave support to the government’s new Green Paper, "Supporting Families" (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Jack Straw interview

Muslim News (27.11.98) reproduces in full an interview held with the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, by the editor Ahmed Versi. The interview covered: the recent Merton Council judgement of the High Court and the lack of protection Muslims have under existing legislation against discrimination; the Crime and Disorder Bill; the Criminal Justice Bill; the recent M15 recruitment adverts, the Primary Purpose Rule, immigration and asylum seekers; the needs of Muslims in prisons; support for Muslim drug users; and the issue of a religious question in the Census 2001. [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Racism

Religious Discrimination update

Slough MP, Fiona MacTaggert, led an attack on Islamaphobia at a 51st anniversary celebration of Pakistan’s independence. She is launching a campaign to make religious discrimination illegal (See BMMS for January, March, May, June and July 1998), and is trying to push forward a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament (Q News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

Women

Ten year celebration

A celebration marking the ten year anniversary of the Muslim Women’s Organisation was to be held in Nottingham on November 22. The organisation was set up to meet the educational, cultural and educational needs of Muslim women in the city, providing activities from young girls to elderly women. The event was to include music and dance, a fashion show and speeches (Nottingham Evening Post 10.11.98, 19.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Security device for women

The Women and Equal Opportunities Committee in Aberdeen has promised to give out nearly £7,500 to eight local organisations. Muslim and Malay women were among the main beneficiaries. The Muslim Women’s Group will be given £1,526 to cover crèche expenses during the month of Ramadan (Aberdeen Press & Journal, 25.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7]

 

Youth

Youths riot in Bradford

Around 80 Asian youths attacked a police station on Guy Fawkes night, with fireworks and petrol bombs. The trouble happened at Toller Lane police station in the Manningham area of Bradford, which was the scene of rioting by Muslim youths in 1995. The youths also set fire to a car sales garage and a telephone kiosk. Missiles continued to be thrown at officers and the station until police in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowd, although there were no reports of any arrests or injuries. It is believed that the situation arose when police told the youths that they were not allowed to light their bonfire. Sameer Khan, one of the youths involved, said: "They refused to let the youth light the bonfire, the police could have told us that we would not be able to light the fire a week ago. There is no liaison between the councillors and the youth" (Muslim News, 27.11.98). Manningham councillor and Bradford City Council deputy leader, Mohammed Ajeeb said that the police needed to build relations with the youths in the area: "After the disturbances of 1995 I thought there would be some kind of direct communication between the police and the youths. That seems to have failed. The police need to re-establish some kind of meaningful communication with the young people of that area." He also warned the youths to control their behaviour: "They have to realise that if any damage is done to property and the area, it will cost the community" (The Independent, 07.11.98). A joint statement from Councillor Ian Greenwood and leader of the Racial Equality Council Ishtiaq Ahmed, said: "We are confident that if everyone involved is working together, people will see this as an isolated incident, which does not reflect the true character of Manningham" (Muslim News, 27.11.98, Stroud Citizen, 06.11.98, Southend Echo, 06.11.98, Eastern Daily Press, 07.11.98, Morning Star, 07.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 7/8]

 

 

Interfaith

Jewish and Nation of Islam dialogue

A meeting has been held at the Western Marble Arch synagogue in central London, organised by the Westminster Race Equality Council (WREC) and the Jewish Race Equality Council (JREC), which was attended by 200 people (See BMMS for October 1998). A number of speakers, including Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Leo Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, called for greater co-operation between the Black, Asian and Jewish communities. Claudia Webbe, Chief Executive of WREC, said: "We called the meeting in light of heightened awareness after the recent 10,000 Man March in Trafalgar Square and the continuing debate surrounding the ban of Minister Louis Farrakhan in Britain. Both communities have operational bases in and around Westminster and we felt that the meeting would build the alliances necessary to tackle some of the tension that exists." Dr Edie Freedman of the JREC, stating the he hoped the meeting would lead to greater understanding between the communities, said: "We do not expect to solve problems overnight but believe an ongoing dialogue is necessary to build alliances and unity between different communities" (The Voice, 09.11.98). However, the Board of Deputies has stated that they are to continue their ban on dialogue with the Nation of Islam. John Sacker of the Board stated: "The Board’s policy is very clear. Until Farrakhan repudiates his antisemitic and white [sic] supremacist comments we will not meet with the Nation of Islam." The comments came following pictures in the press of Jonathan Sacks with members of NoI following the Westminster meeting. Chair of the WREC, Bernard Silver, said: "The Board of Deputies and others do not need to ponder their response because any resultant dialogue will be facilitated by the WREC who recognise the legitimate aspirations for empowering the UK’s African and Caribbean community without endorsing the ravings of Louis Farrakhan in the USA … The Afro-Caribbean community are the most downtrodden in Britain. Jews have a strong duty to support them. The Nation of Islam are raising their aspirations. The have a loose representative structure. There are a number of factions. I do not know how much they support Farrakhan" (Jewish Telegraph, 06.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 8]

 

 

Religious harmony event

The East London Mosque organised a series of educational events to teach people more about Islam. These included informative displays in public places such as Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel, the Royal London Hospital, and council buildings, as well as a community festival held at the mosque. The initiative was backed by the council and various churches (East End Life, 26.10.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 8]

 

Inquiry into councillor’s comments

An investigation began into alleged antisemitic comments made by Labour councillor Ahmad Shahzad at a meeting of the Young Pakistani Workers. Brent Mayor Councillor Bertha Joseph, who attended the meeting, made the complaint to Brent Council. Councillor Cyril Harrison, who also attended the meeting, wrote a letter to the council. He said of the matter: "He posed the rhetorical question is Jewish blood more sacred than Muslim blood. The whole tenet of his address to these people and what he was saying was stirring them up. It made me feel uncomfortable" (Wembley and Brent Times 29.10.98). Cllr Shahzad has since denied the allegations, and said: "These are false allegations and I am determined that the truth will come out. I have not said anything about the Jewish community. As a councillor I have been trying to bring communities together, not divide them." Cllr John Lebor, a senior member of the council and Jewish community, defended Cllr Shahzad: "If it is proved that he made these comments then I would be absolutely amazed." A video made of the speech suggests that the councillor did not make any reference to Jews or Israel at all. Tim Daniels, chair of Brent’s local government committee, who is conducting the inquiry, has not responded to requests for comments, and had not yet concluded his report (Wembley and Brent Times 05.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 8]

New Muslims

An article written by Paul Vallely called "The New Muslims", has been printed in The Independent (03.11.98). The articles’ sub-heading asks "Why are so many of us joining the most unpopular religion on earth?", and discusses his views and experiences of women converting to Islam, particularly the women he met as part of the New Muslims’ programme at The Islamic Foundation, Markfield. He claims that the main difference between male and female converts to Islam, is that while male converts tend to be from a variety of backgrounds, "what the greatest number of New Muslim women have in common is that they were previously Roman Catholics." He gives examples of some of these ‘new’ Muslims, and the reasons for their conversions. They talk of family reactions, and also of reactions from the community, particularly after they begin wearing the hijab, saying that most responses are negative and hostile. They also discuss the negative media coverage of Islam, portraying it as sexist and barbaric, which all of the women dismiss as being fiction. If anything, they feel Islam gives them freedom, as one woman says: "It’s given me freedom from the pressures which people say are freedom, but which are new forms of slavery."

In response to this article, Abdur Rashid Siddiqui, the Board of Trustees Secretary at the Islamic Foundation, wrote a letter to the Independent (09.11.98) refuting claims Paul Vallely made in his article about the Islamic Foundation being "founded by members of Pakistan’s militant Jamiat-i-Islami party, but which has more recently received funding from the Saudis and other Gulf states." He said in his letter: "None of the three founding trustees has ever been a member of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Pakistan…As for its funding, all of it comes from book sales, conference centre income, income from endowments and contributions from trustees and other well-wishers. It has never received any state funding, from Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States." [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Jewish-Muslim dialogue at university

The Jewish Maimonides Society and the Muslim Calamus Foundation have set up an initiative to promote Jewish-Muslim dialogue at Manchester Metropolitan University. Douglas Krikler, director of the Maimonides Society said this was a "new independent initiative that did not come under a UJS or Islamic Society banner", and that they hoped to break down prejudice and encourage dialogue on both sides. Their main activities will continue to be held in London and will gradually move nation-wide. An event called "The Challenge of Modernity – Jewish and Muslim Responses", was to be held at the Brunei Gallery on 2nd December (Jewish Telegraph, 13.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Lunch success

More than 160 people attended the country’s first major inter-faith lunch, which was held in Bradford, and may become an annual event. The main guests attending were the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Tony Miller, The deputy Bishop of Bradford Peter Vaughan, and Foreign Office minister Derek Fachett, as well as members of the different religious communities. Organisations such as the Council for Mosques, the Surti Khalifa Muslim Association, and also members of the Jewish community, attended the event, which was initiated by the Federation of Hindu Temples. Balu Lad, secretary of the federation, said: "Every religious organisation celebrates its own particular event. Bringing everyone together like this will be of benefit to the whole of Bradford" (Bradford, Telegraph & Argus, 16.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

Jail convert

A man in Peterhead Prison, serving a sentence for sex offences, has converted to Islam. He is receiving religious instruction from an imam from the Islamic Association in Aberdeen. A mosque spokesperson said: "I have seen him. I have visited him several times, and I believe he is very sincere. Like the others he is sad for his previous life …" (Scottish Mirror, 19.11.98, Glasgow Herald, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

International Council mosque visit

Members of Birmingham International Council, which is a forum aiming to draw international elements in the city together, visited the Ghamkolvia Mosque in Golden Hillock Rd, Small Heath. They were told about the social work undertaken at the mosque, which includes unemployment advice, family advice, meals for the elderly, legal advice and religious instruction (Birmingham Evening Mail, 21.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

Health

Subsidy for NHS circumcisions

Doncaster Health Authority have approved a scheme which will allow Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Mexborough Montagu Hospital NHS Trust to provide circumcision services to religious communities. The scheme is an attempt to stop members of the community carrying out "back street" circumcisions. If the procedure is not required for clinical reasons, then it was agreed by the health authorities that a charge would be made for the operation. It is expected that the fee for the operation would be between £40 and £60, which is about one third of the normal cost (Doncaster Free Press, 29.10.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Female circumcision debate

Dr Abdul-Majid Katme has called into question the legal ban on female circumcision, claiming that it might be doing more harm than good. He said: "The practice is so deeply embedded in some cultures that it is impossible to eradicate." He feels that it would be better to ensure that it took place under strict rules and regulations. His views came as the House of Lords was discussing the issue. Female circumcision has been illegal in Britain since 1985 but it appears that the practice continues, often by people who are not medically qualified (Q-News, 01.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 9]

Employment

McDonalds hijab case

The Harrow Observer (29.10.98) has an article about the Muslim student, Sabrina Sardar, who was asked to remove her headscarf while working at a branch of McDonalds (see BMMS for August, September and October 1998). The article examines provisions that some employers make to cater for the religious dress requirements of employees, including London Underground who have made adaptations to its uniform for Sikhs and Rastafarians. A spokesperson at Reed Employment in Harrow states that: "Under legislation you are not allowed to discriminate against somebody on race grounds. If there are particular needs of an employee then an employer will try to accommodate that." A spokesperson for the Wembley Employment Law Service, who fought Sabrina’s case, stated that, at present, discrimination on the basis of religion is not illegal. Sabrina won her case against McDonalds on the basis of sexual harassment. Mr Maurice Johnstone, her lawyer, said: "Harassment is in the victim’s eyes, not in the offender’s or public’s. So while most would not find it offensive to remove a head scarf, devout Muslims would see it as highly offensive." The article also highlights the difficulties that can arise from taking time off work for religious holidays. [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

Woman receives settlement

The employers of a Muslim woman, who refused to shake hands with men and was told that her dress was ‘ghoul-like’, have agreed to pay her £14,000, the day before a tribunal was due to hear her case. The woman, Farah Raja, worked for Lewisham and Guy’s Mental Health Trust, and claimed that her line manager had told that she ought to go for a swim and that her way of life was outdated (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

Mosques & Burials

Bury, Parker St

The executive committee of the Khizra Mosque Social and Welfare Centre has launched a civil action against the trust- ees, after a long-running dispute (See BMMS for March and April 1998). A High Court judge is to decide the case which includes the demand for the appointment of an independent account- ant and/or receiver and the appointment of new trustees (Bury Times, 13.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Clitheroe burials

Ribble Valley Borough Council Community Committee have recommended that a non-denomina- tional lawn cemetery and 20 Muslim plots be included in extensions to Clitheroe Cemetery. Earlier in the year, the Muslim community had asked for a Muslim burial area in the cemetery (Clitheroe Advertiser & Times, 19.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Glodwick, Greengate St

Donations for the new mosque in Glodwick Street have slowed down, and so there is still no sign of a completion date. Councillor Jawaid Iqbal said: "It is all being done by donations. People like mosques to be built quickly, but it is getting there. The fund-raising is carrying on for it" (Oldham Evening Chronicle, 11.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Isle of Wight, Newport, Chapel St

The first mosque on the Isle of Wight has been set up in a former church hall, mainly to cater for Muslim restaurant workers. However, it hasn’t been granted planning permission and although it has submitted an application, it apparently contained insufficient information to be put before the planning committee. Principal planning officer, Chris Boulter, said: "We need to know how often it will be used and how many people will use it. We have asked the enforcement officer to investigate the issue of it being used prior to planning consent." Following complaints of noise disturbing neighbours, £7,000 was raised to soundproof the building and construct a second insulated wall between the hall and the neighbouring property (Isle of Wight County Press, 20.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Leicester, Manor Farm

The proposal to a religious complex in Leicester has been approved by the city council (See BMMS for July and August 1998). The plans include Hindu, Muslim and Sikh places of worship and a community centre. The Conservative leader, however, argued that local people were against the development. The mosque is to be a two-storey building with a 17 metre minaret. The plan is to be discussed by the council’s development control sub-committee (Leicester Mercury, 26.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Liverpool, West Derby Rd

A building which was previously used as the first mosque in the country, is to cease being the city’s main registry office due to the lack of facilities and its general bad condition. Council officers do not yet know what they will do with the building called Brougham Terrace, but they have been approached by members of the Muslim community, who would like the building to be handed back to them so they can restore it and remember it as being the country’s first mosque (Liverpool Echo, 06.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

London, Hainault burials

Plans to open a Muslim-only cemetery in Elmbridge Rd, Hainault, have been opposed by residents who argue that the water table is too high for burials. The Muslim Cemetery Trust bought the land for £146,000 and need £400,000 to develop the site into a cemetery. Redbridge Council claims that it has no knowledge of the cemetery. Residents became aware of the proposal from flyers that were posted in the area requesting finance. One resident said: "We strongly oppose this development because we don’t want a cemetery in our back yard and because we believe this is precious open space that should be preserved. We understood that because this land was waterlogged and unsuitable for development that it never would be developed." Neil Chapman of the architectural and landscaping firm Austin - Smith: Lord, who work for the trust said: "We understand that this land has been identified in the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) as a potential cemetery site but we also understand that it is a site of local biological interest. It is envisaged that the cemetery would be a phased development sympathetic with the ecology. It will not be a large area of mown grass but will be designed to enhance and improve the habitat" (Ilford Recorder, 26.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 10/11]

 

 

London, Folly Lane burials

A former employee of the first exclusively Muslim cemetery in the country, has made allegations that restoration work is involving the concreting over of grave perimeters, ignoring the actual position of buried bodies. Mehmet Akyildiz said: "They completely disregard the sanctity of the grave. Any part of the cemetery that doesn’t fit into their plans is just obliterated." He added: "People are paying anything from £400 upwards to bury their loved ones here and the people they are entrusting the graves to cannot even observe basic religious injunctions. I have no confidence whatsoever in what they are doing there. It’s been seven years since the place opened and there isn’t even a suitable indoor place for funeral-goers to perform the ablutions or janaza prayers." The cemetery is owned by Waltham Forest Muslim Burial Trust and its general secretary, Abdullah Mukadam, said: "We have never had any complaints before this. The Trust oversees all the work in the cemetery and we are satisfied with the contractor we have got. Our treasurer supervises all the concreting to make sure it is being done properly." Mr Akyildiz believes that the problems are due to the day to day management being in the control of a non-Muslim contractor (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

London, Whitechapel Rd

Tower Hamlets Council has rejected plans of the East London Mosque to expand onto an adjoining car park (See BMMS for January and March 1998). The council favours the building of flats on the site. The mosque has spent  £25,000 developing plans for the site, including hiring architects. A spokesman for the mosque, Nazmul Haque, said: "Lots of local Muslims have put their hands in their pockets to help us. Our proposals have also been supported by non-Muslims. We are the busiest mosque in London but because we lack space we cannot fully respond to the demand of the Muslim community." A spokesman for Tower Hamlets council said: "There was never any formal agreement between East London mosque and Tower Hamlets. We gave no assurances" (Q-News, 01.11.98, No.298). There were angry demonstrations outside council offices in Bow on 30th October, with worshippers from the mosque accusing council planners of going back on their promises. Although police were present at the demonstration, there was no trouble and protesters left peacefully (East London Advertiser, 05.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Luton, Bury Park Rd

Councillors have warned that the mosque in Bury Park Rd cannot continue to expand. The mosque has already been given permission to use the neighbouring house as a religious instruction/prayer centre, despite initial opposition from council planning staff and local residents. Councillors say the mosque, which has been expanding little by little over the years, is too big to have any further expansions. Councillor Mike Dolling said: "This must be the final one associated with the mosque. Any further extension would exacerbate the situation (Luton News, 04.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Luton, Drayton Rd

A house used as a mosque without being given planning permission has been condemned as a fire safety hazard (See BMMS for October 1998). The house will now be examined by a council building expert and fire safety officers. It was used by the Lewsey Muslim Cultural Society for educational and cultural studies, even though they had been refused permission to do so. It is said that the house was used for up to 60 children, even though there was little space for all of them. Councillor Don Worlding, chairman of the Beds and Luton Fire Service Authority, said: "There would be pandemonium if there was a fire, with that number of children there." Committee councillors will decide at the next planning meeting whether any enforcement action will be taken (Luton News, 04.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Manchester, Mauldeth Rd

Planning permission has been refused for an extension to a mosque in Ladybarn. The Khanka Naqshbandia Mujaddadia had planned to put in an extra floor on the former industrial building and add a dome and 76ft minaret. Local people had opposed the plans, collecting a 388-name petition. However, 350 people signed a counter-petition in favour of the extension. Most of the opposition centred on expected traffic congestion. One resident stated: "It’s no longer just Fridays they are busy, it’s every evening of the week - it’s chaotic. One day there will be an accident here…Cars park on both sides of the roads causing log jams and congestion and if a lorry and a bus meet they can’t get through…It’s nothing to do with race or religion, it’s just that the mosque is in the wrong place. There isn’t enough room for it here" (Manchester Evening News, 27.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Nottingham burials

There have been requests from Muslim groups in Nottingham to allow bodies to be buried in shrouds, without coffins, to keep in line with religious beliefs. Councillor Asfar said: "According to some scholars, a person should be buried in the simplest from possible, which is shrouded in cloth. The choice should be made available. Although this is an initiative by the Muslim community, it is for the whole community if they wish to use the practice." This move will also please those wanting to have woodland burials, in the new cemetery proposed at Nuthall. City council service manager for cemeteries and the crematorium, Alec Thomson, said: "In the new cemetery we want to be able to accommodate a woodland burial and alternative burial area. In these cases, usually people don’t want a coffin, but a shrouded body." The main concerns from the council’s environment committee would be to make sure that the bodies are shrouded properly to maintain dignity and prevent causing offence to passers by (Nottingham Evening Post, 17.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 11/12]

 

 

Redditch, Smallwood

Plans to turn the Alcad battery site into a retail and housing complex have been ordered to go before a public enquiry by the Secretary of State for the Environment, John Prescott (See BMMS for July, August, September and October 1998). A government spokeswoman said that there were concerns that the development could affect the vitality and visibility of the town centre, and there were also concerns about traffic congestion. How- ever, most of the opposition to the development seems to be directed at the mosque that is planned as part of the scheme. A spokesman for Redditch council said they were ready to approve the mosque scheme, as it fitted in with the uses acceptable for the site. Alan Sarjant of Kingspark developers, said: "It is not a departure for the local plan and it is in the area of the town centre by the council’s own definition. We are very hopeful of success at a public enquiry." He added: "It’s a mixed development on a site that would not be suitable just for housing and it is difficult to really see what else could be built here." He also felt that objections to the mosque could be down to racial bias (The Birmingham Post, 14.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 12]

 

 

Sheffield, Wolseley Rd

Traders have successfully blocked a £1m mosque scheme in Sheffield (See BMMS for July, September and October 1998). Despite winning widespread community support, the traders feared that the proposed building would lead to the loss of car parking and vehicle loading and won a battle at Sheffield Crown Court to prevent the permanent closure of part of Gifford Rd, which would have been necessary if the mosque were to be built. The Sheffield Islamic Centre had been given planning permission. Councillor Mike Pye, who represents the area where the mosque was to be built, said: "I’m very, very disappointed. This is a big blow for the community. The vast majority of local people have been very supportive of the scheme. The claim that parking would be lost as a result of the mosque being built is simply not true" (Rotherham Star, 26.11.98). [BMMS November 1998 Vol. VI, No. 11, p. 12]

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