British Muslims Monthly Survey for December 198 Vol. VI, No. 12

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Muslim advisor appointment 

British reaction to air strikes 

MCB lunch with minister 

Ramadan News 

 

 

Reports

 

Community

Islamic Centre of England opens 

Officers in the police force 

‘Whirling Dervishes’ performance 

Islamic home purchase plan 

Age concern receives donation 

Charity dinner 

Pledge for peace 

Elderly Centre opens 

Men discharged after fight 

Poisoner case 

Sheffield centre 

Bradford prayer room 

Man sent letter bomb 

Bradford pub to be converted 

Barnsley community centre opens 

Muslim identity conference 

Adult Education courses 

Letter asks to ban pigs 

Centre concerned over funding 

Fife Muslim leader dies 

Census update 

 

 

Education

Religious schools head performance tables 

Call for girls’ school criticised 

GSCE in Islam 

Education centre refused permission 

Extension for Walthamstow centre 

Students to boycott exams 

Teacher-training schemes 

Feversham College in new bid 

 

 

Politics

Community to form own party 

 

 

Racism

Racism in Midlands

 

 

Women

BPS report on stress 

Welfare Association receives grant 

 

 

Interfaith

Al-Muhajiroun Christmas campaign 

Three Faiths Forum award 

Mosque to employ priest 

Bath call to prayer controversy 

 

 

Halal

Meat prices drop 

Butcher plans halal chain 

Regulation needed for halal trade 

Huddersfield hospital provides halal meat 

 

 

Health

Relief for diabetics 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bolton, St George’s Rd 

Haringey, Wightman Rd 

Harrow, Station Rd 

Hyndburn burials 

Leeds, Brudenell Rd 

Leicester, Manor Farm 

London, Whitechapel Rd 

Loughborough, King St 

Luton, Leagrave Rd 

Manchester, Mauldeth Rd 

Rochdale burials 

Southampton burials 

 

 

Features

Muslim advisor appointment

The Prison Service has been pressured into paying for the post of a Muslim advisor, after it first announced it expected the post to be paid for by the community (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1998). Lord Williams, who announced the decision, said: "There are over 4,000 Muslim prisoners in our system, and it is vitally important that we ensure the Service is fully aware of Muslim faith issues. The Advisor will help the Chaplaincy as it continues to provide full opportunities for Muslim prisoners to practise their religion." Lord Ahmed, who addressed the issue in his maiden speech, said: "I am delighted that the government has accepted my proposal. For the Home Office to understand the problems of Muslim inmates it was important to have one full-time employee. In any event, as citizens we deserve equality and if the Church can have 150 chaplains employed under the 1952 Prisons Act then I’m sure we can have our fair share too" (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99).

In addition, the government will also fund the training of the imams visiting the prisons. The London Islamic Cultural Centre’s (LICC) Prison Affairs Co-ordinator, Bashir Ebrahim-Khan, said: "We are extremely delighted that after more than a decade of con- sultation the Government has finally agreed to appoint and fund a Muslim advisor." He also paid tribute to Lord Avebury and Lord Ahmed, who have both helped considerably in this campaign. Dr Yusuf Al-Khoei, of Al-Khoei Foundation, added: "We welcome the effort to organise the religious welfare of the Muslim prisoners and the consultation and involvement of various Muslim organisations on this project." The Advisory Group on Religion in Prisons will also look at the role of the Nominating Authority, which will be responsible for finding suitable imams and ensure that they are trained for the job. Ebrahim-Khan said: "To manage a group of 70 imams requires co-ordination, co-operation among the imams and they need to accept authority." The main responsibility of the imams is to lead and organise Jum’a (Friday) prayers. However, Ebrahim-Khan believes they should also be there to run religious classes, listen to problems and help in rehabilitation. This is made difficult by the fact that the imams are only allowed to be at the prisons three to four hours a week (Muslim News, 25.12.98). He also outlines the fact that, with the significant rise the number of prisoners from different faiths in UK prisons, more has to be done to address their needs. This is why the LICC has assisted prisons in providing halal meat, and preparing for Ramadan and the two Eids (Muslim News, 25.12.98, The Daily Telegraph, 30.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 1]

 

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British reaction to air strikes

Many papers have reported on the military action carried out by the US against Iraq, which was supported by Britain, and thousands of people took to the streets protesting against the attacks (amongst others: The Sentinel, 17.12.98, Cornwall Western Morning News, 17.12.98, Bournemouth Daily Echo, 18.12.98, The Times, 19.12.98, The Burton Mail, 19.12.98, The Independent, 19.12.98, The Observer, 20.12.98, Cardiff Western Mail, 21.12.98, Evening Standard, 21.12.98, Daily Record, 21.12.98, Derby Evening Telegraph, 21.12.98). More than a thousand people took to the streets in London, outside Downing Street, as well as around one thousand in Manchester, and several hundred in Glasgow. In Sheffield, Middlesborough and Cambridge, protestors staged vigils. While some Muslim groups, such as the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, believe the attacks to be against all Muslims, and have vowed to keep up fights against the British government, most other groups, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, were outraged as to the timing of the attacks and the fact that they seemed to have achieved very little but hurt innocent civilians. Anjem Choudhry, British leader of Al-Muhajiroun, said: "We see the airstrikes as a continuation of hostilities against Muslims throughout the world. This is a war against Allah and we have called for a jihad against the British government, the British military and British interests overseas, whether they be embassies or airports" (The Sunday Times, 20.12.98).

Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, expressed his "grave concern" at the bombing, was "appalled" at what he saw as a diversion by President Clinton from his personal problems, using innocent lives, and regretted Britain’s hasty and uncritical support for the US. He said: "We are isolating ourselves. We appear to be the poodle of the Americans. As for the timing, just before Ramadan, this adds insult to injury. It is the holiest month of the year: the time when we try to become better persons, good citizens…They say they don’t want to cause damage in this holy month when the Iraqi people will be involved in their fasting and prayers. But surely the damage caused in these three days, to people who are already collectively punished by sanctions, will cause even more acute suffering. This will already be a difficult month for them to get through, with shortages of food and water" (The Times, 19.12.98). A joint statement issued from the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Keith Sutton, Revd Phillip Jefferies, Horninglow vicar and rural dean, and the Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said: "This must not be understood by anyone as a conflict between Christianity and Islam. Just as there are Muslim as well as Christian citizens of the United Kingdom so Iraq has Christians as well as Muslims. It is especially tragic that this conflict should have started at a time when Muslims are preparing for Ramadan and when Christians are preparing for Christmas. For members of both communities this ought to be a holy time of peace." East Staffordshire Racial Equality Council director, Amir Kabal, said the Muslim community in Burton would share the sentiments of the Anglican clergy: "Everybody can empathise with that and wants peace. The churches nationally are very active in that and so are the mosques and Muslim community. The conflict is more to do with politics than faith. Most people understand that. It is unfortunate it has to happen but clearly it is at the wrong time" (Burton Mail, 19.12.98).

A delegation of Muslim leaders, led by Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, met with the immigration minister Mike O’Brien, to speak about concerns over the recent air strikes (The Newcastle Journal, 22.12.98, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 22.12.98, Bournemouth Daily Echo, 22.12.98). The 75-minute meeting was held at the Home Office in London at the request of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Most of the delegates opposed the military operation, and believed President Clinton’s domestic problems were a "major criterion" in the timing of the attacks. Mr Sacranie said that although the meeting was "useful" there was clear disagreement over the need for air strikes. Mr O’Brien said that it had been "a very constructive meeting" (The Newcastle Journal, 22.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 1/2]

 

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MCB lunch with minister

A luncheon organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) was attended by the Home Secretary Jack Straw, as well as many representatives from the British Muslim community. Muslim News (25.12.98) has reported on the event, and included extracts from speeches given by Jack Straw, Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the MCB, and Sarah Joseph, a member of the MCB’s social and welfare regeneration community, who spoke on issues concerning British Muslims. Iqbal Sacranie spoke mainly of the role of the MCB, and the activities it has been involved in to raise awareness of the issues facing the Muslim community in Britain. The priority of the MCB, he said, is: "to concentrate on matters at home and to give to this land – where we live and work – our commitment and our warm and loving care which the word ‘home’ ideally suggests." He also spoke of the MCB’s involvement with the Department of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of the Environment and the Prison Service, as well as many others. Sarah Joseph highlighted the problems facing Muslims where the law does not protect them. Being an English Muslim herself, she points out that there is no support from the law if she is spat at, sworn at or hassled: "Even the last minute amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act do not apply to me or those like me. I cannot summon indirect reference to my race – and find protection there. Indeed why would I want to? I feel sorry for those who are forced to surreptitiously use the clever language of the law to find protection." She also criticised the use of the argument that there are problems defining religion: "Are we just holding back because we have problems over defining religion? A feeble excuse if I ever heard one! Courts up and down the land are charged with the job of finding definitions!…Indeed our judges had to define the word "race" post the Race Relations Act."

Jack Straw’s speech, of which extracts are printed in Muslim News, began by saying: "…I have many close friends who are Muslims, and I represent a constituency, which includes 20,000 people of the Muslim faith. Those British Muslims bring with them a strong and inspiring history of cultural achievement." He then went on to talk about some of the issues affecting British Muslims, such as the amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act (See BMMS for April, May and June 1998) and the Merton case (See BMMS for October and November 1998); the Race Relations Act review; the Muslim Advisor appointment; the recognition of Muslims as a faith community; officially recognising Muslim holidays; the media image of Muslims; and policy on Iraq. [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 2]

 

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Ramadan News

Many newspapers had articles outlining the basic rules and practices of Muslims during Ramadan and pointed out that this year the fasting took place during the Christmas holiday (Eastern Eye, 18.12.98, Stoke on Trent Sentinel, 17.12.98).

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, wrote about the virtues of Ramadan in the Asian Times (22.12.98). He says: "Ramadan recharges an individual’s spiritual batteries for the year ahead. Muslims abide by the rules of Ramadan for the pleasure of God and no one else. This includes being charitable to others, particularly to the poor…Enduring the tough disciplines of fasting helps to realise the human potential. By successfully avoiding sustenance during the day and by controlling one’s behaviour, during often tough climatic conditions of extreme cold or heat, short days and long days, people will know how much they can achieve through perseverance…The shared experience of Ramadan gives people a sense of community. All believers go through the same sacrifice, and this reinforces a sense of belonging to a brotherhood with common values and common direction. It also reminds individuals of those less fortunate in society than themselves."

Q-News (No.299, 01.01.99) reports on the fundraising accomplished during Ramadan by Muslim charities. Last year, Muslim Aid raised £2.5m with approximately 60 per cent being raised during Ramadan. Islamic Relief raised £600,000 from a total of £1.9m and the Imran Khan Cancer Appeal hopes to raise £200,000 from its zakat campaign. The charities are warning Muslims to be circumspect in their giving to prevent abuse by unregistered charities. Iqbal Sacranie, chairman of Muslim Aid, said: "I am aware that there are rogue organisations which use the holy month to attract funding from our community. The community should be aware when donating that the money it gives is to bona fide, established relief organisations. These bodies are transparent, registered with the Charity Commission, and publish regular reports and accounts. I cannot emphasise enough that where records are not available the public must exercise caution." Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham has appealed for funds to help repair a new building for the school. Mr Saqib said: "This Ramadan we are appealing for donations to help us complete the repair work on our new premises… Brothers and sisters, I hope people will give generously to ensure this project of charity is completed" (Q-News, No. 299, 01.01.99).

Apparently Moroccan football player Hassan Kachloul, who plays for Southampton, is trying to work out how he will manage during Ramadan. He said: "I’m a Moslem. I don’t drink or smoke, and I pray and believe in Allah. Ramadan is an important time when we fast. But I have to eat to play football and must work something out or I can’t play" (Portsmouth News, 21.12.98).

Q-News (No.299, 01.01.99) has an article written by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher about Muslims in prison during Ramadan. He points out the difficulties Muslims face while trying to fast and the support that they need from the prison imam. He says: "The majority of Muslim prisoners are young people whose affiliation to Islamic practice has been a loose one…The Imam’s job is to make Islam relevant to them as an alternative way of life." He goes on to state: "Ramadan is a time where Muslims become more aware of being different, yet the prison regime is not usually very keen on anybody stepping out of line. The special arrangements for the Muslims’ fast are often seen as a nuisance which gets in the way of the smooth running of well-oiled procedures, and the allowances made are kept to a minimum. It must be said that this is often not due to a lack of good will, but simply to a lack of understanding of Islam and the way a Muslim prisoner perceives his situation." The article points out the difficulties in obtaining hot food and drinks for Suhur and Iftar at the right times and the problems that prisoners have in performing congregational prayers. There are also problems associated with Muslim prisoners having to share with non-Muslims and the disruption caused by getting up early in the morning to start the fast. However, he says: "On the other hand, many a non-Muslim prisoner has found his way to Islam in this fashion, and conversion figures rise at the time of Ramadan…" Another report in Q-News (No.299, 01.01.99) highlights the problems faced by prisoners in Maidstone Prison’s Kent Wing who were prevented from taking showers and performing Eid prayers last year.

Q-News (No.299, 01.01.99) also highlights the high intake of food during Ramadan. Studying statistics obtained from the Meat and Livestock Commission for the first two weeks of Ramadan last year, it appears they were the busiest period of 1998 for slaughterhouses. The article states: "The statistics make disturbing reading, suggesting that perhaps Muslims have understood only one half of the Prophetic dictum - and then only too literally - that the fasting person has two joys; one at the time of breaking his fast, the other when meeting his Lord." Apparently, Ramadan has become so significant in terms of livestock slaughter that the month has been incorporated into the farming calendar. Halal butchers have confirmed that business is particularly busy during Ramadan. Yusuf Mulla, whose family run a food store chain in West Yorkshire, said: "It’s true, without a shadow of doubt. Muslims feel they deserve some material reward for the spiritual effort they have put into fasting so they splash out…Business is very hectic. In fact our sales of mince triple in the six weeks leading up to Ramadan as housewives stock their freezers with samosas and kebabs." Dr Zaki Badawi stated: "Throughout the Muslim world Ramadan has been turned into a rich festivity. Firstly production declines with people using fasting as an excuse to do less work. At the same time our consumption increases. It defies the whole purpose of fasting."

Birmingham, Leicester and London councils have started a campaign to help Muslims give up smoking in Ramadan. The latest report on ethnic minority smoking habits, by the Health Education Authority, says giving up smoking in Ramadan can help to give it up permanently. The statistics reveal that over a third of Muslim men smoke, and most of them will give this up during the month of Ramadan. Local councils with high populations of Muslims have welcomed Ramadan as an ideal time to promote a smoke-free environment. Paul Hooper, manager of the ‘Smoke-Free Birmingham’ campaign said: "10,000 Ramadan posters will be distributed via mosques during the holy month, encouraging smokers to quit. The posters will feature messages from the local Imam, as well as special ‘Quitline’ numbers in a variety of different languages." After a number of rulings, many Muslims now believe smoking to be haram [forbidden] as it is now known to kill. Dr Katme, spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, said: "Smoking is a slow suicide, it damages our body, wastes our money, harms others and the environment and damages unborn children" (Q News, No.299, 01.01.98). Posters also went up in all areas of London, after last year’s successful campaign, which featured a Freephone Asian Quitline number (Eastern Eye, 11.12.98). As well as the various anti-smoking campaigns, a new calendar has been launched to help Muslims stay healthy during Ramadan. The Health Promotions Unit at Bury Health Care NHS Trust has teamed up with the Jinnah Day Care Centre after concerns about high rates of heart disease among the Asian community. Mrs Fiona Norton, health promotions manager, said: "Ramadan is a time to reflect on your lifestyle and how it may be changed. By including coronary heart disease prevention messages it hopes that people who, for example, stop smoking during Ramadan may be encouraged to give it up for life and help look after the heart." The free calendars were funded by the Trust and the Bury and Rochdale Health Authority (Bury Times, 25.12.98).

As in previous years, this Ramadan saw Ramadan radio stations go on air all over the country. There were no less than thirteen stations across the country: Birmingham, Bradford, Ealing, Glasgow, Keighley, Leeds, Leicester, Luton, Manchester, Middlesborough, Nottingham, Rochdale and Tooting. Most of the stations only operated on a limited daytime service, but there were a few, such as Nottingham’s Radio Ramzan and Glasgow’s Radio Ramadan, which broadcast 24 hours a day (Q News, No.299, 01.01.98). In Glasgow, the station was said to provide the "Sound for the Soul", and featured programmes for the whole community. There were live debates and phone-ins on issues such as Islamophobia and terrorism, women’s and children’s programmes, and recitations of the Qur’an (Stirling Observer, 01.01.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 2-4]

 

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Reports

 

Community

Islamic Centre of England opens

The Islamic Centre of England, London (ICE-L) opened on 17th November, three years after the project began. The Centre in Maida Vale, north London, has been converted from a Victorian building, and has been redecorated in an Irano-Islamic style, despite the limita- tions required by its listed status. The event was attended by some 1,000 people, who listened to presentations given by community leaders and members, as well as invited guests, including Ayatullah Mohammadi Golpaygani, head of Ayatullah Khameni’s Personal Secretariat, Mr Gholam Reza Ansari, Charge D’Affaires of the Islamic Republic of Iran and George Galloway, MP. The Centre is already being used regularly for community activities, and holds regular weekly functions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in Persian, Arabic and English. The Islamic Centre, as an organisation, has already established two other Islamic institutions: the Islamic College of Advanced Studies (ICAS) in Willesden, and the Institute for Islamic Studies (IIS), a research and publications centre based in the ICE-L (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 4]

 

 

Officers in the police force

Q News (No.299, 01.01.99), as an advertising feature for the Metropolitan Police, has profiles on two Muslim police officers. The first, PS Shabnum Chaudhri, after ten years of service in the Met, has progressed from being a Police Constable to joining the CID, and then becoming Police Sergeant. She said: "I had little confidence in myself when I first joined. I didn’t do well academically and the Police service was not a popular choice for Muslim women…Your religious or cultural background should not restrict you from pursuing your chosen career. The idea that you cannot be a Police Officer and be religious at the same time is a myth. The Police service tries to accommodate the needs of all people, whatever their religious background." She does not describe herself as a practising Muslim and realises that there are many other Muslim women who may find certain aspects of the job uncomfortable. But she also finds it can be very rewarding, especially in instances where she helps Muslim girls in situations where they would normally be too scared to speak out. She says that she would have no reservations recommending the job to Muslim women.

PC Mohammed Mahroof has been with the Metropolitan Police in east London for ten years, and does not feel that religion has to be compromised to the career: "If you believe strongly enough in both you will find they can easily complement each other." PC Mahroof is a vital link between the Police and the east London community. For two years running he has won the Community Constable of the Year Award presented by the Chief Commissioner Sir Paul Condon, for his outstanding policing skills and exceptional role in promoting good community relations. "Recently I experienced the tragic death of a colleague who had just converted to Islam. I found that there was no religious counselling available for Muslims. I have since been exploring the possibility of setting up a welfare association where Muslims can turn to for advice and guidance. So far the feedback has been very promising." [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 4/5]

 

 

‘Whirling Dervishes’ performance

Q-News (No.299, 01.01.99) has a review of a performance, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London, of the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ by the Al-Kindi Ensemble from Damascus. The Ensemble has a band of 11 musicians and includes the singing of Sheikh Hamza Chakour. The review states: "Sheikh Hamza Chakour is one of the most famous singers of spiritual texts in the Arab world. His powerful vocal technique is, as it should be, aimed at the inner world of the soul. The Al-Kindi Ensemble, currently rated among the best formations devoted to classical Arab spiritual music, greatly complements the charismatic Sheikh’s performance." The review then outlines some of the background to Sufism and the musical and dancing tradition within it, concluding: "Sufism continues to be the source of answers for a growing number of seekers after Truth (in Britain, particularly among ‘born-Muslims’). The beauty, richness, and sheer exoticism of Sufi imagery, art, and imaginative literature, and the holistic world-view and philosophy of Sufism, have brought into the world some of the most exquisite and profound expressions of the World of the Spirit." [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5]

 

Islamic home purchase plan

The Islamic Investment Banking Unit (IIBU), who set up the Manzil ‘Murabaha’ Scheme which allows Muslims to buy houses without paying interest, has introduced a plan that will allow Muslims already paying mortgages to transfer to their new scheme which complies with the Shari’a. Waheed Qaiser, the Customer Services Manger, said: "Since we launched the Manzil Murabaha Scheme we have been determined to find a way to help those Muslims with existing mortgages…We are delighted to announce the Manzil ‘Ijara’ Home Purchase Plan which offers both existing home-owners and new buyers an alternative way to buy their home." With the old Murabaha scheme, the IIBU bought the chosen property and then sold it on at a fixed higher price. "The new ‘Ijara’ method involves the IIBU leasing out the property to the customer who pays a monthly rent together with a contribution towards purchasing the property. The property is sold to the customer for the original purchase cost, allowing the customer to receive full benefit of any subsequent rise in property prices." Mr Qaiser added: "Both our schemes comply with Islamic Shari’a requirements" (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). Keith Leach, UK Financial Services Manager of IIBU, said of the new scheme: "The plan operates on the basis of IIBU buying the property from the vendor or customer and entering into two contracts, a Promise to Purchase and a Lease. Under the Promise to Purchase, the customer agrees to purchase the property from IIBU for the original purchase price spread over up to 25 years" (Eastern Eye, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5]

 

 

Age concern receives donation

A Marathon Walk by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association helped raise £800 for Age Concern in Ealing, which was presented to the charity in December. Members between the ages of five and 75 walked 26 miles along a route in Oxford last Spring. Silvia Schehrer, executive director of Age Concern Ealing Borough, said: "We are delighted with this donation and feel this is a great symbol of younger people working with older people" (Ealing & Acton Gazette, 04.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5]

 

 

Charity dinner

A charity dinner to raise money for war wounded children was attended by Lord Mayor Councillor Sue Anderson and Lord Nazir Ahmed, in Birmingham. ‘An Evening in Aid of War Wounded Children’ was organised in support of UK Islamic Mission Relief, who arrange for children in war torn countries to come to Britain for medical treatment. Birmingham businessman Shabir Hussain, first brought children over in 1990, and since then, more than 140 children have benefited from treatment for burns and other serious injuries. The charity is currently refurbishing a house in Alum Rock, Birmingham, where the children can stay while receiving treatment (Birmingham Evening Mail, 04.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5]

 

 

Pledge for peace

A new forum has pledged to promote multi-racial and multi-cultural harmony in Brent. Brent Muslim Forum brought together 70 delegates from organisa- tions including mosques, support groups and schools, when it met for the first time. The forum will also bring together Muslims from different origins. Councillor Shahzad Ahmad, the forum’s chairman, said: "We will be able to recommend and request action by Brent Council. We will liase with the council on Muslim community issues and concerns, things like education and service delivery and so on. We are extending the hand of friendship to other communities so we can learn more about each other" (Wembley & Brent Times, 10.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5]

 

 

Elderly Centre opens

A new day centre for elderly Asians which was officially opened by the Mayor of Luton, Councillor Derrick Patten, was told one week later that it may have to close, because the organi- sation who own the premises did not obtain planning permission. The build- ing, on Leagrave Rd, backs on to Luton Central Mosque on Westbourne Rd. It was the Islamic Cultural Society, based in the mosque, that converted the three bedroomed house into a day centre, using funds raised from the local com- munity. A council planning enforce- ment officer inspected the centre, and a town hall press officer later said that the owners had been invited to apply for planning permission. However, if the council refuses to give permission, the owners may have to restore the building to its former use as a family home. The Mayor, Cllr Patten, said: "I am pleased that the Asian community had got together to raise money for its own centre. It is an excellent centre for the Asian elderly," but added that he did not know that the organisation did not have planning permission. Akbar Dad Khan, spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Society, said: "We have not yet been told anything about planning permission. It is just a place where a small number of people meet and then leave fairly quickly after the purpose of their visit has been met…we cannot be accused of breaking planning regulations because we did not know we needed planning permission" (Luton News, 16.12.98, Luton News, 23.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 5/6]

 

 

Men discharged after fight

Five Muslims who were involved in a fight outside a mosque in Gibbet St, Halifax, were discharged by Calderdale magistrates. Bashir Ahmed (aged 47), Mohammed Sultan (55), Mohammed Saleem (51), Mohammed Younis (41), and Lal Din (59), all denied assault causing actual bodily harm and violent disorder. The court had heard that a fight broke out between two groups at the mosque, but Patrick Fleming, prosecuting, said there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges. He said: "It was all very one sided. It appears that there was an argument between the mosque committee an another breakaway faction. The committee made a decision to have an election every four years instead of one, which some members took offence to. They effectively went to the other side of the mosque and elected another committee." He also told the court that one of the five men had called a locksmith and asked him to change the locks on the front and side doors. "The fight then broke out between about 20 people. It died down quickly but a couple of hours later the police were called and saw a large group of about 100 people fighting. The men in court said they were simply defending themselves and there have since been reconciliations between the two parties." Saleem, Younis and Din agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months in the sum of £250 (Halifax Evening Courier, 22.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 6]

 

 

Poisoner case

Support has increased for a woman jailed for life for killing her partner using arsenic, after Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parlia- ment, wrote to the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, asking for leniency (See BMMS for March, April an September 1998). The support comes following new evidence which the court did not hear, that Ms Shah was subjected to abuse by Mohammed Azam, whom she is convicted of killing, for over 12 years. In his letter, Dr Siddiqui said: "Of course, I do not condone murder or illegal actions. However, there appears to be a situation in existence comparable to the ‘slow burn’ decisions in prolonged periods of domestic violence" (Eastern Eye, 18.12.98). He also said: "Details I have seen reveal a catalogue of exploitation and abuse over a considerable period of time…Zoora Shah appears to have been suffering from depression and was being treated for this condition for a number of years coinciding with the time she killed Mohammed Azam" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 09.12.98). They are now hoping that the Home Secretary will re-examine the case (Morning Star, 14.12.98, Walsall Express & Star, 18.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 6]

 

 

Sheffield centre

An independent report into the Pakistani Muslim Centre in Sheffield, has been circulated for public consult- ation (See BMMS for May, July, August, September and October 1998). The investigation carried out by Sheffield council, cleared the centre of any wrong-doing after a series of dis- putes concerning financial mismanagement. A council spokesman said: "We want as many people as possible to take part in the six week consultation. The document concludes that the centre has a bright future and that the Pakistani community recognise the need for the training it provides and want to keep it open" (Yorkshire Post, 10.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 6]

 

Bradford prayer room

A new multi-faith prayer room was officially opened at Bradford City Hall on 14th December (See BMMS for October 1998). A ground floor room was refurbished to include a washing area and flexible screens to cater for the different needs of the various faiths that will use it. The decision to renovate the room came after requests from employees, elected members, shop stewards and external organisations for designated prayer rooms. Amongst those attending the opening ceremony were the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Revd David Smith, and leader of Bradford Council, Mohammed Ajeeb. Cllr Ajeeb said: "Bradford is a multi-cultural city and proud of its diverse communities and workforce so it is only right that we should look at such requests from members of different faiths. We are aware we have employees of many religious beliefs who will all be able to make use of this facility" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 14.12.98). Rev Smith added that it was important to realise peoples’ spiritual needs. A custodian will be appointed to approve any books or objects placed in the room to ensure they will not cause offence to people of other beliefs (Yorkshire Post, 15.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 6]

 

Man sent letter bomb

A man, said to be ‘a member of a Muslim group’, had a letter bomb sent to his home in Whitmore Reans. The man, who has not been named, became suspicious after opening the package which contained a video cassette, and phoned the police after putting the package in his back garden. Officers threw a cordon around the house and Army bomb disposal experts carried out a small explosion to make the device safe. The package was not destroyed, and the remains will be examined by a police forensic expert and ordinance experts. Det Chief Insp John Smith, of West Midlands Police, confirmed that "The device was contained in a Jiffy bag in a VCR cassette that had an explosive substance inside it." The package had a Birmingham postmark and the address was written in child-like capitals (The Birmingham Post, 23.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 6]

Bradford pub to be converted

The UK Islamic Mission in Bradford has bought a pub which was once the centre of a protection racket, and will turn it into a Muslim community centre. The New Marshfield Pub, off Manchester Rd, was sold for £80,000, and Mohammed Afzal Khan, the organisation’s Vice-President, was delighted to have acquired the premises. He said: "It will be used as a community centre and be the focus of a range of activities. There is a diverse culture in Bradford and it will be a boost for the area." A spokesman for the agents who handled the sale, said they were also happy that the building would be put to good use, as it was plagued by a series of fire attacks last year (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 24.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Barnsley community centre opens

The Muslim community in Barnsley were celebrating after the opening of a community centre which has taken three years to complete. The community, in 1995, launched an appeal for a place where local Muslims could meet, pray and learn more about their faith, and in the end has raised £50,000. The Al-Quba Muslim Community Centre was officially opened by Barnsley Central MP, Eric Illsley, and the event was attended by eighty members of the Barnsley Muslim community, as well as guests including Lord Nazir Ahmed, councillors Ron Fisher and Graham Kyte, and Father Ian Wildey of St Mary’s Church. Centre chairman, Dr Gulzar Khan said most of the community had been supportive, but because of a small minority, they had to protect the building with steel doors and shutters. However, he still hoped the Muslim community would continue to grow, and will work towards fostering a better understanding between Muslims and the wider community. Mr Illsley said: "I have said before that Barnsley needs ethnic diversity. It has a very small ethnic population – something under one per cent. It has taken you some time to establish your centre. And because of your small numbers there has been a lack of understanding and progress in addressing some of your needs." The two-storey community centre includes a prayer hall, reception area, classrooms and an office (Barnsley Chronicle, 24.12.98, Barnsley Star, 31.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Muslim identity conference

A recent conference organised by the Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS), called "Muslim Identity in the 21st Century: Challenges to Modernity" looked at the issues of Muslim identity in relation to the 21st Century, youth, civil society, education and technology, globalisation and the impact of diversity. Speakers were mainly from Iran, the US and the UK, and included: Azzam Tamimi, giving a critique of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Dr Bobby Sayyid, examining globalisation and the idea of the global ummah; Mr Sayyid Ameli (of the IIS) gave a paper entitled "Cultural Globalisation and Muslim Identity"; Professor Mowlana Hamid analysed the role of the media and its impact on Muslim identity; and Dr Hadi Khaneki also talked about the media and the role it has had in the evolving youth identity in Iran (Muslim News, 25.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Adult Education courses

Dudley Council’s learning section has teamed up with Age Concern and the Workers’ Educational Association to put on courses for the Muslim community at Wellington Rd Community Centre, and for the Sikh community at the Sikh Temple in Vicar St (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 26.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Letter asks to ban pigs

Antiques dealers across the Cotswolds have been sent letters, said to be from a "Muslim Cultural Society", pleading with them to ban ornamental pigs from shop windows, as they are considered "unclean" and "sinful". Owners of antique shops in Cirencester that received the letters said they had dismissed them either as a joke or an insult. The letter said that a "great hurt" was felt by Muslims that pork was "still widely consumed by people in your neighbourhood", and said that the pain could be eased if people stopped putting pigs on display in their windows. Shane Tarrant, owner of Silver Street Antiques, said: "I thought it was a joke at first, but if we ignore it someone might put a brick through our window." Another antique shop owner who did not want to be named, said: "I thought it was a joke initially. I think it’s some fanatical group trying it on." Leslie Rankin-Taylor, of Rankin-Taylor Antiques, also saw it as a joke and threw the letter away: "I think it’s a wind up," she said (Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard, 31.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Centre concerned over funding

The new Scottish Islamic and Cultural Centre, which opened in Dundee in November 1997, is still struggling to raise over £40,000 to complete its renovation project. Around £25,000 has already been spent on the conversion of the building, which has been used to make the upper level a mosque, equipped with a burial preparation chamber. The rest of the plan is to create an activities hall which would provide a meeting place for recreation for the Muslim community. Committee trustee, Mahmud Sarwar Rathor, said that the bulk of the fund-raising would have to wait until the end of Ramadan. He said: "We have been in negotiation with the City Council and we are going to apply for a National Lottery grant" (Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 31.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

 

 

Fife Muslim leader dies

A highly respected member of the Muslim community in Fife, died after suffering a heart attack while driving home from Leith Mosque (Glenrothes Gazette, 24.12.98). Mr Nazeer Ahmed Naseem, a successful businessman, was very active in the Muslim community setting up the Fife Islamic Association, which helped get the premises for the first mosque, and, land in the cemetery for the Muslim community. He also worked as a volunteer in many local organisations that were dedicated to promoting good race relations, and became the first chairman of Fife Racial Equality Council. [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 7]

Census update

A government White Paper is to announce that the next official census, in 2001, will ask Britons to state their religion for the first time since 1851 (See BMMS for August, September, October and November 1998). The decision follows strong pressure from the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who believes it will give a more accurate picture of Britain’s ethnic communities, especially as more people are identify- ing themselves in terms of their religion than ever before: "That is why there is a need, for example, to expand on the kind of ethnic monitoring that is carried out in the census. It is clear that the basic classifications of black, white or Asian are simply out of date. We have to look at ways of recording groups, such as Muslims and Sikhs, who identify themselves primarily with their religion. We also have to recognise the changing nature of our communities, the second- and third- generation children who see themselves as British and black." The Office for National Statistics said it got "a reasonable response" when it asked "Do you have a religious faith?" in a 90,000 trial census in June 1998. There has been opposition to the issue of including a religion question. Professor Graham Zellick, Vice-Chancellor of London University, has complained to Mr Straw saying that it is a dangerous proposal as it will erode personal liberty and could lead to official abuse of the information (The Guardian, 04.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8]

 

 

Education

Religious schools head performance tables

Recently published school league tables show a successful year for most Muslim schools. The greatest improved school is the King Fahad Academy in Ealing, which receives funding from Saudi Arabia (See BMMS for November 1998). Over three years, the number of pupils gaining five or more A-C GCSE grades has risen from 40 per cent to 90 per cent, the national average being 46 per cent. Other high performers were The Al-Karam School in Nottingham, The Al-Sadiq Al-Zahra School in Brent, the Islamic High School for Girls in Manchester, and Leicester’s Islamic Academy, who all scored higher than the national average. The two government funded schools, Islamia School in Brent and Al-Furqan School in Birmingham, both added to last year’s good performances. There is still a question mark over whether these schools can maintain these educational levels while teaching the National Curriculum. Ibrahim Hewitt, of the Muslim Association of Schools, believes that teaching the National Curriculum is more important an issue than the annual league tables. He said: "Teaching the National Curriculum is a pre-requisite for state aid. Once schools are in this position it is up to them to negotiate with their Local Authorities for funding."

He also speaks of the performance tables showing that religious schools generally seem to fare better. He said: "In order for schools to work parents and children must feel a sense of ownership. Those who send their children to religious schools share a common purpose." Philip Woolcock, a Catholic school teacher from Blackpool, agrees: "Parents who send their kids to religious schools have made a commitment to a certain ethos. They believe a religious environment means more discipline and every teacher knows that discipline comes before teaching." However, despite this good record, religious schools rarely get government funding, especially non-Christian schools. Ibrahim Hewitt added: "I think the teaching profession, like society, will become more secularised because people are becoming more secularised. But they don’t realise that if you remove faith from schools you remove something that is essential to life" (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8]

 

 

Call for girls’ school criticised

The M Nisar Dawah Trust in Birmingham, is upset at calls for a single sex girls’ school to be opened in Washwood Heath. An independent commission has backed the calls, which have strong support mainly from Muslims in the area, although Birmingham education committee is still consulting existing girls’ only schools to determine its likely impact. However, the trust wants the local authority to concentrate on other issues that affect the area. They have written to Birmingham deputy chief education officer Trish Taylor to express their concerns. Trust spokesman Mohammed Noor said: "The girls’ school campaigners have dealt with the issue as if it were the only issue the commission should focus on. The vast majority would rather other issues such as youth unemployment, drugs, law, educational achievement and housing were dealt with. They are tired of hearing about the ‘girls’ school." A Birmingham education spokesman said the letter would be considered once it had been received (Birmingham Evening Mail, 18.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8]

 

 

GSCE in Islam

The University of London, in East Yorkshire, is recruiting people from the region to study a new GCSE in Islam. The course, designed by the University, can be taken as a postal course with the first exams being held in June 1999 (Hull Daily Mail, 19.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8]

 

 

Education centre refused permission

A proposal for an Islamic education centre in Kilburn has been refused planning permission by the council. Brent town planners were told that the centre would be too dangerous for the 100 children that would use it, due to its busy location. They said that the extra traffic would threaten road safety and possibly result in dangerous road conditions (Wembley Observer, 23.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8]

 

 

Extension for Walthamstow centre

Despite objections from local residents, planning permission has been given to and Islamic education centre in Walthamstow to build a single storey front extension. Residents have complained that the extension will increase noise and disturbance in the area, and increase traffic and parking, because the site was being used more as a mosque than an educational centre, which exceeds the use it was intended for. However, council officials told members of the Planning Implement- ation Sub-Committee that the space would be taken up with relocating toilet facilities and a new staircase, so there would not be a significant increase in capacity. Also, the original plans had included a large prayer hall on the ground floor. Councillor Bob Carey said: "It wasn’t the right place for a mosque or religious building in the first place. But a small extension is not likely to have a great impact." Councillor Fazlur Rahman, who supported the scheme, said: "Officers found no objections on planning grounds and neither the Ombudsman nor the court could support neighbours’ objections" (Waltham Forest Independent, 23.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 8/9]

 

 

Students to boycott exams

Students at Watford Grammar School for Boys said they will boycott an internal maths examination which was scheduled to take place on 18th January, one of the days that Eid was likely to fall on. The students were angry that the school had set the examination date themselves, and then said it could not be rescheduled. Dr David Russell, co-ordinator of A-level examinations for Watford Grammar School, said: "This should not really cause problems. We will try to reschedule it and students must see their subject tutors and sort out the clashes with them." However, one of the pupils said: "The teachers have told us that they will not be able to set the exams at a later date. Out of about 60 of us who are supposed to take the examinations on the day, 15 are Muslims. We are not planning to turn up for the exam." Jeremy Tafler, from the examining body Edexcel, said: "We are concerned about the clashes and we certainly try our best to avoid this kind of a situation from occurring. ‘Id poses particular problems as we cannot keep two days free in the tight schedules we face…We try to put examinations with the lowest number of candidates on these two days, however, special arrangements can be made for students who find they are facing difficulty. They must contact their examination centres and make prior arrangements" (Muslim News, 25.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 9]

 

 

Teacher-training schemes

The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) has given the Association of Muslim Schools backing to run a secondary school-centred initial teacher training course (SCITT), which will enable them to provide qualified staff from their schools and boost recruitment from their communities into the teaching profession. Ibrahim Hewitt, develop- ment officer with the Association of Muslim Schools, said currently some Muslims, particularly women, feared their faith would not be respected at university. The course will start with ten maths and science students, adding English and primary courses over three years. It will include the use of Islam in multi-lingual, multi-cultural teaching in its core curriculum. Trainees will start and finish in Muslim schools, spending a middle placement in a state school (Times Educational Supplement, 25.12.98, Eastern Eye, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 9]

 

Feversham College in new bid

Fee-paying Feversham College, in Bradford, has submitted a second proposal to the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, applying for voluntary aided status (See BMMS for June, July, August and September 1998). If it is successful in its application, it will become Britain’s third Muslim state school. It will also receive a similar proportion of funding from the Muslim Association of Bradford (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 30.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 9]

 

Politics

Community to form own party

Muslims in Luton say they are planning on breaking from the Labour party and forming their own party. The split follows anger over the case of Zaib Khan, who lives in a freezing home with her three sick children. Her privately-owned house currently has no gas, hot water or central heating, and although the council have promised her home improvement grants, they have not provided anything for four months. The Luton Central Mosque committee is currently supporting Mrs Khan, and says it has had enough of such cases, and claims that the council has lost touch with grass roots opinion. Mohammed Sulaiman, president of Luton Central Mosque, said this case was typical: "It is a bad case, but there are similar ones. This is an example of why we are going to put our own candidates forward in the May elections. We want to change the old politics." It is suggested that if sufficient numbers abandon the Labour Party, they could win all six seats in the Biscot and Dallow wards which have high concentrations of Asians living there. Challney and Saints are two other wards where the new party could win seats from the ruling Labour group (Luton on Sunday, 22.11.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 9]

 

Racism

Racism in Midlands

A study held in Birmingham by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) suggested that many white people in the Midlands blame ethnic minorities for poverty and deprivation. The CRE held small focus groups where whites were encouraged to speak freely and were promised total anonymity. The results are said to confirm earlier research suggesting such views are widespread. Birmingham was chosen for the study because of its large ethnic minority communities, and although many participants said they had black or Asian friends, the commission’s report says "they still held strong negative stereotypes of them as groups. They especially resented Asian – and especially Muslim – people, who they saw as importing a foreign culture into their country." The report also said that many white people resented mosques being built as they believed they were being funded by tax-payers, and that when they heard Asians using foreign languages they thought they were being talked about. Dr Mark Johnson, an associate fellow at Warwick University specialising in race relations, said: "These findings are very distressing but sadly unsurprising" (Sunday Mercury, 06.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 9/10]

 

Women

BPS report on stress

A new report by the British Psychological Society (BPS) claims that living in extended families can be harmful to most Muslim women. The research was carried out by psychologists at Southampton University, who found unusually high levels of anxiety and depression among young Muslim women whose views on child rearing differ from those of their elder relatives. The report says: "The levels of depression among the sample were particularly worrying as they were more than three times as high as a group of patients who have been diagnosed as having cancer…It is quite possible that women with overbearing and intrusive mothers or mothers-in-law lose their sense of agency and develop feelings of helplessness, which in certain mothers could lead to clinical depression." Professor Sonuga-Barke, co-author of the report, denies the report targets Muslims: "The study of Muslims in particular was just a matter of convenience. Even though the report only mentions Muslims we have found the same results among Hindus. The report also makes clear that those Muslim women who had regular contact with the local mosque and cultural centre were less likely to suffer from mental health problems." The report has been criticised for focussing on specific issues of their own and ignoring wider social factors. Dr Katme said: "One of the real problems ignored in the report is the shortage of space and the problem of overcrowding in British homes…Some clashes are inevitable between generations who come from different cultural environments but these need not lead to mental stress if both parties share a common Islamic worldview." He added: "Apart from the numerous reports which highlight the social, psychological, emotional and economical advantages of extended families there are also recent initiatives like the government’s Green Paper on ‘Supporting Families’ and the ‘Adopt a Granny’ campaign which reflect a renewed interest in encouraging extended families." Dr Katme also points out that the report fails to give any suggestions as to how these problems can be dealt with (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 10]

 

 

Welfare Association receives grant

The Muslim Women’s Welfare Association in Waltham Forest has received a £156,169 grant from the National Lotteries Charity Board. The group helps Asian Muslim women who experience domestic violence. The grant will be spread over three years, and will help the association buy and refurbish the premises they occupy, as well as paying the salary of a full-time worker and covering running costs (Chingford Guardian, 17.12.98, Waltham Forest Independent, 18.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 10]

 

Interfaith

Al-Muhajiroun Christmas campaign

A seminar was organised by the Al-Muhajiroun group in Langley Green, entitled "Christmas – a capitalist festival". A member of the group, Saleem Sultan, explained: "As Muslims we look at society and there is definitely too much excess in terms of consumerism. Considering it’s supposed to be a Christmas celebration – that’s gone out the window for a lot of people. It’s a celebration far removed from the teachings sent to Jesus from the creator and sustainer of the universe, instead it is a capitalist celebration consisting of escapism, consumerism and alcoholism. People might say to us, you are Muslims what have you got to do with it? We regard Jesus very highly as one of our greatest prophets. We feel we have to stand up to defend his name." Reverend Malcolm Liles, of St John the Baptist Church, said: "I have some sympathy with that. We are still in the season of advent until Christmas Eve, which is meant to be a time of penitence." He also accused the capitalist forces of "Jumping on the bandwagon of a Christmas celebration" (Crawley News, 09.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 10]

 

 

Three Faiths Forum award

The Three Faiths Forum, for the first time in its 11-year history, has given the annual award to a Muslim. Dr Zaki Badawi, Principal of The Muslim College, chairman of the Council of Imams and Mosques UK and co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations (Hendon & Finchley Times, 17.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 10]

 

 

Mosque to employ priest

Oxford Central Mosque has taken an unusual step by saying that it will employ a Church of England clergyman in order to improve Christian-Muslim relations. The post will be given the title "ordained inter-faith worker", and duties will be shared with the Oxford diocese. The priest will be given an office in new Islamic education centre and mosque, which is to be built in 1999, and will act as a mediator between the faiths in areas of conflicts. Fazal Hussein, the mosque’s treasurer and spokesman, said: "This step shows that we mean business, because we are doing something open and not behind a meeting room door. Others do nothing because they fear a backlash. Of course it will come and some people will say that we are being hijacked by Christianity, but we have to make progress. We are optimistic that we can build a very good relationship with Christians in the future when we manage to overcome discord and understand each other better." The inspiration for the project came from the former Bishop of Peshawar in Pakistan, the Rt Revd Khair-ud-Din, who died of cancer two years ago. He spent a lot of time promoting friendship between Muslims and Christians (The Daily Telegraph, 29.12.98, Oxford Mail, 30.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 10]

Bath call to prayer controversy

The Mayor’s Call to Prayer in Bath went ahead without some of the representatives from the Christian community (See BMMS for June, July, September and October 1998). The city’s evangelical churches carried out their threat to boycott the event because of the mayor’s invitation to a Muslim to be a keynote speaker, saying that such an inter-faith meeting went against the teachings of the Bible. The mayor, Councillor Ray Cliffe, said he was saddened that some Christians had decided to stay away, but was glad that so many people had attended the event at the Guildhall: "I hope that the attendance will indicate that that the decision by the mayor and the Charter Trustees was the correct decision to make. While we can never be certain that the decision was the correct one, I honestly believe in following my heart rather than my head. The whole purpose of the meeting was to unite the citizens of our city and any division that has occurred is of great sadness to me personally, and certainly to the Charter Trustees." Dr Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College in London, gave the address, and said that the controversy had encouraged him to try to unite the people of different faiths: "In every religious community you will get people who are, in a way, narrow minded and who feel they cannot deal with others. They are not representative of the general run of people, both Christian and Muslim. I feel the majority should always lead the way to making a society really worth living in" (The Bath Chronicle, 05.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 11]

 

Halal

Meat prices drop

An investigation carried out by Q News shows that buying halal meat is becoming even cheaper than buying meat from supermarkets. The report says that a decline in the meat market caused by oversupply, the strength of sterling and the economic crisis in Russia – which is the end destination for most of the sheep skins – has caused the value of mutton to drop by 50 percent. However, there has been no corresponding decrease in supermarket prices, while halal meat prices, which are already lower, have dropped even further. Mohammed Malik, whose father runs a family butchers in Wolverhampton, said: "Sixty per cent of our customers are actually non-Muslim who have been won over by the price and the flavour of halal meat…The supermarkets are charging nearly double. Obviously their products are packaged better but I doubt this accounts for all of the difference." The halal food licensing body, Halal Consumers, is currently negotiating with some supermarkets interested in stocking halal meats (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 11]

 

 

Butcher plans halal chain

A Birmingham based family is attempting to turn the term ‘halal’ into a global brandname by launching a new meat franchising chain called Halal World plc. Mr Hafiz Yaqoob, who originally opened a couple of small butchers shops in Birmingham in 1959, has become one of the major suppliers of halal meat to shops across the country. Now, with his two sons, he intends to float his Halal Meat Company on the stock market and offer a franchise agreement to hundreds of small Asian butchers in Britain. Mr S. Ahmed, the company’s managing director, said: "The aim is to take halal meat away from its traditional ethnic audience and make it a mainstream product. Halal butcher shops in the UK have a dirty backstreet image, most Britons think that it involves some voodoo ritual killing." New government legislation coming into force from June 1999 will mean that many small butchers will be faced with the threat of closure, as half of them will not have the necessary capital to upgrade their operations. Mr Ahmed added: "This is where we step in with our halal franchise. We will offer these butchers our brandname and assistance in the refurbishment of their shops. This is how we will grow through new partnerships." The group has so far set up six outlets in Birmingham, Nottingham, London and Manchester, and hopes to have 50 outlets in the next few years (Asian Age, 04.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 11]

 

Regulation needed for halal trade

Elliot Morley, the Farm Animal Welfare Minister, told the Muslim News (25.12.98) that the government has agreed to discuss the regulation of the halal trade with the Muslim community, after concerns that some halal butchers are selling non-halal meat. Mr Morley said: "It is difficult to check whether the butcher was selling halal meat or not without a proper enforceable mechanism. If the Muslim community can develop a Halal Standard, then this will help enforcement and ensure traceability of meat." He also said that the government and the European Union have no plans to change current legislation which exempts Jews and Muslims from stunning the animals before slaughter. However, he was concerned about open-air slaughtering, especially during Eid al-Adha, because of the risk of BSE in sheep. He said he would help the Muslim community "to ensure that there is adequate capacity in the abbatoirs for ‘id al-adha" ensuring that slaughtering takes place in licensed abattoirs. A working party is now to meet regularly with the minister to maintain a dialogue with the Muslim community. [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 11]

 

Huddersfield hospital provides halal meat

Huddersfield NHS Trust have introduced halal dishes for in-patients. The Trust is buying the meat from a halal supplier in Newcastle. The Health Promotions Manager said: "This is a trial period really. We’ll be talking to Muslim patients and talking to their families as time goes on. We’re aware that we are serving patients from a wide range of different communities and we are always trying to meet the different groups cultural needs. There is an issue of trust which we have to overcome. We’ve found that a lot of Muslim patients don’t trust that the meat is halal, but that’s something we are working on" (Awaaz, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 11]

Health

Relief for diabetics

The launch of a new diabetic drug will mean that Muslims suffering from Type 2 diabetes will be able to fast for the first time this Ramadan. Unlike conventional methods where patients have to eat at fixed times, the new drug, ‘NovoNorm’, is taken when the patient chooses to eat and regulates blood sugar levels at the time of eating rather than during the whole day. Dr Mohan Pawa, Director of the Institute of Transcultural Health, said: "Many Muslims with Type 2 diabetes have had to adhere to relatively set meal times and could not participate in the fasting month of Ramadan…If the person did not eat at set times, it could leave them feeling tired, irritable or disoriented." NovoNorm is only available on prescription from registered doctors (Q News, No.299, 01.01.99). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

 

Mosques & Burials

Bolton, St George’s Rd

Worshippers of the International Khatme Nabuwwat Mission are to be evicted from the wooden building they have been using as a mosque for 22 years (See BMMS February 1998). The Court of Appeal in London ruled that the mission had no right to continue using the premises as a mosque, as they were on council owned land which they did not have permission to occupy. However, president of the mission and community imam, Musa Ali Qasmi, has vowed to fight on, saying: "I will talk to my lawyers and we will do what we can. We are not giving up. We will not move. It is our mosque and there is no way we will move from there." At court, Mr Qasmi’s barrister, Colin Ross-Munroe QC, argued that the Muslims had "squatters’ rights" because they had been at the site for so long (Bolton Evening News, 04.12.98, Manchester Evening News, 04.12.98). However, the leader of Bolton Council, Councillor Bob Howarth, has said that he is still willing to talk to the Islamic mission about the future of the mosque. He said: "The council accepts that Mr Qasmi and members of his Mission have used the building on the land for many years, but it has always been prepared to negotiate with them. However, no progress could be made in negotiations while Mr Qasmi denied the council’s ownership of the land…He has been advised of this conditional offer to negotiate over many years, but has chosen to go to the courts. In the meantime, our door remains always open if the Mission members wish to talk to us" (Bolton Evening News, 14.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

 

 

Haringey, Wightman Rd

A new mosque is to be built in Haringey, to cope with the growing Muslim population. The present building, which was converted from synagogue by the London Islamic Cultural Society, is now too small to meet the demands of the community. Abdool Alli, President of the society, said: "The final design, compiled after a great deal of consultation, seeks to offer a balanced architectural solution reflecting some Islamic features and the local environment." The mosque is expected to take two years to complete, and will cost £700,000 (Hornsey & Crouch End Journal, 17.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

 

 

Harrow, Station Rd

A mosque which lost out to a housing association in its bid to buy land for a new £3million mosque, may still be able to use the site (See BMMS for July, August and September 1998). Acton Housing Association, who were successful in buying the land next to the mosque, have in principle agreed to buy the present mosque and convert it into homes, which will allow the trustees to build a new mosque on the bigger site. Trustee Ilyas Khan said: "It is potentially great news. We have worked hard to negotiate a deal which will please all parties and are delighted with these proposals. Acton Housing Association has agreed to take over the existing mosque’s land once a larger and more beautiful mosque has been completed next door. The new mosque will incorporate a gym and community hall, which will be the first of its kind in an area which is home to 25,000 Muslims." Development manager for the housing association, Mukhtar Latif, said: "The scheme depends on what happens with the planning permissions. Things are progressing. It is early days yet. Our agreement will, of course, depend on the mosque’s trustees being able to buy the land from us to build." A planning application has been submitted already by the mosque’s trustees (Harrow Observer, 10.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

 

 

Hyndburn burials

Members of Hyndburn Council’s Environmental Services Committee agreed to proposed changes for Muslim funerals, after hearing of "difficulties" during Muslim burials. From now on, the ceremony will be allowed to take place as soon as possible after the bereavement, even on the same day as when the request is made, and the mourners will also be able to become actively involved in the burial. The extra costs will be covered by the person arranging the funeral, and the new arrangements are to be reviewed in two years time (Hyndburn Express, 02.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

 

Leeds, Brudenell Rd

Councillors have blocked a controversial plan to demolish a historic church and replace it with a mosque. Planning permission was given to Leeds Muslim Council to build a mosque with two storeys and a basement on the site of the Christadelphian Church, which is currently being supported by scaffolding to prevent it from collapsing. However, the Muslim Council now wants to build three storeys and a basement, instead of two, which has alarmed the local community. Martin Sellens, a senior planning officer, said: "This is a prominent site within a busy part of the inner city. We feel a building of this size would be over-intensive on such a small site." Councillor Jim McKenna, sub-committee chairman, said: "We must make it clear that the mosque needs to be in line with what was originally agreed" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 17.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 12]

Leicester, Manor Farm

A city councillor’s objection to proposals for a religious complex, with two temples and a mosque, has resulted in the plans being put on hold (See BMMS July, August and November 1998). Councillor Roman Scuplak objected to the plans in sub-committee which means they will have to be referred for discussion at committee level. The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission, Muslim group Dawoodi Bohra Jammat and Sikh organisation the Ramagarhia Board have applied to build on the 7.5 acre site, which has received more than 600 objections, but more than 1,000 calls of support. However, Cllr Scuplak says that more important issues have not been considered, like the effects the development will have on the surrounding areas. He said: "A lot of other major developments are treated right up front where they seek the views of the residents. With this, they have deliberately played it low key" (Leicester Mail, 10.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

 

London, Whitechapel Rd

A long running dispute between Ballymore Homes, East London Mosque and the council has been brought to an end (See BMMS for January, March and November 1998). The East London Mosque Trust had objected to a housing development being built on the site next to their mosque as they had wanted to buy the land to expand their mosque. Now, after the council asked the two parties to resolve the conflict, planning permission has been passed for a community centre for the mosque, and 40 low cost homes to be built on the site. It will be a joint venture by the East London Mosque Trust and the Bethnal Green and Victoria Park and LABO Housing Associations. Council leader Julia Mainwaring was delighted with the decision: "We worked very hard to find a solution that was agreeable to everyone concerned, especially the local community. It just shows what can be achieved when groups sit down and talk…The decision met all the planning requirements and the needs of the local residents and worshippers at the mosque." Dr Abdul Bari, vice chair of the mosque, said that although the community had wanted more, "on balance, the mosque accepted the deal and looked forward to a genuine partnership with the council" (East End Life, 30.11.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

 

Loughborough, King St

Members of the environmental health and housing committee have decided to allow a mosque in Loughborough to continue their calls to prayer, despite the council receiving two complaints from nearby residents. The calls to prayer are permitted only three times a day between 8:30am and 8pm, and the maximum amplification level is to be no more than 50 decibels, measured one metre from the loudspeaker. Also, the calls are only allowed to last two minutes. Officers from the environ- mental services said they did not find the noise levels to be excessive (Loughborough Echo, 18.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

 

Luton, Leagrave Rd

The Jallalabad Islamic Culture and Education Centre, is likely to be given permission for a two-storey addition to its main building (Luton News, 09.12.98). A list of conditions will be imposed with the planning permission: no loudspeakers will be allowed on the outside of the building to amplify music or speech, no further alterations are to be made without permission from the council, and a one-way system will have to be introduced for vehicles entering and leaving the car park, to avoid traffic congestion. [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

 

Manchester, Mauldeth Rd

Local residents who were celebrating after their protests resulted in planning permission being refused for a mosque extension, believe their victory may be shortlived (See BMMS for November 1998). They objected to the Khanka Naqshbandia Mujaddadia building an extra floor on the existing mosque, topped off with a dome and a 76ft minaret, but now the leaders of the mosque will appeal against the refusal by Manchester City Council (Manchester Evening News Metro, 04.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

 

Rochdale burials

A Muslim cemetery in Rochdale has been attacked by a group of youths, who damaged a total of thirteen gravestones. The attack happened after police, a few days earlier, had exhumed the body of an elderly person as part of their investigations. It is not the first time that the cemetery has been vandalised by local youths. Derek Mak, registrar of Rochdale Cemetery, said: "Every time there is a police enquiry like this, it seems inevitable that incidents like this would happen." A meeting was arranged with the cemetery officials, police officers and local authority officials to discuss the issue of security. Police Chief Superintendent Dawson said: "A gang of youths are causing the problems and we are liasing with local residents and the council to steer the youths to the Youth Centre which has been built for them. No arrests have been made so far but the persistent problem has now become a cause for concern to all of us" (Muslim News, 25.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

Southampton burials

Southampton City Council has changed its regulations to allow Muslims to bury bodies without a coffin. A special site will be set aside in South Stoneham cemetery for the graves, and a water supply will be provided for washing. But a community leader said the small area set aside, which has room for a few hundred graves, may soon not be big enough: "It won’t only be used by the people of Southampton. The Muslim community is scattered all over the South, and Woking is the only other place nearby which allows traditional funerals." Councillor Parvin Damani, who hosted the meetings between the Muslim community and the council, said: "If you’ve got to go you’ve got to go but you want to be sure you’re in the right place with the right company." The changes were also welcomed by other councillors. Councillor Richard Williams said: "It’s sensible, sympathetic and definitely the way forward" (Southern Daily Echo, 09.12.98). [BMMS December 1998 Vol. VI, No. 12, p. 13]

 

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