British Muslims Monthly Survey for January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1
Mosques & Burials
With the end of Ramadan, there have been many reports about the various celebrations taking place across the country.
An article appeared in the Muslim News (22.01.99) written by Derek Fachett, Foreign Office Minister, as the first Eid ul-Fitr message from the government to British Muslims. He began by saying: "As Ramadan draws to a close, and the festivities of the Eid al Fitr begin, I want to take a moment to reflect on the state of relations between Islam and the West. It is a question of immense urgency and importance. If we are to prosper and grow together in a peaceful and diverse world, then we must understand each other better." He went on to speak of the need to break stereotypes in the West about the true nature of Islam, and also, the "need to fight suspicion in the Muslim world of the West and its motives." This has been helped, he believed, through increased communication with Iran, and also with the leaders of Britain’s Muslim communities. He commended Muslims for their positive role in British society, with their 900 mosques, their entrepreneurial skills, and their cuisine. He also spoke of the unfortunate bombing of Iraq, particularly as it happened just before Ramadan, but also said he hoped that educating people about Islam would lessen the stereotypical images of Islam appearing whenever someone like Saddam Hussain calls for "a jihad against the West." He ended by saying: "What they [the West] need to know is that there is a higher jihad – not a holy war against the unbeliever, but a struggle inside man to be righteous and just. And that Ramadan is the time when the Holy Koran calls believers to contemplation on that struggle. The holiest month in the Islamic calendar…is therefore a good time to think about the relationship between Islam and the West."
On a local level, many events were organised by schools and local organisations, to celebrate Eid. In Rochdale, four schoolchildren switched on the decorative lights put up in Milkstone Rd as part of the celebrations. More than 100 people joined in the celebrations, where local businesses provided free food for those attending the switch-on (Rochdale Observer, 13.01.99). Likewise, lights were switched on in Derby by the Mayor, Councillor Abdul Rehman, to add to their celebrations. He said: "The lights help to create the right atmosphere during the festivities and they show the significance of Eid amongst the community. The celebrations are a sign of peace and the lights are visible for everyone to share" (Derby Trader, 21.01.99). In Brierfield the end of Ramadan was celebrated with a fireworks display, and a banner wishing everyone "Eid Mubaruk" was also displayed in the town (Nelson Leader, 22.01.99). Many schools organised events to show the significance of Eid, and to allow others to share in the festivities, where children set up Eid displays, made Eid cards, painted their hands with henna, and ate lots of food!
Warnings were given out by police to young motorists in Lancashire and Southall expected to be out on the streets during Eid celebrations. Police in Lancashire sent out special Eid cards with road safety messages, as road traffic offences tend to rise during Eid. Chief Inspector Ian Bell of Lancashire Police, said: "We have a proven problem in parts of east Lancashire and the Blackpool area where Eid celebrations are concentrated. While we don’t want to spoil anyone’s celebrations, we want people to understand why we’ve become so concerned about the irresponsible actions of a minority and hope they’ll take our safer driving message on board" (Lancashire Evening Post, 14.01.99). Likewise, in Southall police were planning extra patrols for expected increases in traffic on certain roads. However, they did not escape trouble as youths, many having travelled from Luton and Bradford, caused severe disruption in Southall town centre. Gangs of youths hurled abuse at passers-by in an attempt to spark confrontations. One Southall resident said: "You are a hostage in your own house on these nights if you live in Southall. You cannot get in or out of the town even if you want to." Altogether eleven people were arrested (Southall Gazette, 22.01.99).
As with most years, there was controversy over the exact date of Eid, which led to Muslim communities in Britain celebrating on two different days. Muslim News (22.01.99) reports that the official UK Moon Sighting Committee, set up as a medium between different Islamic organisations on the issue, declared the first day of Ramadan on 20 December. However, the Central Mosque in London declared that the first day would be 19 December. This initial confusion continued until Eid, with those following the Central Mosque celebrating on 18 January, with the others celebrating on the 19th. There are continued calls for problems with this disunity to be solved. [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 1]
The trial of Glasgow Govan MP, Mohammed Sarwar, finally got underway on 27 January at the High Court in Edinburgh (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for January, February, May, September and October 1998). He has pleaded not guilty to four charges. The first charge alleges that he fraudulently had the names of four people added to the electoral register by having them submit false statements about how long they lived in the constituency. The charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice allege that he paid Badar Islam, a candidate against him in the 1997 election, to give a false statement, and then further, that Mr Sarwar later, along with Mr Hussain the co-accused, pretended that the £5,000 offered to Mr Islam was merely a loan. He is further charged with making false declarations on his electoral expenses. On the first day of the trial, the court heard that an inquiry into the electoral roll was called after a late surge of forms from voters. William Johnston, Glasgow’s electoral registration officer, said: "I had been made aware that there were a substantial number of claims being lodged in respect of the Govan parliamentary constituency. Not only that, some of the claim forms contained incomplete information and my staff wrote out asking for additional information. Some of the letters were returned by the post office stating an individual was not present at that address. It came as a bit of a surprise as we had just received a claim form. Warning bells were ringing that something was different from normal" (Daily Record, 27.01.99). After further enquiries he ordered that 140 of the different houses with late claims be investigated by going door-to-door. Mr Johnston told the court that some of the information was certainly wrong after one woman told him that her husband, whose name was on the list, was in Pakistan after they separated some years ago, and some other households did not know the people who were named as living there. However, he also admitted that most of the late claims were in order, and it was only 17 out of 140 that were potentially false.
The second day of the trial saw two witnesses climb down on their original police statements which implicated Mr Sarwar in voting fraud. Shamin Ahmed, an administrative assistant, told the High Court that she remembered two men coming to her house in Govan asking her if she had registered to vote, and she now would not be able to recognise them as it was dark when they called at her house. The police statement she gave in late April 1997 read: "On 11 March, a man I know as councillor Sarwar called at my address…He gave me two forms, one for myself and one for my husband. I completed these forms on councillor Sarwar’s presence. I stated that I took up residence on 10.11.96. I have since been shown photocopies of the forms I filled in and I see the date has been changed to 10.4.96." When asked if she was sure the man was Sarwar, she replied: "At the time, yes, but I was wrong at the time." She said she was confused and upset as she had just suffered a miscarriage. Shadia Hussain, a fast food business owner, had also given a similar statement, saying that Mr Sarwar had come to her house asking if she was on the electoral roll. Ms Hussain now says she would not be able to identify the man who came to her door. She filled out a form, and agreed that although the form stated that she had taken up residence in August 1996, she had not actually moved in until November of that year. She said: "I wanted to get it over and done with…when it came to the part about how long I had been staying at this address he told me to write August 1996 and said this would make sure I could vote." Asked if she had told the truth to the police, she replied: "At that time I thought to myself it was the truth" (Daily Record, 28.01.99). A third witness however, friend of Shadia Hussain, identified Mr Sarwar as the man who helped Ms Hussain get on the voters roll. Muntaz Arif said she was in her friend’s flat when Mr Sarwar called round and that there was no way that she could be mistaken. Under cross-examination by Michael Jones, QC for Mr Sarwar, she denied she had refused to provide a witness statement to the MP’s solicitors before the trial, saying she had not been approached for such a statement. She also denied she held a grudge against the MP after her husband, who had an accident while working at one of Mr Sarwar’s cash and carry outlets, was only offered £4,000 compensation after claiming £20,000 in 1994. Ms Arif claimed that the two events were in no way related, and also claimed that she voted for Sarwar in the election (The Scotsman, 29.01.99). The trial continues. [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 2]
Many newspapers have reported on the recent, and somewhat confused, events in Yemen (amongst others, The Observer, 10.01.99, The Birmingham Post, 11.01.99, The Independent, 12.01.99, The Times, 12.01.99, The Birmingham Post, 13.01.99, Financial Times, 13.01.99, Newcastle Journal, 13.01.99, The Birmingham Post, 14.01.99, Financial Times, 14.01.99, The Independent, 14.01.99, The Daily Telegraph, 14.01.99). It was alleged that five Britons and one Frenchman were being held by the Yemeni authorities before the killing of three British and an Australian hostages on 29 December. According to the Yemeni authorities, police in Aden noticed a car going the wrong way round a roundabout, and when they stopped the car and asked the driver for his licence, the car sped away. Shortly afterwards, the car collided with another car, and the occupants got out and ran away. The police say they found explosives and guns in the wreckage. A few hours later, some men were caught allegedly stuffing plastic explosives into metal pipes. It is following this that the five Britons were arrested. The Yemeni authorities also claimed that the Britons were linked with the militant Islamic group Supporters of Shariah (SOS), based in London, and that they were involved in a bomb plot aimed at a hotel in Aden, two restaurants, the British consulate, the British built church and United Nations offices, planned to be carried out on Christmas Day. They also claim that SOS video cassettes were found in the hotel room used by some of the Britons, and that the accused admitted to their leader being Abu Hassan, who led the kidnapping of the British tourists (The Observer, 10.01.99). The five men held in Yemen, Mohsin Ghalain, 18, from London, Ghulam Hussain, 25, from Luton, and Shahid Butt, 33, Malik Nassar Harhra, 26 Samad Ahmed, 21, all from Birmingham, were officially charged with suspicion of terrorism on 15 January. They are accused of being linked to a terrorist gang and of planning to cause murder, explosions and destruction. The men’s lawyer, Badr Basunaid, was allowed to see his clients for the first time since they were detained, and said he was shown explosives and bomb making equipment alleged to have been discovered on the men when they were arrested. The men stood handcuffed but were not allowed to speak to their legal representative. The families have also appointed Gareth Pierce, the lawyer who successfully appealed the cases of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, to defend the men. She spoke of their ‘appalling treatment’, and said: "Three of the men have just told Mr Basunaid they have been tortured during interrogation for three weeks. They have been kept in solitary confinement in cells at the police station despite an order from the chief prosecutor to move them to a proper prison. It is an extraordinary situation. Until tonight, they have been denied any access to lawyers and have been treated disgustingly" (Birmingham Post, 16.01.99, The Independent, 16.01.99). Rashad Yaqoob, a spokesman for the men’s British legal team and a member of the Association for Muslim Lawyers, said: "The families reaction is one of obvious pain but to some extent they were prepared for this as they were informed of the possible charges two days ago." He also said that five of the six detained had signed statements including references that they were all part of the same gang attempting to sabotage. However, the men later said they were made to sign these confessions under pressure.
The families of those arrested in Yemen have pleaded their innocence saying the men were all in Yemen either to study Arabic or for a holiday. Rashad Yaqoob, said: "If these boys are terrorists, then the Yemeni authorities should show us proof. They haven’t done that yet" (The Observer, 10.01.99). The wife of Ghulam Hussain said that the trip was meant to be a family holiday, but because she had exams, she would be joining him a few days later. She denied that he was involved in terrorist activities, or that he had links with the SOS. There are further concerns over the safety and wellbeing of the men as reports of violence and torture are also revealed. If the Britons are taken to court and convicted they could be executed. The families are pleading with the British government to intervene, although there does not appear to be much help coming from the Foreign Office. The families of the Britons have since flown to Yemen for the trial which began on 27 January. On the opening day of the trial, the five Britons claimed they had been tortured and sexually abused, and shouted they had been "treated like animals" as they were brought before the judge. They showed the bruises they had on their arms and bodies. The defence had asked to adjourn the trial for two weeks to allow them to prepare, and to allow them to speak to the detainees, but were only given three days, which deepened the fears of relatives of the men in Britain that they will not get a fair trial. Mr Yaqoob, who has also flown out to Yemen, said: "We are very worried and outraged that they will not receive a fair trial. They have been tortured into giving confessions, our applications to see the men have been turned down and they are in desperate need of medical attention." In court, prosecutors claimed the men had arrived in Yemen last summer and had started training at a military camp in December, run by the leader of a gang responsible for kidnapping and killing Western tourists. Relatives maintained that the men have no links with any terrorist organisations, and that they were in Yemen on a holiday. The trial was adjourned for three days, and the court agreed that the relatives, and an independent doctor, should be allowed to see the men (The Scotsman, 28.01.99). On the same day, it was established that three more Britons were arrested in Yemen, including the son of Abu Hamza, leader of the SOS, who had been on the run from the authorities since the first arrests. They were captured along with three other men: a French Algerian, an Algerian and a Yemeni. They will join the other five Britons and a Yemeni in the trial (The Independent, 30.01.99).
In Britain, the government continued to be criticised by friends and relatives of the men held in Yemen, saying not enough was being done to help them. A brief meeting was held with representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain, after supporters of ‘The Freedom Campaign’ had gone to the Home Office in London wanting information on the detainees. A council spokesman said: "We want to ensure the men are treated like any other British citizen, with the same assistance and support and legal help any other Briton would get" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 20.01.99). Relatives already in Yemen, wrote again to the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, asking for his intervention. In their letter they repeated claims of torture. The Foreign Office refused to comment on the letter, saying it was a "private correspondence", but said the allegations of torture were being taken seriously. A spokesman said: "We have asked for an explanation and investigation at the highest levels" (The Independent, 30.01.99).
The Yemeni authorities have asked Britain to extradite the extremist, Abu Hamza, who they accuse of master-minding the kidnap of 16 Western tourists in December. Security sources in Yemen say he ordered the British Muslims to contact Abu Hassan, leader of the kidnaps in Yemen, and also received a satellite telephone call from Abu Hassan during the abduction. A security source in Sanaa is reported to have said: "We believe Hamza is the mastermind behind both these terrorist operations. As the British police do not seem to be taking action against him we want to see him put on trial here." They claim they have "irrefutable evidence" linking Abu Hamza to the kidnap and the bomb plot. Scotland Yard are said to be still investigating Abu Hamza’s alleged involvement (The Times, 23.01.99). It is known that Abu Hamza is waging a vendetta against the British and American governments, and he also runs Islamic training camps, advertised on the Internet, which include military training. Although these training camps are being run in Britain, they have been investigated by the government, and a confidential Foreign Office document has said that it cannot act against the group: "Her Majesty’s Government was aware of the existence of so called training camps in [the] UK and these were investigated by appropriate authorities. These investigations revealed no illegal activities" (Financial Times, 13.01.99).
Meanwhile, Abu Hamza has dismissed the calls for his extradition to Yemen. He said: "If the president wants you, there will be no fair trial, he has already tried you. The record of Yemen in human rights is not very good. It makes it very cheeky for them to ask to try me" (The Scotsman, 26.01.99). He has continued to occupy the headlines with his extremist views. He recently warned Britons that they could be killed, not just taken hostage, if they travelled abroad (Evening Standard, 20.01.99, Aberdeen Press & Journal, 26.01.99). Many other Muslims have condemned Abu Hamza’s comments saying they are completely un-Islamic. Campaigners for the men held in Yemen, said: "These people are perceived by the wider Muslim community as basically nutters who will say anything to get publicity. They have not helped with the campaign and we have nothing to do with them. They have simply hijacked it to promote their own extreme views" (Birmingham Post, 26.01.99). Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College in West London, said: "Anybody can call themselves a sheikh. He has no qualifications whatever that we know of…The Muslim community is very alarmed. The feeling is that he is giving a repulsive image of Islam. I get so many calls asking me how can we silence this man, but you cannot. It is a democracy. He is a complete nobody but anybody making extreme statements like this and looking as appalling as he does attracts people." Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "What really concerns us is when they talk about killing innocent people, hostage-taking and terrorism. This is not what the Koran teaches and the sort of messages they put out shock the Muslim community. It is dangerous because it creates divisions" (The Times, 29.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 2-4]
Eight Muslims received awards in the New Year’s honours list, most for their services to community relations.
Mohammed Anwar Parvez received a knighthood for his services to the food retail and wholesale sector and for charitable services. He is the Chairman of Bestway Cash and Carry Ltd, which has outlets across Britain, and has become the second largest food and drinks wholesaling company in Britain. Mr Parvez said: "I am personally grateful and delighted to have had conferred on the honour of knighthood by Her Majesty The Queen. I accept this honour as something more than personal. It is an accolade which recognises the importance and status of the Asian community in Britain today" (Q News, No300, 15.01.99).
Iqbal Sacranie received an OBE for his services to community relations. He is the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, which seeks to represent the views of the Muslim community in Britain. He is also Joint Convenor of the United Kingdom Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, Consultant to The Interfaith Directory, Vice President of the Association of Muslim Welfare, and Advisor to the Ministry of Defence on Islamic issues. In addition, he is a member of the Race Relations Forum, the Inner Cities Religious Council, the Millennium Sub-Group, and various other organisations (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). He said: "It was a pleasant surprise…It makes one feel that one’s work has been appreciated by a larger community although as a Muslim, when one is involved in charitable work, it is being done for the sole pleasure of Allah" (Muslim News, 22.01.99).
Nazar Mustafa received an MBE for his services to the Muslim Education Co-Ordinating Council of the UK, of which he is founder and chairman. He was heavily involved with the Inner London Education Authority, and helped with the introduction of halal food to school canteens, founded the mother-tongue teaching project, was a key advisor on religious education and introduced and sponsorship policy which allowed ILEA schoolchildren, teachers and members to visit Muslim countries and see Islam in practice. He is now education advisor to numerous Muslim organisations, advising schools on the needs of Muslim pupils and motivating the Muslim community to play a more proactive role in education (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). Mr Mustafa said: "Muslim children have special needs that are not always understood or catered for…I am very grateful to receive this honour as it shows my services to my community have been recognised" (Croydon Guardian, 06.01.99).
Mohammed Ikram Malik received an MBE for services to community relations in Pendle and Burnley. He is Chairman of the Pendle Pakistan Welfare Association, and has worked on various educational projects for the Pakistani community, as well as working on an initiative called ‘Learning From Each Other’, which is an attempt to bridge the gaps between the two generations. He is also chairperson of ‘Building Bridges’, which is an inter-faith organisation, as well being the national chair of the Pakistan Medical Association UK (Q News, No300, 15.01.99).
Raficq Shaik Abdulla received an MBE for services to community relations. He is Secretary of Kingston University and is legal advisor to the Muslim College, London, the Imams and Mosques Council and the Muslim Law Shariah Council. He also works as a corporate lawyer for various companies and is an associate of the Calamus Foundation and the Maimonides Foundation. Mr Abdulla said: "I am generally quite ambivalent about Honours and I question why they have given it to me. But having said that, it is important for people of our community to become part of the English system so our voices are heard. It will not change my life but it does give me that extra platform from which to represent others" (Q News, No300, 15.01.99).
Janaid Qureshi received an MBE for his services to community relations. He is founder and member of the Ethnic Minorities Development Association, which addresses the areas of concern to ethnic minorities in relation to development issues. Mr Qureshi said: "I am very pleased and delighted that my work has been recognised. I hope this has set an example for other ethnic minority members to come into the voluntary sector and help the community" (Q News, No300, 15.01.99).
Ahmad Yusuf Lunat received an MBE for his services to regeneration in Batley and Kirklees. He is Vice-Chairman of the Kirklees Racial Equality Council and General Secretary of the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley and Dewsbury. Mr Lunat said: "When I was awarded the Honour I was on Umrah in Makkah, and I was delighted to hear the news. It is a great moment in my life to know that my work has been recognised at the top level" (Q News, No300, 15.01.99).
Prince Naseem Hamid, WBO Featherweight Champion of the World, received an MBE for his services to boxing (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 4/5]
The imam of a Wolverhampton mosque had a letter bomb sent to his house in Ramadan (See BMMS for December 1998). Imam Gulam Hurr Shabbiri was sent the video cassette in a jiffy bag, which sparked as he opened it. He immediately called the police and put the package in his garden. A controlled explosion was carried out in his garden by the Royal Ordnance Corps of Tewkesbury. The cassette was designed to detonate if played in a video recorder, and although bomb disposal experts said it was not highly explosive, it would have been enough to cause injury. Mr Shabbiri said: "I have no idea why anyone would want to do this to me in Ramadan…I don’t think it is to do with religion." He added: "This has shattered our peace and harmony and we are worried about how and why it occurred…I am looking to the police and government to investigate the incident and ensure the person involved is punished." The package had a Birmingham postmark, and although it appeared to be an isolated attack, police have warned people in the area to beware of suspicious packages (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 5]
An official ceremony was held to hand over a community centre in Newham to the Muslim community. The centre, on Katherine Road, has recently undergone renovation, and will now be used to cater for the cultural and social needs of Muslim women in Newham. The new facilities at the centre include a large community hall, a kitchen, a computer room and library, a fitness room and a crèche. The event was attended by local councillors and invited guests, including Councillor Abdul Shakoor (The City of London Recorder, 08.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 5]
Warwickshire County Council’s economic sub-committee were expected to confirm a £21,000 grant to the Nuneaton Khalifa Muslim Society to allow an expansion to the Chilvers Coton Initiative Centre in Edward Street. County director of planning, John Deegan, said that the centre is designed to provide "training facilities including a new kitchen aimed at addressing shortages of skilled workers in the catering industry, conference rooms for advisory and counselling services and teaching rooms. A main thrust of the CCI is to address training needs ranging from advice through to the provision of actual training courses and to help the local community deliver self help programmes in a culturally sensitive environment." He added that an extra building had been acquired, and the grant was needed to cover the costs of renovations in the expansion project. He also recommended that the grant only be approved by councillors with the conditions that there would be "wide marketing and advertisement of the facility" to "encourage equal opportunities and facilitate wider use of the centre within the broader local community" (Heartland Evening News, 09.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 5]
According to the directors of Britain’s leading mail order service for Islamic literature, Muslims in the west are buying more books, and becoming more sophisticated and choosy about the books they buy (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). There are over one hundred Islamic bookshops in Britain, but with the movement of Muslims out of inner cities, often with no local mosques, madrassa’s or bookshops, a need has arisen to have access to literature through mail order services. Women are thought to make up the majority of purchasers of Islamic books in English as they tend to have more time to read. A group of Muslims in Essex running the mail order service, Green Street Books, have now extended their market by listing their catalogue on the Internet. The Green Street Bookshop website (www.gsb.prestel.co.uk) lists over a thousand books, including books from small Islamic publishers abroad whose texts would not normally be seen in UK bookshops, and some academic works. With increasing internet use, these mail order services will become vital to the Muslim community, as the people at GSB believe they are providing a service which is helping to make traditional Islam a living reality among English-speaking Muslims who may have no other point of access to the tradition. [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 6]
An exhibition and conference called "Art for God’s Sake?!", organised by the Association of Muslim Researchers, is to be held on 20 February, and will explore the place of art in Muslim society and culture. Key speakers at the event will include calligrapher Dr Ahmed Moustafa and experts in Islamic Art, Dr Yaqub Zaki and Godfrey Goodwin. The conference will address issues such as the role of art in Muslim society, what is Islamic artistic heritage and Islamic boundaries to artistic licence. It will also look at the role of a revival in Islamic art in the creation of a British Muslim culture, with which young people will be able to identify themselves. There will also be an exhibition of contemporary Islamic art (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 6]
Q News (No300, 15.01.99) features a report on adoption policies which place race before religion when seeking a new home for children. They highlight the case of a young boy called Mohammed, who is of African Gambian heritage and whose family were Muslim. An advert placed in the ‘black’ newspaper The Voice read: "Mohammed needs a black adoptive family. A non-Muslim family will be considered." Responding to the advertisement by Brent Council, Q News were angered after sending a reporter posing as a Pakistani Muslim husband who was turned down and told he would be more suitable applying for an ‘Asian’ child. They were also angry when told that a black lesbian couple would be considered more suitable than a non-black Muslim couple. Social worker Bami Obasanye said: "A child wants to think that he belongs to a family. If all the members of his family don’t look anything like him that won’t help his self esteem...Religion is important but the race of the child is more important." Q News also believe that this policy could be in breach of government guidelines. The 1989 Children’s Act makes it obligatory for a child’s religion, as well as his race, culture or language to be considered when placing him, and a Department of Health circular, recently issued, made it clear that "it is unacceptable for an applicant to be denied the opportunity to be assessed by an agency on the grounds that the…applicant does not share the same ethnic or cultural background." Karen Selewski, Assistant Director for Family Planning Services in Brent, defended the decision by her staff by saying: "We don’t want to lead people astray. We had already had enquiries from three potential black Muslim carers." [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 6]
A convicted sex offender, who converted to Islam while serving his sentence in Peterhead Prison, will be welcome at the Edinburgh mosque when he is released in March (See BMMS for November 1998). John Cronin, 27, was sentenced to three years in prison in 1997 after pretending to three women he was someone else. He had been previously sent to prison in 1992 for assaulting a Tory worker after pretending to be a priest. However, Mohammed Yasin from Edinburgh mosque said: "All sons of Adam are sinners and the best are the ones who repent. When he enters the mosque he is the same as anyone else. I know of his offence but if he has repented, and if he has completed his sentence, we will welcome him here with open arms" (Aberdeen Evening Express, 15.01.99). He added: "We already have quite a few Scottish Moslems who follow Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion and if this man is indeed a convert then we would have no problem. Of course, it must be genuine" (Scottish Express, 16.01.99). However, there are concerns that his new found religion could be a smokescreen for a new wave of crime. Dr Prem Misra, a psychiatrist at Parkhead Hospital in Glasgow, said: "He has used religious pretence to commit crime and nothing suggests that this will be different. He is remorseless" (Daily Record, 16.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 6]
A separate area is to be built outside the Millennium Dome for Muslims to pray, as a Muslim representative felt that it was not permissible to pray inside a building paid for by lottery money (See BMMS for February, April, July, August and October 1998). He also said that Muslims could not pray alongside other faiths. A meeting with Jennie Page, Chief Executive of the New Millennium Exhibition Company (NMEC), was to be held with two representatives from the Lambeth Consultative Group, which deals specifically with the spirit zone. The building will accommodate several hundred worshippers and will be funded by the Muslim community. A full-time imam will also be on site, not only to lead the prayers, but to answer questions from Muslims and non-Muslims. The meeting will also discuss the content of the Muslim contribution to the Spirit Zone, in which a presentation is to be made on birth, life and death (Stafford Express & Star, 21.01.99, Bolton Evening News, 21.01.99, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 21.01.99, Muslim News, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 6/7]
A Hollywood film which created great controversy when it was released in the US, has recently been released in the UK. "The Siege", starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, centres on a terrorist campaign led by a Muslim ‘fundamentalist’, and led to protests and demonstrations being carried out across the US. In the UK, however, it does not seem to have had the same impact, with very few complaints or demonstrations being held. A spokesman for one group that did stage a demonstration outside the Odeon in Leicester Square, Al-Muhajiroun, said: "Feeding on the emotions of its viewers, The Siege on the one hand portrays Muslims as drunks and adulterers, both prohibited in Islam and, in fact, a symptom of the decay of Western Society, whilst on the other hand it portrays the attacks against the weak and vulnerable within society as the fulfilment of Jihad. The film attempts to feed the hatred of Islam and Muslims already built in the minds of its viewers through the media by depicting Muslims as terrorists who Westerners should never trust." Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, said that this film just adds to the negative images of Islam already filling the media: "The film Siege is a deliberate attempt to fuel Islamophobia against peaceful Muslims in the US and overseas with a view to justifying US foreign policy in the Muslim world. It sends out a clear message that Islam will bring violence to the US and that Muslims pose a threat to the peaceful norms of society" (Eastern Eye, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 7]
A man who killed three members of his family in February 1998, has been ordered to be detained indefinitely at Rampton Hospital under the Mental Health Act. Jhangir Hussain, 49, killed his wife with a claw hammer before stabbing her seven times and cutting her throat. He then stabbed to death his 18-year old son and 16-year old daughter, who were trying to protect their mother. Police found the bodies at their house in Bradford after Hussain called the police to ask for medical help for his son. At Leeds Crown Court Hussain admitted the manslaughter of his wife, son and daughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The court heard that Hussain carried out the attacks after wrongly suspecting that his wife and daughter were having affairs. Two days before, they had returned home from Pakistan and Hussain confronted them at Manchester Airport with a gun, which failed to go off when he pulled the trigger. It is thought that Hussain became resentful of his wife and daughter after joining a sect called Awasia, and became very superstitious and interested in magic. His three surviving children, aged five, seven and nine, are being looked after by family in Birmingham (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 7]
A councillor has called for an end to "misguided political correctness" from council leaders, after staff in Tower Hamlets were told not to use the term ‘Merry Christmas’ as it was considered offensive to the predominantly Bengali Muslim community. Cllr Ala Uddin, who is Bengali himself, said: "There is a culture which says you can’t mention Christmas or Easter, or celebrate non-Muslim things because they are not politically correct. But this view certainly does not come from Muslims here. I can only imagine that it is either a misguided attempt by non-Muslims to be polite and considerate or individuals who are anti-religious are using the Bengali community as an excuse to push their own secular agenda. Either way, I would like this practice to stop because it is counter-productive and actually brings our community into disrepute." He believes that most Muslims respect Christian traditions, and added: "Obviously, as Muslims, we still wish to celebrate our own culture. But not to the detriment of others’ cultural traditions. To say otherwise only plays into the hands of extremists who will stoke-up the fires of racial tension and promote misunderstanding" (East End Life, 18.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 7]
A Marks & Spencer store in Bradford is hoping that the Bradford Retailers Association will work together to encourage more Asian trade, by catering for the different festivals celebrating in the Asian community. Mike Dukes, manager of the Darley St store in Bradford, said that in recent years, without any real effort being made by the store, 30 per cent more children’s wear was sold during Eid. Last Eid, as a trial, the store stocked a range of formal children’s clothing not normally seen after Christmas, which sold out in three days, with all the customers being Asian. Mr Dukes said: "Previously we used to say, ‘The takings have gone up, that’s strange’. Now we know the reason for it and our aim is to give the customers what they want." He added: "It’s in its infancy and we are learning all the time. What we really want is feedback so that we get it right. There is no instant payback on it and we have to accept that. But it’s economics. If 25 per cent of the population are Asian you have to make sure you are catering for that population" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 19.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 7]
A 70 year old man is hoping to run the equivalent of nine-half marathons over three years to raise money for charity. Abdul Khokhar, president of Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society, hopes to run his first 20,000 metre race (12.5 miles) in Barking Park in February, with a further two races of the same distance in March and April. He will also run the three races again next year and in 2001. All money raised from the runs will be given to the Mayor’s Appeal, which this year will be donated to the Crossroads charity for disabled children. Mr Khokhar said: "I hope to do each race in under 100 minutes and am waiting for the council to confirm the dates when I can do it." He says that he does not need to train as he has been running all his life as a hobby, which started when he was a student in Pakistan in 1946. He added: "I am fit. I have never had any sickness in my life or smoked or drunk alcohol." (Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 21.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 7/8]
The Muslim Disabled Association in Redbridge received money for office equipment as part of the National Lottery Charity Board’s Small Grants Scheme and Community Involvement programme. The association provides social and leisure activities, advice, counselling and training to disabled Muslims and their carers in Ilford. The £4,047 grant will be used to buy a new computer, photocopier and audio visual equipment (Ilford Recorder, 21.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8]
The Muslim community in Chesham showed their dedication to build a new mosque and community centre by raising £58,000 in 45 minutes. The collection was taken on Eid-ul-Fitr, where a group of students presented £10,000 which they had collected in the last few days of Ramadan, as well as other individual donations. An anonymous donor pledged a further £50,000 to the building fund, as long as the remaining £300,000 is raised in the next year. Mohammed Saleem, president of Chesham Mosque, said: "This has been a very positive week for the Muslim community, and we’re hopeful now that we will soon be able to move out of the very cramped mosque which is in two converted houses. The community feels furious and like second class citizens because it has taken so long for Chesham Town Council and the Chesham Partnership to have found a half-acre site for us to use. We have managed to come to an agreement with the Chesham Partnership and council this week and, combined with the large amounts of money raised, the future is looking rosier." Peter Cleminson, Chesham Partnership chairman, said: "We have agreed without reservation that the partnership would do all it can, not just for the mosque but also for the community centre. We will also be looking to help make sure that the mosque gets planning consent, because that too has been a sticking point in the past" (Bucks Examiner, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8]
A row has erupted at the Muslim Parliament of Britain, after a former Deputy Leader sent a fax to all members of the Parliament alleging that Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, had been removed from office. In a statement, Jahangir Mohammed, claiming to speak on behalf of the Muslim Parliament, said: "Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui has been removed from office. He has abused his authority as Leader of the Muslim Parliament. Anybody dealing with Dr Siddiqui will be doing so at his own risk. This action is regrettable but had to be taken in the wider interest of the Muslim Parliament and the Ummah." It is said that Dr Siddiqui and Dr Yakub Zaki, the present Deputy Leader, were angered and shocked at the statement. Dr Zaki said: "This statement is a piece of libellous mischief-making. Dr Siddiqui is still the leader of the Parliament and our lawyers are currently studying the statement. We will definitely be taking legal action." (Eastern Eye, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8]
Blackburn Rugby Club is forging links with a local group in a bid to introduce more Muslims to the game. Representatives from the club met with Little Harwood Sports Association, and have planned a rugby taster weekend for Muslims in April. The club currently only has two Muslim players, but hopes to change that by looking at potential new talent. Michael Holder, administrator of the mini rugby section, said: "There are a lot of talented Muslim sportsmen and women who are not playing rugby but have proved themselves in a lot of other sports, most notably football and cricket. We have already seen how good they are at football so now is the time for them to turn their hand to rugby." Nazir Musa, co-ordinator at Little Harwood Sports Association, said: "I don’t like to think of it as Asians and white people because most of the youngsters in my community are British. For me they are young British Muslim children and it is important for us to break down these barriers. It is a great idea for young Muslims to get involved in rugby and I know there are many more who would like to take up the game. I would like to think this is the start of a good relationship between Little Harwood and Blackburn Rugby Club" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 27.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8]
A mosque teacher has been taken to court after one hitting one of his pupils with a piece of plastic piping, allegedly breaking his finger. Hasan Patel, 49, from Bolton, denies assault causing actual bodily harm. He does not deny hitting the 11 year old, but says that what he did was "no more than lawful chastisement," and maintained that most parents, when sending their children to the mosque, expected him to use the same kind of discipline that they would use at home. Michael Byrne, prosecuting, said that when Mr Patel was interviewed by police, he admitted he ran a discipline regime which included reprimanding children with physical violence when appropriate. Mr Byrne also told Burnley Crown Court that when the victim went home, he was unable to take his jumper off and his mother had to help him. When he was taken to hospital he said that he had fallen off his bike, but his brother said that was not true. He added: "The defendant complained to the police that any assault that might have been committed was not unlawful. He was only acting with lawful chastisement." The case is continuing (Bolton Evening News, 27.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8]
The Glasgow Herald (30.01.99) carries an obituary for Ata Muhammad Ashraf, a businessman and community worker, who died on 24 January 1999, aged 96. Ashraf was the son of one of the first immigrants who came to Scotland from India in the 1920s. He began his career as a pedlar, selling clothes for women and men in villages and farms all over Lanarkshire. In the 1930s, he began organising the community in Glasgow, and founded the Jamiat ul Muslimin (Muslim Association), Glasgow, in 1934, the first Muslim or Asian organisation in Scotland. Its objects were to cater for the spiritual and material needs of the Muslims, build mosques, provide schools for the religious instruction of Muslim children, to acquire graveyards, provide funeral services, and other measures. Ashraf was elected its first president, and continued running it, on and off, until the late sixties when he retired from active participation. However, he did retain his interest in the association and in the welfare of the community until his death. The Jamiat ul Muslimin, since its foundation in 1934, has become a powerful and influential organisation, and currently runs the Islamic Centre and Central Mosque in Glasgow, and has helped found more than 30 mosques across Scotland. Ashraf is survived by two sons, one daughter, eight grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 8/9]
Members of Cardiff’s Muslim community have organised a series of public meetings to introduce more people to Islam. Islam Awareness Week hopes to explain to non-Muslims what the faith really means, and also hopes to clear some of the misunderstandings that exist towards the religion. A spokesman for the Muslim Community of Cardiff said: "The aims and objectives of Islam Awareness Week are to educate people about Islam and Muslims and to demonstrate that we are an important and productive part of society. It is our intention to portray Islam for what it really is not what others, including the media, think it is. We hope that by working together we can combat prejudices and ignorance on both sides." There are now an estimated 20,000 Muslims living in Cardiff. The lectures were held in the first week of February at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff (South Wales Echo, 01.02.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9]
Pressure from parents and pupils has forced the introduction of single-sex classes at a school in Blackburn. Governors at Beardwood High School were sent requests from Muslim parents whose children, make up 90 per cent of the school roll, and voted in favour of the proposal because of worries of students moving to one of the several new Islamic girls’ schools in Lancashire. The changes mean girls and boys will be taught separately from September. Not everyone was happy with the changes and two governors stormed out of the meeting (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9]
A new body has been appointed to oversee religious education in Maidenhead. The Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) is made up of members of different faith communities, and is responsible for the content of RE syllabuses taught in schools, trying to ensure that the different religions are taught fairly. However, not everyone is happy with this form of teaching, especially as it could be taught by members of other religions, as well as atheists. Some parents have withdrawn their children from the classes saying that teaching children so many religions waters down religious belief leading to the adopting of an objective secular mentality. Ibrahim Hewitt, of the Muslim Association of Schools, believes children end up being confused by RE because of its over-ambitious content. He said: "Children are getting the false impression that all religions are the same. Multi-faith education is a misnomer – students don’t know who they are supposed to pray to." But Jonathon Romain, Rabbi at Maidenhead Synagogue, supports the multi-faith ethos: "Children are now taught to appreciate the differences between cultures. It is enriching and makes you understand what makes others tick. It’s all about spreading knowledge and breaking down barriers." Fazal Awan, who sits on the board, says atheists teaching religion is ridiculous. But he also feels that there is no alternative to the present set-up. He said: "It is a Christian country and it is unrealistic to demand that schools teach particular religions only. I’m not happy with non-Muslims teaching RE but what is the alternative? It is better that children learn about religions from teachers than pick it up from anywhere" (Maidenhead Advertiser, 08.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9]
The government has given the go-ahead for a new multi-faith school to open in the heart Liverpool. The £2 million school will replace Granby Junior and Tiber Street schools, which were closing due to falling numbers. Opponents to the school were concerned that the school would be predominantly Muslim because of the high percentage of Muslims living in Granby. However, Councillor Paul Clein, Liverpool City Council education committee chair, said the school would be multi-faith, despite the majority of pupils coming from the Muslim and Christian communities. He said: "I am delighted that we have been given approval for this new school which will recognise and celebrate the cultural diversity in this part of Liverpool. It will provide first class facilities for the whole community." Details of how the school will structure lessons and assemblies have not yet been drawn up. He added: "We will be consulting widely on how the new school should be run" (Merseyside Daily Post, 22.01.99, Liverpool Echo, 21.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9]
The Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) has been given permission by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) to run a scheme to encourage more Muslims to enter the teaching profession (See BMMS for December 1998). The School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) will allow successful trainees to be awarded qualified teacher status with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), and will allow them to teach in any school, not just Muslim schools. Teachers will be guided on how to use Islam in teaching their subject in the classroom, and will encourage the use of bi-lingualism and intercultural skills in the classroom. The SCITT is the idea of Dr Musharaf Hussain, Director of the Nottingham based Karimia Institute, who first approached the TTA in 1997. He said: "By offering graduates the chance to train in Muslim-friendly schools, backed by the expertise of a major college, this SCITT is yet another exciting development in the field of Muslim education." Ibrahim Hewitt, who is on the SCITT Steering Group, said they still have a great task ahead of them, but hopes the dedication and enthusiasm of teachers and trainees will be of great long term benefit to the state and community run schools. More information about the AMS run SCITT is available by contacting the AMS on 0116 273 8666 (Muslim News, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9/10]
The Nation of Islam (NoI) has finally agreed to find a new home for its private school, the Star Chamber Academy, which is currently using the Simba Community Centre in Shepherds Bush (See BMMS for August, September and November 1998). The NoI had been ordered to leave the centre last August, but continued using the centre amid many demonstrations. A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesman said: "The Simba Centre is the borough’s only community centre exclusively serving the black community and the council does not feel it is an appropriate permanent venue for a private school. This agreement will allow the Star Chamber time to find alternative premises while meeting the council’s need to free up space at the Simba Centre for use by local community groups." A NoI spokeswoman confirmed an agreement had been reached, but was unable to say when the school would vacate the centre, or where they would be moving to (The Gazette Hammersmith, Fulham & Shepherds Bush, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 10]
A school which has been ordered to close by Coventry Council, has been told that it can continue teaching classes until the end of the summer term, to allow it to find other premises (See BMMS for March, April, May, June, July, August and September 1998). The Paradise Muslim School was ordered to close by the city council after it discovered the school was being run above a grocer’s shop without planning permission. Patrick Burke, the inspector who investigated the appeal by the school, said: "The trustees recognise that the appeal property is not suitable for permanent use as a school. They aim to relocate in larger and more suitable premises by December, 1999. They simply ask that the school be allowed to continue until then. In view of my conclusions I see no objections to this. It will help minimise the disruption caused to the children’s education." The full-time day school for 25 students is registered with the government as an independent school (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 23.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 10]
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, has written to the heads of Scotland’s religious communities, including imams, asking them to begin discussions on the controversial issue of prayers and daily worship for the Scottish Parliament. In Westminster at the moment only the Church of England has the privilege of conducting prayers, and so believes that it would be a symbolic change if a form of prayers could be established to everyone’s satisfaction. He said: "Scotland’s Parliament must reflect a new Scotland and allow all the faiths of our nation to agree on a common approach to daily worship and prayers" (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 10]
An interview with the Leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, was given on January 12 with Ahmed Versi, Editor of the Muslim News. The interview covered many issues relevant to the Muslim community, including: the Race Relations Act and the Public Order Act (relating to the recent Merton Case); whether there is a need for a new body to represent Muslims’ needs as the Commission for Racial Equality’s (CRE) remit does not include religion; the new Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill; Muslim schools; Islam as a threat to the West; and foreign policies relating to Israel, Lebanon, Kosovo, Palestine and Iraq. Mr Hague said that he did not see Islam as a threat and wants to work with the Muslim community to bring about positive changes for them. The interview is printed in full in Muslim News (22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 10]
A female teacher who tried to break up a fight between rival gangs, was hit several times with a broken broom handle. The incident involved about ten pupils at Tividale Comprehensive School, Dudley, which has experienced other race related incidents in the past. This time the trouble is said to have broken out between Muslim and Sikh children. Chief Superintendent Bob Baxter, of Smethwick Police, said: "It is not clear what caused the fighting but as a result, a teacher intervened to try and stop it and was struck a number of times with a broken broom handle which appears to have been taken into the school by a pupil. We are making further inquiries and anticipate making arrests over the weekend. We fully support the school’s positive action and are working with staff to ensure there are no further disturbances." He added: "There appears to be a small residue of troublemakers left but we are treating this as an isolated incident." Head teacher Paul Sharatt said the incident did not involve anyone from outside the school: "I can confirm there was an incident between a number of young people which is being investigated by the school. Pupils and the parents of those concerned are being contacted and the matter is being dealt with under the school’s own disciplinary procedures" (Dudley Express & Star, 16.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 10/11]
Plans look set to be approved to extend a Muslim women’s centre in Lenton, despite objections from local residents’ groups. The centre occupies two buildings in Radford Recreation Ground, on Ilkeston Rd, and organisers want to build a two storey extension at the back of the building to provide improved day care facilities, mainly for elderly Muslim women. But Radford Community Association and Lenton and Radford Neighbourhood Association have objected to the scheme. They say that they do not want to see more buildings in a "local neighbourhood park" and are also concerned about safety with the increase of traffic. However, a council spokesman has said: "The proposal is to provide improved facilities for existing users and is unlikely to result in a significant increase in visitors to the centre." The plans are still being discussed (Nottingham Evening Post, 11.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 11]
Young members of the Bradford Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association visited ill and elderly people in the Bradford, Ilkley and Steeton areas over Christmas time. They took gifts to residents of Avalon Nursing home in Girlington and Belgarth Nursing Home in Ilkley, as well as visiting children in Airedale Hospital. Youth leader Tahir Amini said: "Throughout the day, the teams aimed to give comfort and support and put a smile on people’s faces. The days events proved to be extremely successful from the perspective of cheering up many of the senior citizens as well as providing entertainment for the children in hospital." The group aims to better themselves and help contribute positively to society (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 11.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 11]
The annual Three Faiths Forum award, this year, has been given to Dr Zaki Badawi (See BMMS for December 1998). He has become the first Muslim to be presented the Annual Sir Sigmund Sternberg Interfaith Award in the forum’s eleven year history. The award was presented to Dr Badawi, a co-founder of the forum, at a ceremony in the House of Commons, following the lighting of the Chanukah candles by Revd Malcolm Weisman, to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights. Sir Sigmund said: "If we who share a common heritage and grew from the same root cannot find the way to live together, then what hope has the wider community of finding peace and a degree of coexistence which moves beyond mere toleration." Dr Badawi added that great strides had been made in inter-faith dialogue in the time he had spent working with the forum (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). He said: "I feel honoured to be included among the luminaries who have received this award." He added that he felt this kind of work should be recognised in the Honours lists: "They look at everything except religion. This is one of the areas where we can create peace and harmony within the community." He also emphasised the need to learn from other faiths: "The three faiths came from one root. They need to celebrate their commonality" (Muslim News, 22.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 11]
Akbar Ahmad, a fellow of Selwyn College in Cambridge, became the first Muslim to deliver the Rabbi Dr David Goldstein Memorial Lecture at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, London. He told the audience that Muslims and Jews had to look at their common cultural heritage, if not their religions as representing the ideal, to try and find ways of living together in peace: "It is essential to keep before us the one point that links us and provides the greatest bridge between the Jewish and Islamic civilisations: belief." He went on, drawing comparisons between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: "As a Muslim I know that whenever there is evidence of Islamophobia, or hatred against Islam and Muslims, the signs of anti-Semitism are not far behind." He also spoke of the tensions in Islamic and Jewish relations, particularly those between Israeli Jews and Palestinians: "It would be foolish to think that there can be a quick end to the confrontation that exists between religions and nations today, unless Muslims feel that some genuine sense of tolerance and compassion is shown towards the Palestinian people; unless Muslim rights to one of their holiest cities, Jerusalem, are acknowledged; and unless the sense of hostility expressed in the media is checked" (The Independent, 13.01.99). The lecture was followed by a heated question and answer session, with many questions focusing on what is seen as the "intolerant" nature of Islam and the concept of "holy war". Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, executive director of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, which sponsored the lecture, said: "I believe passionately in the need for dialogue between different religious traditions and especially between Jews and Muslims. I am delighted that Akbar Ahmad agreed to speak on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, two forms of prejudice and hatred against which we should stand shoulder to shoulder" (Ham & High, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 11]
Woking Borough Council have agreed to allow a vacant meals service kitchen to be used to as a non-profit community business. The project would provide and deliver high quality, culturally appropriate and nutritional meals to individuals and organisations such as hospitals, schools and residential homes. The scheme would benefit the Muslim community, who make up the majority of Woking’s ethnic minorities, as they would be provided with halal foods in these organisations (Woking Review, 16.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 11]
A halal meat company is planning to join the Alternative Investment Market (See BMMS for December 1998). Birmingham based "Halal World" is chaired by Hafiz Yaqoob, who set up the first halal butchers shop in Birmingham 40 years ago. Since then, the business has grown to include its wholesalers, and a chain of halal meat shops, employing around 80 people. Mr Yaqoob said: "We need to change the public’s opinion of halal meat. Our goal is for Halal World to become the first choice for meat and related products." Halal World already runs five ‘national’ halal centres, and hopes to use the money from the flotation to open one outlet a month over the next five years, which would raise the number of outlets to 65 by 2003. The company is in discussions with stockbrokers, so there are no details of pricing. It is expected to float in late February or early in March (The Daily Telegraph, 16.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12]
Members of the Fosse Health Trust board, Leicester, are looking into a proposal for an infant circumcision service for members of the Muslim community. The Federation of Muslim Organisations raised the issue in 1997 saying that there was a lack of adequate information for parents. They were also concerned about the present operative hygiene and complications after the procedure because there is often no care given afterwards. In most cases, the circumcisions are performed in the home without the use of anaesthetic. The service will be funded by the parents themselves, with the federation acting as commissioner on behalf of the community. The team at the Trust will report back with suggestions on the way the new service should go (Leicester Mercury, 26.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12]
A warehouse employee has been suspended from his job after ignoring a decision from management which prevented him from taking five minutes from work to perform his ‘Asr and Maghrib prayers. Management at Dixons Paint Merchants in Birmingham, told Mr Rohman, aged 26, not to report to work until further notice after continuing to pray outside official break times. He said: "I could get away with reading Zuhr in my lunch hour but because Asr and Maghrib both fall in the afternoon [in winter] I had no alternative but to perform them on site." He added that his supervisor’s attitude towards him changed after he was found praying in a corner of the staff canteen: "He’d try and find any excuse to shout at me and complain about my work. It was obvious what it was all about." Mr Rohman feels that the company has gone against official disciplinary procedures as he was not given any prior formal warnings, and is now seeking legal advice (Q News, No300, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12
Mosques & Burials
Members of the Khatme Nabuwat Mission in Bolton, have been celebrating after being told that the building they used as a mosque will no longer be destroyed (See BMMS for February and December 1998). The wooden building used as a mosque and cultural education centre since 1977 was built without permission on council owned land, but council chiefs have now said that they will allow the centre to stay as long as the Muslim elders withdraw claims on ownership of the land. They added that they will negotiate a lease for the site. President of the mission and community imam, Musa Ali Qasmi, said: "There has been a lot of public pressure on the council. We are very pleased we managed to come to a settlement…We lost the original fight in the courts but we can now rest easy – there will be no bulldozers out for our mosque. I am now aiming for it to be better, to better serve the local Muslim community." Leader of the council, Councillor Bob Howarth, said: "I am pleased we are eventually making progress towards solving this problem which has soured relations between the Town Hall and Mr Qasmi for a long time. I hope we can negotiate a lease which will in due course lead to the members of the mission having a permanent home. This is of course subject to planning approval" (Bolton Evening News, 07.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12]
A Muslim community in Bradford were celebrating after laying down the foundation stone for a new mosque (See BMMS for October 1998). The Suffat Al Islam mosque will cost £2 million and is expected to be the largest mosque in Britain. There have been initial difficulties with a local mosque, the Hussainia Islamic Mission, wanting assurances that there would be no trouble caused by the worshippers of the new mosque. A local nursing home owner was also concerned that the noise from the mosque could upset residents. However, the issues were solved before the council gave the project the go-ahead. Councillor Zulficar Ali, a committee member for the project, said: "It is very good news and it will benefit the community at large. It will be Bradford’s very own Millennium dome." Suffat Al Islam chairman, Mohammed Riaz, added: "It is very good news for the community and a momentous day for us. I am very, very pleased (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12]
Councillors are to make a decision on whether or not they should sell a car park site for use as a mosque (See BMMS for May, June, July, August and September 1998). Ribble Valley’s Muslim community approached the council to buy the site in Peel St, after they were refused permission to build a mosque next to the Islamic Education Centre in Holden St. An appeal is currently underway against the decision, and the council will wait for its outcome before making a final decision on the matter. They have always maintained that they will help the Muslim community find an alternative site (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 19.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 12]
A businessman living in Greenrigg, near Edinburgh is hoping to convert his empty grocers shop, known as the ‘wee green hut’ into a mosque. Currently, there are ten to fifteen Muslim families living in and around the quiet village in West Lothian, and Mohammed Saeed says they would welcome the opportunity to pray in a mosque and not just in someone’s house. He said: "It would be a place for worship every Friday and there would be classes after school for the weans in Urdu and English plus the Koran. There are teaching centres for imams in Yorkshire, Manchester and Birmingham. I would ask them to send someone. I’ve five weans myself so it would be very good for my family. I would not do much with the shop. I will not be demolishing anything, just decorating. There would be no loud music or anything like that, and I think there would be enough room for parking." However, the proposal has angered residents living near the shop. One said: "There are no parking facilities and it is a couple of yards from a busy main road. And it might not just be the shop. There is room to expand into the garden behind as Mr Saeed owns that. None of the neighbours are happy about this." Another said: "They have a gold dome on the mosque in Glasgow but that would not look right here. I have written to object. My grandson is doing a project on mosques and said it would be great but I told him it wouldn’t be if you couldn’t park." A decision on the plan will be made by councillors and planning officers (Edinburgh Evening News, 28.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 13]
Plans to extend a mosque in London were rejected after residents complained that the worshippers were already making their lives a misery (See BMMS for September 1998). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association wanted to build a two-storey building, next to their mosque, to house a hall, dining room and offices. But neighbours complained that they were already plagued by parking problems. Wandsworth Council decided not to allow the scheme, and said nothing should be done to the present mosque until the new mosque being built in Morden can ease some of the pressure. Councillor Leslie McDonnell said: "A parking survey in 1993 showed parking was a problem and since then the mosque community has grown. Parking has reached intolerable and, on occasion, dangerous proportions and an increase in dining facilities will add to the number of people using the site. When Merton is up and running and Gressenhall Rd effectively becomes just a home for the association’s world leader the grounds for turning this down will no longer exist." Residents are said to be very pleased about the decision, but Iftikar Ahmed Ayaz, from the Ahmadiyya Association, said he was very disap-pointed: "We were asking to accommodate existing activities and not extend them in any way. There was no likelihood of any increase in the number of people who use the mosque. We are always particular that we don’t cause any rancour with our neighbours – taking care of neighbours is one of our fundamental teachings. It’s a shame our good will and courtesy were not reciprocated" (Wimbledon Guardian, 21.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 13]
A mosque and school in Oldham is being threatened with legal action after continuing to break the law over a planning decision (See BMMS for July 1998). Planning permission for a madrassa and mosque was refused nine months ago for the site on Clydesdale St. Enforcement notices were issued against Muhammed Nawaz Sheikh, the applicant, but he has accused the councillors of being racist and has continued to open the building. Many residents living in Clydesdale St have been angered, and Mrs Tattersall, said: "The trustees have plainly displayed that they are incapable of keeping within planning regulations. We should not have to cope with the disturbance at times when we should reasonably expect some peace and quiet." Planning committee chairman, Councillor Jeremy Sutcliffe warned: "The applicants are underestimating the power and workings of the planning department."
He admitted that a similar facility was needed in the area, but said that the Clydesdale St building was not suitable (Oldham Evening Chronicle, 15.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 13]
A request to lease or purchase a plot of land at Agecroft cemetery, has raised concern among members of Salford’s environmental services committee, who say it may disrupt current funeral arrangements. Due to limited staff, only five Muslim burials have taken place at Agecroft in the past two years, and the main worries are over the short time scale in which burials have to take place, preferably within 24 hours. This may lead to burial times clashing, and the chapel area provides the only parking, which may not be big enough to accommodate two burials. Environmental services committee chairman, Councillor John Hincks, said: "The members of the committee prefer the burials to take place at Peel Green because we think some of the burials may clash but we have agreed to look at it again sympathetically." Since 1971, over 70 Muslim burials have taken place at Peel Green cemetery (Advertiser & Salford City Reporter, 14.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 13]
The Muslim community in Skipton is likely to have part of a local cemetery set aside for their burials. The land, at Waltonwrays Cemetery, could accommodate 260 graves in land originally reserved for World War Two fatalities. The council has approached local religious leaders to get some feedback. Councillor Denis Hall, who took up the case on behalf of the Muslim Association, said: "The Muslim community approached me to see if anything could be done to find space to bury their dead. So I got in touch with the council and they have very kindly set to work on the idea. The space at Waltonwrays was found and, so far, everyone I’ve spoken to seems fine with the idea. I hope there are no objections within the committee because we all have to work together in the town. Let’s hope we can plough an amicable course and provide a place for the Muslim community to pay their respects to their lost relatives." Shabir Hussain, secretary of the Skipton Muslim Association, added: "We appreciate the work the council is doing on our behalf. We need a place to visit out deceased easily. We don’t want to be segregated within the cemetery, it’s just that it’s easier practically to have all the Mecca-facing graves in one place" (Craven Herald & Pioneer, 08.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 13/14]
A new mosque is set to be built in Wellington Rd, Tipton, next to the existing community centre. Sandwell Council’s development committee gave permission for a one storey building over a year ago, but the new mosque will include an extra level. It will also feature five classrooms, a meeting room, toilets, an ablution area and a burial preparation room (Sandwell Chronicle, 08.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 14]
Plans for a burial site are expected to be given the go-ahead despite strong opposition from residents, who say that the cemetery will create traffic problems as well as taking away the much needed open space in the community. The environment committee agreed to give the Muslim Burial Trust a plot of land on the Folly Lane site for burials, adjacent to the land it already occupies off Folly Lane. It was also agreed that another part of the site was to be made into two seven-a-side football pitches, with other parts of the land being given to travellers, or businesses for development. The residents say they will continue to protest (Walthamstow Guardian, 21.01.99). [BMMS January 1999 Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 14]