British Muslims Monthly Survey for May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Prime Minister addresses MCB 

Life sentences for mother and brother 

Kosovo appeals 

 

 

Reports

Community

Slough conflicts 

Barnsley centre attack 

Centre bid for lottery funding 

Council gives club new mower 

Ramadan guidance for schools

New community centre in Forest Gate 

Centre celebrates third anniversary 

Al Fayed refused citizenship 

Art exhibition at Ashmolean Museum 

Taxi drivers refuse dogs 

Broadcasting Standards Commission report 

Batley centre runs playscheme 

Centre makes bid for pub 

Money raised for cancer research 

Tight security for Rushdie visit 

Coroner refuses to work weekends 

Southwark Civic Awards ceremony 

Man assaulted outside mosque 

Teacher accused of indecent assault 

Brent Eid festival 1999 

Low turnout for Al-Muhajiroun meeting 

Pledge to increase Asians in police force 

Facts about Islam 

Families fear over Kashmir crisis 

 

 

Education

NoI fails to find new home 

School wins anti-racism prize 

New university course at Leeds 

Disused hospital to become school 

 

 

Politics

Derek Fachett obituary 

Islands first Muslim councillor 

Al-Muhajiroun boycott elections 

Local councillor gives up seat 

Racism row in Rotherham local elections 

Alex Rowley interview 

European elections 

 

 

Youth

Heroin addiction amongst youths 

Cardiff student found hanged 

 

Interfaith

Harrow interfaith symposium 

Concert to help charities 

Joint celebration at Milaap Centre 

Religion and prayer in modern lives 

 

 

Health

Organ donor scheme 

Judge rules against circumcision 

Protest against abortion 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Blackburn, Eldon Rd 

Burton, Princess St

Derby, Rosehill St 

Halifax, Gibbet St 

London, Dickens Square 

Oxford, Manzil Way 

Rhuddlan burials 

Sheffield, Ribston Rd 

Sunderland, Chester Rd 

Swindon, Broad St 

 

 

 

Features

Prime Minister addresses MCB

Muslim News (28.05.99) reports on the reception organised by the Muslim Council of Britain. Over 300 delegates attended the reception, including members of the Muslim community, ministers, members of both Houses of Parliament, members of the diplomatic community, and representatives of other faith communities. Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the MCB welcomed the Prime Minister, who is the first Prime Minister to have addressed the Muslim community. He then began by thanking the Prime Minister for the support and help he has given the people of Kosovo, saying it was a "bold initiative." He outlined some of the other concerns the refugees faced, and said: "We earnestly hope the Kosovan people would be returning soon to their homes." He also acknowledged the efforts made by the government "to include Muslims in the life of the country," while reminding the Prime Minister of some of the issues that still needed to be addressed, including the lack of protection against religious discrimination, and the question of religious affiliation in the census.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, began his speech by thanking the MCB for the invitation. He then turned straight to the events in Kosovo, from where he had recently returned, saying: "I want to start in the only place I can start - with the terrible tragedy happening in Kosovo. I was at the border where the refugees were arriving. It was one of the most disturbing, shocking few hours of my life." He went on to describe some of the things that he had seen and heard. He then praised the Muslim community’s response to the tragedy, saying: "The support of the Muslim community has been a constant source of strength" (Glasgow Herald, 06.05.99, Ulster News Letter, 06.05.99).

He also spoke of the issue of religious discrimination, and condemned the way the Muslims are often the subject of a lot of abuse: "In too much of the media - and through it the rest of society - Islam is equated immediately with "fanatics," "extremism," "fundamentalism," and "a threat to the West." This is prejudice. Pure and simple. It can only be spread by those who have never come in contact with Britain’s hard working, peace loving, generous Muslim community." He also pledged his support and that of his government to stamp out religious intolerance and hatred, outlining his vision of a future where his children would "understand other faiths and find that an enriching experience" (Yorkshire Post, 06.05.99, Devon Western Morning News, 06.05.99). He ended by saying that the government is "not just a sympathetic ear but a friend willing to do all it can to make Britain a safe and fulfilling place to live." Iqbal Sacranie’s welcome speech and the Prime Minister’s address to the MCB are printed in full in the Muslim News. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 1]

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Life sentences for mother and brother

A mother and her son, on trial for killing her daughter and her unborn child, have been jailed for life. Shakeela Naz, 45, and her 22-year old son Shazad, from Derby, said Rukhsana Naz, 19, had brought shame on their family by refusing to have an abortion after becoming pregnant by her lover while her husband was still in Pakistan. The court heard how Rukhsana was forced into an arranged marriage in Pakistan when she was 15, but on returning she continued to carry on her affair with Imran Najib, her childhood sweetheart. The court also heard how Shakeela, after finding out Rukhsana had become pregnant, told her to have an abortion but Rukhsana refused. This is when Shakeela, along with her son Shazad, planned to kill her to prevent the news of her pregnancy from getting out into the community. On the night of the murder, Shakeela along with Shazad and her other son Iftikhar, 18, went to Rukhsana’s house to persuade her to have the abortion. When she refused again, her mother and brother Shazad proceeded to kill her, the mother holding her legs while the brother strangled her with a skipping rope. Iftikhar told the court how this all happened while he had gone to the bathroom, and on returning, Shazad forced him to help dispose of the body. They dumped it in a field 100 miles away from their home, where it was later found by a farmer. It was only identified by a number on Rukhsana’s hand, which was Mr Najib’s pager number. At the end of the two-and-a-half-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court, Mr Justice Tucker told the convicted mother and son that he believed the murder was planned. He said: "It was a particularly brutal offence involving the death of a young, pregnant woman - already the mother of two children - at the hands of her own family. It was carried out by you, Shakeela, the mother of the family, and you, Shazad, who had assumed the role of head of the family." Iftikhar, who had spent 13 months on remand, was cleared of the same offence. After the verdicts, Mr Najib said he felt justice had been done, but said he felt sympathy for Shakeela. Her younger daughter Safina, 19, in a statement through her solicitor, said she was glad that those responsible had been brought to justice: "It is hard to believe that members of my family, who I have always loved dearly, should be involved in my sister’s death. Rukhsana was one in a million. She was an honest, friendly person who would never have harmed anyone. She was a caring loving mother, a dutiful daughter and an understanding sister" (The Times, 26.05.99). Safina is now foster mother to Rukhsana’s two children and is trying to adopt them (Derby Evening Telegraph, 26.05.99, Yorkshire Post, 26.05.99, The Independent, 26.05.99 and 27.05.99, Daily Mail, 26.05.99). 

Since this story, many other stories and reports on forced marriages have appeared in the press (Derby Evening Telegraph, 26.05.99, Daily Star, 31.05.99), and in particular, the story of Jack and Zena, not their real names (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for February 1998 and February 1999). The couple who are still in hiding after six years of receiving death threats from Zena’s family, have been meeting with Home Office Minister, Jack O’Brien, along with Keighley MP Ann Cryer who has taken up the campaign against forced marriages. Although there are no official figures on forced marriages, it is thought thousands of young girls are involved each year. Abdul Rehman, the Mayor of Derby, and a Muslim from Pakistan, said that in Bradford alone, it is believed that up to 2,000 girls have run away from home in recent years because their parents wanted to arrange their marriages. Mr Rehman said many older British Muslims were still finding it difficult to accept that their children wanted to live by different standards: "There has to come a time when parents accept the reality that where children are born, grow up and are educated in Western society they will want the same freedom they see other youngsters getting. We have to give freedom to girls and boys to choose what they want for their future life" (The Times, 26.05.99). Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, said that parents forcing their children into marriages were destroying their lives. He said: "The mosques have not realised this is a major issue and we feel religious institutions must come forward and create a campaign of awareness. People who compel children feel they are doing nothing wrong, but they have got to be told that what they are doing is destroying the lives of their children and goes against the basic tenet of Islam." The Home Office has said it is determined not to retreat into silence on the issue, but Mr O’Brien said more community leaders needed to come forward with advice: "The Government needs to hear what they have to say and they will find the Government is willing to listen. I hope they will tell us in the words of one young person forced into marriage: ‘I will never do this to my children’" (The Express, 27.05.99). Recently, a High Court Judge ruled that parents who take their daughters abroad in order to marry them off against their will are guilty of abduction. Justice Singer’s ruling came after he succeeded in ordering the return of a 17-year old British Sikh girl who had been taken to a village in India to be married (Asian Age, 29.05.99) [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 1/2]

 

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Kosovo appeals

Many more fund-raising events for Kosovo have continued across Britain (See BMMS for April 1999). Women in Bradford held a fundraiser at the Pakistan Community Centre. Various Asian and Arab dishes were given to be sold, as well as bric-a-brac, clothes and picture frames. Activities were also set up for children. The guest speaker at the event was to be Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood. All proceeds will be donated to Islamic Relief to distribute to the refugees (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 05.05.99).

The Muslim community in Walsall collected more than £10,000 to finance lorry loads of aid for refugees from Kosovo. The Kosovo Relief Fund, set up by mosques and Muslim welfare organisations in the town, handed over a cheque for £10,500 to the Walsall Aid Convoy. The money raised will fund 38 tonne lorries loaded with aid (Walsall Express Star, 07.05.99, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 07.05.99).

In Teeside, the Islamic Society of Middlesborough collected money at the mosque and raised a total of £2,500. Local Muslims also donated food items, from tinned goods to sacks of flour and rice, as well as clothes. Aftab Mohammed, a member of the mosque management committee, said: "This is not the first time we’ve supported an appeal like this. We did two collections last year for Bosnia and we also raised more than £1,000 for Middlesborough’s Beverley School for the Deaf. The people who come here have always been very generous. When we saw all the pictures from Kosovo on the TV we felt we had to do something to help." Around 300 people attended special prayers for the people of Kosovo (Middlesborough Evening Gazette, 06.05.99).

A convoy of aid including two ambulances was sent to deliver food and medical supplies to Kosovan refugees in Albania. This was the latest step in the charity Muslim Hands’ mission, which has so far spent £400,000. Twenty tonnes of food including pasta, flour, rice, oil, sugar, dried milk powder for babies and nappies were on board. The two ambulances were packed with medical supplies, as well as being accompanied by a medical team of a doctor and a nurse (Nottingham Evening Post, 06.05.99, Q News, No306, 15.05.99).

Members of Nuneaton Muslim Women’s Group raised nearly £3,000 to help the refugees. They held a six-hour bazaar for women and children at the Muslim Community Centre. The money will be sent to Islamic Relief (Weekly Tribune, 20.05.99). In Northampton the Islamic Studies Women’s Group organised a sale of home-made goods and sold them at Cliftonville Middle School. They raised a total of £514.04 (Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 29.05.99).

Meanwhile, support has also continued for refugees who have been brought to Britain. In Nottingham, a GP appealed to the Muslim community to share the care of the refugees. Dr Raj Chandran hopes to form a committee which will help the local authorities look after the Kosovans. Dr Chandran, who is also a Race Equality Commissioner, said: "We can positively help the situation with this gesture of goodwill. There are many Asians in this country who have escaped persecution who can now help these unfortunate refugees." He also voiced his concerns about the long term effects on the refugees if the situation in Kosovo is not ended soon: "I feel it is vital that we get the Kosovars back to their own country as soon as possible, under the protection of Nato. The longer they have to stay here, the harder it will be for them to fit back into their own society. Nato must end it quickly. Once the refugees are here for a year or more, children are in schools, parents have become settled, perhaps found jobs, it becomes unfair to uproot them." It was expected 1,000 refugees would be going to the area (Nottingham Evening Post, 20.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 2/3]

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Reports

 

Community

Slough conflicts

The mayor of Slough, Councillor Gurbachan Singh Thind, has welcomed a call for peace talks between Asian youths. Asian peer Baroness Flather, who lives in nearby Maidenhead, said: "If there is a problem people should try to do something. They shouldn’t just let it boil. Perhaps the Mayor should invite a few people in to see what bugs them. Call them in separately. Talk to them. A mayor doesn’t have any actual power, but a mayor has a lot of persuasive power. They will probably be so shocked by being invited to the Town Hall. If one takes an interest, who knows what may be the outcome?" Cllr Thind replied to this saying: "That could work. People should be told that this is not India or Pakistan and there is love and harmony here. Other countries’ matters should not be taken over here. I would be prepared to meet the youngsters and tell them that. Pakistanis and Indians are peace loving people. If they ask their sons and grandsons to be of good behaviour it matters. The youngsters listen to the news of those countries where the leaders are exploiting the people. That impresses them, and they are at an age when it is very easy to exploit them. They are not mature…Some people come from outside. They go to Southall when there are some Muslim festivals and then they show their heroism." However, not everyone thinks that there is a big problem between the youths in Asian communities. Mohammed Sadiq, newly-elected president of the Pakistani Welfare Association, said: "I don’t think there is a problem. As far as I know the youth problem has been sorted out. We have a good relationship with the local communities. There is not a problem now" (Slough & Langley Observer, 30.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 3]

 

 

Barnsley centre attack

The Anti-Nazi League in Barnsley has organised a fund for the Muslim community centre which was burned down in an arson attack (See BMMS for April 1999). Detectives are still investigating the case, but the ANL believe racists are to blame for the attack. A spokesman said: "If thousands of people in Barnsley donate money to help re-build the centre then this would be the most striking demonstration of solidarity with the Muslims. It would demonstrate that the people of Barnsley welcome their presence in the town." The Bishop of Wakefield the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch has written to the Barnsley Chronicle expressing distress and sympathy over the attack. He writes: "Tolerance and understanding are virtues with which we can all identify. The existence of an Islamic Centre in Barnsley gives the local community a practical way of beginning the dialogue which is so essential for better mutual understanding. I wish the Muslim community well in its efforts to rebuild the Centre, and to increase co-operative activities between our two distinctive religious faiths" (Barnsley Chronicle, 07.05.99).

The Muslim community could also be entitled to lottery money to help rebuild the centre. The committee is trying to raise £10,000 to replace the Al-Quba centre, but says the lottery money will only be accepted as a last resort. Lottery bosses have said it should be easy for the centre to get lottery money, but the Muslims are not sure if they should accept it. If they do, they will still pay for a new prayer room on their own to avoid any conflict. Naeem Jarrel from the centre, said: "We had a meeting at the town hall last Friday and the council promised to make every possible effort to set up a new centre. We discussed many ways of funding, including Europe and money from Christian charities. We would accept lottery money but only if we had tried everywhere else." Eric Illsley MP, who opened the centre last December, spoke with lottery chiefs directly about funding for a new centre. He said: "I met with the chairman and chief executive of the National Lotteries Charities Board and got a very favourable reaction. They were very enthusiastic about the application. Without the Lottery it’s going to be very difficult fund-raising for a Muslim community centre in Barnsley because people don’t identify with it" (Barnsley Chronicle, 21.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 3/4]

 

Centre bid for lottery funding

The Barking & Dagenham Post (28.04.99) reports that Muslims in Barking have applied for a National Lottery grant which they want to use to extend their community centre in Tanner Street. President of the Muslim Social and Cultural Society and a former councillor, Abdul Khokhar, said he hoped the centre would win its bid for lottery funding so they could build a larger hall. Meanwhile, Mr Khokhar, 70, is planning another series of three half marathons in Barking Park and plans to donate his sponsor money to the Mayor’s fund (See BMMS for January 1999). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

 

Council gives club new mower

Hackney Council have donated a £20,000 tractor mower to the North London Muslim Cricket club, for use on their cricket pitches. The club is based at the North London Muslim Community Centre in Stoke Newington. The centre runs a league for Asian cricket teams and they play their matches at the nearby Arena Field. Stanley White, acting manager for Hackney Marshes, said: "They are a top team and spend a lot of loving care on the cricket pitch to achieve their high standards. Their premier quality pitch and their games have become well-known among the Asian community and we hope it will continue to give them pleasure" (Hackney Gazette & North London Advertiser, 29.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Ramadan guidance for schools

Harrow’s advisory council for religious education has proposed to introduce guidance to schools about the issue of young children fasting during Ramadan. The council was told that fasting during the day was compulsory for children over the age of nine, but sometimes children began fasting at a younger age to train themselves. It was said that teaching staff needed to be made aware that children were fasting so they could be allowed to go to the library or do extra book work instead of PE or running around in the playground (Harrow, Stanmore & Kingsbury Times, 29.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

 

New community centre in Forest Gate

A new community centre, providing facilities mainly for the use of Muslim women, has opened in Forest Gate, London. An open day was held on 6 May to give community organisations a chance to see what the centre has to offer. The £300,000 centre, which was converted from a health service building, has a community hall, kitchen, fitness equipment, library and a computer room. The centre is open to everyone in Forest Gate (City of London Recorder, 30.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Centre celebrates third anniversary

Many people turned out to attend the third anniversary celebration of Barnardo’s Khandaani Bhal project in Heckmondwike. MP Ann Taylor, local councillors, head teachers, Barnardo’s staff, and local schoolchildren attended the gathering at the centre’s base in Battye Street, which since its opening in 1996, has become a focal point for the Muslim community. Ms Taylor, addressing the gathering, said: "In…three years it has made giant steps forward and I am confident that it will go from strength to strength in the coming months and years. A solid foundation has been built and I am sure there will be many more birthday celebrations like this. Well done to all those who have made it possible." John Tebbet, director of children’s services for Barnardo’s, paid tribute to the hard-working staff at the centre who have helped make this project a success. He said: "I hope we can be celebrating such an occasion in 10 years time. Obviously money is the key and the European money from Routeways to Success has helped enormously. I am confident about the future" (Spenborough Guardian, 30.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

 

 

Al Fayed refused citizenship

Many newspapers have reported on the Home Office’s decision to refuse Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, British citizenship (including Bristol Evening Post, 06.05.99, Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 06.05.99, Walsall Express & Star, 06.05.99, Liverpool Echo, 06.05.99, Yorkshire Evening Post, 06.05.99, Cardiff Western Mail, 07.05.99, Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 07.05.99, Financial Times, 07.05.99 and The Independent, 07.05.99). The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, based his decision on the role Mr Al Fayed played in the "cash-for questions" affair, where he admitted paying Tory MPs to ask questions in the House of Commons on his behalf, and over a break-in to a Harrods safe deposit box which belonged to his former business rival, Tiny Rowland. Mr Al Fayed described the decision as "perverse" and said he would be challenging it, continuing his five year battle for citizenship. He said he found it remarkable that only the night before the Prime Minister and Jack Straw had considered him fit enough to shake hands with at the conference of the Muslim Council of Britain, but the next day decided he was not fit enough to be a British citizen. He said the decision was "unjust and unfair" an called politicians "zombies." He said: "Our politicians are just zombies; those who rule us really are the civil servants" (Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 07.05.99). Under Home Office rules, an individual applying for citizenship must be over 18 years old, have been resident in Britain for five years, and be "of good character." [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 4]

Art exhibition at Ashmolean Museum

Syed Tajammul Hussain, a self-taught artist from London, has had some of his paintings exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum, becoming only the third Muslim to hold an exhibition in the world’s oldest museum. The paintings use calligraphic styles based on Qur’anic scripts. Speaking about the honour, Mr Hussain said: "I am the first person from the sub-continent to have been so honoured as it is almost impossible to break into such an institution unless the work is considered exceptional. There is a lack of awareness about this art and a number of mis-preconceptions exist including in the Muslim community" (Eastern Eye, 14.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Taxi drivers refuse dogs

Taxi drivers in Worcester have created controversy after some refused to allow guide dogs into their cabs, saying it was against their religion. Currently, taxi drivers have the right to refuse guide dogs in their vehicles, but city councillors have said this is discriminatory against blind people. The issue was raised when members of the city’s licensing committee discussed drafting a new guide for taxi drivers and owners. Steve Eldredge, chairman of the Worcester Taxi Owners Association, said: "Some Asians object to making it mandatory to carry guide dogs. One Muslim driver told me that he is not allowed contact with dogs on religious grounds." Worcester City Council will now investigate the matter and will consult the Public Carriage Office in London. Allah Ditta, manager of Associated Radio Taxis, said: "If a dog is wet and shakes water on a Muslim, the man becomes ritually unclean. But drivers are also concerned that dogs leave hair on the seats, which may be unpleasant for other passengers" (Q News, No306, 15.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

Broadcasting Standards Commission report

A guide to programme makers and broadcasters on religious language and imagery, has been published by the Broadcasting Standards Commission, written by Prof. David Craig (See BMMS for April 1999). The report urges broadcasters to "understand the sensitivities around the various faiths" and " the way in which offence is caused." Whilst the paper makes it clear it does not think religions should be immune from criticism or satire, it attempts to "encourage a healthy respect for belief and for believers." Producers are asked to "take into consideration not only what words and their misuse cause offence, but what representations identify religious communities because misinterpretation or parodies of practice and clothing can be equally offensive." Broadcasters are also encouraged to check their sources (Muslim News, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Batley centre runs playscheme

The Al-Hikmah Centre in Batley organised a children’s playscheme in the Easter holidays. Around 60 children attended the three and a half day event. Numerous organisations assisted the playscheme, including NTL Cable Tel who provided a bouncy castle and gave children prizes for participating in the playscheme. A whole host of agencies took part including the Kirklees Road Safety Unit, Kirklees Community Development Services, West Yorkshire Fire Safety and Young Batley. One of the organisers of the playscheme, Yasin Lorgat, Youth Co-ordinator at the Indian Muslim Welfare Society, said: "With the resources we have available at the Centre I hope to build on this and make it a regular event for children to attend during school holidays. For a change, both parents and children agreed that this was a wonderful idea and well worth it" (Awaaz, 01.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Centre makes bid for pub

An Islamic centre in Edmonton is planning to buy a pub and convert it into a community centre. The Edmonton Islamic Centre wants to use the Angel pub next door to its existing premises for prayers, education, social and sports activities. However, the plans have already attracted criticism from the regulars at the pub, who were dismayed to hear that their local could close as early as next month when its licence expires. Pub barman Alan Whitting said: "There are quite a few people who are not happy about it because they are losing their local pub. The pub is used by quite a few elderly men who like to come in for a few drinks after work and for some people it is their lifeline. We knew it was going to be sold but we did not know what for and we were hoping it would stay a pub." One of the regulars, Steve Garrett, who drinks at the pub at least five times a week, said: "I will oppose this planning application on the grounds that it will be dangerous. The pub is on a busy junction and at the moment when the Muslims turn out of prayer meetings they fill the street. If this number was to double or quadruple it would be very dangerous" (The Enfield Advertiser, 19.05.99, Enfield Gazette, 20.05.99).[BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Money raised for cancer research

A Muslim in Rotherham has launched a major fundraising campaign to help cancer research. Cancer patient Mohammed Akram has already raised £800 towards Weston Park Hospital’s £2 million Cancer Research Centre. He is now continuing his fundraising in mosques and hopes to raise a lot more money. He said: "The hospital has been treating me since I was diagnosed as having cancer five years ago. The community has always been supportive. I am much better now and I want to show my appreciation to the hospital." The Cancer Research Centre will boost the hospital’s drug trialling programme in order to provide the best and most advanced treatment available (Barnsley Star, 20.05.99, Sheffield Star, 20.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5]

 

 

Tight security for Rushdie visit

Armed officers, bodyguards and security staff were to protect Salman Rushdie during his recent visit to Edinburgh, where he was to sign copies of his new book "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms. It is his first visit to Scotland since the fatwa on him was lifted by Iran (See BMMS for January, February, March, April, September and October 1998). The event was said to stir emotions amongst Scotland’s Muslim community. However, Mohammed Yasin, a trustee of Edinburgh mosque, urged Muslims to stay calm during the visit. He said: "I think it is important that this should be kept in perspective. He is a nobody and I am sure that most people will be too busy to bother turning up to protest. Islam is a peaceful religion and we don’t think it is right to give him any publicity" (The Scotsman, 20.05.99, The Express, 20.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 5/6]

 

Coroner refuses to work weekends

A coroner who refuses to work at weekends has sparked anger among Muslims in Birmingham. Dr Richard Whittington’s failure to hold inquests on Saturdays and Sundays has distressed Muslim families who need their deceased to be buried at the weekend, within 48 hours of their death. But Dr Whittington defended his actions saying: "I’m not by law allowed to sit on a Sunday. There is nothing to prevent inquests being held on a Saturday. But I have the largest jurisdiction in the country and I’m not given the staff to sit on a Saturday, there is nobody to help me." His refusal to hold weekend meetings prompted a group of Birmingham Labour MPs to meet the coroner to discuss complaints made by Muslim constituents. Dr Lynne Jones has called for the coroner’s service to be overhauled and to be given standard ised conditions of service. She also called for coroners to be more account able (Birmingham Evening Mail, 20.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Southwark Civic Awards ceremony

Many Southwark citizens who gave up their free time to help their community have been recognised in the annual Civic Awards ceremony. Amongst those honoured are Abida Zafar Iqbal and Zafar Iqbal, who won an award for their contribution to public service. Mr Iqbal is one of the founders of the Southwark Muslim Women’s Association, which was set up 19 years ago to offer education, health, fitness, art, music, cultural studies and general welfare to Muslim women. Mr and Mrs Iqbal do not miss any opportunity to raise funds for the organisation. Mohammed Ramzan Rajput won an award for his contribution to racial harmony. Mr Rajput, a Southwark Council housing officer, also works as a volunteer representing the Muslim community on Southwark Race Equality, Southwark Community Relations Council, the South East Muslim Association and the Peckham Islamic Centre Trust. He is a founding member of the Southwark Police Consultative Group and has joined the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the Housing Advisory Service Unit in Peckham. He proposed a translation unit in the borough and the appointment of race equality officers (South London Press, 21.05.99) [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Man assaulted outside mosque

A mosque leader who was attacked outside his mosque after the night prayers, fears there will be trouble in his community if the attackers are not caught soon. Mohammed Haji Sultan, aged 56, from Halifax was attacked at 11:30pm outside Madni Mosque in Gibbet Street. He is the general secretary of the mosque. Mr Sultan said: "Something must be done. They want to kill me and get rid of me but God saved my life." Mr Sultan was standing in the car park when he said six men wearing balaclavas came towards him. "They came in front of me. They never talked to me or challenged me. They had an iron bar and they started to beat me with it. One of them was very strong and I thought they were going to kill me...I shouted for help and some people came, but nobody would take a risk and get involved." Mr Sultan spent some days in hospital being treated for head and leg injuries. He believes he was attacked over the running of the mosque. He added: "I’m worried there might be more trouble and everyone is upset. If something is not done and these people are not caught it could be a very dangerous situation." Police have arrested several men in connection with the attack but they have been released on bail pending further inquiries (Halifax Evening Courier, 21.05.99, 22.05.99, 24.05.99 and 25.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Teacher accused of indecent assault

An Islamic religious teacher has appeared before Bradford magistrates accused of indecently assaulting two children. Hafiz Amjad, 32, from Huddersfield is charged with indecently assaulting a girl and boy, both of whom are under the age of 14. Bail was refused and Amjad was remanded in custody until June 10. Reporting restrictions were not lifted (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 22.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Brent Eid festival 1999

The London Borough of Brent in partnership with the Brent Muslim Community Forum celebrated the Brent Eid Festival 1999 at the Al-Khoei Foundations Schools on April 11. The organisers believed that inequality and ignorance in the borough’s communities could be rooted out by free flowing knowledge and the eradication of negative images and stereotyping of Islam. Councillor Ahmed Shahzad, Chair of the Brent Muslim Community Forum, commented: "A cross-fertilisation of cultures enables exchanges of ideas and for differing peoples to gain the chance to understand one another’s ideologies, values, perceptions and issues. This festival will be a great learning opportunity for children and adults, both male and female, from many diverse cultural backgrounds and will further the Council’s policy towards racial harmony" (Muslim News, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Low turnout for Al-Muhajiroun meeting

A meeting called by the Muslim group Al-Muhajiroun in Dundee to criticise the UN and NATO, who are regarded by them as enemies of God, attracted a low turnout. Omar Brooks and Sajid Sharif, London-based members of the organisation, discussed what they described as the increasing disquiet being felt by many Muslims at the way they are treated, in Europe in particular (Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 6]

 

Pledge to increase Asians in police force

Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Chief Commissioner, has pledged to devote his remaining time as Commissioner to increasing the numbers of Asians in the police force. Addressing the Asian community in Southall, Mr Condon, who is due to retire in January, said he wanted to increase the number of Asians from the 294 currently in the 26,000-strong force. He said it would ensure that "everyone can be confident of being policed fairly and justly." On his visit to a Sikh temple, he accepted a kirpan, a gold ceremonial sword symbolic of the struggle to maintain law and order and protect the innocent. However, when he visited a mosque he was heckled by some members of Al-Muhajiroun (Bath Chronicle, 31.05.99, The Scotsman, 31.05.99, Newcastle Journal, 31.05.99, Daily Star, 31.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

Facts about Islam

The Yorkshire Post (31.05.99) has a short article outlining some basic facts about Islam. They asked the organisers of an award-winning Leeds course to provide some information on ‘A Few Things You Might not Know About Islam…’, in which they include: the time of revelation; Ramadan; status and rights for women; charity; algebra; Jesus as a prophet; and peace. The information was provided by Lindsey Fraser and Dr Suleyman Derin of the University of Leeds who set up an Islamic Studies Certificate course, for part-time students, which has just earned an Adult Learners Award. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

Families fear over Kashmir crisis

Members of the Muslim community in Halifax have been expressing their fears over the safey of relatives and friends in Kashmir. Ninety per cent of Halifax’s Muslim community are from Kashmir, and are calling for British intervention. At a meeting at Raven Street Youth and Community Centre in Halifax, attended by around 300 people, Lord Nazir Ahmed spoke of the concerns. He said: "We will be sending a petition to Tony Blair calling for the Government to get involved. I cannot believe they have not stepped in the way they have in Kosovo. Innocent people are being killed in Kashmir and no-one is helping them. It is even worse when you consider that both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers. People here are extremely worried about it." Chaudhry Hussain, owner of an Islamic book store, said he believed the British should intervene: "When the British withdrew from Kashmir in 1947 they gave the people the right of self-determination. They have never had that. It is Britain’s mess, they should sort it out" (Halifax Evening Courier, 01.06.99 and 03.06.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

Education

NoI fails to find new home

The Nation of Islam have failed to find a new home for their school the Star Chamber Academy, which was using a community centre for its teaching (See BMMS for August, September, November 1998 and January 1999). The council has said it is sticking to its decision and the school will have to move out. They are keen to have the centre used for community projects again, rather than as a school. It is not clear why the school was unable to move, or where they were planning on moving to. The Nation of Islam declined to comment (Marylebone & Paddington Mercury, 06.05.99, Kensington & Chelsea News, 06.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

School wins anti-racism prize

Pupils at Manchester Islamic High School for Girls have won an award for designing an anti-racism poster. The project was launched by Longsight Police Station and sponsored by a local takeaways. Year 10 tutor, Heather Delaney, said: "It is the first time the school has been involved in a scheme like this and I think it was a success. It allowed the Islamic community to express its views on what is a very sensitive issue." Magda Ramadan and Maria Yousef, both 15, designed the winning poster which shows two hands, one white and one black, holding the earth. They were presented with certificates and gift tokens (Manchester Evening News, 07.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

 

New university course at Leeds

A new course introduced at Leeds University after consultations with the Muslim community, has won an award. The Islamic Studies course started last year and has won the Higher Education category in the national New Learning Opportunities awards, given by the National Organisation for Adult Learning. Students work for a certificate which gives them credits towards a degree course if they wish to continue their learning. A university spokeswoman said: "Our project officers had meetings within the Muslim community about what they would like the course to contain. It had proved very popular" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 11.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7]

 

Disused hospital to become school

A disused hospital in Blackburn is to be converted into a single-sex Muslim boarding school. Park Lee Hospital has been sold to a board of trustees for £360,000. Chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Moulana Sidat, said it would be the fourth school to be opened by the group. The first opened a school in Holcombe more than 25 years ago, where more than 300 boys now study. They have also opened boarding schools in Bradford and Birmingham. A college spokesman said: "The keys to Park Lee were handed over to us last week. We don’t yet know if it will be a girls or a boys school as it depends on which most parents want. We haven’t yet decided on a name for the school, or the board of trustees. We will be teaching the national curriculum and religious education with courses in drug awareness and other life skills. A lot of young people today are going out of line and we want to help them develop into good citizens. Our students at Holcombe go on to study Arabic and other courses at Manchester and Birmingham University." He also said he hoped to fit into the neighbourhood and have good relations with local people: "We have always had good relations with our Holcombe neighbours and we have never had any trouble in more than 25 years. We hope it will be the same in Park Lee" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 20.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 7/8]

 

Politics

Derek Fachett obituary

Q News (No306, 15.05.99) carries an obituary, written by Fuad Nahdi, to Derek Fachett, who is described as "a true friend." The Minister of State and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, passed away on 9 May after suffering a massive heart attack. He is described as "courteous and genuinely attentive," and that it was his "moral conviction, his authentic concern for human rights and the desire to pioneer the introduction of a foreign policy based on ethics that made Derek such a formidable leader." He worked hard to ensure the FCO was opened up to all members of society, and in particular took great pride in making it accessible to the Muslim community. He invited a group of Muslims drawn from all sectors of opinion and life to act as his ‘consultants’, and had regular meetings with them. Others who wrote letters of condolences include, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations, Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim council of Britain, and Dr Ayyub Thukar, President of the World Kashmiri Freedom Movement. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

Island’s first Muslim councillor

Restaurateur Abdul Mateen has become the Isle of Wight’s first Muslim councillor when he was elected to Cowes Town Council. Mr Mateen, 31, running for the Conservative Party, beat Labour rival Rosemary MacNeill by 56 votes to 21 to claim the Medina East ward. The turnout was only 3.78 per cent. He began his term by launching an attack on the way the by-election was held. He believed the election should have been more widely advertised and poll cards should have been issued. Mr Mateen said that despite his links with the Tory Party, most votes cast for him had been on a personal rather than a political basis, and he was looking forward to representing his new electorate. He said: "I wish to strengthen my nation and make my nation the envy of Europe and the world. In doing so, I wish to promote family values and protect the vulnerable" (Isle of Wight County Press, 23.04.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

Al-Muhajiroun boycott elections

Members of the Al-Muhajiroun group in Crawley urged thousands of Muslims to boycott local elections, which were held on May 6. The group said that Islam forbids Muslims to vote. Spokesman Saleem Sultan said: "For Muslims to vote for any party is forbidden. To delegate somebody to be part of a system which legislates in place of God is not permitted." They also criticised the government for its policies against Islam, highlighting bombings in Iraq as an example (Crawley Observer, 05.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

 

Local councillor gives up seat

Preston councillor Yukub Patel has given up his town hall seat on health grounds. Cllr Patel, who was elected to represent Avenham in 1995, was the towns first Muslim councillor. After the local elections, he wished his successor Musa Jiwa, good luck. He said: "I’d like to thank everybody who supported me in my work as a councillor and I want to say all the best to my successor" (Lancashire Evening Post, 10.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

Racism row in Rotherham local elections

The local elections in Rotherham sparked accusations of racism after a Labour candidate in a stronghold lost to a Liberal Democrat. Mahroof Rashid was a new Labour candidate standing in the town’s Thurcroft and Whiston ward in place of Frank Williamson. Locals and other councillors believe racism in the town may have played a part in the defeat. Council leader Keith Billington refused to comment on the result, but his deputy, Councillor Mark Edgell, is reported to have said that it was hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr Mahroof’s defeat in a traditional Labour ward was a result of prejudice (Q News, No306, 15.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

Alex Rowley interview

Q News (No306, 15.05.99) carries an interview with Alex Rowley, the General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party. He was educated at Edinburgh University, graduating with an MA Honours in Sociology and Politics, and an MSc in continuing education. Asked about the place of visible minority communities in this country and within the Labour Party, he said: "I am of the opinion that institutional racism exists in most large organisations within society and the Labour Party is no exception. This is not to say that all people are racist but many are ignorant of any culture other than their own…We should develop a curriculum which ensures members of our organisation have a broader understanding of the different cultures and needs which exist in communities throughout Scotland." He also talked about increasing the number of visible minorities in the party, the success of the Scottish campaign, the recent events in Govan, and internal problems within the Labour Party. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

 

European elections

The Labour Party has been accused of failing the Muslim community in the European elections, by only selecting one candidate in an un-winnable seat, according to Muslim News (28.05.99). The Conservative Party has put forward three Muslim candidates, and the Liberal Democrats have one. Also, no Muslim was elected to the new Scottish Parliament as all the candidates were placed in un-winnable seats. Senior Labour Councillor Bashir Maan criticised the party’s stance. He said: "I feel frustrated at the Labour Party continuing to disregard to place Muslim candidates in winnable seats, this time for the European election, considering the Muslim community’s long association with the Labour Party." [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 8]

Youth

Heroin addiction amongst youths

The Independent (13.05.99) carries an article about heroin addiction, particularly amongst the young Bengali community in London. It says that children as young as 11 are becoming addicted to the drug, which is being sold on housing estates for £2 a wrap. Treatment workers in the Tower Hamlets area said the drug was "everywhere" and that the problem has emerged from almost nowhere in the past two years. Jeff Evans, team leader at the Addiction Tower Hamlets Community Drugs Team, said: "We recently had a group of schoolchildren come in here who had found a big bag of heroin. They had smoked the whole lot. All the children around here know what to do with it." Just four years ago the centre only had a handful of Bengali clients. Now it has 146 under the age of 25, and for most of them, heroin was the first drug they ever tried. Youth worker Kirsty Blenkins said it was common for several boys in the same family to face addiction problems. She said: "They are living [at an average of] 3.5 people to a room in Tower Hamlets, and if you’re sharing a bedroom it’s easy to learn how to use heroin." She also said there was an increasing number of young women becoming addicted to the drug, mainly from smoking it with their boyfriends. Outreach worker Monzur Ahmed said: "They are worried that their brother or someone from the estate might come in and see them here. It would be bad for their reputation. People would think, ‘Is she a prostitute? Where does she get her money for the drugs from?’ She could face a stigma." The team hope to appoint a young Bengali woman to help female users to come forward for treatment in confidence. The centre is only one of a handful in the country to receive police referrals of people found in possession of Class A drugs. Offenders who agree to undergo an assessment with the councillors are likely to get off with only a warning from the courts. The scheme, which is backed by local police chiefs, has helped 111 offenders to address their drug-taking. Of these, 59 have asked to take part in extended treatment programmes where they can receive a range of therapies, including acupuncture. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 9]

 

Cardiff student found hanged

A student studying pharmacy at a university in Brighton was found hanged in mysterious circumstances in his room. Aziz Younes, 29, from Cardiff, could have committed suicide or died in a secret game, an inquest was told. The town’s coroner, Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, heard how Aziz had been found with a cord tied round his neck with it’s other end tied to a wardrobe. She said that it was possible that Aziz, who was described as a devout Muslim and a lively person, was playing some kind of game in which he did not intend to kill himself. PC Harry Corkhill, of Brighton Police, also said he had found no evidence to suggest that Aziz had taken his own life. His body was found by his brother Walid, who said they had both gone to their rooms for an afternoon nap, and when he went to wake Aziz, he found him hanging. Doctors’ reports showed no previous history of psychological problems and toxicological tests revealed no traces of alcohol or drugs. Ms Hamilton-Deeley recorded an open verdict, and said to relatives of the deceased: "I really can’t offer you any form of consolation except that his death was completely unexpected and happened at a time when he will always be remembered as someone who was cheerful, outgoing, popular and well-liked" (South Wales Echo, 27.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 9]

 

Interfaith

Harrow interfaith symposium

Muslim and Christian communities in Harrow have come together to try and promote understanding and to combat prejudice. The Harrow Interfaith Symposium, held the first of a series of events at Harrow High School, and was said to be very successful. The symposium looked at Easter from a Christian and Muslim point of view, drew parallels between the two religions, and had speakers from both faiths talking about their beliefs. Shahid Akmal, who runs a bookshop called the Comparative Religion Centre, said: "The meeting went fantastically well, with both groups benefiting enormously from the discussions. The aim was really to create a forum where people openly discuss their faiths and conflicting ideas to gain a better understanding of one another. Easter is a festival which is absolutely fundamental to Christianity but which also has a strong bearing on Islam because Jesus is one of the most important prophets in the Muslim faith." Reverend Tony Andrews, a former chaplain of Northwick Park Hospital, said: "I have been fascinated by comparative religion since I started working at Northwick Park. I was dealing with such a huge range of cultures that I could not fail to take an interest. The Interfaith symposiums give people a chance to discuss and share their ideas, which is fantastic." For details about the Interfaith projects, call 0171 226 5448 (Harrow Observer, 06.05.99, Harrow, Stanmore & Kenton Leader, 06.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 9]

 

Concert to help charities

Faith Together, a new charity formed by Muslims and Christians in the Beeston area of Leeds, is helping regenerate the inner-city by putting on a concert. The group wants to demolish an existing Methodist church and an Anglican parish hall and replace them with new community facilities, including a parenting centre aimed at helping young families and a Healthy Living Centre for elderly Asians. The charity is applying for a £500,000 government grant but needs to raise another £2 million before building can go ahead. The West Hunslet Salvation Army Corps put on a concert at the Salvation Army Citadel to help raise money. The secretary of the neighbourhood group of churches in Beeston, Barbara Cavell, said: "This festival shows how well we work together, regardless of what denomination we belong to. There is a growing cooperation now between people of different faiths who want to get things done to make the area better" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 06.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 9/10]

 

Joint celebration at Milaap Centre

A joint celebration was organised at the Milaap Centre in New Malden, Kingston, by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. The Muslim festival of Eid, the Hindu festival of Holi, the Sikh’s Baisakhi and the Tamil new year, were celebrated by about 100 people who packed the centre for the occasion. The centre hosted traditional music, singing and food. Chairman of the centre, Shiraz Mirza, said such events promoted racial harmony (Kingston Borough Guardian, 13.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 10]

 

Religion and prayer in modern lives

The Pinner Observer (20.05.99) has an article asking "Can we still find time to pray in our busy lives?" The article begins by highlighting the falling attendance figures in churches across the country. The Revd Doug Cockbill, vicar of St Andrew’s Church in South Harrow, has seen his congregation slump by two-thirds since he took over nine years ago. He said: "It’s been a slow decline, but it reflects social trends, the general disintegration of the social fabric of western Europe. The move away from marriage and the solid family unit has had a significant effect too. Single people have never really been the biggest supporters of the church." However, at St Mary’s Church in Harrow Hill, the Revd Timothy Gosden said he has experienced his church roll increasing, although he does acknowledge that modern lifestyles mean people attend church less often. He said: "The dramatic changes in society over the last 30 years have made a huge difference to the way people perceive the role of the church and the way they fit into the church. People will have lifestyles which they are afraid will alienate them from the church, like homosexuals or divorcees. We need to embrace them. Judgements are not what Christianity is about. We are here to support and help people. We are privileged here – people are attracted to the tradition and the history of the church, and that keeps them coming."

At the Harrow Mosque on Station Road there is also an increase in membership. Shahid Akmal, a member of the committee at the mosque, said: "Our membership is continually growing. Because Islam answers all questions and covers every aspect of life. I feel the massive changes which have taken place in the Christian church over the last 20 or 30 years have pushed people away from it. But Islam has remained constant, the Koran has not changed. That is not to say that Islam does not change to embrace changes in society and the west. It is changing for the better, assimilating the good parts of European culture and rejecting those we cannot accept." Venilal Vaghela, at the Hindu Council of the United Kingdom, also knows the need to realise the changes. He said: "It is hard for some of the younger generation to accept a lot of mythological stories. They are surrounded by a different society to that which surrounded their great-grandparents. The majority of attendance at temples, not just in London but around the country, is the older generation." The Hindu Council is working hard to educate those born and brought up in this country to ensure children understand the reasons behind celebrating annual festivals such as Diwali. Rabbi Simon Franses, of Middlesex New Synagogue in Harrow, agrees that in modern society faith is declining. It is affecting the Jewish community too, he said: "We have a fairly regular crowd here who turn up week in week out because of a strong faith, but realistically the synagogue is only filled for what I refer to as socio-religious occasions. People don’t come just for the religious occasions. But society is to blame to a degree, things are changing. The family unit is falling to pieces and everyone is so much busier now. It is much harder to make a living. Stability has gone from society and stress levels are up. One of the first things to go is attendance at the church or at the synagogue. It is a pity, but it’s part of modern life." The article concludes by saying that religious institutions have always had a part to play in all societies and will carry on doing so, even if their roles and functions have to change. [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 10]

 

Health

Organ donor scheme

A new scheme to persuade more Asian people to become organ donors is to be hosted by staff in the kidney unit at St Lukes Hospital in Bradford. They will host an evening for Asian patients and families to raise awareness of need for organ donation, particularly from people of South Asian origin, a group that has higher than normal levels of kidney disease. Of the 45 people waiting for kidney transplants in Bradford alone, half are of South Asian origin. Steve Bell, regional transplant co-ordinator based at St James Hospital, said families will be given information about the difficulties of matching kidneys with people from European backgrounds who had died, which make up the majority of donations. They will also be told that evidence shows that a kidney from a living related donor is more likely to be successfully transplanted (Q News, No306, 15.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 10]

 

Judge rules against circumcision

A father who wanted his five-year old son to be circumcised against his mothers wishes, has had his application rejected by a High Court judge. Mr Justice Wall, in London, ruled that the welfare of the child who cannot be identified - was the "paramount consideration" when parents were in disagreement. He said that ritual circumcision, for social or religious reasons, was lawful and did not require the consent of the court - if both parents agreed. As they did not, it was a matter for the court to decide. He said that the father, who is of Turkish origin, was not a practising Muslim, and the mother, who is the primary carer, was a non-practising Christian. The boy, only known as "J", would be brought up in his mother’s household and his only real contact with Islam would be through his father, who lived in England but did not mix in Muslim circles. The judge said that as there was no medical indication that the child required circumcision, and that his likely upbringing would be in a non-Muslim environment, it was not in his interests to be circumcised against his mother’s wishes. Emphasising that the matter had been decided on the particular facts of the case, he made an order under the 1989 Children Act preventing the father from arranging for the child to be circumcised without the permission of the High Court. The judge took into consideration the father’s evidence that the mother, while pregnant, had agreed that any male child would be circumcised. The couple married in 1992 and split in 1996 (The Times, 07.05.99, Yorkshire Post, 07.05.99, Birmingham Evening Mail, 07.05.99, Stafford Express & Star, 07.05.99, The Guardian, 07.05.99, Birmingham Post, 07.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 10/11]

 

Protest against abortion

On April 24, Muslims and Christians stood on the roads in 87 cities in Britain with their banners protesting against abortion. The event occurred in commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967, which the protestors believe is cruel and unjust. Since its implementation, over 5 million unborn babies have been aborted (Muslim News, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11]

 

Mosques & Burials

Blackburn, Eldon Rd

A mosque in Blackburn is being allowed to continue operating, despite concerns raised by the Home Secretary Jack Straw and local residents. Mr Straw had written to Blackburn & Darwen Council asking them to carefully consider the future of the mosque in the light of heavy traffic and parking problems in the Eldon Road area. But planning chiefs urged councillors to give the trustees of the Masjid-e-Irfan mosque permission to continue operating, and to give permanent approval for the mosque to be used for weddings. Councillors gave the go-ahead without any debate (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11]

 

Burton, Princess St

Muslims at the mosque in Princess Street will benefit from better facilities after planning bosses accepted designs for its expansion (See BMMS for July 1998 and March 1999). The mosque committee was given permission last year for an extension to the site, but it has now drawn up blueprints for a new toilet block, a larger single storey extension and more windows. Concern was raised to East Staffordshire’s planning applications committee over increased parking near the mosque. A report to members stated: "In the past the committee has acknowledged that the mosque is a facility which is largely used by local ethnic residents and have determined that a shortfall in parking spaces would not result in demonstrable harm to highway safety." Members of the committee permitted the plans, with the condition that the car park is built before the extension work begins (Burton Mail, 21.05.99 and 27.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11]

 

Derby, Rosehill St

Details of a new £2.5 million Islamic teaching centre for prayer and teaching in Derby have been revealed (See BMMS for February 1999). The present Jamia mosque in Rosehill Street will be revamped and extended. The size of the present hall will be more than doubled to allow more people to attend prayers, and the mosque will be extended to include at least 11 classrooms for teaching and prayer, plus extra rooms for women to gather and dine. The committee which runs the mosque has submitted plans to Derby City Council. They are likely to be considered later this year. Mosque chairman Nazim Ali said that if the plans were approved, building would start straight away. He said: "I think it will take one to two years to complete. The money is coming from the community. We have some in reserve and we aim to raise the rest when building starts. The whole community is excited about this. The current mosque is just not big enough. If you come here on a Friday there are several thousand people here and there is only really room for 900." Stewart Todd, principal planner at the council, said the plans were likely to go before the committee in June or July (Derby Evening Telegraph, 06.05.99, Teletext Services, 09.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11]

 

Halifax, Gibbet St

A mosque in Halifax could become the biggest in West Yorkshire if the proposed £500,000 facelift is given the go-ahead. Plans to transform the Madni Mosque, include having a large glass dome and an additional floor which would provide room for up to 400 women. Mohammed Sultan, a member of the mosque’s management committee, said: "It will make the whole area much more attractive. This is an extremely big project for the Muslims of Halifax – with the extension it could have a capacity of nearly 2,000 people." Councillor Mohammed Najib, said the project was important for the town and the community: "It will certainly be one of the biggest mosques in West Yorkshire and will be beneficial to Halifax as a whole. There is a very great demand to make the mosque bigger and I shall be getting very involved in the fundraising for it." However, not all Muslims are happy with the plans. Head of the Kashmir Foundation, Mohammed Saghir, said there had been no consultation with the community at large. He said: "We are very angry that they have decided to do this without asking the people if it is what they want. People give money to the mosque every week, it is only fair they should be consulted about what it is spent on. The money should not be spent on frontage and decoration. The roof needs repairing but there is no need for all the other work – that money could be spent on more worthwhile facilities like a new community centre" (Halifax Evening Courier, 31.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11]

 

London, Dickens Square

Muslims in London have made an appeal to raise £1 million to help build a bigger mosque. The new mosque, which will have a ‘magnificent decorative dome’, will replace the current Baitual Aziz Islamic Centre in Elephant and Castle. £76,000 has already been raised, but locals at the mosque are now worried that time may be running out, as planning permission was originally granted for a five-year period, and there are only 20 months of the agreement left. Project worker, Sobur Ahmed, said: "There is a growing Muslim community in the area and there is a need for a fully furbished mosque. Every week 1,000 people visit the mosque and during certain religious festivals, such as Eid, prayers have to be repeated a number of times as the building cannot accommodate such vast numbers. On Fridays the mosque attracts around 500 worshippers. It gets so overcrowded – people pray on the stairs and in the car park." The current centre only holds up to 400 people (South London Press, 18.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 11/12]

 

Oxford, Manzil Way

Plans for a new mosque in Oxford are finally underway, ten years after it was first proposed (See BMMS for August 1998). The plans for the mosque and Islamic centre on the site of a former hospital were set back due to rising building costs and fundraising. The development is now set to go ahead after the Oxford Mosque Society scaled down the plans, including reducing the height of the minaret by two metres. Maureen Christian, chairman of the city’s planning committee, said: "There are a lot of Muslims who live in east Oxford, so this is the obvious place for it to be built." It is separate from the proposals for a £20 million Islamic Centre off Marston Road (Oxford Mail, 27.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 12]

 

Rhuddlan

The growing Muslim community in North Wales will soon have its own burial ground. Councillors were looking at plans for a private cemetery in Rhuddlan, which is alongside a council-owned cemetery, although the half acre land is owned by local businessman, Reg Davies. Mr Davies said he had been approached by members of the Rhyl Islamic Centre about making the land available as they did not have a place to bury their dead in their area. The site has still to be examined by Environment Agency officials but planning officers are recommending that the application be approved (Liverpool Daily Post, 28.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 12]

 

Sheffield, Ribston Rd

A last minute compromise could mean that a new mosque in the Darnall area could get the go-ahead. Councillors were set to turn down a request to convert a vacant building into a mosque after protests from residents about noise and disturbance. More than 100 residents had signed a petition objecting to plans for a new mosque. Objection letters sent to planners also claimed the call to prayer will be amplified through the streets, a claim denied by the applicants, and that there is no provision for extra parking in the plan. Planners said that although proposal is backed by many others, the issue over noise would make it unacceptable, and were therefore going to recommend refusal at the Sheffield Council South and East Planning meeting. A council spokesman said: "Such a use could give rise to unacceptable levels of disturbance in what is a quiet residential area. This issue, on its own, is enough to resist the proposal" (Barnsley Star, 15.05.99). However, councillors on the planning board have now deferred a decision after hearing that the applicants were prepared to seek a compromise on the use of the premises in a bid to minimise noise. Planning officers will now wait to see the new proposals before making their decision (Barnsley Star, 22.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 12]

 

Sunderland, Chester Rd

The Hendon Islamic Society in Sunderland has applied to the council for permission to use a house to be made into a mosque. The present mosque, on Chester Road, has become too small for the community and they want to use the house at the end of Laura Street to be demolished to make way for a new mosque. Syed Bodrul Islam of the Islamic society said: "In the Chester Road mosque we haven’t got enough room. A lot of people get up there on Fridays in particular. So we thought if we could make this one bigger it would help." The property next door to the one they are asking permission for is already being used as a place for prayer by the society. He said: "We would leave it as it is now. We wouldn’t be changing the house itself," adding "We are not doing anything at the moment but after we get the planning permission we want to demolish the two houses and make it a big mosque. However, we don’t know how long it would take to build a new one and it would also need a lot of money to do so" (Sunderland Echo, 11.05.99). [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 12]

 

Swindon, Broad St

Muslims in Swindon are looking for a new site for their mosque after Wiltshire County Council decided to put land the Muslims were supposed to buy, back on the market (See BMMS for May 1998). The council lost patience with the Swindon Islamic Association after it continually failed to raise the £267,500 discounted price for the land since 1994. They have now put the former school site back on the market at its full value of £500,000. The council had originally set a price of £133,000 for the 1.5 acre site, but the government ruled this to be too low. The site was still offered at a discounted price because it is council policy to help religious groups to find land or buildings for worship. Azim Khan, of the Swindon Islamic Association, said members had raised £100,000 towards a new place of worship and were now hoping to buy an alternative site at a lower price. He said: "It is unfortunate the plan didn’t work out, but we are still aiming for a purpose built mosque." He added that he thought there would now be more room at the present mosque on Broad Street since the Bangladeshi community, which makes up half the association’s 1,000 members, had taken over a Methodist church for educational and religious meetings. Speaking about the decision, Julian Johnson, chairman of the county council environmental services committee, said: "We are not exactly flush with funds and we felt the negotiations had gone on long enough. We had to take some other action" (Swindon Evening Advertiser, 27.05.99, Western Daily Press, 29.05.99) [BMMS May 1999 Vol. VII, No. 5, p. 12]

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