British Muslims Monthly Survey for October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

UK consulates for pilgrims 

New version of Old Testament branded "offensive" 

Sacranie in "Power 300" list 

 

Reports

Community

Centre receives European funding 

Police lectures on Islam 

Dinner for thanks 

Independence Day celebrations 

Islamic Awareness Week in Skipton 

Sandwell Muslims win award 

Millennium celebrations 

Traders in row over prayer room 

Charity’s Chechnya plea 

Imam faces new fight against deportation 

Oxford Centre put on hold 

Lone protest over killings 

Holy tomato 

Police seek help of imams in fighting crime 

Mosque raises funds for earthquake victims 

Former Health Secretary to open prayer room 

Imam and Mosque Council conference 

SOAS withdraws invitation 

Muslim society elections 

Islamic Awareness Week 

Wycombe Islamic Society holds talk 

Civic centre holds first Muslim wedding 

Grant boost for support group 

Airedale Hospital prayer room opened

Community group receives cash 

Plans for prayer hall 

Railtrack employee recruits ‘jihad fighters’ 

 

 

Education

Mounted police visit school 

Anger as school bans Christmas celebrations 

 

 

Politics

Peter Hain interview with Muslim News 

 

 

Racism

Ex-soldier in army race case 

 

 

Women

Conference on forced marriages 

Woman terrorised by family 

Mayor short-listed for award 

 

Youth

Youth visit to Palestine 

Entertainment for Muslim teenagers 

 

 

Interfaith

Conference to improve care at hospital 

Faith and Society group’s annual conference 

 

 

Halal

Stunning debate 

 

 

Employment

Telephone firm settles out of court 

Muslims sidelined in jobs 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Ashton 

Bradford, Horton Park Ave 

Bristol, Apsley St 

Burnley, Burns St 

Burton, Princess St 

Epsom burials 

Hainault, London burials 

Harrow, Station Rd 

Nelson, Clayton St 

Newham 

Nuneaton burials 

Oldham, Stansfield St 

Plaistow, Barking Rd 

Portsmouth, Victoria Rd

Preston burials 

Slough, Diamond Rd 

Wolverhampton burials 

 

 

Features

UK consulates for pilgrims

The British Government has agreed to set up temporary consulates for pilgrims travelling to Makkah who may encounter problems on their trip. British Muslims have complained about their treatment at the hands of the Saudi authorities who confiscate all passports on arrival, and occasionally lose them before departure. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will formally announce the new diplomatic missions once an agreement with Saudi Arabia has been formalised. This will make Britain the first Western country to extend consular representation to its Muslim pilgrims. The Foreign Office is hoping to have the consulate up and running in Makkah in time for the next Hajj in March 2000. Consular staff will be able to offer assistance to pilgrims who have been the victims of crime or have had travel documents confiscated. An office in Madinah is expected to be in place the following year. The proposal has received widespread support from the Muslims community. Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "It is an excellent idea. This is a first step, but in the long term we hope that it leads to proper facilities all round." Consulates in the holy cities of Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah have been in demand for a long time by the community. Efforts to bring them about were boosted in the summer when Lord Nazir Ahmed led a delegation from the British Hujjaj (Pilgrims’) Association to the Foreign Office to press the case. Lord Ahmed said the growing numbers of British pilgrims – 16,291 last year – underlined the need for representation (Independent on Sunday, 17.10.99). A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed: "We are in discussions but it is too early to say how far down the line we are to securing agreement with the Saudi authorities. Obviously there is not much time left so we are proceeding as a matter of urgency. We see it very much as a service to British nationals." Lord Ahmed said: "All the Muslim countries, and even India, have a Ministry of Hujjaj in the Holy Cities. It is an essential requirement and one that is long overdue. If people have any enquiries, or lose their tickets or if there are any disasters, God forbid, they will have somewhere to turn." The standard of service offered by the Saudi authorities has been a regular cause for complaint of British Muslim pilgrims. In recent years, the frequency of disasters arising from bad organisation has increased this dissatisfaction (Q News, No312, 01.10.99, Muslim News, 29.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 1]

 

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New version of Old Testament branded "offensive"

Jewish and Muslim leaders have condemned a new version of Old Testament Bible stories as "deeply offensive" and have called for the publication to be halted. The anger has been sparked by the foreword to a new edition of the books Jonah, Micah and Nahum by Glaswegian writer and artist, Alasdair Gray. Gray describes Abraham and Isaac, two of the holiest figures for both Jews and Muslims, as cheats who prostituted their wives. The new version is to be published by Canongate Books in Edinburgh, which also courted controversy last year when a series of New Testament books with introductions written by secular public figures were accused of being blasphemous. Reading this introduction by Gray, John Sacker, spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "When I started reading this I was physically revolted. I had to read it twice just to make sure I had really understood the depth of the offensiveness and, most unfortunately, I had." In the foreword, Gray describes Abraham and Isaac as "polygamous nomads who get cattle or revenge by prostituting a wife or cheating foreigners and relatives." Sacker said: "Abraham and Isaac are the founding fathers of the Jewish religion and are fundamental to the lives of deeply religious people." He said the Board of Deputies would be meeting to discuss the text, and would make a formal complaint to Canongate Books, asking them to withhold publication of the text until alterations have been made. He said: "We’re absolutely horrified by this offensive piece of writing and we’re taking it extremely seriously. I can’t believe they really understand how offensive this text is." Sacker’s anger about the text is shared by Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, who said: "In a civilised world, it’s imperative that there’s civilisation in language and to mock prophets like Abraham and Isaac in such demeaning language is not only irresponsible but totally insensitive to the beliefs of the three Abrahamic faiths, namely Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom to insult with impunity but freedom to write with responsibility." He added: "We will write to the publishers and say it’s not right. We will also consider forming a lobby group with the other faiths to try to persuade them to jettison this text."

But Gray, in his defence, rejects the accusations and claims that the interpretation he gives is the obvious one that could be reached after a close study of the text. He said: "I didn’t mean the introduction to be controversial or to offend anyone and don’t really understand why it has. I disagree with these criticisms: it seems obvious to me that this interpretation is the intended one and you would have to juggle a huge number of apologies to explain away the events that to me, spell out my conclusions with absolute clarity. It’s impossible to interpret the Bible without causing controversy and offending someone or other but I certainly didn’t mean to do it." Canongate Books said the publication would go ahead because it was now too late to change the texts (Scotland on Sunday, 17.10.99). Gray has since written a letter of apology for the language he used, and said he had not meant to offend anyone. In an open letter to "faithful Jews, Muslims and fundamental Christians," Mr Gray agreed that the word "prostitute" had been inappropriate, since Abraham’s and Isaac’s wives did not give sexual pleasure in return for money. He wrote: "For the American edition, I now want to replace the words ‘prostituting a wife’ in paragraph two with ‘lying about a wife.’"

His apology followed a joint protest by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Muslim Council of Britain, who said they were "deeply shocked by the demeaning and offensive portrayal of the Biblical and Islamic patriarchs and prophets" (Jewish Chronicle, 29.10.99). However, in an interview with the Sunday Herald (24.10.99), Gray said that apart from the word "prostituting" he stood by the rest of the essay, and that the Books espoused values relevant in today’s world and described a just God. He added that his foreword was based on sound scholarship and had been read by a leading Biblical scholar. Jamie Byng, of Canongate, the publisher of the new edition, said he did not have any religious faith so did not know if the introduction would be offensive to Jews or Muslims, but said the volumes would not be withdrawn. He said: "Nobody owns the Bible. They should be able to engage with it as a piece of literature and interpret it" (Aberdeen Press & Journal, 23.10.99, Liverpool Echo, 22.10.99, Shropshire Star, 23.10.99, Walsall Express & Star, 23.10.99, Eastern Eye, 29.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 1/2]

 

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Sacranie in "Power 300" list

The Observer has published, for the second year, a list of 300 people with the most power to shape our lives. The members of the list were chosen to represent the worlds of business, politics, science and popular culture. The ‘Power Commission’ marked each candidate out of 100 to asses a person’s influence over four categories of business, politics, media and culture - the more influence on each category, the more power. Significant at number 246 is new entry Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, whose influence is considered greatest in the world of culture. His inclusion in the top 300 reflects the growing strength of the Muslim community in Britain. As there is no equivalent to the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope in the Muslim faith, leaders are effectively self-nominated and have to win the respect of the community they claim to represent. The Observer Magazine claims "Sacranie has done this by carefully positioning himself in opposition to extremist groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Party of God [sic] and Al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) which talk the language of world Islamic revolution." It also says that it is significant that Sacranie has first entered the "Power 300" list in the year that the Pope has fallen by 70 places and the Archbishop of Canterbury has dropped off altogether. Sacranie is also the chairman of the charity Muslim Aid and an advisor to the Home Office on Muslim issues. The article says: "The past 12 months have been extremely important for Britain’s Muslims, and Sacranie has been a vocal and articulate advocate during difficult times for the benefit of the wider community" (The Observer Magazine, 24.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 2]

 

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Reports

Community

Centre receives European funding

The Al-Hikmah Centre in Batley has received European funding which will cover up to half the running costs of the centre for nearly two years. The Indian Muslim Welfare Society, which operates the centre, said the European Regional Development Fund had approved funding of £224,708 from August 1999 to June 2001. After that period it is envisaged that the centre will be self-sustaining. The funds will help the centre develop its strategy as a focal point for the needs of local residents and businesses and allow the appointment of a director, administrator, two caretakers, a development manager, youth development co-ordinator and two women development co-ordinators. Waqar Azam, the society’s development manager, said: "The scale of the project and the funding secured to date just shows what the community sector can achieve if they are focused and work together." But he warned that although the news was a massive boost, the society could not afford to be complacent, because they still had to raise another £40,000 from local landfill tax operators to carry out a comprehensive programme of environmental work to develop the whole of the 4.5 acre site. Since the restoration of the building which is the new Al-Hikmah Centre, the IMWS has created 50 jobs, helped more than 100 small firms, created a crèche, hosted more than 100 conferences, assisted over 60 community organisations and provided training for 300 people seeking work (Batley News, 23.09.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 2/3]

 

Police lectures on Islam

Police in Barking learned about the mysteries of polygamy among Muslims when Abdul Khokhar President of the Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society gave a talk on the subject to officers at Barking Police Station (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for September 1999). He explained that he, like the vast majority of Muslims, has only one wife. He added that the practice of taking more than one wife is allowed, but within stringent rules and in cases of ‘urgent emergencies’. An example he gave was that a man whose wife is barren may take a second wife, if he wants children and does not wish to divorce his first wife. He also explained that in the past, men have taken several wives at times when large numbers of men died through war or natural disasters, leaving women without guardians. Mr Khokhar pointed out that Muslim women, if they do not want to be part of a polygamous marriage, can have this written into their marriage contract. He also outlined the grounds for divorce. Mr Khokhar later said: "The lecture was well received, and helped the officers to have a better understanding of Islam" (Barking & Dagenham Post, 29.09.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

 

Dinner for thanks

The Muslim community in Northern Ireland was to have a lunch meeting on October 3 at the White Horse Hotel, Campsie, to thank the Mayor of Derry and members of Derry City Council who have recently allocated a place for Muslim burials in Ballyoan Cemetery (Roe Valley Sentinel, 29.09.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

 

Independence Day celebrations

The Redbridge Muslim Association held Pakistan Independence Day celebrations at a high school in Ilford. Councillors and MPs joined the Mayor of Redbridge in the celebrations (Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 30.09.99). The Pakistan Muslim Welfare Society in Kirklees also organised Independence Day celebrations in partnership with local business organisations. The audience were entertained by local and national poets and a live band (Awaaz, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

 

 

Islamic Awareness Week in Skipton

Muslims in Skipton recently staged an exhibition as part of an Islamic Awareness Week held for the second time in Skipton. The event featured exhibition boards, video presentations, access to computers featuring information on Islam, and copies of the Qur’an were available to be taken home. Abdur Raheem Green from London was the main speaker at the event. This year, local churches and schools were also invited to attend (Craven Herald & Pioneer, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

 

Sandwell Muslims win award

The Sandwell Muslims Organisation, a community voluntary group based in Oldbury, has won an Investors in People award. The group provides a range of advice services and training initiatives specially tailored to meet the needs of the Pakistani community in Sandwell. The organisation, which gets its core funding from Sandwell Council’s regeneration committee, has been working hard for the past year to gain this award. Project manager, Javed Iqbal, said: "The award would not have been possible without the support and assistance of partner organisations. We would like to thank Sandwell Council’s regeneration division, Sandwell Regeneration Partnership, Advantage West Midlands and the National Charities Board" (Black Country Evening Mail, 04.10.99). Sandwell Regeneration chair man, Councillor Steve Eling, said: "I congratulate them on all their hard work. Such awards are not given lightly" (Sandwell Express & Star, 05.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

Millennium celebrations

The Times (01.10.99) carries an article about millennium events, and explains why many Jews and Muslims will not be getting too excited about the event. Most people spoken to in the article said they were not impressed over the hype of the millennium celebrations, especially as for Muslims, the year is 1420, and for Jews it is the year 5760. However, while most Muslims may see it as just another day and no need for celebration, it seems that many from the younger generation will be joining in the "English style" celebrations. The Aberdeen Press & Journal (07.10.99) also carries an article commenting on the various religions and the significance the millennium has to them, saying that "across the world, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews will be celebrating the Millennium in terms of having a big party, but neither the date nor the time of year has any other specific relevance." A spokesman for the Aberdeen mosque said of the occasion: "It is the year 2000 AD – Anno Domini, the year of our lord. While we respect Jesus as a prophet, he is not our lord." [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3]

 

 

Traders in row over prayer room

Muslim traders at Kirkgate Market in Leeds have been given a prayer room, which has angered many other traders in the market. The room has been created by sub-dividing a balcony area used by traders and visiting coach drivers as a meeting and rest room. A council spokeswoman also emphasised that the area would be available to all traders, regardless of religion, for rest, contemplation and/or prayer. However, Richard Moncrieff, chairman of the market’s tenants and Traders Association, said: "We come here to work, not to pray. We are not racist, but if Muslims are to have this area, why not one for the Jews, Catholics and other religions? It is totally wrong." He also said that the room could not be used by all traders together: "Muslims and Sikhs can’t use it at the same time and women won’t be allowed in." The council spokeswoman said that Muslim traders had approached the markets manager with a request that an area be dedicated for prayer purposes. She said: "In line with our equal opportunities policy the council always seeks to accommodate such requests." She added: "It has been made clear that priority will be given to visiting drivers. However, we believe there will only be a few occasions when it will not be possible to accommodate both. The use of the room will be monitored during the next two to three months to see whether the arrangement causes any particular difficulties. During the same period we will investigate the possible provision of alternative space in the market" (East Leeds Weekly News, 07.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 3/4]

 

 

Charity’s Chechnya plea

The Leicester branch of Islamic Relief is calling on people in the community to help raise £30,000 for the people of the war-torn Chechen Republic. Charity spokesman, Salim Ingar, said money was desperately needed for food and blankets. He said: "The people of Leicester have got very big hearts. We raised nearly £100,000 for Kosovo in about four months. And just because it’s Islamic Relief it doesn’t mean it’s just Muslims who are giving. All sections of the wider community have supported us." Islamic Relief has been delivering aid to Chechnya since war first broke out there in 1995. Since then the charity has paid for four mobile clinics and four ambulances, refurbished 13 school heating systems and distributed emergency food aid from its Chechen headquarters (Leicester Mercury, 07.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4]

 

 

Imam faces new fight against deportation

Shafiq ur-Rehman, the imam from Oldham who was accused of having terrorist links, is set to face a final clash with the Home Office. Mr Rehman was threatened with deportation for having links with the MDI party in Pakistan, but the newly appointed Special Immigration Appeals Commission said there was not enough evidence to deport the imam (See BMMS for April, June, August and September 1999). The Home Office immediately appealed against the decision, but the appeal was rejected. An appeal has now been lodged in the appeal court, which is the only avenue left for the government to pursue. Rehman Malik, Mr Rehman’s solicitor, said the issue had become a "grudge match" between his client and the Home Office (Manchester Evening News, 13.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4]

 

 

Oxford Centre put on hold

City planners in Oxford have been criticised for not consulting the Garden History Society on the proposals for the controversial new Islamic centre (See BMMS for June, August and September 1999). Under planning law, the society claims it has to be consulted on planning applications affecting registered parks and consultations in Oxford at the earliest possible moment. But the society only heard of the plans when a representative saw details published in the local press. The society then contacted planners to ask for a copy of the plans, and has expressed concern to city planners over the delay. The Garden History Society is concerned that the buildings would be visible from within Magdalen College’s Fellows Garden, destroying its illusion of rural remoteness. David Lambert, society conservation officer, said; "It is our advice in the strongest terms that the scale and size of this development would have an unacceptable environmental impact on the setting of the registered garden" (Oxford Mail, 12.10.99, Oxford Times, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4]

 

 

Lone protest over killings

A Bradford man staged a one-man rally against the Pakistani Government in early October. Ahrar Hussain Naqvi, 47, stood outside the Pakistan Consulate in Laisterdyke, Bradford, to protest about the killing of Shi’a Muslims in Pakistan. He said: "The Government is turning a blind eye to these killings. I hope this protest will educate others" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 13.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4]

 

 

Holy tomato

A women in Bradford has discovered a tomato with a ‘holy message’ – just weeks after another woman in Bradford attracted international media attention with her holy fruit. Saima Nazir, 22 and a pharmacy technician, saw the word Allah in Arabic inscribed in one half of a tomato she was about to use for cooking. She called her husband Mohammed Nazir, 29, who said he was shocked at what he saw. He said: "I really couldn’t believe it. We’d heard about what had happened to a family in Girlington and I never, ever thought that it could happen to us. It’s amazing. I’m so happy. It’s like a blessing. We just moved to this house at the weekend and this is such a good sign. I feel very privileged." The tomato was taken to the Carlisle Road mosque where the imam verified the writing as ‘Islamic’. Imam Kazi Hassan Raza congratulated Mr Nazir and said: "It is a very, very good sign. This shows that God is all around us. It is particularly good for this young couple who have just moved into a new house and started a new life." Mr Nazir said he was grateful to have been chosen and added: "We will keep the tomato to show anyone who wants to see it." Meanwhile, the housewife who discovered the previous tomato said she had received congratulations cards from as far as Australia, and said that the event had changed their lives (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 15.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4]

 

 

Police seek help of imams in fighting crime

West Midlands Police is considering enlisting the help of imams in a pioneering plan to use mosques as crime-fighting centres. Chief Constable Edward Crew has met with religious leaders and the British Pakistani Federation to discuss the scheme which would run across the region. Under the plan, 200 imams in the West Midlands will preach the need for their communities to support police and play their own role in crime-fighting. They will then have a chance to give regular feedback to Mr Crew on the whole range of community and ethnic issues. Mr Crew said: "The more we can work with all parts of the community to defeat crime the better. I am really encouraged by the way many members of the ethnic community are willing to help us in this way. Racism is unacceptable wherever it is across society. This force is in the business of supporting victims of racism. It is also fundamental in a society which relies on policing by consent that the minority parts support us and there is growing evidence people from ethnic minority communities are playing an increasing role as members of this society." Qamar Bhatti, secretary of the federation, said the meeting with Mr Crew was very productive: "It went well. Mr Crew backed the setting up of the black police officers’ initiative and has asked for our input in terms of tackling crime in the community. The message will come out of the mosques through the Imams to the community and also feedback to Mr Crew through an advisory ethnic group which we will sit on." (Birmingham Post, 18.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 4/5]

 

 

Mosque raises funds for earthquake victims

A joint collection at three mosques - two in Peterborough and one in St Ives - raised nearly £4,000 in just one day for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey (See BMMS for August 1999). At prayer congregations, Muslims were told of the suffering of the people in Turkey and collections were made. Within 24 hours the mosques raised £3,726.50. Ansar Ali, who works as an external community liaison officer for Peterborough City Council, said that local people had been touched by the earthquake victims’ plight. He added: "The Imam who was leading the prayers told people about the distress in Turkey, and they gave very generously. It touched people because there was so much suffering." The money was given to Nottingham-based charity Muslim Hands who will use it to help the people of Turkey (Peterborough Citizen, 07.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5]

 

 

Former Health Secretary to open prayer room

Former Health Secretary Frank Dobson was to officially open two Muslim prayer rooms at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel (See BMMS for September 1999). The rooms, for males and females with their own ablution areas, have been developed by Bart’s and the London NHS Trust following requests from the local community. The Trust say they have a "unique" combination of holistic spiritual support services by providing a multi-faith chapel and the imam-led worship in the prayer rooms. Hospital charity, the League of Friends, provided the £4,000 to decorate the rooms. In 1992, the Trust became the first in the country to appoint a part-time imam, which was later made full-time.

Recently the Trust has appointed two part-time imam’s assistants due to the increased volume of work, with one of the posts specifically working with Muslim women patients. Trust Imam Shafiqur Rahman said: "Creation of the prayer rooms ... will go a long way towards meeting the spiritual needs of Muslim service users of the Royal London. The development will serve as a model for Muslim chaplaincy developments elsewhere" (City of London Recorder, 15.10.99, Hackney Gazette & North London Advertiser, 14.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5]

 

 

Imam and Mosque Council conference

The Imams and Mosque Council (UK) held a conference on September 25 at the Muslim College, West London, where nearly a hundred imams from all backgrounds met. Dr Zaki Badawi, Chair of the Council, welcomed the guests from all over the country. The council hopes to promote the role of mosques and imams as well as ensuring imams gain respect in their communities. Several issues were raised during the conference, including a salary for trained imams, and the nature of their training. Q News (No312, 01.10.99), has printed a list of the main points raised at the conference. They include points such as: the imam is the leader of the community. So he should be accessible and approachable and there should be two-way traffic; there should be some sort of register for imams; women should be able to speak in confidence and with discretion to imams; imams should be trained in the use of language. It is no good expecting everybody to understand Urdu or Arabic; imams should be taught community care and marriage counselling; and activities need to be organised to attract young people to the mosque (Q News, No312, 01.10.99, Muslim News, 29.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5]

 

 

SOAS withdraws invitation

The School of Oriental and African Studies in London has withdrawn an invitation to French scholar Professor Roger Garaudy after protests from Jewish groups. This has led Muslim groups to accuse SOAS of suppressing academic freedom. Professor Garaudy, who has written several tracts criticising Zionism and questioning received wisdom on the Holocaust, was due to deliver a paper at a conference discussing the impact on Islamic thought of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Prof. Garaudy, 85, was controversially convicted and fined £14,000 last year by a French Court for so-called Holocaust revisionism in his latest work The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. Following pressure from Jewish organisations, led by the Board of Deputies, SOAS decided to withdraw the invitation claiming it had been "a horrible mistake." Muslim organisations have since been questioning the school’s commitment to academic freedom. They are also angry at the double standards employed to deny ‘politically incorrect’ speakers a plat form. Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "This is another example of certain freedoms being available to one community over others. It is no wonder Muslims the world over are becoming alienated from these so-called universal rights." Ironically, one of Garaudy’s main contentions is that western institutions are disproportionately under the sway of Zionists (Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5]

 

 

Muslim society elections

Presidential elections are to be held by the Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society on December 5. The current president, Abdul Majid Khokhar, has declared his interest in standing for re-election. The deadline for applications was October 24 and the election will take place at the Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society centre in Tanner Street (Barking & Dagenham Post, 13.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5]

 

 

Islamic Awareness Week

The Islamic Society of Britain was to hold its annual Islamic Awareness Seminar on October 24. Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton and Lord Nazir Ahmed were to be among the guests. The aim of the event was to remove misconceptions about Islam and to promote racial harmony (Doncaster Free Press, 14.10.99). The East London Mosque in Whitechapel opened its doors to the general public during the 16-21 October. One of the aims of the event was to bring people of different faiths together. Guests at the launch included MP Oona King and Bishop of Stepney John Sentamu who said his "dream of speaking at the East London Mosque had finally come true." Exhibitions on Islam and science, mosques around the world and women in Islam were displayed during the week, and other events included a book fair, guided tours and a children’s corner (East End Life, 18.10.99 and 25.10.99). In Peterborough, the UK Islamic Mission organised a seven day programme of demonstrations and discussions to create a better understanding of the faith in the city. Peterborough City Council’s external liaison officer, Ansar Ali, helped organise the week’s events and said he believed it would give important guidance to those ignorant of the Muslim way of life. He said: "Peterborough has a very large Muslim community, about 11,000, and four mosques for praying which are full to the hilt every Friday. This week has been designed and encouraged to make people aware about Islam and will help create a better understanding and harmony between Muslims and non-Muslims." The week began with a seminar at the Gladstone Community Centre and a host of invited speakers from all over the country talked about their experiences and beliefs, including former a Catholic, Erica Timoney, who became a Muslim in 1981 after picking up the Qur’an whilst living in Egypt (Peterborough Herald & Post, 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 5/6]

 

Wycombe Islamic Society holds talk

A lecture was to be organised by the Wycombe Islamic Society called ‘Muslims into the Millennium’, to give people an insight into the Muslim faith. The speaker was to be Abdur Raheem Greene, of London, who is a convert to Islam. Usman Haroon, member of the society, said: "We hope that all sections of the community will come to the lecture and learn about Islam" (South Bucks Star, 14.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

 

 

Civic centre holds first Muslim wedding

Motherwell Concert Hall and Civic Centre had its first Muslim wedding celebration held there at the beginning of October. Depute Provost Pat Connelly was invited as a guest of honour, and joined the 500 other guests in the celebrations for bride Kashifa Aslam and groom Anal Iqbal. AM Khan, race equality development officer with the Lanarkshire Ethnic Link Committee, helped plan the special day. Cllr Connelly said: "I was honoured to be invited to share in the happiness of the young couple and their families and friends. This is the first time the council has hosted a Muslim wedding reception and it was a marvellous occasion. There are many traditions surrounding the marriage service and celebrations and I enjoyed learning more about the Muslim culture." Mr Khan added: "Weddings within the Muslim culture are very important events involving large numbers of people and the celebrations have been known to go on over two or three months in various locations around the world. The concert hall was an ideal venue and in order to mark the occasion we decided to invite the depute provost and some other councillors to join us. We all had a wonderful evening and I believe this sort of interaction helps to foster tolerance, understanding and harmony" (Motherwell People, 15.10.99, Wishaw Press, 20.10.99, Motherwell Times, 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

 

Grant boost for support group

Seven local voluntary organisations in Walsall are to benefit from the latest handout of funds by Walsall Council’s social services committee. A total of £4,500 in amounts of £500 or £1,000 will be given to each individual organisation to provide care and support for groups in need within the community. Among the groups benefiting from the cash is the Progressive Muslim Forum, which is a new organisation supporting families in need. They will receive £500 (Walsall Chronicle, 15.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

 

Airedale Hospital prayer room opened

A prayer room for Muslims has been officially opened at Airedale Hospital. It was funded by the Muslim communities of Keighley, Skipton and Ilkley, who raised £10,000 following an appeal on Keighley’s Festival Radio. The room will be used by patients and visitors who want to pray during their time in hospital, and is located near its inter-denominational chapel. Airedale NHS Trust’s nursing director, Susan Franks, said: "The needs of the Muslim faith are different to those of the Muslim community." Khadim Hussain, from Keighley’s Sangat Centre, who headed the project along with Ms Franks, said: "I’m proud to be involved with this project and its a dream come true. Members of the community have shown great interest through their donations and I’m sure they will make effective use of the service" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 20.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

Community group receives cash

The Wheatley branch of the Islamic Society of Britain has received money from a multi-million pound community scheme. The society has been given £5,000 to help fund equipment for sport and recreation activities, education programmes, women and children’s events and multi-cultural education (Doncaster Star, 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

 

 

Plans for prayer hall

Members of the Bangladeshi Muslim Association in Wednesbury, West Midlands, has applied to Sandwell Council for planning permission to build a prayer hall at its premises in Spring Head. The application is to be considered in November (Walsall Express & Star, 23.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6]

 

 

Railtrack employee recruits ‘jihad fighters’

A Railtrack Security expert is said to be using the company’s computer to recruit Islamic fighters. Mohammed Sohail, 42, is a member of the Global Jihad Fund which aims to supply fundamentalist groups around the world with money "to purchase weapons and train their individuals." Mr Sohail has been using his Railtrack e-mail address to help enlist recruits for ‘holy wars’ in Kashmir, Pakistan, Kosovo and Chechnya. Mr Sohail said: "It is true that I am connected with the GJF. I work as a volunteer helping with things such as fund-raising and recruitment for organisations involved in jihad. I want to make it clear that our organisation has never targeted people in Britain. We are involved only with struggles abroad." Asked about his Railtrack e-mail address, he said: "It is only like someone else making a personal phone call from their office." Railtrack have promised an investigation into the allegations (London Metro, 25.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 6/7]

 

Education

Mounted police visit school

Glasgow’s first Muslim school recently had a visit from the mounted branch of Strathclyde Police. Iqra Academy opened in August and caters for children aged from three to eleven (See BMMS for June and July 1999). The school provides an Islamic education alongside the Scottish National Curriculum, and already has 50 pupils. Set up as a charitable organisation, the school was established by a group of Muslims as an alternative to standard schools and to provide a focus on Islam. The pupils had recently been working on projects around law and order and on animal welfare, and so it was thought appropriate that the mounted police should visit them (The Local News for Gorbals, Govanhill, Kinning Park & Cardonald, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 7]

 

 

Anger as school bans Christmas celebrations

Christian parents in Luton are said to be very angry at suggestions that a primary school is "cancelling" Christmas. The governors at Beech Hill Community Infant and Primary School have said they want to remove the religious side of Christmas this year because the majority of pupils will be celebrating Ramadan. School governor, Councillor David Taylor, said: "We have looked at the festive part of Christmas and taken out the religious element for obvious reasons because they majority of pupils at Beech Hill are Muslims, so they will be looking at Christmas as a season of good will. This is the first year that I am aware of that Ramadan clashes with Christmas. It will be up to the governing body to decide exactly what will be celebrated at the school in relation to Ramadan and Christmas." But parents of the minority of Christian children are angry. One parent said: "Effectively Christmas has been cancelled. I’m sure that if things were the other way around and Ramadan was ignored there would be big screams of racism." The Church of England joined in the row saying that it was the right of Christian children to be able to celebrate the religious side of Christmas. A spokesman from Luton council said: "Around 99 per cent of pupils at Beech Hill are Muslim. The school follows the national syllabus. Parents will be informed about the outcome of the governors’ meeting by letter" (Luton on Sunday, 17.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 7]

 

Politics

Peter Hain interview with Muslim News

Foreign Officer Minister, Peter Hain, gave an interview to the editor of Muslim News Ahmed Versi. Various foreign affairs were discussed, including Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Iran and Kashmir. Asked why the Prime Minister took so long to write to the President of Yemen regarding the treatment of British detainees in Yemen, Mr Hain replied that the Prime Minister had done everything he could on this case. He does not accept the allegations of double standards, saying: "It is wrong and unfair...Our local counsel worked closely with the families. No one has complained about that. I met the family members (of those detained) immediately on the day the verdict was announced. I offered my help and support. We continue to do so." He also said he would continue in the steps of the late Derek Fachett and have meetings with British Muslims. He said: "I intend to continue a close dialogue with the Muslim community. I have many close friends who are Muslims in Britain and internationally who were involved with me in the struggle against racism 25-30 years ago. I was a very committed supporter of Palestinian rights going back to 1970, which was then very unpopular, more unpopular than my stand against apartheid. I want to maintain close relations and honest dialogue. Maybe we have differences in positions and interpretations but let us talk about them and remain friends" (Muslim News, 29.10.99).  [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 7]

 

 

Racism

Ex-soldier in army race case

An ex-soldier has been given the right to sue the Ministry of Defence for racial and religious discrimination over a 10-year career in the Royal Artillery (See BMMS for September 1999). Ex-Lance Bombardier Nasar Khan, 35, won the right to bring his case to a civilian court following an industrial tribunal investigation in which the MOD claimed it was only obliged to hear allegations over the last two years of his employment. Khan joined the British Army in 1988. He claims his sergeant, Ivan Smith, routinely called him a "black bastard" and "Muslim wanker," demoralising him and undermining his authority among colleagues. Khan is bringing his claim under the 1976 Race Relations Act, but he may also become the first person to bring a successful claim of religious discrimination. As the Act only protects Jews and Sikhs, Khan’s lawyers will also be invoking the 1998 Human Rights Act which imposes a duty on Britain to uphold Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This upholds the right of individuals in signatory states to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. The Human Rights Act is not due to come into full effect until October 2000 but to reduce the wave of expected appeals, courts have been asked to make decisions as though its provisions were already in place. The case could blow a hole in the Army’s recent campaign to recruit ethnic minorities, which said it was a force that reflected the diversity of the national population. Although the Army has made itself more minority-friendly by, amongst other things, providing special ration packs, areas for worship, and allowing for the observance of religious holidays, blacks and Asians still only make up 1.1 per cent of the total armed forces. The Ministry of Defence says it is on course to meet a target of 5 per cent by the end of the year 2002 (Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 7/8]

 

Women

Conference on forced marriages

The Muslim Women’s Institute in London organised a conference, to be held on October 3, called ‘Forced Marriages – A Challenge for Muslims’. The conference hoped to examine the social, cultural and religious issues associated with forced marriages. All Muslim women were invited to attend, as the conference was part of the awareness campaign set up by the institute (Bucks Free Press, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8]

 

 

Woman terrorised by family

A young Asian woman told a court in Reading how she was terrorised by her older brother and two others, after she tried to break away from her strict upbringing. Bibi Zinab Khan said she was 14 when she underwent an arranged marriage in Pakistan, and by 19 she had an English boyfriend. Dean Callum (35) and his girlfriend Sarah Doyle (25), along with one of Ms Khan’s brothers Said Khan (21), are accused of trapping her in a house in Aylesbury. All three deny any part in her false imprisonment, making threats to kill and taking her boyfriend’s car without permission. Jonathon Coode, prosecuting, said Ms Khan had a relationship with an Englishman which went contrary to the wishes of her family. He said: "At the age of 20, like some Asian girls, she wanted to break away from the strict Muslim rules. She wanted to live a more western life style." In March this year, Ms Khan fled to Yorkshire with her boyfriend and then went on to Milton Keynes, but Mr Coode said she was tricked into going back home by her family and friends. She again left her family home some time later and went to stay with friends – Mr Callum and Ms Doyle. She left their house within days and was eventually held by them when she went to pick up her belonging’s in her boyfriend’s car. The prosecution claimed Ms Khan was threatened with a carving knife by all three defendants after it emerged that she had become a police informer. Ms Khan said: "Bob (Said Khan) slapped me on the side of the head and shouted at me that I had disrespected him and the family." Later she said: "I didn’t now what they were going to do, where they were going to take me. I just wanted to get out but there was no way I could. Sarah came up to me. She pulled me forward by the hair and started slapping me around the back." The case continues (Bucks Herald, 06.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8]

 

Mayor short-listed for award

A mother who became the first female Muslim mayor has been shortlisted for the inaugural Asian Women of Achievement Awards. Meher Khan, 48, from Barkingside, made political history in 1994 when she became the mayor of Waltham Forest. But her shortlisting for the award is for her current work at the Muslim Women’s Welfare Association in Waltham Forest, as co-ordinator. The mother of three said: "It is very exciting to be acknowledged and it is very nice to be recognised for what I do. We do a lot of work to help Muslim women to deal with domestic violence and drugs as well as helping those living on benefits...It is hard work but ultimately rewarding and it helps to keep you going." The ceremony was to take place on October 21 (Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8]

 

Youth

Youth visit to Palestine

Eleven members of the Batley Muslim Welfare Youth Group have just returned from a two-week youth exchange visit to Palestine. The Palestinian Youth Exchange Project, which was organised by the Indian Muslim Welfare Society, in partnership with Kirklees Community Development Services, began in July when 12 young Palestinians came from Hebron to experience life in England. The return trip by the youths from Batley was made possible thanks to funding from the British Council, Kirklees CDS, International Youth Council Exchange and Young Batley. The 14-day programme included visits to Jerusalem, Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramullah, Nablus, the Gaza Strip and Haifa. Highlights of the stay were visits to the holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Yasin Lorgat, youth co-ordinator at IMWS, said; "One of the most interesting aspects of the programme was the discussion workshops we held with various organisations in which we explored issues of discrimination, culture, politics, sport, oppression and Islamophobia, both in the Middle East and in Europe. The programme was organised around sport and culture. Through this our young people got the chance to experience the social and political issues the people of Palestine are facing on a day to day basis." He added: "Both the young people and the adults are already looking forward to organising other activities with the partner group in Palestine." He also thanked the sponsors and all the volunteers for their valuable time and support (Batley News, 07.10.99, Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8]

 

 

Entertainment for Muslim teenagers

An evening of entertainment was to be held at Swansea University for youngsters throughout South Wales. It aimed to attract youngsters from all backgrounds, and was organised by local Muslim youths with help from Swansea Police’s community affairs department. Constable Caroline Gunn said: "This event is the first of its kind and has been specially tailored to meet the religious and cultural needs of the young people." Timetabled into the event is a performance by Muslim band Shaam. Constable Gunn added: "Lectures tackling issues that are faced by the Muslim young people will follow" (South Wales Evening Post, 16.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8]

 

 

Interfaith

Conference to improve care at hospital

A one-off event was held in Dewsbury to discuss training for hospital staff and caring for Muslim patients. The event was organised by Dewsbury District Hospital chaplain the Revd Chris Swift and his Muslim counterpart, Mufti Faheem Mayet, and more than 50 Muslims and Christian chaplains from around the country attended. Dewsbury District Hospital - where 20 per cent of patients are Muslims - was used as a model of good practice in discussing how best to train staff about caring for Muslim patients. Mr Swift said: "What makes Dewsbury unusual as a hospital is that we only have Muslim and Christian patients, as well as those who don’t practice any faith, and there are no other religious minorities. These circumstances have enabled us to develop relationships between the two faiths and we now work very closely together, even sharing the same office." Chaplains from both faiths work together to train new staff every month to give them an elementary knowledge of Islam. Mr Swift said: "And three times a year we do a training session on cultural awareness which is important so the staff can give the best quality of care to patients." He added: "The visiting chaplains at the conference were very impressed by the staff training we give at Dewsbury so we might consider selling our presentation to other hospitals...Just seeing Mufti Faheem and me comfortable and happy to work together is one of the best ways of showing others how the two faiths can work together. Obviously the two religions are very different but that isn’t an issue here. There isn’t a conflict because our overriding concern is for the care of patients and the support of staff" (Dewsbury Reporter, 15.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 8/9]

 

 

Faith and Society group’s annual conference

Around 100 Christians and Muslims gathered in Birmingham for the Faith and Society dialogue group’s annual conference, entitled "Seeking the Common Good". The Rt Revd John Austin, Bishop of Aston, Birmingham, called on the audience to learn their respective stories in "an inclusive way," and summoned people of faith to jointly overcome "the idolatry of economic concerns" in the modern world. Some of his comments are said to have prompted surprise and disappointment among the Christians, particularly his reference to all faiths being part of God’s plan of salvation. There was also concern at the absence of references to the Bible and Jesus. In contrast, Abdul Jalil Sajid, of the Brighton Islamic Centre, made various references to Qur’anic passages during his talk, as well as using examples from the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Mr Sajid argued that the notion of the Common Good was heavily embedded within the vocabuary of the Qur’an, and the five pillars of faith were an effective device for encouraging Muslims to build concern for others into their daily lives. Both speakers agreed that dialogue did not demand complete compromise, and that different faiths should take care to preserve their distinctive features and beliefs. During the afternoon, participants broke into five focus groups to look at a range of social issues: the media; family, sexuality and gender; religion and public life; education; and law (Christian Herald, 23.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 9]

 

Halal

Stunning debate

Slaughterhouses in West Yorkshire that supply butchers with halal chickens have come under the spotlight following suggestions that the chicken is not really halal. The concern centres on the practice of stunning the animals prior to slaughter. Muslims and Jews are exempt from using stunning when slaughtering but the majority of abattoirs continue to do so, and it has now emerged that the method used to stun the chickens can kill the animals before they are slaughtered, making them unfit for Muslim consumption. One source has said that up to 35 per cent of chickens stunned die from the electric shock they receive and are therefore haram. Slaughterhouses supplying meat to local Muslim communities in West Yorkshire have denied this is the case. One slaughterhouse which recently stopped the practice of stunning told Awaaz that chickens did not die from stunning if it was carried out according to agreed regulations and they had not come across an instance when this had happened. However, in response to growing concern on this issue, they had ceased the practice. Butchers have also come in for criticism for selling stunned chickens to the public, but they say it is a matter of trust and that they buy from what they believe to be halal suppliers. Consumers in Batley are concerned because they no longer know who they can trust, as there is no specific information as to which slaughterhouses are involved in stunning animals. This highlights the need for more formal regulation of the halal food trade so that clear and useful guidance can be given to the public. In its statement issued on the matter, the Darul-Iftaa Wal-Irshad called on the country’s main Muslim organisations to "kindly do a service to the Ummah by finding a permanent and lasting solution to this issue on a national level so that Muslims may be able to purchase halaal [sic] meat without hesitation" (Awaaz, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 9

 

Employment

Telephone firm settles out of court

A young woman who was sacked after being seen on television by her employers taking part in a rally in support of Britons arrested in Yemen, has won an out-of-court settlement from her former employer (See BMMS for February 1999). Shabina Bano, from Birmingham, was barred from entering the Midland Phones’ branch in Dudley where she worked, by a fellow worker when she turned up for work the day after the demonstration. Ms Bano had been employed as a sales assistant by the company and was still on a three-month probationary period at the time. On Saturday 9 January she phoned the assistant manager to inform him she would not be coming to work because she was attending a political demonstration. But when Ms Bano went to work the next morning she was accused of being late and was told that cover had already been arranged. Ms Bano claimed she was ordered not to argue and to "get out of the shop." She later discovered that managers had seen her on a TV news bulletin and heard from colleagues that they had privately resolved to terminate her employment. She also claimed while she worked at the company, staff regularly made racist and bigoted remarks. Ms Bano took her complaint to the Commission for Racial Equality which assisted her in pursuing a claim for racial discrimination. In an out-of-court settlement, Midland Phones agreed to pay Ms Bano £1,300 to draw a line under the dispute. The settlement, reached without admission of liability by Midland Phones, still leaves open the prospect of Ms Bano suing the manager and assistant manager as individuals under the Race Relations Act. After the decision, Ms Bano said: "I am astonished that people in this day and age can be mistreated for their convictions. I was sacked because I exercised my freedom of expression. I have been deeply hurt by this" (Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 9/10]

 

Muslims sidelined in jobs

Ian Stewart, Bradford Council’s chief executive, has held talks with leading Muslims in his series of talks with local groups, and was told that Muslims in Bradford are being sidelined. Director of the Racial Equality Council, Ishtiaq Ahmed, said there were still very few black or Asian middle managers or senior staff on the Council. He said: "Muslims feel undermined, sidelined and marginalised. Muslim politicians in the city write that the Muslim population is becoming increasingly cynical, losing confidence in some of the city’s institutions." Amjad, from the Asian Trade Link, said Muslims’ exam results should be the council’s top priority. He said: "Eighty-five per cent of children in this city are failing to achieve five grades A to C at GCSE. There’s less chance of them getting a job and the likelihood of them standing around on streets and then of offending, is increased." Mohammed Ali, of the Quest for Education and Development, referred to recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, saying: "Forget what has happened in the past but ask why is it that the Pakistani community is 60 per cent poor?" Mr Stewart said he was glad Muslims were keen to work with the council. Funding has traditionally been focused on the social services at the expense of education, which was something he hoped to change (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 28.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 10]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Ashton

Worshippers at the Markazi Jamia Mosque have called for the resignation of their board of trustees over claims that their children’s education is suffering. They have handed in a 500-name petition to council bosses complaining about the board’s methods, saying as many as seven religious teachers have been sacked without reason in just over a decade, and it is this lack of continuity that is affecting their children’s education. But the trustees say they are staying as they have been elected by due process. Suleman Mirza said: "If they want to get rid of us they will have to take us to court." The protesters claim that their main aim is to bring about a more democratically run mosque with a board more accountable to its members. Member Nazakat Ali said: "It’s run like a dictatorship and has been for the years this group have been running it. There is no discussion or debate." They have called for new elections in which the present trustees will be allowed to stand (Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 10]

 

 

Bradford, Horton Park Ave

Work has started on a new £4 million mosque, which is expected to be one of the biggest in the country (See BMMS for October 1998 and January 1999). The massive building will feature four dramatic gold and green domes and four minarets. The building will reach a maximum height of 90ft, and will also include a three-storey community centre. The Suffat Ul Islam project is expected to be finished in two or three years and is funded by voluntary donations from the Muslim community. Committee member Zulficar Ali said: "We are not doing door-to-door collections. It’s all being done by voluntary contributions ... It is very good news for Bradford that we have this prestigious project. It will serve to promote the multi-ethnic community" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 20.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 10]

 

 

Bristol, Apsley St

A Muslim group in Bristol has been given permission to convert a former social club into a religious centre. The Hosseinieh Foundation won planning approval to use the former Parkway Social Club in Eastville which has been empty for several years. Local residents had complained about the scheme, saying they were worried about noise from the centre and traffic problems. But councillors at a Planning Committee decided that the foundation had addressed the residents’ complaints. Councillor Tessa Coombes said: "The foundation told us that about three-quarters of members who will use the centre live within a one-mile radius and therefore most of them will not need to use cars." She added that existing planning approval meant that the premises could be re-opened as a social club which would create more disturbance than a religious centre. One of the conditions of the planning approval is that the centre should be closed by 10pm each night. The foundation said it has its own action plan to keep parking problems to a minimum. This includes using a nearby school playground for parking at night, advising members not to park in Apsley Street or neighbouring Coleridge Street, and ferrying members in a minibus during bad weather. Work to refurbish the building will begin soon (Bristol Evening Post, 08.10.99, Bristol Observer, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 10]

 

 

Burnley, Burns St

Plans for a mosque to be built in Stoneyholme have been given the go-ahead by Burnley councillors despite doubts about its size (See BMMS for September 1999). Revised plans for the purpose built mosque and madrasa were given the green light, after the proposal was reduced by four per cent - about half a metre. Mr Shah Hussain said of the 13.4 metre high building: "It will change the area for the better. It will bring new hope for a generation who have seen nothing but decline." But Mrs Joyce Kennedy said: "I understand the mosque will be the largest in Lancashire, but it’s too high and too large for the site." Although some members of the committee expressed fears over the size of the building, they granted planning permission subject to certain conditions, including that the premises should not be used to emit amplified sounds unless it had written permission from the council (Burnley Express, 12.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 10/11]

 

 

Burton, Princess St

The Burton Muslim Mosque Committee has submitted plans to East Staffordshire Council to extend its place of worship (See BMMS for March and May 1999). The committee wants to build single-storey, two-storey and first-floor extensions to the building, as well as an external staircase. It also wants to build a minaret and a dome. The application was due to be considered by East Staffordshire Borough Council at a planning committee meeting in November (Burton Mail, 05.09.99, Derby Evening Telegraph, 06.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

 

Epsom burials

Councillors from Epsom and Ewell have voted in favour of making provisions for Muslim burials at Epsom Cemetery (See BMMS for September 1999). Councillors who attended the meeting heard how Epsom Cemetery has only had three Muslim burials, despite the borough being home to a large number of ethnic minority groups. The meeting addressed the special provisions the cemetery would need to make in order for the project to work. A few that were highlighted included the positioning of the graves towards Makkah. Councillor George Crawford spoke in favour of the proposals and said: "I am very aware of the ethnic minorities living in Epsom and think it is important to consider making provisions for them in Epsom Cemetery." Members at the meeting decided that the next step was to speak to members of the Muslim community to establish what was necessary in order to put this proposal into operation. Owner of Le Raj Restaurant, Enam Ali, said: "I am very much in favour of this. Muslims are part of the Epsom and Ewell community and our culture should be respected. I have lived in the borough for 21 years and have a lot of memories here and would like to be buried near my family. A close friend of mine died recently and we had to travel to East London for the burial. This was very distressing for the family and could be avoided if the council put this proposal into action" (Banstead Herald, 29.09.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

 

Hainault, London burials

Councillors are to visit the site of a proposed Muslim cemetery before they make a decision over whether to grant planning permission (See BMMS for July 1999). Controversy has raged over the proposed development ever since it was revealed that developers wanted to build a 10,000 grave cemetery at the junction of Forest Road and Elmbridge Road in Hainault. Councillors on the planning sub-committee will visit the site prior to making a decision on the application on November 11 (Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

 

Harrow, Station Rd

Campaigners against plans for a mosque in Harrow have set up a residents’ association to intensify their opposition (See BMMS for September and December 1998 and April 1999). Helen Webster, 26, is organising the protest over the new mosque. She said: "We’ve been to 250 houses and there’s been a lot of opposition to the mosque." The new residents’ association does not yet have a name. The 1000-capacity mosque, which could cost £5 million, has been given planning permission but neighbours fear it will cause traffic congestion (Harrow Observer, 14.10.99 and 21.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

 

Nelson, Clayton St

A scheme to extend Nelson’s biggest mosque was due to be given the go-ahead from councillors. The Ghosia Jamiah Mosque was to use the extra space at the front of the building as a kitchen, wash area and toilets in a single-storey extension, built in stone to match the existing mosque. It will also feature green domes and minaret-shaped buttresses. The main entrance of the mosque will be switched from Clayton Street to Pendle Street (Burnley Citizen, 30.09.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

 

Newham

Plans have been drawn up to build Europe’s biggest mosque on the site of a derelict chemical works. Anjuman-e-Islah al-Musleen, based in Whitechapel, say the giant complex would hold 2,500 worshippers, twice as many as the Regents Park Mosque in central London. Their proposals include separate multi-purpose blocks for men and women as well as study and teaching centres. They also plan to develop adjoining land for office and light industrial uses, with possibly shops or a hotel. The group have held the freehold of the 16-acre site since 1996. They are asking planners for outline permission for a comprehensive and landscaped development they claim will bring up to 1,000 new jobs. They also plan new roads and footpaths around the mosque, views to Channelsea island, a guest house for visiting dignitaries and a nature reserve (Q News, No312, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

Nuneaton burials

Muslim leaders are to meet police and borough councillors in Nuneaton after graves in a Muslim cemetery were attacked. More than 20 headstones at the Muslim section of Oasten Road Cemetery were damaged. Headstones were overturned and some were thrown into hedges alongside rail lines. Abid Coureshy, secretary of the Hyderabad India Muslim Society, said: "I deplore this incident. I am very sad that a thing like this has happened. The culprits should be found. I am working away from Nuneaton at the moment but when I return I will look into this personally and will go to any length to ensure that it does not happen again." A police spokesman said: "Scenes of crimes officers have been to photograph the damage and we will be arranging a meeting with community leaders. It seems only the Muslim area was targeted." Christine Kerr, chief executive of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council which maintains the cemetery, said: "Obviously this has caused considerable distress. We have been in touch with community leaders and hope a meeting can be arranged soon. We intend to see what we can do in the future to reduce the risk of this happening again" (Nuneaton Evening Telegraph, 20.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 11]

 

Oldham, Stansfield St

Plans for a loudspeaker to be used to call Muslims to prayer have been rejected by Oldham Council (See BMMS for August 1999). Planners rejected the request made by the Medina Mosque and Islamic Centre. The speaker, which would be fixed to the chimney of the former Ukranian church, would be too noisy for the people in neighbouring Mitchell Street and beyond. The plan was to use the speakers in two-minute bursts three times a day between noon and 9pm (Oldham Advertiser, 14.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

 

Plaistow, Barking Rd

Plans to expand a mosque in Plaistow have been put on hold until council officers are able to visit the UK Islamic Mission to view their centre. Around 30 neighbours have objected to the plans to add a dome and minaret to the former car salesroom. This would also involve building a rear extension and raising the height of most of the current building. Town hall planners are said to be against the expansion, but are worried about potential conflict between users and residents (City of London Recorder, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

 

 

Portsmouth, Victoria Rd

The Muslim community in Portsmouth is considering starting night vigils at its new mosque to protect it from further damage. In the latest attacks on the mosque, the building was destroyed by fire. Although the police have ruled out a criminal motive, the Grade II listed former bingo hall has been attacked several times since 1998 when the Muslim community took it over. Last month, children were also blamed for starting a fire in a taxi office in the adjoining building. Masud Ahmed, the mosque secretary, said: "This is a religious place and the Muslim community is not happy about the damage they are doing. We are thinking of bringing some people in to stay overnight to look after the place" (Q News, No312, 01.10.99, Asian Times, 26.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

 

 

Preston burials

Muslims may still get a new burial ground on the site of a former athletics track, after councillors put the plans back on the agenda (See BMMS for June and September 1999). Preston Council had previously rejected the plans twice, but now has agreed to allow the Preston Muslim Burial and Welfare Society to carry out tests to see if the former rubbish tip is suitable. The vast majority of Preston councillors - Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat - want to keep the athletics track as a leisure facility and turn it into a baseball ground. Labour, allegedly worried about angering Muslims voters, has reversed the council’s stance but remains divided on the issue. Labour leader councillor Peter Rankin said: "There’s no doubt in my mind that leisure said they want to hold on to that land. But we feel it’s only fair that we allow the Muslim Burial and Welfare Society to carry out a feasibility study but that doesn’t mean that we are going to sell it to them." However, his Labour colleague, Councillor John Brown, said it was wrong to give false hope to the Muslim community if the council does not want to sell the land (Lancashire Evening Post, 15.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

 

 

Slough, Diamond Rd

A row has broken out at a Slough mosque over their refusal to pay council tax on an annex. Trustees of the mosque say the attached flat, used by their imam Muhammad Siddique between prayer sessions, should be exempt because he needs to be there for his charity and religious work. They have refused to pay tax since 1993, and now owe more than £1,800. Mohammed Afzal, one of the trustees of the mosque, said: "If a place is occupied by a person and it is for the charity, he or she should be exempted from 80 per cent of the tax, and 20 per cent should be paid, at the discretion of the council. We are doing a community service, we don’t charge a single penny and religious education is provided for more than 1,000 children and also adults and older children. The Imam lives there, and duties start at first prayer at 5am and the last prayer at some times is midnight. If the law says we should pay, we will pay, but the law says worship places and flats for the support of charity should be exempt 80 per cent, so why should we break the law? We are law-abiding people." However, the council says the sparsely furnished flat is lived in and is therefore liable for the tax. A council spokesman said: "It is deemed to be a residential property. It has been to a valuation tribunal and they agreed it is a residential property because it is continuously occupied. He is living there, and we would just like him to pay his council tax" (Slough & Langley Observer, 01.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

 

 

Wolverhampton burials

Muslims in Wolverhampton have met with council officers to discuss their demands for a seven-day burial service (See BMMS for September 1999). Councillor Milkinder Jaspal said: "We have agreed that there is a need for the service and we would like to look at the long-term objectives of a seven-day service. I feel strongly that it would be a useful facility for the community and not just for the Muslim people." The head of environmental services, Nick Edwards, has been asked to calculate the financial implications of running a seven-day service and to report back to a meeting in January. A spokeswoman for the council said their bereavement services are already under review. She said: "Issues like this will be incorporated in this review although no commitment has been made about what will happen following our discussions. We are gathering information from people with concerns and we will take these into account" (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 11.10.99). [BMMS October 1999 Vol. VII, No. 10, p. 12]

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