British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1999 Vol. VII, No. 11

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Housing scheme to revive wastelands 

Action wanted against religious discrimination 

`Fundamentalists" receive training in Britain

Yusuf Islam interview 

Schools stop girls wearing headscarves 

 

 

Reports

Community

Apology from author not satisfactory 

Man killed by family for affair 

Yemen detainee "overjoyed" to be home 

Islam talk calls for understanding 

Prayer room at Airediale Hospital 

Inquiry may be held on Oxford centre 

Complaints over smell of bacon 

Fatwa issued on playwright 

AMSS conference report 

Prisons director visits lqra Trust 

Anti-fireworks campaign in Bolton 

New name and religion for marriage 

No circumcision, rules judge 

Society re-elect president 

Haj support finalised 

Remembrance Day 

Radio station back on air 

Imam evicted from mosque 

New centre for Nottingham 

Appeal to Muslims on murder 

Al-Safa fund may close 

Jumble sale at Sutton centre 

Mosque team cover up 'unholy' poster 

Confronting Forced Marriages seminar 

 

 

Education

Islam day at school 

New school holds open days 

School denies cancelling Christmas 

Imam provided for college 

Muslim women to benefit from new project 

State funding for Feversharn College 

 

 

Politics

MCB reception for Peter Hain MP 

Straw to attend 'Islamophobia' conference 

 

 

Racism

Wembley attack 

 

 

Women

Women learn computer and English skills 

New help-line for Coventry centre 

 

Interfaith

Interfaith conference at Windsor Castle 

Multi-faith service 

Christian-Muslim debate 

Jewish-Muslim lecture 

Jewish-Muslim discussion 

 

 

Halal

Illegal slaughter vans in Birmingham 

 

 

Health

Muslims against euthanasia plans 

 

 

Employment

Minimum wage campaign to target Muslims 

Community group guilty of discrimination 

Man's hobby becomes career 

Ex-charity boss wins damages 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bearsden Glasgow, Braemar Crescent 

Bradford burials 

Clitheroe, Hoiden St 

Cradley Heath, Plant St 

Isle of Wight, Chapel St 

Keighley burials 

London, Hainault burials 

London, Kingsland Rd 

London, Old Kent Rd 

Manchester, Woodlands Rd 

Plaistow, Barking Rd 

Reading, Alexandra Rd 

Rochdale burials 

Rotherham, Chapel Walk 

Sheffield, Catherine St 

Southampton burials 

St Leonards, East Sussex 

Stoke-on-Trent, Waterloo Rd 

 

 

Features

Housing scheme to revive wastelands

A scheme has been put forward which hopes to regenerate inner city wastelands and make them into thriving neighbourhoods living by a common ethical code (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for March 1999). The scheme has been put together by Saif Ahmed, chief executive of the North London Muslim Housing Association and a member of the Social Exclusion Unit's Policy Action Team on Unpopular Housing. The 'Madina Neighbourhoods' are inspired by the migration of the Prophet Muhammad in 622CE from Makkah to Madinah, where they built an Islamic community in co-operation with Christians and Jews, helped by the warm hospitality received from the townsfolk. Mr Ahmed hopes to recreate this same spirit of co-operation, if not generosity, as the basis of a viable community. He said: "They set up a community based on certain values they all agreed upon and created a small network of people who regenerated the whole area" (The Guardian, 12.11.99). Mr Ahmed's concept has already received the blessing of the Social Exclusion Unit, which is anxious to reverse what it calls a spiral of decline that leads to neighbourhood abandonment," and valuable housing resources then go to waste. A report published by the unit shows that unpopular housing affects the whole country but some regions, namely the North East, North West, Yorkshire -and Humberside, East and West Midlands and parts of London, suffer more than others. The report identifies crime and intimidating behaviour and economic decline as the main reasons neighbourhoods fall from favour. The reports' authors say: "We witnessed ethnic families living in overcrowded and poor conditions beside areas of empty, often better quality housing and were made aware of ethnic concentrations in the least popular estates in areas that are otherwise in high demand." It recommended that local authorities pilot regeneration models involving religious communities: "Faith communities can bring values, commitment, neighbourliness and cultural heritage to the areas which no amount of security and management systems can cope with." Each of the £30 million plus projects would draw on several government pots dedicated to combating social exclusion, such as the New Deal for Communities and the Single Regeneration Budget. Mr Ahmed said: " Once the government has committed itself the projects will attract finance from the private sector and international Muslim charities." Mr Ahmed dismissed fears that the scheme would be encouraging sectarianism, saying that the Islamic ethos was compatible with Britain's core Christian moral values and that the two faith communities would work together: " There is no danger of ghettoisation. The neighbourhoods are based on Islamic principles that are universal and they are open to people of all faiths and all ethnic backgrounds." Mr Ahmed has submitted draft proposals using areas in Salford and Bradford as examples of areas needing regeneration. The proposals envisage renovating or demolishing existing homes and trying to encourage Muslims from other areas to move in (Q News, No313, 01.11.99, The Guardian, 12.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 1]

 

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Action wanted against religious discrimination

Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham has initiated a debate in the House of Lords calling for action to outlaw discrimination on grounds of religion. Lord Ahmed said that it was unfair that sexual and racial discrimination were illegal while religious discrimination had only been outlawed in Northern Ireland. Jews and Sikhs are protected under the Race Relations Act 1976 as they are considered an ethnic group, but other religious groups deserve protection, particularly Muslims given the extent of Islamophobia. He said that he accepted that defining " religion" was difficult, and proposed his own criterion which he said would include all denominations: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, and would exclude cults. He said a religion is "that system of beliefs and activities centred around the worship of God which is derived in whole, or in part, from a book revealed by God to one of his messengers." The Government has recently commissioned research from Derby University to identify if there is a religious discrimination problem. The contributions produced by Lord Ahmed and Baroness Pola Uddin to the debate are printed in full in Q News (Barnsley Star, 29.10.99, Daily Telegraph, 29.10.99, Morning Star, 29.10.99, Barnsley Star, 30.10.99, Q News, No313, 01.11.99, Catholic Herald, 05.11.99).

Writing in The Guardian, Faisal Bodi, deputy editor of Q News, argues for the extension of anti-discrimination laws to cover religious groups. He writes that "the campaign for anti-discrimination legislation is an ecumenical effort involving all of Britain's major faith groups. It is not about protecting one community; it is about protecting everybody against our own worst excesses." He asks why people who have a racial identity should be more deserving of state protection than people of faith: " The main arguments against race discrimination - that it is obscene and failure to guard against it puts whole communities in fear - are equally applicable to religious discrimination. Two years ago the Runnymede Trust published its authoritative report into Islamophobia, concluding that legislation was needed to plug the void that allows acts of discrimination to legitimately take place against Muslims - and by extension people of other faiths." Several remedies have been suggested of what kind of legislation should be put forward, including Lord Ahmed's suggestion of extending Northern Ireland's Fair Employment Act (FEA), which would rule out religious discrimination in employment, and amending the race relations act. However, Mr Bodi points out that neither of these would be sufficient as " the FEA will leave discrimination untouched in social services, and religiously motivated crime and violence." Also, extending the existing race laws is " impracticable and insulting" as " Muslims come in an assortment of languages, colours and cultures," with an increasing proportion of the Muslim community being white. He believes that the way forward is legislation that will inhibit all forms of religious discrimination in public life. He ends by saying: " The liberal objection that laws cannot be expected to decide what constitutes a religion should not be allowed to stand in the way of reform; the FEA has proved otherwise and besides, ethnicity is just as subjective and contested a concept. Not everybody agrees with each dotted "I" and crossed "r" of such definitions but they work, albeit imperfectly. And why should we listen to those who harbour nothing but contempt for religion? After all, we don't let the British National party affect race discourse" (The Guardian, 26.11.99, Muslim News, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 1/2]

 

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"Fundamentalists" receive training in Britain

The Sunday Telegraph (07.11.99) has reported on Muslim fundamentalists who it says are receiving weapons training in Britain so they can join fighting groups headed by Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist. An investigation by the newspaper found that volunteers are being drilled in the use of guns and explosives to prepare them for the military wing of the International Islamic Front (1117), founded by bin Laden last year. Increasingly volunteers have been heading for Chechnya where IIF fighters are involved in battling Russian forces. The number of volunteers leaving Britain to fight in Chechnya is said to be so high that the Russian government has asked Britain for help. A Russian embassy source said: "We are in talks with British security services." Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, head of the political wing of IIF in Britain, insisted that there was no structural link between the two wings of the 1117, but said: "The military wing of the IIF is run by Osama bin Laden. Volunteers from Britain are travelling abroad to join camps run by the IIF and other organisations. Once they are there they receive military training or take part in Jihad. Last week we sent 38 people to Chechnya. Our volunteers are not terrorists. They are not targeting civilians and they do not target people in Britain." The article states that Muslim leaders have never denied the existence of training camps in Britain, but have always insisted that volunteers only receive basic physical exercise and martial arts training. But, Sheikh Abu Hamza, who runs courses from his Finsbury Park mosque in London, said: " We do use weapons which have been decommissioned by the police." However, volunteers are said to have admitted to The Sunday Telegraph that they have been fully drilled in weapons use, often by former British soldiers. One volunteer, Abdul Wahid Majid, is said to have been on ten special training courses in England before spending two months in Pakistani hills with the Mujahideen. He said: "After my basic training with swords and sticks at the mosque, I then went on a number of courses where I was taught how to use real firearms and live ammunition. It is unlimited, the amount of things you can learn. Once in Pakistan I was introduced to a greater range of military hardware including guns like Kalashnikovs and M16s." The Sunday Telegraph also said it learnt that an eight-strong co-ordinating committee meets regularly to consider appeals for help and money. It helps channel funds for Jihad and considers which volunteers should go abroad. Sheikh Bakri, a member of the committee, admitted that it will often receive requests from groups linked to bin Laden. Last month Mohammed Sohail lost his job with Railtrack after The Sunday Telegraph revealed he had been using company computers to recruit volunteers and raise funds for Jihad (See BMMS for October 1999). Mr Sohail admitted to carrying out work for the Global Fund for Jihad, an organisation led by Mohammed AI-Mas'ari, a leading Saudi dissident living in Britain. " I work for two people really," he said. " Mr Massari and Osama bin Laden."

Moscow has demanded a Foreign Office investigation into the activities of London-based extremists whom it claims are inciting terrorism in Russia and Chechnya. It has warned of serious repercussions" for Britain's relationship with Moscow. The diplomatic protest comes after Russian TV crews, investigating links with Islamic activity in the former Soviet Union, were allegedly attacked by Muslim fundamentalists at a meeting where a vote was taken to declare Jihad. The meeting was attended by Abu Hamza, the controversial imam of London's Finsbury Park Mosque. Scotland Yard is investigating the attack in which one man is claimed to have been beaten and kicked and had his camera smashed. Alexander Kramarenko, Russia's charge d'affairs in London, said Muslim leaders in Britain were calling on followers to carry out acts of terrorism such as the bombing of Moscow - a campaign which killed 300 people two months ago and led to the current conflict in Chechnya. According to a Russian television station report, the meeting got out of hand when Abu Hamza openly supported the string of terrorist attacks in Moscow. But he denied inciting the violence saying: "I think the Russians are simply looking for excuses to embarrass the British Government and draw attention away from Chechnya~' (Nottingham Evening Post, 15.11.99, Evening Standard, 16.11.99, Cardiff Western Mail, 16.11.99, The Northern Echo, 16.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 2/3]

 

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Yusuf Islam interview

The Times (12.11.99) carries an interview with Yusuf Islam, examining his life as a pop star, his conversion to Islam and his recent acceptance of his former life, which has apparently led to the softening of his previously hard-line attitude. The article explains how he became a pop icon as Cat Stevens in the late 1960s and 1970s, with gold-selling albums. Mr Islam recalls how contracting tuberculosis in 1968 was his wakeup call that changed his life. He says: "People have times in their lives when they are forced to examine themselves -trauma, illness, accidents. You stop and think 'it could all disappear tomorrow and where would I be?' That was the beginning for me of that process of thought." It was not until his brother gave him a copy of the Qur'an in 1977 that he found his new direction. By the end of the year he had changed his name and given up his career. He says: " What I was really rejecting was the business - agents, record companies, the rat race, competitiveness. I didnít want to stick around in that environment. I was just happy to have the keys to get out." After his conversion he became known for practising a stem and "fundamentalist" Islam, which was apparently intolerant of those who did not share his faith. He completely rejected his previous way of life and his music, and turned his back on his friends and fans. He now says: " As I look back at those songs they are an open book. It was a time of learning and growing. When I first embraced Islam I rejected everything. I wanted to make a clean break with the past. But in reflection there are many things in those songs that remain true today. My music still stands as something gentle and meaningful and significant." The article says that a recent letter from a female fan telling him one of his songs saved her life, also seems to have helped in softening his attitude: "She had been suffering from depression. She said one of the songs had helped her to regain her faith. That's positive." The article goes on to talk about his relationship with the media, and his mistrust of it, his involvement in the Rushdie affair, drinking and gambling, his marriage and family, and the wearing of the veil by his wife and daughters. At the end of November his former record company released Remember Cat Stevens, a 24song collection of his best-known hits. In the New Year, to coincide with the end of Ramadan, he will release his own new record A is for Allah, which is accompanied by a children's book of the same name.

The Express (29.11.99) also has an interview with Yusuf Islam, called "What I Believe..." which coincides with the release of his greatest hits collection. Firstly, he says: "Above all, I believe in God, in Allah. I think it is the central and first belief we are born with, but then we have to find our way to understand who God is." He said that in the 1960s, he did not know who he was and what was expected of him. Again his conversion is talked about. He says about reading the Qur'an: " The story of Joseph was also the story of how God continues to guide a person if he is willing to be guided. Reading those pages, I realised that this book was not written by any human hand, it was from God. I knew then that I was a Muslim already, because Muslim literally means "someone who has surrendered." I realised I could rely on the Qur'an for my guidance and, from there, my total change of life." After his conversion, his life changed drastically and he felt he had to get rid of everything that was associated with his worldly life. But now he does not reject music as strongly as he did then, saying: " I miss the people I used to sing to. It is what I miss most. The people who related to me and perhaps who I'd like to speak to again but not in the form of a Wembley concert, that's not for me. People said to me: " You were talented, why can't you use your talent still?" I believe I am using my talent today, but it doesn't mean I want to keep on writing songs as I used to. Seventeen years after I'd stopped making records, I decided to go back into the studio. The first album was on the life of the last prophet, Mohammad." He added: "I don't feel completely fulfilled, I don't think anyone can. There is a saying that no two people can be satisfied and that means the one who is seeking wealth and the one who is seeing knowledge. I hope that I'm the one seeking knowledge." [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 3]

 

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Schools stop girls wearing headscarves

Muslim News (26.11.99) reports on a school in Luton, Bedfordshire, where Muslim girls were placed in isolation for wearing the hijab in school. Shabana Katisar, 16, who is in Year 11 at Icknield High School, said many girls wanted to wear the hijab but were prevented by the school. She said she wears the hijab to school and removes it when she enters the premises. On the occasions that she has kept the hijab on in school she, and other girls, have been placed in isolation. She said: " It has happened many times. Last year, Sadia, who is a year ahead of me, came into school wearing hijab. She was isolated for two days. Her parents moved her to another school where they are allowed to wear hijab. Another girl who left school last year after completing her education went to see the Head Teacher to complain about his refusal to allow wearing the hijab." Ms Kausar also said that she and a friend were placed in isolation in September when they wore the hijab to school. She added that the school is adopting double standards with this issue: " Sikh boys are allowed to wear a turban even though it is not part of the uniform. This is because they are protected under law but we are not because we are Muslims." Ms Kausar has discussed the issue with her Head Teacher, Keith Ford, but has been told to remove the hijab or face continued isolation. She has also spoken with the Equal Opportunity teacher: " She is sympathetic to us but she told me she cannot do anything as the Head Teacher has the final say." Mr Ford spoke to the Muslim News and acknowledged that two pupils were placed in isolation and said the "head scarf is not part of the uniform." When asked why Sikh boys are allowed to wear the turban when it is not part of the uniform, Mr Ford replied: " we took legal advice and were told that Sikhs are protected by law. I am not going to break the law." Mr Ford tried to justify his position by saying that the two girls " apparently go to meetings at weekends and both times when they wore the hijab in school was on a Monday," suggesting that they were influenced by other Muslims to wear the hijab. Ms Katisar denied she was influenced by others in her desire to wear the hijab: "The reason why I decide to wear the hijab on the Mondays is because I have time to reflect on the issue on the weekend. During the weekdays I am busy with my schoolwork. I made the decision on my own. No one forced me to wear the hijab." She also said that she did not continue to wear the hijab on other days of the week in protest because she knows she still needs to get her education. Mr Ford also commented that he has not been contacted by any of the parents and so he has not contacted the governors about the issue. A spokesman for Luton Local Education Authority (LEA) refused to comment, but acknowledged that " a pupil involved in this particular incident has contacted the LEA for advice." The DFEE was surprised to hear that the Head Teacher of the school had not seen the DFEE's guidelines on school uniform, which says that schools should be " sensitive to parents' views and should have regard to cultural and religious requirements." They also said they " expect schools to be able to make suitable alternative arrangements for pupils who, for religious reasons, are required to dress differently or modestly," which is written in the DFEE guidelines sent to all schools.

Muslim News also reports on a similar incident at a school in Portsmouth. The City of Portsmouth Girls School has a 4C general ruling" that prohibits girls from wearing the headscarf at school. Head Teacher, Judith Kilpatrick, insisted this was a general rule in place for " safety reasons." She said there seemed to be no problem with this and that she had "never received a complaint from a parent." Iqbal Sacranie, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned the actions of the two schools. He said: "The reasons are totally unacceptable because the hijab is worn in schools across the country. However, if there was legislation against religious discrimination, these girls would have a legal remedy and could take e schools to court." [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 3/4]

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Reports

Community

Apology from author not satisfactory

The Muslim Council of Britain has said that the apology from Alisdair Gray for his foreword to books of the Old Testament has only partially remedied the offence he has caused (See BMMS for October 1999). Secretary general of the MCB, Iqbal Sacranie, said: " We welcome the apology and the change of text by substituting the foul and demeaning language. However, sadly the text as far as the UK edition is concerned remains the same. It is not yet altered and we have not received any firm commitment. It is a matter of principle and therefore if they've accepted to amend the American edition in principle they have accepted our genuine concerns." Gray angered Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups with his foreword to the books of Jonah and Micah, in which he describes Abraham and Isaac as " polygamous nomads who get cattle or revenge by prostituting their wives or cheating foreigners or relatives." Gray has now agreed in the next edition to substitute the word " prostituting" with " telling a lie about." The publishers said it was too late to change the first edition. Gray said: "These changes should remove all grounds of offence to Bible lovers who may see my preface promotes the books of Jonah and Micah as lessons in mercy, social justice and peace." However, Sacranie said the apology did not go far enough, saying: " It is not totally satisfactory. Any form of denigration is unacceptable. The messengers of God are infallible; their purity is sacrosanct (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 4]

Man killed by family for affair

Luton Crown Court has heard how a man was killed by members of his own family after they found out he was having an extra-marital affair with his niece. Amjad Farooq, 38, was kidnapped by relatives, driven to a field, and hacked to death with a heavy, sharp weapon such as an axe. Injuries to his throat were so severe that it was suggested the family tried to take his head off. He had been accused of having an affair with Nyla Hussain, 23, who is accused of the murder along with nine members of her family from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Luton. The killing, on August 14, was carried out as a " punishment for bringing disgrace to the family," the jury was told. Mr Farooq's body mutilated body was discovered in a field in Silsoe, near Bedford. The court heard that Ms Hussain's affair with Mr Farooq began about five years ago and continued after she married in 1997. The marriage was arranged with the help of Mr Farooq, who was living with the family, because it gave the couple a cover for their affair. Frances Oldham, QC, for the prosecution, said: "This was anathema to this Muslim family from Pakistan. Their religion and culture forbade any sexual relationship between uncle and niece. The consequences to the couple were serious if any of the Hussain family learnt of their liaison." In April 1998, Ms Hussain fled to Florida with her uncle, but the affair ended shortly afterwards and she returned to Britain. At first, she tried to cover her tracks, but Mr Farooq continued to pester her from abroad and eventually returned to Britain posing as an asylum seeker. Ms Oldhain said Ms Hussain had led her family to Mr Farooq after persuading him to disclose where he was staying. She said: " She set out to recruit members of her family to remove the obstacle, Amjad Farooq, from their lives." Ms Oldham said that two of the defendants had burst into Mr Farooq's bed-sit and taken him by force to the field where he was killed. She said that the murder, which all nine defendants have denied, was a "joint enterprise" between them and they were equally liable (The Times, 09.11.99, Yorkshire Evening Post, 09.11.99). Malik Yacoub who shared the bed-sit with Mr Farooq, told the jury that on the night of the murder he was woken by two men who came into his bedroom and asked for Mr Farooq. He said: " They asked four times. I was scared. I told them he was in his room." He said the men ran to his friend's room next door and he heard someone cry out. He went into the room and saw that one of the men was holding Mr Farooq around the neck. He said: "He was strangling him. He was trying to pull him out of the room." Mr Farooq was then dragged out of the house while Mr Yacoub was held back. He ran out the house after them but said he could not see anything. The body of 38-yearold Mr Farooq was found in a field the next morning. The prosecution claim Mr Farooq was " execute&' by ten members of his own family, mostly from Yorkshire, after he had been involved in the forbidden affair with his niece. The nine people appearing in court charged with his murder - including his niece Nyla Hussain, 23 - have pleaded not guilty. Ms Hussain's uncle, who is also wanted in connection with the murder, is said to have fled to Pakistan. The case continues (Yorkshire Evening Post, 17.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 4/5]

 

 

Yemen detainee "overjoyed" to be home

Ghulam Hussain, one of the three Muslim prisoners released from Yemen following their convictions for terrorist offences, said he was overjoyed at being reunited with his family and still could not believe he was home. Hussain said: "It sometimes seemed like it was going on forever. It's great to be home. At the time of my arrest, I had a few photographs of Hannah [his two-and-a-half year-old daughter], but they were taken away from me and I never got them back." Hussain maintained that he was wrongly arrested and convicted but said he was not tortured, as had been claimed by the other prisoners (See BMMS for January, February, March, April, July, August and September 1999). He said: " The charges were ridiculous but I decided to keep my mouth shut and not cause any problems." Hussain spent six months in jail, followed by four months on bail. Despite his experiences, he says he misses Yemen: "The ordinary people are very nice and very friendly. And it's very hot. I've been freezing since I came home and I've caught a cold already" (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Islam talk calls for understanding

More than 200 people attended a lecture in High Wycombe called 'Muslims into the Millennium' (See BMMS for October 1999). The lecture, held at the Guild Hall in High Wycombe, was organised by the Wycombe Islamic Society (WISE), and attracted people of all faiths. The main speaker was Abdur Raheem Greene, a recent convert to Islam, who spoke about a range of issues including the need for compassion between Islam and other religions (South Bucks Star, 21.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Prayer room at Airedale Hospital

A new prayer room at Airedale Hospital in Steeton was officially opened on October 22 (See BMMS for October 1999). The majority of the funding for the room came from the Muslim community in Keighley, Skipton and Ilkley, who raised £10,000. The room is located near the existing inter-denominational chapel, and will be used by patients and visitors who want to pray during their time in hospital. Airedale NHS Trust's nursing director Susan Franks said: " The needs of the Muslim faith are different to those of the Christian community." Khadim Hussain, from Keighley's Sangat Centre, said the project heralded a new partnership between the hospital and the centre. He said: " I'm proud to be involved with this project and it's a dream come true. Members of the Muslim community have showed great interest through their donations and I'm sure they will make effective use of the service" (Craven &Herald Pioneer, 22.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Inquiry may be held on Oxford centre

A petition signed by 760 residents in Oxford has called for the scrapping of plans to build the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on the Magdalen College site (See BMMS for June, August, September and October 1999). The petition says that the huge structure would dominate views across open fields and damage the local ecosystem. The government has already stepped in to halt any decision on the plans while it decides whether a public inquiry should be held into the scheme. One of the petition organisers, Stuart Sharp, said: " More than 95 per cent of the people we approached expressed strong views against this proposal." He added: " We are fed up with the implication from some city councillors that if you are against the Islamic centre complex, you are somehow prejudiced. The plan includes a 120ft tower and if any other structure of this height were built on this space, there would be an outcry" (Oxford Times, 29.10.99). Complaints were also made by the Garden History Society about the lack of consultation they received, and English Heritage has also expressed concerns, claiming that its original enthusiasm for the plans was based on out of date maps (Oxford Times, 22.10.99, Oxford Mail, 29.10.99, Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 5]

 

 

Complaints over smell of bacon

A community breakfast club has been asked to consider different ways of cooking its bacon after the council received complaints about the smell. Bradford Council received complaints from Muslims who also run a group at the West Bowling Community Centre where the breakfast club cooks. In its letter, the Council's community work team for Bradford South suggested the club could micro-wave its bacon instead of grilling it or use turkey rashers instead. The Muslim group that made the complaint said after the breakfast club used the kitchen for its Tuesday and Friday morning cooking sessions, it left a lingering smell of bacon which cause offence. Users of the breakfast club are now considering the options in consultation with the centre's manager. Nazaket Ali, the youth initiative's project manager, said: "We have said all along that we haven't got a problem with people cooking bacon in the centre. That was made clear in our letter. What we are saying is that one part of the building is used by Muslim workers and that the aroma of cooked bacon lingers into that area. Because the majority of the people come to our group from a Muslim background, the smell is offensive to us. It's not a big issue here but it needs to be looked at and resolved." A Bradford Council spokesman stressed that it had not banned the breakfast club from serving up bacon: "However, we are trying to be sensitive to the needs of other users of the building and are seeking ways of ensuring groups with different cultural and religious needs can share it." He added: " The breakfast club provides an invaluable service to local people and we support the work it does to try to meet the needs of the community and it is not our intention to move it to other premises. We would ask all users of the building to try to be sensitive to each other's needs and cultural differences and to work together to find a solution" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 23.10.99, Daily Sport, 25.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Fatwa issued on playwright

A fatwa has been issued condemning to death the writer of a play which portrays Jesus as a homosexual. The fatwa was issued by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, head of the Sharia Court of the UK and leader of Al-Muhajiroun, against Terrence McNally for his play Corpus Christi. Members of the group noisily protested outside the Pleasance Theatre in London when the play opened, and issued copies of the fatwa. The play has been dogged by controversy since its world premiere last year with members of the cast receiving death threats. There were also protests in New York, where 300 had to be brought in to guard the audience on the opening night. Sheikh Bakri said: "The fatwa is to express the Islamic point of view that those who are insulting to Allah and the Messengers of God, must understand it is a crime." He also criticised Christian churches for not taking stronger action against the play: " The Church of England has neglected the honour of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. It is blasphemy for them not to take action" (The Guardian, 30.10.99). However, despite his insistence that the death threat must stand, Sheikh Bakri said it should only be carried out by an Islamic state. He said: "We would warn individual Muslims not to try to carry it out. This should only happen on their own soil. We do not believe in political assassination, but obviously he would face capital punishment. He will be arrested and there will be capital punishment" (The Scotsman, 30.10.99). Commenting on the threat, Louise Chantal, deputy director of the Pleasance Theatre said: "The point should be made that this group is very small, with less than 1,000 members, but the police are taking it very seriously in terms of ensuring that McNally got notice of it. He doesn't answer things like this at all, but it has been passed on" (The Stage, 04.11.99). She added that the protests so far had been peaceful, but police had been called in (Evening Standard, 29.10.99, The 1ndependent, 30.10.99, The daily Telegraph, 30.10.99, Morning Star, 30.10.99, Cardiff Western Mail, 30.10.99, Asian Times, 02.11.99, Daily Telegraph, 02.11.99, Pink Paper, 05.11.99, Church Times, 05.11.99, Jewish Chronicle, 05.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

AMSS conference report

Q News (No313, 01.11.99) reports on the inaugural conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (UK), in which nearly 200 people from the world of academia and related disciplines met and exchanges ideas on many subjects and issues. The packed weekend event saw scores of researchers give talks on a variety of subjects. Lord Nazir Ahmed gave the keynote speech, and spoke of the problems facing British Muslims in the field of education. Professor Sulayman Nyang from Harvard University, Washington, opened the proceedings with a history of the AMSS in America. The open theme of the event allowed for professionals from all disciplines, from philosophy to law, education to ecology, to give talks. On the second day of the event, a variety of workshops were available for people to attend, which allowed for the opportunity to have a more informal and interactive debate. [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Prisons director visits lqra Trust

The Director General of the Prisons Services. Martin Narey, made a visit to the lqra Trust where he met with senior members of the Trust, including Lord Ahmed. Mr Narey praised the educational and pastoral work done by the Trust within the Prison Services and called for more co-operation and coordination (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 6]

 

 

Anti-fireworks campaign in Bolton

An anti-fireworks campaign organised by the Bolton Evening News has received support from the town's Muslim community. The campaign is aimed at banning fireworks sales to the general public. The paper has been asked to send copies of their petition to organisers of the Central Mosque Forum, which is currently involved with six mosques in the town's central ward, and leaders say they are glad to be able to support the campaign. Hanif Ali, 34, a community worker, said: "These are the kinds of issues we need to address together. Certainly the Muslim community has a lot of problems with fireworks being thrown in the streets and our elders often complain about it. The elderly do not feel safe with fireworks and something must be done about it all." Zebair Moosa 28, who attends the Blackburn Road Mosque, said: "Personally I oppose fireworks. Every November 5 we have to go where youths are gathering to stop them misusing fireworks. What the Evening News is doing is exactly what needs to be done and it's the kind of thing we need to be involved in" (Bolton Evening News, 11.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 6/7]

 

New name and religion for marriage

An engineer from Peterborough has become a Muslim to marry his Muslim flanc6e. David Smith, 28, has become a Shia Muslim and changed his name to Dawood - the Arabic form of David - to marry Shehnaaz Ravji, 25, in both a civil ceremony and religious ceremony. Dawood, who lived in London before the marriage, was brought up as a Methodist by his parents, but decided to convert after meeting Shehnaaz when they both worked in London several years ago. Shenaaz said: "Islam is a culture and a part of life rather than just a religion. We talked about it and decided if we ever had children it would be a lot easier for them." Dawood and Shehnaaz had discussed their beliefs before they married, and Dawood read up on Islam to prepare for his conversion. He also met with the local imam to discuss his belief in God and prayer. He was originally introduced to Islam by Shenaaz, but says he is now committed to the religion. He said: " Muslims are prepared to be truthful about themselves and stand up for what they believe W' (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 15.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

No circumcision, rules judge

A Muslim father has lost his fight to have his five-year old son circumcised against the wishes of the mother (See BMMS for May 1999). An Appeal Court, in the first case of its kind to reach the courts, ruled that the non-practising Christian mother was entitled to prevent the operation. The 29-year old woman met the father in 1992 while on holiday in Turkey and later returned to marry him. She gave birth to the boy, referred to as J, in 1994. The parents separated after they moved to England, and the non-practising Muslim father claimed that it was his son's birthright to be circumcised in accordance with Muslim practices. Lindsey Kushner, QC for the father, said that the child was born a Muslim and so the father had a duty to ensure that he was circumcised. She also said that the mother gave assurances to the father that any male child would be circumcised. However, the court was also told that the child would not be brought up in a Muslim environment and so it was not in his interests to be circumcised against the wishes of his primary carer - his mother. In issuing their ruling, the court said that a child's perception of his religion depended on his or her involvement with worship and teaching within the family. Lord Justice Thorpe said it was not in the best interests of the child to be circumcised, which carries a risk of pain and psychological damage which he would find hard to understand. He added that if circumcised, the operation would not be a celebration of his faith but would be accompanied by "stress." Lord Justice Schiemann added that the boy did not perceive himself as a Muslim and nor did those around him. In reaching its decision, the court upheld a High Court Family Division ruling in April this year by Mr Justice Wall, who also ruled that the 27-year old father's wishes for circumcision should not be carried out (South Wales Echo, 25.11.99, Teletext Services, 25.11.99, Aberdeen Press & Journal, 26.11.99, Walsall Express & Star, 26.11.99, The Guardian, 26.11.99, The Times, 26.11.99, Morning Star, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Society re-elect president

Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society have chosen their current president, Abdul Majid Khokhar to continue in the post for the next two years (See BMMS for October 1999). An election for the post was to be held on December 5, but Mr Khokhar's name was the only one to be put forward when the nominations closed, meaning he will automatically continue to be president. Mr Khokhar, 70, who was the borough's first Asian Muslim councillor, is the first member of the society to serve for two terms of office. He said: " I am delighted at the confidence which has been shown in me, and I will continue to work hard for the Society" (Barking & Dagenham Post, 10. 11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Hajj support finalised

Negotiations for a British consulate to be set up in Saudi Arabia to help British Hujaj [pilgrims] with any problems they face, seem to have been finalised (See BMMS for October 1999). A Muslim delegation from Britain met with the Minister of Haj, Iyad Madani, as well as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Saudi Arabia to finalise arrangements for the establishment of a 'Muslim Desk' or 'Office'. The delegation was comprised of Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Ahmed Yar Choudary, a member of the Association of British Hujaj (ABH), and secretary of the ABH, Khalid Pervez. The meetings were also attended by the British Consular General, Innes Ray, and Deputy Ambassador, Simon McDonald. Commenting on the discussions, Sacranie expressed " deep appreciation for the excellent and improved facilities being offered to the Hujaj," and described the meetings as " very positive and constructive. The Ministers gave their fullest support and assured us of providing facilities which will lessen the burden on the British Hujaj." He also expressed the hope that some of the planned facilities will be in place in time for the next Haj, but discussions were ongoing and there was still some work to be done at the British end (Muslim News, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 7]

 

 

Remembrance Day

Three ex-servicemen became the first Asians to take part in the Remembrance Day Parade in Keighley. Bradford Lord Mayor Councillor Harry Mason, invited Commonwealth members who fought in the war to join the commemorative parades in the Bradford district. Abdul Rehman, 81, served as a rifleman in Burma with the 8/6` of 7` Rajputna Rifles; Noor Dad, 79, served as a sergeant in the signals; and Fazal Ellahi also served in Burma, as a lance corporal. Mr Rehman said: " We want to stress that the main reason we are doing this is to remember our Commonwealth companions who fought in the war. We want to say a prayer for the British and Asian Muslims who died in the war because there hasn't been much recognition for their effort. A lot of Muslims gave their lives during the war so we want to do our bit to remember them. I know that we have all lost friends in the British services and it didn't matter what religion they were or where they came from - we want to remember them." Parade organiser, Brian Smith, said: "It is the first time I have known Asian veterans to take part in the parade and it is something which is great to see" (Keighley News, 10.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 7/8]

Radio station back on air

A popular radio station has been given a temporary licence again to broadcast during the month of Ramadan. Apna Radio, based in Tooting, London, had thousands of listeners when it went on air for one month in December 1998. The station will broadcast in several languages, such as Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Arabic and English, and will feature programmes on community affairs, music and comedy, as well as having interviews with local and national personalities. Apna Radio will be on air between December 8 and January 8 (Wimbledon Guardian, 11.11.99, Wandsworth Borough News, 12.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 8]

 

 

Imam evicted from mosque

An imam has been evicted from his quarters at a mosque in Walsall after he allowed a woman to visit the premises. Walsall County Court heard how the president of the Shah Jalal Jami Masjid and Madrasa, Hajee Abdul Monir, discovered a young woman alone in a room with Imam Moulana Abdul Aziz. Mr Monir said that women were not allowed at the property in Mount Street. He said the management committee decided to dismiss Mr Aziz for gross misconduct, but the imam refused to move out of the accommodation provided by the mosque. In his statement, Mr Monir said he found the imam with the woman while looking for a room to hold a youth meeting. He said: " The room was unlocked, upon entry a young woman was found to be present in his accommodation to whom he was not married, his wife being abroad. Under the rules of the mosque no woman should have been present there. In our culture and religion it was extremely serious that our imam and a woman to whom he was not married should have been in a room together." But Thomas Williams, counsel for Mr Aziz, said that Mr Aziz was saying "prayers with the woman" and nothing "improper' had happened. However, deputy district judge, Trevor Lee, found in favour of the president and ordered Mr Aziz to leave to quarters by December 10 unless an appeal was lodged. Lulu Miah, of the Bangladeshi Helpline Council, said after the hearing: " This whole thing has brought shame on the Muslim Bangladeshi community in Walsall. It should not have come to court, the community should have sorted it out' (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 13.11.99, Walsall Express & Star, 13.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 8]

 

 

New centre for Nottingham

The Muslim community in Beeston, Nottingham, is hoping to convert a disused printing works into an Islamic centre. The organisers hope to receive National Lottery funding, although £95,000 has already been paid for the property. Central heating and double glazing have been installed, a carpet has been laid and painting has been done, but more cash is needed to transform the building's neglected factory floor. Joint general secretaries for the project, Kaber Ahmed and Ghulam Maya Din, said the centre would be called the Beeston Muslim Centre and would be used as a social and education centre. The centre will provide get-togethers for woman, children and the elderly, as well as providing information and education for them. Mr Ahmed said: "Not everyone can afford computers, so children could come here to do their homework for a couple of hours in the evening." An application for planning consent has been submitted to Broxtowe Borough Council (Nottingham Evening Post, 13.11.99, Nottingham Recorder, 18.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 8]

 

 

Appeal to Muslims on murder

Walsall's coroner, Aiden Cotter, has made an appeal to the Muslim community in Walsall to come forward with any information they may have regarding the murder of a local man. Ali Nawaz Khan, 39, was shot in the face and back of the head while sitting in his car. Police had complained of a" wall of silence" from the community in their investigations into the shooting as no witnesses initially came forward even though there were a number of people in the street when the shooting took place. Mr Cotter asked people to come forward so that Mr Khan's body can be buried as soon as possible. He said: "If they are refusing to co-operate with the police they are preventing Mr Khan's body from being released. I know how important Muslims consider it to be that burial takes place as soon as possible" (Walsall Observer, 19.11.99). Since then, police have been visiting local mosques in the hope that more people will be willing to speak to them. Ten days after the shooting, Detective Inspector Nigel Rock addressed 250 worshippers at the Birchills Mosque in Birchills Street - just a couple of hundred yards from the murder scene. A leading Muslim community worker, who declined to be named, said: " We want to help the police. There is no wall of silence. They are being given information. They took an important step by bringing in the four Asian officers. The community is fully co-operating. We have also helped with translators to help produce Mr Rock's appeal to the community in Urdu so that it can be distributed in leaflet form to the community" (Walsall Express & Star, 20.11.99, 16.11.99 and 19.11.99, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 16.11.99, Burntwood Mercury, 18.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 8]

 

 

Al-Safa fund may close

One of the UK's first Muslim funds could close as it has attracted so few investors. The AI Safa fund, launched in March 1999, invests only in FTSE 350 companies whose activities are acceptable under Shari'ah law. The fund's manager, City Financial, is disappointed with investor response, and may wind it up, returning the proceeds to investors, although this is only one option. Despite Al-Safa's troubles, the United Bank of Kuwait is expected shortly to launch an Islamic tracker fund which will follow the performance of an index of companies which meet Islamic requirements. FTSE International, which runs the FTSE 100 Index, recently launched several Islamic indices (The Express, 17.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 8/9]

 

 

Jumble sale at Sutton centre

A Muslim community group recently held a jumble sale at the Muslim Community Centre in Carshalton, Sutton. The Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association was raising funds for the upkeep of the centre (Sutton Guardian, 18.11.99).[BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Mosque team cover up 'unholy' poster

Worshippers at a mosque in London's East End were so outraged by a "disgusting" billboard poster outside their mosque, that they covered the offending image with paint. The advertisement for an internet bookshop features a nude couple in bed in a provocative position, ignoring each other and reading books over their partner's shoulders. But members of the Shahjalal Mosque in Treadway Street, Hackney, were horrified when confronted with the giant image on their doorstep. A series of meetings were held and it was decided that the naked couple would be covered up with some paint. It took a few days to cover the poster as initial paint supplies ran out before the whole image was covered. One of the men involved - who would not reveal his name - said: " This was a disgusting picture and so we decided to paint over it in orange as a protest. This kind of unholy and pornographic image was completely unsuitable within yards of a mosque where women and children come to worship. The entire congregation was behind our actions - we had to do something to protect our children from the ad. We couldn't stand by while this filth was in full view right outside the house of God (Eastern Eye, 19.11.99 [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Confronting Forced Marriages seminar

The Graveney Madrassah in South West London held a programme for its students and their families on forced marriage. About 60 people were in attendance - mainly girls aged 13 and over and their mothers. Despite special efforts to attract them, very few fathers were in attendance. Two imams and two female speakers spoke in the programme. There was highlighting of the fact that forced marriages affect only a small proportion of the Muslim community, and affect Hindu and Sikh families as well. But it was also acknowledged that there were problems regarding attitudes towards females in certain sections of the Muslim community that needed to be addressed. The two imams who spoke - Imam Suleman Gani and Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad - outlined Islamic teachings and made it clear that forced marriages were considered null and void. They also commented on the dilemmas of parents who had nourished their children from birth and feared from them, saying there needs to be greater communication between parents and children. Saleha Islam, a social worker and member of a Muslim Women's Institute project on forced marriages, gave three graphic cases of forced marriages, and discussed the dilemmas facing the girls in these situations. Ruqqiyyah Waris Maqsood, teacher and writer on family matters and a convert to Islam, made blunt analyses of the problems she observed in the Asian Muslim community, and criticised artificial segregation of the sexes. She pointed out that if practising Muslim boys and girls could not meet in safe environments like homes and mosques, then where could they meet? She said it is no wonder that each became interested in non-Muslim boys and girls because they were more comfortable with them than with their brothers and sisters in Islam. She also addressed girls who might be inspired by romantic notions of a " love-at-first-sight' marriage, saying I you should think to yourself what is this man going to look like in ten years time when he is at your child's parents' evening?" She also spoke of work she was engaged in, in conjunction with others to finding a practical solution to this problem from within the community. One solution could be in strengthening the position of imams, who would ensure both sides were consenting to the marriage (Muslim News, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

Education

Islam day at school

 

Pupils at Cleaves School, Weybridge, were learning about Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad with help from the pupils at Cranford School, Hanwell. As part of the Islam Day, children were learning about the Muslim faith, studying the Qur'an and writing in Arabic. Their Muslim peers came and talked to the children in Year Five and, according to Sue Croft, head teacher of Cleaves School, they gave a very good presentation (Surrey Herald, 21.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

New school holds open days

A new Muslim boys' grammar school, which opened in September this year, has held two open days on the 2nd and 10th November (See BMMS for September 1999). The KD Grammar School in Didsbury invited parents and children to attend the open days and view the school and its facilities (Bury Times, 29.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9]

 

 

School denies cancelling Christmas

Suggestions that Christmas at a school in Luton has been cancelled due to Ramadan has led to many angry Christian parents complaining to the head teacher (See BMMS for October 1999). Muslims have since tried to educate parents on why the month of Ramadan in important to them, and a spokesman for Beech Hill Community School has said that the allegations were unfounded, and care was being taken "to make sure all children understand the importance and distinct messages of both Christmas and Ramadan." Many parents wrote angry letters to their local paper, which prompted a reply by the head teacher of Beech Hill School, Janet Hathaway, who pointed out that the story printed before was inaccurate. She said: "We have not 'banned Christmas'. We will have our Christmas assembly as usual, we will have a tree and the younger children will soon be planning a nativity play. But Christmas this year coincides with Ramadan, which is of great importance to Moslems. We must respect this and make sure all our children understand the important message behind both events." She added: " For our school, this was a perfectly straightforward issue that simply required common sense to resolve properly. It was irritating and rather disturbing to see it so badly misrepresented in some sections of the media. Misinformation is dangerous because the biggest threat to racial harmony is ignorance" (Luton on Sunday, 31.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 9/10]

 

 

Imam provided for college

Muslim students at Brooklands College, Woking, are to benefit from new links between the college and the mosque in Woking, which is the oldest in the country. The imam will visit the college once a week to lead the Jum'a prayers and offer Muslim students pastoral care (Walton & Weybridge Guardian, 11.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Muslim women to benefit from new project

Muslim women in Birmingham are being offered new opportunities to further their education following a cash boost from the government. The University of Birmingham has been awarded £ 154,000 by the Higher Education Funding Project for England to develop the educational project. The money will finance the scheme for the next three years following a successful pilot scheme in the south and east of the city last year. A university spokesman said: " Research has shown that there is a considerable need to provide local, community-based higher education programmes for Bangladeshi and Pakistani women who, for a variety of reasons, are unable or unwilling to travel to a university or college." The project also involves the University of Central England, South Birmingham College and City College, Birmingham, and has already offered a small number of courses on a trial basis at four community-based centres in the city. The spokesman added: "Funds will be used to include more Moslem women in learning, to offer progression routes to those already studying, and to extend the use of Information Technology facilities." A summer school is planned next year to raise awareness in the local communities (Black Country Evening Mail, 19.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

State funding for Feversham College

An independent girls' school in Bradford is hoping to become state-funded by next year. To assist the school in reaching voluntary-aided status, Bradford education authority is proposing to grant Feversharn College £50,000. The one year grant which will assist the school will be made to the governing body if agreed by councillors at a meeting in November (Yorkshire Post, 24.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Politics

MCB reception for Peter Hain MP

The Muslim Council of Britain hosted a reception for the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Peter Hain, in London on November 4. The event was attended by some of the most distinguished Muslim politicians, businessmen, industrialists, lawyers, writers, envoys of Muslim countries, sportsmen, and religious and community leaders in the country. Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the MC13, called upon the Minister to stop the 'Islamophobia' being perpetuated by the West. He said that the theory of the clash of Western civilisation with Islamic civilisation should not " cloud the objectivity of relationship between Britain, Europe, America and the Muslim world," and that Britain therefore needs to play a leading role in ensuring that this does not happen. He said that the British Government was well placed to play a leading role in bridging the strained relations between the Muslim world and the West. In his response, Mr Hain said that Britain should celebrate its religious and cultural diversity, "because diversity is strength," and that this would provide " an image to reflect onto the wider world which is so divided and so troubled." He said he was strongly committed to fighting discrimination, as he did when he was living in South Africa. Mr Sacranie also raised issues about Chechnya, Iraq, Jerusalem and Palestine, and Jammu and Kashmir, to which Mr Hain tried to respond (Muslim News, 26.11.99, Asian Age, 19.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Straw to attend 'Islamophobia' conference

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, was to be one of the guest speakers at an 'Islamophobia' conference in East Lancashire. The conference was aiming to discuss action plans to combat 'Islamophobia' in employment and service situations, and delegates were to be given a chance to hear the issues and concerns affecting British Muslims. A spokesman from the Blackburn with Darwen Racial Equality Council, which organised the event, said: "We are targeting the North West mainly but we are expecting delegates from further afield - the wider the audience, the better. we are delighted that Mr Straw is attending." A number of workshops were also to be held during the day (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 25.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Racism

Wembley attack

Police in Wembley are hunting a gang of Sikhs who attacked a Muslim man, leaving him with a fractured neck. The 29year old man from Southall was attacked as he came out of a banqueting suite in the night of September 26. Five Sikhs wearing turbans and traditional costume, repeatedly punched and kicked the victim in what is said to be an unprovoked attack. Police believe the attackers may have been guests at a wedding reception at the banqueting suite. Detective Sergeant Heather Carpenter, of the police's Brent Community Safety Unit, said she did not suspect the incident was related to gang violence that has affected other boroughs of west London. She said: " It would appear that this was a random attack. In other areas we know there have been difficulties between these two groups, but not in Brent (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 10]

 

 

Women

Women learn computer and English skills

The Gravesend and Dartford Muslim Women's Group has successfully arranged a series of computer and English skills classes for women which are being provided by Bryan Lett of the Adult Education Service. The courses run for up to 60 hours, using laptop computers, organised into two-hourly sessions once or twice a week, depending on the needs of the people involved. The courses are ideal for mothers who would like to learn how to use a computer to improve job prospects or help their children with homework, and they improve their English skills at the same time (Gravesend Messenger, 27.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

New help-line for Coventry centre

A new telephone help-line recently launched in Coventry is targeting women forced into abusive marriages. The Muslim Advice and Support Service (MASS) has set up a domestic violence help-line and is also hoping to open a safe-house for Muslim women. According to the charity, an unknown number of Muslim women are victims of domestic violence which can lead to homeless ness, self-mutilation or suicide. The charity has been running for seven years, and has been operating from the living room of the charity's founder Kulsum Butt, helped by her two sisters. Through public donations and fund-raising events the charity has managed to set up a permanent base from which to run the help-line, as well as being able to take on and train three new volunteers. Ms Butt said: "Abuse is a major problem within the Asian community. Unfortunately the change in attitudes is very slow, meanwhile women and young girls are falling victims to domestic violence. Very young girls are increasingly finding themselves in terrible situations, leading some to leave their homes and live in poverty." MASS hopes to set up a youth club to support young women as soon as funds are available. The club will also teach girls how to be self-sufficient and help them communicate how they feel to their families. Counselling is also offered to clients' families and parents around the issue of domestic violence and forced marriages. Ms Butt added: "MASS is an independent organisation, free from any influence or dependence from any Mosque or other establishment. We really want to break the taboo and fears around domestic violence, and the silence in which many Muslim women are entrapped. This is because they fear they will be banished from the community." The Muslim Women's Helpline was officially opened to the public on 9 November. They can be contacted on 0800 052 8714 for advice and donations (Asian Times, 02.11.99 and 09.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Interfaith

Interfaith conference at Windsor Castle

An interfaith conference hosted by Imam Dr Abdul Jalil Saffid of the Brighton and Hove Contact Group, and held at Windsor Castle, drew a royal audience. Amongst the guests were Prince Philip and Prince Hassan bin Talal from Jordan. The theme of the conference was 'The role of religion in civil society'. Imam Sajid gave a speech on " seeking the common good," saying he was pleased that there was a growing acceptance of the multi-religious nature of British society and the rich heritage of many different faiths. But he added: "This needs to be more widely accepted and celebrated so that a permanent peace with a just and an ethnically balanced social order is established" (Brighton Evening Argus, 03.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Multi-faith service

A unique gathering of Muslims and Christians took place in the Al-Khizra mosque in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, when members from both communities were invited to take part in a joint prayer service. Carefully chosen Qur'anic verses were followed by Christian prayers and passages from the Bible. Twelve Christians and 18 Muslims attended the multi-faith service, which was said to have been " marked by a spirit of mutual respect, peace and goodwill" (Middleton & North Manchester Guardian, 11.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Christian-Muslim debate

About 1,000 people attended a debate in London between leader of Al-Muhajiroun Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed and Christian speaker Jay Smith. The title of the debate was "The Future for Britain: Islamic Khilafah or Christianity?" There was some heckling of Smith as the meeting ended, but Muslim officials rebuked those responsible and generally the debate was said to be conducted responsibly, with mutual respect between the two participants. Smith explained the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God, which, in contrast to the Khilafah proposed by Sheikh Mohammed, was not characterised by force or imposed on the unwilling. He insisted that state power corrupts the Church, and condemned religious oppression of any kind, including the Crusades - to the surprise of many Muslims. Smith's rejection of the State-Church link undermined Sheikh Mohammed's main criticism that Christianity was always oppressive in power (Christian Herald, 27.11.99, Church of England Newspaper, 12.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Jewish-Muslim lecture

Dr Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College, London, and co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum, was to speak on Jewish theology and Inter-faith understanding at the Annual Sacks Lecture at Essex University. Entitled " The Concept of God in Islam", the lecture was organised by the Centre for the Study of Theology. The speech marks the first time a Muslim speaker has been invited to give the long-running Sacks Lecture (Essex County Standard, 12.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Jewish-Muslim discussion

The Leo Beck College in Finchley, London, presented a discussion entitled "A Shared Experience: Islamophobia -Anti-Semitism." The evening's debate was chaired by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, and was held at the School of African & Oriental Studies on November 17 (Hendon & Finchley Times, 18.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 11]

 

 

Halal

Illegal slaughter vans in Birmingham

Illegal slaughter vans have been appearing on the streets of Birmingham to cash in on a trade in live chickens. The city council had recently condemned the buying of live chickens for home slaughters, and said that Muslims found slaughtering animals at home could face a £5,000 and three months in jail. Now some rogue poultry farmers are selling chickens from the back of vans, after killing the animal in front of customers. Graham Taylor, Birmingham City Council's animal welfare officer, said: " We want these vans off our streets. Live chickens are having their throats cut in the back of the vehicles by the sellers - and sometimes the customer. We have received a number of sightings but we have yet to trace the sellers - who could be Midland poultry fanners. These sales are totally illegal as it is an offence to kill the birds anywhere except a halal registered slaughterhouse unless they have been stunned first. But the majority of Muslims will not stun as it goes against Koran teachings which say the bird must bleed to death. We believe this trade is cruel and unnecessary as there are plenty of registered halal meat outlets in the city." However, Hazrat Miya, president of the Saddam Hussein Mosque in Aston, is quoted as saying: "Chickens have been killed by Muslims in the halal method for thousands of years. We do not believe it is the right for the council to threaten us with jail for simply following our beliefs. It is religious persecution" (Sunday Mercury, 21.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 12]

 

 

Health

Muslims against euthanasia plans

Muslims doctors have warned the government against trying to introduce euthanasia plans " through the back door," saying they risk driving a wedge between Labour and its traditional supporters in the community. The Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association has told the government that it will resist steps to incorporate British Medical Association guidelines on new legislation which will allow doctors to withhold assisted fluid and food from patients. Dr Jafar Qureshi, chairman of the MDDA, wrote in a letter to the Lord Chancellor: "The withdrawal of assisted food and fluid with the aim of bringing about a patient's death is deliberate killing (something which British Muslims will not abide) and it is nonsense to try to camouflage your proposals by a play on words." The letter follows the publication of a government White Paper entitled "Making Decisions," which according to Dr Qureshi, appears to sanction the policy despite repeated assurances to the contrary by the government. Dr Qureshi suspects that the documents' reference to living wills being already binding in Common Law is an underhand way of legalising euthanasia. The BMA guidelines, issued last June, effectively dispense with the need for court orders before nutrition and hydration by tube are withdrawn from patients described as in a persistent vegetative state. But more controversially, the BMA wants doctors to be allowed, without fear of prosecution, to authorise withdrawal in cases involving stroke victims and the confused elderly, even when the patient is not terminally ill. Dr Qureshi said: "Muslim doctors will not be led by the present BMA. Moreover, we will be doing everything in our power to ensure the Muslim community in Britain are made fully aware of the situation and of developments in this field." He added: "We have no business in hastening death but we have every interest in maintaining the quality and dignity of life while it ends" (Q News, No3 13, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 12]

 

 

Employment

Minimum wage campaign to target Muslims

In trying to raise awareness of the National Minimum Wage (NMW), the government is beginning a campaign to target members of the country's visible minorities. The campaign, which will cost £350,000, wants to make sure that as many Muslims as possible are aware, informed and benefit from the NMW. The campaign was to take place throughout November, targeting communities in known low-wage areas: West Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, East Midlands, West Midlands, Scotland, Wales and London. According to Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the campaign is important because the NMW is a crucial issue for many people. He said: " We are not saying certain groups, like ethnic minority employers, are poor employers or that people from these groups are invariably poorly paid. This is about raising awareness. We have evidence from the previous national campaign in the spring that we did not raise awareness as highly within the visible minorities as we did in the population as a whole. The campaign attempts to address this problem." Muslim leaders have warmly welcomed the initiative and have called for the community to join hands with the Department of Trade and Industry. Dr Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Imams and Mosques, said: "It is a very important step which is of great benefit to our community and we must do everything possible to help. I consider it a duty for Imams and religious leaders to join in the campaign to increase awareness about the NMW among their congregation." Businessman Imran Khand from Glasgow, said the move was in accordance with Islamic teachings and Muslims should welcome it because work and payment for work are important issues in religion. He said: "It is about being fair, honest and compassionate. The NMW intends to protect the most vulnerable members of society from being abused and need to ensure that it is properly enforced." The government have also provided a confidential complaint number - 0845 600 678 - and anyone calling it can receive guidance on the NMW in different languages including Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati and Hindi (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 12]

 

 

Community group guilty of discrimination

A publicly-funded Muslim community centre in Watford has been found guilty of sexual discrimination. Rizwana Hussain, a disability and care officer at the Watford Muslim Community Project, was sacked in May 1998. She said she was sexually discriminated against because she was not as submissive as her employers wanted her to be, and an industrial tribunal has upheld her claim. The tribunal concluded that Ms Hussain was discriminated against because she did not fit into her bosses "preconceived stereotype of how a woman should act and behave." Its conclusion stated: " She was expected to be submissive to identified males who had cause to come to the project and to agree with them however unreasonable their point of view might be." Ms Hussain was asked by her employers to wear traditional Asian dress, especially when the elders were meeting. She was also instructed to make tea for the elders. It was suggested to her that she should be nice to certain members of the committee, one of whom she found rude and intimidating. Speaking after the tribunal, Ms Hussain said: " I was satisfied with the tribunal findings but my time at the project was eight months I would rather forget. I was treating appallingly because I did not fit in with what their preconceived idea of what a Pakistani woman should be like. I just wanted to do my job but they wanted me to keep quiet and do things like make tea. The situation became intolerable and I tried to sort it out internally. I had three meetings with the chairman, Councillor Rashid Choudhrey, but I felt I was getting nowhere, so I went to Watford Council with my complaint." Within a week of taking her complaint to council officers, Ms Hussain was sacked for alleged misdemeanours (Watford Observer, 05.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 12/13]

 

 

Man's hobby becomes career

A man in Sheffield has become successful in turning his hobby of studying and creating Islamic art into a fulltime career. Mahmoud Drury, 33, worked as a taxi driver and removals man while pursuing his love of Islamic art in his spare time. After ten years of studying art and calligraphy, he decided to set up his own business, and has recently achieved that with the help of DHP Enterprise and Sheffield TEC. His firm, Onesign Islamic Applied Arts, does everything from making traditional handmade plaques to training others and creating works of art to customers' specifications. Most of Onesign's customers are not Muslim but young people interested in ethnic art. Mr Drury is full of praise for the help he got from DHP Enterprise and Sheffield TEC, through its Enterprise Rehearsal Programme: "The programme helped me to create a solid foundation for my business. Self employment is hard work, but it has increased my confidence and given me more independence." Mr Drury sells his art through the Internet, as well as traditional arts fairs and exhibitions. Next year has been designated the "Year of the Artist, and Mr Drury plans to celebrate by running a six week training programme on the spiritual art of writing, which will combine traditional methods with modem technology. He said: "Onesign is really developing now as more arms of the business are introduced and its client base expands through word of mouth. I am looking forward to the "Year of the Artist." I think the future holds exciting opportunities for Onesign and spiritual art (Barnsley Star, 18.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 13]

 

 

Ex-charity boss wins damages

An industrial tribunal in London has found that the former director of Britain's largest Muslim charity was wrongly dismissed, and could be compensated around £60,000. Mahmood Hassan was sacked from his post at Muslim Aid in January 1999 after being accused of gross misconduct. The tribunal will now examine ways of compensating Mr Hassan for damages of £50,000 and legal expenses of £10,000. The sacking of Mr Hassan also led to the resignation of the charity's founder, Yusuf Islam, in protest of the dismissal (Eastern Eye, 19.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 13]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bearsden/Glasgow, Braemar Crescent

Residents in Bearsden on the outskirts of Glasgow are protesting against plans to build a mosque in the area. A local Muslim trust applied to East Dunbartonshire Council for outline planning permission for a two-storey building topped by a dome and minaret that would house a prayer hall, library and teaching rooms. Within hours of the application becoming public knowledge, 39 residents had signed a petition opposing the plans, saying the centre would be incompatible with the neighbourhood and was likely to alter the area's character. One of the petition's organisers, who refused to be named, said: "Everyone in the area in alarmed about the situation. Forget about the religious aspect - I am not aware of much about the Muslim faith. It's the mere fact that it is a development that we object to. If they build a school, there would be the same objections. This is a greenfield site zoned as a recreational space, which is very limited in Milngavie and Bearsden. Ibis use would be totally contrary to anything the council has planned." However, it was the council's community development staff that had helped pinpoint the site, which is said to be the most suited site for the development. One of the trustees behind the application said: " We want to create a place where we can pray for five or ten minutes, five times a day, and where our children can receive religious and moral education. There will be no music or youngsters hanging around ... And the muezzin's call to prayer takes place inside the building." He added: " Leisure or recreational developments on the land would bring in many more cars and a lot of people from out the area, causing a much greater loss of amenity. We have taken considerable care in designing the building to make it look good and cause minimal disturbance. Hopefully, it will be a landmark and will enhance good relations" (Glasgow Herald, 11. 11.99). However, the newly formed Garscube Residents Association said that changes would have to be made to the Local Development Plan to allow the mosque to be built, and this could then have implications for the community in the future. They point out a passage in the Local Development Plan which reads: "It is the policy of the council to protect all established recreational land by restricting developments which would adversely affect these uses." A spokesperson for the GRA said: " This interpretation can only mean that the land in question is for recreational use. It has been so for the past 45 years and we feel that if a change was made here, then it could easily be done anywhere throughout East Dunbartonshire. The whole process is being rushed through without proper discussion, this is wrong." However, a spokesman for East Dunbartonshire Council denied that a change to the Local Plan at Braemar Crescent would set a precedent throughout the region. He also denied any lack of consultation (Milngavie, Bearsden & Glasgow West Courier, 11. 11.99 and 18.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 13/14]

 

 

Bradford burials

Muslims in Bradford were celebrating the news that West Yorkshire coroner Roger Whittaker has agreed to provide a weekend service (See BMMS for July 1999). A meeting with council officials and Mr Whittaker took place the day before the announcement. Ian Stewart, Bradford Council's Chief Executive, said: " There is an agreement in principle to extend the services into the weekend from the police, registrars and the coroner. The Home Office, who regarded the issue as one for local resolution, are content with the proposal." Deputy Council leader Mohammed Ajeeb said he was absolutely delighted: " That is really very good news. I am extremely grateful to all those who were at this meeting and realised it's a much needed service for a large community in Bradford." Earlier, there were also fears that the lack of service over the Christmas and New Year period would cause further delays and distress (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 29.10.99, 19.10.99 and 04.11.99, Awaaz, 0 1. 11.99, Eastern Eye, 05.11.99). Keighley Racial Equality Officer Zafar Ali, who also sits on the board of Airedale NHS Trust, said the decision will improve the situation for grieving families. He explained: "When a Muslim dies every attempt should be made to bury the person straight away. During the week the situation is fine because families are able to get the necessary documents. But at the weekend and Friday evenings, people run into a great deal of difficulty because the coroner's office is closed. There have been a number of meetings with the coroner and we have discussed the possibility of having someone on hand during weekends and bank holidays to issue death certificates. This has been a long running issue which we have been campaigning about for the last ten years. I am delighted that the coroner has looked into this and agreed to assist the Muslim community." A spokesman for the coroner's office said the issue has not yet been resolved and is still subject to discussion (Keighley News, 05.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 14]

 

 

Clitheroe, Hoiden St

Muslims in Clitheroe have vowed to appeal after a scheme for a new mosque was rejected (See BMMS for January, February, March and June 1999). Plans to build a mosque next to the existing Islamic Education Centre caused a storm when they were revealed last year, with residents fearing noise and traffic nuisance. And recommendations that the scheme be given the go-ahead for a two-year trial period were also turned down at a recent council meeting. Councillors were told that Mohammed Arshad wanted to build the mosque as a single storey extension at the side of the centre. It would not have a minaret and a car park would be built at the back for worshippers. However, the councillors were also told that 165 letters and an 850-name petition had been received objecting to the scheme. Clitheroe solicitor Geoff Isherwood, speaking on behalf of the objectors, said the mosque would attract activity " at all times of the night and day. The worry of this matter is making some residents ill. It should go to a public inquiry and be decided by planning inspectors." Councillor Howel Jones claimed officers had not sufficiently taken into account the possible impact on residents living near the proposed development. He said: "The mosque will be in use 24 hours a day. People using the education centre already cause problems and to monitor the site for a further two years would just not be practical." Disappointed Muslims have said they will appeal against the decision (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 05.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 14]

 

 

Cradley Heath, Plant St

Controversial plans to extend a mosque in Cradley Heath have been given the go-ahead by councillors, despite heavy protests against the development from local residents (See BMMS for August and September 1999). The extension to the Plant Street Mosque includes the erection of two minarets, a dome and a new reception area. A petition containing 450 signatures was handed to the council outlining the objections. The residents fear that the plan will attract more traffic to an already narrow street, which could result in a serious accident. They also say that the people living nearby will lose their privacy because the mosque overlooks their homes. The Cradley Heath Mosque and Islamic Society revised their plans for the mosque after an earlier plan submitted by the mosque committee was rejected just a few weeks before. But, Councillor John Southall, who backed the objectors, said: "This committee rejected the plan for this extension in September and nothing has changed. The height of the minarets have been reduced by one metre and there have been minor alterations inside which are frivolous. The original reasons for objection still stand. A serious accident is going to happen in that street." (Dudley Express & Star, 25.11.99). Residents are now considering taking legal action against the plans. Spokesman for the residents, Fred Hadley, warned the council that a legal challenge was imminent. He said: " We are not happy about this at all. The plan that was approved was the same one that was rejected as unsuitable a short time ago. All they did was to knock three feet off the size of the minarets and re-submit it." (Dudley Express & Star, 27.11.99 and 20.11.99, Sandwell Express & Star, 24.11.99, Solihull Evening Mail, 26.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 14]

 

 

Isle of Wight, Chapel St

Plans for a former bedding centre to be converted into a Muslim prayer hall in Newport, Isle of Wight, have been given the go-ahead by the County Hall's planning and countryside committee. The application included the provision for first-floor living accommodation and was approved so long as the applicant adheres to seven conditions. One of them is that an external public address system or sound amplification system is not to be used on the development. The only member to speak out against the plan was Councillor George Wilson, who said: " I think the Island has too many churches as it is" (Isle of Wight County Press, 05.11.99 and 12.11.99, Southampton Daily Echo, 27.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 14/15]

 

 

Keighley burials

Planners in Keighley are being asked to approve a Muslim burial plot on land next to a house in Sandbeds, Keighley. Mohammed Bashir has put in a planning application for the site next to a house which he owns in Bradford Road. He said: " I am a British Citizen and I want to be buried in Britain. I don't want to be sent abroad when I die. I am not that old, but you never know - you can be alive today and dead tomorrow." He said the plot for himself and his family would be in a small area of a seven acre field: "It will go in one corner. It will not disturb anybody and it won't be overlooked. A spokesman for Keighley planners said it was an unusual application and they were consulting the Environment Agency to make sure there would be no danger to the water source in the area (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 24.11.99).  [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

London, Hainault burials

Proposals for a 10,000 grave cemetery were given the go-ahead by council officials despite residents fears about traffic congestion, building works and noise (See BMMS for July and October 1999). Councillors unanimously voted in favour of the scheme. Marion Moth, one of the objectors, said: " There is going to be seven years of absolute turmoil and ultimately what are the benefits going to be for Hainault? There may be flooding and contamination - what value would this development bring to the area?" However, the London Wildlife Trust and town planners gave the scheme their support, prompting councillors to vote in favour. Chris Gannaway, spokesman for the Redbridge group of the London Wildlife Trust, said: " The important thing to realise is that it is not a short term value, but long term that is important. There is no reason why we should lose wildlife as long as it is done sensibly. I have high hopes this will survive well into the next millennium." Councillors also called for the developers to allow horses that currently graze on the land to remain as long as possible. Councillor Dr Faiz Noor said: "There will be minimum disturbance to local residents. We would watch it every step of the way to make sure it is done properly and the final result I am sure will be a pleasure to everybody" (Wanstead & Woodford Guardian, 18.11.99, Barking & Dagenham Recorder, 11. 11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

London, Kingsland Rd

A new mosque in north east London was officially opened on 31 October, and attracted around 3,000 in its opening day. The Suleymaniye Mosque is described as the biggest Turkish community centre in Europe, and Turks from as far afield as Germany, Luxembourg and France came to London to see the completed structure and to listen to a list of dignitaries, led by the former mayor of Istanbul, Tayyib Erdogan. The centre includes classrooms, a funeral parlour and a function hall (Q News, No313, 0 1. 11.99, Muslim News, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

London, Old Kent Rd

The annual fund-raising dinner of the Muslim Association of Nigeria was held on October 30, to raise money for the Association's mosque in Old Kent Road, south-east London. The event raised over £8,000. All the speakers at the gathering spoke reminded people of the importance of spending money in the way of God. The Old Kent Road Mosque and Islamic Centre provides tuition in Arabic and Islamic studies to children and adults. It has 350 students in its register. The Mosque also provides advice and counselling services, welfare projects for the benefit of the Elders group, a children's pre-school playgroup and supplementary education classes (Muslim News, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

Manchester, Woodlands Rd

Manchester Council has approved plans for a car park to be built next to the lbad ur Rahman Mosque in the Cheetham Hill area, following a long campaign by local people. Work is to start immediately on the project, which will have room for around 100 cars. The new car park will be available to be used by the general public on every day of the week except Friday, when many more people attend the mosque for congregational prayers. Councillor Quassim Afzal, said the worshippers at the mosque were very happy with the decision. He said: "This is great news for the area because people are fed up having to negotiate the heavy traffic on Cheetham Hill Road. It will also create a safer environment and help curb the number of accidents" (Manchester Evening News, 12.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

Plaistow, Barking Rd

Newham Councillors have given the go-ahead for a new Islamic centre, despite objections from Town Hall officials (See BMMS for October 1999). Councillors overturned the recommendation by planning officers that the proposed complex in Barking Road should be rejected, on grounds that it would be too big creating severe parking problems. But now the UK Islamic Mission East London are set to redevelop the site for worship, religious education and community use. The building will include a prayer hall to accommodate 175 worshippers, while the first floor will be used as a women's prayer hall. The application was rejected in April because of the impact it would have parking and traffic, and officers were asked to negotiate a reduction in the development's size. Despite some amendments being made, they remained unhappy. The Development Control and Licensing Committee then heard that further amendments and conditions had been drawn up covering opening hours, works to the structure and land and increased stewarding (City of London Recorder, 29.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15]

 

 

Reading, Alexandra Rd

Council bosses in Reading have said that plans to build a mosque in Reading will go ahead despite the long delay in choosing a site (See BMMS for February 1999). Reading Council leader David Sutton assured the Muslim community that a site will be provided for a place of worship. He said: " I want to make a clear statement of commitment. This council has been committed to providing an appropriate location in east Reading. Plans for a mosque for the Muslim community of Reading have been long standing. A promise has been made and it's a promise we will honour." Plans for a new mosque have been in the pipeline for years, but finding a suitable site has been difficult as previous suggestions have faced opposition from residents. C11r Sutton said: "After much consultation the site at the corner of Green Road and Wokingham Road seems most likely to go ahead. It faces Mecca, many members of the Muslim community live nearby and it has ideal transport. The elders at the existing mosque at Alexandra Road and the principal of Reading College are in talks and we should expect an application in the coming months." Yasir Chaudhri, secretary of the mosque, said: " I am waiting on news from the college principal and he should be contacting me soon. The builders have to consult with the college to come up with a design. It will be some time before the planning application goes in" (Reading Chronicle, 05.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 15/16]

 

 

Rochdale burials

Rochdale Council is to operate a pilot scheme for closed circuit security cameras to watch Rochdale Cemetery after a series of attacks on Muslim headstones. The £8,000 move comes after one attack last April in which 55 memorials were pushed over in the Muslim section of the cemetery. Jim Hyndman, the council's Assistant Environment Director, said: "Cemetery security during the hours of darkness is very difficult. Technology is now available, and it will be introduced on the back of a horrendous attack." The scheme will involve the installation of high quality cameras at specific sites. The measures may be extended to other cemeteries if it proves to be successful (Q News, No313, 01.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 16]

 

 

Rotherham, Chapel Walk

A mosque in Rotherham has been criticised for using a new super-powered speaker system to call Muslims to prayer three times a day. Dozens of complaints were received after the mosque turned up its prayer call. Environmental Health noise experts investigated, and want the mosque to turn the volume down. A spokesman said: "We have had quite a lot of complaints about this matter from traders, shoppers and residents. In the past it has not been an issue but new speakers have been installed which have raised the sound volume. We are in contact with the mosque about it and will come to an amicable solution in the near future. It is basically a matter of turning the volume down" (Barnsley Star, 10.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 16]

 

 

Sheffield, Catherine St

Councillors in Sheffield have rejected proposals from a Somali Muslim community to convert a derelict building on Catherine Road, Burngreave, into a religious and cultural centre. The councillors said that the building, in a residential area, had been a magnet for criminals when it was used as a drop-in centre, and wants to avoid those problems again. A letter submitted by the Somali community with the plan said that it proposed converting the two-storey building into a mosque, community and drop-in centre, with no more than 30 people attending at one time, and hours of operation would be sunrise to sunset. However, councillors agreed that granting permission would create problems for residents and so turned the application down. They did, however, speak with representatives from the community and will help them to find alternative premises (Sheffield Star, 19.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 16]

 

 

Southampton burials

Muslims in Southampton are predicting they will have burial problems after hearing that the city's cemetery will be closing for eight out of ten days over the Christmas and New Year period. Mr M Younis, secretary of the Southampton Mosque, said he was unaware of the long closure of facilities this year. He said: "We met with the city council through a consultation group, but we were not told of this issue and we will have to talk to the council to find a way forward. It could be a big problem for us. In our faith, if somebody dies in the morning, we should bury them by nightfall. With the cemetery closed for so many days, it will be a problem for the families of any Muslim who dies over the Christmas period. People will feel very strongly about waiting several days to lay to rest a loved one, and it could be many days as there could be a backlog." But Brian Veal, manager of Southampton's cemetery, said: " There's only one extra day's bank holiday this year, so I don't think there will be a problem. We've had Christmases in the past where there have been no burials. Actually, we often find it's after Christmas that things start to get busy. What could affect us, of course, is if we get a flu epidemic - but no one can foresee that. We're very sympathetic to the fact that most bereaved families want the burial as quickly as possible, but realistically, three out of ten deaths are subject to a coroner's case anyway. Therefore, no burial can take place in these circumstances until that office has made a judgement." Mr Veals also confirmed that no special arrangements were currently being made for Muslim residents when the cemetery is officially closed, although before a bank holiday, new graves are often dug and temporarily covered to speed up burials following the closure of the cemetery (Southampton Daily Echo, 30.10.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 16]

 

 

St Leonards, East Sussex

Plans to demolish a historic Church of England school and build a mosque in its place have caused anger amongst campaigners fighting to save the " Little Bloomsbury" conservation area in St Leonards. Muslims in neighbouring Hastings are seeking permission to knock down the 150-year old building, and replacing it with a mosque, with twin minarets, in an area of Regency and Victorian buildings, created by architect James Burton and his son Decimus. Doris Haughton, of the Burtons' St Leonards Society, said: " We simply cannot allow it to happen. This was a school James Burton built and his wife ran for the children of the workers, creating this marvellous area. A mosque would stick out like a sore thumb. Too many of the Burtons' buildings have gone already because of thoughtless planning decisions and we cannot allow this destruction to continue." The school has been used as a mosque for the past 17 years, but Muslims now feel it is no longer big enough and the accommodation is unsuitable for a place of worship. They want to build a completely new mosque with an accommodation block and community centre (The Daily Telegraph, 23.11.99, Church Times, 26.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 16/17]

 

 

Stoke-on-Trent, Waterloo Rd

The Medina Mosque in Stoke-on-Trent has applied for planning permission to extend and refurbish the existing mosque. The mosque is visited by around 30 people each day, for each of the five prayers. Trustees say parts of the mosque have fallen into disrepair and work is needed to be done on it. One of the trustees, Mohammed Mima, said: " The back of the mosque is in terrible condition and needs to be rebuilt. The building is doing its job, but the extra space will provide better facilities" (Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel, 23.11.99). [BMMS November 1999 Vol. 7, No. 11, p. 17]

 

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