British Muslims Monthly Survey for December 1999 Vol. VI, No. 12
Mosques & Burials
With the holy month of Ramadan beginning on December 9? Many stories appeared in local and national papers examining the significance of the event and looking at practices of Muslims across the country. As the month has come so close to Christmas, there have been a few articles comparing on the excesses of Christmas with the restraints of Ramadan. A good article explaining the month of Ramadan is in the Aberdeen Press & Journal (08.12.99), which speaks to Ali Abu Bakr, secretary of Aberdeen Mosque Committee. He explains: "While the word fast infers we do not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset, that is just one element. It is about reaffirming and reinforcing allegiance to God by heightening the spiritual focus. The way to do this is by discipline in mind and soul and body. Fasting as a Muslim is a classic example of that. Everyone gets the hunger for a snack but when fasting as a Muslim, you do not get that." He did also point out that there are exceptions to those required to observe the fast: "Contrary to what people think, it is not rigid: there is a lot of flexibility. Travellers, the sick and infirm, pregnant women and young children are not compelled to observe the fast." He also explained that timing of the Islamic months follows the lunar cycle, and so the beginning of Ramadan would not be known until the night before: "It falls to a member of the community to sight the moon but it cannot be any Tom, Dick or Mr Hussein: it has to be a character who people trust. However, if it is overcast and cloudy we take advice and follow a nearby country where Muslims have sighted the moon and that will form the reference point for the beginning of Ramadan." Imam of the mosque, Dr Ruhul Amin, added: "Restraint, as at all times, is expected during the time of fasting. It is not only required for the stomach to be empty but Muslims have to be careful about decent behaviour as well. Fasting is one of the most fundamental articles of Islam. It is difficult but this is a Command from the Creator. We have to have respect, honour and love and a Muslim has to obey that command." The significance of fasting is also outlined in the Burton Mail, 09.12.99, Bucks Free Press, 10.12.99, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 11.12.99, The Guernsey Press, 18.12.99, and The Independent, 23.12.99.
Mosques and Islamic societies were particularly busy during this month, with more people attending mosques for the Tarawih night prayer, and talks being held to enlighten Muslims and non-Muslims about Ramadan. The Wycombe Islamic Society held a talk entitled ‘Preparing for the Ramadan’ on 5 December, where a lecture was given followed by a discussion group (Bucks Free Press, 03.12.99). Nazim Ali, chairman at the Jamia mosque in Rosehill Street, Derby, said they were expecting around 900 people each night for prayers (Derby Evening Telegraph, 09.12.99). The Ramadan 2000 programme, organised by Islamic Relief in Leicester, has received £12,000 in donations in under 11 days. The pro gramme is in it’s tenth year, and organisers are hoping to raise a total of £70,000. Food packages and new clothes have already begun being distributed to thousands of needy people in Chechnya, Kosovo, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq and Turkey. Islamic Relief’s East Midlands area fund-raiser, Salim Ingar, said: "For Muslims, Ramadan is the time of year for giving and remembering the unfortunate ones" (Leicester Mercury, 17.12.99). In Nottingham, members of the community increased security at the mosque during Ramadan, as previous years had seen an increase of break-ins during this month. Mohammed Yaseen, manager of the council’s area community development team said the problem was an annual one. He said: "It happens every year and this year we have decided to try to do something about it. There are a number of people in the area whose cars have been broken into during the past couple of Ramadans. The idea of having a guard is that it would help deter people who are loitering around from breaking into cars when people go to pray at the mosque in the evening." Policing in the area is also being stepped up following a series of meetings between the mosque and local police (Nottingham Evening Post, 01.12.99).
Schools across the country also prepared for Ramadan, by taking into consideration the needs of Muslim schoolchildren. At Greenhead Grammar School in Keighley, the timetable totally changes during Ramadan; 65 per cent of pupils at the school are Muslim, and so lunchtime has been cut in half with children going home at 2:30pm instead of 3pm so they can be with their family when the fast ends at sunset. Senior teacher, Marilyn Boyd, said: "Greenhead is a multicultural school and we think it is the right thing to do. We already have a prayer room in school which is open for students. It is very popular with students and their families and we find it brings the community into school" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 06.12.99). Schools were also advised to be sensitive over Christmas celebrations because of the fact that some children would be fasting. Denis Williams, Bradford Council’s assistant director for education, said: "The basic advice is for schools to take the needs of all pupils into consideration when planning events. We’re sure parents wouldn’t want to see any group of children missing out on school celebrations, but holding parties with food and drink could cause difficulties for pupils who are fasting" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 11.12.99). The main hall in Montem Junior School in Slough has been set aside at lunchtimes for Muslim pupils and staff to take part in prayers and listen to readings from the Qur’an. Around 60 per cent of the pupils are Muslim, and around 100 a day take part in the prayers. The sessions are led by Muslim members of staff. The Head Teacher, Charlie McHeachie, said: "I think it’s very important to support all religions" (Slough & Langley Observer, 17.12.99). However, not all schools have been as tolerant, with complaints being filed against a school in Woolaton which is said to have ordered fasting children to leave the school premises at lunchtime and go home. One mother, whose ten-year old attends the school, said: "We believe it is wrong to send schoolchildren home at lunchtimes if they are fasting. They are being made to feel victimised at the age of ten or 11 when they should be proud of their religious beliefs." But deputy head Robert Jay said: "We thought we were being very understanding to Muslim children who chose to fast and have even found a way of allowing them to come to the Christmas party. Children who choose to fast are not allowed into the school at lunchtime as we do not have enough staff to supervise them in a separate room…This school has a 30% intake from various ethnic minorities and we have no wish to offend any section of the population" (Nottingham Evening Post, 15.12.99, Muslim News, 24.12.99).
Ramadan radio stations were also up and running again this year, with 15 stations broadcasting across the country. The temporary licences ran from the beginning of Ramadan to just after Eid, and programmes included inter views, debates, religious education and cooking (Q News, No314, 01.12.99, Bradford Telegraph Argus, 01.12.99, 03.12.99 and 08.12.99, Muslim News, 08.12.99).
With an increasing number of Muslims joining British football teams, Ramadan, and the difficulties of fasting, have also been highlighted through sport. Moroccan Yousef Chippo, assured fans he will be as fit as ever despite fasting for the month. The midfielder said that the shorter winter days will help him maintain his fitness. But he said: "Match days are difficult especially because the games are physically very hard and fast. But if I have to take a drink because I am too thirsty, I will make up a day or two at the end of Ramadan" (Leicester Sports Mercury, 11.12.99). Another Moroccan, Hicham Zerouali, who is playing for Aberdeen, told the press: "I actually feel I play better during Ramadan, because I don’t have any of the bad chemicals that might come from certain foods, in my body" (Muslim News, 24.12.99).
Ramadan news has also reached the Internet. Q News (No314, 01.12.99) gives a guide to some of the best web-sites. Some of those mentioned are "The Islamic Gateway" at: http://www.ummah.net/ramadhan; http://moonsighting.com/home.html; and http://islam.org/ramadan/iftar/iftar.htm.
Finally, some newspapers reported on the Ramadan messages sent by the Prime Minister and other party leaders, to British Muslims. Tony Blair said: "I am very pleased to be able to send my best wishes to the Muslim community and all the readers of The Muslim News in the Holy Month of Ramadan…The two million Muslims in Britain are an inspiration to us all and we can learn much from you during this time." Leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, said: "On this auspicious occasion of Ramadan, I would like to send British Muslims and all the readers of The Muslim News my very best wishes." Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, said: "I am delighted to be able to send my best wishes to the readers of The Muslim News. I know how important the month of Ramadan is for Muslims. The sense of community engendered by Muslims throughout the world sharing the experience of fasting is enormously import ant. I greatly admire the sense of togetherness this brings to people of different colours, races, cultures and nationalities" (Muslim News, 24.12.99, Walsall Express & Star, 11.12.99, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 11.12.99, Yorkshire Post, 11.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 1/2]
A separate prayer hall for Muslims is being built outside the Millennium Dome so that Muslims visiting the Dome do not pray in a building funded by lottery money (See BMMS for January 1999). Muslims have raised £100,000 to pay for the prayer hall which will include separate facilities for women, wash facilities, and will even have a Dome imam who will be on duty from sunrise to sunset. (The Daily Telegraph, 03.12.99, Catholic Herald, 10.12.99). Muslim News (24.12.99) reports that inaugural Tarawih prayers were to be held in the prayer at the Dome’s opening on December 31 when Muslim VIPs have been invited. Dr Manazir Ahsan, Director of the Islamic Foundation and member of the Lambeth Group - an interfaith body which has representatives from the nine major faiths, said: "Some funds are still needed to make the finishing touches to the interior of the prayer area and also to fund the salary of the Imam." Dr Ahsan is also involved in the preparations for the Islam exhibition in the Faith Zone in the Dome. He said that he was sure that the Islam sections of the exhibition will "meet Islamic criteria and will not contain anything offensive" to Muslims. The details of what visitors will see has been kept a secret in order to maintain an element of surprise, but some indications to the exhibits have been given, which include the thoughts of children of different faiths about God; and common human experiences such as birth, marriage, loss of loved ones, which will be reflected through a display of photographs from around the world. The key theme in the the Islam section is said to be that of learning with texts and education.
Meanwhile, the Shari’ah Court of the UK, headed by Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of Al-Muhajiroun, called for Muslims to boycott the Millennium Dome and its celebrations, saying to visit the Dome would be un-Islamic. Mr Muhammed said, apart from the Millennium celebrations being nothing to do with Islam, he disapproved of the Dome because it was a place "involving nudism, involving free mixing between men and women in that type of atmosphere, involving music and involving as well people participating in a non-Muslim festival." He added: "How dare some Muslims in the UK call people to visit the Millennium Dome and even facilitate for them to go there by building some kind of mosque?" But Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, dismissed the court’s prohibition on visiting the Dome. He said: "I think in Britain we have some genuine, authentic sharia councils. If you were to contact them...they’d simply have contempt for such pronouncements. They think that some of the pronouncements border on insanity." He added that he could see no reason for Muslims not to visit the Dome: "It is going to be a place of entertainment, like other museums or historic sites" (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 24.12.99, Walsall Express & Star, 27.12.99, The Guernsey Press, 27.12.99, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 27.12.99, Daily Mail, 23.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 2/3]
An industrial tribunal has ruled that Britain’s largest Muslim charity was in breach of its contractual obligations to a former employee whom it sacked (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1999). The London tribunal decided that the trustees of Muslim Aid had violated the terms and conditions under which it employed Mahmood Al-Hasan, when he was dismissed last January. Mr Hasan was director of the charity and was sacked after a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees, following an incident at the organisation’s annual general meeting where Iqbal Sacranie accused Mr Hasan of "gross misconduct." Mr Sacranie, who was elected chairman of the charity in 1998, told the tribunal: "It was as if he [Mr Hasan] answered only to himself." He accused Mr Hasan of deliberately making his role difficult by creating "an atmosphere in the office so that communication between officers bearers and staff became impossible." Mr Sacranie’s allegations of gross misconduct against Mr Hasan included: dipping into the donations account to reimburse a trustee’s overseas expenses; overriding an instruction that the deputy director should be accompanied on a visit to Bangladesh by a trustee; and disobeying a decision not to visit a Muslim Aid project in Pakistan. Mr Sacranie said: "The applicant’s behaviour was such that we could have no trust or confidence."
Mr Hasan gave evidence saying he had been the target of a vicious campaign instigated by Mr Sacranie since his election. Responding to Mr Sacranie’s claims of gross misconduct, Mr Hasan said that the deputy director’s proposed visit to Bangladesh did not take place because no trustees were available. Also, his job description allowed him to withhold funds from Muslim Aid beneficiaries until he was satisfied they were effectively implementing existing projects and utilising resources efficiently. Mr Hasan accused Mr Sacranie of exploiting the incident regarding reimbursing a trustee from the donations account, saying the transaction which was forced by an emergency at hand, was witnessed by five people, and the account was reimbursed the next day. He said: "Sacranie later signed a cheque to restore the balance of the donations account, but then blew it all out of proportion, sensationalised it by calling it a criminal offence." Although the tribunal accepted Mr Hasan’s claim of unfair dismissal, it decided that it would be impracticable for Mr Hasan to be reinstated since his relationship with the trustees had suffered an irreparable breakdown. After the trial, Mr Hasan said he was relieved, but believed the full truth of Muslim Aid has yet to emerge: "For now let me say that my sacking was a campaign from Mr Sacranie’s side. He spent six months writing memos and preparing the ground for my dismissal." Mr Sacranie, who is also leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he would not be resigning from his post, and also claimed that Muslim Aid had emerged victorious saying: "We were vindicated as far as the whole trial was concerned ...The case was won on the basis that the tribunal did not award reinstatement." Mr Sacranie refused to disclose how much the legal costs were during the ten-month trial but said he expected compensation to be paid by the charity rather than individual trustees responsible for the decision (Q News, No314, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 3]
A father alleged to have murdered his brother-in-law because of an affair the man had with his daughter, has denied having any involvement with the killing (See BMMS for Nov. 1999). Khadim Hussain, 49, said he had no idea that the man, Amjad Farooq, was even in the country, saying he first heard about the murder when he and his family received a phone call from friends. The affair between Nyla Hussain, 23, and Mr Farooq, 38, is said to have caused outrage among members of the family. The prosecution at Luton Crown Court described the murder as an "execution". They claim that the murdered man was dragged from his home in Bedford and driven to a field outside the town where he was hacked to death using a heavy bladed weapon. Mr Farooq and six other members of his family, including his two sons and his daughter Nyla, have pleaded not guilty to the charge. Mr Khadim’s wife Parveen Hussain, and his nephew Abdul Rashid, 27, were acquitted of the murder on directions of the judge (Yorkshire Evening Post, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4]
An Oldham imam is to face a battle against deportation again after the Home Office was given permission to take its case to the Court of Appeal (See BMMS for April, June, August, September and October 1999). Shafiq ur Rehman won his battle against the government, who wanted to deport him on grounds that he was a threat to UK national security, in September 1999. A Home Office appeal against the decision was initially rejected, but now the Home Secretary has been given permission to go to the Court of Appeal after a last minute application. Amjad Malik, Mr Rehman’s solicitor, said the imam felt shocked and dejected by the latest news. Mr Malik, however, said; "I was expecting this decision. Things are progressing very fast and we are prepared to put our case all over again" (Manchester Evening News, 11.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4]
The Muslim community in Sutton organised a jumble sale at Wentworth Hall, Carshalton, on 25 November 1999. The hall, which functions as a community centre, is home to the Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association for Sutton, which was raising much needed money for its upkeep (Sutton Guardian, 25.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4]
Mosques in Batley and Dewsbury are supporting a fundraising effort launched by Dewsbury District Hospital to build a Palliative Day Care Centre for cancer patients and their families. The centre will be built in the grounds of the hospital on Halifax Road and will cost £600,000, providing daycare for up to ten patients a day. A substantial proportion of the funds will come from various charitable trusts, but the remainder is being raised through fundaraising efforts by the local community. Nicola Gilkes, fund-raising co-ordinator for Dewsbury Health Care, said: "There is no statutory funding for this type of provision. We have to raise all the funding for the centre and we are delighted with the response we have had from the community." The appeal launched by the mosques was due to close at the end of November, when they hope to have reached their target of £50,000 (Awaaz, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4]
Q News (No314, 01.12.99) has written an article about the ‘Who’s Who of British Muslims’ project it is working on. They are hoping to publish a directory of as many Muslim achievers as possible. They have found thousands of potential Muslims who they will include, from councillors to GPs, farmers to book-binders. Researchers on the project have requested every major organisation, and some individuals, to supply a list of people who they think should be included in such a publication, and have then sent invitations to these people asking if they want to be included in it. Entrants who can afford it, have to pay to be included in the list, so that those at Q News have money to work on and publish the directory. This money also covers the costs for those people who cannot afford to pay, for example, people from the voluntary sector, single parents and OAPs. Work began on this list in the summer of 1998 but it has not been said when it is expected to be finished. [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4]
Q News (No314, 01.12.99) carries an article on what it calls a ‘Millennium superloo’. The product is being marketed by British company Combiflush 2000, which transforms an ordinary toilet into a bidet, which could introduce the concept of washing after using the toilet to British people. Combiflush 2000 eliminates the need for a separate bidet through its in-built water shower. At the touch of a button, a bidet arm extends to the washing position and releases a shower of warm water to clean the user. The arm then retracts back into the unit, ready for the next person to use. Managing Director, Norman Smith, believes the practice of using water rather than toilet paper is the ultimate in personal hygiene. He said: "I first got the idea about eight years ago when I talked to a Muslim who happened to be in a hospital bed next to me. He told me that Muslims are required to wash after going to the toilet and I immediately thought this was a really good practice." The toilet, which is manufactured in the Far East, has already been a success overseas, and Mr Smith is now targeting the British market. He said: "We British tend to be so set in our ways that we don’t open our minds to other cultures and traditions. We all live among Muslims and yet it is surprising how few of us actually know that Muslims wash after going to the toilet!...People don’t seem to realise that it is more important than washing your face. If we don’t wash our face we get skin problems, but if we don’t wash our sensitive body areas it can cause much more serious diseases." Combiflush 2000 have offered to donate their toilets as part of the refurbishment programme of the Al-Quba Community Centre and Mosque in Barnsley, which was damaged in an arson attack. Mr Smith said: "We hope this small gesture on our part will not only benefit the epople that use the Centre, but that it will show how people of different cultures and religions can work together and learn from each other." [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 4/5]
Residents in Kensal Rise in Brent have won the latest battle to block a proposed conversion of a youth club into an Islamic centre. The families are opposed to the plan, laid down by Yusuf Islam, which would see the Tiverton Youth and Community Centre transformed into a community centre and mosque, with a 60-foot minaret, saying that it will spoil the character of the area and cause traffic congestion. Last month, Brent Council’s planning committee postponed a decision to give the plan the go-ahead, which prompted two councillors to storm out of the meeting in disgust. Councillor Abdul Sattar said: "The authority is taking too long. The objectors are being narrow-minded. They wouldn’t complain if it was a church" (Q News, No314, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 5]
A community centre in Rhyl is keen to open its doors for the whole community to use. The Islamic Cultural Centre was built four years ago when the Muslim Welfare Association paid £23,000 for a former Welsh Baptist Church in Water Street. Now the members of the centre want to raise its profile, and want to tell people about the significance of Ramadan, as well as attracting more funding to the centre. The MWA was formed in 1995 by doctors at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, whose aim was to promote Islamic knowledge. The former church needed a lot of repairs when it was bought, as it had lain derelict for ten years, and members travelled to mosques across the country to raise funds. The centre has developed but now needs more funds to further improve the building, which will eventually house a mosque on the lower level and a cultural centre on the upper level. Mohammed Siddiq Ghani, a centre trustee, said: "When we first bought it some parts of the building were under a foot of water and there were few windows left. But we bought it so we could have a place of our own to worship and educate our young children, as we don’t have a particular school where Islam is taught." The imam at the centre is A K Awad, who lives in Liverpool. Children of all nationalities visit his weekend classes to learn about Islam, and he also leads the prayers in the mosque. He said: "We’re here not just to pass on knowledge of Islam, but also to help our children understand the value of being a positive citizen. The media have painted a bad picture of us in the past. We want to correct the attitudes so we can all work together, all groups and religions. Our mosque is open to all." Mr Awad hopes to branch out into local schools to pass on the teachings of Islam (Abergele St Asaph Visitor, 02.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 5]
Newham Council chiefs have ordered a Muslim group to tear down unauthorised extensions which they made to their community centre. The Council also claims that the officials at the Islamic Centre in Selwyn Road, Upton Park, pressed ahead with its conversion to an education centre knowing that it would not be permitted by the Town Hall. Councillors have now been given the go-ahead for Enforcement Action. The Islamic Centre proposed to convert a house into a children’s education centre with a basement flat and a side extension to link to the adjacent property. Councillors heard plans surfaced in May 1998 but were dropped when the centre discovered planners recommended refusal. However, a council report claimed that the work continued, the extension was built and conversion works have gone on. The report claimed that planning difficulties and the unauthorised work were pointed out to the centre’s agent in September, who has since quit the project (City of London Recorder, 03.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 5]
Muslims in Maidenhead aimed to raise £1,700 at Friday prayers at Maidenhead mosque to send to Chechen refugees who were forced to flee their homes by Russian bombing. They will also send a petition to Teresa May MP, urging her to press the government to condemn the Russian action and to recognise Chechnya’s independence. Ilyas Ahmed, a member of Maidenhead mosque, said £500 had already been raised, and the money would be used to buy food parcels which would be sent to refugees in Ingushetia, the neighbouring republic to which Chechens have been forced to flee. He also hopes to collect several hundred signatures on the protest petition. Mr Ahmed said: "The Muslim community in Maidenhead is so concerned because Chechens are our Muslim brothers and sisters and we are part of a global community." The petition says Chechnya is being attacked because it wants to rule itself by Islamic law. It adds: "As British and Muslim citizens, we support peace and harmony in the world, not terrorism and war-like actions which are against the laws of the Qur’an." Mr Ahmed added: "We don’t wish to see another example of ethnic cleansing like in Bosnia. They are killing people whose worst crime is to be Muslims. We are looking for the British Government to put pressure on the Russians to stop the bombing and recognise Chechnya’s independence" (Maidenhead Advertiser, 03.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 5]
The Aberdeen Press & Journal (04.12.99) carries a profile of Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela, who is now based in Aberdeen. Her first novel, The Translator, has just recently been published, and is about a Sudanese Muslim woman who travels to live in Aberdeen, only to be widowed suddenly and left with a young child. The story then follows how she overcomes her grief and her relationship with Rae, a Scottish academic at the university where she works as a translator, who is an expert on Islam. Aboulela left Sudan at the age of 23 to study for a PhD in statistics at the London School of Economics. She and her husband, Nadir, moved to Abderdeen nine years ago when he got a job in an oil service company. It was here that Leila started to write for the first time, taking evening classes in creative writing, while working part-time as a lecturer in Statistics. She started writing The Translator in 1994; it took three years to write and another year to find a publisher. Leila is now writing full-time. She said: "When I had my third baby, I became more interested in writing than statistics. Now I write full-time, or as full-time as anyone can with kids." The book reflects Leila’s own fascination with the interaction of different cultures: "I have always been interested in cultures and how they are different, and how they are the same - how you can be living in one culture, but still have another. All over the world, you find people living in places where they have their own culture with them." She adds: "I don’t think the story would have been the same if they hadn’t been in Aberdeen. They might not have been so drawn to each other if they had perhaps lived somewhere else; here, they seem to be both outsiders. If the story were set in a very cosmopolitan place like London, it would have a totally different feel to it, because people can actually be more mistrustful of each other. In very cosmopolitan cities, everybody sticks with their own clique. In Aberdeen, people mix more." Cultural differences, small and large, still surprise her, like buses which come on time. She said: "The timetable says there will be a bus at 9.11, and it comes at that time. You think at first, when you come from another culture, that it is a joke, but it is very impressive. If you live here for a long time, you take things like this for granted." She has not been back to Sudan for seven years, but the novel is said to capture the country vividly, as half of it is set there. In a way, Leila sees herself as a translator, translating her culture, her faith, for those in the country where she now lives: "There are a lot of problems with different cultures, just because people don’t know. People don’t know enough about Islam, for example. I always thought of Britain as one place; I didn’t think of Scotland and England as separate. When you start having contact with people, you realise that they are different. I hope that my novel will be used in courses for post-colonial studies. I hope that people will learn about Muslim culture in reading it. I think reading a novel is an easier way of understanding that non-fiction." The Translator by Leila Aboulela is published by Edinburgh-based publishers Canongate. [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 5/6]
The Wrexham Muslim Association has asked the county council to help in finding a building which they can convert into a mosque (Cardiff Western Mail, 07.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 6]
Four Muslim students have been arrested following the stabbing of a 19-year old student at Wigan and Leigh College on December 7. Emergency services were called to the college when students reported seeing a man in a corridor bleeding from injuries to his neck and back. Staff have been told that the dispute centred on Islamic tensions, and at least eight students were involved. Security officers are present on every site operated by the college, but Further Education chiefs said that the incident ‘flared in moments’ and they had no chance to prevent it. A spokesperson for Wigan and Leigh College said: "We believe the injuries are not life threatening and the injured student, who lives outside the borough, was taken in an ambulance in a conscious condition. The management at the college very much regrets this unhappy incident and will do all that is possible to assist police in their enquiries. This incident is most concerning and the college will be looking into how and why it should have happened" (Wigan Evening Post, 08.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 6]
Muslims in Barnsley have joined councillors and police to launch a fund-raising appeal for a new community centre in the town. They are appealing to the people of Barnsley to help raise some of the £500,000 needed to re-establish the Al-Quba multi-cultural centre, after the previous one was wrecked in an arson attack last April. Members of the Al-Quba centre want to either build new premises, or use an existing building. They are also planning to apply for grants to add to any money raised from the appeal. Al-Quba secretary Naeem Jarral said: "The decision of whether to use a new or existing building will be made at a steering group meeting. In the meantime, we want every individual in Barnsley to help us establish the Al-Quba centre as a place for education, religion and social activities. We have agreed that we will work closely with Barnsley Council, and they have reassured us they will give us every possible help." Diane Tweedie, the Barnsley Multi-Agency Panel’s racial harassment resource officer, said: "The appeal seeks to re-establish the centre in a safe environment. Its aim is to provide a facility which meets the needs of the Muslim community and the wider community of Barnsley. Funds raised will also pay for the use of temporary premises in the interim" (Barnsley Star, 08.12.99, Barnsley Chronicle, 10.12.99, Barnsley Independent, 15.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 6]
A planning application has been submitted to Medway Council, asking permission to change a house in Dale Street, Chatham, into a Muslim day centre (Medway Extra, 10.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 6]
The Muslim community in Bolton has donated a Shopmobility trolley to the town. Members of the Muslim community raised more than £1,300 over a number of weeks. They presented the trolley to Councillor Ray Stones, who represented the management board of Bolton Shopmobility, at Bolton Town Hall. The scheme helps disabled shoppers to get around town easier. John Seddon, chairman of Bolton Shopmobility, said: "I am delighted to accept this trolley from the Muslim community - it will be well-used as are all our trolleys, particularly at this time of the year" (Bolton Evening News, 15.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 6]
The president of the Barking Social and Cultural Society, Abdul Khokhar, has planned to see in the New Year by running around Barking Park to raise money for charity. Mr Khokhar, 70, has planned to run 25,000 metres on December 25, and 20,000 metres on January 1. He said: "I am planning to complete a whole series of runs in the year 2000, and would encourage other people to take on challenges in this very special year." Money collected from the two festive runs will go to the Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society, which is a registered charity (Barking & Dagenham Post, 15.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7]
The Lancashire Council of Mosques, to which 57 of Lancashire’s 66 mosques are affiliated, has launched its own Internet site. The council hopes the web page will broaden knowledge and understanding of Islam, as well as allowing people to see the latest developments in the Lancashire Muslim community. Kam Kothia, of e-Marketing Services, who created the web-site, said: "Mosques are very much a focal point of the Muslim people in Lancashire. Now other people from all parts of the country and even abroad can find out about Lancashire’s mosques and the important role they play in the life of the county." The page lists contact details of the mosques, as well as pictures of some, and includes an A to Z of Islam, as well as links to related web-sites. It also has information on how mosques developed in Lancashire, from the first ones in terraced houses in the 1950s, to today’s purpose built centres. Kam said: "As we enter the new Millennium with an ever increasing multi-faith population, it is important that religions are open and available for discovery." Lancashire Council of Mosques was established ten years ago to act as an umbrella organisation to represent all the mosques in the county. The page can be found at: www.lancashiremosques.org.uk (Lancashire Evening Post, 16.12.99, Blackpool Evening Gazette, 17.12.99, Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 30.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7]
A schoolgirl in Peterborough has been the first to discover the name of Allah written on the planet Venus! Ruby Mushtaq was colouring in a picture of Venus at The Beeches Primary School, when she noticed the word imprinted on the paper through the colour. The 11-year old rushed to show her teacher, Farat Jhamillah. Ms Jhamillah said: "I still can’t believe it has happened. As a Muslim I consider it a miracle. Allah is the almighty and is the centre of our beliefs. I feel blessed and very happy that he has chosen my classroom to show he is the greatest. We inspected the paper and it was no different to any of the other children’s, and there is no way it could have been tampered with because I had another teacher with me." Ruby’s drawing has now been framed to hang in the classroom. She said: "I feel really happy. My parents were very happy as well and they have bought the class some sweets to celebrate." Mohammed Yousaf, chairman of the school’s governors, said: "I believe this is a miracle and until someone can give me a scientific explanation, I feel we have been blessed.. This is very special for us. All indicators point towards it being genuine" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 17.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7]
The Muslim News (24.12.99) has produced its shortlist for its ‘Awards for Excellence’, which it hopes to make an annual event. The winners will be chosen from this list, voted for by Muslim News readers. The aim of the awards is to recognise people and organisations who have made a significant contribution to the Muslim community. Among those in the shortlist are: Abdul Wahid Hamid, writer and scholar; Al-Khayyal Theatre Company; The An-Nisa Society, a community organisation in Northwest London; Brian Morris, deputy head teacher at Al-Hijra school in Birmingham; GymnAsia, established to promote healthy living among Muslims in Gloucester; Monzur Ahmed, who designs software for solar and lunar astronomy; The Muslim Women’s Help line, staffed and funded by volunteers; Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent for The Independent; and Siddik Gaffar, a member of the England deaf cricket team. The full shortlist can be seen in Muslim News. [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7]
Adam Patel, from the Muslim Council of Britain and Vice-president of Blackburn Community Relations Council, has become a Life Peer in the Millennium New Year’s Honours (Morning Star, 31.12.99, Cardiff Western Mail, 31.12.99, The Daily Telegraph, 31.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7]
The Yorkshire Post (29.11.99) carries a profile on the Jamia-Tul-Imam Muhammad Zakaria (College of the Imam Muhammad Zakaria) in Bradford. Lessons at the boarding school start at 8:30am, but most girls at the college are up for the morning prayers. Until lunchtime, the girls study Islamic theology, and in the afternoons, until around 5pm, they study English, Maths, Textiles, Urdu, Arabic and IT. Before last year, very few people had taken notice of the school, but in 1998 the school increased its A-Level average score from 5.4 to 8.9 and shot up from 941st to 13th in the all-England league table. Head teacher Zebunissa Hajee was taken aback by all the attention. She said: "I didn’t realise we would come up so well on the league tables. I was away from the school for the day and my secretary was bombarded with people wanting to come to the school and film and photograph us. But because the strict form of Islam does not allow any living being to be photographed, that was not possible. We were told we made ourselves look suspicious." The school offers just one A-Level course, in Urdu, which is how it looked so good on the measure of average points per exam. This year, a few D-grades brought the average score back down. Ms Hajee said their results will always fluctuate because intake is international and some students know little or no English. She said: "Generally speaking, it is not the league tables that are important to us but that we are putting all effort into giving our students the best out of education." She added: "I put our success down to three factors. First, because we are a boarding school we can keep tabs on students after hours and make sure they are doing their homework. Second, we are a single sex school. Third, Islam teaches us to value education highly and because religious study plays such an important part of our timetable here, the girls are very aware of how important education is." Ms Hajee, 33, works at the school voluntarily. The school is funded by donations and by the £1,500-a-year fees, which most pupils pay. Most of the 14 teaching staff are also volunteers, or receive a very low wage. Ms Hajee said it is important for Islamic options to be offered in Britain: "Many parents do not like their children to go to state schools and in those instances many girls can be sent abroad, where education is not compulsory, and so they miss out." [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 7/8]
Batley MP Mike Wood is challenging the government’s students loans scheme, which is said to discriminate against Musims. The loans, which replaced higher education grants two years ago, are available to students entering higher education. Some Muslim students claim that as repayment of the loans includes interest, they cannot accept them. Mr Wood said: "It has been brought to my attention that for some students the interest component makes the loans unaccep table. It seems to me that as such the system acts in a discriminatory way against this group and I would like to see if there are alternatives to the current funding system." He does not think that the students are asking for special treatment, but believes that even though they meet the same criteria as everyone else, they are disadvantaged because of the inflexibility of the system. The Student Loans Company made the point that the interest charged on student loans is zero net rate of interest, which means that the real value of the money paid back should be the same as that which was borrowed. A spokeswoman said: "We are a non-profit making body. The interest rate is equal to the rate of inflation which means that in effect students just pay back what they borrow." However, for some students this is not good enough and they would like to see an alternative. Atif Iqbal, a student at Leeds University, said: "The evil of interest is stressed upon heavily in the Qur’an and hadiths so I would like to see an alternative offered. Some people see interest as a practical reality of life in this country but in this instance an alternative can be found and should be taken advantage of." Mr Wood is to meet with Junior Education Minister Malcolm Wickes, to discuss the issue, along with Muslim banks. He said: "The issue has national implications. That’s why I am bringing it to the attention of the Minister. If a solution can be found without great cost to the government then why can’t we make it work?" (Awaaz, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 8]
A Muslim girls’ school in Bradford has won a special £50,000 grant from Bradford Council, to help it in its bid to join the mainstream school sector (See BMMS for November 1999). Feversham College is a private school but has applied to the Government for voluntary-aided status (VAS). A previous bid by the school was rejected on the grounds that the building and curriculum were inadequate. And an inspectors report in March found "a lack of leadership and management expertise at the school," as well as weaknesses in the teaching of maths and sciences. Education officials at Bradford Council have backed the school in its bid to have VAS, but said the governing body needs more help if it is to succeed, which is why they have provided the £50,000 grant. The money will pay for a consultant head teacher and professional support. Because of legal restrictions on how education funds can be spent, the money is coming from Bradford Council’s community development fund (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 8]
Children from a primary school in Harpendon are said to have had an "eye-opening" experience when they visited the Regent’s Park Mosque in London. Pupils from High Beeches JMI School took part in the trip to increase their knowledge about Islam. Teacher Karina MacDonald organised the trip as part of a school project on the differences between Islamic and Christian forms of worship, also visiting a Methodist Church as part of the project. Accompanying the children to the mosque were parents, governors and staff, who were also given an opportunity to visit the main prayer hall, its spectacular dome, the ladies’ prayer areas and the wash rooms. Ms MacDonald said: "The children were interested in learning more about the religion. An educational expert talked to the children and explained aspects of their worship to their children." She added: "The children found some aspects of the religion such as arranged marriages, very different, and it was an eye-opener for most of them" (Harpenden Observer, 17.12.99, St Albans Observer, 17.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 8]
The communal shower could soon be a thing of the past in schools, as the Department of Education and Employment has issued a circular raising the issue of privacy in changing rooms. The issue first came to attention when the father of a Muslim pupil threatened legal action against a Westminster school, saying the communal showers broke Islamic laws on nudity, according to which neither boys or girls should see each other’s private parts. Mr Marland, head teacher of that school, persuaded the DEE to fund the conversion of showers at his 2,000-pupil school, and then to embark on a two-year consultation with religious groups and educational organisations. Most of Britain’s leading public schools have abandoned, or are replacing the communal "run through" showers, which state schools have used as a model (Times Educational Supplement, 17.12.99, The Mirror, 21.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 8]
Al-Muhajiroun have issued a fatwa against Russian President Boris Yeltsin over the war in Chechnya, saying the Russian Embassy in London, and other Russian buildings and personnel, were "legitimate targets" of the fatwa. The fatwa demands that Yeltsin should stand trial in an Islamic court in Britain and for a sentence of "capital punishment to be applied." Anjem Choudary, an assistant judge in the Shari’ah Court of the UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was a "duty" for British Muslims to uphold the fatwa. He said: "The Islamic position is that it is an obligation upon every Muslim world-wide to support the jihad against Russia, whether financially, politically or militarily. Russian embassies, military forces, government buildings, ministers, personnel...are legitimate targets as long as the threat of military aggression against the sanctity of Muslim life or on property in Chechnya stands." He added that the holy month of Ramadan would encourage many Muslims to become "martyrs" for the cause, but denied he was inciting people to commit criminal acts: "I’m not going to stick my neck out and say that Muslims are going to attack the Russian embassy here, or Russian ministers, but I would put them on notice that they at this time are legitimate targets as far as Islam is concerned." Vladimir Andrea of the Russian Embassy in London said the threats were "illegal and criminal" and called for a police investigation (Asian Times, 21.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9]
Fears of increasing drug abuse among young people has led the Royal Borough to set up new drug education guidelines. The action follows research which says that the average age of experimental drug use is falling and the range of drug taking is expanding. The situation, however, does not seem to be as bad in the Muslim community as it is amongst non-Muslims. Altaf Choudry, a member of Maidenhead mosque, said the Muslim community’s record is successful because of Islam’s strict prohibition of all intoxicants and Muslims’ strong family structure. He said: "The council should definitely consult Muslims because, compared to non-Muslims, we have a successful record on drug issues." He added: "I think people take drugs because there is something missing in their lives. But Muslims are less prone to drug abuse because they will always try to teach their children religious values. For example, if someone got suspended from school there would be hell to pay at home and the community would see it as a bad thing." However, Mr Choudry said that some Muslims do feel that alcohol and tobacco abuse is becoming more of a problem because traditional family ties are weakening as a result of living in this country. He said: "More and more young people will get into substance abuse if our society tolerates drugs like alcohol and people live in a spiritual void" (Maidenhead Advertiser, 26.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9]
Halal butchers in Bradford have become the first to take part in a specially designed food safety course. The Meat and Livestock Commission has been working with all types of independent butchers across the country offering free places on a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) course, and this was the first one held for halal butchers. Paul Bache, Quality Assurance and Technical Manager for the HACCP Training Programme, said he was delighted with the attendance. He said: "We looked at the problems in terms of getting in interpreters to help understanding. Bradford local authority have provided us with an Urdu speaking environmental health officer, who has been able to talk about his own experiences. A lot of practices and control measures they need for HACCP they have been doing all their lives, but they have been doing them in their heads, rather than documenting it." The move to approach all independent butchers followed in the wake of the E-Coli outbreak in Scotland in November 1998. The 13 butchers from Bradford and Keighley, who attended the course, learned about food safety management, legislation, hygiene, hazards and control measures. The second stage of training will be on their own premises (Bradford Evening Telegraph, 29.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9]
Q News (No314, 01.12.99) carries a letter from Lord Nazir Ahmed, chairman of Halal World PLC, inviting Muslim men and women to buy shares in the company, to allow them to raise capital to expand its retail outlets. There are currently five ‘National Halal Centre’ retail outlets and Halal World’s "goal is to establish Halal World as the premier supplier of Halal Foods through three sectors, retail, wholesale and food processing." Mr Ahmed also outlines Halal World’s other goals, and how they hope to achieve them. [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9]
Asda Supermarkets in Wembley and Small Heath, Birmingham, are to sell halal baby food for a trial period of one month. Gazala Saleem’s Mother Nature Baby Foods were created by Mrs Saleem when a study conducted in Birmingham found that babies from ethnic backgrounds were more likely to have high levels of iron deficiency. Mrs Saleem then realised that many Muslim mothers were giving their babies sweet baby foods rather than meals that contained non-Halal meat. She said: "The lack of halal baby food means that many babies are brought up on a poor diet, as parents attempt to raise them according to their faith. I hope that if these early sales are a success I can get products into the large stores in Birmingham and Greater London area, where 67 per cent of the Muslims in Britain live" (Baby Magazine, 01.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9]
A butcher in Bradford has demanded an apology from two community leaders who complained that meat from his shop was not halal. Sajad Waris, who runs a halal meat shop in Manningham, said he lost thousands of pounds of business and had to let three members of staff go, after the leaders of the Council of Mosques reported his business to the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service. But Graham Hebblethwaite, an officer for the service, said: "We took the complaint very seriously and investigated it fully. We are satisfied that the chicken at Punjab Halal Meat is halal and we have written to inform the concerned parties. We know that this is a very sensitive issue but we are an independent body and we are trusted to be independent." Mr Waris, 29, said: "I couldn’t believe what happened. I have always sold, and will always sell, halal meat. My business has suffered so much I have had to lay off three full-time staff and I feel very bitter." Mr Waris’ solicitors have written to Khadim Hussain, former President of the Council for Mosques, who complained to the standards service along with Liaqat Hussain, who backed the complaints, and have demanded a public apology. But Khadim Hussain said: "We are not satisfied with the trading standards investigation. I do not want to say anything further. We are still making our own inquiries" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 03.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 9/10]
Bristol City Council is to spend £45,000 on a kitchen which will provide halal meat to Muslim schoolchildren. The kitchen will be located at the new Bannerman Road Primary School in Easton, where more than half of the 265 pupils are Muslim. The government’s budget did not allow for two kitchens, one for halal meals and one for non-halal, which would have costed £70,000 to equip. The budget was only £100,000, and so the remaining £30,000 would not have been enough to provide the school with the necessary tables and chairs, PE apparatus, IT equipment and work stations. The governing body suggested that there should be one standard kitchen where preparation of halal food would take place before and separately from other meals. And the city council has agreed to find the £45,000 needed to build the kitchen from next year’s education capital resources. It estimates that the cost of producing halal meals can be cut if meals are prepared on site using raw ingredients. The kitchen will also provide halal meals for other schools in the area that require them. Director of Education, Richard Riddell, said: "This saving will eventually pay back the additional £45,000 while improving the catering service provision to the Muslim community" (Bristol Evening Post, 24.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 10]
Professor Akbar Ahmed, a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and an expert in Islamic affairs, has been appointed Pakistan’s new High Commissioner in Britain. He was offered the position by General Pervez Musharraf. Professor Ahmed said: "It was completely unexpected. I got a call from the general himself. I think it was a tremendous trust placed in me and I will throw myself into this job and live up to his expectations." Prof. Ahmed believes he can use his understanding and expertise to improve relations between Pakistan and the West (Cambridge Weekly News, 24.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 10]
The Islamic Cultural Centre of London held a recruitment open day in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Service Positive Action Team (PAT) on November 30, in order to raise awareness of careers as a police officer. The event was supposed to give an opportunity to speak to police officers about recruitment into the force, as well as giving the officers an opportunity to share their own experiences. However, there was a very low turnout to the event, with more police officers being present than members of the Muslim community. Inspector Barton said he was disappointed at the low turnout, saying: "We did not come to talk to Police Officers!" A spokesman for the Cultural Centre said they had tried their best to invite people, but had had a very short time to advertise. Muslim News talked to some of the Muslim officers who were at the open day. Zahid Rahman, 35, is a CID officer in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and has been in the service for 11 years. Police Officer Mohammed Yusuf, 30, works in Wembley and has been in the force for two years. He said he likes to work with the community and "encourage the ethnic community to join the Service." Female Officer, Shahenaz, said her parents were not happy when she joined the police, but have come to accept what she does. She has been with the force for 11 years, but has not been promoted. She said: "I have been waiting to become a DC but have not been successful." All the officers spoken to said they had not experienced racism in the Police Force, despite its being accused of institutionalised racism on many occasions. However, a woman wearing hijab who attended the open day, asked Inspector Barton whether a person wearing hijab would be allowed to work in the Police Force. He answered that they would not for reasons of "safety" and that it was "not part of the uniform." The Muslim News asked whether Sikhs were allowed to wear the turban, to which he replied "yes". The reason why the hijab was a "safety issue" was because "most of the scarves are worn around the neck and therefore do not satisfy our health and safety regulation." Also, Inspector Barton pointed out that Sikhs are covered by legislation. Superintendent Ali Dizaei, Vice-Chairman of the National Black Police Association, criticised the Met’s recruitment policy on Muslim women, saying: "Why can’t we change our uniform to allow Muslim women with the hijab? A little bit of imagination and design of the hijab from the Service will overcome the problem of safety" (Muslim News, 24.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 10]
Mosques & Burials
A new mosque in Blackburn has been given the go-ahead, despite protests from nearby residents and other Muslim groups. Blackburn with Darwen Council’s planning committee approved the plan for conversion of a photographic studio into a mosque and madrasa for Shia’s. More than 150 households signed a petition to persuade councillors to reject the scheme, and members of the Sunni Muslim Oak Street Mosque also objected saying that there are already three mosques in the area. Conservative councillors voted against the scheme because they said it would create major traffic and parking problems in a one way street which has limited parking. However, Labour councillor, Peter Greenwood, said: "Muslims have different sects and religious differentiation and have the right to pursue their beliefs" (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 17.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 10/11]
A reporter for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus has been given a tour round what is set to be the biggest and most ornate mosque in the UK. Work on the multi-million pound Cathedral Mosque in Darfield Street began in 1986, and because it is funded solely by donations from the Muslim community, a completion date cannot be set. Designer Neil Waghorne said the workmanship was "the marrying of Islamic design with traditional English materials and craftsmanship." Stone Mason Dave Bedford has been working on the project for two years, his biggest job being the creation of a giant carved archway over the mosque’s main entrance. It is an intricate arrangement of carved indentations, or scallops, stacked into a conical shape and took two months to complete. He said: "I’m very proud of the arch. I don’t think I’ll do anything like it again in my lifetime." Windows in the mosque are based on an ancient Islamic design, but are made by stained glass window maker, David Midgley, who usually works on projects for pubs and churches. Each window will take him four days to make. Mr Waghorne said: "My whole intention was to make the design of this building to fit in with the local environment and wherever possible to use local labour. The design I have taken is a simplified version of the Suleymaniye Camii mosque in Istanbul which is extremely ornate and decorative. It was proposed to use red brick to build the temple but I suggested Yorkshire stone to fit in with the existing buildings." He added: "Some people resent the mosque because they believe it is paid for from public coffers. But every penny has been raised privately within the community. This building has also provided jobs in Bradford for local builders and craftsmen which has to be a good thing." The mosque has so far cost £1.7 million to build (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 30.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11]
An extension to the Cradley Heath Mosque and Islamic Centre has been given the go-ahead by Sandwell planning chiefs, despite recently rejecting the plans (See BMMS for August, September and November 1999). Members of the mosque submitted plans to build a dome and two 38-foot high minarets, as well as 50 car parking spaces at the Plant Street site, but the plans were rejected following a campaign by local residents concerned about road safety and car parking. The members of the mosque have now been given permission to build after agreeing to lower the height of the minarets. Now residents say they may try a legal challenge against Sandwell Council. Spokesperson for the group, Fred Hadley, said: "Residents feel they have not been listened to and their fears on road safety have not been addressed. We are looking into the possibility of getting legal aid to push our objections" (Halesowen News & County Express, 09.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11]
Muslims in Lancashire have won their fight to have their dead buried on weekends and bank holidays (See BMMS for July and November 1999). After 18 months of negotiations, the Lancashire Council of Mosques has reached an agreement with everyone involved to allow burials on these days from December 1st. Councillor Rafique Malik, secretary of the council, said bereaved families have been upset by having to wait until after weekends and bank holidays to arrange paperwork and cemetery services. He said Burnley and Pendle Councils had agreed to the change some time ago, but there had been problems agreeing matters with the coroner, registration, and hospital authorities (Padiham & District Express, 26.11.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11]
Muslims in East London have finally been able to buy a car park next door to the East London Mosque, which they will use to build 36 affordable houses on part of the site. The mosque has been desperate to take over the land in Whitechapel Road for 20 years, and fought plans which emerged two years ago to build homes on the land. The mosque paid £600,000 for the site, and thanked the council for changing their mind and selling the land to the mosque. Mosque vice-chairman, Choudhury Mueen Uddin, said: "I want to acknowledge the great contribution made by friends and neighbours of all faiths and political persuasions who helped us" (East London Advertiser, 02.12.99, East End Life, 06.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11]
Councillors in Luton have forbidden Muslims to convert a building in Selbourne Road into a mosque. The Jamia Al-Akbaria organisation has asked the council for permission to continue using the premises as a cultural and education centre on a permanent basis. On the borough plan for Luton, the building is earmarked for employment use. Under planning law, once the Muslim organisation is given permission to use the premises for a cultural and education centre, they would automatically be able to use it as a mosque, but councillors think the location is unsuitable for that. They have therefore placed restrictions on the use of the building, preventing it from being used as a mosque. It will also not be allowed to hold weddings or social functions, and will only be allowed to be used for religious instruction between 5:30pm and 8:30pm. No alterations to the external appearance of the building can be made without prior permission (Luton News, 15.12.99, Dunstable Gazette, 15.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11]
Planning Officers at Hastings Council look set to refuse permission for a mosque to be built on the site of a former Church of England School (See BMMS for November 1999). The 150-year old building has been used as a mosque for the past 15 years, but now the East Sussex Islamic Association wants to bulldoze the building and build a new, traditional-style, mosque in its place, complete with a minaret and dome. The building was designed by Victorian architect Decimus Burton, who designed many buildings in the area. Residents have sent letters and petitions to the council saying the plans would be out of character with the area, which is designated a conservation area. Councillors are now saying they would rather see the building restored than demolished. An officer’s report to councillors said: "The demolition of this building designed by Decimus Burton, which is of architectural and historic interest and makes an important contribution to the townscape, would detract from the architectural and historic character." The report adds: "The height of the proposed building, particularly the minaret, would have a detrimental impact on the amenities of the Conservation area" (Brighton Evening Argus, 27.12.99, Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 17.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 11/12]
Worshippers at a mosque in Watford were blamed for recent traffic chaos on Cambridge Road, due to illegally parked cars outside the mosque. A lorry driver telephoned police, on a Friday, to ask for assistance because he was not able to get through the road due to the worshippers’ cars parked on double yellow lines. After police arrived on the scene, the tailback of traffic that had built up was eventually cleared, but commuters say they are fed up with these problems posed by the parking offenders. Daniel Head of Watford said: "I attempted to drive into Cambridge Road where the mosque is situated just after 1pm, and promptly got gridlocked. The sole reason was because of lunatic parking by those who wished to attend their place of worship. What I then witnessed was a disgraceful scene with traffic wardens being jostled and verbally abused...I suggest on Fridays traffic wardens should attend the location, assisted by a squad of police officers, so the rule of law and order can be maintained." A spokesman for Watford Council said: "Traffic wardens do issue parking tickets around the area of Cambridge Road and those motorists who park illegally will get a ticket. There is a multi-storey car park close to the mosque for people to use, so I am not sure why there would be congestion; but those who continue to park illegally, particularly at this time of year, will be fined." General secretary of the mosque, Mohammed Khan, said: "The problem which occurred on Friday was the result of a large truck trying to go down a very narrow road. I don’t know whose cars were parked illegally, but if traffic wardens do their job properly and issue tickets where necessary, people won’t park on double yellow lines ever again...I would like to see a sign put up preventing lorries from coming down Cambridge Road, because they can’t turn around and they cause a nuisance to everyone. We at the mosque want to see the traffic law upheld so everyone can have access in and out of Cambridge Road" (Watford Observer, 17.12.99). [BMMS December 1999 Vol. VII, No. 12, p. 12]