BMMS Homepage | 2000 issues

British Muslims Monthly Survey for April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4


Features


Reports

Community

Education

Politics

Racism

Women

Youth

Interfaith

Health

Mosques & Burials


Features

Muslim News Awards for Excellence

Over 400 people attended the Muslim News Awards for Excellence event on March 30. Muslims and non-Muslims from all over the country gathered to celebrate the first ever British Muslim event to acknowledge excellence, held in conjunction with the Muslim News’ tenth anniversary. Twelve individuals and organisations received awards for the tremendous effort they made in the community, in twelve different categories: media; engineering, science and technology; championing a Muslim cause; community relations; enterprise; community development; sports; Islamic thought; art; children; health; and faith in action. Each award was named after a person from the past or the present, each of them a role model in their day. Guest of honour Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, congratulated the Muslim News for organising the event, and said: "What the event symbolises for me is growing confidence in the Muslim community in the UK. A confidence to celebrate diversity and talent in all the work of the different nominees just draws attention to that enormous range of talent and that in itself challenges the stereotype." Deputy Editor of the Muslim News, Sarah Sheriff, explained the thinking behind the Awards for Excellence: "The Muslim News 10th Anniversary could easily have been celebrated with a cosy get together in an exclusive restaurant but no, just as the paper has been an act of service to faith in the Muslim community, so also the celebration of its 10th anniversary had to be something that would benefit the community." Editor of the Muslim News said they wanted to celebrate excellence in the community because of the lack of positive stories in the mainstream press, and to bring into the limelight high achievers from various disciplines who would normally be too modest to show their achievements.

The Ibn Battuta Award for Excellence in the Media went to Noel Malcolm, a historian and journalist specialising in the Balkans. He said: "I’d just like to add my congratulations to Ahmed Versi for everything he’s done to build up The Muslim News, all his energy and hard work and integrity and because it is always a pleasure to make compliments that are sincere compliments. I’d also like to congratulate Clare Short on having been one of the few politicians in this country - prominent politicians - who in the darkest days of the Bosnian war, when western policy was at best inadequate and at worst criminally negligent, she was one of the very few who maintained an active and positive and principled position throughout and so it’s a double honour to be here tonight." The Fazlur Rahman Khan Award for Engineering/Science/Technology went to Professor Emeritus M Yusaf H Bangash, who is a professor of nuclear/aerospace structures. He has published over 75 research papers and 24 books and has worked at the UK Atomic Energy Authority as a Consulting Engineer. Winner of the Al Biruni Award for Excellence in Community Relations went to Mohammed Abdul Zaki Badawi, who is the founding director of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park, London. A scholar of Islam and an expert in Islamic finance, he established the Muslim College in London to train Imams to work in British mosques, and has participated in many social, political and interfaith forums.

The Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn Children’s Award went to Maisam-Reza Khaku, a five-year old who was diagnosed with hereditary deafness when he was just three months old. Despite this, Maisam was sent to a mainstream school as he had a little speaking ability. Other children and teachers in his school have learned British Sign Language so that they can communicate with Maisam and it has helped many children with learning to read, write and count. Speaking on behalf of her son, Tahera Khaku, who is herself partially deaf, said: "We have always believed that disability should not be a barrier to education and to this extent I would like to thank my family, my friends and all those people who have supported us in letting Maisam-Reza achieve this aim." The Ummul Mu’minin Khadijah Award for Enterprise was awarded to Perween Warsi. Ms Warsi was fed up with the quality of Asian food in British supermarkets. Rather than "tolerate curries that tasted of boiled plastic," she set up S & A Foods in 1987 and now supplies Asda and Safeway. The company now employs 1,000 people and has an annual turnover approaching £70 million. The Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Community Development went to the Muslim Women’s Helpline, which provides a nationwide lifeline for women facing social and domestic problems. The Helpline has been in operation for almost ten years and is staffed and funded by volunteers.

The Allama Iqbal Award for Creativity in Islamic Thought went to the Association of Muslim Researchers, which aims to seek and share knowledge from a faith-centred perspective. Dr Mohammad Tabarra, Vice-President of the AMR, receiving the award said: "Let me thank the founder members of AMR who back in 1989 thought that they should have a committee after their student society to continue their original thinking and debating taboo issues - issues that we do not like to talk about, yet are important in our development." The Alhambra Award for Excellence in Arts was awarded to the Khayaal Theatre Company, which is a group of professional actors who use drama to present Islamic ideals. Their plays have attracted Muslim and non-Muslim interest, and their 1998 performance of The Conference of the Birds was well received. Winner of the Ibn Sina Award for Health was the Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre, which serves the health, welfare, education and training needs of Arabic-speaking women and families in west-London. Amongst its projects are those directed at improving the educational attainment of disadvantaged young people, an outreach project for elderly people, health and welfare and children and families’ mental health.

The Annemarie Schimmel Award for Championing a Muslim Cause went to the Citizen Organising Foundation (COF), which has helped Muslim causes throughout the UK. Over the past ten years, the COF has supported the development of six broad-based coalitions of local institutions such as mosques, churches, schools and tenant groups. It has helped the Somali community to be better recognised and resourced in Liverpool and acted to persuade Wolverhampton Council to improve its services for Muslim burials. Its latest campaign is on issues concerned with ‘financial exclusion’ and for an Islamic bank to be registered in the UK. The Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sports was awarded to GymnAsian, established eight years ago to promote healthy living among Muslims in Gloucester. In addition to providing facilities for men and women of all ages, it provides free advice on employment, education, drugs, crime, social welfare and religious and racial integration. Winner of the Iman wa Amal Special Award was Bushra Nasir, who in 1993 became the first Muslim female head teacher of a state school, the Plashet Comprehensive School in London. The all-girls school has an in-take from areas of high levels of socio-economic deprivation and students enter the school with academic standards well below national standards. Despite this, Ms Nasir has helped to double the percentage of pupils getting top-grade GCSE passes to 56 per cent. The school is rated A* by government inspectors.

People from all walks of life and faith attended the ceremony with video messages shown from Prime Minister Tony Blair and leader of the opposition, William Hague. They both paid tribute to the hard work of the British Muslim community and wished the Muslim News success in the future for similar award ceremonies. More details of the event and information about the award winners and the personalities the awards were named after, can be found in the Muslim News (28.04.00).

The Gloucester Citizen (01.04.00) reported on the health and fitness centre which won the award for Excellence in Sports and Fitness. Faisal Atcha, a volunteer at the gym, said everyone was delighted with the honour. He said: "Gymnasian were overwhelmed and delighted to receive recognition of their hard work and efforts. It has been a great achievement for a project which evolved from an informal group of young Muslims interested in health and fitness, and went from a basement garage to becoming a large commercially equipped facility. Over 15 nationalities train at the gym from white English to Russians." Gymnasian, which has over 100 users, also provides free advice on employment, education, drugs, crime, social welfare and religious and racial integration. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 1/2]

[back to contents]


Oxford Centre gets approval

Despite intense protests against the building of a new £20 million Centre for Islamic Studies in Oxford, the city council recently approved plans for the scheme (See British Muslims Monthly Survey for June, August, September, October and November 1999 and March 2000). The plans will now go to the deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for final approval. Residents and conservation groups had opposed the building saying it would be a loss of valuable green space and the high tower and minaret would destroy Oxford’s famous "dreaming spires" skyline. Liberal Democrat John Goddard tried to persuade the council to have its planner reconsider the scheme, saying: "I am not against this project on religious or any other grounds other than planning issues. This is going to have a devastating impact on a conservation area and we will be destroying valuable green space." However, planning committee chairman, Maureen Christian, said: "A lot of people are saying that they want this centre but not in this area - well, where do you want it? Manchester, Birmingham or Sheffield? We have the opportunity to have another very beautiful building right here in Oxford and a building we can all be proud of. It will add to this city’s reputation of having a world-class skyline and some of the most beautiful spires" (Oxford Times, 21.04.00). At an earlier meeting, where the city’s council planning committee voted by six to four to support the plan, Ms Christian said: "There is less and less open space in Oxford and whenever it is threatened we fight it. But when I walked over this site I decided that this could be a really beautifully designed building which could be beneficial on that site. You have to balance the loss of open space with the advantage of having another amenity. Oxford is an international city with many ethnic communities. This will give them a community facility and improve the frontage on to Marston Road" (Oxford Times, 07.04.00). Basil Mustafa, the Nelson Mandela Fellow at the current Islamic Centre in George Street, said: "The architectural features of the dome and tower are symbols of a bridge between the East and West. They are of absolutely no practical purpose - there will be no call to prayers." He added: "We are delighted the council has decided to approve the construction of this building that will support the programmes of our institution. The Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies is an academic institution, associated with the University, teaching Modern History, Social Studies, Theology and Oriental Studies. Our new building will bring value and beauty to the Oxford skyline" (Oxford Courier, 20.04.00). The plan for the centre has the backing of Prince Charles and the King of Saudi Arabia, but opponents of the scheme will now write to Mr Prescott and hope he will refuse the plans (Oxford Times, 14.04.00, Oxford Mail, 18.04.00 and 29.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 2/3]

[back to contents]


Mobile phone call to prayer

A Muslim family from Preston has launched a new service which will call Muslims to prayer from their mobile phones. Rather than the traditional approach of a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer five times a day, it will send a "beep" and a text message to people’s phones at the beginning of each prayer time. The online azaan (call to prayer) is being offered on the website www.PatelsCornerShop.com, and is being backed by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Lancashire Council of Mosques. The service has been launched because noise restrictions in the West mean the azaan cannot be broadcast from a mosque, making it more difficult for Muslims to remember when to pray. PatelsCornerShop also offers properties for sale, jobs and community advice. Preston Borough Council is among the bodies that advertise on the site which is run by Bilal, Shahida and Sufia Patel. Bilal Patel said: "Prayer is obligatory on Muslims. It’s not prayer for it’s own sake though. It is actually very beneficial for people to take time out from what they’re doing day to day and reflect on a spiritual level. I have found prayer to be a great way to calm down. It is a great stress buster. Whatever religion people follow, it is good to take time out on a regular basis" (The Times, 14.04.00, Evening Standard, 14.04.00, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 15.04.00, Asian Age, 15.04.00). He added: "We really got a lot out of the press coverage and have been busy ever since. We have had around 70,000 hits and more than 3,500 people have registered an interest in the prayer service. More than 1,000 people have already subscribed to it. We have had a lot of interest from overseas so we are setting up pilot schemes. We are running in one part of America, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. It seems like everyone is taking an interest in it" (Leyland Citizen, 20.04.00). Sufia Patel said: "Every single mosque and organisation we’ve approached has been enthusiastic. We’ve got the Lancashire Council of Mosques and the Muslim Council of Britain behind us. Young men and women have been especially keen since they’re the ones more likely to have mobiles and use the Internet." Bilal added: "The website also has a WAP site where people with WAP phones can check prayer times for the day. But you haven’t seen anything yet - watch this space!" (Preston Citizen, 13.04.00, Blackpool Gazette, 15.04.00, Daily Telegraph, 20.04.00, Eastern Eye, 21.04.00, Daily Star, 22.04.00).

This website has been listed in an article by The Times (17.04.00) outlining some of the websites on the World Wide Web dedicated to the world’s various religions. Other Islamic sites it mentions are: the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale’s website www.ic-el.org, a useful site providing information about Muslims in Britain; the webpage of the Muslim Council of Britain www.mcb.org.uk, where you can find traditional views on controversial issues such as Section 28; and www.salaam.co.uk, one of the best Islamic sites available. Currently being rebuilt, it is not afraid to tackle difficult issues online. Advice is offered on bereavement, domestic violence, fighting depression, addiction and marital difficulties. Legal advice is available on housing, health and marriage, and Salaam is about to launch it’s own shopping page, with clothes, books and software aimed at the country’s Muslim community. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 3]

[back to contents]


Reports

Community

Hajj & Eid News
Q News (No318, 01.04.00) reports on Hajj packages, and whether those taking these offers are getting a rough deal. There are now around 20,000 package operators in Britain offering a variety of different value packages. It takes examples from an area in north-west London. Tybah Tours offered a 15-18 day stay for £1750 based on five to eight people sharing in flats some ten minutes away from the mosques in both Makkah and Madina. Down the road, Dar al-Taqwa seemed to offer a better deal with a 16-day stay for £1600, based on three to five sharing in spacious, bedded flats within a short distance to the mosques. A the nearby El-Sawy Travel, the price had dropped again to £1400, based on five people sharing in private flats 20 minutes walk from the mosque in Makkah and 10 minutes in Madina. Most operators will take their groups to visit the other holy sites, such as Mount Uhud, but what none of them advertise is the extra £50 to £80 charged in Saudi Arabia for the animal sacrifice. Another comparison is prices for Hajj packages on the continent. There has been a long suspicion that those on the continent are getting hajj packages much cheaper, but Q News says this view is misconceived. Hassan Ali, an engineer based in Germany, flew out from Frankfurt to Jeddah with a party of 100 pilgrims, each paying £1280. The package was half-board with 4-6 berth accommodation close to the mosque in Madinah but a kilometre away in Makkah. Mr Ali told Q News: "The cheapest package I came across was £830 but that was just offering bare bones, 150 people crammed into flats some way away from the haram sleeping on the floor and not provided with any food." Tour operators in Britain say they do not want to offer cheaper no-frills packages because they would then be compromising quality and professionalism. Some operators, due to lack of internal regulation, can make a clean profit of up to £600 per pilgrim, and with some companies taking over 500 clients each year, the Hajj can be a very lucrative business. Q News says that ultimately it comes down to shopping around for the best deal and that it pays to start looking early and also looking for deals abroad. A brief mention is also made of the first UK Hajj mission, which Lord Ahmed, leader of the delegation, described as a great success. The team had four doctors and two social workers who dealt with over 1500 medical cases and dozens of cases involving lost documents and papers. It also helped sort out burial arrangements of at least eleven hujjaj who passed away in the holy land this year.

Muslims returning from Hajj were put on alert after a few women, in different parts of the UK, died of a rare strain of meningitis, just days after returning from the pilgrimage. In Blackburn, mother-of-two Kausar Ali, 29, died after contracting meningitis W135, which is said to be unique to Middle eastern countries and only affects 30 to 50 people in the UK each year (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 10.04.00). In Ilford, Raside Bunglawala, died when doctors at King George Hospital failed to recognise the rare strain of meningitis, and sent her home with pain killers for a dose of flu. Her son, Inayat, said: "My father was begging the doctors to give her antibiotics, but they wouldn’t listen. Her headache was so bad she couldn’t stand anyone touching her hair. She couldn’t walk unaided, was in a lot of pain, her blood pressure was low and her pulse rate was high. She should never have been sent home. My father has no medical background but he thought of meningitis straight away. We are furious. We knew what was wrong with her and tried to tell the doctors but they just wouldn’t listen. Now my mother is dead" (Asian Times, 18.04.00). In Liverpool, another woman died after returning from Makkah, and she was one of 13 said to be affected by the virus. Dr Martyn Regan, director of public health at Liverpool Health Authority, said: "The Saudi Arabian authorities have issued very specific guidelines - people going need to have meningococcal vaccinations against the A and C strains. The change this year has been the particular strain that caused the problem because it is one for which a vaccine is not used. What’s likely to have happened is people coming together from different parts of the world where they are very close together for a period of time. In certain circumstances that’s known to spread out forms of meningitis disease. The fact that’s happened in the past is a lot to do with the recommendation that people travelling to the Hajj should have the vaccine…It should hopefully subside now, but it is continuing to be monitored by the Department of Health" (Liverpool Daily Post, 19.04.00).

Q News also features an article about the Hajj through Christian eyes, recounting the experience of Joseph Pitts, a 15-year old cabin boy on a British fishing vessel which was captured by an Algerian rowing galley around 1678. Pitts spent the first few years changing hands between masters of varying degrees, before being bought by an elderly gentleman, under whom Pitts would become the first known Englishman to perform the Hajj. Earlier, Pitts had been forced to renounce Christianity for Islam, and after completing his Hajj he was released, it being frowned upon to keep a hajji enslaved. Pitts wrote about his experiences of the Hajj, many things which are different to the experience now, and how he was moved by the gathering of pilgrims. He wrote: "It was a sight, indeed, to behold so many thousands in their garments of humility and mortification, with their naked heads and cheeks watered with tears, and to hear their grievous sighs and sobs, begging earnestly for the remission of their sins and promising newness of life." After being freed, Pitts returned to England where he reverted to Christianity, but he remained forever grateful for having made the journey. As his return caravan approached Cairo, he developed symptoms of bubonic plague, a near certain notice of death, only surviving "through divine goodness…for I was returned from Mecca when this mercy was dispensed to me. I do observe the divine providence in it and hope to make the best use of it."

Stories of Eid celebrations have continued to be reported in the press, with many local community centres and schools arranging Eid parties (See BMMS for March 2000). However, the celebrations turned to tragedy in east London where five youths, aged 17-19 were killed in a car accident. The boys had been speeding up and down the high street in a hire car before crashing into a CCTV camera post. The impact split the car in half, killing the driver and four passengers. One passenger survived and was said to be in a stable condition in hospital. Scenes of youths driving up and down the high street in hire cars, loud music and waving flags is a common one on Eid, Pakistani independence day or a cricket match. A cousin of the deceased, acting as a family spokesman, said: "This style of celebration began a few years ago. It happens with cricket, football and religious festivals. The boys were in Green Street earlier, the whole thing stemmed from there. But the authorities should not allow it to happen. The young people should celebrate in community centres, not on the streets." The sister of one of the youths who died said she wanted other young boys and their parents to take note, and try to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. She said it had already had some effect, saying some of her brother’s friends told her that their lives had been changed by what had happened (City of London Recorder, 24.03.00, Q News, No318, 01.04.00, Ealing Leader, 24.03.00, Keighley News, 24.03.00, Salford Advertiser, 30.03.00, Loughborough Echo, 31.03.00, Accrington Observer, 31.03.00, Solihull Evening Mail, 07.04.00, Muslim News, 28.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 3-5]

Yemen men lose appeals
Five men held in prison in Yemen on terrorist charges have had their appeals to the Supreme Court rejected (See BMMS for September and November 1999). Lawyers acting for the men said the court had upheld a decision made last December to reject the men’s appeals. Their UK lawyer, Natalie Garcia, said: "All the legal remedies are now exhausted and it is time for the Government to state unequivocally that this trial was unfair and flawed, that there has been a miscarriage of justice, that a mis-trial should be declared and the convictions quashed." According to Garcia, the verdict was not delivered in an open court as required by Yemeni Law, but was delivered to the Aden Appeal Court over a month ago. She said: "The Court has been closed for a month and it was only when it reopened that the men’s lawyer in Yemen, Badr Basunaid, found out by chance that the verdict was there. He collected the verdict on April 11 and said that this was ‘clearly a move designed to avoid publicity and media attention on the unfairness of the trial.’" A spokesman at the Foreign Office, responding to the news, said: "They may now wish to explore plans for clemency from the President of Yemen. We can offer practical help." The five Britons are serving sentences of between three and seven years (Muslim News, 28.04.00, Sunday Mercury, 16.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 5]

Home Office appeal for deportation
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has begun an appeal in a bid to overturn a decision not to deport Shafiq Ur Rehman on terrorism charges (See BMMS for April, June, August, September, October and December 1999). At the Special Immigration Appeal Commission hearing, the Home Secretary’s legal team claimed Mr Rehman’s activities "directly support terrorism in the Indian sub-continent." They claim Mr Rehman is funding the Pakistani organisation MDI and its military wing Lashkar Tayyaba, and was deemed a threat to the national security of Britain. Mr Rehman denies terrorist involvement and said his fund-raising activities were for educational purposes. Philip Sales, representing Mr Straw, said the commission, in the first hearing, was "wrong in a number of respects and erred in not providing reasons to the Secretary of State." He told the judges: "The Secretary of State’s job is to have direct responsibility to safeguard national security and has expertise in this matter" (Manchester Evening News, 18.04.00). However, Mr Rehman’s lawyers say that he was singled out because he refused to become an informer for MI5 (Scarborough Evening News, 18.04.00, Wrexham Evening Leader, 18.04.00, Cambridge Evening News, 18.04.00, Birmingham Evening Mail, 18.04.00, The Times, 19.04.00, Morning News, 19.04.00, Birmingham Post, 19.04.00, Asian Times, 25.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 5]

Cash missing after police raid
Police in Birmingham have launched an investigation into allegations that money went missing during a controversial raid on a Muslim bookstore in the Sparkbrook area of the city (See BMMS for March 2000). About 60 police officers, some armed, together with Special Branch and MI5 agents, took part in the operation at the Maktabah Al Ansaar Booksellers and Publishers and at two private homes. Articles were seized, and most were returned, but now the shop owners have said that £280 kept in a hidden compartment of the till had disappeared when staff were allowed back into the premises the day after the raid. Police deny having anything to do with the cash. Shop manager Ashraf Thaher said: "The cash - mainly in £10 notes - was in an A3 brown envelope. It is our practice to put £10 a day into the envelope towards the shop rent so we know the envelope is there on a day-to-day basis. The money was in the space between the main till drawer which contained a float of about £30. The £280 was there when we closed as normal at about 6 o’clock the night before the police came. It was missing when we were allowed back into the shop at about 11am on the day after the raid. The float was still there but the £280 was gone. We have repeatedly asked West Midlands Police about the money but have received evasive replies. If we do not receive satisfaction, we shall make a formal complaint to the Police Complaints Authority. This ludicrous claim of us being involved in Islamic terrorism has badly affected the publishing side of our business, with orders being cancelled and no new ones coming in." A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: "We have received a complaint regarding an allegation that a sum of money has gone missing from this bookshop and we are investigating the matter." The cash-riddle is the latest twist in the controversial police raid. What police said were "firearms" found at the home of one of the suspects, turned out to be a CS gas canister and a stun gun, bought by the man for his wife’s personal protection. Neither had ever been used and were inoperative. Also, what the police described as "electronic equipment" which they seized from the shop, were the shop’s ageing computer and calculator (Sunday Mercury, 30.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 5]

Yusuf Islam at book launch
Following the launch of his book A is for Allah, Yusuf Islam spoke to the Muslim News (28.04.00) about his career in music and what led him to record his three Islamic ventures The Life of the Last Prophet, Prayers of the Last Prophet, and now A is for Allah (See BMMS for March 2000). Islam explained that when he became a Muslim in the late 1970s, he knew he had to stay away from the music business where "immoral things such as fornication, drunkenness, idols, competition, greed and selfishness are rampant," in order to develop himself as a committed Muslim. So he asked the opinion of various scholars as to whether he should give up music and making records. The late Imam Syed Mutawalli Darsh advised him not to give up completely on music and making records, but to stop performing shows. He then met Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips during his first visit to Madinah, who told Islam that musical instruments were haram, so he stopped his musical career, gave up playing music and sold his instruments for charity in 1981. Islam spent the next decade becoming deeply involved in education and in particular, Muslim schools. Fifteen years later, Islam was getting more and more frustrated that "people were not getting a chance to hear the true message of Islam," and this provoked him into writing and recording The Life of the Last Prophet between 1993 and 1995. He said: "Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a perfect model for humanity for all times. I wanted people to see pure Islam by simply looking at his life." Meeting with the late Foreign Minister of Bosnia, Dr Irfan Ljubijankic, who was also a songwriter and pianist as well as a doctor during the siege of Sarajevo, also pushed Islam towards recording as Ljubijankic urged him to use his talent further. A is for Allah was originally written about 20 years ago following the birth of his first daughter Hasanah, and had already been distributed among some Muslim house- holds. Now, as his old record company who own most of the records recorded as Cat Stevens, release compilations of his previous hits, Islam sees a way of promoting his new releases and reaching many more people. He said: "Most of the old records I made as Cat Stevens are owned exclusively by the Record company. I have no legal control over their release. Yet the company still asks me for advice every now and again, but I now make it conditional that they must advertise my latest Islamic recordings and the Mountain of Light Web-site. Alhamdulillah, they have no problem with that, so it’s a good opportunity for da’wah to reach many of my non-Muslim listeners." [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 5/6]

Cardiff conference
Around five thousand Muslims attended a conference in Cardiff organised by the Association of Muslim Professionals and held in the Cardiff International Arena on April 23rd. The conference, titled "A New Age in an Old World - The Role of Muslims in the 21st Century," looked at the role of Muslims in this century, covering a wide range of issues from ecology to social and cultural topics. General Secretary of the association, Saleem Kidwai, said they hoped to change the image many non-Muslims have of Islam: "Too often the word Muslim is linked to terrorist or extrem ist. What we want to show is that all prejudices stem from ignorance and the view people have of Muslims is mainly through the media. We are discussing ways that we can be more accurately portrayed." The conference discussed several issues relating to Muslims in Britain, including how Muslims could best contribute to their communities and the contribution Muslims could make in education. Later that week, the conference organisers hosted a dinner at the City Hall in Cardiff, which was attended by leading figures in politics, the media, business and academia in Wales (Gwent Western Mail, 24.04.00, South Wales Echo, 25.04.00, South Wales Echo, 06.04.00, Cardiff Western Mail, 01.04.00, Asian Times, 11.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 6]

Imam backs down over eviction
The imam of a Walsall mosque has backed down in his battle over eviction after he was sacked for allowing a woman to enter his residence at the mosque (See BMMS for November 1999). Moulana Abdul Aziz was ordered to leave the mosque last November by Judge Robert Orme, who upheld the president of the mosque’s decision to dismiss him for gross misconduct. However, Mr Aziz refused to move out maintaining that he was not alone with the woman. Now, Mr Aziz and president of the Shah Jalal Jami Masjid and Madrasa, Hajee Abdul Monir, have said they have reached an agreement and Mr Aziz has withdrawn his appeal. He said that the case had badly affected his reputation as an imam, and told Walsall County Court that he would be withdrawing his appeal, withdrawing claims to the Hart Street property and withdrawing current employment tribunal proceedings against the mosque. Defending counsel, Mr Thomas Williams, told the court that in return no further action and no claims for costs would be brought against Mr Aziz by Mr Monir. Mr Williams told the hearing: "The parties made this agreement in the spirit of compromise in the hope of healing divisions between Mr Aziz and the committee and in the hope of making by- gones be bygones." Following the hearing Mr Monir said: "We are quite happy with the decision. He had no other alternative but to agree with the order. This has caused a lot of problems in the community. Religion is a very sensitive matter and we would hope something like this does not happen again" (Walsall Express & Star, 01.04.00, Wolverhampton Express & Star, 03.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 6]

New site for Barnsley centre
A site has been earmarked to build a new Muslim Community Centre in Barnsley to replace the one destroyed in an arson attack a year ago (See BMMS for April, May and June 1999). Council officer Diane Tweedie said: "The new centre will be a landmark project which meets the social, economic and educational needs of a range of users including the borough’s Muslim community. The centre will be multi-functional and could contain prayer facilities, classrooms for children’s activities and women’s groups and much needed conference facilities in the centre of Barnsley. It will be an excellent example of community regeneration and has the potential to create an extremely valuable resource for the people of Barnsley." Most of the money for the project will come from the Al-Quba Muslim Community Centre, whose building was destroyed in the fire. Naeem Jarral, secretary of the centre, said: "Muslims who have chosen to live in this town do so because they feel it is a comfortable place to live and make their own home. That is why it was so devastating when our centre was destroyed. The people of Barnsley are known for being courteous and kind and I am sure we can count on them to do everything they can to help with the establishment of this centre and make it a success." Council leader Steve Houghton said: "We are fully committed to working with all ethnic groups and are particularly pleased to help and support the Muslim community. The new Al-Quba community centre will be an asset not only to the Muslim community, but also to the borough overall. Now that a site has been identified we shall be making every effort to support the Muslim community in raising the funds needed to ensure its completion" (Barnsley Star, 13.04.00, Yorkshire Post, 15.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 6/7]

Hospital staff learn burial rites
Twenty members of staff from Whipps Cross Hospital have visited the Noor-ur-Islam Mosque and community centre in Leyton to learn about the functions of the prayer hall, library and civil marriage registration arrangements. They were also told about the Islamic way of preparing bodies for burial and other details about religious values, beliefs, customs and practice. Corporate development director Geoff Smith, said: "The visit was an eye-opener. The new knowledge will enable us to recognise and accept a Muslim patient’s needs from a better informed perspective" (Wanstead & Woodford Guardian, 30.03.00, Waltham Forest Independent, 31.03.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7]

Church hall could be sold to Muslims
Residents in Aberkenfig, Wales, are angry over the possible sale of a church hall to a prominent local Muslim. Residents of Dunraven Street say the sale could make parking problems in the narrow street much worse and were angry at the "hush-hush" manner in which the deal is taking place. Borough councillor Mel Winter is trying to arrange an urgent site meeting and has written to the chief executive of Bridgend County Borough Council. Naseem Khan, who is behind the deal, said he did not want to talk about the purchase until the contract was signed and sealed. He said: "Contracts have not yet been exchanged. I will talk about it when the deal is complete. It will continue to be a centre for the whole community" (Glamorgan Gazette, 30.03.00 and 06.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7]

Police called to funeral
Police were called to the funeral of a Pakistani bride, who mysteriously died ten months into her arranged marriage, after an argument began between the two families. Twenty-two year old Fozia Mohammed apparently died after overdosing on painkillers following allegations of ill-treatment at the hands of her husband, Altaf Mohammed. Fozia’s father, journalist Munawar Din, who flew into Britain for the funeral, has vowed to get to the bottom of her death, disregarding claims that she committed suicide. When he confronted Mr Mohammed at the funeral, he is said to have yelled: "I killed her - what are you going to do about it?" Fozia was discovered slumped on her bed on the 14th February, at her husband’s home in the Mount Florida area of Glasgow. Toxicology tests have been carried out but the results have not yet been released. Strathclyde Police, who are investigating the death, say they are awaiting the results of forensic tests. Several members of Fozia’s family claim Mr Mohammed had threatened to divorce her and send her home to Pakistan after she failed to conceive. Mr Din wept as he laid flowers on his daughter’s grave. He said: "I sent her to Scotland in a bridal dress and the next time I saw her she was in a coffin. When she died she was a frightened wreck who had been treated worse than an animal" (Q News, No318, 01.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7]

One-day conference in Liverpool
Q News (No318, 01.04.00) reports on a one-day conference held in Liverpool entitled "Is anything relevant today?" The conference was organised by the University of Liverpool Islamic Society and attracted speakers from Christian, Muslim and atheist backgrounds. Beginning the day was Professor David Dunster, lecturer in Cultural and Critical Studies, who delivered a very personal talk about his reasons for being an athe ist. He spoke about his physical illness and closeness to death and said that if a God really existed then he would have revealed Himself at the crucial moments of his life. He expressed appreciation of the social and psychological uses of religion, but said there was little room in his own worldview for belief in a greater Being. In contrast to this, Shaykh Mohsin al-Najjar took the stage, and conveyed the message that to deny God is to deny one’s own human intellect, using examples about God’s signs and ways of interpreting them. The second phase of the conference raised the question of the purpose of creation. Professor Stephen Clark, a Methodist and Philosopher, spoke on the subject of Truth, and said that there must be a universal Truth because human beings have been equipped to find it through their intellects. Theologian Professor Ian Markham, however, remained sceptical as to whether the Truth could ever be attained by human beings, although it was desirable to strive for it. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, director of the Islamic Institute in America, put emphasis in his talk on belief in the resurrection and accountability in the afterlife as being part of our human nature. He gave an explanation of the Qur’anic references to the resurrection, and also stated that the denial of God is the height of human arrogance and that God then diverts His signs from the arrogant. The plenary session which ended the conference gave the speakers a chance to make their final comments and restate their positions. Shaykh Hamza concluded the event by offering Islam as the anchor of truth, and finished with an emotional prayer in what was otherwise a strictly academic event. He invited everyone in the audience and on the panel to take the Shahada (declaration of faith) and at least nine people are said to have accepted the invitation that evening. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7]

Art on show in Oldham
Oldham Art Gallery has a new exhibition showing the work of Islamic calligraphers. Some examples on display date back to the seventh century, showing verses of the Qur’an beautifully and intricately drawn. The display runs until 10th June (Oldham Chronicle, 04.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7]

Muslim new year
The Muslim new year began at the beginning of April, with the first of Muharram falling on 6th April. In the Windsor & Maidenhead Observer (07.04.00) a member of the Jamia Mosque wrote an article about the significance of the month, particularly in relation to the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussain, on 10th Muharram. He gives some history to the event which ended with the Battle of Karbala in Iraq in the year 61AH. Also writing an article about the tragedy of this event was Mulla Asghar Ali Jaffer, which appeared in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus (01.04.00). President of the World Federations of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities, Mulla Asghar relates why this event was so significant and why it is commemorated, particularly by Shia Muslims. He said: "Shia Muslims commemorate this martyrdom every year. For the first ten days they congregate to pay homage to Imam Hussain and his companions. On the day of actual martyrdom, the tenth, the whole Shia community worldwide is immersed in grief and lamentation. In Britain, Shias in all parts will assemble to commemorate the tragedy, and keep the memory of that supreme sacrifice alive and vibrant." Mulla Asghar posted the article on March 20 and unexpectedly passed away on March 21.

The Independent (05.04.00) carries an obituary, written by Yusuf Al-Khoei. It traces his background from his birth in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1937 to his death in London on 21 March 2000. Mulla Asghar took a keen interest in community affairs from when he was young and living in Mombasa. In 1975, he brought the scattered community from around the globe under one forum, which is now called the World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities, and set up their first headquarters in London in 1976. He worked hard in community and education projects, and set up the Zainabiyyah Child Sponsorship Scheme, which continues to help over 10,000 students through their basic and primary education in India, Thailand and Africa. He established a medical centre and Careers and Education Training and Advisory Board based in Birmingham as well as local community projects for senior citizens, women and children. He also initiated the building of around 500 concrete homes for the needy in India and co-ordinated relief projects to help the war victims of Bosnia and Iraq. Mulla Asghar was largely self-taught and as well as being an acknowledged religious scholar, he was proficient in six languages: English, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Kiswahili and his native Gujarati, which enabled him to forge relations with other communities, as he believed in the importance of interfaith relations. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 7/8]

Muslim appeal for Chechnya
Muslims in Batley presented a cheque for £10,000 - raised locally in less than two months - to Islamic Relief to help Chechen refugees caught up in the war. They also called on the government to put pressure on Russia to end the human suffering for those in the region. Waseem Riaz, a member of the Pakistan Muslim Welfare Society, said: "Muslims in Britain need to put pressure on the Government for something to be done about the situation in Chechnya." Khalid Hussain, general secretary of the PKWA, said that raising so much money in just a few weeks was only managed because of people’s generosity. He said: "We had magnificent support from all sections of the community and hope this money will go some way to help alleviate some of the suffering there. It shows how much can be done when people are willing to put their minds to something and set a goal" (Batley News, 06.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 8]

Cultural fair in Swansea
The Muslim community in Swansea have set a date for their cultural fair this summer. The event will take place on July 23 at Pentrehafod Comprehensive School. Activities planned for the day include cricket, football, ethnic cooking, music and calligraphy. The event is to get support from the Swansea Crime Prevention Panel (South Wales Evening Post, 13.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 8]

Exhibition in Swindon
An exhibition was organised in Swindon aimed at teaching non-Muslims about the Islamic way of life. The Islamic Awareness and Education Project, set up five years ago to supply Wiltshire schools with educational resources for religious education lessons, were organising the event. Hameed Choudhury, a volunteer with the project, said: "People do harbour a lot of misconceptions about our religion and our way of life, so we say to them, come down and enjoy a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere and ask any questions you like." The exhibition was to follow the theme of Islamic Science (Swindon Evening Advertiser, 13.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 8]

Investigation into funding of British ‘terrorists’
The Times (14.04.00) reports on the news that intelligence officials are investigating how Usama bin Laden, America’s most wanted terrorist, has been funding young British Muslims at armed training camps. It is believed that up to 200 young Britons have been sent to fight in conflicts in Kashmir, Chechnya and Afghanistan in the past three years after being given basic arms training. A number have been killed, but despite protests from families, the authorities say they are powerless to stop men from enlisting. The volunteers are said to be recruited through mosques and sent to desert camps on the remote borders of Pakistan, Sudan or Afghanistan, where bin Laden is said to be hiding. A Scotland Yard detective, who is investigating the recruiting agencies, said: "These men are over 18, they have valid British passports and we can’t stop them getting on a plane." British authorities are working alongside the CIA and others to find out how bin Laden’s money is continuing to fund these operations. It was also revealed that they thought that it was bin Laden’s money that was used in the bomb plot in Aden involving five Britons, who are still in jail there. Until now, they thought the plot to bomb British targets in Aden during Christmas 1998 was master-minded and funded by militant clerics living in London, but now say they have evidence to believe bin Laden was involved. This news came after Yemen’s Supreme Court upheld the long jail sentences against the five Britons. Families of the men are pressing the government to launch a diplomatic initiative for clemency now that the legal process is exhausted. Lawyers are arguing with Yemeni authorities to allow the men access to a dentist and for an improvement in their conditions. They also want them to restore a promised weekly phone call to their families in Britain. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 8]

Al-Muhajiroun investigated
Police Special Branch are investigating the Muslim "sect" Al-Muhajiroun, after their recent protests against Mayoral elections and Zionist celebrations. Members of the group distributed leaflets in the Redbridge area of London imposing a fatwa on Muslims prohibiting them from voting in the elections. They also issued a press release vowing to eliminate Zionism and man-made law in the borough. Detective Constable Jan Rodgers, of the Redbridge Community Safety Unit which investigates race-hate crime, said: "Special Branch is investigating the break-away group because it’s really a political faction rather than a racist one. It doesn’t believe anyone has the right to rule." She added: "The posters are being treated as racist as we have had complaints from residents who took offence" (Ilford Recorder, 06.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9]

Mohammad Akbor Ali obituary
The Independent (17.04.00) carries an obituary written by Chowdhury Mueen Uddin to Mohammad Akbor Ali, chairman of the East London Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in London. Born in Bangladesh, Mr Ali came to Britain in the 1960s when he was twenty. He soon established himself as a distinguished businessman and the textile business he established, Modern Trims, flourished. He was committed to helping those less fortunate than himself which led to him becoming an associate of many charitable and social organisations, including the Islamic Forum Europe, Jamiat ul Muslimin, but his foremost concern was the East London Mosque. He became a trustee of the mosque in 1985, and remained so until his death, continuing to make himself available to serve the needs of the congregation. Mr Ali later became Honorary Secretary, and then Chairman, when he embarked upon ambitious plans to expand the Mosque and build a community centre. The extension is half built and now the wider Muslim community is left with the task of raising the £9 million to fulfil Mr Ali’s dream. Born in Bangladesh in 1937, Mr Ali died in London on 11 April 2000. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9]

Resource centre opens in Essex
A new community centre has opened in south Essex which offers a wide range of facilities to the wider community. The community centre is running a programme called ‘Share It’, which will improve people’s prospects of finding work, or generally giving them a place to meet regularly. The centre offers free Internet access to all of its students in a bid to boost computer literacy skills, with high-tech printers, digital cameras and educational CD-ROM’s available for use for after-school and weekend classes. Older people are provided with a room where they can meet, read the latest Urdu and English newspapers, and watch Islamic and educational videos. Other services that are provided include traditional dress-making skills, healthy cooking classes and a new gym, which includes a therapeutic chair for older users which eases muscle aches and pains. It is also hoped the centre will work as a social centre for all ages. Ali Jarral, the project co-ordinator, said: "Our religion forbids us to drink alcohol so it’s difficult to meet people in pubs. Here we have a safe environment for all ages where people can have fun, and receive guidance on a wide range of issues." He added: "We have needed money to develop this centre for 30 years, and we’re really grateful it has now been provided. Once we had all the materials, we did all the work ourselves. Many people came home from a hard day’s work and then stayed up until 1am plastering walls and fitting doorframes." The initial funding for the centre was provided by the Government’s Single Regeneration Budget, but once the centre is up and running it will require little further funding as it is run entirely by volunteers (Basildon Evening Echo, 17.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9]

Mayor praises Muslim community
The Mayor of Worthing praised the Muslim community in the city, after the Friday prayers, for its contribution to society. Mayor Brian McLuskie visited the Islamic Centre in Ivy Arch Road, was shown around the centre and saw the Islamic society’s plans for redeve lopment of the site. Abdul Hadi, of Worthing Islamic Society, said he was delighted that the Mayor had come to talk to the congregation. He said: "He talked about the similarities of the major religions and praised the conduct of the Muslim community in Worthing for their participation in the work of the community" (Lancing Herald, 20.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9]

Peterborough centre may be refused
Plans for a religious teaching centre and prayer hall in Peterborough could be blocked because of fears over traffic and noise. Councillors are considering refus ing permission for the centre which would be used for teaching in the after noon and prayer between 4pm and 11pm. Twenty-six residents in the area have objected to the plans because they fear increased traffic and parking congestion, raised noise levels and a fall in house prices. Central ward councillor, Mohammad Choudhary, said: "There are a lot of Muslim people living in that area, and this is going to increase. We need to be looking at meeting their needs. I think the council should give this application more sympathetic and careful consideration." But an officer’s report prepared for councillors says: "Noise and disturbance could potentially arise from three sources - worship and teaching activities within the building, pedestrian congregation outside and vehicle noise. And there would be a significant shortfall in on-site parking facilities. The increased teaching use would give rise to peak-time, short-duration traffic generation while pupils are dropped off and collected." The application was to be considered by the council’s planning application sub-committee (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 24.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9]

Army recruitment campaign
On 14 and 15 March, Wembley Arena hosted an army recruitment campaign aimed at children from ethnic minorities to show them the vast range of jobs available. The guest of honour on the first day was Prince Charles, while the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Lewis Mooney, attended the next day. The event included a specially choreographed show illustrating the many roles undertaken by the army today, and a photographic exhibition took viewers on a pictorial and chrono logical journey of the participation of ethnic minorities over the past 200 years. Guest speaker Dame Jocelyn Barrow said that the population of the army aimed to reflect that of society but to do this, full support would be needed from everyone including civilians, and that a new recruitment department has been set up to deal specifically with recruiting ethnic minorities. The campaign hopes to raise its target of 2 per cent ethnic minorities to 3 per cent by the end of the year, and to 5 per cent by the year 2005. The objective is to promote the advan tages of diversity. Warrant Officer at the Ethnic Minorities Recruiting Team, Ashok Chauhan, said: "The army caters for all beliefs. Muslims who require halal food, time off during prayer periods and time off for Hajj are catered for. Although women cannot wear head scarves for health and safety reasons, they can wear trousers." Muhammad Zabir of the Infantry Regiment, joined the army two years ago and said he had not faced racism of any kind from his colleagues - in fact, his regiment included a mixture of races. He also said that the army consults community lead ers on religious issues. He added that he would recommend the army as an excel lent career move as "you are given the greatest opportunities and the colleges are among the best in the country. Students leave the college with a mini mum of four A-levels and the pass rates are excellent" (Muslim News, 28.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 9/10]

[back to contents]


Education

Oldham pub to become Islamic school
Planning chiefs in Oldham have agreed that a derelict pub is to be transformed in to a Muslim school. The disused pub has been used as a madrasa without neces sary planning permission, but coun cillors have agreed to give official permission for the use of the building. The madrasa will be used to teach unem ployed adults and students basic English as well as studying the Qur’an and Hadith. Environmental Services Director Les Coop said: "The Madrassa operates 10am to 10pm, seven days a week and has the potential for attracting a large number of people and in terms of noise and general activity this would be comparable to its former use as a public house. I am satisfied that the develop ment will not result in a significant increase in litter." Councillor Abdul Jabbar said: "There is a need in the area to teach Arabic studies and Arabic on a professional basis. This will help adults as well as children to learn the facts about their religion. The Madrassa will help to provide a focal point for the local community to learn about their religion" (Oldham Advertiser, 20.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 10]

School’s annual report
An independent girls’ high school in Nelson has been shown in it’s annual report to have made continued progress since it opened in 1997. The Ghausia Girls High School has increased student numbers by 150 per cent in the last two years and has been through two success ful OFSTED inspections. It says: "The school has established a clear identity, which has been mainly through the attitude and behaviour of the students. The students have been excellent ambas sadors for the school." It also says that the school provides the local community to educate their daughters in a good Islamic environment. It goes on: "The governors are fully aware of the chal lenges and will continue to work in conjunction with staff, students, parents and the local community in order to achieve the desired results. The school will continue to give priority to develop ing basic skills, but that will be done without compromising on the provision of a full national curriculum, with parti cular emphasis on the Islamic studies" (Colne Times, 14.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 10]

School wins NHS award
Pupils from Lomeshaye Junior School in Nelson were presented with a £1,000 cheque by snooker star John Parrott, after the school won runner-up prize in the regional NHS Health Challenge Awards. The awards are staged to high- light and reward school and other organ isations who have found innovative ways of keeping pupils and other people healthy. The school took runners-up prize in the Schools and Colleges category for its creative approach to addressing the specific health needs of pupils who are mainly from Muslim families. Bilingual assistants encourage parents to take a more active role in school life and visiting dentists ensure that every child, even those not regis tered with a dentist, receives treatment (Colne Times, 14.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 10]

[back to contents]


Politics

Protest over Putin visit
Many newspapers reported on the visit to Britain of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin (including, Sunday Times, 16.04.00, Newcastle Journal, 17.04.00, Glasgow Herald, 17.04.00, Bath Chronicle, 17.04.00, The Irish News, 17.04.00, Birmingham Evening Mail, 17.04.00, Scarborough Evening News, 17.04.00, The Times, 18.04.00, Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 18.04.00, Birmingham Post, 18.04.00, and Muslim News, 28.04.00). Most reports concen trated on the human rights activists who protested outside Downing Street during his meeting with the Prime Minister Tony Blair. Around 60 demonstrators, among them members of the Muslim Council of Britain, waved placards accusing Putin of being guilty of human rights abuses and torture. Many MPs also criticised his visit saying it was not appropriate for the Prime Minister to welcome him while human rights viola tions were continuing in Chechnya. Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Demo crats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said he was "profoundly disappointed" by the government’s willingness to entertain Putin and to require the Queen to receive him. He added: "Until Mr Putin shows that he is fully committed to dealing with the mounting evidence of human rights violations in Chechnya, he should not get the red carpet treatment in London." Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: "The people are feeling disgusted that once again business is taking precedence over concerns for human rights viola tions and war crimes" (The Scotsman, 18.04.00). However, Putin defended his stance against allegations of human rights abuses, saying he was left alone in fighting a "common enemy" of inter national terrorism. He added that the West could "pay heavily" for ignoring the real seeds of the conflict, and that countries were afraid to side with Moscow because of fears of the reaction of their own Muslim populations, which led them to ignore the reality of the war: "We have seen European countries and European leaders not able to support the Russian fight because they are afraid of a reaction among the Muslim inhabitants of Europe, but that’s the wrong conclusion. That should not be their conclusion. Western Europe could pay heavily for this" (Aberdeen Press & Journal, 18.04.00). Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Iqbal Sacranie, wrote to the Prime Minister asking him how the British Government could "do business with a man with so much blood on his hands," and urged Britain to support investigation of human rights abuses by Russian soldiers in Chechnya (Muslim News, 28.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 10/11]

Jack Straw interview
The Muslim News (28.04.00) carries an interview with the Home Secretary Jack Straw, who has promised that if the study by the University of Derby, com missioned by the government, concluded that there was a need for change in legis lation regarding religious discrimination, then he would ensure that legislation was passed through Parliament quickly. The issue of religious discrimination was discussed extensively, through examples such as a school’s refusal to allow a girl to wear hijab, and the continued use of the term ‘Islamic terrorists’, particularly by the Metropolitan police. Mr Straw said he would take up the issue of wear ing hijab in schools with the Education Minister David Blunkett, and although he was careful not to use the term ‘Islamic terrorists’ himself, he would continue to encourage people to move away from the term. Other issues that were discussed were the Terrorism Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords; the attempt by MI5 to recruit an imam to spy on his congregation; the report on forced marriages which was due out in November but has been delayed; and the need for the white population to learn from the Asian community when it comes to looking after their old parents. The full interview can be read in the Muslim News. [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 11]

New Mayor for Aylesbury
Aylesbury has chosen a Muslim mayor for the first time in its history. Raj Wali Khan will take over from Chester Jones in May, and has pledged to act as a bridge between the town’s indigenous and immigrant populations. Although he was primarily chosen for his ability, he said that his appointment will bring the Muslim community into the limelight and it will be a chance for both com munities to learn. He said: "It is tricky and it has to be done sensibly and delicately. I want to strike an equilibrium where I can promote being both a Moslem and an Aylesburian." Many mayoral functions take place in St Mary’s Church and the job tends to carry a Christian ethos with it, so Mr Khan wants the two faiths to be able to stand together. For this he wants to have two chaplains: the rector, the Revd Tim Higgins, who traditionally holds the position, and the Imam from Aylesbury Mosque, Hafiz Dian. He said the two already had a good relationship. He added: "I am going to be clearly seen as an ambassador for the Moslem commun ity because there is a distrust of Islam, but I mustn’t be seen to be biased in any way. I want to build strong relationships between Islam and the indigenous population." One of the main differences about this mayor’s image compared with previous ones, will be the fact that Mr Khan’s wife, Duniar Begum, will not be seen at the many civic functions he will be attending. He says that is her choice, not his, which some people may not realise. He said: "It is her civil liberty to choose to conduct her life according to orthodox Islam and it would be wrong of me to ask her to move on this." He also said that despite what men say, most of the time it is the wife who has control in the home: "They have 99 per cent control. She spends the money and makes the decisions. It is what she wants to do and the man is a public function person" (Bucks Herald, 05.04.00, Bucks Advertiser, 31.03.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 11]

Section 28 debate
Members of the Muslim community in Dundee held a seminar with MSP John McAllion, voicing their concerns about the repeal of Section 28 (See BMMS for January, February and March 2000). In the meeting, held at the Islamic Centre in Dura Street, Mr McAllion outlined the reasons for the government’s decision to repeal the Act, and have repeated assur ances that repeal would not mean pro motion of homosexuality in any Scottish school, saying the Executive’s intentions had been misrepresented and misunderstood. However, despite his assurances, the members of the community attending the meeting said they could not agree or accept the government’s stance and so the government stood to lose many votes over the matter (Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 08.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 11]

Plans for council prayer room
Plans for a new prayer room for Walsall Council staff and members has been welcomed as being a move forward for equal opportunities in the borough. The new room would give employees and councillors a place of tranquillity and worship. Councillor Moses Whyte - whose Muslim name is Mohammed Musa - said: "It is especially helpful for council members who are Muslims as they need to have space to pray in the middle of the day." His views were echoed by Councillor Richard Worrall who said that there had been a gradual shift in the culture, ethnic and religious make-up of council membership and staff over the last 20 years (Birmingham Post, 24.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 11]

Civil Service targets South Asians
On March 21, QED, a Bradford based charity launched a video package commissioned by the Cabinet Office to encourage young people from South Asian communities to join the Civil Service. The programme, entitled "Sarkari Mulazamat", looks at the careers of six employees of the Civil Service. The men and women from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities give brief accounts of what their jobs entail and why they enjoy working in the department. The first viewing of the video took place in Mulberry School, Tower Hamlets, with guest speakers Mohammed Ali, Chief Executive of QED, Sir Richard Wilson, Head of the Civil Service, and Mo Mowlam MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office. QED aims to address specific problems faced by the South Asian community, such as high unemployment levels, particularly amongst youths. Mr Ali showed worry ing statistics such as the fact that 60 per cent of Pakistani and Bangladeshi fami lies in England live below the poverty line. By promoting success stories, Mr Ali said he wants to "change the vicious circle of deprivation into a circle of prosperity and success." He feels that it is necessary to show that South Asians can and do work in a wide range of jobs such as policing, teaching and journalism, and that with some encouragement anyone can reach these levels (Muslim News, 28.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 11/12]

[back to contents]


Racism

Men attacked at Islamic stall
Three men were attacked in Leicester while promoting Islam at a stall in the city centre. A 15-year old boy, who has not been named, was taken to hospital suffering from a broken jaw. Pharmacist Moinuddin Kolia, 29, was kicked and punched to the ground in front of his pregnant wife and two-year old son. His brother, Farid, 25, shielded Moinuddin from further blows while pulling him to safety. He was taken to hospital where he needed five stitches for a gash to the mouth and had a tooth removed. Police are treating the incident as racist and are appealing for witnesses. Farid Kolia has no doubt that the incident was pre-planned, following news that racist attacks in the city have more than doubled in the past twelve months. He said the men had been harassing other black and Asian people around the stall before launching their attack. He said: "These people had also been watching us and eyeing us up while sitting on benches opposite our stall." His brother added: "I was not there to cause trouble. I would not endanger the lives of my child or pregnant wife. We are just peaceful people trying to create greater awareness of Islam. We have taken this as a lesson. We are supposed to be promoting better understanding in society. The city centre is there for all people. With us going back there it means these people have not succeeded. If they feel so strongly about things they should talk to us." Police arrested two people after the incident and they were later released on police bail (Leicester Mercury, 11.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 12]

Two men jailed for attack
Two members of a Muslim gang in London have been jailed after a series of vicious attacks on members of the Sikh community. Unprovoked attacks in Kingston left two men and a woman seriously injured. Imran Saleem and Majid Hussain, both in their 20s, were jailed for five years and three months, and nine months respectively. Reading Crown Court heard that last June, the two men were caught on CCTV cameras picking on an 18-year old youth outside a night club. Saleem, an experienced boxer, started kicking the victim, who fell to the ground as he carried on with his assault, assisted by Hussain. Both eventually left their victim, and were lost by the CCTV cameras, but were later spotted in Castle Street where they approached a man and woman. They asked whether the couple were Muslims, and when they replied they were Sikhs, Saleem punched the man which lifted him off his feet and knocked him unconscious. The pair then grabbed the woman, dragged her to the floor and repeatedly banged her head against the pavement causing facial injuries. The pair then ran off and changed their clothes in another street so as to disguise their identities. By this time, however, the police were on their way, and after sealing off the area, managed to catch the men outside a nearby school. The men were charged with two counts of racially motivated assault occasioning actual bodily harm, together with racially motivated common assault and affray. Saleem, who has previous con victions for violence, received a much heavier sentence because he took the leading role in the assaults (Kingston, Surbiton & New Malden Times, 14.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 12]

[back to contents]


Women

Campaign to boost grant
The Muslim Women’s Welfare Associa tion in Leyton have organised a petition asking the council to increase the grant it is giving to the society. Having received £40,000 last year, the organisation applied for £60,000 this year, but was only given £20,000, which is not enough for it to continue paying for its part-time co-ordinator Meher Khan. A spokesman for the council said that many grant applications for long-established groups had to be cut down to allow money to be given to new projects. Supporters of the MWWA, however, believe the real reason behind the cut is political revenge on Ms Khan, a former Labour councillor who defected to the Liberal Democrats. MWWA chairwoman Shama Contractor, said: "As far as we know, this is a deli berate attempt to harass and intimidate the co-ordinator. There is no consistency in the grant aid allocations. All the organisations funded by the social justice unit are allowed to keep their manager/co-ordinator except us." She said that the centre would not be able to open regularly without Ms Khan. Former Mayoress Naveed Bokhari has also written to the council saying: "It has caused great concern among Asian families, particularly women who could not seek help from other organisations in the borough" (Chingford Guardian, 30.03.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 12]

Domestic violence conference
The Muslim Women’s Welfare Associa tion were to host a conference on domestic violence and Asian women, in conjunction with the Waltham Forest Domestic Violence Multi-Agency work ing group. Some of the issues to be dis cussed were forced marriage, sexual abuse and refuge provision. Among the various speakers invited was Lord Nazir Ahmed, co-chairman to the Home Office working party on forced marriages (Waltham Forest Independent, 07.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 12]

Maternity staff meet women’s group
Hospital maternity staff have met with a Slough-based women’s group for an informal seminar on Islam and its impact on caring for expectant mothers. Jaleelah Siddiqi, president of the An-Nisa Society, said: "It went very well. We had 19 staff there - midwives and care assistants. That was quite a good turnout, really." A questionnaire session at the beginning of the seminar showed that the maternity staff were already quite sensitive to the issues, although some misconceptions still showed through. For the An-Nisa Society, the seminar was a first-step in a what they hoped would be a continuing interaction with the hospital staff. Ms Siddiqi said: "A lot of people they come across are from the different ethnic communities that we have in Slough - and a lot of the women are Muslim" (Windsor & Eton Press, 27.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 12/13]

[back to contents]


Youth

Eid card business
Five intermediate GNVQ Business Studies students at Wembley High School in Brent have used their Business Project to sell cards in their school to family and friends. The students had to set up and run a business for five months and complete assignments to pass the course. They all carried out the basic business requirements such as market research, book keeping, advertising a promotion. After considering various options, Eid cards were decided upon because of the group’s common identity as Muslims. As it was their first business venture, the students did not make as much profit as expected, but did receive a lot of praise from the school. Teacher Mr Toure said that "the brothers and sisters deserved some recognition for their initiative and effort. I hope that it will encourage more Muslim youth to work together and produce excellent results." For the remainder of the course the group intends to sell hand-made keyrings, which they hope will be successful (Q News, No318, 01.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 13]

[back to contents]


Interfaith

Islam lecture at interfaith gathering
Islam was put on the platform at a Shoreham Churches Together Lent lecture at St Peter’s Church, West Street, which nearly 100 people attended. Dr Karim Aboutayab of Brighton’s Dyke Road Mosque, said: "Islam and Christ ianity have a common vision in that we are here for a purpose - to worship God." He added: "We believe in the Bible, and the Torah, and that Moses and Jesus were prophets sent by God to tell mankind their purpose, which was to worship the one true God and be good." His colleague, Mr Isdaq, explained that the Qur’an had not been changed for 14 centuries, since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and gave details of the basic duties of a Muslim including fasting from dawn to dusk in Ramadan. He also defended the imposition of Shari’a law, saying it reduced crime (Shoreham Herald, 06.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 13]

Crucifixion exhibition
An exhibition by a Muslim woman artist has opened in Oxford, which features controversial Christian imagery. The exhibition, at the Ashmolean Museum, is called "Crucifixion 2000: In the Name of God" and features contentious images of Christ painted by Palestinian-born artist Laila Shawa. The London based artist was invited by James Allen, Pro fessor of Eastern Art, to explore the theme of the crucifixion in a challenging way, to mark both the Millennium and Easter. Professor Allen said: "I expect a reaction and comments from both communities. I think many Christians will be challenged by the messages, and I think pious Muslims might be disconcerted because the artist is depicting the Crucifixion, which is essentially a Christian belief." The pictures depict images of Christ and the cross using a variety of different backgrounds, including one which is made up of the names of killing fields and sites of genocide and mass acres throughout the world. Ms Shawa said: "The emphasis is really on what ever people believe in. In other words, it is immaterial what rituals or myths they may believe in, as long as it leads them to the ultimate truth that is God." Professor Allen added: "She sees paint ing from a political and social perspective, and like a good cartoonist she pro vokes people to see things they might otherwise miss." The exhibition will run until 14 May (Oxford Mail, 06.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 13]

Anti-crime initiative
As part of a Home Office campaign, Jewish security officials have been discussing self-defence tactics with Mus lims and other community leaders. The anti-crime initiative involves police forces and voluntary organisations across England and Wales and is aimed at tackling racism and anti-social behaviour. A key element of the initiative is to give support to self-help groups amongst minority communities, such as the Community Security Trust (CST), the Jewish defence body which police have called a "model" operation. CST offi cials have been asked by the Home Office and Scotland Yard to spread the word of communal self-protection, and have been discussing defence and police liaison with the black, Islamic, Hindu and Sikh communities. A CST spokes man said: "Part of our mission is to promote self-help organisations and to do outreach work with other communities. The response has been very encouraging" (Jewish Chronicle, 07.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 13]

Letter incites hatred?
The London Jewish News (07.04.00) reports that the Jewish community has once again been the target of Islamic fundamentalist activity after a letter was sent to Brent Council asking it to cancel Israeli Independence Day celebrations organised by the Zionist Federation. The letter, said to be from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, was sent to all 66 Brent Councillors and said that "Brent facilities" are not "the appropriate venue to applaud 52 years of racial and religious discrimination, murder and oppression." It added: "The Zionist Federation may try to hide behind the Jewish community, but it is not celebrat ing 52 years of Jewish culture or religion, but the existence of its creature, the State of Israel." Executive director of the Federation, Alan Aziz, said: "Upon advice from the Community Security Trust, the police and various other security agencies, everyone agrees there is no security threat to the event and we have been assured by all Brent coun cillors that they are disregarding the letters they received." But Labour councillor John Lebor was one of the councillors who reacted angrily, saying: "Brent are proud of our multicultural traditions and we will continue allowing the town hall to be booked by the Jewish community. We have Hindu, Indian and Pakistani independence day celebrations each year so why not for the Jewish State? The organisation that sent the letter is a way out loony lot - an extrem- ist group that doesn’t even warrant attention. We won’t bother replying." However, Councillor Reg Colwill was considering reporting the incident to the police: "This letter is an incitement to race hate against the Jewish State and therefore against Jews. Had an English- man written such a letter, he would have been charged with race hatred." The group behind the letter denies any con nection to the demonstration that marred the 1998 Independence Day festivities. Its part-time researcher, Ahmed Hussain, said: "we have no plans for demonstra tions or a vigil but we do object to the Israeli government denying United Nations resolutions." [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 13/14]

[back to contents]


Health

HIV and Sexual Health seminar
Q News (No318, 01.04.00) reports on a one-day seminar called "Muslims, HIV and Sexual Health in the Muslim Community" held on February 24 at the Islamic Centre of England, London. Amongst those attending were govern ment officials, sexual health organisations, social workers, members of women’s groups and imams from various mosques. The day started with a Qur’anic recitation, followed by an address by Baroness Pola Uddin of Bethnal Green. She said the issue of sexual health was important to raise, especially as the Muslim community had long shied away from dealing with mental and sexual problems. Literature on these subjects from an Islamic perspective was practically non-existent, and information provided by the local authority was not addressing the requirements of a faith sensitive community. Other speakers included: Dr M Shuja Shafi, a consultant Micro Biolo gist at the Public Health Laboratory of the Central Middlesex Hospital, who explained what HIV is about; Dr Patricia Troop, Co-deputy Chief Medical Officer, who gave a detailed explanation of government initiatives on the issue; Aisha Khan, from the Brent and Harrow Health Authority, shared her experience of ‘Working with the Community’; and finally, Abdul Rashid, Founder of the Muslims HIV and AIDS Support Service, gave a moving presentation on efforts aimed at ‘Working for the Community’. The afternoon session saw delegates divided into four groups, who then reported back to the plenary. A report on the seminar is to be published soon, and can be ordered by contacting the Centre for Muslim Policy Research on 0208 795 2724.

Q News also carries an interview with Abdul Rashid, who contracted AIDS in 1994. Two years later he became a Muslim, and established the Muslim HIV and AIDS Support Service after realising there was little support available for Muslim sufferers of the disease. He discusses his experiences and difficulties in trying to set up the support group, and the problem Muslims face in the field of sexual health education in general. He also talks about families faced with dealing with HIV and AIDS and the difficulties they have in speaking to other members of the family or community leaders, as it would bring shame on the family. He says that imams and other community leaders need to stop being afraid of talking about HIV and/or AIDS, but try to get the message across to people through, e.g., Friday khutbahs, and having leaflets in the mosque. He also asks for Muslims to support the charity, and give it finan cial backing if possible, as it does not receive any government funding. The full interview can be read in the Q News (No318, 01.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 14]

NHS circumcision
Q News (No318, 01.04.00) reports on NHS circumcision and the Bradford Royal Infirmary, which five years ago became the first NHS hospital to offer neo-natal male circumcision for non-medical reasons. The hospital now accounts for a fifth of all neo-natal male circumcisions in the city, but also sees babies brought from cities such as Hull and Newcastle. It also set a precedent for hospitals in Bolton, Bury, Sandwell and Leicester, who now also provide NHS circumcisions. However, the hospital has been targeted by critics who claim they have allowed circumcision in through the back door, and the NHS should not be providing treatment on a religious basis. However, Dr Tariq Shah said: "Muslims will demand circumcision for cultural and social reasons no matter what. At the same time we have a situa tion where the NHS can only provide it if it is medically required. But that would be leaving room for back-street circumcisions, something that in the long run would also cost the NHS since it would have to repair the damage they do. That’s not to say we don’t have any complications. We do. But because all our staff are properly trained they don’t tend to be as serious." [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 14]

[back to contents]


Mosques & Burials

Birmingham, Anderton Rd
A new £2 million pound mosque is to be built in Birmingham, and Pakistan’s High Commissioner attended a cere mony where the foundation stone was laid. Around 1,000 people were expec ted to attend the ceremony along with His Excellency Akbar S Ahmed, at the Sparkbrook Islamic Centre, in Anderton Road. The new building will take around a year to complete and will provide a new home for the Islamic Centre which has grown out of its current premises. The new purpose built centre will also include a community and sports hall, and will provide everything from a place to pray to computer training for local residents (Birmingham Evening Mail, 01.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 14]

Birmingham, Coventry Rd
Members of the Coventry Road Mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham, have been urging the council to install a pedestrian crossing outside their mosque as they fear people are being put at risk when they cross the road outside the building. They say the have been campaigning for three years for a crossing without success, and up to 200 people planned to hand out leaflets during a protest they organised to raise awareness of the dangers. Shelu Miah, a spokesman for the mosque, said: "Thousands of people cross the road at that point and there have been several accidents. It is a busy road and people often can’t see clearly because vehicles are parked in the way. The council keeps saying that they are looking into the problem but nothing has been done." A transport spokesman for the council said the road has been ear marked as a priority for a crossing. He said: "We accept there is a need for a crossing and plans for one will be inclu deed in our prioritisation programme. But it will not be included this financial year because that programme has already been set. A crossing will then be built as soon as the funding becomes available" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 21.04.00, Birmingham Post, 22.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 14/15]

Bradford, Manningham
Members of the Muslim community in Bradford turned in out great numbers to see a senior religious leader opening a new Bradford mosque. Dr Abdullah bin Abdul Muhsin At-Turki, advisor to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia, was the guest of honour at the ceremony for the Muhammadi Masjid and Islamic Centre in Manningham. Dr At-Turki, formally the Minister for Religious Affairs in Saudi Arabia, is also the Imam of the Ka’aba, who leads prayers at Islam’s most sacred place of worship in Makkah. The mosque took ten years to complete, cost £950,000, and can hold up to 1,500 worshippers. The mosque still needs £90,000 to cover some of the building costs and Dr At-Turki’s presence sug gested it will receive help from Saudi Arabia. Mosque Secretary Habib ur Rahman said: "This is a rare occasion where we have an advisor to the royal family coming to this city to especially open the mosque. It’s a great pleasure and a big privilege to welcome such a high dignitary from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Other guests of honour included Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, Home Office Minister Michael O’Brien, and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Peter Lancaster. Dr At-Turki was shown around the new facility, which includes a library, and then went on to a seminar in a nearby marquee filled with worshippers, before leading prayers. The next day he opened another mosque in Dewsbury (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 29.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 15]

Darlaston, Walsall Rd
Council officers in Darlaston have said plans for a purpose-built mosque to replace the existing one, should be thrown out because there are not enough parking spaces in the plans (See BMMS for January and February 2000). The current mosque, a converted pub, would be demolished to make way for a new two-storey mosque and Islamic centre. The application includes eight parking spaces, but according to Walsall Coun cil’s planning and building control manager, the 1,566 square metre deve lopment would need around 116 spaces. Martyn Single said: "I consider the mosque to have an interesting design and the potential to form a landmark building to the benefit of the wider environment." But in a report he says that the probable congestion and road safety problems the mosque would cause outweigh the benefits of having a new community building. The Muslim Wel fare Centre, however, claim most people would walk to the centre (Wolver hampton Express & Star, 19.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 15]

East London, Mulberry Way
Police are still urging witnesses to come forward concerning the arson attack on a South Woodford Muslim Centre (See March 2000). The Qur’ani Murkuz Trust Centre in Mulberry Way was set on fire in what people are treating as a racist attack, and caused extensive damage to the centre. Residents living near the centre, however, are unhappy that the arson attack seemed to suggest they were racist. But police, who said that the deliberate attack was registered as arson, confirmed they are treating it as a racist crime due to the nature of the building. Redbridge Chief Supt Bob Kynnersley said: "It’s difficult but whatever the feelings are, the stance we had to take was that it was racist because of the building it is. There’s an extensive in vestigation going on and we’re follow ing up the information that people have given us" (Wanstead & Woodford Guardian, 30.03.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 15]

Epsom burials
Councillors in Epsom have accepted requests by the Epsom and Ewell Islamic Society to provide a separate plot for Muslim burials (See BMMS for September, October 1999 and February 2000). The decision will see the ceme tery having three rows, among Christian graves, to be set aside for Muslims. The new plots will need to face Makkah and are larger than existing spaces. The Islamic Society’s initial request for a separate part of the cemetery was turned down by the council and weekend burials will be looked at again when a review is conducted next year. Mohammed Rassool, of the Islamic Society, said: "It was not what we asked for, ideally we would have liked a separate plot, but we have reached a compromise." He added: "I have been living in Epsom for 25 years and both my mother and brother-in-law had to be buried in Brookwood, which is 25 miles away. We will be monitoring how it works in the next year and will push the council further. With the help of Allah we have managed to achieve something for the Muslim community in Epsom" (Epsom & Ewell Herald, 05.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 15]

Exeter, York Rd
Plans to build a £1 million mosque in Exeter are to go before councillors in May (See BMMS for March 2000). The Exeter Islamic Society has submitted plans for a purpose-built mosque, follow ing the recent purchase of former Devon County Council offices. The Society wants to demolish the existing buildings and build the new mosque on that site. Mohammed Saeid, the centre’s imam, said: "We are happy that we have now submitted our application officially. We will see how the situation goes and if it is approved we will be raising the money from national and international companies. The plans are now available in the Exeter Civic Centre for the public to view." The mosque would be a red brick building, with a flat roof and Islamic-style windows. The main prayer hall would be on the ground floor, as well as a shop, office and conference room. A computer room and library would be on the first-floor and there would also be a kitchen, multi-purpose hall and four classrooms. Mr Saeid said the design would be striking but the building would not be large enough to be an intrusion for other residents (Exeter Express & Echo, 12.04.00, Devon Western Morning News, 15.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 15/16]

London, Golders Green, Cricklewood Lane
The Shia Muslim community in Golders Green have submitted a planning appli cation to Barnet Council seeking permission to convert a derelict ware house into a place of worship. Rusi Dalal, an Ealing-based agent for the applicant, said: "If we get permission then all the interior of the warehouse will be improved so it will no longer be derelict...There will be little effect of any kind on the local area and it will only improve and regenerate the area." Mr Dalal said Shia Muslims had started using the site at the beginning of the year, spreading carpets on the vacant floor to worship, mainly on Friday after noons for up to an hour at a time. He said normally there would only be a crowd of 100 people, but on special festivals the number of worshippers could rise to 200. He said: "It’s simply a place of gathering. There may some times be social functions, as well as cultural events, but we are not talking about thousands of people pouring in. In the local area there are about 100 people who will come along." He added: "It is such a vast area no-one would know they are there at the moment. The need is there in the local area and that is why we want to use this space." Councillor Monroe Palmer, who is on Barnet’s planning committee, said: "I think it is something that has to be looked at very carefully and on its merits to see if it is a suitable place and something that is not going to upset a lot of neighbours." He added: "I am relaxed about the use but worried about very large numbers of people creating noise for surrounding residents. Obviously it’s a slightly more delicate planning application than for an extension to a house" (Ham & High, 14.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 16]

Newcastle, Malvern St
Plans to build a new mosque in Tyneside are expected to be approved by New castle City Council’s city development control sub-committee. The three-storey Islamic centre is planned for the Elswick area of Newcastle, and will include a dome an minaret. A similar scheme was approved in 1989 but did not go ahead because of problems raising funds. The new scheme is almost identical and includes a 40-space car park, day care and educational facilities (Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19.04.00, Newcastle Journal, 19.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 16]

Northampton, St George’s St
A mosque in Northampton has been given permission to build an extension for preparing bodies for burial. The Al-Jamat Muslim Mosque in St George’s Street submitted plans to build the single-storey extension, which will mea sure 2.6 metres by four metres. The extra room, described as a "single storey rear extension for cadaver washing," will give the mosque a specific place to wash corpses before they are buried. Nearby homeowners and businesses had submitted objections to the scheme, saying the extension would not be appropriate in a residential area, but the applicant claimed access to the room would be via the car park at the back and it would be impossible to actually see any of the bodies being taken to the mosque (Northampton Mercury, 23.03.00) [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 16]

Pendle burials
The Muslim community of Pendle has made arrangements with Lancashire County Council and other statutory organisations, which will allow them to have burials take place at the weekend or on bank holidays. They will now be able to call out necessary officers when needed to allow a burial to take place within 24 hours of death. Mohammed Razaq, president of the British Muslim Welfare Organisation, said: "I would like to extend on behalf of all the members a very big thank you to all the statutory organisations and local MPs for their assistance in this issue" (Colne Times, 07.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 16]

Southampton, St Andrew’s Rd
An unfinished mosque in Southampton has created a rift between the Muslim community in the city. The Medina Mosque Trust (MMT), who are building the city’s first purpose-built mosque, ran into trouble with the council after falling behind with rent payments (See BMMS for March 2000). Now the council has said it could repossess the mosque if the rent is not paid, and also wants assur ances that the mosque project has the support of all the city’s Muslim community. However, chair of the newly formed Muslim Council of Southampton, which represents other city mosques, said that they do not back the Medina Mosque Trust. Dr Redwan El-Khayat said: "The Muslim Council of Southampton does not support the cur rent management of the Medina Mosque, because of its lack of represent ation of the views of the majority of Muslims in the community, and its lack of accountability." His group is now in talks with the council about rescuing the project if the trust fails to complete it shortly. Councillor John Arnold said: "We want to reassure the majority of Muslims that we will pursue all options to move the Medina Mosque forwards. I believe the situation can be resolved but we have to be assured that the mosque is going to serve the Muslim community as a whole. The money isn’t the crucial factor - support for the project is." He said talks were also being held with the MMT, run by Mohammed Aslam. Work is still underway on the mosque, but legally the council could repossess the land if the overdue rent was not paid by the April 17 deadline. However, Mr Aslam said: "We will never let them take over the mosque. There are funda mental differences between the Muslim Council and us" (Southampton Daily Echo, 06.04.00, Q News, No318, 01.04.00). [BMMS April 2000 Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 16]

[back to contents]