British Muslims Monthly Survey for December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12
On 13 December 1996 at Wilton Park, a Foreign Office conference centre in Sussex, Prince Charles gave a speech entitled A sense of the sacred: building bridges between Islam and the West. The full text of the speech appears in Q-News (13.12.96) and substantial extracts in the Times (14.12.96). The Guardian (14.12.96) explains that this speech contains ideas which the Prince has been developing over more than ten years. The Prince was arguing against the divorce of science and spirituality, and for holistic and spiritual approaches to the environment, healthcare, education, urban planning and architecture. On this latter theme, he said: "I believe this separation [of the material and the spiritual] lies at the heart of the failure of so much modern architecture to understand the essential spiritual quality of and the traditional principles which reflect a cosmic harmony, from which come buildings with which people feel comfortable and in which they want to live. That is why I started my own small Institute of Architecture some five years ago...This spiritual dimension also infuses the intricate geometric and arabesque patterns of Islamic art and architecture which are ultimately a manifestation of Divine Unity, which in turn is the central message of the Qur’an. The Prophet Mohammed himself is believed to have said, ‘God is beautiful and he loves beauty’" (Q-News, 13.12.96). The audience consisted of about 70 people, academics, business people, diplomats, religious leaders and civil servants (Times, 14.12.96). On the subject of education, he told the conference that there should be more Muslim teachers in British schools and more teacher exchanges: "Everywhere in the world, people are seemingly wanting to learn English. But in the West, in turn, we need to be taught by Islamic teachers how to learn once again with our hearts, as well as our heads" (Times, 14.12.96, Q-News, 13.12.96, Daily Telegraph, 14.12.96). The Daily Telegraph reports that Mustaqim Bleher of the Islamic Party of Great Britain was "thrilled" with the Prince’s speech and had said: "It is good that the Prince acknowledges that Islam has a contribution to make to society. It is not a minority religion but a major faith which is part of society" (East, 29.12.96) Several papers (Daily Telegraph, 14.12.96, Q-News, 13.12.96) report criticism of the timing of the conference, which clashed with Friday prayers. The same edition of Q-News which covered the speech also had an editorial stressing the compulsory nature of Friday prayers for Muslims. This paper also illustrated the Prince’s points about art, crafts, and urban planning with photographs of craftsmen in the Middle East.
The speech has had a mixed reception from the British press. The Yorkshire Post (16.12.96) mentioned with approval that Dr Philip Lewis, Bradford diocese’s interfaith officer, had said that people in the Christian churches were pleased that the Prince was being seen to understand the Islamic position. The same paper, however, in an editorial, said: "The Prince seems to believe that the spiritual values of Islam can be separated from the real world of Muslim fundamentalism. They cannot...While the Prince is right to say that the great religions should talk to each other and that there is a spiritual deficit in modern Britain which Islam addresses, he might also have said that Muslims could learn much from the best of a tolerant and questioning Western culture." In contrast, the Asian Times (19.12.96) believes that criticism of the Prince’s speech stems from racism: "What Charles said touched a nerve because it broke one of this country’s ground rules, indeed one of the bedrocks of white supremacy - namely the notion that whites have NOTHING to learn from anyone else’s culture." The Weekly Telegraph (18.12.96) reproduced extracts from the Prince’s speech with no comment, apart from putting it in the context of the Prince’s 1993 Oxford speech on Islam but the Daily Telegraph (19.12.96) gave a platform to Dr Patrick Sookhdeo (see this edition of British Muslims Monthly Survey). He used it to insinuate that many Muslims would wish to engage in militant proselytizing and anti-democratic practices.
The Peterborough Evening Telegraph (20.12.96) and the Independent (21.12.96) quoted Dr Sookhdeo as saying of the Prince’s recommendations: "When we look to Eastern spirituality for help, why not start by looking at Christianity, which was born in the Middle East?" The Express (Manchester edition, 14.12.96) described the speech as "his strongest statement yet on Islam. He also condemned society as materialistic and lacking in meaning". The only paper to publish photographs of the Prince actually taken at the conference, was a local one, the Shoreham Herald (19.12.96). Here, the Prince was shown thanking the staff at Wiston House, Wilton Park, and shaking hands with the chefs, secretaries, waiters and administrators. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 1/2]
Israr Khan, a Muslim teacher of maths at Washwood Heath Secondary School, Birmingham, left children in tears after accusing Muslim pupils of betraying their religion by singing carols. The carol which Mr Khan interrupted was Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. During the carol concert rehearsal, Mr Khan stood up and shouted: "Who is your God?" Jim Collins, the school’s headteacher, said: "Following an interruption at a rehearsal at the school, an incident occurred involving a member of staff. This is now subject to internal investigation at the school." Yayha Yacob, of Birmingham’s Islamic Resource Centre, said it was up to individual Muslim children whether they took part in celebrating christmas or not. He said of Mr Khan: "I just cannot understand why he did not raise his concerns earlier with leaders of the choir" (Guardian, 19.12.96). Oxy Malik, an 18-year old Muslim student at the school, said: "The concert was going fine and then the teacher just stood up and shouted over the kids singing. He said ‘Excuse me, there are Muslim boys and girls in this choir who are saying that Jesus is their God by taking part. This is totally wrong’". According to Oxy Malik, Mr Khan then shouted at the younger pupils watching and: "Everybody started clapping and shouting ‘Allah’. All the white girls walked out as well as some of the Asian girls - they looked really upset. I disagree with what he said. Islam teaches you to respect all religions and we also see Jesus as a prophet" (Times, 19.12.96, Daily Telegraph, 19.12.96). Ibrahim Hewitt, of the Association of Muslim Schools, commented: "Mr Khan is right in one sense, but the way he went about making his point was unwise. If parents are happy with what’s going on, you have to accept that. But from a religious point of view, he was correct" (Times Educational Supplement, 27.12.96). Birmingham Provost, Very Rev Peter Berry, said: "I would have thought that the Muslim teacher would have understood that the children were simply sharing in our Christian culture, not turning their backs on their own. I suspect that what’s happened is that this teacher wasn’t prepared enough to accept the sound of young Muslims singing Christian hymns. There clearly hadn’t been a debate at the school. The Muslims should have been told that they were simply sharing a Christian festival, not being asked to proclaim Jesus as their God. This is a tremendously sensitive issue and I’m sorry this outburst took place. With the right preparation, it wouldn’t have happened" (Black Country Evening Mail, 18.12.96).
Peter Brown, head of performing arts at Washwood School, denied that any pupils had been forced to take part, and explained that letters with reply slips had been sent out to all parents in advance, giving the option of non-participation in the concert. There was an Urdu translation on the back of the letter. After Mr Khan’s interruption of the rehearsal, Mr Brown had explained that if any pupils did not wish to take part, for whatever reason, they had the right to opt out. Five decided not to participate, and the concert went ahead with over 160 taking part, in front of an audience of 250 people. Mr Brown said that he would have been happy to have changed the contents of the concert had he been approached by Mr Khan or any other Muslim teacher or pupil in advance (Birmingham Post, 23.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 2]
The Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) called a meeting in Birmingham to discuss the state funding of Muslim schools (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for November 1996). Zahida Hussain, Principal of Al-Furquan School, one of seven in the Midlands region seeking state funding, said: "A positive learning atmosphere, an Islamic ethos, a holistic approach and meeting basic Islamic requirements are crucial ingredients for the educational and cultural success of our children. We also need the National Curriculum to be relevant to the background of our pupils" (Daily Jang, 04.12.96). Chief Education Officer Professor Tim Brighouse maintained that the debate on Muslim schools had so far been formed by an "anti-Islamic media" (Q-News, 06.12.96, Daily Jang, 04.12.96). Yusuf Islam, Chair of AMS, commented: "The reality is that our schools are positive and forward thinking, and we are seeking to re-instate morality into society. Yes, we want to integrate, but on our terms. that is what liberalism is about if basic human rights and freedom of religion are to be upheld" (Daily Jang, 04.12.96).
Muslim News (20.12.96) prints a long letter from Ray Honeyford, former Dewsbury headteacher, in which he disagrees with state funding for Muslim schools, and the editorial column of the paper then puts the counter arguments. Another article in Muslim News (20.12.96) concerns the lack of support by the Birmingham Anglican Diocese for the al-Furqan Primary School in its bid for Grant Maintained Status. Dr Stephen Partridge, Director of the Education Board of the Diocese said: "The board felt that we would not respond either way. We will respond when the school makes a formal application to the Secretary of State". State funding for the Islamia Primary School appears to be nearer, as the Funding Agency for Schools gave its approval to the application for Grant Maintained Status (Sunday Telegraph, 22.12.96, Guardian, 28.12.96). Muhammad Zamir, the Islamia School’s administrator commented: "We are following the national curriculum and our parents are taxpayers...We welcome non-Muslims to our school provided they subscribe to our ethos. It’s not a school that promotes fundamentalism or extremism" (Times Educational Supplement, 27.12.96). Sir Bob Balchin, chair of the Funding agency’s new schools committee, said: "I am very impressed by the work done at the Islamia primary" (Guardian, 28.12.96). The Daily Telegraph (31.12.96) reports that the Conservative Party is considering the idea of parent and staff run, state funded schools for inclusion in its general election manifesto. Called "Charter" schools, the idea comes from the United States. The principle could be applied to very small schools, or to Muslim schools.
Muslim News (20.12.96) has also reproduced the Association of Muslim Schools’ League Tables of the results of 47 Muslim schools, which are taken from the tables of the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). The tables are reproduced in full, and there is also an analysis by Sarah Sheriff, Muslim News’ education correspondent. The school with the best GCSE results was the Leicester Islamic Academy, with 94 percent of 15 year-olds achieving five or more C grades or above in the GCSE examinations and Manchester Islamic High School for Girls came second with 64 percent. The King Fahd Academy, which unlike the two schools previously mentioned is selective, came in third place, with 61 percent. The national average is 44.5%. Aisha Desai, headteacher at the Leicester Islamic Academy, said: "Over the past three years the percentage of GCSE students achieving five or more grades A-C has grown steadily from 20 percent to 68 percent to this year’s 94 percent. Although we were in fourth position in Leicester, the three schools ahead of us were all selective schools, so we beat the state schools in the area using a non-selective policy." Overall, Sarah Sheriff describes the League Tables as showing "a disappointing result from Muslim schools overall with schools such as Islamia girls School in London (42 percent) and Feversham College, Bradford (15 percent) slipping a few places". She notes that, according to Ibrahim Hewitt, spokesperson for the Association of Muslim Schools, the generally poor results could not be wholly attributed to resource problems. Most of the Muslim schools scored well below the national averages for absence rates, both authorised and non-authorised. We know that some schools select pupils for entry into examination so the results are not necessarily representative. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 3]
Following the bombing of a commuter train in Paris at the beginning of December, the French Interior Ministry has complained that Britain is harbouring Islamic extremists. A spokesperson for the Ministry told the Observer (08.12.96): "Although Scotland Yard surveillance is of a very high order and co-operation on a police level is very fruitful, we feel there is a deliberate government policy of letting Islamic extremists do what they like as long as they do not harm British interests." The same article quotes an anonymous agent of the French secret service, the DST, as saying: "The GIA [the Armed Islamic Group, believed to be behind the bombing] is the most striking case of the growth of multinational terrorist movements. Its network is spread throughout Europe and Asia but, as far as Europe is concerned, London has become a favourite recruiting ground for fanatics and the safest place for high-level strategy meetings." A feature article in the following Sunday’s Observer (15.12.96) about Algerian exiles in north London found the French governmental fears unfounded. One of those interviewed is Djaffar el-Hourari, formerly a representative of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) in France. Two years ago he was arrested as a suspected terrorist and deported to Burkina Faso. He then went to Belgium and subsequently Britain, where he is now applying for asylum. He said of France: "France is like a Third World country, the police harass you all the time. Since I’ve been here no one has even stopped me and asked for my papers...I fully support the war against the government in Algeria. It is a war of liberation. Our war is in Algeria. I can confirm that there are no active units of the Islamic Salvation army in France or England." Muslim News (20.12.96) reports on the harassment suffered by Rachid Ben Essa at the hands of British immigration officials when he came to London to talk at the Yaum Al-Zahra women’s conference (see this edition of BMMS). He has Algerian and UN passports and has been working for UNESCO in Paris for almost 20 years. He was stopped by immigration officials at Waterloo Euro-Star terminal and submitted to a body search, then all his books, notes and papers were photocopied.
Mr Ben Essa told Muslim News: "I told them Britain respected freedom of speech, so why are you going through my papers and books?" Believing that the search had been instigated by the French authorities, Mr Ben Essa asked the British authorities: "If the French have told you that I was a terrorist, why did they not arrest me in France? Why has your embassy given me a two year visa?" The Daily Mail (30.12.96) reports that videos sold in aid of Algerian opposition movements which show members of the Algerian security forces being killed can be bought in Britain. Conservative MP David Shaw said: "Videos such as this should render people liable for prosecution." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 4]
Approval for two houses owned by the Nuneaton Muslim Society to be converted into flats was expected to be granted by the town’s planning committee at the beginning of December (Heartland Evening News, 29.11.96). When the permission was granted, Councillor Robin Hood said: "This is the solution to a long standing problem in the area, and I can only welcome this application. These buildings are in urgent need of renovation" (Heartland Evening News, 04.01.97). The bricks used in the construction of the houses in Edward Street are of historical importance, as they were made to commemorate Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897 (see BMMS for September 1996). The council found £1,500 from a special fund to save and store the bricks and the Nuneaton Muslim Society intend to incorporate them into the new building (Nuneaton Telegraph, 03.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 4]
The dispute over the management of Nuneaton’s Islamic Pakistani Community Centre continues (see BMMS for October and November 1996). At the end of November, protesters claim that when they came to vote in the re-scheduled elections for a new management committee, they found the centre locked. In a press release, the campaigners said: "On Sunday once again over 100 Pakistanis turned up in the freezing cold weather to cast their vote. The centre was locked and the ex-management committee and the community was outraged once again, and protested for their rights. The police were also present to maintain peace. The Pakistani community requests the council, the concerned funding organisations and the Charity Commission to take strict notice as it was a breach of the constitution to lock the centre. The borough council and social services provide funds for all the Pakistani community and not just a few" (Northampton Chronicle, 02.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 4/5]
The Observer (08.12.96) carries an article about objections by Jews, Christians and Muslims to advertising which they see as blasphemous or indecent. The article describes instances where faith communities’ objections have resulted in advertising billboards being withdrawn, if not nationally, then at least from the areas in which the communities are concentrated. The article does not mention the controversy over the advertising opposite a mosque in Blackburn (see BMMS for August 1996 and September 1996). However, its quotes More O’Ferrall, one of the largest billboard agencies, who claim an increased awareness of Muslim sensibilities: "Our computer targets areas with mosques. We would not put up posters that could insult Muslims. Likewise with schools - we would not dream of advertising an 18-rated film, or one with sex or violence near them." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 5]
Contrary to previous reports (see BMMS for November 1996), the organisers of the Salaam Festival in Glasgow are emphasising that it will go ahead as planned, from May to December 1997 (Glasgow Evening Times, 05.12.96). Stefan van Raay, curator of art for Glasgow Museums, has a long letter published in Scotland on Sunday (01.12.96). In this letter, he explains that: "This festival was never meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence of Pakistan. The five exhibitions mounted by Glasgow Museums aim to make people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, aware of the diversity and richness of Muslim art and culture and to change notions of prejudice and misconception into curiosity, understanding and informed judgment." Mr van Raay stresses that Salaam and the programmes to celebrate the independence of India and Pakistan are completely separate issues. He does not mention the question of the celebration of 25 years of Bangladeshi independence.
As part of the festival, an exhibition at the Burrell Collection will look at the influence of European painting on Moghul art; the calligraphy of Ghani al-Ani will feature at the Central Art Gallery; and the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life will have a photographic exhibition about hijab. There will also be a short season of Islamic films from around the world and practical workshops, as well as performance art (Eastern Eye, 20.12.96, Asian Times, 19.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 5]
Three papers, Awaaz (01.12.96), East (06.12.96), Daily Jang (20.12.96) carry articles on the report into the 1995 Bradford riots (see BMMS for June, July, August, September, October 1995; February, April, May and November 1996). Although not directly concerned with economic regeneration, the authors of the report recognised that, without job creation, the root causes of the disturbances would not be addressed. They wrote: "A city divided into a traditional white economy and a separate Asian economy, with African-Caribbeans struggling to find a place, is not capable of realising its potential" (Awaaz, 01.12.96). The article in East (06.12.96) is principally an interview with Mohammed Taj, the dissenting member of the commission of inquiry. One of his criticisms was that in the final report, the commission ignored the question of police community relations: "We heard from the community that the police were simply ignoring drug-dealing in Manningham. They felt that the police were just not interested in tackling the problem, but my fellow commissioners were not prepared to report this and they also passed over the issue of police racism." The Daily Jang (20.12.96) reports that Bradford’s Manningham district, the area most affected by the 1995 disturbances, has failed in its bid for an allocation of Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding. Ishtiaq Ahmed, director of Bradford’s Race Equality Council, commented: "This result will cause further feeling of isolation, abandonment and frustration, especially among young people who are going to be left with very little hope for the future. This is a major setback because the SRB money would have been the foundation for the economic and social regeneration of the area." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 5]
A group of over 30 teenagers confronted Slough police at the town centre’s police station on 5 December, following the arrest of a young Muslim (see BMMS for July, August, September and December 1995; April, June, July, August, September and October 1996). The youth concerned had apparently been the victim of an attack by two Sikh youths in their 20s, who were arrested at the same time. The victim’s friends were demanding that he be released and taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries. As the Slough & Langley Observer (06.12.96) went to press, the police were negotiating with a group of teenagers and their parents.
In a separate incident, reports of confrontations between Muslim and Sikh youths in Slough on the morning of Sunday, 8 December were being treated with caution by local police. Detective Inspector Steve Neale said: "The police were not aware of it and I have spoken to people involved in earlier problems but they did not mention it" (Slough & Langley Express, 12.12.96). There had been fighting in Slough’s main shopping centre on Thursday, 5 December, about which Chief Inspector Liam Macdougall said: "This ongoing tension [between Muslims and Sikhs] has had various flashpoints during the course of the past 12 to 14 months. Clearly, there are times of the year when tensions are heightened for one reason or another. Even when they are not, there has always been the potential for incidents to flare for no apparent reason. The way to resolve these things is for all parties to sit down and talk about their grievances and reach some kind of compromise" (Slough & Langley Observer, 13.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
The birthday of the poet and philosopher Allama Sir Mohammed Iqbal was celebrated at Willesden Green’s Pakistani Community Centre in mid-November. Ali Hafiz Khan and his band performed for guests at the commemorative event, which was attended by about 400 people (Paddington Times, 21.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
Four more community representatives have joined Keighley Muslim Association official Khadim Hussain as community representatives on the Partnership Board responsible for approving Single Regeneration Budget Projects. They are: Keighley Business Forum member Richard Taylor; Abdul Aziz, executive member of the Keighley Muslim Association, school governor and police interpreter; former councillor and school governor Michael Scarborough; and Younis Qamar, a businessman involved in the building trade (Keighley News, 22.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs came together at a special event at Riversley Park clinic aimed at finding out more about their diverse cultures and religions. Members of the health, education, social services and voluntary sector belong to the organising group, called SEVA, which is concerned about the poor uptake of services by minority groups. The event was also the opportunity for Nuneaton and Bedworth Voluntary Services Council to launch the publication of a cultural directory, published in conjunction with the George Eliot Hospital Trust and North Warwickshire NHS. The directory is a guide to religious beliefs and practices of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Further information about the directory can be obtained from Lalitha Webb on Nuneaton 340035 (Nuneaton & Bedworth Weekly Tribune, 28.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
A leading Indian poet, Dr Rasheed Meer, who comes from Baroda and is a leading exponent of ghazals, performed his work at a specially convened gathering in Dewsbury and gave workshops for local poets in November (Awaaz, 01.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
Hamad Ibn Abdullah Al-Majed has been appointed as Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque, following the annual meeting of the Council of Trustees which consists of ambassadors of Islamic countries to Britain. Mr Al-Majed is a graduate of the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad Saud in Riyadh and has his MA from the University of California. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Hull. Prior to his appointment as Director General, he was an assistant to the then Director General in 1986 and in 1994 was appointed Deputy Director General (Daily Jang, 03.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 6]
A meeting that was part of the International Friendship League’s People to People programme was recently held in the South Shields Mosque. The topic was a greater understanding of religions. The Mayor and Mayoress of South Shields, Bill and Mavis Brady, attended in their official capacity (South Shields Gazette, 06.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 7]
The director of Calderdale Race Equality Council, Ashraf Bismil, is facing disciplinary proceedings following investigations by Calderdale council auditors and the Commission for Racial Equality (Halifax Evening Courier, 07.12.96, Q-News, 07.12.96). Amongst other concerns are the validity of invoices for travel and computer equipment; that the management committee was heavily weighted towards Pakistani men, to the exclusion of other ethnic groups and women; and that Mr Bismil permitted the now defunct Islamic Cultural Community Centre of Halifax to use the REC’s charity registration number in funding applications. Q-News concludes its article making a point about management structures: "In 1990 REC’s were told to limit individual membership to no more than 25 per cent but by 1994 there were still 13 individual members in Calderdale standing alongside 14 affiliated organisations. The scandal has highlighted a common concern that REC’s have become racial castles and family fiefdoms". [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 7]
Police officer Paul Waite of Barton police station, Glasgow, has recently returned from a three month visit to the Indian city of Surat. PC Waite is a community liaison officer. He explained that: "One of the aims of the trip was to help improve police relations with members of the ethnic minority and things have gone very well". Anwar Limalia, of the Jamal Gloucester Islamic Trust said: "The visit was a very positive one for Paul and for us and he will be able to apply his new-found experience to any problems he has within the Indian community. He has been looking after our community very well for a long time and will now be able to take relations to a new level" (Gloucester Citizen, 10.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 7]
The Daily Jang (11.12.96) publishes an interview by Shahed Sadullah with Jemima Khan, which focuses on her conversion to Islam. When asked if there was any pressure on her to convert, she replied: "None at all. I knew Imran would not marry a non-Muslim, but I felt that if I could not have brought myself to believe in Islam and the Islamic way of life, then I would simply not have married him because it just wouldn’t have worked. Imran never said to me: ‘You must convert or you can’t marry me’. It was always understood that I would try to find out what Islam was about on my own terms and that the decision to convert - or indeed not to convert - would be entirely my own. Although there would not have been a marriage without the conversion, it certainly was not a precondition to the marriage. That said, Imran never seemed to have a moment’s doubt that I would convert." According to the interviewer, what appealed to Jemima Khan about Islam was: the direct relationship with God without any intermediaries; personal accountability for ones actions; and the way in which Islam deals with every aspect of life (Daily Jang, 11.12.96) [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 7]
Some Muslims in Walsall have complained against a non-Muslim bookshop selling the Qur’an. Nagina Ali, claiming to represent many Muslims from Birchills’ Ghousia Mosque said Ottakar’s bookshop had been "thoughtless and unkind" in placing the Holy Book on a shelf at floor level. She further claimed that: "Muslims have to wash before they can touch the Koran [sic] .... It’s a question of being clean or unclean. I visited the store with a number of Muslims and we agreed I would write." In her letter she further stated that: "No non-Muslim can handle the Holy Koran, especially with the Arabic verses in it. It is a transgression of the Divine Law." (Sandwell Express & Star, 12.12.96). Mr Ali Ashgar, vice president of the Blue Lane West mosque, gave Mrs Ali very qualified support, in that he agreed that the Qur’an should be moved to a higher place, which Ottakar’s have done, but he said: "Ideally no one should touch the Koran without washing. But for the non-believer that is between them and God. I think it is OK for them to sell it" (Walsall Express & Star, Sandwell Express & Star, 12.12.96). Ottakar’s religious book buyer Elizabeth Manison said: "We had no idea we were causing offence...We’ve moved it. But we can’t stop selling it. We might offend other Muslims and our job is just to sell a wide range of books without favouring any particular group" (Walsall Express & Star, 12.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 7/8]
The Prince of Wales is due to visit Kuwait on 21 February, from where he will visit Bahrain and Qatar before flying to Bangladesh on 26 February and returning to Britain on 28 February. The Prince has received a personal invitation from Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to attend the Janadriyya Festival, to be held on 4 to 6 March. The Festival is a celebration of Saudi and Islamic culture (Daily Jang, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
The Lincolnshire Echo (16.12.96) reports that arrangements have been finalised for the Islamic Experience Exhibition in Lincoln. This exhibition will be held from 24 June to 12 July at the City School and Central Library and the displays have been put together by the IQRA Trust and the Islamic Foundation, with coordination by the county council (Lincolnshire Echo, 11.12.96). RE adviser for the council, Phil Emmett, said: "This will be the first time exhibitions from the Trust and the Foundation have been shown together at the same time and same place. It will be a first for Lincoln." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
Q-News (13.12.96) has produced a month-by-month four page review of events affecting Muslims in Britain during 1996. All of these news items have been reviewed in BMMS, too. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
Abdul Haq, the Glasgow Muslim who abducted his daughters and forced them into marriage in Pakistan (see BMMS for March and April 1996) is ill with suspected heart trouble and the effects of a stroke and living in a hostel for reformed alcoholics and drug addicts. He has no access to his former marital home, as his wife Fatima has taken out a restraining order preventing her coming near herself or her daughters. Mr Haq has applied for legal aid to fight the restraining order and to bring a defamation action against Mohammed Sarwar, the Glasgow politician who rescued Nazia and Rafit, the daughters, and Mrs Haq from Pakistan. A friend of Mr Haq’s, Peter Paton, has contacted Glasgow social services to complain about Mr Haq’s accommodation in the homeless accommodation being unsuitable for him (Scotsman, 30.12.96) [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
Muslim News (20.12.96) reports on what it believes to be deteriorating Hindu-Muslim relations in the city of Bradford (see BMMS for October and November 1996), due to the propaganda activities of the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA) and the Vishnu Hindu Prasad (VHP).
Fakir Muhammad, a community worker and General Secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said that the VHP had sent an inflammatory press release to many Bradford organisations: "If this press release had been published, there would have been serious trouble. One of the worst allegations made in the release is that Muslims are more disposed to criminality and contrasts prison figures for Hindus in jail with those for Muslims." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
An obituary to the Sufi writer Idries Shah (see BMMS for November 1996) in the Daily Telegraph (30.11.96) includes a tribute from the novelist Doris Lessing. She writes of her relationship with Idries Shah: "He was a good friend to me, and my teacher. It is not easy to sum up 30 odd years of learning under a Sufi teacher, for it has been a journey with surprises all the way, a process of shedding illusions and preconceptions...I can think of no other person of whom I could say, simply, he was honourable, and be understood, by people who knew him, exactly in the sense I mean it: here was someone whose standards and values were far from what we are used to now." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
The Huddersfield Council of Islamic Affairs Trust, which manages the Muslim Community Centre at Clare Hill, has promised further improvements in its facilities and activities. Kirklees Council has recently approved plans for a new multi-purpose hall and the trust is seeking lottery funds to pay for the project. During the past year, 7,000 people have used the centre, an increase of 17% on 1994/5 (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 16.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 8]
Mohammed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, has been giving funds to various anti-abortion groups, including the Pro-Life Alliance, a new political party which aims to field 50 candidates at the next general election. A spokesman for Mr Fayed said: "Mr Fayed has undertaken to provide them with substantial sums of money to help them with their election expenses because he believes that what they are doing is in the long term interests of everyone in this country. Mr Fayed does not just talk about family values, like some conservative MPs, he is doing something towards these ends and re-introducing a sense of morality and purpose. These are not overtly political questions. He sees it in terms of a moral crusade." Mr Fayed has also given £10,000 to a baby hospice based in Life’s centre in Liverpool and is seeking some continuing involvement with the trust which runs the hospice. Caroline Daniel, writing in the New Statesman (20.12.96), says of Mr Fayed’s religious stance, that he "does not claim to be a devout Muslim, but says he subscribes to the broad moral convictions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, is associating himself with fundamentalists on the abortion issue, although he is not a member of Life." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9]
The Pakistani Muslim Welfare Association of Woking was due to hold its annual general meeting on Sunday, 15 December (Woking News & Mail, 12.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9]
Dozens of protesters attended Hampshire County Council’s meeting on 13 December to protest against statements by a Socialist Labour councillor, Parmi Bahia. He claimed that some Pakistani girls from the city are being forced to marry against their wishes. He intended to put a motion to the council about tackling this situation, but following protests from the Muslim community, there was no councillor willing to second his motion. Aina Damani, spokesperson for the Pakistan Welfare Association, told the council: "We are deeply offended by Cllr Bahia’s outrageous comments. His oppressive motion is designed to alienate the Muslim community and stir up racial hatred. We ask that this motion is unanimously thrown out with Cllr Bahia, the so-called champion of minority rights and equality" (Southern Daily Echo, 14.12.96). Councillor Bahia’s motion follows the publication of a leaflet informing women how to avoid against such marriages (Southern Daily Echo, 14.12.96). Councillor Bahia responded to criticism by saying: "...recent cases of forced marriages in Pakistan involving schoolgirls from the UK have been well publicised. I know that forced marriages are rare, but I feel very strongly about the young women in Southampton who I know are suffering because of them. We should not have to hide matters of injustice under cultural sensitivity. The Muslim community is saying that non-Muslims, like myself, should not pass comment on oppressive regimes but I stand by my views. We in the black community must stop being over-sensitive. I am not attacking the local community specifically. I have always opposed every type of discrimination whoever it is against" (Southampton Advertiser, 19.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9]
The Queen may visit a Bradford mosque when she visits Bradford to distribute Maundy Money at Bradford Cathedral. The president of the Bradford Council of Mosques, Khadim Hussain, and has received a reply from Buckingham Palace, about which he said: "The response...shows that there is at least a possibility of the Queen visiting a Muslim centre in Bradford. We have a great respect for Her Majesty and a visit would be a great honour" (Yorkshire Post, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9]
Coventry Muslim Community Association, based in Red Lane, Foleshill, has received £430,161 from the National Lottery fund for its work relating to mental health and the care of the elderly (Rugby Evening Telegraph, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9]
Many papers report on how members of Britain’s diverse faith communities, including Muslims, will be celebrating Christmas, or ignoring the Christian festival. The Derbyshire Times (19.12.96) quotes Aftab Saddiq, co-ordinator of Chesterfield Muslim Association: "Christmas is just a normal time of year for us. It doesn’t mean we don’t give Christmas presents to neighbours - neighbours are very important to Muslims". Zulfiquar Manji, a Shia Muslim from Peterborough, pointed out that this year, Shab-i-Barat [Laylat al-Bara’ah], which comes two weeks before the start of Ramadan, falls at the same time as Christmas: "The evening of December 25 is a holy night as well for all Muslims. It is called Shabe Baraat, a night of special significance to be spent in prayer" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 20.12.96). In Belfast, a day for family enjoyment was arranged at the Wellington Avenue mosque. Mohammad Affifi, secretary of the city’s Islamic Centre explained: "It’s a uniquely Belfast thing, with Muslims in Dublin and London doing different things. It’s not to celebrate Christmas, it’s to give the children something to do during the holiday" (Belfast Telegraph, 21.12.96). In Portsmouth, in recognition of Jesus being a prophet of Islam, Muslims joined Christians for worship in a special service in the cathedral at the beginning of December. Mohammed Riyami, of Southsea’s Marmion Road mosque explained: "We wanted to create a bridge between the two faiths by celebrating Jesus’ birth together. Christmas Day itself is a day for the family to be together, and Muslims may give presents to their Christian friends" (Portsmouth News, 24.12.96). The Scotsman (21.12.96), discussing ways to avoid Christmas, suggests converting to Islam but interviews a young Glaswegian woman born into a Muslim family. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 9/10]
Southampton’s Muslim community marked Shab-i-Barat, the Night of Forgiveness which precedes Ramadan, by holding prayers from dusk to dawn in the Medina Mosque, St Mary’s Road, and by having readings of the Qur’an (Southampton Daily Echo, 28.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
A licence has been granted for a community radio station to run during Ramadan in Glasgow. Radio Ramadan will have a range of two miles, covering Pollockshields and the West End. The station will broadcast mainly in Urdu, but with some programmes in Arabic, Bengal, Malay and English.
Naeem Raza, managing director of the station and co-ordinator of its team of volunteers, said: "We want to reach across all communities, and we are broadcasting in English to show that Islam is not only about extremism". Sponsorship and advertising will cover the costs. Mr Raza works for the Inland Revenue and has persuaded his employer to advertise on the radio station: "In the new year, people will have to assess themselves for tax. The Inland Revenue realises that it can reach a niche market - Glasgow’s Muslim population - through a campaign on the station" (Scotsman, 31.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
Stickers publicising Islam, which have been fly-posted in Crawley, have been condemned by both Muslims and non-Muslims as an inappropriate way of putting a message across. Mohammed Hussain, secretary of Crawley’s Islamic Centre, said: "We don’t know the youths who are putting up these stickers and want to discourage them. Islam is different from Christianity, which we do not reject or accept. Whatever religion you believe in it is your right to do so" (Crawley News, 18.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
Unity Radio in Harrow has been granted a temporary 28-day licence to broadcast, on FM 87.7. It will broadcast religious programmes in the Hindu, Islamic and other religious traditions (Asian Age, 19.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
At a conference to commemorate the life of Dr Kalim Siddiqui held by the Muslim Parliament recently in London, two awards were launched. One is the Kalim Siddiqui Jihad Award and the other the Kalim Siddiqui Scholarship Fund. The Jihad award will go to groups, movements or individuals who have contributed to Islam on a global level (Muslim News, 20.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
Some Muslims and Christians have united in trying to get a film, Crash, banned in the UK. Yusuf Islam, of the Islamia Schools Trust, and Cornerstone Ministries, a Christian evangelical group, are calling for a boycott of the film, which depicts perverts who gain pleasure from watching car crashes (Independent, 21.12.96). David Alton, Liberal Democrat MP for Mossley Hill, Liverpool, who brought about a change in the law on video ratings, was critical of the British Board of Film classification. He said: "I can see little point in maintaining the BBFC if it is going to allow film like Crash into our cinemas" (Liverpool Echo, 23.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 10]
Athman Khan, a worker for Islamic Relief, is frustrated that his plans to help refugees in the camps in Tanzania are being blocked by that country’s government. Mr Khan was born in Tanzania and wants to go with two other Islamic Relief workers to help Rwandan refugees. He said: "I would not think about the trouble and the violence, I would just think about all those people dying in the fields with nowhere to go. The situation is appalling. I am so angry that the government have denied us access" (Blackburn Telegraph, 27.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11]
The leading Jamaican Islamic scholar, Bilal Philips, plans to visit Nottingham during Ramadan to give a series of talks. Dr Philips converted to Islam 24 years ago and studied at the Universities of Madina and Riyadh. More than 1,300 people are expected to attend his five days of talks, the themes of which will be: the benefits of Ramadan; the rights of women in Islam; and what it means to be a Muslim (Nottingham Evening Post, 30.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11]
The Dewsbury Reporter (22.11.96) has a feature article about the work of June Carter, a nurse at Dewsbury Hospital, who has been specially appointed to work on diabetes care and prevention. She estimates that diabetes affects about 20% of the local Asian community. Ms Carter started studying the Qur’an so that she could understand the religion of the majority of her patients, and was pleased to find that the Qur’an tells Muslims to look after their health. She said: "Now I quote the Qur’an to them all the time and say they are not good Muslims if they don’t look after themselves. I think it’s important for health workers to understand a person’s religion because by understanding it we can use it to help them adopt healthier lifestyles." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11]
Muslims were amongst those protesting against what many people with disabilities see as built-in ineffectiveness of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which came into effect at the beginning of December. The president of the Association of Muslims with Disabilities, Faik Anwari, said: "Able-bodied Muslims are at the bottom of the pile so you can only imagine what the situation is like for those with disabilities. This Act lets employers and public services off the hook. It harks back to the old charity concept of concessions instead of rights. We want fully comprehensive civil rights legislation that gives disabled people the right and opportunity to participate in all areas of life like there exists in the US and Australia" (Q-News, 06.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11]
A Muslim pastoral visitor has joined Leicester General Hospital to offer help to Muslim patients and their families. Moulana Ismail Nurgat said: "I see my work as offering 24 hour spiritual, religious and cultural support, to respond to emotional need and to share in the healing process by meeting the spiritual needs of patients and relatives". The Muslim visitor can be contacted via the chaplaincy office of the hospital on: 0116 249 0490 (Leicester Mercury, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11]
At a conference on Islam in Britain, organised by Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in London, Christian leaders were warned about conversions to Islam (see BMMS for November 1996). According to the Baptist Times (12.12.96), "among the estimated two million Muslims in Britain, converts from at least a nominally Christian background have a high profile. Perhaps 10,000 Britons have converted to Islam, many of them women." The article continues: "The conference heard how Muslims are increasingly asserting their rights to Islamic religious education in schools, Islamic school assemblies, and even polygamy now that some mosques are applying to register for performing marriages." The New Christian Herald (14.12.96) reported that Dr Sookhdeo had said that "if Muslims were successful in gaining the classification of Islam as an ethnic grouping, they might be able to argue that all criticism was an offence under race relations legislation. This could lead to a severe loss of freedom of speech and prevent public statements of orthodox Christian opinions on Mohammed and the Koran...Muslims...do not believe in a democratic, pluralist society and are obliged by their faith to try to bring about change." According to Dr Patrick Sookhedo, ISIC’s statistics show that women figure prominently in such conversions and those like Jemima Khan "are captivated by the Muslim culture and its respect for women". He also mentioned rumours that Princess Diana shares an attraction for Islam. He also said, however, that: "This is a view common among wealthy women who come from an elite. They know nothing of the average woman’s plight" (Catholic Herald, 13.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 11/12]
A Muslim student at Imperial College, London, Ghanem Nuseibeh, has set up a group which aims to increase understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims. Ghanem Nuseibeh hopes that the movement will be nationwide (see BMMS for November 1996). He explained: "We want the union to act as an umbrella organisation for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim students. As part of our work we will be inviting speakers from the three communities so we can learn about each other’s cultures" (Jewish Chronicle, 29.11.96). Q-News (13.12.96) gives the name of the new group as The Middle Eastern Students’ Union in the UK, and quotes Mr Nuseibeh, who is from Palestine, as saying: "The objective is to draw all representative groups together. The people all share a similar heritage and we want to focus on similarities rather than differences." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12]
Father Sam Philpott, a priest in Plymouth, claims that proposed changes to the baptismal service mean that, in theory, a Muslim could become godparent to a Christian child. Father Philpott disagreed with this: "It’s wrong to make a proxy promise on behalf of someone else without making that same promise yourself. To do otherwise is rather odd in my book. Christian people have to make Christian promises on behalf of Christian baptism or you lose integrity. This is turning Christianity into a soft option" (Plymouth Evening Herald, 03.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12]
The Church Times (27.12.96) carries a brief article listing Archbishop Carey’s interventions in interfaith relations throughout this past year, described as one which has "seen a warming of Anglican relations with followers of other faiths". It asserts that the Kirlees RE boycott (see BMMS for January, February, March, April and May 1996) was "prevented from spreading by careful co-operation between Christians and other-faiths representatives over the syllabus". [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12]
Farida Khanum, the woman engineer allegedly sacked from IBC (formerly Vauxhall) in Luton for wearing hijab (see BMMS for November 1996) is appealing against her dismissal (Guardian, 07.12.96, Q-News, 13.12.96, Guardian Weekly, 15.12.96). IBC has denied Ms Khanum’s charges, saying that she was dismissed for attending a local university open day without permission, but has refused to comment further, pending the appeal process. Commenting on the need for legislation to protect Muslims from discrimination, Makbool Javaid of the Society for Muslim Lawyers said: "One case of discrimination is one too many. We know of cases of discrimination based on colour and on religion. Muslims in this country suffer from both" (Guardian, 07.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12]
A report from the University of Reading, commissioned by Reading Borough Council and the Pakistani Community Centre, has made recommendations which will be discussed by the council’s economic development sub-committee (see BMMS for October 1996). The report addresses the difficulties faced by Muslim women when looking for work, and stresses the need for employers to be sensitive to the women’s circumstances, cultures and backgrounds. Mike Orton, chair of the council’s economic development committee, said: "Reading Borough Council is trying to ensure that everyone who wants a job has a fair opportunity to get one" (Reading Evening Post, 29.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12]
Two papers, the Wembley Observer (28.11.96) and East (06.12.96) carry feature articles on Asian women and suicide, and the need for culturally sensitive counselling services which could help to combat the problem. Both articles point out the diversity within the Asian community, give some case studies of desperate women who have attempted suicide, and interview those who try to help them. Such services are often underfunded. Sabnum Dharamsi, coordinator of the Muslim Women’s Helpline, says: "We are a drop in the ocean, compared to secular responses to the need for counselling and advice...The experience of many Muslims is that they are under attack and what may protect and strengthen them is difficult to find. Essentially that is why Muslim women come to the helpline - to find reinforcement in what does protect and strengthen them" (East, 06.12.96). Sarbjit Ganger, a youth development worker at the Asian Women’s Resource Centre, 108 Craven Park, Harlesden, 0181 961 6549, maintains that part of the problem is stereotyping. She says: "On the one hand we are seen as subservient, passive Asian women, and at the other extreme as Asian babes" (Wembley Observer, 28.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 12/13]
103 Muslim women from Coventry have received certificates for courses they followed at the Muslim Resource Centre. Most of the trainees passed a two-year course in nursery nursing, Asian fashion design or Urdu (Coventry Evening Telegraph, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 10.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 13]
Late reports of the women’s conference to mark Yaum Al-Zahra (see BMMS for November 1996) appeared in Eastern Eye (20.12.96) and Muslim News(20.12.96). The conference, organised by the Islamic Culture and Information Bureau, aimed to combat Western stereotypes of Muslim women; to show that Islamic dress can be a source of empowerment; to spread the message of women’s liberation throughout Islam; and to expose crimes against Muslim women in places such as Kashmir, Bosnia, and Algeria. The conference was accompanied by an art exhibition and the publication of a booklet of poetry. Submissions for a future poetry publication are invited from Muslim women. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 13]
Two magazines aimed at young girls have articles mentioning Islam. J17 has an article interviewing girls who are in conflict with their parents over religion. Two were cases of Muslim and one a Jehovah’s Witness. The magazine then gives the following advice: to talk to a sympathetic relative; to try to find a compromise; to "explain to them [the parents] how difficult it is for you to fit their religion into your way of life"; and to seek support from a religious youth group. Mizz (18.12.96) in its review of 1996, highlights the marriage of Sarah Cook, 13, and Musa Komeague, 19, in Turkey (see BMMS for January, February and October 1996). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 13]
West Yorkshire Police recently held a special day to attempt to attract more Muslim women to join the force. Only three Muslim women belong to the 5,135 strong force. Norma Taylor, Equal Opportunities officer for West Yorkshire Police, said: "Ethnic minorities are under-represented in this force. About 2 per cent of officers are from an ethnic background, whereas we would be aiming for about 5 per cent if we were to properly reflect the number of people eligible to join. This is even worse for women, but we are working towards evening that up." The young Muslim women invited to the day were encouraged to tell the police what they saw as the cultural barriers to their becoming police officers. One of the participants, Sarah Rafiq, who hopes to become a forensic scientist, said: "It is very helpful to find out exactly what is expected if we were to join. There are religious and cultural obstacles when you think about a job like this but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Muslim women should be encouraged to join as it is a reputable job with a lot of security and there is no real reason to stop us" (Halifax Evening Courier, 18.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 13]
The Muslim Women’s Centre in Lenton, Nottingham, has been awarded £192,260 from the National Lottery to provide a daycare service for frail, elderly and disabled Muslim women in Nottingham. The three-year grant is for the purchase of a building, refurbishments, equipment and the salaries of seven part-time staff. The Muslim Women’s Centre started ten years ago and runs a lunch club, using volunteer workers. Sultana Syed, president of the organisation, said: "It is the only facility of its kind for Muslim women in Nottingham and much needed because the elderly can be very isolated...The day care service is greatly needed and we are now looking for a suitable building which hopefully will be close to our existing centre.
We are very grateful to the lottery grant. I am proud the case was put together by women without professional help and I would like to pay tribute to our care co-ordinator for the elderly, Shamym Hamdami, and all those involved" (Nottingham Evening Post, 27.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 13]
The Daily Jang (12.12.96) reviews a report by Amnesty International about the use of detention in prisons and detention centres in Britain in dealing with asylum seekers (see BMMS for December 1995; March, September and October 1996). Richard Dunstan, author of the report, said: "These vulnerable men and women have made long and often dangerous journeys to reach what they hope will be a safe haven from repression and state terror - only to find themselves incarcerated in British prisons and detention centres on the mere say-so of immigration officials. Their only ‘crime’ is to have sought asylum, and yet they have fewer rights than people charged with murder, rape and other serious offenses". Amnesty is calling on the government to introduce automatic reviews of the decision to detain, a presumption in favour of liberty, legal aid, and an end to criminal prosecution of asylum seekers using false documents. The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns is looking for volunteers to visit and befriend asylum seekers and other immigration detainees. Their phone number is: 0121-554-6947. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 14]
Awaaz (01.12.96) carries an editorial article on the subject of the Inner Cities Religious Council’s booklet, Challenging Religious Discrimination (see BMMS for November 1996). Awaaz notes the role of a Birkdale woman, Farida Patel, as a recently co-opted member of the ICRC. Mrs Patel, a school community liaison officer, is following in her father’s footsteps as a community activist. She is the daughter of Ismail Patel, a campaigner against apartheid, whose opposition to the South African regime led to ten years of house arrest and ultimately his death in 1973. Mrs Patel said: "I think I am just continuing the legacy of my father. He was very outspoken and influential. I thought - if he can do it, why can’t I?" In 1993, Awaaz presented Mrs Patel with an award in recognition of 22 years of service to the community. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 14]
Following intensive lobbying by Walsall’s Union of Muslim Organisations, the town council has agreed to adopt ethnic monitoring categories similar to those recommended by the Commission for Racial Equality (see BMMS for November 1996). The existing Asian category will be divided into Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. This is the main change that Muslim groups were pressing for. Irish and Chinese will be added, and there will be three, rather than two categories for black people. Mohammed Aslam, chair of the Walsall UMO, said: "I am very pleased they saw sense and decided to listen to us and adopt these new proposals. Ethnic minority groups are under-represented on the council and we need monitoring to find out why so the council can address the problem" (Walsall Express & Star, 21.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 14]
The leader of the Muslim parliament, Dr Mohammed Ghayasuddin, has praised his local council, Chesham, for setting up reporting facilities for people who have suffered racial abuse. These will be in addition to police stations, as the Amersham police themselves suspected that many victims of racism are unwilling to approach the police, hence the low rate of reported incidents in the area. Dr Ghayasuddin commented: "Any action which gives assurance and helps to create harmony in this society should be encouraged" (Bucks Examiner, 29.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 14]
Following the publication of the Runnymede Trust’s report on Islamophobia, the Observer (29.12.96) carries a feature article on the subject (see BMMS for July and August 1996). The article examines the causes of hatred against Islam and Muslims in Britain, some historical and some contemporary. It examines possible solutions, such as legislation against religious discrimination and incitement to religious hatred, and more responsible press coverage of Muslim issues. Similar themes emerge in an interview in the Reading Evening Post (31.12.96) with Dr Abdul Razak of Reading’s Pakistani community centre. He said: "Muslims are the subject of discrimination and of jokes. We have the worst housing and the highest unemployment in Reading is among the Pakistani community, and all Pakistanis are Muslims. At the community centre, we have a computer and office training workshop for women to get them ready for the world of work. The real test is when they try to enter the world of work, whether they get an interview, are selected, and whether they are selected at work." On the subject of British Muslims being identified with foreign regimes, and this being a cause of Islamophobia, Dr Razak said: "Muslims in this country are loyal to Britain and not to other Muslim countries." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 14/15]
A Muslim school-leaver with a Bangladeshi father and white mother was so upset by taunts about his race and religion at his first job that he gave up saying Friday prayers, a Birmingham industrial tribunal heard. Adam Meah joined Crane Bros Ltd, a metal working factory, at the age of 16, but stayed only four weeks because of the racial and religious verbal abuse. He claims that, on his second day, he complained to Rodney Crane, the managing director, but nothing changed. Mr Crane denies that Mr Meah came to him with any complaints. The tribunal continues (Birmingham Post, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 15]
Police were called after a group of about 40 Muslim youths confronted the mainly Sikh members of the Dhol Foundation who were staging a 24-hour drumathon in the town square. However, the event went smoothly, as Johnny Kalfi, founder of the Dhol Foundation, explained: "On Friday night about 40 young Muslims turned up in the square and started looking for trouble. I think the police thought there was going to be a riot but we explained to them it wasn’t a religious or political event - we have Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in the Dhol Foundation - and that we were raising money for charity. They started talking to us about the event and in the end they got into it and joined in, which was great" (Slough & Langley Observer, 22.11.96). The drumathon raised over £2,000 for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 15]
The Raven Street Youth and Community Centre, formerly known as the Islamic Cultural Community Centre, has reopened after spending £100,000 on refurbishment. Najabat Hussein, centre manager, said: "We already have youth sessions three times a week, with between 80 and 100 young men attending each night, as well as sports such as basketball, football and cricket, a weights room, a pool table, pinball and many more. We also run a motor education project to teach the basics of mechanics. That is open to females and we are looking to expand and provide female-only sessions in the future. We welcome people of any race to the groups, but we do split some meetings along gender lines to cater for Muslims" (Halifax Evening Courier, 06.12.96). The Halifax Evening Courier (11.12.96) carries a letter from Bill Payne, chief executive of West Yorkshire Metropolitan Housing Association and a director of the West Central Halifax Partnership. In the letter, he details a number of projects in the region which have been realised through cooperation between Muslims, the council and the voluntary sector, and concludes that: "The answer to the problems of this area has got to lie in cooperation not competition." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 15]
A Muslim teenager, Bilal Hussein Bhayat, from Birmingham collapsed with heart failure and subsequently died on the way to Cardiff Royal Infirmary. He was believed to have taken Ecstasy at a New Year’s party at Cardiff International Arena (Daily Mail, 02.01.97, Daily Jang, 03.01.97). Mushtaq Rabbani, a former Birmingham councillor and chair of the local Muslim Brotherhood, commented: "This is very shocking to us, but the community cannot do anything. The mosques are doing their best to stop it but they are not succeeding. Look at the lack of facilities for the youths - they are on the streets, they are getting into bad habits" (Daily Mail, 02.01.97). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 15]
In a speech to the Islamic Conference held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 28-29 November, Dr Syed Aziz Pasha of the Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) spoke of a Muslim dilemma regarding the millennium celebrations: "With the approach of the millennium celebrations in Europe, Muslims are in a dilemma as to how to react to what appears to be an essentially Christian celebration. We believe that Muslims in Europe have a unique opportunity for Da’wah through dialogue with the indigenous populations. There is so much in common between Muslims and the People of the Book that we should stress the role of Islam to contribute towards a moral and spiritual revival of a deeply divided Europe" (Daily Jang, 06.12.96). Dr Pasha also spoke of various demands of his organisation such as: state funding for Muslim schools; legislation against religious discrimination; official holidays for the two main Muslim festivals; and the incorporation of Muslim personal law into the British legal system (Q-News, 06.12.96, Daily Jang, 06.12.96). Q-News prints the text of Dr Pasha’s speech and the Daily Jang sent one of the correspondents, Salman Asif, to cover the conference. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 15/16]
A new organisation, the Islamic World League (IWL), has been founded in London "to co-ordinate activities of Islamic movements in various countries", according to one of the founder members, Abu Ammar Ar-Rashidi, head of the Shariah Council of Pakistan (Muslim News, 20.12.96). The other founder members are: Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the Muhajiroun, and Maulana Muhammad Eesa Mansuri. Dr Muhammad al-Masari, the Saudi dissident, is also on the IWL’s ruling body. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16]
The Muslim World League London Office Trust is to be investigated by the Charities Commission, writes the Sunday Business (22.12.96). Allegations that individuals associated with the charity helped to plan the bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, have attracted the attention of the Special Branch. The Moroccan government lodged a complaint with the Saudi Embassy that the charities facilities were being abused by an activist opposed to several Middle Eastern and North African governments. Set up in 1962, the World League has offices in many countries, some in Saudi embassies. Its aims are to sponsor mosques, Islamic libraries and social welfare programmes. Gulam Rahman, acting director of the London office of the charity stated: "We don’t allow any political activities from our office. Our building is a mosque, a place of worship. Our main activities are distributing religious books, including the Koran. We allow other people facilities for their meetings, such as education meeting, but nothing political." The Charity Commission official leading the enquiry was unavailable for comment. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16]
Omar Bakri Muhammad has faxed Wales on Sunday (22.12.96) suggesting that, as a solution to their public image problem, the Royal Family should convert to Islam. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16]
Addressing the Conservative Friends of Israel dinner, the Prime Minister John Major promised legal action against campus groups causing problems for Jewish students at British universities, but stopping short of banning Muslim groups. He said: "Our proposals in the Protection from Harassment Bill will give the police and courts even greater powers to deal with these problems." He said that information from Israel and elsewhere about "Hamas terrorist-related activity in the UK" was always followed up but that: "It is frustratingly difficult to prove a link between money raised in one country and terrorist outrages in another." The Prime Minister criticised plans for more Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, pointing out that they endanger the already fragile peace process: "In the present tense atmosphere, it will be all the more important for both sides to avoid anything that could be construes as provocation" (Jewish Chronicle, 27.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16]
The UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs (UKACIA) is preparing for the next general election. Q-News (06.12.96) reports that: "Among the issues which will be highlighted [in discussions with the leaders of the three main parties] are the non-recognition of Islam as a national faith - in contrast to a number of European countries such as Spain and Belgium, the enactment of laws against religious discrimination and civil legislation governing Muslim personal affairs along the lines of Indian family codes." Iqbal Sacranie of the UKACIA was confident about the opportunities presented: "As far as Muslims are concerned there is little to choose from between the parties. Our common concerns however will be voiced in Parliament by prospective MPs who know that their tenure is dependent on the Muslim vote." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16]
Leeds Borough Council is considering forming a Kashmir Working Group following a seminar which highlighted human rights abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir. The guest speaker at the seminar, organised by Kashmir Centres Europe, was Dr Z U Khan, a commissioner with the Commission for Racial Equality. He pointed out that: "The Kashmiri community can play a determining role at the next general elections, where the 50,000 electorate country-wide can determine the outcome of 42 marginal seats. If the major political parties do not take this issue seriously the next general elections will prove to be devastating to some". Dr Khan called for an end to violence in Kashmir, free media access to Indian occupied Kashmir, the British government to encourage dialogue, and for the UN to honour its promise to carry out a plebiscite (Daily Jang, 19.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 16/17]
An investigation is taking place in Luton as to why a subsidy has been paid to Beech Hill Junior School for transport to swimming lessons, without the knowledge of councillors. Tony Dessent, Luton’s director of education, suggested that one reason why this school had received the grants, which apparently began in 1987, was because the pupils are mainly from Muslim families, who insisted on separate swimming sessions for girls and boys (Luton News, 20.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 17]
Seven year old Amina Bawa of Vernon Street, Bury, has learnt to read Arabic so that she could complete her reading of the Qur’an. In addition to English, she already knows Burmese, Gujerati, Urdu, Punjabi, and Persian. Amina said: "Many of my friends say I’m too young to finish the Qur’an...I like going to the mosque so I can celebrate in God’s house" (Bury Times, 26.11.96, Bury Journal, 05.12.96, Q-News, 13.12.96). Amina celebrated having completed her first reading of the Qur’an together with nine of her classmates at the Khizra Mosque in Walmersley Road. The other students’ ages range from 11 to 15 (Bury Times, 29.11.96, Bury Journal, 05.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 17]
Voluntary aided status (VAS) appears to be a step nearer for Feversham College, the Islamic girls’ school in Bradford (see BMMS for November and December 1995; March and September 1996). On 4 December, Bradford Council held a public consultation meeting about the possibility of the council taking over responsibility for funding the school (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 29.11.96, Eastern Eye, 06.12.96, The Big Issue in the North, 09.12.96). The public meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of the council’s proposals. One parent, Gulbar Khan, whose two daughters attend the college, said: "The building is too small for us and I have to pay £700 a year for each daughter to come here, which I can hardly afford as I have nine children to look after. It’s too much" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 05.12.96). A condition of VAS is that the school moves to bigger premises, where it could double its current provision to 400 places. Muhammad Ibrahim, chair of the board of governors, commented: "The local education authority has been very helpful and have accepted the need for a single-sex Muslim girls’ school. We are hopeful this time that we will get the nod but nothing is certain in this business" (Q-News, 06.12.96). He also said: "We are extremely positive that the school will become state-funded. As citizens of the UK, we have an equal and legitimate right to have a voluntary-aided school" (The Big Issue, 009.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 17]
The chair of Bradford’s education committee, Councillor John Ryan, commenting on the council’s £30,000 support for 23 Muslim supplementary schools, said: "We want to open a debate with the community about teaching this captive audience of children English and maths as well. Perhaps we went overboard in terms of mother-tongue teaching. Lots of young people in this city are not getting a grasp of English early enough, and that cannot be acceptable. I am saying that in the past, we may not have struck the right balance" (Yorkshire Post, 04.12.96). Chris Benfield, the Yorkshire Post’s education correspondent, gives the context of Mr Ryan’s speech as: "First, a factional fight within Labour over a looming budgetary crisis. After that, if necessary, a fight for the leadership of the council between Blairite realists and the old Labour left." The response of Ishtiaq Ahmed of the Bradford Council of Mosques was: "Children going to a mosque for a few hours a week is not responsible for the large scale failure of Asian school children. It is the failure of the regular schools we should be concerned about. Supplementary education in mosques is essential so our children know their own cultural and religious heritage and so feel at ease with themselves and who they are" (East, 13.12.96). Mohammed Taj, the dissenting member of the inquiry into the Bradford riots (see BMMS for November 1996) was equally critical: "Why pick on the supplementary schools? This is a diversion. What kind of education is £30,000 going to buy? This is peanuts. A cheap attempt to patch up the educational failure of Bradford. It is a lack of resources and trendy education that has meant that a generation of Asian children has lost out" (East, 13.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 17/18]
The Times Educational Supplement (06.12.96) has an article by Sophie James, in which she interviews three young women, two Muslims and one Christian, about why they are studying Religious Studies at A-level or at university. The article examines the prejudices against academic Religious Studies: "It is a double-edged sword: secular critics expect that you will be an evangelist while, if you are religious, a person from your own religious community might sniff at the intellectual study of faith." One of the students interviewed, Sultana Uddin, an A-level student at Mulberry Girls School in Tower Hamlets, explains how her Islamic studies have interested her in feminism. She says that the course "equips us with arguments about ourselves. Equality between the sexes, divorce, women beating, the wearing of the scarf...things like this interest us because we are women and we want to go out and defend ourselves. You realise that most of the things you had been taught are more culture than religion. Now we can find out what is religion and what is culture." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
The Religious Education Support Service at the Islamic Foundation has produced a pack containing resource materials for schools and a set of RE Briefs on Islam. These cost £6 each or £10 for two. Details my be obtained from: The Islamic Foundation, Ratby Lane, Markfield, Leicester, LE67 9RN. Tel.: 01530 244944. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
The Muslim Education Co-ordinating Council, UK, (MECC) has begun an initiative to create an awareness about the lack of moral values in the British education system. The MECC intends to submit a memorandum to Gillian Shepherd, secretary of state for education, requesting her to assess the present schools’ syllabus (Asian Age, 10.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
Governors at Birchills Church of England School in Walsall have promised that its community-based character will not change if the school opts out of local authority control. The Rev Sturge Artiss, chair of the governors, said: "The character of the school would not change at all if the parents decide to opt out. In fact, we are hoping to ensure that it reflects the community in which it finds itself even more" (Walsall Express and Star, 11.12.96). In answer to critics, the headteacher Mark Gallacher said that all leaflets and letters to parents were being translated into Urdu. But Mohammed Aslam, chair of Walsall’s Union of Muslim Organisations, said: "I am still concerned that many of the Asian parents do not know exactly what is going on. There were no Asian governors at the meeting in which the ballot was decided. I fear the school will become more Christian orientated if it opts out" (Walsall Express & Star, 11.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
Schoolchildren in Waltham Forest have been given three non-Christian religious holidays. These are: for the Hindu festival of Diwali; for the birthday of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak; and Eid-ul-Fitr. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
Dr Imran Alawiye has received £30,000 in compensation for his dismissal from the King Fahd Academy in west London. Dr Alawiye claimed that he was dismissed without warning or explanation from his £45,000 a year post and that there was a racial motive to the dismissal. The Commission for Racial Equality had taken up the matter as a discrimination claim (Q-News, 13.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18]
A school in Bradford which came near the bottom of the GCSE league tables has now started classes on a Sunday morning in maths, English and science. About 85% of the students at the Grange Upper School are Muslim, as are all the voluntary teachers at the Sunday morning school. About 60 to 70 students have been attending the classes. The headteacher of the Grange said: "These are some of the most socially disadvantaged children in the country. It is much harder for them to get into mainstream society, to get good qualifications and find a job. We’ll try anything here because we have an obsession with the quality of education. There has been great enthusiasm for the project from parents in the area, and we’ve even had parents from other schools asking if they can send their children to our Sunday classes. Sadly, we have to turn them down" (Observer, 15.12.96). Mr Thompson said that, in spite of their disadvantages, "Some of them have very high aspirations to become doctors or lawyers" (Eastern Daily Press, 16.12.96).
One of the organisers and teachers in the scheme, Ashfaq Ali, explained: "After the riots, a group of us thought about what we could put back into Bradford. We’re sons and daughters of this city and we all had this feeling: let’s do something for the place" (Q-News, 13.12.96). This year’s government league tables showed that only ten percent of students at the Grange achieved five or more GCSEs - the national average was 44.5 percent. The school hopes that local Asian businessmen will provide funding to enable the extra classes to continue (East, 20.12.96). The Keep Sunday Special Campaign had reservations about such schemes spreading, especially if they were to involve non-Muslim students and teachers. Their spokesperson, John Alexander, said: "We are making representations to the Secretary of State for Education, and the unions. This is something that must be watched very carefully" (Church Times, 20.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 18/19]
Children from Oaksey Primary School near Malmesbury visited a mosque in Swindon and children from the Droves School came to look round Oaksey village church in a return visit (Wootton Bassett Standard, 12.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 19]
Muslim pupils at Spen Valley High School will be able to pray at school during Ramadan and then throughout the year, rather than having to rush down the road to the mosque, thanks to the generosity of local taxi drivers. Drivers at Heckmondwicke’s Abbey Cars have donated prayer mats to the school. Heckmondwicke Pakistan Muslim Welfare Society member Waseem Riaz said: "Abbey’s taxi drivers and Spen Valley high school are role models in this sphere of community work. Considering the financial restraints on school budgets these days, the taxi drivers were more than delighted to help in alleviating Spen Valley’s dilemma by providing prayer mats" (Spenborough Guardian, 13.12.96) [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 19]
Councillor Jim Thakoordin, vice-chair of Bedfordshire education committee, has condemned parents and teachers who allow children to be out of school for long periods due to visits to the sub-continent. He said: "I am very concerned about this growing trend and the impact on our schools and pupils. Children whose parents originate from the Asian sub-continent regularly interrupt their education for six months or more. It would appear that the schools and the education authority are condoning this, since they make no attempt to deter parents from taking such disruptive action." School governor Syed Rizvi, secretary of the Islamic Mission in Luton, said: "This is the habit of Asian parents and very bad practice. The parents go for their own enjoyment and the children suffer greatly. I have always tried to discourage it...there is no reason why they can’t do it in the summer holidays" (Bedfordshire on Sunday, 22.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 19]
The Yorkshire Post (30.12.96) reports on initiatives both local and national, which are looking at solutions to problems around collective worship in schools and religious education. A series of multifaith conference has been planned by the Religious Education Council for England and Wales, the National Association of Standing Advisory councils on Religious Education and the Interfaith Network for the UK. Commenting on the local need for a resolution to the questions, particularly in view of the boycott by Muslims in Kirklees of religious education (see BMMS for January, February, March, April and May 1996), Kirklees education authority chair Molly Walton said: "The Muslims’ dispute is not with Kirklees but with the law as it stands, and it’s more about religious education than school assemblies. But as some Muslims are still boycotting religious education in some Dewsbury and Batley schools, I would welcome the conferences so the whole matter - including RE - can be aired." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 19]
Raja Amir Dad Khan in his weekly column in the Bucks Free Press (20.12.96) reports that on 17 December a meeting was held at the offices of the local education authority to discuss the problems faced by Muslim children in schools during the fast of Ramadan. A leaflet was distributed to teachers explaining the purpose of the fast and addressing practical difficulties. Amir Dad also reports that Buckinghamshire College is to provide a room for prayers for the month of Ramadan at its Wycombe and Newland sites. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 19/20]
Muslims in Aylesbury were hoping to apply for planning permission at the beginning of December for a community centre to be built next to the mosque in Havelock Road (see BMMS for January and March 1996). The building would be used for youth activities, weddings and funerals and would be open to non-Muslims. The Muslim community has to find £130,000 to buy the land from Aylesbury Vale District Council, and another £500,000 for the building itself (Bucks Herald, 27.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20]
The Vale of Glamorgan Muslim Welfare association has applied for permission to extend its premises in Holton Road (Llantwit Major Gem, 05.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20]
Land in Brierfield, Burnley, originally scheduled for three bungalows may become the site for a mosque. However, the Mayor of Brierfield, Margaret Parker, said: "I have already had quite a number of approaches about the plan, and I will be looking at it very carefully. The present access is barely enough for bungalows, never mind a 30-car park space place of worship." The spokesperson for the plan’s proposers, Mohammed Amanullah of the Zeenat-Ul-Quran Trust, explained that there had already been detailed discussions with planning officers and as regards access: "The shop will be demolished to widen the road and make a safe way in and out...We are determined to put up an excellent building which will be a credit to the town and ourselves" (Burnley Express, 13.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20]
Part of the large Bury Islamic Centre and Mosque serves as a carpet retail outlet, and there are now plans for a change of use to allow Carlton Carpets to expand its showroom at the mosque. The chair of the mosque, Liaquat Ali, said: "We have a huge building here and Carlton want a bit more room as their business is expanding". Rent from the carpet firm over the past three years has increased the mosque’s income and permitted substantial refurbishment. Mr Ali said: "We’ve carried out extensive work on the building using money from our own pockets...We live quite happily with each other. Before Carlton moved in, we had a butchers here" (Bury Times, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20]
The management committee of the Madina Mosque, in Woodville Road, Cathays, Cardiff, has applied for planning permission to turn a warehouse adjacent to the mosque into prayer facilities for women. At present, women pray upstairs in the mosque, but this is difficult for those with small children or who have disabilities. Shazia Malik, a regular worshipper at the mosque, explained about the arrangements for women: "The building that we are in at the moment was just a temporary arrangement. We were always looking to have something else. It has also been difficult with the present arrangements because we keep bumping into the men, which we are not supposed to do" (South Wales Echo, 04.12.96).
According to an article in the Universe (24.11.96), the Dublin Mosque, recently opened by President Mary Robinson (see BMMS for November 1996), was financed entirely by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum. The paper describes Sheikh Maktoum as the deputy governor of Dubai, and explains that together with his brothers, he is the owner of several stud farms in County Kildare and extensive farms in County Meath. [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20]
Muslims in Grimsby intend to take their case to the Race Equality Council and their local MP, following restrictions on the hours in which they may use their mosque (see BMMS for November 1996). Following a complaint about noise from one local resident, the council decided to restrict the hours of use to 9am to 9pm. The chair of the mosque’s organising committee, Dr Maushtaq Zaro, pointed out that Muslims need to pray five times a day and that the times vary according to the time of year and the amount of daylight. Dr Zaro said: "As far as we know there has just been one complaint and, as we have soundproofing, there is no reason this man should be hearing anything. We want the hours extending and we believe we should have the right to pray whenever we need to. The council has not taken into account our religion and the sentiment behind it. Our social life is in the mosque and it is where Muslims from India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Egypt and Iraq meet. The council does not realise what it is doing" (Grimsby Evening Telegraph, 03.12.96).
A family who live next door to the Grimsby Mosque, Mr and Mrs Vessey, are pursuing a claim for damages against the mosque. The claim is in respect of alleged noise nuisance and because they say that building work on the mosque has caused damp in one of their rooms. They are opposing the Islamic Association’s request for permission to open for prayers 24 hours a day (Grimsby Evening Telegraph, 28.12.96). The Grimsby Telegraph (20.12.96) has a detailed letter to the editor from Gerry Delahunt, who is physiotherapist to Grimsby Town Football Club.
Mr Delahunt, arguing in favour of the mosque being granted the extension of its opening hours, attacks the intolerance exhibited by a previous anonymous correspondent to the paper. He writes: "Does this then mean that the next stop will be to exclude the Salvation Army band from making public appearances or to cancel the bells of Midnight Mass in order not to disturb the peace?...The dispute involving the mosque concerns the fact that Muslims are required by their religion to pray five times daily, and this is basically all that is being asked. I can assure your correspondent that in Islamic countries far more courtesy and tolerance is shown to non-Muslims than would appear to be shown in this country as this issue highlights." [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 20/21]
Temporary permission has been granted for the Al-Habib Welfare Trust to use a former chapel in Hanging Heaton as a mosque and madrassah, in spite of some local opposition. The temporary permission will last a year in the first instance. The Al-Habib Trust says that the madrassah would accommodate between 60 and 95 pupils six days a week, from 4-7.30pm Monday to Friday and 10am-7.30pm on Saturdays. The mosque would accommodate up to 100 members. The two-storey building has not been used for religious purposes for 30 years (Batley News, 27.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
Leicester’s Central Mosque has been listed in the National Heritage Directory, along with the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel and St Nicholas Church (see BMMS for September 1996). The final phase of building the mosque is still underway, and will cost approximately £800,000 (Leicester Mercury, 29.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
Disputes over control of the Leyton Muslim Community Trust have resulted in violence. On two occasions police have been called to disputes at the mosque and they are currently investigating a related allegation of theft. The present chairman, Mohammed Bangladesh was injured in a fight at the mosque in November: "I was assaulted, in the mosque, in front of 150 people, causing me to sprain my wrist." Mr Bangladesh claims that Barelvis, based at the nearby Lea Bridge Road mosque, are trying to take over. The Barelvi ad-hoc group took a case to the High Court, seeking an injunction against a meeting of the trustees scheduled for 7 December, but the court found against them. Fareed Yosuf, secretary of the ad-hoc committee, claims they are simply trying to put an end to the mismanagement at the mosque (East, 20.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
Hackney Council has agreed to sell the North London Muslim Community Centre the premises it presently rents. The centre has offered less than market value for the buildings, which means that the sale is subject to approval by central government. New Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the sale at the November meeting of the policy and resources committee. The deputy leader of Hackney New Labour, Councillor Shuja Shaikh, commented: "The centre offers a vital resource to the borough’s Muslims and, hopefully, its future will be secured" (Hackney Gazette, 28.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
The Madrassah-Noor-Ul-Islam has had its temporary permission to use the building at 20 Cromwell Street as a madrassah and mosque extended (Luton News, 18.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
A council visit to the Central Mosque, Victoria Park, Manchester, revealed damage to trees on the site. In 1995, legal action against the mosque because of damage to replacement trees was approved (see BMMS for August 1996). The recent report to the planning committee stated: "Overall, it [the mosque] appears to have shown a lack of regard for planning legislation and the net result is that the site has now lost or had damage caused to the majority of the trees" (Manchester Evening News, 02.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 21]
Plans to convert the former Fulwood Park Hotel into a mosque have finally been approved by Preston council, in spite of some local protests. Councillor Albert Richardson, Labour, said: "The town is moving on a pace and we must not bury our heads in the sand. Religious organisations must be accommodated in the best interests of the town." Speaking on behalf of the Preston Muslim Society, Yousuf Bhailoq said: "there will be absolutely no problems. The neighbours can be reassured and we would like to invite them to come along and see the mosque for themselves when it is open" (Preston & South Ribble Weekly Mail, 05.12.96). Conservative councillor Joe Hood claimed he was opposed to the plan because of potential traffic problems: "None of us would want to do anything that would damage racial harmony but I look at Watling Street Road and I see it is a very busy road" (Lancashire Evening Post, 30.11.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]
An application to open a Muslim community centre in Valentia Road has been made by Hafiz Ishaq, the owner of the proposed site (Reading Evening Post, 05.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]
Work has now started on Southampton’s first purpose-built mosque (see BMMS for November 1996). The city council has approved a grant of £30,000 for community centre facilities at the site (Eastern Eye, 06.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]
The Muslim Educational Trust of Wolverhampton, which expanded into an adjoining house without planning permission, has had its retrospective application rejected. Following a complaint, the council discovered that the supporting wall between 84 and 85 Lime Street had been knocked down to provide extra space. The chair of Wolverhampton’s planning committee, Councillor John Rowley, commented: "If these organisations need to expand, they need to expand in an appropriate location. We need to send out a clear message to other applicants to play by the rules and come and talk to us". The vice-chair, Councillor John McCallum said that he had supported the Trust in the past but pointed out that any group trying to find new sites faced difficulties in an area where almost every available space had already been developed (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 20.12.96). It is likely that an enforcement notice will be issued to the Trust in respect of this breach of planning law (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 17.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]
Muslims in Lancaster have been refused permission to dig graves themselves or to use private contractors. They made the request to the city council because of concern over rising costs. Chief environmental health officer David Robinson rejected the request on safety grounds and because it would take work away from the council (Lancaster Guardian, 20.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]
Rugby council is discussing the possibility of allowing weekend burials, following a request from the town’s Muslim community. This would ensure burial within 24 hours of death, which Islamic custom demands. Councillor Steve Stewart, supporting a change in arrangements, said: "We live in a multicultural society, and this enriches our lives. I would welcome discussions with the Muslim community, and look forward to future meetings" (Rugby Advertiser, 05.12.96). [BMMS December 1996 Vol. IV, No. 12, p. 22]