British Muslims Monthly Survey for September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9

 

 

Contents

 

 

Features

Anti-terrorist legislation 

US bombing aftermath 

Rushdie Affair 

 

 

Reports

 

Community

Model club protest 

Sheffield centre contract awards 

Arranged marriages concern 

Jinnah film 

Al-Muhajiroun meeting 

Muslim vegetarian society formed 

Wembley festival 

Seerah conference 

Centre protest meeting 

Census update 

Pen box auction 

Blocked Eid controversy 

Luton Urdu poetry 

High Wycombe bookshop 

Romford trust celebration 

Toxteth legal advice 

Charity Bangladesh fundraising 

Glasgow patrol plan 

West London Cultural Heritage Centre 

Prisons breakthrough 

Pork fumes cause anger 

 

 

Education

Secondary schools in funding bid 

Coventry school closure 

Round-up of news from the AMS 

Nation of Islam school protest 

Birmingham single sex schools 

Flintham school closes 

Preston education project 

Ofsted praises school 

Support for London school 

 

 

Politics

Lord Nazir profile 

Baroness Pola Uddin 

Campus extremists 

MI5 recruitment 

Nation of Islam activities 

Sarwar update 

Birmingham councillors complaint 

Mayor of London bid 

 

 

Racism

Council official suffers abuse 

Bus driver racism accusation 

Police and Muslims co-operate 

Mosque race hate letters 

 

 

Women

Rape accusation 

Call for segregated buses 

Bradford domestic violence campaign 

Islamic course for women 

Women and race cases 

 

 

Youth

New Northampton girls group 

 

 

Interfaith

Oxford scholar controversy 

Bath call to prayer controversy 

High Wycombe talks 

Campus peace forum 

Adverts withdrawn 

 

 

Halal

Baby food launch 

 

Health

Tipton open day 

‘Doctor’ arrested 

Donors appeal 

 

 

Employment

McDonalds hijab case 

Muslims in the army 

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bradford, Manningham Lane 

Chingford, Mount Rd 

Clitheroe, Holden St 

Crewe, Walthall St 

Harrow, Station Road 

Hove, Portland St 

Keighley, Emily St 

Leyton, Leyton High Rd 

London, Gressenhall Rd 

London, The Mount prison 

Morden, London Rd 

Nelson burials 

Oldham, Shaw, Margaret St 

Palmers Green, Oakthorpe Rd 

Redditch, Smallwood 

Sheffield, Sharrow, Wolseley Rd 

Tipton, Wellington Rd 

Wycombe burials 

 

 

FEATURES

Anti-terrorist legislation

Concern has been expressed in the Asian Times (08.09.98) and Q-News (01.09.98, No. 295) about the new Criminal Justice (Conspiracy and Terrorism Act), which was passed at an emergency Parliamentary sitting, following in the wake of the bombings of US embassies in Africa (see British Muslims Monthly Survey for August 1998) and the Omagh massacre in Northern Ireland. The Asian Times (08.09.98) says that the: "New measures include: police power to seize terrorists’ homes and confiscate assets believed to be used for terrorist activity; suspects can be convicted of belonging to a banned organisation solely on the word of a senior police officer; police and courts will be able to take account of any suspect’s refusal to answer questions or assist with inquiries; a new offence of plotting terrorism abroad". The same article quotes Manzoor Mughal of the Muslim Council of Britain, who said: "The British Muslim community has no sympathy what- soever for any act of terrorism, local or foreign, and would support all just and legitimate measures to deal with the problem. But the proposed measures make bad law and carry a serious risk of compromising our own respect for civil liberties, rule of law and commitment to human rights".

Ghayasuddin Siddique of the Muslim Parliament has written to Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying: "The Bill will curtail freedom of speech of all legitimate activists. Given the powers being granted to senior police officers and the workings of the security services, no doubt ‘evidence’ will be found against individuals and organisations who are genuinely struggling for the rights of Muslims abroad" (Asian Times, 08.09.98). Q-News (01.09.98, No.295) reports that prominent parliamentarians who opposed either the way in which they considered the law was being rushed through Parliament, or its content, or both included Donald Anderson, MP for Swansea East and chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee; Chris Mullin, MP for Sunderland South and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee; Mohammed Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Govan; and Tony Benn MP. Tony Benn viewed the way in which the legislation was passed as a denial of civil liberties. He said: "What a way to treat Parliament…as if we’re the Supreme Soviet just summoned to carry out the instructions of the Central Committee". His concerns were echoed in a statement signed by Liberty, Amnesty International and other human rights groups, which highlighted that: "The lack of adequate discussion about the proposals before their consideration by Parliament is itself a cause for alarm".

Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission pointed out the serious denial of the civil and human rights of exiles which is contained in the legislation. He said: "It is indeed an anomaly that the government has resisted the intro- duction of legislation to combat religious discrimination because it feels that the terms cannot be adequately defined. Surely this is even more the case with terrorism. We fear a scenario where those who have faced torture and repression in their own countries, and have sought asylum in Britain, are prosecuted for campaigning against the regimes that persecuted them" (Q-News, 01.09.98).

In response to these concerns, the Financial Times (26.09.98) reports that Lord Williams, Minister of State at the Home Office, has told Lord Avebury, the Liberal peer and human rights campaigner that the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act will not affect "basic democratic human rights of expression". He stated that the act does not make it an offence to send "genuinely humanitarian aid" to organisations overseas, even if such organisations were considered illegal in other countries. He further stated that: "The act deals with people planning crimes not with people making statements. Basic democratic rights of freedom of expression are not affected". Lord Avebury, who is vice-chair of the parliamentary human rights group, has consistently opposed this legislation and remained unconvinced by Lord Williams’ assurances. Muslim News (25.09.98) has three articles outlining the potential abuses of civil and human rights contained in the act: an editorial; an article by Sarah Sheriff, a journalist who writes on a variety of topics for Muslim News; an analysis by Jahangir Mohammed of the Muslim Parliament. All point to the rushed way in which the legislation was put through Parliament; the lack of consensus on what counts as "terrorism" or "to conspire" and the lack of rights of suspects. The editorial article points out: "One man’s terrorist could be another man’s freedom fighter. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist for the British Government under Margaret Thatcher. He is now a world statesman. Would those whose land is occupied and are fighting for liberation be considered terrorists – like Kashmiris, Hamas, Hizbullah, Kosovans, etc?"

Teletext services on 23 September 1998 reported that seven men were arrested under Section 14 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 after raids by Special Branch and MI5 at addresses in north and north-west London. Although the men were apparently suspected of having links to Usama bin Ladin and the front page headline in the Evening Standard (24.09.98) was "Plot to bring bomb carnage to London", the Solihull Evening Mail (29.09.98) reported that five were detained as suspected illegal immigrants, one was charged with a firearms offence and the seventh man was released without charge. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 1/2]

 

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US bombing aftermath

The Asian Times (01.09.98) reports that Mohammed Sarwar had intended to visit Khartoum, which together with a town on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border had been bombed by the US in "retaliation" for the embassy bombings but, following the expulsion of the British Ambassador to the Sudan by the Sudanese government, he decided not to go. Harry Conroy, spokesperson for Mohammed Sarwar, said: "We felt it inappropriate for a member of the British Parliament to lead a delegation to a country where the British ambassador had been asked to leave…At no point did anyone from the Labour Party directly approach him and advise him not to go". During an earlier interview with BBC Radio Scotland, when the suspended Glasgow MP was still intending to go and see the damage to civilian targets, such as a pharmaceuticals factory in Khartoum, he said: "I feel that the situation is very grave and very serious when these unilateral acts of one superpower are creating tensions between the Muslim world and the Western countries" (Asian Times, 01.09.98).

Rafiq Raja writing in the Bucks Free Press (28.08.98) comments on the US bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan as potentially damaging to relations between Muslims and others everywhere. He writes: "The American Cruise missile attacks in Afghanistan and Sudan were condemned by the Muslims of High Wycombe at last week’s Friday prayers… Muslims, if not their governments, see the American disregard of the sovereignty of Muslim nations and their territorial integrity as nothing short of the acts of a bully. It is clear that the targets by no means stand the scrutiny of evidence; the so-called clinical strikes have not proven to be infallible in the past…The British Government’s forthright backing of the American acts of launching Cruise missiles without examining the evidence has diminished the Prime Minister’s credibility with the Muslims in this country. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 2]

 

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Rushdie Affair

There have been many newspaper reports, national and local, about the lifting of the death threat on Salman Rushdie (see BMMS for January, February, March and April 1998), author of The Satanic Verses (including The Scotsman, 24.09.98, The Independent, 25.09.98, The Times, 25.09.98, The Guardian, 25.09.98, Financial Times, 26.09.98, Daily Mail, 26.09.98, The Independent, 26.09.98, The Times, 26.09.98).

Robin Cook, the British Foreign Minister, met the Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, to clarify the situation, after the Iranian President’s remark, a couple of days beforehand, that the Rushdie affair was over. The original fatwa was issued in 1989, five months after the publication of the book, and the author has been in hiding ever since, under constant protection of the Special Branch. Talks had been taking place between Britain and Iran since the election of Mohammed Khatami in 1997 to improve relations between the two countries, and the Rushdie affair was considered a priority by Britain. Now, the Iranian government has disassociated itself from the affair, by issuing a public statement saying: "The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention, nor is it going to take any action whatsoever to threaten the life of the author of The Satanic Verses or anybody associated with his work, nor will it encourage or assist anybody to do so" (The Times, 25.09.98). They also distanced themselves from the £1.2 million that was offered by the Khordad Foundation, a non-state charity, as a reward for killing Rushdie, by saying the government had no part in "any reward which has been offered in this regard and does not support it" (The Guardian, 25.09.98).

Muslims in Britain are calling for the book to be withdrawn, and want an apology from Rushdie. However, Rushdie has said: "There’s not a chance in hell of the book being withdrawn. We have not fought this battle for freedom of speech to give in at the last moment" (Aberdeen Press & Journal, 26.09.98). The fact that the book, which is the root of the problem, remains in circulation means that the threat on his life remains. Many Muslims have said that the announcement from Iran makes no difference, as the present Iranian government does not have the power to lift the fatwa. Anjem Choudhary, secretary-general of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, commented: "The Islamic position is that anyone who insults any of the prophets must face capital punishment. Our position is that this sentence can only be carried out by the Islamic state, not by individuals." As Mr Choudhary does not believe a truly Islamic state exists, the sentence could not be carried out. However, he added that: "there will always be Muslims who want to carry out the verdict" (The Guardian, 25.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 2]

 

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Reports

 

Community

Model club protest

Several local papers (Gloucester News, Rugeley Post, Burntwood Chase Post, 27.08.98, Gloucester Citizen, 09.09.98, Western Daily Press, 10.09.98) have continued to report on the objections of the Jamia Al-Karim Mosque in Gloucester to a model railway club moving next door to them because they wrongly believed it to be a drinking club (see BMMS for August 1998). The mosque committee had organised a petition against the model railway club, but subsequently withdrew their objection and apologised to the club when they learnt more about its activities. Ayub Bhaiyat, chair of the mosque committee, said: "We are happy to go to the council to clear up the misunderstanding and are prepared to meet the club chairman to resolve the matter" (Gloucester News, 27.08.98). However, the model railway enthusiasts are demanding a fuller apology. The chair of the club, Andy Cowling, said: "There are other model railway clubs around the country who read about the objections to us and thought there must be some truth in it. Some fellow enthusiasts now imagine us to be an unruly bunch of late-night drinkers. We have even lost one booking to exhibit our layout at a model railway club in Andover because we are no longer considered suitable guests" (Western Daily Press, 10.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Sheffield centre contract awards

Sheffield’s Pakistan Muslim Centre (see BMMS for May, July and August 1998) has been awarded new training contracts worth a total of £124,500 (Barnsley Star, 16.09.98, Sheffield Star, Barnsley Star, 17.09.98). The funding comes from Sheffield Council, the Training and Enterprise Council and the Single Regeneration Budget. It will be used to provide training in business administration and information technology, and to encourage women and young people to run their own businesses. Keith Dodson of Sheffield City Council said: "This is an exciting initiative that will help to reposition the work of the Pakistan Muslim Centre within the local community where it continues to deliver a valuable service. We are very pleased with this collaboration" (Barnsley Star, 16.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Arranged marriages concern

Sahib Mustaqim Bleher of the Islamic Party of Great Britain, commenting on the concern expressed by both Muslim and non-Muslim agencies, that, following the abolition of the Primary Purpose Rule families of Indian sub-continental Muslim origin were forcing their children into arranged marriages against their will solely in order to bring the spouse to Britain reiterated that such a practice would be against the principles of Islam (see BMMS for July 1998). He told the Daily Telegraph (05.09.98) that he believed forced arranged marriages in Britain to be very unlikely, because experience had shown them to be "counter-productive". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Jinnah film

The Independent (10.09.98) reports that Professor Akbar Ahmed’s film, Jinnah, about the life of the founder of Pakistan, is due to have its premiere in Hollywood at the end of September. Horror movie star Christopher Lee will play the lead role. The Cambridge University professor said of his motive in making the film: "I want to show that the Muslim world has produced great leaders, like Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who believe in human rights and women’s rights". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Al-Muhajiroun meeting

The al-Muhajiroun group planned a meeting on "Drink and Drugs, Public Enemy No. 1" to be held at the end of August at the Langley Green Community Centre, Crawley (see BMMS for August 1998). One of the organisers, Saleem Sultan, told the Crawley News (28.08.98): "Drink and drugs are the cause of some of the big troubles in society. In Muslim countries in the Middle East, by and large the majority of the population don’t drink. I don’t see it’s a solution we can suddenly transplant and put in the West but it’s worth addressing the issue from a Muslim point of view". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Muslim vegetarian society formed

The Chingford Guardian (27.08.98) reports that the Muslim Vegan and Vegetarian Society now has a branch in London and is keen to attract new members. It promotes the fact that the Qur’an teaches that kindness and compassion to animals are Islamic virtues. A leaflet and further details can be obtained from: Rafeeque Ahmed, Muslim Vegan and Vegetarian Society, 59 Bray Tower, 136 Adelaide Road, London NW3 3JU. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3]

 

 

Wembley festival

Several local papers (Wembley & Brent Times, 27.08.98, Wembley Observer, 03.09.98, Willesden & Brent Chronicle, Harrow, Stanmore & Kingsley Times, 10.09.98, Wembley Observer, 10.09.98) have reported on a festival held at Copland Community School, Cecil Avenue, Wembley. One of the event’s organisers, Pal Prashar, said: "Muslim communities are constantly being misunderstood – so we want to show that Muslims extend the hand of friendship to all denominations and all community groups. The only other Muslim festival that has come anywhere near the size of this one is last year’s Eid Festival – and that only attracted 5,000 visitors. It’s important to highlight the fact that this festival is for everyone, particularly the poor who can enjoy the school’s environment. The old days of people seeing Muslims as fundamentalists and freaks are over" (Wembley Observer, 03.09.98). The friendship day was formally opened by the Mayor of Brent, Councillor Bertha Joseph, who said: "Friendship helps us to understand and tolerate others from all walks of life. In Brent, Muslims have been very active in upholding this part of their belief. Heads of Muslim organisations, schools, youth workers, councillors, council officers from Brent have come together and have organised this festival to encapsulate the humbleness of friendship" (Willesden & Brent Chronicle, 10.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 3/4]

 

 

Seerah conference

Q-News (01.09.98, No. 295) has a report on the conference of the Seerah Committee, held on 21 August at the Conway Hall in central London, which was attended by over 200 people. The aim of the conference was to throw light on the life of the Prophet (PBUH) as seen through the eyes of famous Sufis, such as the Persian mystic and founder of the Mevlevi order, Jalaluddin Rumi. The main speakers were Dr Leonard Lewisohn from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Dr Annemarie Schimmel. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Centre protest meeting

Hundreds of concerned members of the local Bangladeshi community were expected to attend a meeting at Sandwell Council House to demand an inquiry into the running of the Bangladeshi Islamic Centre in Lewisham Road, Smethwick. A petition with over four hundred signatures, outlining concerns about the management of the centre, has already been handed in at the Council House. The regeneration strategy committee has been recommended to undertake an investigation of the centre (Sandwell Chronicle, 11.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Census update

Muslim News (25.09.98) reports that although the Office of National Statistics (ONS) agreed to include a question on religion in the 2001 Census (see BMMS for August 1998), there is now confusion that perhaps the ONS is intending to make the religious questions merely a subset of the questions on ethnicity. The newspaper says that: "According to Helen Liddell, MP, the Economic Secretary and the Minister with responsibility for the ONS (who is now succeeded by Patricia Hewitt, MP) in a letter to Mike Wood MP, said that the cases for a revised ethnic group question and a question on religion ‘are amongst those that are being considered’. However, Ms Liddell suggests in the same letter (of July 27) that the religion question is a subset of the ethnicity question. She writes: "¼ concerning the recognition of Sikhs and Muslims as ethnic groups¼ the proposed categories on religion would, if included in the Census, contain both ‘Sikh’ and ‘Muslim’ response categories’. The Muslim Council of Britain has written to the government asking for clarification on the matter, as has the Rev Leslie Francis, who is a member of the 2001 Religious Affiliation Group, the multifaith organisation campaigning for a religious question in the 2001 Census. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Pen box auction

The Doncaster Free Press (17.09.98) reports that an ivory calligraphy pen box bought in a job lot from a country mansion is expected to fetch £300,000 at Sotheby’s sale of Islamic art on 15 October. The box was made in 1003 in the Muslim city of Cordoba in Spain. Sotheby’s Islamic art expert, Nicholas Shaw, said: "I could hardly believe it. The quality of the work is superb. Pieces such as these are so rare and I couldn’t imagine one could turn up in Yorkshire. There are only seven or eight pieces of this type left and they are in museums. It will be the first time anything of this kind has been sold in a large auction for 100 years so we believe many North American collectors will be bidding". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Blocked Eid controversy

A former councillor who was responsible for the first Brent-wide Eid festival last year (see BMMS for September 1997) is being accused of deliberately forcing this year’s event to be cancelled. In a report by Brent Council’s financial investigator, Sub Indran, Asif Amman was blamed for the poor financial management of last year’s event and losses of over £3,000. Mr Amman refuted these allegations, saying: "It was because of me that last year’s festival was such a success. I know nothing about this latest report" (Wembley & Brent Times, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Luton Urdu poetry

An evening of Urdu poetry, with 16 poets reciting, was held recently at Luton Central Library. Over 100 people attended the event, which was arranged by Luton Borough Council and the Muslim Women’s Association. The event was videoed and tapes should be available for loan from Luton libraries (Luton Herald & Post, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

High Wycombe bookshop

A new Islamic bookshop has opened in High Wycombe. It is called Zainab and stocks books and other materials about Islam in English, Arabic and Urdu. The bookshop is the fifth of its kind in London and the Home Counties and is owned by the Zainab Foundation, a charitable organisation set up in 1976 by Khalid Ashraf and his family when they came to Britain from Kenya (Bucks Free Press, 18.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Romford trust celebration

The Essex Islamic Trust has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Several hundred guests, including all three Havering MPs, attended the celebrations. The president of the trust, Kamal Siddiqui, said: "We are trying our level best to harmonise the situation so that all ethnic minorities can work together with the native population to enhance and solve the problems of racial equality, health and education" (Hornchurch & Upminster Yellow Advertiser, 18.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Toxteth legal advice

A legal advice service for local Muslims is to be held every Friday afternoon at the Pakistan Community Centre in Mulgrave Street, Toxteth, Liverpool (Liverpool Daily Post, 23.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

 

Charity Bangladesh fundraising

A charity in Nottingham called Muslim Hands has raised over £50,000 to help the victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. More than 300,000 homes have been destroyed and at least 1,000 people have died as a result of the floods. Syed Lakhte Hassanain, chair of the charity thanked all those who had donated money and said that more was still needed. He added: "We have already spent £15,000 on interim relief work in Bangladesh, and distributing food, clothes and medicines among the victims. The appeal has been a phenomenal success" (Nottingham Evening Post, 23.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 4]

 

Glasgow patrol plan

The Scotsman (24.09.98) reports that a group of Asians in Glasgow is attempting to set up its own patrol groups to deal with racist attacks, drug dealing, prostitution and gang warfare. The umbrella group organising the patrols is called STING, the Social Task Force in Glasgow. STING hope to gain the support of the Strathclyde Police, but they are ambivalent about the initiative. Haq Ghani, the spokesperson for STING and a member of the Islamic Society of Britain, one of the participating groups, said: "We would be a law-abiding, peaceful project, working in Asian communities to help Asians, so I don’t think we would be attacked. We recognise the valiant efforts made by law enforcement bodies to contain the growing epidemic of racial violence, gang culture, drug culture and prostitution. But police resources are tightly-stretched. We would work within the law at all times and if we cannot win police co-operation we would not go ahead." The Glasgow Govan MP Mohammed Sarwar commented: "All moves to reduce crime should be considered very carefully, but to be successful it is important that they are done with the agreement of police and under police guidance". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 5]

 

West London Cultural Heritage Centre

Muslim News (25.09.98) reports that an informal celebration was held on 10 September to mark the end of the first phase of construction of the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre (MCHC) in North Kensington, west London. Leader of the Council, Councillor Joan Iain Hanham, said: "I firmly believe this Centre is going to contribute to the happy relationship that exists within the vast number of communities who live in the Borough". Dr Abdulkarim Khalil, Acting Director of the MCHC, added: "The MCHC will encourage future generations of Muslims to take their rightful place not only among the local community in North Kensington, but within the UK and furthermore, across Europe". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 5]

 

Prisons breakthrough

Muslim News (25.09.98) reports that following meetings with the new Minister for Prisons, Joyce Quinn and then with Richard Tilt, Prisons Inspector, the Home office is advertising the post for a Muslim Advisor to the Assistant Chaplain General. The post will not be paid for by the Home Office; instead, the person appointed will have to be sponsored by their work in a Muslim organisation. Nevertheless, Bashir Ebrahim-Khan, who together with former colleagues at Regent’s Park Central Mosque, particularly Shaikh Jammal Al Manna and Shaikh Ibrahim Zahran, has been working over many years to formalise the relationship between Muslim organisations and the prisons department of the Home Office, considers this to be a significant development. He said: "Even though I am not happy that this post is only a secondment and is not a full-time paid post supported by the Home Office, it gives important recognition to the needs of non-Christians in the nature of concessions to Muslim prisoners which results in many complaints". He saw the post as providing an important channel of communication which has been lacking in the past: "We have drafted a five-point shopping list of requirements which we have been putting to the Home Office for a vast number of years. We have met with obstruction but I hope, through having a Muslim advisor, these points which include addressing the anomaly of the 1952 Prisons Act which says the Church of England alone is responsible for religion in prisons, providing halal food in prisons and a dedicated prayer/meeting room, will be addressed. Joyce Quinn has recognised the need for change, but said the heavy legislative programme may make changes difficult in this Parliament, but at least we can hope for a greater degree of co-operation brought about by the now formal recognition of Muslim prisoners’ needs". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 5]

 

 

Pork fumes cause anger

Leaders of the Birchills Mosque in Walsall are complaining about the smell of pork cooking coming from the pub next door to the mosque. Hajji Asghar, vice chair of the mosque, told the Sunday Mercury (27.09.98): "We want to live in harmony with our neighbours and all we are asking for is some respect for our religion. We have planning permission to build a classroom for our children on the car park between the mosque and the pub. But this extractor fan is so close it will be pumping fumes into the classroom and polluting the lungs of our children". Publican Peter Fry responded: "The Muslims claim they can smell pork being cooked. But I can’t believe they can single out pork from any of the other meats we cook. The council came along and ruled that the extractor fan is far enough away from the mosque not to be in breach of the regulations". The mosque is asking Walsall Council to order the extractor fan to be moved to another position, for example, onto the roof, so that fumes do not go in the direction of the mosque. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 5]

 

 

Education

Secondary schools in funding bid

Following the approval at the beginning of the year of two primary schools, Islamia in London and Al Furqan in Birmingham, to have grant-maintained status (see BMMS for December 1997, January and February 1998), proposals are being drawn up for the first state-funded Muslim secondaries, to be situated in Birmingham and Bradford. Feversham College for girls in Bradford, has bought a former Roman Catholic high school to be put into its proposal. The Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) has commended Bradford City Council for the help it has given the school in finding new premises (see BMMS for June, July and August 1998), which will allow for expansion and hopefully help the school to gain voluntary aided status (VAS). Ibrahim Hewitt, development officer of the AMS, commented: "If Labour-led Bradford can help full-time Islamic education in this way, what is stopping other Labour councils from doing the same for their own local Muslim schools?" (al-Madaris, No. 8, 01.08.98). A site has not been found in Birmingham yet. Although the plans are at early stages just now, Birmingham councillors have agreed that Tim Brighouse, the city’s chief education officer, should pursue discussions. Ibrahim Hewitt, development officer for the Association of Muslim Schools UK, has said that he has some optimism after being given state funding by the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, "but our dealings in the past have shown us that most obstacles are at a local level" (Times Educational Supplement, 25.09.98). Under the School Standards and Framework Act, decisions on the new schools would come from the locally appointed schools organisation committee, which has representatives from the councils and churches amongst its members. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 5/6]

 

 

Coventry school closure

The Paradise Muslim School in Coventry (see BMMS for March, April, May, June, July and August 1998) is continuing with its appeal against the city council’s enforcement notice making it cease its activities (al-Madaris, No.8, 01.08.98, Rugby Evening Telegraph, 11.09.98, 17.09.98, Coventry Evening Telegraph, 17.09.98). Al-Madaris points out that: "Despite receiving satisfactory reports from HMI [Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education] and fulfilling all the health and safety requirements, councillors on Coventry’s planning committee decided that even temporary planning permission was not possible. In making their decision, councillors went against the recommendations of their own planning officers". The other, local, newspapers report that Coventry City Council’s education and cultural affairs committee, which had been accused of racism and Islamophobia in its treatment of the Muslim primary school, particularly by Councillor Shabbir Ahmed, is now elaborating a new policy. In her report to the committee, Cathryn Goodwin, Chief Education Officer, said: "Through its policies and practices, the city council actively encourages a multifaith and multicultural approach within its schools. The city council would want to be assured that such independent schools were financially viable and able to offer sound financial and managerial competencies" (Rugby Evening Telegraph, 11.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 6]

 

 

Round-up of news from the AMS

The latest edition of al-Madaris (No.8, 01.08.98), the journal produced by the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS), has an article on its AGM, with extracts from the report of the chair, Yusuf Islam; a report on its co-operation with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in developing policy on the education and training of Muslims and making representations to various levels of government concerning good practice; news that the AMS is about to make a new submission to the Teacher Training Agency for a School Centred Initial Teacher Training Scheme; news that several Muslim schools have notified the AMS that they have teaching vacancies; visits to Britain from teachers in Muslim schools in South Africa and Finland, the South African one being the Madressa Noor for the Blind in Pietermaritzburg. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 6]

 

 

Nation of Islam school protest

Several newspapers, both national and local (Hammersmith & Fulham Guardian, 20.08.98, Hammersmith & Fulham Guardian, Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle, 27.08.98, Hammersmith, Fulham & Shepherds Bush Gazette, 04.09.98, Evening Standard, Birmingham Express & Star, 15.09.98, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, 16.09.98, The Voice, 07.09.98), report on the continuing conflict between the Nation of Islam (NoI) and Hammersmith and Fulham Council concerning the closure of the NoI’s Star Chamber Academy school, which rented part of the Simba Community Centre in the borough (see BMMS for August 1998). The outcome of a meeting held at the end of August was apparently that the school could stay in the building only until the end of November 1998, although a spokes- person for the NoI said they had a prior agreement in writing that they would be permitted to stay until the end of November 1999 (Hammersmith & Fulham Guardian, 27.08.98). Talks between the Council and the NoI at the end of August failed to reach an agreement, and by the middle of September an anonymous Council spokesperson told the Evening Standard (15.09.98): "We are still negotiating on a date for their departure, but they have got us over a barrel because they know we don’t want pitched battles on our doorstep. It serves their purposes to stay as long as they can. If we moved in to evict them forcibly they would relish the publicity, which would back up their claims of being mistreated". The Department for Education has begun an investigation into several of the NoI’s schools in London, following complaints that they are not registered and are operating illegally (Evening Standard, Birmingham Express & Star, 15.09.98, The Times, Daily Telegraph,16.09.98, [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 6]

 

 

Birmingham single sex schools

Reporting continues in the local papers (Birmingham Evening Mail, 11.09.98, 14.09.98, 15.09.98, 16.09.98, 18.09.98 and Birmingham Post, 12.09.98, 14.09.98, 16.09.98, 21.09.98) on the question of a state-run single-sex Muslim school for Birmingham, which would meet the demands of Asian Muslim parents in Saltley and Washwood Heath for a girls-only school (see BMMS for May and July 1998). Birmingham’s chief of education, Professor Tim Brighouse, said: "It is difficult to resist the argument for a Muslim aided secondary school which could draw its pupils from across the whole city and beyond. Such a school, while technically co-educational, could be run with two single-sex halls with boys and girls taught separately" (Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, 11.09.98). Opposition to these suggestions came from the Conserv- atives on the Council, particularly Councillor James Hutchings, who said: "We believe it is in the interests of Muslims and other ethnic minorities, as well as in the interests of the host community, that we should maintain a policy of inclusivity" (Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, 12.09.98). Another possibility was that the King Edward VI Foundation could take over Park View School and run it as a single-sex – although not exclusively Muslim – school (Birmingham Post, 12.09.98). Eventually, after initial consultation with the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS) and other interested bodies, Professor Brighouse decided on the plan to create a Muslim school at Park View. This has met with opposition not only from Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors, but also from the Saltley Parents’ Association. Their spokesperson Mohammed Iqbal said: "A Muslim school would serve only the Muslim community. This is not the answer to the need for a single sex girls’ only secondary" (Birmingham Evening Mail, 15.09.98, Solihull Evening Mail, 16.09.98, Birmingham Post, Birmingham Evening Mail, 16.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 6/7]

 

 

Flintham school closes

A report from Teletext (11.09.98) on the Islamic Institute at Flintham states that: "A boarding school for Moslems at Flintham, Nottinghamshire, has closed and its 170 pupils transferred to Manchester. A spokesman said the building was too far from a town or city for staff, parents and pupils to reach. The Islamic Institute was criticised by Government inspectors last summer over hygiene and safety standards". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Preston education project

The Times Educational Supplement (11.09.98) has an article on the education and training projects run by the Preston Muslim Forum, in Deepdale Road, Preston. The centre employs a male adult guidance worker and a female development worker. Iqbal Mulla, the vocational guidance worker, explained that many of his clients needed to improve their English, upgrade their formal qualifications, gain experience of the British labour market, and then needed help in the preparation of a CV, completing application forms, and interview technique. He said: "The first thing they say is ‘I want a job.’ I say, ‘I cannot guarantee you a job but I can help you towards a job if you are willing to take up educational opportunities and try to develop yourself"". Like his female co-worker, he sees his main job as trying to persuade people from the Muslim community to take advantage of educational opportunities. He says: "The usual complaint I get from them is that I am too old for education. My response is that you are never too old for education". The project works in close co-operation with local colleges, particularly Preston College. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Ofsted praises school

Ofsted inspectors have praised the multicultural ethos at Stokesay Primary School in Ludlow. As a particular example, the inspectors’ report mentions a pupil reading from the Qur’an and giving a commentary on its meaning to the rest of the class (Ludlow Advertiser, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Support for London school

The Islamic Forum of Europe organised a fundraising event, to raise money for a Muslim school to be opened in London’s East End, next to the East London Mosque. Amongst the speakers was Dr Mustafa Ceric, Ulama of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who addressed the students present, saying they were the future of the Muslims in Europe. A fundraising dinner followed the speeches. The organisers are hoping to raise £300,000 for the school, and a spokesman for the Islamic Forum of Europe said £4,000 had been raised by the event but more pledges were still to be called in (Muslim News, 25.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Politics

Lord Nazir profile

Q-News (01.09.98, No.295) has an in-depth interview with the recently appointed Muslim Labour peer, Lord Nazir of Rotherham (see BMMS for June and August 1998). Lord Nazir was born in Mirpur, in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, and came to Britain aged eleven. At further education college he became involved with both student politics and the Labour Party. A successful entrepreneur, he was also a local councillor, activist in the shopworkers’ union USDAW, and magistrate. He sees his faith as being in harmony with his political outlook: "I don’t agree on every aspect of party policy, on homosexuality, for instance. But on the whole what Labour believes in is what Muslims believe in; looking after your environment, the poor, the needy, the socially deprived, the unemployed, helping the infirm, the vulnerable and the old, cutting down on crime". He stressed that he sees his role as representing all the people in his area, not only Muslims: "Yes, I do feel responsible to the Muslim community but no more than my responsibility to the unemployed people of Rotherham and South Yorkshire, no more than those who are suffering from crime and the old people who cannot go out for fear of being attacked". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Baroness Pola Uddin

The Evening Standard (09.09.98) has a feature article on high-achieving female Londoners. One of those included is Baroness Uddin (see BMMS for June and August 1998), of whom it says: "The first Muslim to sit in the House of Lords, 38-year-old Baroness Uddin is a committed campaigner for the rights of oppressed Bengali women in London’s East End. Married with five children, she became the first Bengali woman to sit on a local authority in Britain when she was elected a Labour councillor in 1990, and became deputy council leader from 1994-1996. Currently equality manager at the London Borough of Newham, she was made a working peer this summer." [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7]

 

 

Campus extremists

The Israeli Minister for Science, Silvan Shalom, who recently visited London at the invitation of the World Union of Jewish Students, has said that the British Government should take steps to protect Jewish students from "radical Muslim groups and far-left elements on campus". He told the Jewish Chronicle (04.09.98): "These matters should be dealt with by the police. Jewish students are obviously facing a very difficult situation". Once again, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) maintained that there were orchestrated campaigns by Muslim extremists against Jewish students (see BMMS for January and August 1998). UJS campaigns officer, David Menton, stated: "Our members have always been at the front line in combating these extremists. The Home Secretary must act to guarantee the rights of Jewish students in Britain". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 7/8]

MI5 recruitment

The idea, first put forward in Muslim News (see BMMS for August 1998) that in advertising for linguists with Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu, the British government, specifically through MI5, intended to spy on Muslims at home and abroad, has now been taken up by other newspapers (Sunday Telegraph, 06.09.98, The Guardian, 07.09.98, Asian Age, 07.09.98, Weekly Telegraph, 09.09.98). The Sunday Telegraph (06.09.98) quoted Ahmed Versi, editor of Muslim News, who said: "The adverts are a way of making contact with people who could become informers. Muslims are being targeted more than other ethnic minority groups. We feel we are being attacked as the enemy within, yet there never has been a British Muslim involved in terrorism". The Guardian (07.09.98) quoted an anonymous Home Office source who said: "The idea is to recruit people to MI5 with expertise to help the agency gather information about Middle Eastern groups". The anonymous Home Office spokesperson who talked to the Sunday Telegraph (06.09.98) said: "These advertisements are for officers who handle information, not agents who provide it. There has been an upsurge in terrorism from the Middle East. It would have been irresponsible not to have experts who can speak languages associated with such people". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Nation of Islam activities

The Nation of Islam (NoI) had the following notice in The Voice (07.09.98): "The Nation of Islam invites you to our three-part lecture to expose the subliminal war that is affecting the Black community. Part two is on Wednesday, September 9 and discusses physical warfare. Part three, on Wednesday 16, discusses psycho- logical warfare. At 7.30pm, 2B Prince George Road, London N16. For more information call 0171 923 1196". The Guardian (16.09.98) in its report on the closure of the NoI school in Shepherds Bush, London (see report in Education section of this issue of BMMS) says that the movement is planning a rally and march in Trafalgar Square on 16 October, to which it hopes to attract over 10,000 participants, women and men, from various minority commun- ities. It will be called "March 10,000". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Sarwar update

The Glasgow Govan MP, Mohammed Sarwar (see BMMS for January, February and May 1998) is to stand trial in the next month at Edinburgh High Court on three charges. He stands accused of fraud, attempting to pervert the course of justice, and contravening a section of the 1983 Representation of the People Act (Financial Times, Guardian, The Times, 01.10.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Birmingham councillors complaint

Several councillors in Birmingham who are Muslims have written a joint open letter to the Birmingham Evening Mail (23.09.98) protesting about an article which appeared in the Ed Doolan column of the paper on 15 September. The councillors are: Fazal Ellahi, Amir Khan, Safdar Mir, Abdul Malik, Tariq Khan, Abdul Rashid, Mohammed Amin Kazi, Mahmood Hussain and Mohammed Azam. The letter has the heading "Don’t play the race-religion card Mr Doolan". Mr Doolan apparently alleged that there was corruption and under-hand dealing amongst certain members of the council. The councillors say: "Mr Doolan should be aware that in this country a person is innocent until proven guilty. He refers to the Muslims seven times in his comment. Why?...councillors’ religion, colour or creed do not have any bearings in the matters he raises. It is well known that there have been alleged wrongdoing by councillors in Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem councils up and down the country. Did anyone question their colour or religion?" They quote Mr Doolan as saying: "Holding our tongues in the interests of what whites perceive to be racial harmony only creates frustration and bad feeling". Their response to this is: "So now we have the element of colour being brought in. Does Mr Doolan not know there are white people, black people and brown people who are Muslims? Or does he have any particular people in mind when referring to Muslim councillors?" [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Mayor of London bid

Muslim News (25.09.98) has an article on Hamidur Rahman Chowdury, a London businessman who has decided to contest the election for Mayor of London in the year 2000. Mr Chowdury was born in Bangladesh and owns a French restaurant and an Indian one. He is confident of gaining support from London’s Bangladeshi Muslims in particular. He will be standing against candidates who include Ken Livingstone, Trevor Phillips and Jeffrey Archer. A former Conservative Party member, he has decided to stand as an independent. He said: "I do not agree with all the Tory policies. A moderate, independent mayor will serve London better than any political left-wing leader". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Racism

Council official suffers abuse

Mohammed Tariq, a trading standards officer with Birmingham City Council, was called a "smelly Muslim" by a colleague and taunted about his relationship with a white woman by a colleague, Ian Greaves. The case came before Birmingham Magistrates Court on 14 September and Greaves was found guilty of threatening behaviour towards Mr Tariq. The incident took place at a works party but was the culmination of a series of similar incidents. The chair of the bench, Michael James, said: "The defendant said some vile things about Mr Tariq and his venom spilled over on to the person with him. The defendant was badly affected by drink which caused him to lose his judgement, self control and turned him into a nasty man". Sentencing was postponed until 13 October (Birmingham Post, 15.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8]

 

 

Bus driver racism accusation

Q-News (01.09.98, No.295) has a report on a complaint to Travel West Midlands about a racist incident on one of their buses from Birmingham Central Mosque to the city centre on 7 August. The article recounts the events as told by Dr Karima Imtiaz, who witnessed the abuse and made the complaint. The bus was overcrowded, and so the bus driver, asked for "The first ten only." At the back of the queue were two men together, but only one was let on. The first man asked for the second to be let on, but the driver replied: "I said no, and next time I’ll say it in fucking Bosnian." Dr Imtiaz and several passengers (both white and non-white) pointed out that this was racist, and that the drivers job was to serve the public, not to insult them. Eventually, the second man was let on but the driver gave no apology. Dr Imtiaz made a formal written complaint to travel West Midlands. Les Sparkes, the company’s Travel Superintendent, said: "Good public relations with all of our passengers is a first principle with Travel West Midlands, therefore, we expect the highest standards to prevail. Clearly in this instance it has not been the case." Phil Bateman, spokesperson for Travel West Midlands, said that such incidents had happened in the past but that "they were unacceptable, and we must take every action to ensure that it is kept to a minimum. Travel West Midlands does not want these sort of complaints." He also told Muslim News (25.09.98) that the company were investigating the incident and hoped to identify the driver in order to take action against him. Dr Imtiaz was pleased that the bus company were taking the complaint seriously, but told the newspaper: "Some West Midlands buses are plastered with slogans about stamping out racism but it seems empty tokenism when this sort of incident occurs¼ This might just be the tip of the ice-berg. This type of treatment of Muslims may be common". When asked if the company could lay on more buses to accommodate the worshippers at mosques on Fridays, he replied: "We are a business and if there is money in it we will do it". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 8/9]

 

 

Police and Muslims co-operate

The East Fife Mail (15.09.98) reports that following discussions between Fife Racial Equality Council, Islamic centres in the region, and Fife Constabulary, Islamic centres in Fife are to be used by the police to hold surgeries to enable them to listen to local Pakistanis about problems they may be experiencing, particularly of a racist nature. Chief Constable John Hamilton explained: "Fife Constabulary takes matters of racial equality very seriously and already provides multi-lingual leaflets covering various aspects of race relations … I see these new surgeries as making a major contribution to the on-going efforts of ourselves and local ethnic minority groups to perpetrate a partnership and make Fife a better place for us all to live and work". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 9]

 

 

Mosque race hate letters

Racists have been sending letters to mosques in the Waltham Forest area of London threatening to kill Muslims. Although the letters, sent to the Lea Bridge Road Mosque and one in Leyton, mention the National Front and the British National Party, those racist organisations have denied responsibility. Chaudhry Anwar, a co-ordinator at the Lea Bridge Road Mosque and former director of Waltham Forest Race Equality Council, said: "I think that it’s probably a crank. We don’t give any importance to the letter. It wasn’t a professional letter. It appears to have been written by an individual. This has happened in the past. We handed the letter straight to the police. They told us not to handle it and put it in a bag because they want their forensic team to examine the letter. The letter says that we will be shot if we go to the mosques and that the British National Party and National Front are coming to get us. We are part of the main stream community and a third of the population in this borough is Muslim. This kind of letter doesn’t make any sense. We feel offended. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen in a civilised country like ours". Chief Inspector Steve Costello said: "My advice should anybody receive one of these letters is not to handle them and to contact the police. We are investigating the letters as we speak and we have submitted the mail for forensic investigation" (Chingford Guardian, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 9]

 

 

Women

Rape accusation

A 16 year-old Iranian from Luton accused of raping his 15 year-old bride has had the case against him dropped and he was found not guilty. The marriage took place at the home of the girl’s parents in Southall, London, under Islamic law in February. The girl made her complaint 11 days later. The prosecutor at the Old Bailey, Dean Armstrong, said that the Crown had decided to offer no evidence against the defendant because of the delay in making the complaint and "in view of inconsistencies in the victim’s statement" (Luton Herald & Post, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 9]

 

 

Call for segregated buses

Five Muslim women from the Aston area of Birmingham have proposed to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Users’ Advisory Committee that separate seating be provided for women on West Midlands buses. A spokesperson for the Muslim Education and Community Centre at Darlaston said: "A minority of Muslim women believe that men and women sitting together as strangers on buses is going against their religious beliefs. But this kind of thing is more of a cultural attitude rather than of the Muslim religion. The view of most young Muslim women is that segregation of the sexes does not work in a modern society". Travel West Midlands spokesperson Phil Bateman said: "I have not seen the proposal but such a scheme would not be practicable. We have to be tolerant of religious beliefs but this would not encourage relationships between passengers" (Black Country Evening Mail, 11.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 9]

 

 

Bradford domestic violence campaign

Anna Green, Bradford City Council’s domestic violence co-ordinator, has estimated in a recent report presented to the Council, that the true figure of cases of domestic violence may be around 21,000, that is, about four times the number of complaints received by the local police. She told the council’s safety sub-committee that: "It isn’t always reported, but when it is it isn’t always recorded, but when it is it isn’t always prosecuted". Campaigners from Bradford’s Asian Muslim community say that the support systems in the city are failing the victims of domestic violence from minority communities. Nadira Mirza, from the Asian Women’s Monitoring Group, said: "Women workers in Bradford have much evidence of women who have been injured, or have died under suspicious domestic circumstances. Many have been known to agencies and have needed the kind of services agencies have been unable to provide" (Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 18.09.98).

Although Lord Justice Kennedy has dismissed Zoora Shah’s appeal (see BMMS for March and April 1998) against her conviction for poisoning Mohammed Azam, the brother of Sher Azam of the Bradford Council for Mosques, the campaign for her release continues. Pragna Patel, spokesperson for Southall Black Sisters, which is calling for a reduced sentence for Ms Shah, said: "This woman is not a serial killer. It was a domestic killing, a killing born out of despair and depression and for that reason is unlikely to be repeated". At her appeal, Ms Shah claimed she had suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Mohammed Azam, who was allegedly a drug dealer and a pimp. Ms Shah’s daughter Nasreen claimed the judges had failed to understand her mother’s situation; "The judges have no idea. They’re in a world of their own. They don’t face everyday normal dilemmas like normal people do – the working class" (Morning Star, 30.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 9/10]

 

 

Islamic course for women

A course on Islam for women is being held at the Wakefield Welfare Association on Agbrigg Road on Saturday mornings (Wakefield Express, 18.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 10]

 

 

Women and race cases

A magazine aimed primarily at young women, Eva (30.09.98), has a feature article on women in their teens and twenties who have successfully brought cases under the Race Relations Act regarding discrimination at work. One woman giving her own account is Saima Nazir, aged 21, who together with Asma Nazir, Naheed Akhtar and Shabnum Sharif, successfully brought a case against the Yorkshire Envelope Co. Ltd. (see BMMS for July and August 1998). The women were vindicated in their complaints and won nearly £48,000 damages between them. Saima Nazir concludes her account however: "Unfortunately, I think what has happened has made it harder to get work and I’m still signing on. I’ve no regrets. I’d encourage anyone to act in the same way, or the racists will carry on". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 10]

 

 

YOUTH

New Northampton girls group

A new group for Bangladeshi girls has been set up in the St James area in Northampton. Rahima Begum, a project organiser, explained: "Bangladeshi girls are Muslim so they have special needs. For example, if we organise swimming it has to be in culturally appropriate clothes. Many of the girls have nothing to do except go to school and then go back home again because they are not allowed to go out with their friends at nights like other girls do. We will also be giving some health education, for example about exercise and mental health". Details can be obtained from Sheetal Maher on Northampton 615346 (Northampton Chronicle, 26.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 10]

 

 

Interfaith

Oxford scholar controversy

Reporting continues on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Professor Jean Michot (See BMMS for August 1998) to a fellowship at Oxford University (Observer, 06.09.98, Oxford Mail, 07.09.98, Oxford Journal, Oxford Times, 11.09.98, Tablet, 12.09.98). Professor Michot has admitted that he is the author of a translation of, and commentary on, a medieval Arabic text – the title in French is Le Statut des Moines – which apparently condones the murder of monks by Muslims. This was published at the time of the massacre of seven Trappist monks in Algeria by the Islamist group, the GIA in March 1996. Canon Christopher Lamb, Anglican Secretary for Inter-faith Relations, has written to Jean Michot asking him to give an "unambiguous disavowal that he supported the action in murdering the monks" (Observer, 06.09.98). The Tablet (12.09.98) reported that Professor Michot has now published a statement, which reads: "I solemnly attest that I have never developed any kind of apology for murder in my writings or statements. I completely endorse the condemnation of the GIA by the consensus of the Muslim community. I have always thought these killings were a particularly tragic event in Islamo-Christian relations". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 10]

 

 

Bath call to prayer controversy

The Rev Michael Chester, who is the superintendent minister for the Bath Methodist circuit, has given his support to Dr Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College in London, taking part in the Mayor of Bath’s Call to Prayer next January (see BMMS for June and July 1998). He said: "Dr Badawi has not been asked to lead a service but to speak at a civic occasion and he is most suitable to follow last year’s speaker Marcus Braybrook, an expert on interfaith issues. Bath is a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. If the mayor’s call is an opportunity for the citizens of Bath to meet together in concern for the city then Muslims, being both citizens and people of prayer, qualify twice over. To assume that Christians have a monopoly on prayer and that only Christians have the ear of God, would be incredibly arrogant. We should be building bridges across centuries of prejudice and suspicion, not putting up barriers" (Bath Chronicle, 09.09.98). Bath’s Charter Trustees confirmed that Dr Badawi would be speaking at the event, in spite of a protest having been received from 15 Christian ministers of various denominations. The former mayor, Councillor Marian Hammond, told the trustees’ meeting: "We have a significant minority of other faiths in this city who have the right to take part in this blessing upon the civic life of the city. We are a secular organisation and this event is held in a civic property, the Guildhall, not a Christian church" (Bath Chronicle, 18.09.98).

Dr Badawi said of the objections to his participation, which come mostly from evangelical churches in the city: "I thought that this was something that belonged in the past and not in the present. I think people in your city should really understand that we live in a world that is becoming far too small for sectarianism. We are living in a society which has to be open to other ideas and other beliefs, and a place where people are tolerant to each other and also respect the spiritual contributions of each of our faiths". Rashad Ahmed Azami, Imam of the Bath Islamic Centre in Manvers Street, said: "We feel that there is confusion and misunderstanding about the purpose of Dr Badawi’s visit. He is coming as a speaker and his visit is nothing to do with the Muslim ritual. We don’t regard this as a religious ceremony. It is not taking place in a church but in a civic location. We see this as a healthy attempt to bring the different communities of Bath together" (Bath Chronicle, 26.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 10/11]

 

 

High Wycombe talks

At the beginning of September, the new Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Mike Hill, paid a visit to High Wycombe Mosque to discuss issues of mutual concern. Gulzar Khan, assistant secretary of the mosque committee, said: "There are a lot of issues on which we have common ground and despite our differences we can live together in peace and harmony and respect each other" (Bucks Free Press, 15.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11]

 

 

Campus peace forum

The Guardian (22.09.98) has a report on the establishment of a Muslim-Jewish student forum by the Calamus and Maimonides Foundations. The article explains that the student forum, which aims to promote greater understanding and reduce conflict on British campuses, is one of several set up by the foundations. The others include: "Alif-Aleph, a forum for business people, [which] was launched and included Lord Stone, joint managing director of Marks and Spencer, David Michels, chief executive of Stakis hotels, Shami Ahmed, founder of Joe Bloggs jeans and Mr G K Noon, head of Noon Foods, largest supplier of pre-packed Indian food. The Daughters of Abraham was set up for Muslim and Jewish women to meet". Douglas Krikler, executive director of the Maimonides Foundation, explained why he thought the student forum was particularly important: "They are likely to become prominent members and leaders of their own communities. What’s given a sense of urgency to the student initiative has been an atmosphere on campuses for the past few years of hostility between Muslim and Jewish students". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11]

 

 

Adverts withdrawn

Muslim News (25.09.98) reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received an increased number of complaints about advertisements using Christian symbols. The ASA told the Muslim paper: "Advertisers need to strike a balance between creativity and sensitivity. Using religious references can cause offence, especially if presented in a way that could be seen as disrespectful or mocking". A survey carried out by the ASA on public attitudes to advertising showed that 78% of those surveyed agreed with the statement: "Disrespectful references to any religion, race or culture should never be allowed". Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, welcomed the ASA’s decisions on material causing religious offence: "This is a direction that the Muslim community would like the wider society to move forward to so that we respect each others’ beliefs and leaders". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11]

 

 

Halal

Baby food launch

Gazala Saleem, aged 31, from Handsworth, Birmingham, is about to set up her own company producing baby food made with halal meat. The company is called Mother Nature Baby Foods and will be marketing to Asian Muslim families in particular (Birmingham Metronews, 03.09.98, Birmingham Evening Mail, Black Country Evening Mail, 07.09.98). Ms Saleem has studied at Coventry University and the University of Central England and has worked as a health service manager. She explained: "I had the idea ten years ago when I gave birth to my son, Sheri. I realised then there was a need for halal baby food" (Birmingham Metronews, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11]

 

 

Health

Tipton open day

A health awareness day aimed at the local Asian population was planned for 16 September at the Tipton Muslim Centre. Materials in Bengali and Urdu were to be available, as well as health personnel who speak Asian languages. Health visitor Pushpa Chumber explained: "it is basically an open day focussing on heart disease and diabetes within the Asian community. We have a lot of agencies interested in participating on the day, and local councillors will also be visiting. The books will help a great deal" (Kidderminster Express & Star, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11]

 

 

‘Doctor’ arrested

Bashir Lasebai, who is charged with illegally carrying out circumcisions on Muslim boys, new-born to 14 years old, was remanded into custody by Croydon magistrates at the beginning of September. He had been granted bail in Croydon in 1994, but fled to the Republic of Ireland in December of that year. He had been arrested in Ireland and returned to Britain. Bashir Lasebai is charged with assault, occasioning actual bodily harm, and deception. The case is continuing (Croydon Advertiser, Caterham & District Advertiser, 04.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 11/12]

 

 

Donors appeal

Hospitals in Luton are appealing to Asian people, especially Muslims, to agree to organ donation. Three years ago, a fatwa was issued clarifying the Islamic legal position on the question, saying that organ donation was permitted, but local Muslims appear to be largely unaware of this. Gurch Randhawa, a researcher at the University of Luton, is calling for a campaign to make the Asian population in the UK more aware of the need for donors. He said: "Strategies for informing Asian people of the importance of organ donation must be sensitive to their real concerns and be targeted in ways which reach people effectively". A survey recently published in the Journal of Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation showed that many Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were not aware of the religious implications of organ donation" (Luton & Dunstable Leader, 10.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Employment

McDonalds hijab case

The Asian Times (01.09.98) reports that Sabrina Sardar, the 16 year-old school student from Harrow who alleges she was sacked from McDonalds for wearing hijab (see BMMS for August 1998) is suing the fast-food company for racial and sexual discrimination. A spokesperson for McDonalds said: "It is not correct that she was sacked. It was made clear, as it is to all our employees that when working they must wear a hair net". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Muslims in the army

The Times (24.09.98) reports that the Army is to introduce new ration-packs suitable for non-Christians. Kosher ration-packs are already available for Jewish soldiers and halal packs will be provided for Muslims, together with vegetarian rations for Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. The Army has appointed religious advisers representing Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. Regarding prayer, The Times explains: "Non-Christian servicemen and women now have ‘quiet areas’ allotted in barracks or on board ship for prayer. There are no plans to build mosques, and prayer mats are provided by the individuals themselves, not issued. Muslims wishing to pray five times a day can do so, ‘provided they are not in the middle of a firefight’. Operational requirements still have to take priority. Fasting is also allowed but, again, operational considerations have to be taken into account". Responding to this report, Jeremy Williams, managing director of Handshaikh Ltd, wrote: "What presumption! The whole guide to human conduct is set out absolutely for Muslims in the Koran. They need no exemption or rulings from the MoD or anyone else on what is permissible or sensible under conditions of warfare, travel, pregnancy, sickness, or age – every possible circumstance has been addressed and decided centuries ago. I, a Christian (and formerly Defence Attaché in the British Embassies in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain), am dismayed by such gross ignorance of Islam" (see BMMS for March and July 1998). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Mosques & Burials

Bradford, Manningham Lane

Eastern Eye (18.09.98) reports that controversy continues over plans by the Minhaj-Ul-Quran movement to turn the premises of a former strip club, the Belle Vue pub, into a mosque (see BMMS for August 1998). Real ale campaigner Richard Holden said: "This is a historic venue and it would be a great shame if it was turned into a centre. This is where they celebrated when Bradford City Football Club entered the league". Local councillor Shaukat Ahmed supports the creation of an Islamic centre at the site. He said: "I was concerned that the building would be left unsold and become derelict. I am happy for it to be used for a viable purpose". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Chingford, Mount Rd

Plans to turn a Salvation Army hall into a mosque in Chingford Mount Road (see BMMS for August 1998) have been rejected for a second time by the local council. The main reason given by the planning committee was that there were already enough places of worship in the borough, but insufficient care homes for the elderly, which is the proposal from the other contenders for the site (Chingford Guardian, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Clitheroe, Holden St

A suitable alternative site for a mosque in Clitheroe has still not been found. Planning permission was refused for the building of a mosque on the site next to the Islamic Education Centre in Holden Street (see BMMS for May, June, July and August 1998) but the Ribble Valley Council agreed to help Muslims find another site. The chair of the planning committee, Frank Dyson, told councillors: "Several meetings have taken place with the applicant to find an alternative site, but so far without success. We have made several suggestions for possible sites, but the applicant hasn’t found them suitable" (Blackburn Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Crewe, Walthall St

The council in Crewe has rejected the local Muslim community’s request that temporary planning permission for the Shahjalal Mosque, a two-bedroomed terrace house on Walthall Street (see BMMS for August 1998), be continued. The mosque, which is the only one in the town, was granted temporary permission three years ago (Crewe Chronicle, 26.08.98, Crewe Guardian, 27.08.98, Crewe Chronicle, 02.09.98). The treasurer of the mosque, Abdul Bashor, said of the council’s decision: "We are really upset about it and are going to appeal all the way. We will take this to Prime Minister Tony Blair if we have to. We have done nothing wrong and we just want a place to pray. It is so important to us. If it is closed we have to go 20 miles to Stoke, where the nearest mosque is, and some people do pray every day. This is our religion we are talking about, our faith. You can’t just stop people being religious just like this. It is a big blow" (Crewe Chronicle, 26.08.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 12]

 

 

Harrow, Station Road

A £1million bid to buy land for a new mosque by the trustees of Harrow Central Mosque has been unsuccessful (see BMMS for July and August 1998). The Metropolitan Police accepted a conditional offer of £1.25 million from Acton Housing Association, who also bid for the former police-owned land. The trustees of the mosque criticised the sale saying that when they put a £500,000 bid in for the site, which had been independently valued at £460,000, they were told that they would get the land if they doubled the bid. However, their increased bid was also rejected. The trustees are now holding talks with the housing association to try and reach a compromise (Harrow, Stanmore, Kingsbury Times, 17.09.98, Pinner Times, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Hove, Portland St

The Shahjalal Muslim Cultural Centre Trust has been given permission to set up a religious centre in a building in Portland Road on a year’s trial. The Trust will be allowed to hold religious worship and sell Islamic literature in the building. Two objections were received, and the council has imposed some restrictions. Worship will be confined between 6am and 10pm, there will be no amplified music or speech, calls to prayer will be through a buzzer similar to a doorbell, and there is to be a limit of 25 people attending gatherings (Brighton & Hove Leader, 18.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Keighley, Emily St

Detailed plans for the proposed new mosque in Emily Street, Keighley (see BMMS for August 1998) have now been submitted to Bradford Council. The architects are Gelder and Kitchen of Devonshire Street, Keighley. The project will provide facilities for women and access for those with disabilities. Other features include a mortuary area and better provision for funerals. The present mosque is 20 years old and is now too small to accommodate all those who want to worship there at busy times (Keighley News, 28.08.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Leyton, Leyton High Rd

The Mayor of Leyton, Abdul Karim Ben, and Waltham Forest Councillor Mohammed Rahman recently attended the official inauguration of the Al-Tawhid Mosque (see BMMS for February 1998) in their official capacity. His Excellency Dr Abdullah Abdul Muhsin At-Turki, Minister of Religious Affairs of Saudi Arabia, had been invited to officiate at the gathering, but had been unable to attend. Dr Suhaib Hasan, a spokesperson for the mosque, said that it is hoped he will visit the mosque in the future (Chingford Guardian, 10.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

London, Gressenhall Rd

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has submitted plans to expand its mosque in Gressenhall Road. The proposed extension, which would look out onto Melrose Road, includes a hall, ladies dining room and offices (Wandsworth Borough News, 28.08.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

London, The Mount prison

Due to a sharp increase in the numbers of prisoners at The Mount, Bovingdon, there are now plans for a new chaplaincy centre. The centre will be multifaith. The deputy governor of the prison is John Ship, who was instrumental in introducing the first mosque in a prison in the country, when he worked at Pentonville Prison. Mr Ship said: "Being able to worship is very important to some people and if it helps them to rehabilitate then a scheme like this has got to be good. Many prisoners follow different religions but at the moment The Mount only has facilities for those of the Church of England and Catholic religions. We do have a room set aside for other religions but it is not a proper place of worship. At Pentonville Prison, where I worked for the past six years, more than 46 per cent of the prisoners were Muslim. We set up the mosque because there was nowhere for the Muslims to pray and they had to make do with an old workshop and I don’t think that was right. I believe everyone is entitled to have a place to worship and so we decided the prison would finance half of the project and the remainder of the £50,000 would be raised from within the Muslim community" (Watford Free Observer, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Morden, London Rd

A construction site has been given the all clear from Health and Safety officials after there were concerns that local residents could be inhaling asbestos leaking from the site (see BMMS for July 1998). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association have been given advice on how to dispose of asbestos, and the Health and Safety Authority have no problem with the way the work is being carried out (Wimbledon Guardian, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Nelson burials

Abdul Hafiz Malik of Halifax Road, Nelson, has protested to the local council that he has found tyre marks across his mother’s grave and that stones placed around the grave, which is in the Muslim section of the Nelson Cemetery in Walton Lane, have been removed. Mr Malik said: "When I came and found tyre marks across the grave, I was shocked. The stones around the grave have also disappeared. Within the Islamic way of life it is simply not acceptable to run a machine over graves. It is an insult to her and I have brought other community leaders here to see it and they agree with me". Linda Bains, Pendle Council’s cemeteries officer, said she was aware of Mr Malik’s complaint. She said: "We do get complaints from the public when the grass has been cut when it is too wet and the wheels leave marks. We do try to avoid it happening, but we do have to cut the grass. I would like to meet Mr Malik at the cemetery and discuss the problem with him. It may be we can reach some agreement, and we certainly do not want to upset anyone" (Nelson Leader, 04.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13]

 

 

Oldham, Shaw, Margaret St

Plans to convert a terraced house in Margaret Street, Shaw, Oldham into a mosque (see July and August 1998) have been rejected. The main objections were on the grounds of noise and other nuisance to neighbours. Councillor Rod Blythe, opposing the project, said: "If you look at the one [mosque] in Stuart Street, it started off as a single end-terrace property now it’s through to next door because the people living next door couldn’t stand the noise. The house next door to that is now up for sale. When looking at these [planning applications] we should bear in mind that terraced houses are not suitable for mosques. We should bear in mind the neighbours" (Oldham Advertiser, 03.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 13/14]

 

 

Palmers Green, Oakthorpe Rd

The Muslim Community and Education Centre (MCEC), who finally secured planning permission to build a mosque and community centre on the Oakthorpe Sports Ground (see BMMS for January and May 1998) in Palmers Green, are encountering fresh opposition. Opponents of the mosque plan say that the detailed plans submitted to Enfield Council show a development much larger than that originally envisaged. David Tuckey, chair of Oakthorpe Action to Keep the Sportsground, said: "I have looked at the plans and the development looks too large. This is an area of mature housing. It is totally inappropriate for the area. We feel very strongly against the minaret and there was no indication before that a flat would be needed" (Enfield Gazette, 03.09.98). Mr Tuckey told the Enfield Advertiser (09.09.98): "It has features which won’t harmonise with the area, it is totally inappropriate. We stand by what we have said before, that it will create severe traffic problems". [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 14]

 

 

Redditch, Smallwood

Redditch MP Jacqui Smith has given her support to plans to build a mosque in Redditch on the former Alcad site in Union Street (see BMMS for July and August 1998). She said: "I am impressed with the plans for a new mosque in Redditch. It is a good community facility that will benefit the town. I am particularly glad that the proposal for the Alcad site includes this community facility" (Alcester Chronicle, 26.08.98). Letters in support of the mosque, and against the mosque, from non-Muslims (Alcester Chronicle, 02.09.98) and from the Redditch New Mosque Project (Redditch Standard, 11.09.98) have appeared in the local press.

The Redditch New Mosque Project committee has written to the Alcester Chronicle to clarify issues raised by local residents on the proposed new mosque and community centre. There were concerns about noise from the call to prayer, increased traffic, ‘invasions’ of Muslims from other towns and environmental pollution. The committee has written confirming that there will be no calls to prayer via loudspeakers from the minaret. Additional traffic will not be a problem, as "the new mosque will only be occupied to full capacity for two days in the year; morning prayers after Ramadhans and after Hajj, not every day!" [This refers to Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha] ‘Invasions’ from other towns are not likely, and concerning the environment, "the plot for the new mosque is free from such contamination", an issue which will be further addressed by Kingspark Developments Limited. The committee ends its letter by thanking all those who have given their support (Alcester Chronicle, 16.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 14]

 

 

Sheffield, Sharrow, Wolseley Rd

Planning officers in Sheffield have recommended that permission be given for the construction of a mosque in Wolseley Road, Sharrow (see BMMS for July 1998). However, the mosque committee would first have to win their case in the High Court to close part of Gifford Road, which is needed for the development. The case is scheduled for October. The planning department had received a 900-signature petition in support of the mosque and 450 letters. In opposition to the plans there was a 59-signature petition and nine letters, most protesting about the style and size of the building and that there would be parking problems. The planning report stressed that sufficient parking would be available and that the proposed landscaping would be an asset to the area. The report also said: "As a building it will provide a focus for the neighbourhood and a distinctive piece of architecture" (Barnsley Star, Sheffield Star, 19.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 14]

 

 

Tipton, Wellington Rd

The Sandwell Chronicle (04.09.98) reports that temporary planning permission has been granted for the two-storey house on Wellington Road (see BMMS for August 1998) to continue to be used as a mosque, while the new one is being built. The new mosque should be completed in 2002. [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 14]

 

 

Wycombe burials

Community leaders are discussing burial problems with the local council officers, saying the present policy does not meet their religious needs (see BMMS for February 1998). At present, Muslims share the cemetery on Priory Rd with other faiths, and can only use it for burials on a Saturday if details are received by 3:30pm on Friday. This means that many families have to wait up to three days to bury their dead that pass away on Friday or Saturday, as relevant paperwork will then only be done on Mondays. Members of Wycombe District Council have since been discussing the possibility of allowing the burial ground to be used on the Saturday, if details are submitted before 12noon that day. Councillors have also suggested that the Muslim community should look to owning and managing their own cemetery, which would be able to fulfil their needs. This proposal has been welcomed by Munir Hussain of the Wycombe Mosque Committee, who said: "This is a very positive thing and it shows understanding of the different religions in the town." (South Bucks Leader, 17.09.98). [BMMS September 1998 Vol. VI, No. 9, p. 14]

 

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