Qatar donates £1.5m for mosque after intervention from Jack Straw

Jack Straw, Britain’s Justice Secretary, wrote a letter of introduction for his friend and political ally, Lord Patel of Blackburn, who persuaded the emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, to spend £1.5m, half the total needed to build the five-story mosque.

Liberal Democrats in Blackburn, Mr. Straw’s constituency, claimed the Labour party had used the donation to the Bicknell Street mosque in order to garner votes from local Muslims.

Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the Sufi Muslim council, said large foreign donors expected mosques to reflect their beliefs, and this was squeezing out moderate Muslims. “This has been a huge problem for the last decade. Some of the biggest mosques and institutions in the UK have been funded by foreign money and have been proven to be portraying extremist viewpoints.

The Emir of Qatar has an image as a pro-western reformist and modernizer and his country is the base for a significant US military presence. However, Qatar has also provided aid to Hamas and offered support to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood and to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan who has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur.

Muslim school head supports oath idea

The head of Blackburn’s only state girls’ Muslim school said he would be happy to for students to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country. And Mufti Hamid Patel, head of Tauheedul Islam Girls High School, would like to see more schemes to boost patriotism amongst young people of all faiths. Mr Patel was speaking after former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, called for school leavers to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen and country in a bid to give teenagers a sense of shared belonging, in a report published this week. The suggestion was slammed as “silly”, a “half-baked idea” and political gimmick by critics. But Mr Patel, who took over as head of the Bicknell Street school in September, said increasing young people’s national pride could only benefit the country at both a national and local community level. He agreed with Lord Goldsmith’s findings that “while there isn’t a crisis of national identity, there has been a diminution in national pride, in sense of belonging”. “I’m passionate about patriotism,” said Mr Patel, “and I think that there is markedly less national pride in Britain compared to countries such as America or India – even when people there do not agree with their leaders’ actions, for example, that doesn’t affect their love of their country.