Preachers barred from Muslim area

Police stopped two Christian preachers handing out Bible extracts in a Muslim area of the West Midlands and accused them of a “hate crime” by allegedly trying to convert Muslims, it has been claimed. A police community support officer (PCSO) is said to have told them: “You have been warned. If you come back here and get beaten up, well, you have been warned.” Americans Arthur Cunningham and Joseph Abraham are threatening to take West Midlands Police to court under the Human Rights Act if officers do not apologise. The force said the officer, Naeem Naguthney, aged 30, had been offered “guidance and advice” following an investigation into the dispute in the Alum Rock area of Birmingham. Abraham, aged 65, said: “He told us we were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity and that was a hate crime. He was very intimidating.” Cunningham, aged 48, a fellow American Baptist missionary, said: “He realised we were Americans and then started ranting at us about George Bush and American foreign policy. “He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message. “I am dumbfounded that the police seem so nonchalant. They seem content not to make it clear that what we were doing was perfectly legal. To suggest we were guilty of a hate crime for spreading God’s word is outrageous.”

UK writers award for former Guantanamo Bay detainee

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg has been honoured at the annual _Muslim Writers Awards 2008′ for his book chronicling his time in the US detention centre and his return back home to Britain. Begg was awarded the _Published Writer of the Year’ award for his book, _Enemy Combatants: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back’. Giving a powerful acceptance speech, Begg, who owns a bookstore in Birmingham recalled how faith and prayer strengthened the bond between the “Enemy Combatants” during the abuse and humiliation meted out to them by their captors. Eight awards were presented at a ceremony in Birmingham, following a review of 10,000 entries by a panel of independent judges.

The Muslim Writers Awards

The Muslim Writers Awards ceremony saw Jermaine Jackson, former Jackson Five member and brother of Michael Jackson, presenting awards to budding writers in Birmingham this week with over a 1,000 people attending the event. Organised by Innovate Arts, the events host. Birmingham Mail blogger, Faraz Yousufzai was reported to say: “The atmosphere was electric and people remarked about the quality, diversity and the scale of the event. “It was fantastic having Jermaine Jackson there and had he not given his support from the beginning I do not think we could have done what we did in such a short space of time. “In 12 months we managed to get 10,000 submissions of work which showed us there is an ocean of untapped Birmingham talent that Innovate Arts is starting to discover.” Faraz said the event had helped to build a network of artistic people. “We have been able to build up such a network of writers from across the business,” he said.

Life sentence for the extremist who plotted to murder soldier

A fanatic who planned an Iraq-style kidnap and beheading of a British soldier plucked from a Birmingham street was jailed for life yesterday. Parviz Khan, 37, pleaded guilty to the plan, that was disrupted in January last year and which UK counter-terrorism officials believe was backed by al-Qaida. The aim was to convulse Britain’s armed forces with fear and show the terror group could still strike at the heart of Britain. Khan was the leader of a Birmingham-based terror cell which, for three years, had shipped equipment to terrorists in Afghanistan. In 2006 he hatched a plan to kidnap a Muslim soldier serving in British forces, video his beheading and broadcast it over the internet. He was caught discussing the plot via an MI5 bug placed in his home. Covert recordings captured Khan bragging about cutting the soldier’s head off “like a pig”, before burning the body and sending the video to terror leaders based in Pakistan. Khan was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in jail. The jury heard he had even indoctrinated his five-year-old son, teaching him to express his love of Osama Bin Laden and to call for the death of Bush and Blair. Khan talked of marrying off his three-year-old daughter to a terrorist and also referred to the July 7 suicide bombers as “brothers”.

Birmingham’s multi-faith business challenge

With Birmingham set to become the UK’s first ethnic majority city in just two years, a debate will take place on how businesses are adapting to the rise of a new multi-faith workforce. On January 31, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry will debate the issue along with a number of panellists. The event, chaired by The Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, will discuss whether there is a place for faith in business. One of the four members of the panel Mohammed Hasan put forward his views on the subject. Hasan, managing consultant, Catalyst Consulting Associates, reportedly described himself as a “fundamentalist Muslim” who, although born a Brummie, but raised in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Australia, New York “and a couple of other places in the US”. He was reported to have said: “I am what you would call a fundamentalist Muslim. I am a passionate believer in British values, I am committed to democracy, I have zero tolerance for violence and all of that happens because of my religion. I grew up in a mono-cultural environment in Saudi Arabia and was raised religiously in the _Wahhabi’ establishment. I have stayed away from the diversity issue because I never understood why it was a problem. I arrived back in the UK ten years ago and had to plough my own way. I called and met people I read about in The Birmingham Post and some of them are now friends, advisers or contacts.”

The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe

Following the terrorist attacks on London and Madrid, radical Islam is presumed to be an increasingly potent force in Europe. Yet beneath the media hysteria, very little is actually known about it. What radical movements are there? How do they operate? What is driving them? Who are their recruits? What is their relationship, if any, to Al Qaeda? Alison Pargeter has spent three years interviewing radical Islamists throughout Europe to find answers to these questions. She examines how radical ideology travels from East to West, and how the two contexts shape each other. She finds that contrary to what some analysts have claimed, the European Muslim community has not become radicalised en masse. What has happened is that in a globalised world, Middle Eastern power struggles are now being played out in the mosques of Birmingham, Paris and Milan. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to know the real story of the jihad which has apparently arrived in our back yard.

Women of Birminghamabad find identity

By Jonathan Guthrie No symbol of cultural difference is more emotive in modern Britain than the headscarf. To many non-Muslims it represents the refusal to integrate, resistance to UK foreign policy and the oppression of women. But to wearers, the hijab has as many meanings as an onion has layers. It can even serve as a symbol of self-determination. So it is appropriate that Muslim women, hijab-wearers among them, are emerging tentatively into public life after years of invisibility within the UK’s highest-profile minority. Superficially not a lot has changed since September 11 2001 in the predominantly Muslim district on the east side of Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city…

Sex, violence, the trouble with Islam and why we need our Christian roots

The football-loving archbishop tipped to be the next leader of Britain’s Roman Catholics talks to our correspondents Helen Rumbelow and Alice Miles On Wednesday afternoon in Birmingham a young Muslim woman found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The doors of St Chad’s Cathedral opened and hundreds of men surged out, their yellow robes flapping in the sunshine. She, in black robes, glanced back, alarmed, and broke into a run. She had better keep running. Last out was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, agitator-in-chief and hot tip to be the Church’s next leader in Britain. He had just blessed the priests of his diocese, urging them to fight a culture that he said was becoming aggressively antireligious. Name a controversy where politics and religion meet and invariably the Archbishop’s name pops up. Faith schools? It was he who forced the Government to back down on admissions quotas. Gay adoption? His views made him the liberals’ punchbag. So why, we asked as we met after the service, did he think that Britain had become so antireligious? He thought for a moment and his gentle Liverpudlian accent at first beguiled us to the strength of his opinions. It turns out that it is the Muslims’ fault, because the unease the West has with them gives other faiths a bad name. The acts of terrorism have shaken people’s perception of the presence of faiths in this country and around the world and I just wish there was a bit more differentiation in the reflection about the role of faiths in society. Some politicians jumbled all faiths into one. Sometimes the anxieties that are expressed around faith schools are actually to do with Islamic schools. And when you press a politician they say, _Well of course we don’t mean Catholic schools and we don’t mean Church of England schools’, but they still hesitate to move away from the umbrella phrase of faith schools. […]