First Female Only Managed Mosque in Bradford

A mosque that will be open to all – men, women, children and worshippers of all sects, including Sunni and Shia. Prayers will be led by a male imam, yet the governance of the mosque will be run by women, in the first of its kind in Britain.

Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian
Bana Gora: ‘The alienation that women feel has profound consequences for younger generations.’ Photograph: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian

Gora co-founder and chief executive of the MWC, said: “When I was growing up across the Bradford district, there was never a practice of sisters going to the mosque. We prayed at the house. But why couldn’t we go to the mosque on a Friday with our brother and father?” Gora said. “We were told because it’s not the done thing. Women don’t go to the mosque. Well, actually, at the time of the prophet, women did, and they had the same access as men.”

Consultations for the new mosque began in June and are now at their second stage. The women’s group are seeking planning permission and looking at possible plots of land. Gora said she has been in talks with international architects, and that the building itself will not have minarets or domes. The community group, who also run weekly curry circles to distribute food to the homeless, said they will have a blueprint and funding strategy by September. They hope for the mosque to be ready within three years.

There are around 100 mosques in Bradford, where a quarter of the population identify as Muslim. However, according to a local audit of mosques carried out by Gora’s team, female worshippers often felt isolated from the space and cut off from the services offered by mosques.

New theatre production looking at Muslim conversion

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About 5,000 people in the UK convert to Islam every year, the majority of whom are women. It is a religious and cultural choice still largely treated with suspicion, but a new play opening at London’s Tricycle Theatre is aimed at shedding light on the journey of conversion and British perceptions of Islam as a whole.

Multitudes is the debut work of John Hollingworth, an actor who has appeared in productions at the National Theatre, the Old Vic and the Tricycle, and is set in his hometown of Bradford, West Yorkshire, just after the forthcoming general election.

With characters ranging from a British tutor who converts to Islam and a moderate British Muslim councillor, to a teenage girl who has become radicalised and wants to join the Islamic caliphate, it is a play that grapples with varied and often ignored facets of the Muslim experience in modern Britain.

Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

December 20, 2013

 

It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford’s final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple’s 45 members could cover the cost.

Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s 87-year-old chairman, reluctantly proposed the nuclear option: to sell the beautiful 132-year-old building, forcing the congregation to go 10 miles to Leeds to worship. It was a terrible proposition, coming just after the city’s only Orthodox synagogue had shut its doors in November 2012, unable to regularly gather 10 men for the Minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations.

But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

A fundraising effort – led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate – has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism. All things being well, by Christmas the first tranche of £103,000 of lottery money will have reached the synagogue’s bank account after some of Bradford’s most influential Muslims helped Leavor and other Jews to mount a bid.

At the start of December, Karim and other Muslims attended a Hanukah service at the synagogue. Yet until a year ago, Karim didn’t even realise the synagogue existed. “The Jewish community kept themselves to themselves,” he said. Since the last race riots in the city in 2001, there has been no sign to mark the building. “We didn’t want to be the cause of potential trouble, so we took the plaque down over 10 years ago,” said Leavor.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/bradford-synagogue-saved-muslims-jews

Stop playing political football with black and ethnic minorities

A study carried out by cross-party organisation Operation Black Vote showed the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70% since the last election. Using the 2011 census, it calculated that in England and Wales there are168 seats where the black and ethnic minority population holds greater sway than the majority. It is a significant number that means that not only is the BME vote increasing but with this growth comes a variance in voting patterns. A growing class of educated, affluent British Asians has grown up over the past decade who are concerned about the community they live in and the current political climate.

 

For example in Bradford the Respect campaign recruited Asian women, targeted community centres, visited homes, sent campaigners who spoke Punjabi and Urdu and most importantly asked the constituents what they wanted from their representatives. This one-to-one strategy empowered a sector of the community that had for too long been marginalised and disenfranchised. Up until then, the men of the house decided which party the family as a collective would vote for. The women of Bradford seized this opportunity and quickly spread the word that there was finally a party that appreciated their involvement.

 

Let this serve as a lesson to mainstream parties: you can win the votes of the Asian women by engaging them in dialogue, by addressing their concerns and assuring them that their voices are valuable. And by Asian women I mean ALL Asian women, those who are educated, uneducated, those who work and those who are stay-at-home mums and carers. Mainstream parties also need to engage BME youth, many of whom worry about rising tuition fees, lack of employment opportunities, the glass ceilings they will encounter because of their backgrounds, racism and the discrimination they face.

 

There is a growing interest in politics within the BME communities, it is time to respect and engage with them in the most effective manner possible so our multicultural society can take the most benefits from their respective contributions.

We’re all in this together: How Leicester became a model of multiculturalism (even if that was never the plan…)

You couldn’t ask for a better symbol of the present, paradoxical state of multicultural Britain than Jawaahir Daahir. She is a vigorous example of female empowerment: a Somali refugee in the Hague, she learnt Dutch and studied for seven years to become a social worker there, while bringing up her six children. She is also a conservative Muslim, like most of her compatriots. She combines the two – feminism and religious piety – with no apparent strain. And it was because that combination is one that Britain can deal with, while the Continent finds it unacceptable, that she is now happily settled in Leicester.

 

“When the Somali community came to Leicester there was a sense of support and a welcoming environment. For example, now there are lights, welcoming Ramadan. When I registered my children for school, there were welcome signs in so many languages, including Somali. It was a culture shock, because you don’t expect a Western city to welcome you in your own language. In Holland, even though I participated actively in all sorts of different areas, I still felt separate, different. But here in Leicester you feel a sense of belonging. You are not a foreigner, you are not an outsider. The society and the system acknowledge you and consider you.”

 

David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine, asks hard questions about the economic and political rationale for the mass immigration that has transformed the ethnic profile of so many of our towns and cities. Britain obtained its dazzling array of new citizens with little conscious planning. And, as Goodhart describes, in places such as Bradford and Tower Hamlets, the mixture of declining local industry and a large, tight-knit population of immigrants from rural parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh has produced severe social tension, culminating in the mill-town riots of 2001. But as Jawaahir Daahir’s story reveals, that is not the whole picture. Slap in the middle of England there is a city where an improbably rich mix of people and religions seems to be working rather well. Nobody planned for Leicester to become the most multicultural city on the planet. It just happened that way. And for the early immigrants, too, there was little thought that they might make their lives here.

 

In the past 40 years, Leicester has become the poster city for multicultural Britain, a place where the stunning number and size of the minorities – the 55 mosques, 18 Hindu temples, nine Sikh gurudwaras, two synagogues, two Buddhist centres and one Jain centre – are seen not as a recipe for conflict or a millstone around the city’s neck, but a badge of honour.

 

But in the 12 years since the attacks on America, punctuated by 7/7 and the Woolwich atrocity, Britain’s faith in multiculturalism has begun to erode. After every act of Islamist terrorism, there has been a spasm of revulsion. This is one of the conundrums of our age, one which laid-back, permissive Holland epitomises: how are the super-tolerant children of the European Enlightenment to react to the arrival of newcomers who refuse to adopt the uniform of secular liberalism? How far do you tolerate those who themselves have strict limits on what they will tolerate?

 

As atheists – who account for 23 per cent of Leicester’s population – like to point out, religion is not a reliable recipe for communal harmony. Quite the reverse: as every religion enshrines an exclusive explanation of the world, each has the potential to oppress and persecute those who think differently. And often that’s how it works out. Muslims are often treated like second-class citizens in India, Christians in Pakistan, Hindus in Bangladesh and Muslims in Burma.

 

While the mill towns of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford experienced race riots in 2001, Leicester has ridden out its multicultural decades in considerable peace and harmony. The white population, guided by the likes of Peter Soulsby, has responded with maturity and imagination to these epochal demographic changes. And while there will always be grumbling about the “cosseting” of immigrants, the facts speak for themselves. In the mid-1970s, the National Front was active in Leicester, and on one occasion came close to winning a single council seat. But since then, they and their successors have been notably unsuccessful in the city. If the minority of British whites are seething about the way the city is changing, they are keeping it very much to themselves.

A Very British Ramadan kicks off Channel 4’s ‘provocative’ season on Islamic festival

Channel 4’s “provocative” series of programmes about Ramadan will begin tonight with A Very British Ramadan. The documentary will follow Rashid Khan, a former professional rugby league player and star of Channel 4’s Make Bradford British, as he travels across Britain to explore the logistical preparations for the holy month of Ramadan. The programme will hear from a range of British Muslims throughout Ramadan on how they cope with daily life, and the physical and spiritual effects of fasting. A Very British Ramadan is the first programme in 4Ramadan, a season of programmes on Channel 4 reflecting what life is like for Britain’s Muslim population who observe the religious festival.

Bradford Muslims Rally To Save Synagogue From Closure

With only just over thirty members and an extravagant Grade II listed
Moorish building, the tiny Jewish community of Bradford have for many years
been in despair about their finances – until the local Muslim community
stepped in to help.

The grand-looking Reform synagogue, is on an unassuming street, between the
Yorkshire Tandoori, Al-Hijaab Islamic Clothing and the Jamia Shan-E-Islam
Educational Centre.

Built in 1880, it has long been under threat of closure, but several Muslim
organisations in the city have pledged to stop it falling into ruin, with
donors giving £2,000 to save the synagogue’s roof.

UK Parties are trying to gain Muslim vote

23 July 2012

After the George Galloway’ historic victory of in Bradford by-elections British political parties have realized the significance of the Muslim vote and have been trying to gain support of Muslims. IN this regard, following Labor Leader Ed Miliband, Conservative Party Chair Baroness Warsi has visited the city to meet Muslim women.

Local Muslim Women’s Council members who were the organizers of the event challenged influential Muslim politician Baroness Warsi about immigration policy, education, the impact of cutbacks and austerity and the role Government has played in fuelling Islamophobia.

The historic defeat that Labour Party suffered in the Bradford by-election forces them to understand the changing dynamics of the Muslim society

11 June 2012

Britain is still appalled with George Galloway’s unexpected victory over the Labour party in the Bradford by-election. The Labour party’s reliance on the biraderi system according to which gaining support of the tribal leaders would secure the support of the rest of the community cost a humiliating defeat in the by-election. Further, the by-election has also shown that the old system is outdated and elders alliances no longer binding for the youth and women.

In her article, Irna Qureshi reflects upon Labour leader Ed Miliband’s visit to Bradford in a quest to understand what went wrong in the by-elections and re-establish relations with the different sectors of the Muslim community instead of only interacting with the elders. She also points out how the dynamics of the Muslim community have changed and women are becoming increasingly active in the decision making process.

George Galloway Wins Bradford

March 2012

 

Bradford, which is host to a large Asian community, has been a Labour Party stronghold for 100 years. However, in the Bradford West by-election George Galloway, the outspoken British politician, gained a landslide victory against Labour’s Pakistani Muslim candidate Imran Hussain, thanks to the unwavering support of the Asian Muslim community.

 

The results were received as a blow to labour leader Ed Miliband who had been expected to capitalize on the double dip resection that hit hard on the UK economy. The results were also bad news for Tories as their vote went significantly down. Thus, it was considered to be a sign of dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties and, by some Islamphobic media, considered a source concern since they understood it as ‘Islamic extremism’ inauguration in British politics.

 

Galloway built his election strategy upon two issues: Occupation of Afghanistan, Palestine and the austerity policies, and called his victory a “Bradford Spring,” thus making a comparison to the popular uprisings taking place in Arab countries. He might seem to be going too far by comparing a Liberal democratic Britain to the oppressive dictatorial regimes of the Middle East, yet there might be some similarities between the two. Increasing unemployment, cost of living and discrimination have indeed frustrated the large working class Asian community of Bradford, especially the youth who have had to face uncertainty and alienation.

 

The following articles show how the British public and political parties who were appalled by the results try to understand what was behind the support of Galloway by the Muslim Asian community.