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:

Announcement of a Muslim Legal Defence League

Le Figaro


Following the official launch of the “Muslim Legal Defence League” (“Ligue de défense judiciare des musulmans”) by the former lawyer Karim Achoulai this summer, their first action was announced to be a complaint to be made against the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo for their publication of caricatures depicting the Quran last week.

The objective of the group is to “legally defend individual victims of discrimination based on their associated or actual appearance linked to Islam and their religious belief”. The group aims to legally challenge Islamophobia and aid individuals who have suffered discrimination because of their belief.

Young Muslims in Geneva

2 November 2010

Religion does not constrain friendship for a number of young Swiss students at the University of Geneva. In the case of Karim, a Muslim, and Flavio, who is Catholic, religion and culture are to be respected and recognized, but in no way pose any problems. For Karim, Flavio is someone with whom he has more in common than someone with whom he might have attended Arabic school since childhood, while Flavio sees nothing wrong with waiting at the door while Karim’s mother or sister puts on a headscarf if he comes to visit.
Similarly for Shaimaa, who is Muslim, and Emmanuelle, who does not practise any religion, but comes from a Christian family, their differences are seen rather as something which enriches their relationship. Aside from exchanging Egyptian cookies and Christmas biscuits, they consider the values and cultural background that both have grown up with as important elements to respect and preserve.

DEBATE: “European Muslims: Model Citizens or Forever Foreign?” on Wednesday, November 10th at the British Council and European Policy Centre, Brussels

A debate organised by the British Council in collaboration with the European Policy Centre and the European Muslim Network.

10 November 2010, European Parliament, Brussels, Room A5E2, 10:00 to 12:30 (Registration and Coffee from 09:15)

Are western societies becoming too individualistic? Are we more concerned with ourselves than our communities? If good citizenship is defined by giving something back to society, are we all becoming bad citizens?

We hear no end of criticism against European Muslims for having divided loyalties; for failing to integrate and for living in closed communities with traditional values, out of tune with ‘our’ Western values.

But perhaps Muslims in Europe are actually the model of good citizenship, with stronger family ties, increasing political participation, more respect for their community and more engagement in voluntary organisations..…

In this open and frank debate, we discuss what it takes to be a good ‘European citizen’. We ask whether strong communities are a hindrance to proper integration; whether citizenship is more than just nationality; and whether hyphenated citizenship should be embraced or challenged.

Participants include

Sajjad Karim, Conservative Member of the European Parliament, Host of the Debate
Belinda Pyke, Director for Equality between Men/Women, Action against discrimination, European Commission
Saad Amrani, Police Commissioner in charge of foreign community and international issues, Brussels city
Tareq Oubrou, Imam, Mosque of Bordeaux
Sophie Heine, Research Fellow, Université Libre de Bruxelles

This debate will be moderated by Shada Islam, from the European Policy Centre.

If you would like to register, please contact us at

If you require a pass for the European Parliament, please RSVP before 29th October, including your full name, date of birth and place of residence.

French Muslim Soccer Players Are Not Fasting

Le Figaro reports that French Muslim professional soccer players Mahamadou Diarra, Karim Benzema and Lassana Diarra are not fasting during this year’s Ramadan period to remain eligible to play for their team, Real Madrid.

Young Muslim leaders in Europe get a close look at US

For Karim Z_ribi, the highlight was shaking the hand of Barack Obama. For Ali Zahi, it was meeting his childhood hero, basketball star Magic Johnson. And Mohamed Hamidi was surprised to find a mosque in Washington that was bigger than the one in his parents’ village in Algeria. Hamidi is a well-known blogger, Zahi is a mayoral aide in this Paris suburb, and Z_ribi runs an employment agency. All are French, Muslim and below 42. All grew up and worked in suburbs that became emblematic of the frustration among second- and third-generation immigrant youths that led to three weeks of riots in France in 2005. And all three joined the small but growing ranks of influential Muslims in Europe invited to the US on 21-day trips as part of its International Visitor Leadership Program. The longstanding program, which seeks to introduce future leaders from around the world to the US, has become part of an American effort to reach out to Europe’s Muslims, especially young people who could fall prey to jihadist talk. The exposure to America softened views of a superpower generally distrusted in their communities. Many young people think that America is waging a war on Muslims, said Zahi, 32, chief of staff for the mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 rioting began after the deaths of two teenagers of African origin. I tell them America is a country that has a black presidential candidate and a self-confident Muslim community, Zahi said.

Muslims Fare Poorly in Recent French Municipal Elections

Arab and Muslim candidates fared poorly in the first round of French municipal elections, with only one elected to a local office and few others with opportunity in the second round of voting. Running on the Socialist slate, Samia Ghali won District 8 in Marseille, the country’s second largest city. Ghali became the first Muslim among France’s 36 000 municipal leaders. Justice minister Rachida Dati, of Moroccan origin, faces stiff challenge from her Socialist rival in the 7th District of Paris. Other candidates, Socialist Karim Bougoma and Razi Hamadi of the Rassemblement Pour R_publique have little to no chance of winning a seat, winning only 26.11 and 17.63 of the votes in the first round. In the country more generally, president Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) conceded more ground to the rival Socialists.