Students learn to fly

Muslim students are being encouraged to learn how to fly planes in a Salford University project. Eighty students – mostly from Muslim, black and minority ethnic backgrounds – have flown a glider or trainer aircraft as part of the scheme. The project, called Festival of Flight, is opening doors for students felt excluded from the world of flight in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre. It aims to ground stereotype views of young people from black and ethnic backgrounds. One student who took part is Rozaidah Abd Rahman, who co-piloted a two-seater plane. “I had the time of my life – when I landed, I couldn’t stop smiling and saying `awesome’. I recommend everyone to experience flying at least once in their life. The 9/11 and 7/7 tragedies have hit the spirits of many young people, especially Muslims and this festival uses the flight theme to open their eyes. “It creates a forum whereby different people – who would not meet otherwise can come together and exchange ideas and experiences,” she said. A photo exhibition on the project will be opened by Salford MP and Communities Minister Hazel Blears. The exhibition is part of the Festival at the university, which will also be attended by aircrew from the RAF and United States Air Force, light aircraft pilots and balloonists.

Channel 4 launches campaign for Islam season

Channel 4 has launched an online campaign to find 500 people called Osama as part of its Islam season. The broadcaster will follow a young female Muslim doctor and a filmmaker as they take on the project to track down 500 people named Osama in 50 days. Users will be able to follow their quest online as they upload photos, blogs and videos daily. Users will also be invited to get involved by sending in advice and tips to aid their quest. The project, Searching for 500 Faces of Islam, will be made into a documentary to be shown later in the year as part of Channel 4’s The Wonders of Islam season, which aims to highlight diversity and understanding of the religion. The site has been created by Mint Digital, which specialises in mixing online and TV projects.

Army looks to entice Muslims

British Muslims will be wooed to join the fight against the Taliban in a new Army recruitment drive. Military bosses plan to send serving Muslims back into their communities to encourage others to join the fight in Afghanistan. General Sir David Richards, Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, revealed the move in an interview with an internal Ministry of Defence journal. He said: “There is an appreciation on our part that the Army would be better getting more Muslims into our ranks.” He added: “I am looking to see if some of our Muslim troops can go back into their communities to act as extra recruiters.” An MoD source revealed Bradford, West Yorks, would be the first area targeted. He said: “We already know there are many young men and women in Bradford very keen to join up.”

Guide to help housing workers reach Muslim communities

Housing Minister Caroline Flint launched a new guide Tuesday showing how housing and regeneration professionals can successfully reach Muslim communities – who can often be more marginalised, socially excluded and poorer than other groups – and improve their participation and acceptance in the wider community. There are over 1.6 million Muslims in the UK, the largest minority faith group in the country, and statistics show that they more likely to be unemployed – 13 percent of Muslim men are unemployed as opposed to the national average of 5 percent – less likely to be owner occupiers and more likely to live in poor housing and in overcrowded conditions. The new Guide to Engaging Muslim Communities from the Chartered Institute of Housing and Matrix Housing Partnership, published on June 17, demonstrates successful work in engaging diverse Muslim communities in housing and regeneration, including women and young people, who can be particularly hard to reach. Many of the examples show how important it can be to help isolated communities build their self-confidence. All the examples show the need for professionals to avoid being insensitive about faith issues and to have a basic knowledge of how a faith such as Islam governs people’s daily lives.

Muslim hairdresser awarded £4K in scarf row

In a judgement that can have far-reaching ramifications, a British employment tribunal panel has awarded 4,000 pounds to a Muslim teenage hairdresser as compensation for _injury to feelings’ after she was declined a job for wearing a headscarf. Dismissing the claim of a religious discrimination put by 19-year-old Bushra Noah, the tribunal upheld her complaint of indirect discrimination, media reports said on Tuesday. In its judgement on Monday, the tribunal said it accepted Noah had not been treated differently because of her Muslim headscarf, but that it doubted there was as severe a risk to the business by employing someone wearing a head covering as the owner believed. Noah, who lives in Acton, west London, was called for an interview in May last year by Sarah Desrosiers, owner of Wedge salon in King’s Cross, central London.

Muslim community looks for home

A growing Muslim community is looking for a site for a mosque and cultural centre to replace the small, makeshift building currently used. At the moment worshippers in Wrexham use a portable building, which is part of the town’s Newi college. But it is unsuitable for women and children. The local Muslim association want a site where they could invite other people to learn more about Islam. Other faith groups have said it would be an asset for everyone in the town. The makeshift mosque in a corner of the North East Wales Institute (Newi) can only hold a small number of worshippers, and gets very full during festivals and Friday prayers. Dr Farookh Jishi, secretary of the Wrexham Muslim Association, said: “We started here about 20 years ago with only half a dozen people coming together to pray – then gradually the numbers have grown.” For women, the situation is even worse. Their prayer room is only 2m x 1.5m and has no windows or ventilation. One worshipper, Howida Elkhawad, said they wanted to repay the hospitality of others: “People, they invite us for Christmas and we can’t invite anyone to come celebrate with us that’s because we don’t have a proper place.”

Hundreds at mosque opening

Members of the Muslim community in Acton, west London, gathered for the opening of a new _1.5m mosque. Acton Mosque in Oldham Terrace was being used as a place of worship for the past 20 years. However the facilities needing modernising, something which would cost a lot of money. The Acton Muslim welfare association bought the building for _250,000 but still needed funding for the works to be carried out. Through donations from worshippers and local residents _1.5m was gathered and two years later the new mosque was finally opened Tuesday. Riazul Haq Bhatti, 70, treasurer of the association, said: “If it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication from the local community, we wouldn’t be here today.” Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the Labour group at Ealing Council was at the opening.

Abu Qatada released from prison

The radical Abu Qatada has variously been described as a “truly dangerous individual” and a “key UK figure” in al-Qaida-related activity by those in anti-terrorist circles who have studied his work and words. Qatada, who was released from prison last night on strict bail conditions including a 22-hour curfew, became one of the UK’s most wanted men in December 2001, when he went on the run on the eve of government moves to introduce new anti-terror laws allowing suspects to be detained without charge or trial. The 45-year-old father of five arrived in the UK in September 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport. He was allowed to stay in June 1994 after claiming asylum for himself and his family. Qatada, also known as Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, was said to have met with an MI5 officer and offered to cooperate to help prevent Islamist terrorism in the UK. But videos of his sermons were unearthed in a Hamburg flat used by some of those responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US. He is also believed to have been asked for religious advice by the would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in a US court to training for a “broader conspiracy” than 9/11 to use aircraft as weapons.

Counter-terrorism chief praises Scottish approach

SNP Home Affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, has welcomed comments by the Director-General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism praising Scotland’s community cohesion and ability to prevent young people becoming radicalised and joining terror groups. In an interview, Charles Farr, said: “I think the nature of communities in Scotland is discernibly different from the nature of communities south of the border. You have an ability to reach in and develop a strategy of this kind.” Farr also added that an independent Scotland would not be any more vulnerable to terrorists, saying: “It is not something that has crossed my mind that there is something inherent about independence that would make Scotland unsafe.” Mr Wishart said: “The Director Generals comments are very welcome, and a tribute to our young people. “Scots Asians are part of the Scottish tartan, woven into the fabric of our society. Studies show that young Asians feel even more Scottish than their non-Asian counterparts – who also feel incredibly Scottish. “Those who commit terrorist acts do so on the basis of their own individual, warped view of the world, they do not represent any of Scotland’s great faith communities.

New help for victims of honour violence

A helpline aimed at providing support for victims of honour-based violence was launched in Huntingdon on Monday. The Choice helpline will be run by specially trained female police officers 24 hours a day and is the second of its kind in the country. Detective Inspector Melanie Dales, who is running the initiative, said “the purpose of the hotline is to provide victims with a confidential way to get in touch with specially trained officers”. Cambridgeshire police receives about eight calls related to honour-based violence each month. A victim of the violence spoke at the launch of the hotline at Cambridgeshire police headquarters in Huntingdon about her ordeal. The woman in her 20s said: “My life was planned for me. I was just waiting for it to happen. I could feel the pressure I had to be the good dutiful Muslim daughter and sister who had no choice but to accept my fate of an arranged marriage and the life that it would bring for me.”