Multi-Faith Coalition Issues Call to Reclaim St George

22 April 2013

 

A coalition of a number of religious organizations issued a statement on Monday calling for the reclamation of the patron saint of England and “demanding he becomes a representative of all English peoples.” The statement was signed by, among others, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the Muslim Council of Britain.

 

Of particular issue for the coalition is the employment of St George as a rallying symbol for many right wing extremist groups in the U.K. The association of the Cross of St George with the Crusades has, according to the statement, led some to inappropriately use St George to legitimize ethnic and religious discrimination, particularly against the Muslim community. To counter this narrative, the coalition asks that St George be held up as a symbol of inclusivity and endeavors to “promote a new, relaxed and confident, English national identity. A place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash, and no-one is attacked for their race, religion (or lack thereof) or any other belief.”

 

Some, like Fiyaz Mughal, head of Faith Matters, point out the inappropriateness of using St George as a symbol for right wing hatred. Said Mughal, “The Far Right do not realize that St George was part Greek and his mother came from the city of Lydda in Palestine.” Similarly, the statement issued by the multi-faith coalition points out that St George lived before the birth of Islam and therefore should not be employed as a symbol justifying intolerance toward Muslims.

 

St. George’s Day is celebrated in England on the 23rd of April.

UK Census 2011

17 December 2012

 

The outcome of the UK Census 2011 was published last week. The census data revealed a sharp rise in the Muslim population. The Muslim population in the UK has significantly risen between 2001 and 2011 from 1.5 million to almost 3 million. Hence, Muslim proportion has increased from 2% of the population to 5%. In some towns, Muslims make up almost 50% of the population, and in large cities like London and Manchester they make up around 14% of the population.

 

Muslim populations in Manchester (over 100,000), Birmingham (plus 96,000), Bradford (plus 55,000) and most of the inner London boroughs, notably Newham (plus 64,000), Tower Hamlets (plus 58,000) and Haringey (plus 52,000). Tower Hamlets remains the local authority district with the greatest proportion of Muslims – 34.5%. The 2011 census estimates that there are now 2.7 million British Muslims, with nearly 40 per cent of them — a million — living in London.

 

The census data also revealed a sharp increase in foreign-born residents: 7.5million residents of England and Wales were foreign-born in 2011 Just 44.9 per cent of Londoners are White British. Further less than 90 per cent of country is white for the first time ever. According to the census data Christianity has been in decline: Around 59 per cent British people now call themselves Christian and a quarter say they have no religion.

 

Muslim Council of Britain Welcomed the Census 2011 results, and commented that “the growth in number points to the fact that Muslims play a significant part in the increasing diversity of Britain.”

Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum, said the figures reinforced the need to “think about the best possible way to engage with Islam and think about whether people should be having days off for Eid, how Ramadan is accommodated and how religion is taught in schools”.

 

Lessons in Hate and Violence: The Same Old Story – Commentary on a Channel 4 Documentary

17 February 2011

Prior to the transmission of Channel 4’s Dispatches, Lessons in Hate and Violence, a number of newspapers ran articles about the extremism and abuse in some mosques and madrassas. Muslim groups gave their reaction after the programme aired. The British Muslim Forum condemned abuse and bigotry but said that such incidents and attitudes were not widespread in the 2,000 Islamic institutions across Britain. It urged Channel 4 not to “fall in the trap of ‘Islam bashing’ or creating fear, hatred and racism against Muslims and their holy faith as has become fashionable these days by over-generalising and exaggerating such isolated incidents.”

The group also said it was “of extreme concern that the programme producers were aware of the incidents since July 2010 but failed to pass the information on to the relevant authorities, thereby compromising the health and safety of the children involved”.

Niqab-wearing Student Kicked out of Class for a Second Time in Montreal

A Muslim woman in Quebec has been kicked out of a language course for the second time because of her refusal to remove a religiously-understood face covering. The Egyptian immigrant made headlines when it was revealed provincial Immigration Department officials expelled her from a government-sponsored French class several months ago after she refused to take off her niqab. Known only as Naema in Quebec media, she had since enrolled in another government-sponsored French class, this time at a community centre for immigrants in Montreal.

But almost as soon as the Quebec government got word she was attending class in her niqab, it confronted her again, forcing her to make the same decision she made in November 2009. “It is a copy and paste of what happened last week,” said Samer Majzoub, who heads the Canadian Muslim Forum, a non-profit organization that has been providing support for Naema.

Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James appeared to move quickly in addressing the latest contribution to the province’s ongoing debate over the accommodation of religious and ethnic minorities. Some commentators have argued Naema had been unreasonable in her demands, which reportedly included giving oral presentations with her back facing the co-ed class. She had been enrolled in the part-time course for around 45 days and had yet to hear of any complaints from her teachers, Majzoub said.

Her expulsion from the college French course in November is the subject of a complaint the woman filed with the Quebec human rights commission.

Leading Muslim calls for extremists to leave the UK

The founder of the British Muslim Forum has said hate-filled Islamic extremists should leave the country. Senior Muslim scholar Sheiykh Allama Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE was speaking at an event to bring Kirklees (West Yorkshire) communities together.

He said: “To those extremists who are using and abusing the name of Islam by making silly ill-thought out statements, my message to you is leave this country if you are not happy. If you hate pork, if you hate other non-Muslims, if you hate the police, if you hate moderate Sufi Muslims, if you hate the British Government, then feel welcome to leave this country. We do not need you here to stir up hatred. There is no place for racism and extremism in Islam.”

Pope Benedict XVI Approves a Permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum

Pope Benedict XVI has approved the first-ever Catholic-Muslim forum which will hold its first meeting at the Vatican in November 2008. The decision follows three days of meetings with Vatican officials and a Muslim delegation representing 138 Muslim scholars. Inspired by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed bin Talal of Jordan, these scholars wrote an open letter to the Pope and other Christian leaders last year, calling for greater dialogue between the groups. The first summit’s theme will be Love of God, Love of Neighbour and will take place 4-6 November at the Vatican. Nearly 50 delegates will attend; the group will be addressed by the pontiff.

Britain Moves To Regulate Mosques

In the first government-sponsored attempt to put in place a system of regulating Britain’s over 1,300 mosques to prevent radicalization, a new body of four major Muslim groups formed after the July 7 London bombings has drafted proposals on core standards and constitutions for the mosques. The new proposals have been drawn up by the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (MINAB), set up by the Al-Khoei Foundation, the British Muslim Forum, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain. MINAB was formed after the July 7, 2005 bombings.

Muslims Opposed To New Ethnic Labelling Suggestions

BRITISH Muslims gave a hostile reception yesterday to suggestions that ethnic minorities should be identified by the country they emigrated from. Hazel Blears, the home office minister tasked with tackling Islamic extremism in Britain, said she would discuss with community leaders whether “British-Asian” or “Indian-British” may be preferable terms to simply “Muslim” or “British”. She compared the terminology to that used in America, where “Italian-American” and “Irish-American” are commonly used labels. Downing Street played down the significance of the move, which it said was intended as a point of discussion rather than a concrete proposal or policy position. But Mrs Blear’s comments provoked an outcry from Muslims. Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said the idea “simply makes no sense”. He added: “It’s quite misguided to try to emphasise ethnicity alongside Britishness. People’s ethnic background becomes less important over time. “For example, my own parents came from India to Bolton, in Lancashire, in the 1960s. “I have visited India once when I was five years old and can barely speak their first language, Gujarati. My son Adam is five and doesn’t know a single word of it. “It is absolutely absurd to discuss my being less than 100% British.” Mr Bunglawala added that he would be happy to be identified as a British Muslim and that he believed most of the Muslim community would feel happy with being labelled by their faith, rather than ethnicity. Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, added: “What is being proposed is divisive . . . it would create a lower strata of British. It gives people labels and dilutes their citizenship compared to original, white British people. It is not helpful in creating the togetherness that they have been talking about.” However, Mona Siddiqui, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at Glasgow University, claimed that “British-Asian” more accurately reflected the identity of first and second-generation British immigrants from the Indian sub-continent. She said: “I think people have over-reacted to this suggestion because of the current climate around labelling and ethnic profiling. “I think ‘ethnic minority’ is such a vague term that it should be binned, but I don’t see the problem with being identified as British-Asian. The term is broad enough to recognise that some people are British while not being white, Anglo-Saxon. “The issue over whether people should be identified as Muslim, Hindu or Sikh is a different debate. For some people, religious labelling could be seen as a new form of racism.” Ms Blears indicated that the idea was part a set of proposals to be floated at meetings that she is holding around the country to discuss how best to steer young Muslims away from radicalism. She said: “In America, they do seem to have the idea that you’re an Italian-American or you’re an Irish-American, and that’s quite interesting. “I am going to talk to people and ask how does that feel? It is about your identity and I think it’s really important.”