Good News from the Muslim Community

Welcome to Fresh Air, a Muslim community bulletin that brings you the good news you never seem to hear in the media.

We welcome stories of positive community engagement, humanitarian and voluntary work, responsible reporting and well researched publications, documentaries and other pieces.

We want to inspire you to do more by hearing about others’ example whether they be Muslim or Non-Muslim. We also want to put a smile on your face when you read about people striving to make the world a better place.Finally we are committed to centralising communication within the Muslim community so that you know about the good work of both Muslim and Non-Muslim organisations and can support them spiritually and financially.

Friday, 25 March 2011

App of the Week

If you are a curious person with a love of quirky learning TED might be just what you are looking for.  Originally conceived in 1984 as a conference that would bridge Technology, Entertainment and Design, TED with its Ideas Worth Spreading slogan entered the online world in 1997.  Experts and inspirational speakers are invited to the stage to give the best 20 minute speech of their life on any subject.  New, original ideas are pitched to an audience on everything from food to office management.
Past speakers have included Jamie Oliver on why kids need to be educated about food through to Lesley Hazleton on Reading the Koran.  Speeches are accessible via YouTube and TED online or the TED iPhone app and might just make up for all the classes you slept through at school.  An inspiring model that all can learn from as to how to make the world a better place.

Here to Stay

Wednesday 9th March saw George Galloway, children’s writer Michael Rosen and a host of other prominent speakers stand with Unite Against Fascism in defence of Multicultural Britain.  The event which was organised in response to David Cameron’s controversial ‘Muscular Liberalism’ speech drew together a host of passionate articulate individuals from all walks of life and religious orientations. Muslims joined Jews, Christians and Atheists to stand firm against discrimination ever again on Britain’s shores.
The speech drew great criticism with lamentations over Cameron’s hypocrisy in cutting funding to inner city libraries whilst expecting Muslims to magically improve English language skills.  It was pointed out that the alleged 7/7 bombers were some of the most ‘integrated’ Muslims about yet the tragic events still occurred. The utter dependence of the NHS on dedicated Muslim health professionals was raised and Cameron’s flawed logic in equating Multiculturalism with violence was criticised as divisive and dangerous in a Europe that is increasingly moving towards the Right.
Multiculturalism was celebrated through powerful poetry by Michael Rosen, Zita Holbourne and Avaes Mohammad all three of whom represent a cultural blend.
The message loud and clear – Multiculturalism and Muslims are here to stay.

How to engage with the Media

‘Nobody can tell your story better than you’ –These were the take home words of Ade Daramy, Muslim Journalist and Broadcaster at WAMY’s media engagement conference last Sunday.  As a Muslim in mainstream media, he emphasised the need for Muslims to stand up and vocalise concerns, impose themselves in Media if necessary and to be persistent.  These were the lessons those of colour had learnt through racism and the lessons the Muslim community need to learn now.
The media conference, held at Regents Park mosque, was the third of four planned dawah training sessions, which aim to equip young Muslims with the tools to self-confidently represent the faith to others.
WAMY, the World Association of Muslim Youth, posed the question - how in this day and age can Muslims best use the Media to convey their message?
Leading the discussion were Noureddine Miladi, lecturer in Media studies and Sociology and Ade Daramy of Colourful Radio who shared their experiences of the Media, offering tidbits of advice.  Attendees enjoyed discussion groups on why Islam has been misrepresented and how to become a proactive citizen. The afternoon featured video analyses of a number of television interviews with prominent Muslim representatives.  Attendees were invited to comment on successful and unsuccessful techniques used.  The day rounded off with reflections on new social media such as Twitter and Facebook and their emerging role in the future.
WAMY have successfully hit the nail on the head, in discussing such a relevant subject area.  Attendees were passionate and motivated and pleased to be involved.   The question to be seen is whether conferences like these can catalyse young people’s energies into action.  For the sake of a more tolerant world, we hope so.

Niche Hero

How do successful Muslims tap into the Muslim market? On 21st to 26th February budding Muslim entrepreneurs of the future were treated to a once in a lifetime opportunity by the widely acclaimed Mohammad AlShareef of the Al Maghrib Institute. Niche Hero, an Islamic leadership course specifically set up to equip the next generation of leaders took attendees on a journey of self-discovery down his beaten path of success.  Combining evidence-based research with practical know-how, Shaykh AlShareef encouraged his students to cross the bridge between theory and practice. 

The Canadian born Hafiz, graduated from the University of Madinah in 1999.  He went on to found the popular Al Maghrib Institute before branching out to focus on leadership some years ago.

Since then, many have been inspired by AlShareef.  Niche Hero, originally run in Canada caught the eye of Sayyidah Zaidi, a British Architect, who had been leading school construction projects for some time.   Following a life changing road accident some years prior which had forced her to re-evaluate her role in life, the opportunity to attend was exactly what she needed.  A burning desire to bring her skill base from the secular to the Muslim sector propelled her to book her tickets for Canada six months ago where she met AlShareef for the first time.  She describes it as ‘the best 6 days of her life, second only to Hajj’. 

The course inspired her so much that she set up Working Muslim, an online resource which redefines work and enables women to balance their responsibilities towards faith, family and society. When Saiyyidah heard that the course was coming to London, she booked again despite the significant course fees, and this time took her filming equipment with her.  Powerful, needed and highly effective – Niche Hero delivered once again. You can find out more about Saiyyidah's NicheHero journey at

Murdoch Challenged

Can we prevent mass media shifting to the right? This week Avaaz, an internet movement, set its sights on Rupert Murdoch.  Avaaz is an online international campaigning body which uses people power to lobby government.  With an online membership of over 7 million people, it seeks to uphold democracy by informing policy makers of opinion through email, telephone and media campaigns.
As media mogul Murdoch moves in to add BSkyB to his portfolio, extending his control of nearly half of the British media, Avaaz have asked its people to make a stand.  At the time of writing around 50,000 people had written to government in opposition to Murdoch’s expansion on the grounds that it is undemocratic for any one person to own nearly half the media, let alone someone of Murdoch’s political influence.
Avaaz further encouraged campaigners to follow up letters with individual telephone calls to the House of Commons on 2nd March and a protest was arranged in London on 3rd March.  The final outcome of the bid is eagerly awaited.


While Arab countries have seen great change in recent weeks, it sometimes feels that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a permanent blight in the Middle East landscape.
Yet small changes have been occurring in the United Kingdom that we must not disregard.  Just a few weeks ago in the House of Commons an exhibition entitled ‘Everyday Life in the Occupied Territories’ took place.  Organised by EAPPI, the Eccumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, the exhibition collected real life photographs by the children of Yanoun, giving a distant conflict a personal touch.  Also in attendance were representatives of ICAHD.
ICAHD also known as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is a non-violent organisation established in 1997 to resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories.  It encourages Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters to work side by side in resisting demolitions, informing the Israeli public of government activities and co-operating internationally with other human rights groups and peace activists.  In the words of director Jeff Halper, an Israeli Anthropologist and 2006 Nobel Peace prize nominee ‘Governments will not do the right thing unless they are pushed by the people.  Since this conflict destabilises the entire Middle East and impacts directly on the security... of people in Britian we call on you to join in our efforts’.  Other patrons include John Pilger, Clare Short and Professor Avi Schlaim. 
ICAHD has organised summer rebuilding camps in which international and Israeli volunteers join Palestinians in rebuilding a demolished home.  They also welcome people to sign up to their newsletter, invite one of their speakers and even organise a viewing of their documentary on the conflict.
The world is changing and each of us can be a part of justice.  For more information or to get involved visit

Silent No More

‘Silent No More’ is an American Congressman’s homage to the Muslim community and the pursuit of interfaith understanding.  Written in 2001 by Paul Findlay, a man whose youth had distanced him from Islam through Sunday school and whose adult years had reconfirmed misconceptions through the Media, the book sets out to push forward greater understanding of Muslims and their religion at a time when it is most needed.  Findlay describes the fateful business trip to Yemen which opened his eyes to a whole new experience .  He learns from his Yemeni tour guide that women are respected, prayers are protected and the Qur’an is respected through recitation and memorisation.  He is astonished to discover how similar Judaism, Christianity and Islam are and goes on to argue that the term Judaeo-Christian should be extended to Judaeo-Christian-Islamic to reflect reality.  He comes to realise that prayer, patience, generosity and kindness are common themes to all and that actually Islamic history probably has one of the better track records in terms of interfaith tolerance and acceptance.
Yet he concludes with advice for the Muslim reader that change cannot occur in so long as we remain silent.  He sets forth the following suggestions to improve societal misconceptions of Islam.  Firstly that Muslims identify themselves publically with Islam, looking for ways to present it to Non-Muslims through good behaviour.  The hijab, skull cap, rings or pins are all ways to manifest one’s ‘Muslimness’ and failure to do so out of desire to keep a low profile is ‘unfortunate and harmful, because it does nothing to eradicate false images’.  He proposes offering to speak at Churches and Synagogues, giving neighbours leaflets and public advertisement as forms of education.  Secondly he cites the need for public condemnation of crimes alleged to be connected to Islam.  Finally he suggests that Muslims join political processes seeking to change and educate. 
Findlay has excelled in writing a respectful, considered account of the world as he views it, a feat which few Muslims themselves have achieved.  Though his research is generally sound, on occasion he errs, but certainly not enough to compromise the intention of the book.  A mature analysis, gratefully received and recommended to all to read.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Muslim and Green

Does Islam lead to the betterment of society?  Last week Tooting Sisters held an enriching Islamic education circle on ‘Love for the World around You’.  As the regular Monday evening circle draws its ‘Love’ season wistfully to a close, this was a powerful reminder of the Islamic position on the environment and how each of us as vicegerents on the earth have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully and respectfully.
Muslims of course follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad, a man who once stopped a whole army of men when he heard a mother bird complaining that her young had been taken from her.  When she told him that one of his men had taken them, the Prophet immediately issued instructions to return her children to her and relieve her of this distress.    The Prophet has also been reported to have advised his community that if the Day of Judgement seems close ahead and a person holds a seedling in their hand, that they should plant it.  Indeed the sanctity of trees is so significant in Islam, that the Prophet did not allow them to be cut down, even if a mosque was to be built.
Sisters were reminded of all the fruits mentioned in the Qur’an and how perhaps we might remember our creator with gratitude when we eat them.  Tips were offered on how to reduce unnecessary waste, such as recycling carrier bags, using draft excluders, composting and re-using containers.  Finally resources such as IFEES and Green Deen were recommended both of which deal with Green issues from a muslim perspective.
A number of muslim women were pleasantly surprised to have these issues brought to their attention in a religious context and many left the talk with a firm resolution to be greener in the future.

Converts in Difficulty

With all its new delights, conversion to Islam can sometimes bring with it its share of daunting challenges.  Finally now, help is on its way.
Solace is a new voluntary organisation specifically set up to support revert sisters in difficulty.  Under the patronage of Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad, Solace aims to provide pastoral and practical support through voluntary donations of time and community money.
Aims include a listening service offered by trained volunteers, counselling and life coaching, household help, parenting workshops, coffee mornings and day trips.
It already features a comprehensive website with links to You Tube videos, useful websites, helpline numbers to call and regularly updated events listings for London.   For converts with doubts or questions about the faith, a helpline number has been made available.
Solace currently needs both publicity and support so please visit to volunteer or donate.

Non-Muslims for Justice

If you have ever felt hopeless about the Israel-Palestine situation believing it only to be a ‘Muslim problem’ then think again.  EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel takes a very active interest in promoting peace and justice in the region.  A non-religious organisation, it regularly recruits volunteers to travel to the West Bank, witness events first hand, monitor human rights violations and upon return campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Once back, volunteers commit themselves to giving 10 presentations each, largely to western audiences.  These raise awareness of the conflict and offer practical steps towards media and government engagement.  Originally created in response to cries for help from Christian Palestinians, EAPPI has been active since 2002.  For more information on their work or to donate or volunteer visit