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.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

National Zakat Foundation

A veiled woman huddles on the roadside, arms outstretched, shivering with cold.  Her last meal was lucky, a few scraps of bread taken from a roadside dustbin.  Nothing surprising about this scenario perhaps except that this took place in Britain.  There are Muslim men and women who live in this kind of poverty in England, unable to claim benefits, some having been kicked out of their homes upon conversion to Islam.  We have all heard stories of converts in hardship and yet how many of us continue to give our Zakat abroad?
To combat this problem Mercy Mission have formed the National Zakat Foundation, an organisation which seeks to create self-sufficiency in the Muslim community and empower the poor.  Following an assessment, applications may either receive short-term emergency funds or longer term assistance towards sustainable employment.  Mercy Mission are currently recruiting energetic male volunteers to adopt their local masjid and raise awareness of this project.  For more information or to donate visit

An Epic Journey

Heart-moving Qur’an recitation and thought provoking Tafsir were how 400 students chose to spend the weekend of 9th and 10th April at Al Kauthar’s Surah Yusuf course.  Few noticed the sunshine and the ambient temperature outside as we basked enraptured in what Allah terms the ‘best of stories’.  Interestingly Surah Yusuf was revealed to Mohammad (pbuh) in response to a test by the people of the time who asked him about Joseph in order to prove that he was a true Prophet.  Allah responded by sending forth these wonderful verses, with information previously unknown to the Prophet.  Its timing was also critical at a point when the early Muslims were being severely tested and needed to be soothed with a story of joy after adversity.
The witty Sheikh Sajid Umar captained the journey as we navigated Fiqh, Arabic language and Tafsir dipping in and out of analysis.  Students enjoyed his melodious recitation as we were transported from a prison cell to a palace with the handsome Yusuf who patiently bore test after test, turning to Allah with every step.  We learnt of the anguish of his father Yacob who was told Yusuf had been eaten by wolves.  Tips on parenting, giving dawah, teaching and even marriage were given before the final happy ending.  Allah concludes the chapter with ‘In their histories, there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding’.  Indeed, in the words of Sheikh Umar ‘this chapter is itself a madrassah of learning’ – will you be amongst those who understand?

The Death of Pakistan’s Honour

On Wednesday 30th March gatherers mourned the death of Pakistan’s Honour and US Justice in a mock funeral procession terminating at the US Embassy.  This poignant event marked the 8th anniversary of the abduction of Dr Aafia Siddiqui a mother of three who is reported to have endured torture and humiliation during her time in prison.  Initially taken hostage in 2003 with her three children on her way to the airport in Pakistan it is suspected she was tortured in Bagram – Afghanistan, before finally being transferred to the US following a trial which had her given an 86 year prison term for allegedly firing a loaded weapon under custody.  The fact that the only person injured was herself, there were no fingerprints on the gun and the eyewitness statements all contradicted was overlooked by the trial and Aafia remains in prison in the US to this day.

The event, organised by Justice for Aafia Coalition, featured powerful speeches by a human rights lawyer, a representative from the IHRC, Adnan Rashid and supportive proxy statements by Lauren Booth and MPs. One thing is clear, JFAC will not allow us to forget Aafia this year nor any other year ia – this violation will not be forgotten.

Mosque Open Day

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April saw Tooting Islamic Centre throw its doors open to the public in a free exhibition on Islam.  Hosted by Sheikh Suliman Gani and featuring guests including IERA’s Hamza Tzortzis, attendees included MP Sadiq Khan and representatives from the Police and local council.  There were live nasheeds, talks on Islam and also on the role of education in Islam as exemplified by the success of the local Islamic schools that Balham and Tooting mosques are connected to.
Exhibits were set up professionally and there was food and drink, ushers available to answer questions and free copies of the Qur’an.  The event was well attended and although Non-Muslims were a minority initially street stewards did an excellent job of welcoming people in and directing them through.
Overall, the open day was an excellent idea that demonstrates TIC’s open culture and readiness to welcome people in.  This was rewarded by a sister taking her Shahadah at the event.  What I might hope to see more of in the future is the self-confidence to represent Islam through beautiful Qur’an recitation in preference to nasheed performance and ingenious initiatives to encourage Non-Muslim attendance – then an event like this could really have maximum impact.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Think Muslim, Breathe Muslim, Read Muslim

What has almost 8,000 Facebook members, is multi-award winning and features the writings of the acclaimed Yasir Qadhi, Tawfique Chowdhury and Yahya Ibrahim all in one?
I’ll give you a clue – it is reported to be the most visited Western Muslim website ever.  No idea?
The answer is and it has been going since 1997.  It was first set up by a number of bloggers and sheyukh in order to draw attention to Muslim issues in the West through the innovative medium of the internet.  Muslim Matters strives to be the leading Muslim multimedia platform for the articulation of orthodoxy and I think is some way to achieving it.
With sections on Politics, News, The Arts and Society, Muslim Matters is a little bit like a cross between a newspaper and a magazine.  The added advantage of being a facebook member is that the user receives updates whenever there is new material and can click on anything of interest.
Recent pieces have included ‘Make Your Deen Green’ an article with tips on how to make environmental consciousness part of worship, ‘What do you love about your spouse?’ a section for readers to comment and ‘Of Wa-hubbies and Conspiracy’ reflections on the role of the conspiracy theory.
If you want to be informed and better connected for free, you might want to check this one out!

Redbridge Pensioners stave off Racists

On Thursday 24th March at about 7.45pm 6 to 7 young men attacked Redbridge Islamic Centre, shouting racist and islamophobic abuse.   Several elderly worshippers were terrified as the group smashed their way through the front door, causing criminal damage to windows of the mosque and causing minor injuries to those present including the Imam.
Yet the Muslim community can be proud of its pensioners who led the way in self-defenc e fighting off the attackers in a bid to prevent further damage to the mosque and local cars and houses.  Upon hearing the noise, younger community members also came to the rescue of the elderly men chasing the attackers until they could safely turn them over the Police.
Thanks to the heroism of the community and their measured response 6 men were arrested and an investigation is underway.
An announcement of the event was made to concerned Friday prayer worshippers the day after and the Police and local councillors were in attendance to reassure the community of their support.
The Redbridge Islamic Centre immediately issued an official press release with the correct version of events and are clear that such cowardly attacks will not deter their community work and timetable of enriching educational events.  In fact RIC plan to work harder to engage with the local community and counter Islamophobia.  Congratulations to Redbridge Islamic Centre and the local community for their organisation and bravery!