Archive for September, 2010

WOMEN of faith gathering in Birmingham

Christian and Muslim together in the Springfield Centre

On 8th March around 60 Christian and Muslim women came together in the Springfield Centre, Birmingham, to celebrate International Women’s Day. The aim for the event was to form and build relationships as well as deepen understanding between women of the two faiths. The aspect of faith created a great interest in the event and, if the venue had been bigger we would have had many more women assembled! The evening started with refreshments, allowing the guests time to view a display representing Christian and Muslim faith and culture, created specifically for the evening.



This was very well received and created much conversation which greatly aided the mingling process.  The speakers Rehanah Sadiq and Pauline Anderson then set the tone for the rest of the evening by sharing personally and passionately about their faith. Rehanah, a hospital chaplain, spoke about her experience growing up in Sheffield in the 1980’s. She shared her personal story of exploring her Muslim identity and discovering God in prayer. Pauline, a counsellor and consultant, testified of a living and personal God who helped her through many difficulties in life and who inspires her to work as a Christian for the community.
Discussions continued in small groups as participants shared more about their own faith and life experiences.




Even at the end of the event many women stayed behind, still enjoying the atmosphere and conversing with each other, confirming it was indeed an inspirational and enjoyable evening. When asked to describe the evening some key words participants used were respect, understanding, sharing, laughter and friendship. Many expressed the hope that more meetings like this would follow, exploring topics such as:
Family values, Understanding teachings of Bible/Quran, sharing life/faith experiences, testimonies/personal stories and helping the community.
The grant given by the Christian Muslim forum helped to make it a special evening.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti visits the UK

Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities visits UK

Written by Wilson Chowdhry
In Alex’s absence, I attended the Christian Muslim Forum conference held at St George the Martyr Church , Bermondsey London yesterday afternoon.  The event was well organised and had a small but important audience including members of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Bishop of Southwark, Romail Gulzar and Pukaar News, John Bosco, Reverend Rana Youab Khan and many esteemed others, including senior figures from the UK Muslim community.
The meeting was a chance for those concerned about the persecution of minority faiths and the effects of the recent inundation – to get some feedback from the Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and to pose questions to him.
Shahbaz Bhatti talked much about the introduction of a people engagement scheme that involves frequent meetings with leaders and lay people from all faiths in Pakistan.  He described how he believed that this would herald a new age of dialogue and cultural transformation in Pakistan – if given time to take effect.
He also talked of amendments to be made to the Blasphemy Law of Pakistan that will eventually see the introduction of penalties to those who are found abusing the act for personal benefit.  This would involve penalties to groups or agencies that stirred up hatred against communities – such as rogue or fanatical religious leaders and their establishments.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti alongside Bishop Dr Richard Cheetham and other Pakistani Christian Brethren
Many questioned the veracity of the worth of such schemes as many had heard the same previously.  Moreover, I specifically asked the Federal Minister, to explain how he would ensure that the authorities involved in the process of evaluating and investigating any blasphemy allegations would be free from corruption.  I suggested that the police and other agencies are prone to corruption due to low levels of pay
incommensurate with better pay levels for Taliban insurgents!  Moreover, if better pay levels were to be administered the government of Pakistan would have to introduce a fairer tax system and ensure that monies due were collected.

Mr Wilson Chowdhry with Mr Julian Bond (Director of The Christian Muslim Forum)

I also queried the need for a Blasphemy Law considering that a lead Muslim had stated that the law itself is un-islamic (it seemed a ubiquitous theme that all faiths attending the meeting were pro-abrogation of the Blasphemy Law), however, if the government was reticent to remove the Law should it not provide universal protection to all faiths and prophets.  In such format with the threat of counter-litigation, we should surely see a sharp reduction in the propensity for abuse.

Finally, I asked why it was necessary to highlight an individual’s faith on their passports and identity documents.  This act alone highlights the extent of prejudice in Pakistan and would be an easy matter to resolve without any significant cost or difficulty.  People would simply have the choice to purchase new passports without the discriminatory text – if holding an old standard type.

Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths

Meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths

The Islamic Centre of England convened an urgent meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) in order to condemn any disrespect and desecration of the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

A group of leaders and experts, from the Abrahamic religions, met on the 21st September at the Islamic Centre of England in order to express disgust and outrage towards the insulting and desecration of the Holy Quran which took place in America on 11th of September. They also discussed ways for an extended cooperation in order to protect common interests shared by followers of monotheistic religions.

The meeting which was aimed to approve a 10-point to “Safeguard our Common Values and Communities”…resolution, started with the recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi director of the Islamic Centre of England and representative of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in the UK, gave a warm welcome to the participants. In his address, he described the despicable insult to the Holy Qur’an as: “a conspiracy planned by the agents of international Zionism intent to create tension between Christians and Muslims by insulting the sanctities of Muslims, trying to incite their emotions with an increase in Islamophobia”. The head of Islamic Centre of England described the incident of the burning of the Qur’an as one in a long list of orchestrated attempts via films, cartoons and other media to undermine the sacredness of the heavenly religions and to belittle them to the extent that ordinary people would lose their interest in them.

Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi mentioned that despite the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam and the occupation of various Muslim countries by global arrogance, Muslims have come closer together showing more and more resentment against occupations especially by the Zionist regime in Palestine. He underlined the fact that Muslims, not only in the West, but throughout the world have a very good relationship with the follower of Abrahamic religions. He also hoped that meeting such as this, would expand and increase the peaceful cooperation among the followers of Abrahamic faiths in an effort to neutralize conspirators’ intent to create division in society.

The other participants also expressed their views regarding the need to protect moral values, common interests and the sacred celestial religions against the hatred and possible repetition of action such as the burning of the Qur’an.

The following is the resolution signed by all participants who in terms committed themselves to increase the number of signatories by introducing it to like-minded individuals.

The full text of the 10 point resolution as follows: Urgent Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths
“A Resolution to Safeguard
Our Common Values and Communities”
Tuesday 21st September 2010

1) We, scholars of the Abrahamic faiths and independent thinkers believe in our own belief systems as individuals and will stand united to uphold our common values for the common good; and

2) Although each faith upholds its own creed, beliefs and rituals, nevertheless, interfaith co-operation is vital in the field of humanitarian and human relationships issues. Indeed, it is a basic tenet of divine religious teachings to treat ones fellow man with the utmost compassion and consideration; and

3) Inherent in the compassionate treatment of ones fellow man, is the essential requirement at all times to ensure that ones words and actions in no way harm, hurt, insult or embarrass other individuals or groups within society. This requirement in turn includes the need to show complete respect for any matter held in esteem by them; and

4) Whereas, disrespect shown to religion is on the rise which contributes to a greater degree of insecurity and sense of danger by members of religious groups that can be distinguished by their dress or place of association; and

5) In the light of the above, we wish to express our rejection at the statements made by certain individuals and groups implying intention to burn copies of the Qur’an. Such flagrant insults can only incite ill feeling and strife between the groups within society instead of enhancing goodwill and peace, which should be the aim of all justice loving people; and

6) Whereas, such behaviour is discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, colour, condition of life, or religion; and

7) Whereas, the desecration of the places of worship and graves of religious groups have already been illegal as hate crimes and that the desecration of the books held holy by a religion is considered more seriously than the previously mentioned acts; and

8) We, on our part, are responsible to work and be concerned for the common good, towards preventing the spread of such incendiary kind of behaviour in our communities, which is incompatible with the principles of mutual coexistence and cohesion; therefore, be it

9) Resolved, that the participants representing the various religious groups in this roundtable gathering of scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths encourage its members to condemn all activity that insults all things held holy by the followers of any religion, in particular, the recent act of burning the Qur’an.

10) May we merit the time when the glory of the Almighty will be revealed over the whole universe and all mankind will be at peace with each other.

Good News for Eid

Giving Thanks at the end of Ramadhan

Eid, the feast at the end of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting is a day of good news, the fast has been completed, a month of repentance has come to its conclusion, the whole of the Qur’an has been recited and the feast begins. It is often said that Eid is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.
This Eid, 10 September 2010, the day before the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is a day of good news for another reason. Like many people travelling to work this morning I picked up the Metro (free UK newspaper) and read ‘Pastor cancels Koran bonfire after protests’. An answer to prayer just as I was preparing to load our statement about this onto the Christian Muslim Forum website. BBC news report.
Eid Mubarak!
Extracts from recent statements:
‘We fully endorse the Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence that there is no place in our traditions for violent response.  The work of building up good understanding between Christians and Muslims remains as vital as ever.’  The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain, OBE, DL, Co-Chairs, Christian Muslim Forum
The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘At the present time our religious communities face many challenges and many provocations. In this country there are those who speak maliciously about religion in general and often against Islam in particular; demonstrations in many of our cities are intended to provoke; and in other parts of the world the threat to desecrate scriptures is deeply deplorable and to be strongly condemned by all people. These are challenges that we must respond to with a consistent message: that we oppose collectively all such provocations and insist that there is no place in our traditions for violent response. In solidarity with each other we will resist all attempts to induce violence by a constant message of peacefulness and reconciliation.’
Revd. Canon John Hall, Director of the St Philip’s Centre Leicester said, ‘The plan to burn the Holy Qur’an is a violation of our interfaith principles. As a Christian who is deeply involved in interfaith, I condemn this deplorable act. Christians and Muslims have a very strong joint track record of living and working together. Our scriptures share much in common.
Suleman Nagdi MBE DL of the Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations added, ‘The burning of any religious scripture is a degrading act which all of us must speak out against. I have worked with Christians for a very long time and I know that they are very angry with this stunt. As Muslims it is part of our faith that we revere and respect all holy scriptures particularly the Torah, Psalms of David and the Hebrew Bible. I urge Muslims to act in the spirit of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to show their disapproval through peaceful means. We can do this by continuing to work alongside our Christian cousins so that collectively we can overcome bigotry and prejudice.’
On behalf of the Christian Muslim Forum I hope that those who have held a copy of the Qur’an recently will take the time to learn more about Islam and find out that it does not condone terrorism, suicide bombing and enmity with people of other faiths.
Other messages
Friendship letter from Christians and Muslims at Lambeth Palace
Christian Muslim Forum’s Ethical Witness guidelines
Christian Muslim Forum’s Christmas statement
Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum