Saturday, 19 March 2011

In Tower Hamlets a mosaic of the world

In Tower Hamlets you have a Mosaic of
the world – says Foreign Secretary

Dr. Mozammel Haque

During the last week, two important events took place, one was organized by Muslim community and another was a visit of British Foreign Secretary to a mosque in east London. About the first event, I have to narrate the whole story of the event and about the latter I will write a report of the visit of the British Foreign Secretary. The first event was attended by many important dignitaries and personalities, such as Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, MP; Privy Counsellor and Cabinet Minister, Sadiq Khan, MP; Communities Minister Shahid Malik, MP; Lord Sheikh and diplomats from Saudi Embassy and many others whom I met outside the Hall. They were asking me to join with them inside the Hall; but I could not. So the story needs to be told.

Let us first start with the visit of the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, MP, at the Brick Lane Mosque immediately before the Jumah prayer on Friday last.

Foreign Secretary’s Outreach Event in East London

On Friday, 26th of February, 2010, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, MP, came to visit East London with a tight programme of addressing to the Friday Prayer congregation at the Al-Huda Mosque; another address to the Friday Prayer congregation at the Brick Lane Mosque, followed by a brief tour and discussion with local senior opinion formers from the British Bangladeshi and Somali Muslim communities; discussion with students at Stepney Boys School and a reception for 100 opinion formers of the local and national British Bangladeshi communities.

At around 1:20 pm Foreign Secretary David Miliband, MP. arrived at the Brick Lane Mosque along with the Bangladesh High Commissioner, Dr. Muhammad Saidur Rahman Khan, Tower Hamlets Council Leader Lutfur Rahman and other councillors.

Dr. Muhammad Saidur Rahman Khan
While welcoming the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the High Commissioner for Bangladesh, Dr. Saidur Rahman Khan mentioned the importance of this month. He said, “Today is the 12th of Rabiul Awaal; on this very day our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born and coincidentally on the same day he died. So it’s a very great occasion for the Muslim community of the world and we know that Islam is the religion of peace. All people are Islamic and I relate this multiracial society; people of all faiths are living in peace and harmony and I believe that would be strengthened in the days to come.”
“On this day we pray for the friendship, for peace and tranquility of the human being; people of all walks of life of all ages,” said Bangladesh High Commissioner.

Lutfar Rahman
Councillor leader Lutfur Rahman described the architectural beauty of the Mosque and the fusion of different cultures in the place.

Foreign Secretary at Brick Lane Mosque
British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, MP. started with saying “Assalamualaikum to those who were present including the Bangladesh High Commissioner, Councillor Lutfur Rahman and any other Councillor.”

Foreign Secretary said, “It’s a great honour, probably a great privilege that you have invited me to this historic mosque. I am deeply grateful for the chance to convey my greetings and profound thanks that the contribution you made to this remarkable community here in east London. I am here for a very simple wish. I am the first Foreign Secretary of British citizens whose heritage is Bangladesh; who worship in Mosque like this. I am also the Foreign Secretary of people who pray in Churches, who pray in Synagogues and who pray in Temples.”

“Every British citizen, whatever their race, their religion, their creed, knows that the Foreign policy of the government formed by the ideas and ideals of all the communities of this country,” said Foreign Secretary.

Referring to what Bangladesh High Commissioner mentioned earlier, Miliband said, “it is a special time of the year, very important month. The special celebration of Maulud brings to the national and international events; the values and ideals and the life of the Prophet Muhammad.”

“The ideals of social justice, responsibility, compassion and ideals too of internationalism and it is in the name of internationalism that I speak to you today. The country from which the vast majority of people draw their heritage, Bangladesh, is a remarkable country – the country I launched visit year before last; it’s a country which needs of values, of respect and justice and compassion very strongly. It’s a country which needs the compassion of great country like ours that help in tackling poverty,” said Foreign Secretary and added, “We are now partner of Bangladesh in tackling poverty in Bangladesh. It needs the support of people of mutual respect.”

Foreign Secretary while referring to the very history of democracy in Bangladesh said, “I am pleased that I am standing next to a representative of a democratic government in Bangladesh, the High Commissioner. The country of Bangladesh needs the value of responsibility across the generation. You know Bangladesh faces the challenge of climate change that threatens the way of livelihood of tens of thousands of Bangladeshis. Bangladesh needs too values of mutual respect because terrorism and security of Bangladeshis in Bangladesh or in London and it is vital to work together against violence.”

While speaking about the foreign policy or international policy in the Middle East, Miliband said, “Across the world the value, justice and compassion are needed in the foreign policy or international policy.”

Referring to Palestine, Foreign Secretary said, “In the Middle East, Palestinians still wait for a State for forty years after the 1967 war; they wait for a State based on the pre-1967 boundaries; they wait for a State Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine as well as Israel; they wait for a State for the settlement of refugees on an enough space.” He also added, “I am proud of the British government support for those aspirations of the Palestinian state.”

Foreign Secretary also emphasized about values. “Somalia also needs values of respect and justice as well. Across South Asia, notably Afghanistan and Pakistan those values needed too,” mentioned Miliband and said about Britain, “I know this is a country that gains massively from the waves of immigration over the centuries. I know that because my family came before in this country; I know this is the country that provides refuge.”

Foreign Secretary said, “What I see today is a community proud of its heritage but committed to build their future in this remarkable city of east London together; we share together with all faiths and with none.”

Referring to Tower Hamlets, Foreign Secretary said, “In Tower Hamlets you have a mosaic of the world; it is a mosaic that is vibrant, dynamic and effective” because in Tower Hamlets all communities reside peacefully. He congratulates the Council.

Miliband also pledged to work with the Council “to improve this community” and he also pledged, above all, to work with the assistance of the Council, “to build the future that is worthy of values”.

The other event, which actually held earlier, on Monday, 22 of February, 2010 was the MCB Fundraising dinner party at Marriot Hotel.

MCB Fund-raising dinner party
As early as mid-January 2010, I came to know that Professor Tariq Ramadan was coming to deliver a Lecture at a meeting organised by Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Naturally, I was very much enthusiastic to listen to his lecture though I have been attending to his lectures at various places, universities, and other centres several times. I am happy that I was able to present those thoughts and ideas of Professor Tariq Ramadan to my readers through this column.

Why I was so much excited? Because I know most of my readers are also interested to know and read his thoughts and ideas. Above all, Tariq Ramadan is a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University (Oriental Institute, St. Anthony’s College). He also teaches at the Faculty of Theology at Oxford. Through his writings and lectures he has contributed substantially to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world. He is active both at the academic and grassroots levels lecturing extensively throughout the world on social justice and dialogue between civilizations.

Naturally, I wanted to present his thoughts to my readers through this column. Without any further delay, immediately I contacted the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, with a request to arrange for me so that I can attend the lecture. Dr. Abdul Bari was a nice person and he sent me the text message saying: “Salam Dr Mozammel. Thanks for the call. I hope you are well. This is the MCB’s first fundraising dinner in our current dire financial situation and the attendance is on the basis of sponsorship – L250 per chair and L2,500 per table (with 10 chairs). Respected elders/leaders are Alhamdo lillah helping us in getting sponsorship for this. Dr. Jamil is the lead person.”

When I received this text I was, for a second, disappointed simply because I phoned him in the hope that he would arrange something as I am a member of two committees of the MCB - the Media Committee and European and International Affairs Committee (EIAC). But I understand that and I appreciate his straight forward reply without any hunky bunky. He is, no doubt, a fine, honourable respectable person.

But I thought why not talk with The Muslim Weekly editor-in-chief, Mr. Ahmad Malik, who generally sponsored Muslim Fundraising dinner. Mr. Malik told me, “There is no problem; I will do something.” On Thursday, 18th of February, Mr. Malik told me that he talked with Mr. Farooq Murad, Treasurer of the MCB and “arrangement has been made and my name is in the list and Mr. Farooq Murad will send me the confirmation through email.” Mr. Farooq Murad did not send me any email but Mr. Malik said, “Don’t worry he has confirmed me.”

For the last nearly five decades I have been following my father’s advice to use my knowledge, whatever I have and my pen for the service and cause of Islam and Muslim. This is the first time; I am going to write about myself, because for the first time, I felt myself insulted in an event where I went last Monday (22 February) evening, being told by the Editor-in-Chief of The Muslim Weekly that my name is in the invitees list. After reaching at the Marriot Hotel, I found my name is not in the list and I felt embarrassed; because generally I do not go anywhere unless I am invited.

Now the question is how it happened? There may be two explanations: one, which I don’t believe, is either Mr. Malik or Mr. Farooq Murad did not give me the proper picture; but I don’t dare to doubt the truthfulness of these two honourable respectable gentlemen. The other alternative is: probably some invisible but, of course, powerful hands behind the screen used his authority to remove my name from the guest list. (Who is really responsible for this immoral, malicious hateful act, I do not have any idea. Allah the Almighty knows better.)

People are thinking that I am ‘overreacting a bit’. I don’t agree. It is a matter of principle. Invited guest is not a trivial, negligible, insignificant matter, if you look from an Islamic perspective. Guest is a person who deserves to be honoured, not humiliated or insulted. (The importance and significance of guest in Islam I would like to talk later.)

Immediately, after the completion of the speech session, I left the event, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), about which I have been spending my ink and giving space to my column and articles since before the birth of the MCB in the late 80s when Iqbal Sacranie, the spokesperson of the then UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs first met with the then Shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw at a meeting in the Islamic Cultural Centre, London.

Muslim Council of Britain was founded by Iqbal Sacranie in the late 80’s with the aim of unifying the diverse Muslim communities of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to respect diversity and at the same time respect personality. The ideologically broad-based national umbrella organization of the British Muslim communities of different schools of thought of Islam, of different ethnic, linguistic, regional and cultural backgrounds, like MCB, should remain clean from sectarian, parochial, insular, prejudiced, close-minded elements.

I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention those well-mannered, young energetic spirited volunteers who were time and again coming to me, while I was waiting outside the Hall being embarrassed, enquiring whether they could be of any help. I would like to thank them through this column and appreciate their good-natured words of hospitality which should be an eye-opener for those who are yet to reach to that level. Their well-mannered conduct turned my disappointment, skepticism and pessimism into optimism. I am now hopeful that those youngsters who are between 20s and early 30s will be the bright future of our Ummah.

In spite of the painful agony I had to pass through at that very particular moment, I will not disappoint my readers; rather I will present them a brilliant thought-provoking lecture of Professor Tariq Ramadan on “What I Believe” delivered at the London School of Economics (LSE). I promise, I will, Insha Allah, write in this column.
Courtesy: The Muslim Weekly Friday 05 March 2010
and also Eurobangla, Monday 29 February 2010

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