Last night I attended an Eid Party at the Fulham Road Mosque in the Sparkhill district of Birmingham. I met old friends, including a respected teacher who was a former colleague. Lord Ahmed was the Guest of Honour. At the last celebration Lynne Jones M.P. and Roger Godsiff M.P. attended. Last night the newly appointed Bishop of Birmingham was unable to attend but sent his representative. The main thrust of the evening was interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians. A local head teacher brought some children from a local primary school who sang some devotional songs.
One speaker happened to mention that Channel 4 had been around and the Fulham Road Mosque was to be one of the subjects of its Dispatches programme on Monday evening (15/1/2006). I don’t know everyone there, but I did speak to some who were members of the Mosque. One was a businessman who had been working in the area for many years and declared that all he was interested in was being able to practice the faith that helped his everyday life.
So was this a hotbed of “terrorism” to which I had come? The term, although quite unspecific in its meaning, can be turned to mean virtually anything that journalists or politicians want it to mean. It has a purpose of inducing an irrational fear of a supposed threat. Al Qaeda undoubtedly exists, but whether it did as a significant force before it was constructed for political reasons is very doubtful. Now there is a danger of it becoming a synonym for a group of people who are extremely vulnerable in our society.
While Bush and Blair are said to be isolated, they still wield power. Substantial power judging by the fact that Bush is able to dictate the sending of extra troops to Iraq, to threaten Iran and at the same time bomb Somalia. Oxfam claim that many tribespeople have lost their lives. There is yet to be evidence presented that the al Qaeda people targeted were killed.
The Dispatches programme focussed mainly on the Green Lane Mosque and an African-American convert to Islam. The Mosque in Fulham Road was also filmed. A meeting where extremist views were expressed, it was said, was one organised by an outside group who jad hired their hall. They would not be allowed to do so in future. Concern was expressed how the film would hurt the whole Muslim community and were against their own work in bringing faith communities together.