Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘East London Mosque’

Bakir Izetbegovic at the East London Mosque

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th October, 2013

Bakir IzetbegovicEast London MosqueIslam has a long history in Bosnia, but in the fratricidal war that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia there were attempts by the (orthodox) Serbs, in particular, to ethnically cleanse Bosnia Herzegovina of its Muslim population, demolish many mosques and divide the territory up with the (Catholic) Croats. I went to Sarajevo not long after the siege of that city was lifted, bringing an end to the nightmare that its inhabitants lived through, running the gauntlet of “sniper alley” and seeing so much of their patrimony, including the library, destroyed. This in a city which had for centuries been a place of religious tolerance and co-existence, echoing Moorish Andalus. Two decades on the situation is much improved, if not perfect, and it was good to join many fellow residents of Tower Hamlets, as well as the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. and other political figures, at a celebratory dinner this evening at the Maryam Centre, next to the East London Mosque, at which the guest of honour was Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniac member of the presidential troika of his country. I met his late father, Aliya, when he was President and like many was deeply impressed by his spirituality and generosity of spirit, determined to reconstitute at atmosphere of tolerance, while ensuring Islam’s survival in that corner of South East Europe. Bakir Izetbegovic, in his speech at the dinner, recalled his father’s work, and said how remarkable it is that Islam has flourished over the past 20 years including in Europe. This was not said in a triumphalist way and indeed the ethos of genuine multiculturalism was evident tonight. All guests were presented with a copy of Alya Izetbegovic’s autobiography as we left, which was a nice touch.

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Syria Unity Forum

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 29th February, 2012

This evening I was one of the speakers at a solidarity event for the people of Syria organised at the London Muslim Centre at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel. Since the beginning of the uprising last spring, maybe as many as 8,000 people have been slaughtered in Syria by the despotic regime in Damascus, which seems determined to carry on the killings, disappearances, torture and harrassment in a desperate attempt to hang on to power. In 1982, an estimated 38,000 people were killed in a devastating onslaught on the city of Hama, the centre of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood. But little news of this filtered out to the outside world at the time, despite the valiant efforts of journalists such as Robert Fisk. Today, the murderous Assad government cannot act unseen. Even if most foreign journalists are banned — and those who are allowed in officially are strictly controlled — new media and social networks mean we get up-to-the-minute reports on what is going on from people on the spot, even in Homs, the city currently effectively under siege. Indeed, there was a direct link to a Free Syria activist in Homs at this evening’s event. Other speakers physically present at the meeting included Walid Saffour of the Syrian Human Rights Committee, Wael Aleji, a (Christian) member of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, and the human rights lawyer Toby Cadman. I spoke of the urgent need to get medical and other humanitarian supplies into beleagured communities, as well as for increased international pressure to get the Syrian authorities to stop their assault on the people, and finally supporting moves by other Arab states to oust the regime. When Bashar al-Assad inherited power from his father in 2000, there were widespread hopes in the West that he would introduce reforms. Some economic reforms did indeed take place and he opened Syria up to tourism. However, when the waves of the New Arab Awakening (aka Arab Spring) started to sweep across North Africa and the rest of the Arab world, prompting street demonstrations beginning in the southern town of Deraa, he adopted an iron-fist approach, with the aide of his brother Maher, the head of the security forces. Both will one day, I hope, be arraigned before the International Criminal Court (ICC). But in the meantime, everything needs to be done to express support for those brave people in Syria who are resisting oppression. British MPs should sign the Early Day Motion demanding the expulsion of the Syrian Ambassador from London and more should be done to publicise the fact that the British government, through William Hague, has acknowledged the oppposition Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. After nearly three hours of presentations, videos and pra7yers, the East London Mosque evening ended with a collection from people present for emergency relief for Syria, which raised several thousand pounds.

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A Good Time for Muslims to Quit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 13th August, 2009

SmokefreeNHS Tower Hamlets’ Stop Smoking team deserve congratulations for standing outside the East London Mosque the other day, handing out leaflets explaining their campaign to ‘Make Ramadan a good time to Stop!’ During Ramadan — which is scheduled to begin at the end of next week — pious Muslims must not eat, drink, smoke or engage in sexual intercourse between dawn and the evening breaking of the fast. And health campaigners would like to persuade Muslim smokers that Ramadan is the perfect time to quit smoking completely. According to NHS statistics, 22 per cent of deaths in Tower Hamlets (where I live) are smoking-related, compared with 18 per cent for London as a whole. As Jill Goddard, tobacco control lead for NHS Tower Hamlets, told the East London Advertiser, ‘Tower Hamlets has some of the highest smoking rates in London and within the Bangladeshi community one of the highest in the country.’ I have lost count of the number of times I have seen young Bengali boys — and they always are boys — puffing on a cigarette as they make their way home from school in the afternoon. Doubtless they think that smoking is cool, but the mosque and their elders could usefully tell them: it ain’t cool, it’s potentially lethal.

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