Camberley Mosque 259


As someone who devotes much energy to battling Islamophobia, it is important equally to oppose false cries of Islamophobia whenever any Muslim group is thwarted. Otherwise “Islamophobic” will become a meaningless pejorative just as “Anti-semitic” is thrown at any rational critic of Israel.

Having looked at the dispute over Camberley Mosque, I feel that it is the Bengali community which is acting with gross insensitivity. They wish to pull down a listed Victorian building to build a mosque. I would oppose that were the proposed replacement a mosque, synagogue, church or Tesco.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/surrey/8561342.stm

The old scholl has in fact been in use for many years as an Islamic centre. There is no threat to that. It is demolition of the building which is objected to.

It strikes me that the very large and sturdy building looks ideal for sympathetic internal conversion to make it a better mosque. Failing that, the community can do what anybody else has to do whose needs have outgrown a listed building, and move the mosque elsewhere.

I encountered a similar arrogance and insensitivity from some members of the Muslim community while campaigning on Whalley Range in Blackburn, when I was faced with a demand that a pub close to a mosque be closed down. I replied that the pub had been there for over a hundred years before the mosque.

The deliberate spread of fear and hatred of Muslims by politicians, media and security services is a real problem. But what we must insist is that Muslims are treated both no worse and no better than anybody else.


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259 thoughts on “Camberley Mosque

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  • Richard Robinson

    anno, could you tell me something ?

    Just, what is politeness around a woman wearing a burqa, in the street as we both get our shopping ? I mean – two people heading for the same doorway, I’d expect to hang back a bit, ‘you go first’, and expect some moment of mutual acknowldgement, a bit of a grin or something. But if the other person’s’s wearing a burqa, is it polite to do that sort of “here we both are”, moment of eye-contact sort of thing ? Or does the covering-up imply that that would be invasive, does it ask to be treated as invisible ? I just don’t know, you see ? Trivial stuff, but it does actually happen from time to time, and for what little it’s worth, I’d like to not be giving them bad vibes. (Or have they tuned me out and won’t notice either way ?)

  • Richard Robinson

    “This is our universal witness or ‘shahaadah’. Why don’t you come and join us?”

    Thanks, but … theisms don’t feel right to me. Not one particular one, the whole proposition. To put a face on the universe, with intentions, thoughts, feelings, seems to me to be to make too much of ourselves. Humanity just doesn’t have that sort of a place in the universe we see these days.

    (I’ve heard “Islam” translated as “submission” – would “humility” be an acceptable alternative, or is there a difference ?)

    Back in the day, I’d have described myself as “not religious”. These days it seems to me that ‘agnosticism’ is itself a faith – I can’t prove it, nor can I prove that proving is the right way to go about it, just reason it out as far as that’ll take you and after that accept that it’s axioms all the way down. The only absolute I see is the possibility of learning that they’re wrong, and to lose that would be a loss too far.

    In a more practical sense, I can’t accept the idea of a book’s being unquestionable.

    But I can’t resist quoting one, anyway :-

    Ignorant, ignorant.

    Most people are so bright.

    I’m the one that’s dull.

    Most people are so keen.

    I don’t have the answers.

    Oh, I’m desolate, at sea,

    adrift, without harbour.

    Everyone has something to do.

    I’m the clumsy one, out of place.

    I’m the different one,

    for my food

    is the milk of the mother.

    (from U. K. LeGuin’s transliteration of the Tao Te Ching).

  • arsalan

    Tech I believe you are being dishonest with your comments on what Muslim women wear, remembering that you had asked a question which I had comprehensibly answered.

    Posted by: arsalan goldberg at November 30, 2009 10:18 PM

    technicolour

    To be honest I’ve never actually thought about whether I should wear one or not(Do you think it will bring out my eyes?).

    Now that I have thought about it I can categorically tell you I will never wear one because it is not allowed in Islam to be a transvestite.

    But if you are asking me what Islam says on this issue. My answer will be more vague, because there is a difference of opinion on this issue, which has existed from the earliest days of Islam.

    I don’t know how knowledgeable you are about Islam, so I will assume you have no knowledge to try and make my answer as comprehensive and clear as possible.

    The two Primary sources of Islam are the Quran and Sunnah(words and actions of the Prophet). The Sunnah has been collected in to various compilations, called Hadith. Bukhari(9 volumes, I have this) is the most famous one which was collected by someone from a city in Uzbekistan called Bukhara. Muslim(4 volumes I have that too) is the second most well known, and was collected by a student of Imam Bukhari called Imam Muslim. Looking up at my bookshelf which is just above this computer there are a lot of others, such as Riyad us Suliheen, Nawawi, Tarmedi, al Muwata and loads of others.

    The Quran was revealed verses at a time. The way we follow the verses of the Quran is the way the Prophet Mohummed pbh followed them. Because the words and actions of the Prophet are within themselves revelation.

    When the verse concerning what women should cover was revealed, women covered themselves with whatever came to hand. The female members of the Prophet Mohummed’s pbh family covered everything except an eye to see with.

    The key issue on whether Niqab is compulsory or not is whether this dress code was for the female family of the Prophet pbh or for all Muslim women.

    Some Muslim Scholars of Islam say it was only for the female family members of the Prophet pbh and the dress code for other Muslim women allows them to show face and hands because there are Hadith that says women are allowed to uncover the face in Huj and allowed to uncover it to be identified for signing a business contract.

    Others who say the dress code of the Prophet’s female family members is for all Muslims state the same Hadith, but say the very fact that women are allowed to uncover their faces in those circumstances means they aren’t in other circumstance.

    Now if what you meant by your question was which of the two opinions do I believe is correct. My answer will have to be I DON’T KNOW!

    Greater men than me differed on the issue, so who am I to say who is right and who is wrong?

    I don’t need to decide on which opinion I believe is stronger because I am never going to wear one anyway.

    Just as I don’t need to learn about how long after a women’s period ends does she have to take a bath and when does praying and fasting become compulsory on her,again because I have never had a period and I never will.

    Just as if you ask me what I think of always ultra and whether I think it is better than supermarket own brands, I don’t know and I have no reason to find out.

    If you meant what I think of others wearing Niqab, Everywhere and in none Muslim countries such as this one in particular.

    I have to say whether it is compulsory or not I respect them for copying the dress of My Prophet pbh’s family, because I love my Prophet pbh and I love my Prophet PBH’s family. When it comes to non-Muslim countries where such a dress results in discrimination, insults and even attacks, I have to say I respect them more.

    When following a religion results in worldly reward, it is very easy to follow one, and the out word signs of following a religion do not indicate in word piety. but when following a religion result in no worldly benefit and much harm in this life, I think it is clear those people only do what they do for God. And that sort of conviction has to be respected by people of all religions.

    Posted by: arsalan goldberg at November 30, 2009 10:18 PM

  • arsalan

    tech

    Why do I accuse you of dishonesty. You say Prophet Mohummed peace be upon him didn’t say anything about this topic when you know his wives wore it. And I know you know this, because I told you, and you responded to the post where I told you.

    Tech why can’t you realise that Muslim women may know a little bit more about what the Prophet Mohummed peace be upon him said about how Muslim women should dress than you?

    Or that some one such as myself who has studied the Quran and the Sunnah(And you do know I have because I have mentioned some of the volumes of Hadith I own) would know more about what the Prophet Mohummed says on this issue than you?

    If you wanted examples of what the Quran and the Prophet pbh who it was revealed to say on the issue, I think you would have asked for it.

    I believe the answer I gave you in November was enough, and was ignored by you.

    So I will end by saying Muslim women wear what they do because they obey their creator. And they believe that is what their creator told them to do. Just as they believe their creator told them not to eat Pigs. Some very silly people like to say Muslim women do so because they obey men. These silly people only say this as an excuse to force Muslim women to dress the way white men tell them to dress.

    There is a difference of opinion on the issue, but it is between Burkha and Hijab.

  • Richard Robinson

    “anno, could you tell me something ?”

    That looks a bit exclusive, I didn’t mean it like that, just the way the conversation seemed at the time. I’d hear anybody.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Arsalan, you know that many of the Hadiths are of disputed provenance. Also, the difference of opinion is not just about ‘hijaab and burkha’, that’s a distortion.

    I respect your knowledge of Islam and your conviction, your iman too. But I do think that just like the MSM do in relation to politics, you too are narrowing the terms of the discourse and this sartorial allusion is an example of that. The way you present it, it is as though you’re intrepretation(s) is/ are the only ones possible. Of course many (very devout) Muslims would disagree with you.

  • technicolour

    Good morning Arsalan. No, I wasn’t being dishonest: I thought your original post came from anno, see apology above.

    Thanks for reposting. It is interesting background, thank you. My own books on the subject are in storage, so I cannot supply you with quotes, sadly.

    Still. I was talking about the burkha, not the hijab.

    And even over the hijab, there is a great deal of dispute. As you say, there are different opinions and one can be a ‘good’ Muslim woman without wearing it.

    But the hijab leaves the face uncovered. The full burkha does not even ‘leave one eye free’, does it? So yes, I would be interested to know where the rationale is for that.

    I don’t know why you brought periods in, in your earlier post. Periods are unstoppable. They are natural. They are the basis for life. They are the work of the creator, however you like to define that title. They are not an item of black cotton clothing.

    Incidentally, where does it say that the burkha is only for women?

    I am now going for a walk, in the sun, in the full knowledge that were I in a burkha I would not be able feel the warmth on my skin, or the wind in my hair. I would not be able to smile at my neighbours or eat an ice cream, or stop for a coffee, or any of the other things Western women – and you – take for granted.

    Instead you say “I have to say whether it is compulsory or not I respect them”.

    You respect people forced to hide themselves from the world because they are women? You respect people who are under threat of death or lashings if they show their faces outside? I respect them too, but I think for different reasons.

    Apologies for calling me ‘dishonest’ will be accepted.

  • arsalan

    “Hadiths are of disputed provenance”

    That is the key issue here.

    That is the key issue here.

    To deny the ruling people are forced to deny the source of the ruling.

    Which also happens to be the source of Islam.

    When it comes to accepting the text as true, but disagreeing on the meaning. It is possible to derive two separate opinions on this issue. Which are Hijab and Niqab.

    But if you dispute the very source of Islam, the text itself, then as you say other things are possible, but I would say everything would be possible when the authenticity of the text is the issue.

    Lets use your argument on another issue to clarify.

    For example Pork, or lets use the words of the Quran, lahmul Kanzir.

    “He has forbidden you only the maytatah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine… ” [al-Baqarah 2:173]

    The word Kanzir means pigs. But if someone wanted to make pigs lawful, in the way people dispute that Muslim women have to cover their hair in Islam what they would do is state, “Kanzir doesn’t mean pig, it means Police officers, in Islam it is forbidden to eat the flesh of police officers”.

    The safeguard against this is the sunnah, we know what the Prophet pbh refrained from eating from the Hadith that record every aspect of his life.

    Now going back to the issue of Hijab.

    The word the Quran uses in the verse of Hijab is Khimar, this word means headscarf. People who want to change Islam’s ruling on this issue attempt to do so by changing the meaning of this word. But they are prevented from doing so by the Hadith describing what happened when the verse was revealed. What did women cover? What did the Prophet PBH tell them to cover? this is known. There is a dispute on the extent, but the fact that hair is included in the extent is undisputed.

    Are you familiar with the Hadith on this issue and their chains of narration?

    The reliability of the reporters?

    Their trustworthiness or lack of it.

    If you are not then you should familiarise yourself with them before you dispute their provenance.

    They include Hadith of both Bukhari and Muslim, and other sahih collections such as abu Dawood.

    When these people, say there is a dispute on this issue who do they claim is the other side of the dispute?

    All four Sunni Schools, agree on this, the Shia schools who are within Islam the Zayadi and Jafari schools agree on this. And the remaining school of thought which isn’t Shia or Sunni the Ibadi agree on this. So who in Islam do they say dispute it, other then those who dispute Islam while claiming to be Muslim?

  • arsalan

    Tec the issue of Burkha is more about what was done then what was said.

    Islam is like that.

    In Islam we do not show our respect to our Prophet pbh by worshipping him, in the way some Christians worship their Prophet peace be upon him. In monotheism worship is reserved for the creator. We believe the Prophet’s are the best of humanity, ever word and deed of theirs is purified and guided, so is an example to us.

    So we show our respect to our Prophet pbh by copying him. That is why Muslim men grow their beards and trim their moustaches. Muslim women can not copy the Prophet on this issue, because most of them do not have beards to grow and moustaches to trim. And the few that do should have them removed for obvious reasons. On these issues where which are unique to the sexes, Muslim women show their devotion by copying the female family members of the Prophet PBH.

    They did cover everything. This fact is undisputed.

    So it has less to do with the wording and more to do with the actions.

    The reason for the dispute is some rules in Islam were unique to the Prophet pbh and his family while others came for everyone. For Example, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and eat during the night, while the prophet fasted the whole of the day and night. When Muslims are poor we are allowed to take charity, but it was forbidden for the Prophet PBH or his family to take it even when starving.

    So if there is a dispute between the deeds of the Prophet pbh and his words, in Islam the wording takes precedents, because some rules like what I have mentioned were unique to him.

    The people who state that showing the face is allowed use the Hadith I mentioned in the November post, to state

  • Suhayl Saadi

    There are many Muslims and Muslim scholars who don’t agree with your views on these matters, arsalan. To mention just one or two sources of information on this, I would refer people to the work of Ziauddin Sardar or Amina Wadud. But there are many others, some of whom (the women, like Amina Wadud) do wear the hijaab themselves, others of whom do not.

    Nonetheless, arsalan, I say again that I do respect your views and of those who share your views. Sadly, my experience of these fevered debates which I have all-too-often with friends and acquaintances is that the reverse does seldom seems to apply. I do not claim to represent the views of all Muslims; I accept that there will be differing views. http://cairolusakaamsterdam.blogspot.com/2010/01/amina-wadud-on-hijab.html

  • arsalan

    As I have mentioned before this dispute is not within Islam, it is between Islam and what is not Islam.

    Amina Wadud is not a Muslim.

    A self label isn’t enough to make someone a Muslim.

    I can even top your Amina Wadud, by giving you who sects who agree with out she says, but like her they are not Muslim.

    So this issue isn’t a dispute within Islam, just as the Qadyanis saying their founder is a Prophet doesn’t make the Finality of Prophethood a disputed issue in Islam. All it means is the Qadyanis are not Muslim.

    The text decides what is within Islam and outside of it, not heretics.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Arsalan, only God has the right to determine who and who is not Muslim. Is that not the greatest sin of all, to assign to onself an attribute of God, particularly this attribute? It says so, in the Holy Quran. What gives anyone the right to say that such-and-such is not a Muslim, just because one may disagree with them? Is Ziauddin Sardar, then, also not a Muslim? And am I not a Muslim because you decide that I am not? How convenient. How Stalinist. How Neocon.

  • technicolour

    Arsalan: I appreciate your replies so far.

    “The female members of the Prophet Mohummed’s pbh family covered everything except an eye to see with.”

    So not the full burkha, then. Please tell me why you approve of it.

    Suhayl’s humbling and interesting point aside, I was told that to become Muslim one had to say (and believe) the Shahada. Is this not true anymore? If not, what has changed?

    “Muslim women show their devotion by copying the female family members of the Prophet PBH.”

    But if Muslim women are forced to copy an idea of what the female family members were supposed to have worn or, alternatively, a garment they did not apparently wear (the burkha), that’s OK?

    Mohammed (pbuh) recommended a specific kohl for women, I believe, too. Are women who fail to use it ‘heretics’ too?

  • arsalan

    Suhayl Saadi

    There is no such thing as a Muslim atheist. Or a Muslim who doesn’t believe in Islam.

    Yes there are differences of opinion based on the text, and I have listed some of them here. But there is a difference between disagreeing with the meaning of the text and denying it.

    Or attributing a meaning to the text which contradicts it. So the Qadyanis are not Muslim for their belief in a Prophet after the final one, the Agha khanis are not Muslim for their belief that the Aga Khan is the incarnation of God, the Nation of Islam are not Muslim for the same reasons.

    These limits do not end with sects and organisations, it applies to that American just as much.

    I am not going to comment about Ziauddin Sardar, because I know little about him, and can’t be bothered to do a google for such a petty issue. If you are asking me to do a verdict on you, if that is what you want, go to a mosque. List the beliefs you hold that conflict with the mainstream and ask someone of knowledge whether it means you are still a Muslim or not. I am not touching that issue with a 10 foot poll.

    Tech yes, they left one eye open. I think people in the Tunisian country side still dress like that.

    Tech to be a Muslim one needs only to recite the Shahada, but it requires the belief in the Shahada too. An atheist who recites it doesn’t become a Muslim atheist.

    I believe the statement on force is a red herring. People are invading countries to stop people wearing it not the other way around. And that is what has happened, the Americans and their puppets banned government employees from wearing it in Afghanistan. So women have a choice of abiding by what they believe their creator ordered them to do and feeding themselves, or obeying American men and watching their children starve.

    No one is invading your country to give you that choice in reverse.

    and lastly disobedience is not heresy.

    Heresy is Heresy. A Muslim woman who doesn’t wear hijab is still a Muslim woman just as a Muslim woman who eats pork, commits adultery, robs banks or any other sin is not a heretic but is a sinner. But denying the rule is the heresy.

    In short Muslims who eat pork but admit it is sinful are sinful but still Muslims.

    That is sinfulness and not heresy. It becomes heresy when they legalise pork, deny the text that forbids it or change its meaning. The same applies to Hijab and all other issues.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks, arsalan. But my basic point was not that Muslims could be atheists, not at all, it was simply that it is not up to you or I to determine who is, and who is not, a Muslim. We may have our views on the matter. But ultimately, it is up to God, not any mosque, imam or sheikh.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Also, not on this issue so much as more generally, Zia Sardar’s work is very interesting and well worth a look – even if you don’t end-up agreeing with everything he says. I’d recommend his ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ – this goes for anyone interested in ‘journeys’, etc.

  • Clark

    Suhayl Saadi,

    thank you for your mention of Ziauddin Sardar; I checked his Wikipedia entry and found this:

    ‘He argues that the image of Muslims as “the darker side of Europe” seems to be a fixture of western consciousness and is recycled from generation to generation.’

    This fits with my personal belief that “racism” results from personal failure to recognise ones instinctive distrust or fear of people of a different culture. We cannot eradicate this feeling from ourselves. We can only recognise it and thereby compensate, thus diminishing it over time through positive experiences.

    I remember my own fear of Muslims from my youth; they just *seemed* scary; they hadn’t threatened me.

    “Racism” results when someone fails to notice that this fear has an internal source, and instead projects it upon the feared people, regarding them as dangerous.

    I have put “racism” in quotes as Islam is not a race, so Islamophobia is not strictly racism, but I think that the principle still applies.

  • technicolour

    “I believe the statement on force is a red herring. People are invading countries to stop people wearing it not the other way around.”

    I’m sorry Arsalan, but this is a tragic statement. ‘People’ (the Western governments) invaded Afghanistan for geo-political reasons. You know this. The extremists in power were put there by the US. The extremists on the sidelines (Hezb i Islami etc) were funded by the US and the UK. Saudi Arabia is supported by the US and UK.

    And you use the state of these countries as a reason for supporting the burkha? You claim it is not imposed by force, when all the testimony, the punishments, the floggings, the murders, clearly shows it is. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense.

    Anyway, enough of this, I should think. It is not a small issue – when has the treatment of women ever been, any more than the treatment of slaves? But it is off topic.

    Clark: I’ve got no fear of people from a different culture, thank heavens. My godmother had nursed her way through India, Mogadishu, South Africa and Egypt. I was brought up on her stories. I didn’t even know there was an image of Muslims as ‘the darker side of Europe’. Is there?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks, all, for a spirited discussion! Clark and Technicolour, good points. Oh yes, Islam has been constructed as ‘The Other’ for a long, long time in Europe. This spectre has been raised at strategic moments in history.

    Arsalan, I am mainstream Sunni, btw. The Ismailis are a branch of Shi’ism, ‘Sevener’ Shias, as (unlike Irani and other ‘Twelver’ Shias) they believe that there were seven, rather than twelve imams. There are millions of Ismailis in Central Asia, including, for example, in Hunza in northern Pakistan, and also in Karachi and Mumbai. I’m aware of the intriguing history – Hasan-i-Saba and the ‘Old Man of the Mountains’, Alamut, enemies of the Caliphs of Baghdad, probable allies of the Crusader states, ‘Hashashim – smokers of has – though of course hash makes one mellow not aggressive, usually! – hence the word, ‘assassin’. But of course the group has evolved hugely since then and expanded. They would be very annoyed if anyone were to suggest that they are not Muslim. They do the pilgrimage and believe in everything essentail, the five pillars, etc. Many of them are just as devout as anyone else. Not all are rich or middle-class, you know. They’re not all the Agha Khan, who is of course their leader! As a community, they do a lot of good work as well.

    Qadianis/ Ahmadis were declared not to be Muslim by Bhutto Pater in the mid-1970s in Pakistan solely in order to appease the ascendant religious parties; this was a shameful act. Again, ironically, Qadianis are actually one of the main missionary groups of Islam and do many good things. I know theologically their ideas are non-conformist and yes, there is the rather important issue of the last prophet. I’m also aware of the British Raj’s influence historically in the C19th in their genesis.

    The Druze are probably not in the tent of Islam any more, and I think most would not self-describe themselves as Muslim, although in Lebanon it may be more complex. Walid Jumblatt, remember that name? Anyway, some fight in the Israeli Army (the ones who live in Israel/ Palestine) but then, so do the Sunni Bedouin who live in Israel/ Palestine.

    I once met a man who declared that Shias were not Muslim. I disagreed heartily with him!

    I met another man who thought that only Shias were Muslim. Likewise!

    You made an excellent point a few months ago when you pulled me up excellently about some of my previous swingeing comments on the Salafis and I think that you were right to do so. I don’t think we need to be infinitely divided, arsalan, I think a broad and tolerant ‘church’ is better, because otherwise, we just begin to break-up into egotistical sects.

    As Muslims, I feel that it’s what’s in our hearts that’s important, and how that translates into our actions.

    God will judge.

    Peace.

  • Clark

    Technicolour,

    although I can only speak from my own experience, I do believe that many people have these unconscious, instinctive fears, and that it can lead to racism or feeling threatened by members of a different culture. You were fortunate to have such a godmother.

    Regarding your statement “‘People’ (the Western governments) invaded Afghanistan for geo-political reasons”: I suspect that unconscious fears act as an enabler, and that Islamophobia is ‘cultivated’ partly unconsciously, or at least not exclusively cynically, in the process of leaders justifying their decisions (to themselves as well as to others), ie, it’s a (sometimes convenient) convergence of influences.

    So in that sense, Arsalan has a point. Some leaders do wish to enforce western ways, and those leaders really do think that they’re helping to free people.

    I also believe that basic psychology should be taught universally in school. I wasn’t even taught that aggression is a response to threat.

  • Clark

    Suhayl Saadi,

    thank you for these facinating insights into the diversity of Islam, here and on previous threads. I think that the popular illusion of Islam as monolithic is part of the cause of Islamophobia.

  • Richard Robinson

    “I think that the popular illusion of Islam as monolithic is part of the cause of Islamophobia.”

    Hm. “We” put up with Popes for long enough. *Competing* monolith, possibly.

    I’m more inclined to suspect it has nothing much to do with the specific natures of either Islam or Christendom, just a bad case of quarrelling with the neighbours. Just wait till the monotheisms get together and start pronouncing on what’s wrong with the polytheisms …

  • technicolour

    Clark, I don’t want to be a bore, but which leaders? And if their motives were anything to do with ‘Western values’ why did they then install and continue to support Karzai, who has legalised rape in marriage and passed a law forbidding women to leave their homes without male consent?

    You’re right, I was lucky.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    My pleasure!

    Btw, if you want to peruse another interesting ‘journey’, check out the story of 1960s Kentish Town Mod group, The Action (“the best white soul band of all time!”) and specifically, that of Ian Abdellateef Whiteman, keyboardist, flautist, saxophonist, architect, book illustrator…

    http://www.ianwhiteman.com

    Sadly, the excellent bassist of the group, Michael Al Hajj Evans, died suddenly a few weeks ago.

    Also, Top Topham, The Yardbirds’ first lead guitarist (before Eric Clapton, ironically enough). There was a good article in ‘e-mel’ magazine a few years ago about this (I think fairly purist) blues guitarist.

    Abdellateef played with Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) when they went to Bosnia in the mid-1990s and also played extensively with Richard Thompson in various bands.

    Actually, Yusuf Islam’s own journey is fascinating too. Go to his website for more details. I was very honoured that Yusuf’s publicist, Omar, came to one of my London readings recently and we had a good chat, all-too-brief of course as is the way at such events! Yusuf released a witty single and promotional video with his pal, Dolly Parton recently about the time, several years back, when he was refused entry to the USA, entitled, ‘Boots and Sand’.

    Gosh, I always seem to return to music, don’t I?! Well, I see (or rather, hear) the azaan (call to prayer) as beautiful music – as long as it’s not done through a loudspeaker! There’s a mosque in Thatta, Sindh (Pakistan) designed during the reign of Mughal Emperoro, Shah Jahan (he of the Taj Mahal), which is acoustically designed so that you can hear the prayer equally in all spaces – it’s a very large and beautiful mosque, recently restored.

    Heavenly.

  • MJ

    Other musicians who have converted to Islam include bassist Danny Thompson (of Pentangle and John Martyn fame) and guitarist Richard Thompson.

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