Movers and shakers: Catherine Hossain
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) has become a growing force among young Muslims disenchanted with more orthodox aspects of their communities. One of its main campaigns has been for women to be able to pray in mosques with men. It also ran vocal campaigns to get young Muslims to vote in May‘s local elections. However, it has been criticised for anti-Semitism – in the 2005 general election in Rochdale the group had to apologise after a leaflet in its name alleged Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons was Jewish and anti-Muslim. A recent report in the Observer also exposed the fact that Asghar Bukhari, an MPAC founding member, had sent funds to David Irving, who was for many years a renowned Holocaust-denier
What has been the biggest achievement for MPACUK this year?Catherine Hossain It’s been a big year for us. British Muslims often don’t know how to get our voices heard. What MPACUK has been doing is getting out on the streets and we are now getting hundreds of people joining in campaigns.
Many people consider you anti-Semitic.We are anti-Zionist.We are politically opposed to Zionism, but we are not anti-Semitic and we are not targeting MPs on the basis of their religion. In Rochdale, we apologised about the leaflet. It wasn’t an official MPACUK campaign.
Why is it so important that women be allowed to pray in mosques?That’s our right according to the Prophet. But women are being excluded from a key part of our community.
You are very critical of your community. What would you like to see changed?Muslims still live in a way they have transplanted from a rural subcontinent to a modern city like London and it does not work. We want to change the role of the mosque in a multi-faith society. We’d like to see media centres in mosques, citizenship classes and voter registration drives.
Will this have an effect on those who are attracted to fundamentalism?If a mosque doesn’t offer anything to young men, they will be offered more violent solutions by young lads on the street.
What is the feeling among young Muslims you come into contact with in London?Muslims feel afraid. But they are questioning things and this has led to a revival of Islam.
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