Mosque representatives met with MP Gavin Shuker on 10 March 2018 in Westbourne Road mosque and raised the following issues:
Ofsted and the ‘hijab ban’
Concerns were raised about support expressed for a ban on hijabs by the HM Chief Inspector of Education and Head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, and the news that girls would be questioned by Ofsted about their hijabs.
Gavin stated that the current discourse suggested a lack of religious literacy and spoke to a wider anti-Muslim agenda. He was concerned that policies were being pushed forward by Ofsted – an arm’s length government body – without an open discussion led by central government that provides a clear rationale for these decisions.
Gavins office will share the letter they sent to Ofsted following this incident. In response to questions about the formal channels to ensure Ofsted was being fair in its approach, it was clarified that this ultimately came from DfE and there may be scope to discuss this with the local council to ensure concerns are relayed back to the central government.
Concerns about PCC conduct
Attendees were updated on recent responses from the PCC following complaints around Islamophobic comments articulated in a letter to mosque representatives alongside concerns surrounding her evidence to HASC (see Luton Mosques original letter). All members expressed disappointment at the dismissive tone of the PCC’s correspondence and feel that there was no benefit to pursuing further conversation until there was some willingness on her part to being open to listening.
Gavin sympathised with our situation especially in light of the inaccurate HASC comments, but explained that the PCC’s role is an elected position with a fixed term which would need to be addressed through this process.
IHRC Palestinian Solidarity billboard
Mosques explained that the community was extremely concerned at the manner in which LBC responded to far-right agitation over this billboard.
Gavin said the incident highlighted the lack of institutional capacity to respond to difficult situations and the lack of clear process. Councillors who hold the portfolio for cohesion need to be reviewing these issues.
Humanitarian crisis in Syria
Following the Luton Mosques’ letter to Gavin’soffice, attendees highlighted the ongoing humanitarian situation in Syria, and the difficulties in providing charitable support. They also stressed the need for the British government to do more to bring about a peaceful resolution in the region.
Gavin explained that he had written to the Foreign Secretary to raise concerns but was unsure what the government could do to resolve the situation bearing in mind the wider geopolitics related to this situation. He explained that he was still working with colleagues to regularly raise questions on this in Parliament.
Outbreak of violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka
Members of the Sri Lankan community in attendance explained that a state of emergency had been declared in Sri Lanka since Monday. During this time, Muslim businesses had been looted and burnt down and there were grave concerns about how the Sri Lankan government and military had conducted themselves.
A letter was presented to Gavin outlining the current situation and an invitation was extended to a weekend rally at Westminster to raise awareness of the situation.
Gavin committed to read the letter and escalate these concerns further.
NOTE: Meetings between Luton mosques and our local MPs take place periodically to ensure ongoing dialogue and representation for the local Muslim community.