Asian News- Hundreds take part in Debate

Asian News Rochdale Published in the Asian News 13/02/2008

A public forum organised to discuss issues affecting Rochdale Muslims was hailed a success despite one of its key panellists pulling out of the event just days before.

Hundreds attend the Question Time Event

The event, which was held in a ‘Question Time’ format, had been organised with local MP Paul Rowen to discuss extremism, Islam and the Muslim community. But Mr Rowen later declined the invitation because a member of Hitz-ut-Tahrir was also participating.

A spokesperson for Mr Rowen said: “Paul regrettably pulled out of the event after warnings from the police and other community organisations about giving publicity to Hizb-ut-Tahrir.”

But organisers say despite Mr Rowen’s absence, the event attracted over 200 people.

Organiser Majed Iqbal, who runs the popular blog on community affairs – Majeds Blog – said the event, held at Castlemere Community centre, gave the audience a platform to discuss issues at a grass root level.

He said: “The audience aired concerned views on the government’s approach on tackling issues related to Muslims, especially with millions of pounds of funds being poured into the community. One woman stood up firmly to highlight incidents, which took place at another event in Bolton, which was organised by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, in which she expressed concern on government approach towards issues affecting Muslim women.

“But she said because she had shown concern towards government policies, her comments were interpreted as being extreme. This lady asked the audience, “Just because we may disagree, does that make us extreme?”

“Ali khan, from Hizb-ut-Tahrir went on to tackle a multitude of comments and questions ranging from liberal values and Islamic values, materialism, the concept of Britishness, engagement with wider society, roles of mosques and Imams and what the youth need to be more active in airing their voice in the current climate.”

Added Majed: “The packed out hall was booming with discussion and debate clearly highlighting a discord to what some community leaders claim to represent as being the “official view” of Muslims in Rochdale. The event was apt in picturing how the Muslim community indeed has thoughtful views on the current climate and that the threats and fear created by opportunistic politicians, including local ones, as well as government were not strong enough to silence the real debates which people are actively engaged in at a grass-roots level.”

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