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Statement on Westminster Terror Attack


Qari Asim, MBE, Imam of Leeds Makkah Mosque

“Today, London has witnessed horrific and depraved acts of murder.

The terrorist attack was designed to maximize casualties and create terror and chaos at the very heart of the capital and at the home of British democracy.

We must be clear that those who take innocent lives are not following the teachings of any religion and have no regard for any religion or humanity. These depraved terrorists are not following a path to paradise, as in Islam the taking of a single innocent life is considered as being akin to the killing of the whole of humanity.

This vile attack is an attack on all of us, regardless of race or religion. We must stand united against such extreme, evil and distorted ideologies and work together to defeat terrorism in all its forms.

The aim of terrorist attacks such as these is to divide communities and incite hatred amongst people of different beliefs and backgrounds. We have already seen vile opportunists using the victims of the Westminster terrorist attack to spread anti-Muslim hatred. I urge communities to remain united and even more determined to eradicate all forms of terrorism.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives at Westminster and express full solidarity with the victims of the attack. I convey my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.”

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Public Meeting Hosted by Leeds for Europe


 Leeds for Europe, a group campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union, is hosting a public meeting ‘Brexit – What Next?’ on Saturday 18th March, 2pm in the Council Chamber of Leeds Civic Hall.

The meeting will discuss the likely implications of a UK exit from the European Union and what needs to be done to avert a damaging ‘Hard Brexit’. The speakers will be Richard Corbett MEP and Professor Michael Dougan, an expert on European Union Law from the University of Liverpool. They will speak for about forty minutes, after which there will be time for questions.

There will also be a brief presentation by Leeds for Europe. Founded in October 2016 as a Facebook Group, the group has grown rapidly and now meets regularly and campaigns against Brexit in the city centre every Saturday. It is affiliated to Britain for Europe and is in the process of affiliating to the European Movement.



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Playhouse Awarded Grant to Develop Festival of Theatre & Dementia

Singing session for people living with dementia Photography by Anthony Robling (4)

West Yorkshire Playhouse has been awarded £99,950 by Arts Council England National Lottery funding to produce a Festival of Theatre and Dementia.

Exploring the experience of living with dementia through creative activity, the Festival will create new opportunities for older people living with dementia, collaborating with them as curators and performers. People living with dementia will play integral roles in shaping the Festival, including its events and performances and how it reaches different communities around Leeds, West Yorkshire and beyond.

“This award builds on our reputation as the UK’s foremost dementia friendly theatre, having introduced the world’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014”, said James Brining, West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director. “The creative arts are a fantastic way of supporting people to express themselves and connect with others, and we are delighted to open up our theatre to people affected by this condition.”

Community Development Manager, Nicky Taylor, said: “We anticipate that the Festival will bring opportunities for discussion and debate about dementia, to challenge stereotypes, and to provide a creative and fun opportunity for people with dementia to explore making and enjoying theatre. While people with dementia face huge challenges, feeling connected and valued by their community can have an enormous impact on feelings of confidence and self-worth.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse will be working in partnership with non-arts partners and collaborating with visiting arts companies to deliver the Festival. This will include joining forces with education organisations on research and practice, as well as dementia care programmes, consultancies and steering groups.

The Festival will address many perspectives on dementia, from care providers to families, children and young people, academics and most importantly people living with dementia.

“When I was diagnosed with dementia I thought my life was over, but taking part in all the creative activities at the Playhouse has been brilliant”, said Bob Fulcher, who participates in the Playhouse’s programme of activities. “My life is actually better now than before I had dementia, because I’m taking opportunities and meeting people. My life is good.”

The Festival programme itself will offer a range of opportunities to engage, discuss and learn about what dementia means to us in today’s society, as well as a range of theatre productions. It will include workshops to engage care staff, families affected by dementia and artists making work about dementia; participatory sessions to engage people living with dementia creatively; panel events and discussions focusing on specific aspects of dementia; and dementia friendly training opportunities for care staff and families to support the creativity of people with dementia.

It will also include a new full length play, and three short plays created by people with dementia, which will be performed at the Playhouse before touring to care homes.

The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care. Most recently, the Playhouse presented the ‘Strictly Ballroom – The Musical’ dementia friendly performance to over 450 attendees, as well as sharing it’s model with other UK theatres to encourage the development of a national movement of dementia friendly performances.

The grant will enable the Playhouse to develop its work with people living with dementia, as well as develop new partnerships with both arts and non-arts organisations and relationships within the community.



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Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards – Recognising Amazing Women

Julie Russell and Jackie Roberts

Julie Russell and Jackie Roberts

Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice’s Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards are all about unsung heroines – ordinary women doing extraordinary and inspiring things.

This year the awards take place on Friday 12th May at the Royal Armouries. Inspirational women across the region have been nominated in the categories of Business, Education, Sport, Young Achiever of the Year, the Jane Tomlinson Award for Courage, and the Community Impact Award.

There are also two exciting new categories this year – Arts, and Science and Technology. The Arts category recognises women in areas such as music, theatre, dance, art and literature; the Science and Technology category areas such as I.T. engineering, research and development, environmental work and the manufacturing industry.

Jackie Roberts won last year’s Jane Tomlinson Courage award, said the event was a unique occasion. A prominent supporter of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) UK, Jackie has raised thousands of pounds for the charity following the drowning death of her daughter Megan in 2014 and has helped others who have suffered similar losses.

Megan was a student when she suddenly lost her life in the river”, said Jackie. “I took all my energy and love for my child and channeled it into doing something positive. You have to do whatever gets you through and that felt right for me. The Awards ceremony was amazing. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I was so shocked, tears in my eyes. It was overwhelming”.

Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice’s Women of Achievement Awards are one of Yorkshire’s most celebrated regional events. Each year the hospice spends £4.4m to provide specialist end of life and palliative care to people living in Leeds and receive only 44% in statutory funds for the care services it offers.

Booking for the event is now open. Tickets cost £60 each or £550 for a table of ten. For more information, contact Faye Cryer on 0113 203 3338 or visit

66Kate Love YWOA2016

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Comment from Qari Asim: Muslims are the New Scapegoats



As Trump closes the doors of the US to Muslims with his travel ban, British Muslims have opened the doors of their mosques to welcome everyone -irrespective of faith, belief, background and age.

This week has seen some of the largest marches in recent history, across the world, against Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily block travel for immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It also stopped the admission of all refugees to the US for 120 days. The weeklong protests are preceded still by the global Women’s March, immediately following Trump’s inauguration day.

The #MuslimBan order is bigoted and discriminatory; it is encouraging that a federal judge in Seattle has temporarily suspended the executive order. Trump’s fierce attempt to overturn the legal decision is disappointing. The order has resulted in fear, anxiety and stigmatisation of many families and homes because of their religion. The executive order is not only a full-frontal assault on the civil rights of Muslim citizens in the US, it is a dangerous and self-defeating policy. It purports the attacks of 9/11 as a rationale for such a replusive ban, whist exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot. However, no citizens from those war torn seven countries has ever committed terror on US soil. Terrorism doesn’t have a nationality; Since 9/11 more Americans have been killed by home grown right-wing extremists than by terrorists from any Muslim country.

The Muslim travel ban is insulting, divisive and regressive to say the least. The timing of the order is ironic as it was issued on the eve of holocaust memorial day. Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers, but with a culture of hate, the crime of indifference and conspiracies of silence. The treatment of Muslims parallels with how Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution were treated in the 1930s and 1940s are obvious. The prevailing rhetoric about Muslim refugees is identical to that used to demonize Jews during the World War II. The Daily Mail’s 2015 cartoon showing Muslim refugees as rats perfectly tracked a 1939 cartoon in a Viennese newspaper depicting Jews the same way. Prince Charles, in an address this week, said the lessons of World War II were in “increasing danger” of being forgotten.

The counterproductive travel ban is a gift to the extremists – both ISIS and ultra-right nationalists. Only a few hours after Trump’s order of ‘Muslim Ban’ came into effect, the Islamic Centre of Victoria in Texas was burned to the ground. The deadly shooting at Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, resulting in the brutal murder of six Muslims is shining a light on the ugly truth of Islamophobia that Muslims have to experience. These attacks are not isolated incidents. Many mosques in the UK and across Europe have been attacked in recent years. Violent attacks such as these highlight the critical importance of combating anti-Muslim hatred which is being promoted by the far right in recent years by spreading misinformation about Muslims. Islamophobia has been legitimised by populist leaders in recent political campaigns. The British Government recognises the threat posed to places of worship including mosques, and last year announced a grant of £2.4m to help places of worship install security and safety equipment to prevent hate crime.

As the world feels under threat by ISIS affiliates, the Muslim communities not only feel threatened by ISIS affiliates but also by populist leaders and far right sympathisers – Muslims feel more vulnerable now than ever before. When populist leaders, including the President of the US, makes it acceptable to hate people, or bar people from entering the US merely on the grounds of their religion or identity, it is not surprising that Islamophobia is on the rise.

The outpouring of support thousands of people marching in their cities against the ‘Muslim ban’ has restored belief in humanity. Exposing the ill thought out policy of Trump and the sharing of immigrant stories by thousands have been heart-warming. Political and religious leaders, sports personalities, as well as celebrities issuing statements of support for Muslims, has been overwhelming. It was profoundly emotional and encouraging to see people of all faiths and none forming a human chain around a mosque in Haringey this Friday as a gesture of solidarity in the wake of a deadly attack in Quebec and Donald Trump’s travel ban.

At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility, mosques throughout Britain opened their doors last weekend (Sunday 5 February). #VisitMyMosque initiative is aimed at reducing misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in Britain. These events will also highlight how local mosques are helping their local communities and fostering communal relations. The senseless violence caused by terrorists, the slowly-creeping fascism, the politics of hatred and the ‘them’ -v-‘us’ narrative can only be defeated by communities standing together, protecting each other’s liberties and striving for the flourishing of humanity.

By Qari Asim, MBE
Senior Imam Makkah Mosque, Leeds

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Rohingya: Let There Not Be Another Genocide


Imam Qari Asim, MBE

Chief Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds


The minority of Myanmar, known as the Rohingya, is being violently attacked with impunity and driven from their homes. The mass killings, setting of human beings on fire and raping of women and young children is being carried out against the Rohingya minority in the Rakhine state of Burma, but the dreadful plight of the Rohingya is going unnoticed by world at large.

There are about 1.3 million Rohingya among Burma’s predominantly Buddhist 52 million population. The Rohingya is a distinct Muslim ethnic group, largely descendants of Arab traders, who have been in the region for generations. However, most people view them as foreign intruders from neighbouring Bangladesh, which, while hosting many Rohingya refugees, refuses to recognise them as citizens. The killings and persecution of the Rohingya is clearly designed to change the ethnic composition of the region. The recent violence is the most serious bloodshed in Rakhine since communal clashes in 2012.  It is human suffering on a horrific scale being played out in full view. It is a complete outrage, racism and intolerance, discrimination and persecution at its worst – simply a crime against humanity.

International observers have documented the systematic disenfranchisement and discrimination that Rohingyas have faced for decades, including government restrictions on marriage, family planning, employment, education and freedom of movement. More than half of the Rohingya population has been displaced in recent years. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations -Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers; in many instances the stateless people have not been welcomed by neighbouring countries.

Whilst the world focuses on the atrocities committed by the ISIS, vigilante Buddhist mobs continue to slaughter men, women and children. They have burned down entire villages with people trapped in their homes. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says satellite imagery shows 1,250 houses and other structures have been burned down. The United Nations has labelled the Rohingya community as one of the world’s most persecuted people. The UN human rights agency says Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are victims of crimes against humanity, yet it is extremely heartrending that no one is trying to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya.

The Burmese government and progressive elements of the civil society have either gone silent or joined in anti-Muslim and anti-ethnic rhetoric, complicity endorsing the genocide. In particular, lack of clear condemnation and decisive preventive actions by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – who is now Burma’s de-facto leader – has been of most significance. San Suu Kyi, whose years of pro-democracy activism made her into an international hero, is now acting as a cynical politician who is willing to put politics ahead of principles and innocent lives.

This crisis also says a lot about the political leadership of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASAN). The ASAN region is far from fully realising its ideal of becoming a multicultural, sharing and caring community. The Western political leadership must also be consistent with its approach to human crisis and human rights. Fortify Rights, which has been working with the Rohingya community, says ‘systematic violations’ have been ‘overlooked’ by Western powers.

Some claim that the reason for a lack of political and economic pressure on the Burmese government is due to Rohingya issue being made out to be a ‘Muslim issue’ rather than a human rights issue. But this is not – and must not be – treated as a faith related issue. This is a humanitarian crisis – a vulnerable community is being ethnically cleansed and the global citizens must play their role to bring an end to yet another minority community suffering persecution, torture and killings at the hands of terrorists. All victims of violence, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and consideration.

I have visited the brutal concentration death camps and gas chambers in Auschwitz and where mass scale murder of Jews took place. The genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 is a stain on our civilized world. My visit to schools, warehouses and football pitches in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where mass scale killings took place as part of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims still haunts me. Not to forget the dreadful situation in Syria, where Eastern Aleppo has been turned into one giant graveyard. It is beyond human comprehension that how, despite all of our resources and access to information, we can allow hatred for one minority community to reach such low level that people do not hesitate to wipe minorities off the face of the earth.

We must learn the lessons of history to help tackle hatred, racism and demonisation in whatever form and against whomever it may occur in our shared world. It isn’t enough to condemn and move on. The political leadership of the world must take decisive and robust actions to stop the genocide of the Rohigya minority community. It is high time for regional governments to step up to the challenge and address this humanitarian crises head on. Let there not be another genocide in our time.

To donate to the Myanmar Emergency Appeal visit this page

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Council Calls for Action on Social Care Funding


Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, executive member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults at Leeds City Council, recently highlighted the growing funding crisis for adult social care nationally, which had put local authorities and health and care systems across the country under significant strain to meet increasing pressures.

In addition to the huge funding cuts to local authorities – Leeds has seen a reduction of £214m since 2010 – a growing ageing population, the complexity of people’s needs, support for people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, and increasing demand for services, all stress the challenges facing councils across the UK.

Leeds City Council remains committed to increasing its adult social care share. However, significant annual savings are still necessary to meet some of the challenges. The city achieved £56m worth of savings between 2010/11 and 2015/16. Despite the government announcing that local authorities could increase Council Tax by up to 2% per year to help fund the increasing costs of adult social care, this still fails to address pressures on budgets which face increasing demand.

A recent Local Government Association (LGA) analysis estimated that social care for the elderly and disabled could face a potential funding gap of at least £2.6 billion nationally by the end of the decade. Key organisations and groups have warned of the need for urgent action to address the pressures facing social care, and groups such as The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation had called on the government to address the funding crisis in its Autumn Statement. This follows warnings from the Care Quality Commission in its recent annual report that the social care system is near ‘tipping point’.

In addition, leaders of the four political groups of the LGA wrote a letter to The Observer recently highlighting their disappointment at the Chancellor’s failure to address the social care funding crisis in The Autumn Statement, stating the call for action from councils, the NHS and charities was ‘deafening’. The letter also stated ‘the government cannot ignore it any longer if we are to have a society that works for everyone’.

“It is extremely disappointing that the government has failed to listen and respond to the warnings from local authorities, key health and care groups, and from some of its own MPs, of the need to address the funding gap facing social care”, said Cllr Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults. “As a Council, we have had to make difficult decisions over the last few years to mitigate the impact of government cuts and we will continue to do the best we can to protect the services of the most vulnerable people in the city.

“However, as the funding situation for both local government and social care continues to worsen, I think it is critical that the government accepts it must take immediate action and fully commit to properly fund social care, so that we can continue to support older people in the city so that they can live their lives independently and with the dignity they deserve.”



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Imam Qari Asim comments on the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel in France

Qari Asim

The despicable act of murdering an 86 year old Catholic Priest, Fr Jacques Hamel, in Normandy, France, is absolutely abhorrent.

This attack in a place of worship and on innocent worshippers in particular demonstrates that there are no boundaries to the depravity of these murderers. In this extremely difficult time for the Catholic community, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all faiths and none in defiance of those who look to spread a poisonous and perverted ideology by bloodshed.

Daesh / ISIS has proved, as it did in Medina less than a month ago, its complete distain of all faiths including the one it falsely claims it represents.

An attack on any place of worship, is an attack on the way of life of faith communities, and therefore an attack on all of us, regardless of who you are, where you come from and your faith.

Even during the time of a war, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ gave the following instructions: “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.”

One of the Normandy murderers was a convicted criminal with an electronic tag on his ankle after trying to join Daesh in Syria many times. Further investigation needs to take place regarding how he was able to commit such violence.

Faith communities must not let this tragic incident create division between communities, give rise to hatred, fear and suspicion and destabilise the mutual relationship and understating that we have between us. Only together can we defeat this indiscriminate killing of innocent people across the world, and bring about peace and harmony.

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Leeds Post Referendum – Let’s Chalk About It



This Saturday Leeds Post Referendum will be holding a public Brexit street discussion on Briggate.

The group will be engaging passers by and shoppers; generating discussion with games and music.

The event will welcome people of all ages regardless of their vote to join in and help Brexiteers and Remainers understand each other and repair divides.

Let’s Chalk About The EU Referendum aims to provide an accessible space for non-confrontational public discussion exploring impacts of immigration vs austerity in the UK, unpicking reasons for voting and more.

Full details can be found here:








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GCSE Pupils Tackle the EU Referendum Debate at Leeds Beckett Politics Day

GCSE Brexit

With help from a team of local councillors, around 85 Year 10 pupils from schools in the region (Mount St Mary’s, Allerton High, Roundhay, Cardinal Heenan, Lawnswood, Farnley and St Thomas à Becket), attended the ‘Politics Matters’ day at the University’s Headingley Campus.

On arrival, the pupils took part in their own European Union (EU) referendum, with 69 out of 77 of the pupils voting to remain in the EU.

Throughout the day, the pupils gained detailed insight from the Politics and Applied Global Ethics (PAGE) teaching team at Leeds Beckett into the Brexit debate, with PAGE students presenting a debate on the motion: ‘This house believes that the UK government is not doing enough to help in dealing with the European migration crisis’. The pupils voted in favour of the motion.

They were then given tips on how to prepare a campaign strategy before forming groups and putting together their own strategies for leaving or remaining within the EU. Helping them were local politicians Jonathan Bentley, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weetwood, Sharon Hamilton, Labour Councillor for Moortown, Alex Sobel, Labour Councillor for Moortown, and Dawn Collins, Conservative Councillor for Horsforth.

At the end of the day, a panel of judges, including the PAGE staff and Councillor Jonathan Bentley, declared Mount St Mary’s the winning team for their remain campaign, based on the quality of their strategies and presentation.

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