Asmay’s Islam in Victorian Liverpool

I’m glad to say that our annotated translation of Yusuf Samih Asmay’s unique Ottoman Turkish travelogue about Britain’s first mosque community in Liverpool from 1895 is now out, which also features a long scene-setting analysis of the text, alongside key archival documents and short biographical notices of key members of the Liverpool Muslim Institute. It was a team effort by myself, Riordan Macnara and Münire Zeyneb Maksudoğlu. Conducted entirely through Google Docs and WhatsApp, it was a rewarding and intense period of translation, archival research and writing in the second half of 2020.

You can get hold of the book…

Yahya Birt summarizes Ed Husain’s latest diatribe on British Muslims, so that you don’t go through the rigmarole of reading it yourself.

Ed Husain’s Among the Mosques

I had low expectations, but with his Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), Mr. Husain has managed to lower the bar even further, which I suppose is some kind of achievement.

Ed Husain’s latest screed on British Islam is a mashup between a Thomas Friedman in-depth ethnography via Uber, V. S. Naipaul’s gothic horror of all things Islamic, and a “brown sahib” reworking of post-Brexit English nationalism. In lieu of a review that it doesn’t warrant, I offer this brief visceral reaction instead.

When his first book on British Islam, The Islamist, came out in…

The Big Picture: Daily Deaths from COVID-19 in the UK are now matching those of Italy’s at the same respective stage in the spread of the infection in each country (Day 0=5 fatalities or less).

There has been a general move over recent weeks from leading Muslim community organisations to put forward or least keep open the option to perform major ablutions (ghusl) of the deceased, which is an obligation in Islamic legal terms, in the case of those who have passed away due to the COVID-19 infection.

Negotiations at a national level were undertaken by the National Burial Council (NBC), and their leadership in this process was recognized by other key national stakeholders. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) and the British Board of Scholars and Imams (BBSI)…

Picture 1: Fuad Nadhi, officiates at the wedding of Yahya Birt and Fozia Bora in 1997 with his usual style and aplomb.
Picture 1: Fuad Nahdi, officiating at the wedding of Yahya Birt and Fozia Bora in 1997 with his usual style and aplomb.

In Q-News, Fuad Nahdi created the most consequential UK Muslim publication of its day and helped shape how a whole generation of young Muslims saw their identity and faith. He should be remembered alongside Shaykh Abdullah Quilliam and Dr Kalim Siddiqui as among the great journalists-cum-activists that British Islam has produced, writes Yahya Birt.

It is hard to think of life as a Muslim in Britain without recalling the presence of Fuad Nahdi (1957–2020) within it, may God have mercy on him, as he touched so many of our lives, directly and indirectly. His passing is devastating for myself and…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that stubborn mosque committees or charismatic sheikhs with loyal followers are laws unto themselves. No one can argue with these august men whose knowledge, piety and motives are beyond reproach.

For the most stubborn, suspicious and distrusting of them, no argument will work. No finely-honed Sharia argument. No health risk assessment. No legal liability as trustees. No government advisory. They will only shut the mosques when ordered to do so by the government, at metaphorical gunpoint.

The pleas of the national and city-wide umbrella bodies are falling on deaf ears in too many cases…

Glasgow Central Mosque was one of a number of leading British mosques that suspended services last night (Wednesday 18 March 2020) in respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Yesterday evening saw a spate of meetings across the United Kingdom between mosque councils, medical professionals, local authorities and other stakeholders about the coronavirus. These included Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham, London and Scotland (where the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Hamza Yousaf and Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer wrote directly to imams yesterday strongly advising them to suspend mosque services).

There were wrenching scenes: senior scholars and mosque devotees were in tears at having to leave mosques they have prayed and worshipped at for many years for the very first time. Trustees were strongly advised that they had a legal duty under charity…

Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham is one of the few leading British mosques to have closed its doors in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic as of 18 March 2020.

So far it is depressing to report at the time of writing that most mosques have decided to stay open albeit it with what are frankly inadequate restrictions. These will be ineffective in preventing mosques and madrasas acting as means for the coronavirus to be spread by people who are asymptomatic (i.e. who have the virus but who are not yet showing symptoms).

A few leading mosques around the country have taken the decision to close — for example, two in Birmingham, Ghamkolvia and Green Lane Mosque, Cambridge Central Mosque, Al-Rahma Mosque in Liverpool, Manchester Central Mosque, Didsbury, and Shahjahan…

Malcolm X addressing students at the University of Manchester, 4 December 1964. Sat behind him from left to right are Hoossain Rajah, FOSIS Treasurer, Salim al-Hassani and Ebrahimsa Mohamed, FOSIS General Secretary.

An appeal to Muslims in Britain and Muslims worldwide to share memories, photos and documents of Malcolm X’s visits to Britain in 1964–5.

The nationalists have claimed Malcolm. The socialists have claimed Malcolm. It’s time for you Muslims to claim Malcolm, because he was a believer. — Dr Betty Shabazz to Imam Zaid Shakir

On the fifty-fifth anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, may God have mercy on him, we should make a renewed effort to reclaim the history of Malcolm’s time with Muslims in Britain. Despite the avalanche of scholarship on Malcolm over the years, there is very little attention…

Yahya Birt

Community historian of British Muslim life

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