BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites

Contact Us


You are in: Suffolk > Faith > Features > Islam: dispelling myths?

Ipswich mosque, Bond Street

Outside the Bond Street mosque

Islam: dispelling myths?

My visit to Ipswich mosque comes at a time when the faith is regularly portrayed as inspiring terrorism and the wearing of the veil by muslim women has been questioned by a government minister. Muslims admit to feeling frustration about their image.

It must also be frustrating that few people seem prepared to learn about your beliefs and try to understand that the vast majority of believers are peaceful and law-abiding.

At Friday prayers I arrived in Bond Street in Ipswich to see a couple of hundred men emerging from the mosque, laughing and gossiping.  Many were wearing traditional clothing.  They cheerfully pointed me in the direction of Mahbab Alam Shamin, who's the chairman of the mosque.

First I should explain about the mosque.  Don’t imagine minarets, impressive domes and inspiring towers – the mosque comprises several rooms that were once part of a fire station plus a portable building.  Bursting with the 400 plus men of many nationalities, many often end up kneeling on mats in the car park to pray.

Pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The rooms are similar to many in run-down churches or village halls in that they're badly in need of decoration and modernisation.

Plans on the wall reveal the ambitious project to replace the old fire station with a modern community centre and eventually a proper mosque. £750,000 is needed to get the first phase completed – and fundraising is underway.

The faith of Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over one billion followers. There are over 1.6m in the UK and around 4,000 in Suffolk. Although there are several types of Muslim, they all believe that there is only one God, whom they call Allah.

According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to teach mankind how to live according to His law. These prophets include Jesus, Moses and Abraham who are respected as prophets of God.

London Central Mosque

They believe that the final Prophet was Muhammad. There are five basic Pillars (or rules) of Islam – the declaration of faith, praying five times a day , giving to charity, fasting, and a once in a lifetime visit to Mecca, where their religion began in the 7th Century with Muhammad living between 570-632 AD.

I had many questions to ask the men and the first was – where were the women? Why was the mosque a totally male preserve?

"It is sad," said Fotik Miah, who's the co-ordinator of the mosque. "But physically we don't have any space for women in this mosque. We are hoping that when we build the new mosque we will have a designated area for women and it will be a family congregation."

I had arranged to speak to Faha Makhdum, a graduate from Ipswich, now working for the Pakistani High Commissioner, to ask her about this very question: "There are many mosques in England and a lot of them do accommodate women.

"I have been to the Ipswich mosque. I was in my late teens and I felt that I was being accommodated for, but you have to remember that as a Muslim girl I chose not to go to the mosque at times because a Muslim doesn't have to go to a mosque specifically to pray.

"Obviously it is encouraged but it's more a community-sticking-together type of thing. In Islam you can pray on the floor – anywhere – on the grass or in a park."

Faha says the current debate over women wearing the veil or hijaab exaggerates its importance: "Statistically only about  0.3% of Muslim women wear a veil.  I personally don't wear it, but I support those who choose to wear it. Absolutely."

Back at the mosque I asked the men what it was like to belong to a faith that is so often portrayed in a negative way that is not in accordance with the beliefs they actually have.

Nural Islam Choudrey, who's the assistant secretary, says it makes him very sad: "This is a very, very peaceful religion. We have been brought up to respect our elders, respect other human beings, respect other beings and we are not even allowed to kill an animal for no reason.

"To turn on the telly and see massacres happening and being blamed on our religion, we feel as though our religion has been hijacked and our identity had been taken away from us.

"People like Abu Hamza have actually been thrown out of their mosques and don't represent Islam."

"My son who is only eight,  he watches TV and sees all these things and he says 'Dad, that's not Islam. These people are not Muslims.'

last updated: 12/06/2008 at 10:02
created: 03/11/2006

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

first of all (barry) muslims do accept jesus christ - muslims believe in all of the prophets including moses and jesus. they believe that jesus predicted the coming of muhammad and that muhammad is the final prophet. muslims belief of jesus christ differ only in that they do not believe that he was cruciefied or killed but that he was acsended up to heaven to be with god until the time of ressurection. muslims have a great respect for all of the prophets but they believe they are all normal human beings that were given divine attributes in order to teach the people the true path and the true meaning of god. muslims believe that all of the books and messages were from god but that the first four books were tainted by opinions from people and institutions so therefore the quran is the only book that is the true and unchanged word of god. how can you reject islam as a religion when it is from god of abraham as is judaism and christianity?! get your facts right! nick - the quran does not say hat christians and jews should be killed. and its fine in islam to marry christian or jews as we are all believers of one god - the god of abraham as the only god. there are so many similarities in the religion and this is why i personally believe that the previous four books were changed by man and the quran is the last warning to get it right. i agree and am so sad that the western media is so pathetic as to portray islam in such a light for the countries own gains. i am even more saddened that western people choose to be brainwashed so easily by such ridiculous stories. look at other religions sub sects, extremists and cults exist in all religions and are equally harmful. islam is about moderation, living peacefully, kindness and good deeds and being realistic. religion, culture, followers of religion - do not confuse the three - they may all have very different bases while all being intermingled. we should learn from the religion - from the many people who follow it properly, not from the few that have got it oh so wrong.

I am a British born white muslim, I converted to Islam for the true faith and belief that there is only one God...Allah. When a Murder or a killing happens on our streets here in the UK, nothing is said about the religion of the person committing the offence unless he is a Muslim !! , then it is Major head line News. What about the Roman catholic, the protestant, the catholic, the aethiest...all do wrong but are never ridiculed for their religious beliefs !!

CALLEN [The Voice]
I want to hear more british muslims speak out against the hothead murderers in their midst who use Islam to further their own evil goals. They are happy to enjoy the liberalism of this country through choice yet use their religion to as a means to destroy our way of life through terror...True muslims why cant I hear your voice condemming these evil people? CALLEN [The Voice]

I have friends who are Christian, Jew, Muslim and atheist, Bhuddist and Pagan. I believe in God and accept the teachings of Christ as my cultural identity and my up-bringing within the Anglican church, but I would not have the arrogance to say that I am right and all the rest are wrong. This is where it all goes wrong. Who's to say that God did not give each people a slightly different way of looking at things to reflect their ways of life and geographical location? Let's concentrate on the commonalities of all the major religions and treat each other with respect as human beings regardless of creed, colour or sex and STOP BEING DIVISIVE.

James Li - Cot
I think Barry Brook Is wrong, my close friend is a muslim and follows islam, ihave known him all my life. I have read islamic books to understand the meanings and teachings of islam. there is nothing about terrorism, islam is based on peace and way of life. Every group of people have their bad seeds, you can only tell them to follow the right path, but not all will follow

Mabon Dane
I blame the media who portray Muslims in a negative light: always the media focus upon the actions of a minority and portray them as representative of Islam. I am saddened by this. Islam is the religion of peace and those who follow the middle way, of moderation, are the true representatives of Islam.

mashuda khatun
the co-ordinaters of this mosque are very hard working. May Allah bless them.

CALLEN [The Voice]
Its a sad reflection on human kind that the concept of any religion is to promote good above evil. good will to all etc sadly history shows us that religion often is hi-jacked by evil beings who use it as a banner for war. All countries/races are guilty of this but I would like to see true muslims in our communities speak out more against the evil doers in their midst who shame Islam with their deeds and so called holy war against the west. CALLEN [The Voice]

yes islam is the true religion

Suffolk college students were invited to vist, and me, being one of them said no.I'm not interested in their beliefs.

Will there be a balancing article on the difficulties of Christians in Riyadh? I think not.It is rather appalling that the BBC spends so much time and effort visiting and revisiting difficulties of Islam in the West, while ignoring the much-greater hardships of Christians and Jews in Muslim countries.

BBC - don't you think you should have edited Barry's rather sad ramblings?

Would a muslim please tell me whether or not the Koran says Jews and Christians should be killed?

Barry broke
and I am astonised that over onebillion people follow Islam.To say it is a peacful is not true.I am a Bible believing Cristian of morethan 30 standing-so i MUST reject their religion,but ammore than happy to speak toMuslims and show them fromthe BIBLE,the error of theirways.I must also insist thatChristianity IS NOT A RELIG-ION but a COMPLETE faith inthe Lord Jesus Christ who isGOD and who they TOTALLY re-ject.I CAN also PROVE fromscience /matematics that theBible is the only book in the world which hasn't a hu-man auther!! But those whocome to search out these tr-uths MUST come with an UNBI-ASED heart and on the groun-ds of faith ALONE!!!!!.....

You are in: Suffolk > Faith > Features > Islam: dispelling myths?

BBC Religion
Diane Louise Jordan


[an error occurred while processing this directive]


Slave notice and Thomas Clarkson

The Suffolk man who campaigned against the slave trade

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy