S. Yorkshire

    Muslim feminists form alliance with mosques to condemn forced marriage


    Feminist campaigners from The Muslim Women’s Network UK joined forces with The Sheffield Federation of Mosques to collectively condemn forced marriages at a special ‘Sheffield Says No to Forced Marriages’ conference. The event at Sheffield’s Pakistan Muslim Centre, South Yorkshire, follows successful awareness raising events held in Birmingham and Rochdale last year.  The organisations were keen to dispel false the assumption that forced marriages are permitted under Sharia Law.

    Shahin Ashraf from The Muslim Women’s Network UK told Asian Standard:

    “Whilst there are many good aspects within our community, we must be aware some practices are harmful.” She said attention must be brought to, “hidden crimes within our communities.”

    Speaking of the joint venture with The Sheffield Federation of Mosques:

    “We work in collaboration with men to address issues.”

    Muslim feminists campaign against forced marriages.
    Muslim feminists campaign against forced marriages.

    Scholar Imam Sheikh Mohammad Ismail, a Muslim Chaplain at the University of Sheffield, stressed how a forced marriage is an illegal act under Islamic law, and must be distinguished from an arranged, consensual, marriage. Forced marriages were made illegal under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in 2014. Previously, courts were only able to issue civil orders to prevent victims being forced into marriage.  In 2015, a businessman from Wales became the first person to be prosecuted under the forced marriage laws. The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was jailed for 16 years when he pleaded guilty to rape and forced marriage after making a Muslim woman marry him under duress.

    South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: “The organisers of this event are to be congratulated for tackling an important but controversial issue within some of our minority ethnic communities. We need to make a distinction between an arranged marriage – where families might introduce young people to one another – and a forced marriage – where someone is or feels compelled to marry another. The law is clear: a marriage must be with the free consent of both parties.

    He said: “Forced marriages may be the result of physical force or emotional blackmail. Emotions are manipulated if it is suggested that someone must marry for the sake of family honour or to avoid shame. Enabling a forced marriage is illegal and the police would take action if instances were brought to their attention.”

    Dr Billings added: “I am not a Muslim and do not read the Quran in Arabic, but in the English version I do read, especially in Sura 4, it seems clear to me that it rejected the prevailing attitudes of the time, where women could be bought and sold like objects, and gave them a new dignity with the right to contract a marriage and property rights.”

    Shahin Ashraf said: “The event highlighted misconception surrounding forced marriages and how these misconceptions led to thinking the act itself was based on religion. The speakers eloquently challenged that narrative. The audience participation highlighted the need for more engagement on issues such as these that affect the moral fibre of our community.”

    Other speakers included the Lord Mayor of Rotherham, Lynsday Pitchley, local councillor Muhammed Ali, Chairman of the Pakistan Muslim Centre Sheffield, and poet Asim Khan.

    The Muslim Women’s Network UK has organised a London conference to highlight the issue of forced marriages on Wednesday 10th May 2017, at 7pm at Royal Nawaab London, Hoover Building 7, Western Ave, London UB6 8DB.

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    Hundreds turn out for funeral of crash victims

    Hundreds of people attended the funeral of the three young men who died in a fatal car crash in Blackburn. The funeral was held at Victoria Park Mosque and the Muslim Heritage Centre in Whalley Range, Blackburn.

    Hamzaa Iqbal, 24, Munib Afzal Karim, 21, and 20-year-old Hamza Gujjar died after the Audi S5 they were travelling in crashed on Wilbraham Road, Whalley Range, Blackburn in the early hours of Wednesday April 27.

    Hamzaa, from Burnage , and Hamza, from Bramhall , were pronounced dead at the scene. Their friend Munib, from Heald Green, Stockport, was seriously injured in the collision and died in hospital the following day. They had been travelling home from Munib’s sister’s wedding when their car crashed into parked vehicles at the side of the road.

    funeral 2Hundreds have also been paying tributes to the three young men online and others have held vigils at the crash site to remember them. Close friends and family of the victims also released a video asking young drivers to take care on the roads.

    Usman Iqbal who is a brother of the victims appears in the video. His message is: “The loss that we felt, the pain that we’re feeling I can’t explain to anybody, but my request to all the youngsters to all the children is to be careful and not to be reckless…. 'cos hand on heart I don’t think anybody would want to feel the pain that we’re going through right now”

    Police have previously said the Audi S5 they were travelling in was going at “high speed”. The Audi S5 hire car crashed into a signpost and two parked cars close to Whalley Range High School for Girls at around 3.15am on Wednesday April 27.

    A 17-year-old who was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving has been bailed until June 11 pending further enquiries. A 19-year-old, who was taken to hospital after the crash, was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence but has since been released without charge. Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses to the incident.

    Anybody with further information can call police on 101, or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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    REGIONAL NEWS: £1.5 million spent by Macmillan Cancer Support in Yorkshire last year

    As 2016 gets underway, Macmillan Cancer Support have revealed that they were able to commit £1.5 million to supporting and caring for those with cancer in the Yorkshire and Humber area, thanks to the ongoing efforts of hard-working fundraisers.

    Francine Tyler, Macmillan Area Fundraising Manager, said: “Because of all your support, in 2015 Macmillan was able to commit £1,531,517 helping to support the 68,600 people living with or beyond cancer locally. This means there are now around 206 Macmillan professionals working in West Yorkshire.

    Events such as the World's Biggest Coffee Morning have helped to raise huge amounts
    Events such as the World's Biggest Coffee Morning have helped to raise huge amounts

    “I just want to say a personal thank you to everyone who hosted or attended coffee mornings, volunteered their time, took part in challenge events, braved the shave, went sober for October, put a pound in a collection box, or held their own events to raise money for Macmillan.”

    One of the latest developments is the opening of a new Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield (part of The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust). The service, which saw an investment of more than £159,000, provides free information and support for anyone with questions about cancer.

    Francine added: “Macmillan’s ambition is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer. By 2030, the number of people living with the disease will have doubled, so it’s a huge task to support each and every one of those in some way.

    “With the support of local fundraisers and volunteers, we can keep supporting services and team up with partners to provide the best cancer care possible here in your community. With your help, we can make sure no one in West Yorkshire has to face cancer alone.”

    If you’re interested in holding or attending a fundraising event, getting involved with a fundraising group or committee, or would like to choose Macmillan as your charity of the year, please contact Francine Tyler on 07850 206343 or ftyler@macmillan.org.uk

    Anyone who has questions about cancer can call the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm or by visiting macmillan.org.uk.

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    BHF estimates 11,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber could be at risk of deadly heart condition

    The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging local residents to support a new Fund to improve genetic testing for families at risk of the undiagnosed heart condition that killed Sir David Frost’s eldest son last year.

    The heart charity estimate that 11,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber could be living with the faulty gene that can cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which led to Miles Frost’s sudden death at the age of just 31.

    The majority of these people are undiagnosed and will have no symptoms. Although most people will live their lives unaffected, tragically, for some it can lead to a fatal cardiac arrest at a young age, often without any warning.

    The family believe that Miles inherited the faulty gene responsible for the condition from Sir David Frost. Although Sir David didn’t die of HCM, his post mortem found the disease was present. Unfortunately, Miles and his brothers Wilf and George were not tested for HCM at the time.

    Miles Frost was 31 when he passed away due to undiagnosed HCM

    Earlier this week the Frost family, in partnership with the BHF, launched a charitable fund in memory of Miles Frost. The family hopes the Miles Frost Fund will stop more families going through the pain of losing a loved one to undiagnosed heart conditions, which kill 12 people aged 35 and under in the UK each week.

    It’s estimated that one in 500 people are born with the faulty gene that causes HCM - meaning around 120,000 people are living with it in the UK. The condition means the muscle wall of the heart becomes thickened, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body. Each child of someone with HCM has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition.

    The Miles Frost Fund aims to raise £1.5 million to set up a national cascade testing service for family members of those who have died of, or have been diagnosed with HCM. This will ensure more people receive the screening and treatment they need to prevent sudden death.

    George Frost, youngest brother of Miles, commented: "The hole left by Miles' death can never be filled. But if we can help prevent other families experiencing something similar it will be a great relief. Miles, we miss you terribly, but you will never be forgotten."

    Thanks to BHF research, many of the faulty genes that cause HCM have been found and a test to identify a gene mutation in family members of those who have died or been diagnosed with HCM is now available.

    However, the roll-out of this genetic test in the NHS is slow, patchy and there is no national coordination of testing for families spread across the UK. This means it’s a ‘lottery’ if family members of those affected by HCM will be referred to an inherited heart condition clinic for testing.

    The money raised by the Miles Frost Fund will be used to establish a national cascade testing service, primarily through funding specialist genetic nurses and counsellors to work within inherited heart condition clinics across the country.  This will help ensure people most at risk are referred for testing by the coroner or their GP and get the treatment that could potentially save their life.

    Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Worryingly, this inherited heart disease can be deadly if undiagnosed. That’s why we need to ensure that people in Yorkshire and the Humber who have a family history of HCM, have access to clinical and genetic testing.

    “Currently, there is no nationwide approach which means your chance of being referred for testing depends on where you live. Sadly, many individuals fall through the net which can lead to tragic consequences.

    “The Miles Frost Fund aims to address this issue and I cannot praise highly enough the courage and vision of the Frost family in setting up this fund.  The money raised will help to establish a UK-wide cascade testing service for parents, siblings and children who could be at risk. Working with the Frost family, our aim is to ensure people who have HCM are identified and treated to prevent a needless loss of life.”

    To find out more about the Miles Frost Fund or to make a donation to support the roll-out of genetic testing for HCM, visit: www.milesfrostfund.com

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    Yorkshire MP backs campaign to protect older teenagers from sexual exploitation

    People who sexually exploit and abuse older teenagers should receive tougher sentences because 16 and 17-year-old's are still children, a Yorkshire MP has said.

    Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion
    Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion

    Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, said the capacity of older teenagers to consent to sex could be “impaired through an imbalance of power between a child and a perpetrator”, as well as by use of drugs or alcohol.

    And she called on Government to help raise awareness of the vulnerability of older teenagers, who were “treated like adults and not afforded the additional protections given in law to younger children”.

    Ms Champion made the comments during a House of Commons debate about older teenagers at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.

    She told MP's: “Yes, 16 and 17-year-old's can give consent to sexual acts, but is it always informed consent? The law does not recognise that in many cases where children aged 16 and 17 become victims of sexual offences, they are coerced into submission by perpetrators who supply them with drugs and alcohol or of whom the young people are scared… The capacity to consent is impaired through an imbalance of power between a child and a perpetrator, and by the young person’s use or dependency on drugs or alcohol prior to the offence.”

    The MP called for sentencing guidelines on sexual offences to be amended to “strengthen the message that targeting children for sexual crimes will not be tolerated and raise awareness of the vulnerability of children of this age”.

    Ms Champion was one of several MP's to speak during Thursday’s debate, which heard calls for action to tackle the huge number of sexual offences against 16 and 17 year-old's that go unreported and unpunished every year.

    The debate was supported by national charity The Children’s Society, which provides a range of services to help young people cope with the trauma of sexual exploitation – and to protect those at risk before they become victims.

    The charity’s Seriously Awkward campaign is highlighting how 16 and 17 year old's don’t get the same protection or help as younger children, despite being at high risk of abuse or harm and in many cases extremely vulnerable.

    Teenage girls aged 16 and 17 are more likely to be a victim of a sexual offence than any other age group, with almost one in ten saying they experienced a sexual offence in the last year.

    And yet research by The Children’s Society shows that police take no action against perpetrators in more than three quarters of reported sexual crimes against teenagers in this age group. Only a tiny proportion of cases result in successful prosecutions.

    Analysis from the charity found that nearly one in ten girls aged 16 and 17 said they had experienced a sexual offence in the last year - equivalent to 50,000 across the country. In contrast, data from 30 police forces in England, suggests that only 4,900 crimes of sexual nature have been reported in the last year where the victim was 16 or 17.

    The most vulnerable 16 and 17 year old's are often at highest risk of being preyed upon. People seeking to exploit them will go to great lengths to target vulnerable young people, using gifts, affection, money, alcohol, drugs - or the false promise of love. Victims are often teenagers in the care system, with backgrounds of abuse and neglect, learning disabilities or with mental health problems.

    The Children’s Society is calling for the law to be strengthened to provide better protection for vulnerable 16 and 17 year old's, and for police to be given greater powers to intervene when a 16 or 17 year old is being targeted and groomed for exploitation, in order to prevent this group being placed at higher risk than younger children. It also wants older teenagers who experience this awful trauma to be given urgent mental health support so they can stay safe and rebuild their lives.

    Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The law should send a strong message that sexual offences against all children, including those aged 16 and 17, will not be tolerated. Too many cases go unreported and unpunished because victims are gripped by the fear of not being believed, or because they are scared of the process or think the offence isn’t worth reporting.

    “We see in our front-line work how these vulnerable teenagers are often not recognised as victims of exploitation, professionals can be unsure or reluctant to intervene, and the police can find it very difficult to bring perpetrators to justice.

    “The law needs to change to recognise the vulnerability of 16 and 17 year-old's. And that change needs to happen now.”

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