As we launch into 2016 with our various MWAE projects we are grateful to have celebrated out 10th anniversary working with our Edinburgh community. Alhumdholilah, despite 2015 being a difficult tear for Muslims around the world, we have continued to develop our projects locally for the women of Edinburgh and their families and raised funds for those in need here and elsewhere; May Allah swt ease the hardship of our dear Brothers and Sisters suffering injustice and poverty around the globe...Ameen.
Extraordinary political incidents in Paris at the beginning and the end of the year have left Muslims shocked and saddened. Our work to promote our Islamic values within our community by educating our women and children has become more important than ever. Through our activities we are able to engage with the wider, non-Mulsim community and last year this gave us a chance to counteract the negative images and news proliferating in the media.
Toddler group: more than just play
Our toddler group went from strength to strength: starting in January with Elizabeth Lymer's Song and Storytime sessions and then continuing with volunteers Khadijah and Husna providing a welcome to all mums coming to enjoy the firendly playtime for their young ones. The newly carpeted floor and proper toy cupboard both make the Exhibition Hall of Central Mosque a pleasant space to use. For a short while, Dads from our community ran a session of the Toddler group on Saturday mornings facilitated by MWAE.
There have been crochet sessions at the Toddler group as well as outings to Soft Play centres. We have also been able to give support to our mums against race-hate crime. A visit from Community Police Officer, Maz, has given our women reassurence that they will be supported if they report any incidents and one report has led to the Police formally charging a person who racially abused one of our sisters.
Chair Samena Dean saw this through and has initiated the Central MOsque being estabilished as a Third Party Reporting centre again.
Learning the fun way
Our newest group, Little Muslims, has been a great success for 4 to 6yr olds. The Sunday morning classes have been very popular and we currently have 5 dedicated teachers helping the children start learning Quranic Arabic. Most importantly the children are encouraged to have fun as they learn with games and art activities to supplement their lessons.
Tasneem Ali who oversees all the groups and runs the weekly Homework Club makes it possible for the sessions to run smoothly. MWAE have established a good working relationship with Edinburgh Central Mosque where most of our group sessions are held but we are lucky to have other centres like Iqra Academy and Annandale Mosque who also help us to host events on their premises.
Our other established groups are also doing well. Activ8 is the Teen Boys group and that continues to give the boys a chance to enjoy sports and socialise once a month with supportive volunteers. Barakah Youth Group enjoys sessions in school holidays as well as monthly sessions including 'The Environment and Recycling'. Children had fun learning and discussing Islamic topics as well as social issues. It is particularly lovely for MWAE to run these sessions in the winter holidays at Central Mosque when everything else is all about Christmas and consumerism.
July saw the marking of the massacre in Sebrenica attended by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Prayer of mothers of Srebrenica:
May grievance become hope.
May revenge become justice.
May mothers’ tears become prayers... that Srebrenica happens again to no one and nowhere.
We Are 10!
In September we joined our 10th anniversary party with a wonderful Eid al Adha gathering. Thanks to our wonderful volunteers we enjoyed delicious food as well as nasheeds from the Little Muslim group and a women-only fashion show.
A visit from cookery writer Laila El Haddad on 10thOctober was welcomed by MWAE at the Mosque Kitchen. Working with Hadeel/Palcrafts, MWAE hosted a cookery demonstration and book signing by our Palestinian sister who was impressed by the huge stirring spoon used by the Mosque Kitchen to prepare their curries!
The tragic stories of refugees drowning in stormy seas inspired Edinburgh folk to hold a rally in the City centre saying clearly: “Refugees Welcome!” MWAE joined the rally on 3rd October and, Alhumdholilah, there were many more people saying “Welcome!” to refugees than racists trying to spread their message of hate that day. It has always been important to our organisation that we join rallies and work with groups like Unite Against Fascism and Stop The War when they are supporting Muslims. Our Muslim community need their support and we take pride in working with them.
Multi cultural Celebration
Our “Love Culture Hate Racism” event on 24th October was the third annual one we had held at St Peter's Church Hall. This event has become a truly wonderful multicultural celebration with food, music, henna handpainting, storytelling and stalls from the local community including Greek, African, Japanese, Palestinian and Peace and Anti-racist activists. We are lucky to have the support from Edinburgh South Central with a community grant for the event as well as their information and library stall at our event.
Gardening is good for your health!
Our collaboration with Greenspace Trust has led to a community garden project which was launched at the end of 2015 but will take form in regular gardening sessions at Central Mosque through 2016. We very much look forward to delivering this project which should benefit the people taking part as well as the look of the Central Mosque garden area inshAllah.
Along with many other like minded groups, MWAE joined in organising to get help to refugees stranded at Calais through fund raising as well as collection of clothes and food donations. This project constantly changed and developed as the needs of the refugees changed.
At first MWAE worked with ReAct to prepare and distribute Welcome Packs and other necessary items to refugee families and individuals coming to Edinburgh over the weeks. Chair Samena Dean, soon identified a need for the Syrian refugees to meet one another. Working with Edinburgh residents from Syria, MWAE were able to hold a social for Syrian brothers and then two more socials for families. These proved valuable for the refugees to make contact with people and groups they could get help from. MashAllah now the Syrian group is able to organise such socials and networking session themselves.
The other important group MWAE are pleased to work with is Scotland Against Criminalsing Communities (SACC). We worked closely with SACC in 2015 to put together the Islamophobia 2015 Conference in December.
Just before the conference was due to take place, the second attacks tragically hit Paris. Following an alleged “reprisal” attack on Bishopsbrigg mosque in Scotland, MWAE were alarmed to hear of of two school visits to Central mosque being cancelled and the second school saying the Council had advised it.
Press Officer, Zareen Taj, contacted Shelia Paton, the City of Edinburgh Council's Senior Education Manager. We were able to get a statement from Shelia encouraging schools to visit Edinburgh Central mosque saying “that through 'Time for Reflection' our young people learn about other faiths and about Islam in particular; the visits to the mosque underpin this and are highly valued.” The schools cancelling had been a misunderstanding caused by the climate of fear that had arisen after the Paris attacks and fuelled by biased media coverage.
As a result of action taken by MWAE the second school to cancel their visit actually rebooked and visited the mosque after all. We also brought this incident to the attention of our Edinburgh City Councillors. A group of them arranged to come for a tour, with MWAE, of the mosque as a show of solidarity and enjoyed a meal at the mosque kitchen. This visit was reported on in the local press.
The links made with the Councillors during this episode meant that Cllr Melanie Main offered to open the Islamophobia Conference on behalf of the City of Edinburgh. Samena Dean and Tasneem Ali both spoke at the conference about experiences with Islamophobia personally and our experience as an organisation with the racist Scottish Defence League in Edinburgh. The conference and the impending implementation of the controversial Prevent strategy were featured in the Sunday Herald the day after.
The year ahead
Plans for a “Scots for Palestine” event with Edinburgh Friends of Al Aqsa are under way for Jan 2016. Our other groups will continue as publicised.
We hope that throughout 2016 MWAE will continue to serve the community and educate and empower our women and children. We hope to facilitate activities for other groups whenever we can and work with the wider Edinburgh community as we have always done.
2015 has undoubtedly been a busy, productive and indeed a difficult year for all.
We have made it through and feel with the support of our volunteers and our friends in the community, we will be able to face the challenges ahead inshAllah!