Saturday, 18 August 2012

Muslim Communities Facilitator

Nottingham City Council had from around 2009 to 2011, a person in the role of "Muslim Communities Facilitator". BFTF was hugely chuffed to see someone in this role, as it offered a way for ordinary Muslims to engage with the Muslim "leadership" in Nottingham at the periodic "steering group" meetings that they would hold. This was because there were to be a number of community leaders and other stakholders at the meetings.

According to the council webpage for the Facilitator (which has since been taken down), the Facilitator will be “working with Nottingham's Muslim communities to help strengthen and support them in becoming part of a better, more inclusive Nottingham.” and that the Facilitator encourages people to “suggest an item for discussion” at steering group meetings. Additionally, the Muslim Communities Facilitator "can provide more information on ways of getting involved with the work going on in Nottingham, and would also be keen to hear if there are additional issues or priorities that should be considered.

BFTF has raised a number of issues with the facilitator (sometimes via email, sometimes via phone, sometimes both - with responses as shown below:

Aug 2011 - Woodland Trust
Asked to raise the example of The Woodland Trust as an example of an area where the Muslim community can find common ground with the wider society, show a better image of Islam, encourage their congregations to visit our local woodlands and show their congregations that there are non-Muslim organisations that should be supported.
Response: No response received.

Aug 2011 - Community Fund
Asked to publicise the work being done by by Himmah Nottingham in the Community Fund Project. This project can help to combat the perception amongst wider society that Muslim do not want to help anyone other than Muslims and are just interested in asking for special treatment for themselves. The project also sends out the message to the Muslim community that this kind of voluntary work is a commendable act.
Response: No response received.

May 2011 - Biased Media
Asked that the issue of the lack of activity by Nottinghams mosques in responding to Islamophobic content in the media at the next meeting. Offered to help with drafting of emails and letters.
Response: No response received.

May 2011 - Space for women at Nottinghams mosques
Asked whether it was expected that all mosques in Nottingham should allow access to women and, if so, was this actually the case? Also asked for some reassurance that no mosque in Nottingham would treat women in the way that Miriam was treated (See link above)?
Response: No response received.

2010-2011 - Radio Interview
Requested (on a number of occasions) for someone from the Equalities and Diversities Team to talk about the activities of the Muslim Communties facilitator on Radio Dawn (Nottingham's Muslim community radio station)
Response: Whilst the team have said that this was of interest, they did not actually commit to taking part in an interview.

2010-2011 - Email newsletters
Requested (on a number of occasions) for help with the email newsletter that I run – in particular a list of email addresses of the various mosques in Nottingham to improve communication between them.
Response: Having been stalled for the best part of a year, the team said they did not have a comprehensive list and that I should go elsewhere for this information.

2010-2011 - Intransigent Mosques
A number of young volunteers at mosques in Nottingham had said that that some mosque committees actively prevent them from undertaking events such as open days. Asked young Muslim volunteers should do when faced with such problems.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Gaza
Asked to raise the issue of Mosques lobbying against the killings on the Gaza Flotilla as a means of encouraging community activism.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Imams on a Hill
Asked to raise the "Imans on a Hill" project as something that would have multiple benefits for the Muslim community in terms of encouraging Imams to talk to each other, practice what they preach re excersise and showing unity. Imams had shown interest but would not commit to a date.
Response: No response received, but mentioned in a conversation a year later

Jun 2010 - Mayfest
Asked to raise the Nottingham University Public Open day as a common cause where Mosques can encourage Muslims to participate with the wider society in a day of fun and learning.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Acid Attacks
Asked to raise the issue of acid attacks (a spate of which were reported in the media at the time, not necessarily Muslim related) and suggest the Imams condemn this on a Friday Khutbah.
Response: No response received.

BFTF's last communication with the department (in Nov 2011) followed a lengthy phone call where BFTF asked why the response had been so dismal :

"Thank you for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks ago about the issues I have raised for discussion at the Muslim Communities Steering Group. As discussed, I do not appear to have had any significant response to any of these. This is particularly dissapointing given the comment on the Notts Council Website that says "Our Muslim Communities Facilitator can provide more information on ways of getting involved with the work going on in Nottingham, and would also be keen to hear if there are additional issues or priorities that should be considered".

If I recall correctly, you said that a line should be drawn under these and that you would endeavour to provide a better response in the future.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that one reason I am bringing these issues to your door is that there is no other organisation to represent Muslims in Nottingham - or at least no organisation that will reliably respond to a question or request for help from an ordinary member of the Muslim community.

We also discussed the possibility of someone from your department taking part in an interview on Radio Dawn - something that I have been requesting for the last, I think, two years. You said that this was a reasonable request and that you would discuss this with your colleagues to determine who would be best to take part. I do not believe I have had any response from you since then."

One last note
Sometime in 2011 (BFTF thinks) the funding for the Muslim Community Facilitator expired and the post was no longer manned. However, as I could not tell this from the website or email reponses (which were non-existent both before and after the change) this was somthing I had know way of knowing.

UPDATE(03 SEP 12):
Asked a could of local councillors whether I should give up trying to enagage with the council on these issues. One of the councillors very quickly asked to have a meeting to discuss, a date for which is still being organised. The other councillor said they would look into the issue but BFTF has not had any further response from them.

UPDATE(30 SEP 12):
Had meeting with Councillor responsible for the Community Cohesion team. He accepted that the lack of response was unacceptable and asked what BFTF wanted the group to do. BFTF didn't answer this very well at the time but followed up with an email later with three clear "asks":

i) The Community cohesion group commit to providing an answer within 7 days to people who ask for assistance in improving community cohesion - even if that answer is that they cannot help.

ii) The Community cohesion group detail what steps they have taken to implement the recommendations in the report (link here) that BFTF brought to the meeting.

iii) How often, roughly, do ordinary members of the public contact the Community Cohesion department asking for help to implement simple tasks that will improve community cohesion. (i.e. how many people like BFTF are asking the group for help).

UPDATE(01 NOV 12):
No response from councillor so emailed to chase.

UPDATE(05 DEC 12):
No response from councillor so emailed to chase.

UPDATE(02 JAN 13):
Someone who has long experience in the voluntary sector commented to BFTF regarding this post, saying:
" a community activist I have often found council departments and others in officialdom will ignore or side step issues they wish to avoid. Notions of transparency and accountability go out the window. Requesting committee meeting minutes can help and specifically asking that items be raised at com meeting can somethimes help, and if these are not responsed to Freedom of info requests can be submitted but its not easy."

UPDATE(08 JAN 13):
Still do not appear to have receiced any feedback to the "three asks" that I sent on 30th September following meeting with councillor. So chased the councillor about this.Councillor said that a response had been sent b one of his colleagues, but BFTF could not find a record of it in Inbox. Offered to pick up a hard copy from Loxley House

UPDATE(07 FEB 13):
Still do not appear to have receiced any feedback to the "three asks" that I sent on 30th September following meeting with councillor. So chased the councillor about this.

UPDATE(09 FEB 13):
Received a response that answered asks i) and iii) as follows:
"...The Cohesion Team (3 people) have not had any complaints from community groups or citizens before...tracking info from our generic email address ( - between April and September 2012 we received 21 emails from members of the public to this address and 20 were responded to in full within 12 days which is 95% (12 days is the standard performance measure used across Councils)...."

Asked that a response also be provided to ask ii) which was the important one

. UPDATE(15 FEB 13):
Received a detailed repsonse to ii) which has been posted (in an edited form) here

1 comment:

  1. Was the post funded by 'Prevent' by any chance?

    If so I suspect your suggestions were rejected for not being 'terrorism-related' enough.