Representatives from West Midlands Police attended a Ramadan celebration hosted in a Birmingham church that banned women from attending, according to a local newspaper.
Billed as a “community meal” to “share food and share friendship” the Taste Ramadan iftar was hosted in a Birmingham church hall in Yardley earlier this month. Promoted by Birmingham Live, the newspaper described how the event had been opened up to the public for the very first time and was being attended by members from several local churches, Liberal Democrat councillors Neil Eustace and Babar Baz as well as representatives from West Midlands Police.
“We have people from all religions and communities coming together,” Mohammed Yasin, one of the organisers from Stechford Mosque, was quoted as saying before adding “we hope to see people there from all walks of life.”
But if the sentiment up to that point radiated inclusivity and positivity, Mr Yasin’s final comment at the very bottom of the article struck a rather more contradictory tone.
“This is a male-only event and the church has a capacity of 100 people,” he confirmed.
When contacted for comment, West Midlands Police and councillor Eustace refused to comment on their attendance.
Influential Church of England blog Archbishop Cranmer has criticised the decision to host the gender-specific event and accused St Edburgha’s Church of discriminating against Yardley’s female population.
“How could they entertain a “community iftar” on church property which excludes half the community?” they wrote.
“Why should a few Pakistani or Bangladeshi men be permitted to discriminate against Yardley’s 33,000 women? Would St Edburgha’s have hosted a straight-only event, or a white-only event, or an able-bodied-only event? If not, why host a group which discriminates on the basis of sex?”
The blog also claimed that church leaders could have breached the Church of England’s own equality policy.
They added: “Didn’t anyone at St Edburgha’s bother to ask Qamar Abbas or Idrees Sharif why the church hall had to function as a mosque for the evening? Didn’t anyone wonder why the hall had to be claimed and dedicated to the Dar al-Islam? Because if they were determined to impose sharia compliance on church property there was actually no obligation on St Edburgha’s to accept the booking at all, for religious organisations are permitted to discriminate in certain circumstances and refuse hire of property to certain groups in order “to avoid causing offence to members of the religion or belief that the organisation represents”. In this case, an iftar was hosted which conflicts with the Church of England’s own equality policy: it was incompatible with the church’s essential mission to convey to the nation that men and women are made in the image of God and are worthy of equal respect and honour.”
St Edburgha’s Church also refused to comment when contacted for comment.
Standing up for those without a voice in Britain