Dear Editor, We are writing in response to the Communities and Local Government’s announcement about citizenship classes for mosques and madrassahs.

Meaningful discussion with mosques is long overdue and the focus on the faith dimension, particularly the Quran and the Hadith’s (stories based around the Prophet Mohammed and how he conducted his life) are a vital part of understanding Islam and being a ‘good Muslim’. This initiative is therefore to be welcomed. However, there are a number of key issues:

It is crucial the madrassahs and mosques chosen to participate in this include those ‘informal’ mosques that are run voluntarily by local community members as well as the larger, well established and more organised ones, that may in fact need less support.

It is surprising and disappointing that Birmingham is not benefitting from the pilot programme, particularly given the high profile anti-terrorism raids in a City where the ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ agenda is a high priority.

We must also remember that initiatives of this nature must be supported by other projects that look to create cohesive communities and must not be carried out in a vacuum. For example, at Ashram we are working with mosques, churches and temples to deliver our successful sports inclusion project in partnership with a broad range of faith-based organisations to bring together children from all backgrounds through sport. This programme must seek to cross existing boundaries, not further entrench them.

As an intercultural agency, our experience shows that the Muslim community wants to make effective and substantial contributions to the wider community, whether that is through education, sport or other programmes. Crucially, the ‘doorstep’ issues that concern Muslims are almost identical to those concerning the wider community, for example better health and education, better community safety etc.

Our work with the Muslim community in the past 5 years, and in particular women and young people, has repeatedly shown us that this section of society wants to engage with a wider community agenda and debunk the unhelpful and divisive mythology that existed about them.

Yes engage with mosques and madrassas – but in the context of engaging across traditional community barriers and not in isolation. After all, a Muslim from Birmingham is as much a Brummie as a follower of Islam.

Ghulam Shabar

Chair of Ashram Housing Association, Birmingham


Suspicion over eco-town technologies which remain unproved

Dear Editor, I have been following the development of the government’s eco-town proposals. I remain suspicious that “zero carbon” and “zero waste” claims will prove superficial and provide a misleading veneer of respectability for the projects.

The proposals for Middle Quinton make liberal reference to technologies such as solar heating, thermal treatment for energy, vacuum waste collection, combined heat and power, biofuel, gasification, renewable energy, ground source heat pumps, solar PV, and emission-free Skygas. Clearly this is an eco-technologist’s dream list. Yet any responsible submission would need to include the number of installations, capital and annual costs, performance specifications (including particularly waste tonnage), payback period, and source of funds. Without these points of clarification the proposals are meaningless and very probably uncommercial in practice.

We also need a thorough risk analysis. Many are immature, unproven and/or cost ineffective. A prime example is plasma waste disposal units. There are many cases of failure of this technology on technical or commercial grounds. The most frightening outcome is a risk of toxic emissions.

The Developers should make available all evidence as to the viability of their technologies. The residents of Stratford District at least deserve transparency.

Dr R D King, Chipping Campden


Doctor Beeching cut to Walsall rail service

Dear Editor, The new train timetable for Walsall is now out.

As expecting that the Walsall-Wolverhampton service has been cut, meaning it now takes an hour (via Birmingham) rather than fifteen minutes to travel to Wolverhampton by train. The Walsall-Stafford services had also been cut and instead trains will go as far as Rugeley Trent Valley where there will be either an 8 minute change to Stafford – or if the train is late an hour on an empty platform.

The introduction from Stephen Banaghan, Managing Director of London Midlands starts: ‘There’s good news for the ‘Chase’ line...’ and forgets to mention that we are returning to the situation where Walsall is cut off from everywhere but Birmingham by rail.

The introduction also says: ‘we’d love to know what you think, so please do get in touch. ’Far be it from me to suggest what people should write, but references to Doctor Beeching might not in this instance be amiss.

Gerald Kells

Follyhouse Lane, Walsall


Birmingham Municipal Bank ‘lost but found’

Dear Editor, Why was it that when I read of Councillor Whitby’s splendid news of a possible return of our Birmingham Municipal Bank I immediately thought to read Luke 15/11.12 about the parable of the Prodigal Son?

To this hopeful [prayed for?] end I have already reclaimed my small 50 year old solid iron BM Bank ‘home- safe’ from the attic... it tinkles still with ancient threepenny bits, trapped in time.

I am ‘Ready and Waiting’ Councillor Whitby.!

My grandchildren, I dream, can now load their 50p pieces and prepare for a fun walk to a local branch where, I imagine, the teller will have a key to open the little door on the bottom of the safebox to allow an avalanche clatter of coins to cascade over the desktop [old variety, not computer – electronic]. There to be counted and credited.

But wait!... Some coins have rolled off and onto the floor, as usual, and on both sides of the counter!... Mr Whitby’s next wonderful step would be to buy out the ‘Cuckoo’ businesses, banks , shops etc’ which took over the handsome Municipal Bank buildings, most of which still grace our High Streets.

Once again we would have our own trustworthy Municipal Bank Branches, fed, graced, and confidently relied upon, by us citizens of this great Second City.

For us ordinary investors there need be ‘no more truck’ with wayward global financiers who have brought the once proud banking profession into mostly sad disarray and unheard of disrepute. Birmingham Municipal Bank, ‘He was lost but now is found’ ?

Albert Cox

Willow Rd, Bournville