Friday, 30 November 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 611
  2. United Kingdom 534
  3. Russia 319
  4. Germany 168
  5. France 129
  6. Spain 81
  7. Italy 67
  8. Netherlands 48
  9. Ukraine 38
  10. India 37
This week's total: 2,032 (last week: 1,999). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Twist in reenactment's tale
Next year's powerful reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus in the city centre promises to tell the Easter story in a different way to previous years.
The Christ in the Centre event, held each year on Good Friday, will be given a new twist by children's author Meg Harper.
It will be based on her play, The First Easter, which has been performed in both the UK and US.
She has joined the event's producers and is writing fresh scenes to extend the original script, which will premiere at the event in Easter 2013.
It is also the first year the play will be staged twice in one day.
Rev Stephen Foster, Anglican chaplain to Leicester University, and joint chairman of the event's organising committee, said: "One of the strengths of performing this in the heart of Leicester's shopping area is the opportunity to bring the true Easter message to a much wider audience than we have done before.
"We hope holding the second performance in the afternoon will increase the effectiveness of this outreach."
The event's organisers are also asking anyone who would like to be part of this year's religious reenactment to attend one of the two casting workshops being held in December.
Casting workshops will take place tomorrow and on Saturday, December 8, at St Andrew's Community Hall, in Jarrom Street, Leicester.
Both workshop sessions begin at 11am.
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, welcomed thousands of people to last year's event, which cost £40,000 to stage.
Hoards of spectators packed out Humberstone Gate and joined in prayer before watching the traditional Bible story unfold – with some audience members being brought to tears by the powerful narrative.
The play's new artistic director, Sarah Chiswell-Hornett, creative projects producer at The Castle Theatre, in Wellingborough, has been tasked with recreating the passionate atmosphere of the event.
She said: "We want the event to be a community-based telling of the Easter story, using a combination of theatre and music, which will bring people together in the heart of Leicester."
The play's writer Meg Harper has previously penned scripts for similar events in Warwick, where her story The Day They Killed The Son of God was performed on Good Friday in 2007.
This year's performance of The First Easter will take place in Humberstone Gate, at 10.30am and 2pm.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Take a long, hard look in the mirror
I was dismayed to read the letter from T Green ("I no longer feel at home in my city", Mailbox, November 22), one of several recent letters and online comments from people jumping on the Clarissa Dickson Wright bandwagon.
Thankfully, I have also seen more sensible letters from Ann Collins and Eddie Sentance, among others, reflecting the true face of Leicester people and the common decency and human compassion that most of us share.
Firstly, in response to T Green, I hate to break it to you, but you appear to be suffering from a bout of xenophobia.
Take two visits with friends to an Indian restaurant and perhaps a place of worship, followed by a long, hard look in the mirror.
If symptoms persist, contact your nearest library and try reading a few good books. Before long, you will discover that humans of different ethnicity are biologically identical and that different cultures – like languages – are not something to be afraid of, but something to be embraced.
You have to make a bit of an effort in order to understand something that's a tad different to what you're used to. Good luck with your recovery!
As for poor Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the things she said in her widely-reported remarks was that she once got lost in a part of Leicester and none of the Muslim men would talk to her.
Well, to be honest, I'm not Muslim myself but if fox-hunting enthusiast Clarissa Dickson Wright came barrelling towards me on a Leicester side street, I would probably ignore her too.
On a serious note, I did find her comments about Leicester to be both idiotic and exaggerated.
But it was one particular phrase that really caught my attention, where she casually questioned whether or not multi-culturalism works.
Now, of course, I don't have enough column inches here to run through all the reasoned arguments as to why multi-culturalism does work, has worked and will continue to work in the future. (Or for that matter to try to give Clarissa Dickson Wright and all her fans a much-needed education).
But for the sake of brevity I will simply say this: St George was an Arab, the royal family is German, our national dish is Indian and some of our most gifted Olympians are of African descent.
Questioning multi-culturalism is akin to questioning evolution – both are part and parcel of the human story.
The sooner we accept that and move on to creating for ourselves a life of purpose and fulfilment in this increasingly globalised society, the better off we'll be.
Sundip Meghani, Leicester city councillor


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Take a one-way trip to the seaside
My response to T Green, of Leicester, who no longer feels at home in his home city:
Can I make a suggestion that if this individual does not appreciate the rich diversity of Leicester, then maybe a one-way ticket to Skegness is a favourable option?
Andrea Burford, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Soulsby and co can't face reality
I initially wrote a letter responding to the article about Clarissa Dickson Wright, but considered it would not be published, although it voiced a real concern and the view of many whose voices are being muted. I decided not to post it.
It was, therefore, refreshing to see the Mercury would print such views and having read the letter by T Green, I wish to support the views expressed.
Ms Dickson Wright touched on the reality of what is happening to Leicester. Ibrahim Mogra, Manjula Sood and Sir Peter Soulsby all have their heads in the sand and cannot accept the truth when it is put in front of them.
Like the magic suit of clothes, it takes someone whose views have not been clouded by the progressive indoctrination of multi-culturalism to see the reality of the enclaves of this city.
I do not judge the situation from a one-off visit to the city, as Ibrahim Mogra would have us believe, but from a lifetime of seeing a city I once knew becoming a complex of enclaves.
John Croft, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
I do not feel at all privileged
T Green's excellent letter is absolutely correct. Parts of this city are now mono-cultural ghettos and I can well understand Clarissa Dickson Wright's apprehension when she found herself in one.
T Green also states: "I am fed up with this council... forever going on about how we all live in harmony and take part in each other's festivals and celebrations; no we don't!"
I made the same point in a letter to this newspaper last year when I said: " I am sick and tied of being regularly told how privileged I should feel to be living in a multi-cultural harmonious well integrated society. I am not and I don't".
Younger readers might find the raison d'etre of this letter hard to understand because they have never known the Leicester of a few decades ago. Now, of course, they never will – that's sad.
Don Tallis, Wigston


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Differences just human nature
I have to agree with some of T Green's comments about harmony and toleration ("I no longer feel at home in my city", Mailbox, November 22).
However, he/she may have lived a more sheltered life than I and have fewer multicultural genes. (I have only been in Leicester for 40 years, with an immigrant background. My gran was Irish, great-granddad Scottish and goodness knows about the rest. I haven't had a DNA test).
There are parts of the city that are monocultural and appear to be inhabited by the stereotypical Brit.
Some of them wouldn't tolerate me – even though I look like them – any more than would the wealthy hunting brigade or people that live in very large houses in "posh" areas.
I have difficulty communicating with both cultures – they are nothing like me.
Sometimes their accents and vocabulary can be tricky and I have no idea what they are saying.
They wouldn't want to know me, any more than Welsh people did when we visited Wales years ago. I realised then what "shunned" really meant.
On the other hand, I worked with and employed people from different origins. Some I liked, some I didn't, but it was generally harmonious and most problems were caused by people's personalities and nothing to do with their ethnicity.
People don't like/understand foreigners, don't like people in the next city, don't like people in the next town, the next road, next door, their brothers and sisters.
Generally people tolerate each other, particularly in Leicester. As homo sapiens go, being a vicious lot, that is something to feel a little bit proud of.
And, I confess, we went to the Diwali concert at Curve and really enjoyed it – a lovely safe, family occasion.
Deirdre Harrow, Leicester


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Campaign urges Muslims to give blood, save lives
Muslims living in Leicester are getting ready to give blood and save lives as part of a national campaign.
The Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign aims to increase the number of regular blood donors from Muslim communities by holding donor drives in 10 cities across the UK.
A donor session will take place at the Leicester Blood Donor Centre, in Vaughan Way, near Highcross, on Sunday.
The annual campaign, named after a seventh-century Islamic martyr, is organised by the Islamic Unity Society (IUS), a charity set up to promote the integration of Muslim communities within wider British society.
Hasnain Karim, IUS Leicester Blood representative, said: "The immense demand for donors of rarer blood groups, from people of wider ethnic backgrounds, is overwhelming.
"A single blood donation has the potential to save three lives. It can be broken down into three component parts – red cells, white cells and platelets.
"Red cells can be used to help treat people with anaemia, platelets are often given to cancer patients having chemotherapy and white cells are used to treat burns victims.
"So far, 20 people have signed up to this year's drive, but people can still register by contacting myself or coming along on the day to find out more."
Theo Clarke, of NHS Blood and Transplant, Leicester, said: "It's great to have such an opportunity to work with the Muslim community in promoting blood donation.
"Often, rare blood groups are more common within certain ethnic groups, so encouraging people with rarer blood types to donate is a challenge."
To sign up for this weekend's donor session, call Mr Karim on 07725 135617

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
One sided view
What makes Great Britain, this wonderful place where we live, so great is democracy – in other words the right to voice your opinion without fear.
Clarissa Dickson Wright did this and has been pilloried for it. Every word she spoke as far as I am concerned was the truth.
But unfortunately there is a section of the community in Leicester who have no wish to hear other people's point of view.
I am fed up with everything being one-sided. I believe in live and let live but as far as I can see it's we live and you'll live how we say you can. When I was growing up I was told when in Rome do as the Romans do. The older generation will recognise this saying but it certainly does not apply these days.
H Appleton, Wigston


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Are some more equal, Bishop?
Heaven knows how the Bishop gets so muddled and inconsistent in his thinking! On the one hand, he bemoans the latest "no women bishops" vote in the Synod because he wants the Church to be inclusive.
And yet he's still of a mind to deny homosexuals the right to marry. Let's please remind the Bish that you can't be a little bit in favour of anti-discrimination – you're either for equality or you're not! You can't pick and choose if you want to remain credible.
Mark Sperry, Leicester

Monday, 26 November 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Thousands join Sikh holy day celebrations in Leicester
Thousands of people lined the streets yesterday to celebrate the birthday of the founder of the Sikh religion.
Brightly-decorated floats led a parade of up to 15,000 worshippers from the Guru Tegh Bahadar Gurdwara, in East Park Road, Leicester, to the Guru Nanak Gurdwara at Holy Bones, near St Nicholas Circle.
The Nagar Kirtan event, which has been staged in Leicester for more than 20 years, marks the birthday of the first Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
For Harbhajan Singh, 70, from Rowley Fields, it was a very important day.
"It is like Christmas day for us," he said. "There is lots of singing and praying all over the world."
The celebration began with prayers and hymns at the Guru Tegh Bahadar Gurdwara, before the procession took three hours to snake its way through the city.
Food stalls lined the route, pumping out songs to the passing crowds.
Manjit Kaur from the Narborough Road area attended the temple with her 10-year-old son, Vikram.
"I think like all celebrations, it has become more commercialised and has become more about coming together and being with family," the 37-year-old said. "But still, it is a very important day because it is the celebration of the first Guru's birthday."
Vikram said: "I think my favourite part is the food."
Worshippers carried on the celebrations with more prayers and food at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara.
Grace and Sharanpal Singh from Braunstone Town, were there with one-year-old daughter Heer.
Dad Sharanpal, 30, said: "Today is very important.
"We will have prayers in the gurdwara and a community meal together."
Wife Grace, 27, said: "It is the one day where you get to see all the people from the community together."
Kabeer Singh, 28, from Oadby, was there with friends, carrying flags as part of the parade.
"It is a bit of a get together with old friends," he said. "A bit of a party."
Nagar Kirtan is the second of two religious processions by members of the Sikh community in Leicester every year.
The first is Vaisakhi, the religion's new year, in April.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Seventh and final day of our week-long exhibition in Highcross for Inter Faith Week. It might be a wee bit confusing that it's day seven of our exhibition on day eight of Inter Faith Week - a "week" lasting ten days in all, from Sunday 18 to Tuesday 27 November. Just hang in there - it's almost over!

Due to an administrative error, three people turn up for the first shift (1100-1300) but none for the second (1300-1500). Revd David Clark (former Assistant Secretary of Leicester Council of Faiths, photo below) phones me to let me know this, just as Tony Nelson and Yasmin Surti leave after doing two hours together on the display. I've no issue about having an extra person on the exhibition on Sunday morning, which would surely be on of the busiest periods of the week. But under no conditions could we leave our display unattended.

Since David started his stint late this morning, he's happy to wait until I can get there, meaning there's no time at which it's left unattended. I hadn't planned to be at the exhibition today until right at the end, to pack it all away at 1700. This is particularly so as the kids are with me this weekend and I'd had them at the display for a couple of hours yesterday. However, I've no option but to call a cab, bundle Harry, Gracie and her school friend Ellie into the back of it and hightail it to Highcross. We arrive shortly before 1400, in time to relieve David.

Shortly before 1500 I'm joined by Kash Bhayani, whom I met on the Holi Yatra Walk in March this year. Kash had pencilled himself in for several shots on the exhibition earlier in the week, but for one reason or another, he'd had to cancel each one of them. I'm glad he gets to join in near the end.

Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, pays an unexpected visit to our exhibition shortly around 1530. He's able to stay and chat for a quarter of an hour or so. In the photo above, he's adding his own contribution to the collection of thoughts and feelings left by visitors and volunteers throughout the week (with Kash on the right of the picture). In the photo below, he's hanging his label on the tree. What did the Mayor write? Ah, that would be telling, faithful reader ...

For an hour or so this afternoon, we’re joined by Ambrose Musiyiwa, who takes several photos which he has posted on Facebook under the guise of Civic Leicester. Some of his photos are used in this blog post; others are sprinkled throughout these reports about our exhibition in Highcross during Inter Faith Week.

Here are some of the dreams, hopes, prayers and wishes that were written on the labels and hung on the little white tree on this final day:
I love multicultural city
Change is the law of nature but human values of love, respect, care, non-violence shouldn't change
May we all be forgiven our transgressions by the God we believe in
Be honest and kind and helpful to others
I wish to be truly able to see the God in everyone 
I want people to know the abundance they have - Kash
"Recognise the human race as one" - Guru Gobind Singh, Sikh Prophet
Health and happiness for 2013

Two young Muslim fellows turn up bang on 1700, tell me that they'd heard about the exhibition, had been looking for it and want to volunteer fronting it for a couple of hours. I take their details and tell them I'll be in touch in time for next year.

Within 20 minutes everything's packed and being trundled back toward the Welcome Centre. Thanks to Harry, Gracie and Ellie for lending a hand right at the end.

Saturday, 24 November 2012


Sixth day of our week-long exhibition in Highcross for Inter Faith WeekJon Ashworth MP (Labour, Leicester South) makes a scheduled a visit to the exhibition at 1400.

I'd been contacted by Jon's office before the start of Inter Faith Week in response to my invitation and asked to gather together a few members of different faith communities with whom Jon could chat for half an hour or so. Friends from the Bahá'í, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities respond to the invitation and turn out to meet him.

Jon made a similar visit to our Highcross exhibition during Inter Faith Week last year (see blog post, 26 November 2011). We're glad that he continues to show his public support in this way. He speaks in a supportive and sympathetic manner to those attending, and his words are well received. Since he speaks about the going importance, relevance and significance of the Council of Faiths to the city and people of Leicester in these troubled times, I decide to take the bull by the horns and talk to him about our crisis of funding. I think he's shocked to hear how precarious our situation is right now and offers his assistance in whatever way he can to help us navigate our way through our current peril. I'll be making sure we take him up on that!

Shortly after his visit, Jon tweets (along with the photo at the top of this blog post) to his more than 5,200 followers:
Just dropped by the Leicester Inter faith week stall in Highcross. Good to see lots of interest
The photo at the top of this blog post shows Jon hanging his label on the tree - which is getting pretty crowded by this point. Next to him is Cllr Manjula Sood, Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths, also together in the photo above.

You can see how Jon's visit is written up on  his own website. Between three of us - Jon, Radhika Madhani (his PA) and me - we put together a press release for the Leicester Mercury, sent it to their newsdesk ahead of time and asked for a photographer to cover Jon's visit to the exhibition today, but they didn't bite.

Saturday is a very busy day in Highcross, as you can imagine. Thanks to those who covered the bases today: Yasmin Surti (0900-1100); Mohamed Esat, Allan Hayes (1100-1300); Nimesh Bhogotia, Karandeep Singh (1300-1500); Jasdeep Singh Lamaar, Sukhwinder Kaur - in photo above (1500-1700); Manjula Sood (1700-1900). Harry and Grace do their bit too (photo below).

Today one of the members of the Council of Faiths asks which of the Jewish communities in Leicester I belong to: the Orthodox or the Progressive. Another recently expressed the assumption that I'm Catholic. I've also been asked if I'm a Jain. I wonder what I might be doing that leads them to their conclusions? Given my role with the Council of Faiths, I'd consider it inappropriate to foreground my personal faith. That would be improper, since I'm employed to serve the Council of Faiths as a whole and each of its member communities equally. On the one hand, I've never denied or hidden what I am, or done any kind of dissembling about my own beliefs. On the other hand, I believe I'd be abusing my position if I did any kind of special pleading for my own faith or the community I belong to. I'm not surprised that some members of the Council of Faiths don't know what religion I am - and that's alright.

Here's a selection from the dreams, hopes, prayers and wishes left by visitors and volunteers on the branches of our little white tree today:
Peeps have peace all around the world
I wish for a Ferrari
Violence is not the answer!
I pray other faiths can understand each other
Love from Notts! A, R, D
Smile and th world will smile with you xxx
May there be peace in the world. May ever you be fulfilled [sic]
I wish for a 50CC go-kart
Let's have a good Xmas and celebrate as one - LNP
I just want to thank ou the pepol who help us
Make love no war [sic]
Let's continue to celebrate our diversity and cherish our common humanity - Jon Ashworth MP


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby: "Let's resolve scout hut row"
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby says he hopes to resolve a long-running row over the lease of a former Scout hut before Christmas.
For months, some residents of Thurnby Lodge, Leicester, have been protesting against Muslim community group As-Salaam's plans to take over the disused building in Nursery Road.
They have been gathering outside a nearby community centre used on a daily basis by worshippers from As-Salaam.
A residents' group, The Forgotten Estates, said it would like the building to be open to the wider community, not just Muslims.The Scout hut is on council-owned land.
A debate was held at the Town Hall on Thursday, triggered by the submission of a 1,500-signature petition against As-Salaam's plans.
Mohammed Lockhat, spokesman for As-Salaam, said: "I would urge you to finalise the lease with As-Salaam as a matter of urgency as your delay only serves to increase tensions within the community."
Mr Lockhat told the council As-Salaam members were regularly harassed and intimidated by the protesters.
He handed over a 3,700-name petition supporting the group's takeover of the Scout hut.
However, it was not formally accepted as it only carried certain details of the signatories.
As-Salaam said people were too afraid to add their full details.
Sir Peter said: "I do hope this can be brought to a speedy solution.
"I would hope that it will be resolved before Christmas."
He acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and thanked the representative of both As-Salaam and The Forgotten Estates for taking part in discussions with him.
A proposed package has been drawn up, though details have only been released to interested parties.
Forgotten Estates spokeswoman Maxine Williams, of the Stirrup Cup pub, said the group's committee did not condone the intimidation of As-Salaam members.
She said after the meeting: "I can understand how they feel.
"It can be intimidating but any protest like this will attract a certain element. We want the protests to be peaceful and amicable."
She said the group had been raising money and was now in a position to take over the Scout hut lease.
It would aim to use it for a boxing club, dance groups and as a gym.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 645
  2. United Kingdom 517
  3. Russia 347
  4. France 123
  5. Germany 98
  6. Ukraine 82
  7. Spain 57
  8. India 51
  9. Poland 47
  10. Netherlands 32
This week's total: 1,999 (last week: 2,016). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


Fifth day of our week-long exhibition in Highcross for Inter Faith Week.

First on duty today are Anne Fishenden (member of Leicester Quakers and Chair of Leicester SACRE - Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) and Michelle Benn (from Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation). This is Anne's second go this week; she was also here on Monday, the first day of the exhibition. Michelle took part in our exhibition two years ago and I'm glad that she's been able to join in again this time. She's going to be part of a multi-faith panel in the next session of the Christians Aware / Faith Awareness course on the Beatitudes at Christchurch, Clarendon Park, this coming Monday evening. We get the chance to chat for a few minutes about that (which is good, as I'm slated to be chairing that session).

After Anne and Michelle, we have Allan Hayes (from Leicester Secular Society) Janette MacDonald (Secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Leicester). Like Anne (above), Allan has done a couple of hours already, on Monday.

Following Allan and Janette, from 1400 to 1600: Tony Nelson (of Leicester Hebrew Congregation and Treasurer of Leicester Council of Faiths) and Rashmi Vyas (of Leicestershire Brahma Samaj). It's clearly a day for repeat business, as Rashmi was here for a couple of hours yesterday.

And as if to prove that point, Deirdre O'Sullivan, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Leicester School's of Archaeology and Ancient History (which produced the Mapping Faith and Place in Leicester and the Leicester Faith Trail), is back after her earlier stint on Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, due to an administrative mix-up, she's one of the few volunteers this week who ends up doing a session on her own (1600-1800). But she can take it - she's a veteran now (she did a couple of sessions last year too).

Julie Ann Heath (from Leicester Cathedral) and Jasdeep Singh Lamar (of Leicestershire Sikh Alliance) cover the last shift of the day (1800-2000).

A selection of the messages hung on our tree today by visitors and volunteers:
I don't necessarily believe in God ... but I have faith in ONE LOVE
I wish for self-fulfilment
May all beings be happy and free from suffering
Thank you for all religions - Iona age 9
I hope that racism stops #saynotoracism
Wish all the people lots of love from the angels
RIP Tommy and Harry xxx
World peace
Better year than 2012
God bless everyone at Christmas

Thanks to Ambrose Musiyiwa for the pictures top and bottom of this post - and for many more photos from our Inter Faith Week exhibition which he has posted on Facebook under the guise of Civic Leicester.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Sikhs hold a day of prayer
A prayer day was celebrated by the Sikh chaplaincy at a hospital.
The prayers were said at Leicester General Hospital to commemorate the forthcoming Guru Nanak Dev Ji – birthday of the first Sikh guru – for the good health of all patients as well staff at the city's hospitals.
The event was organised by Sulakhan Singh Dard, volunteer Sikh chaplain at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
It was attended by representatives from Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Guru Amerdas Gurdwara, Ramgaria Gurdwara and other Sikhs from the hospitals' chaplaincy.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Chef's experience deserves sympathy
Having read the article ("Fury at star's comments on city muslims", November 16) regarding the comments made by Clarissa Dickson Wright about her experiences with certain members of the Muslim community in her latest book, I must admit that my sympathies in this case are with her.
Leicester does have a fair-sized Muslim community, as well as numerous other religious groups and foreign nationals, and as such, multi-culturalism has got to be the order of the day if people are to co-exist together in relative harmony.
This, however, does not mean that sexism and downright rudeness from either side of the divide is ever acceptable, regardless of religious tradition or the interpretation of such traditions made either in religious texts or simply handed down verbally from generation to generation.
Miss Dickson Wright points out in the article that none of the men would talk to her because to them she was an English female, and in their culture they do not talk to females they don't know.
In my experience, Leicester's Muslim community is just as helpful as any other when being asked for directions or aid, but then again I am a man and Miss Dickson Wright is a woman.
I must admit that if I had been treated with the same amount of apparent discourtesy and rudeness from virtually everyone I asked directions from, then I would not be afraid to say so, or who to point the finger of blame at.
Also, let us not forget that Miss Dickson Wright was born into a time in English culture when courtesy, respect and good manners ruled the day, and the term 'political correctness' had not yet replaced them.
In a multi-cultural society, exceptions to some traditional rules have to made, and a good rule of thumb surely has to be this: "To be courteous and helpful to any one in distress regardless of race, gender or any other social difference."
Rather than chastising Miss Dickson Wright for having the backbone to express her displeasure over such downright rudeness, surely it would be much better for representatives of the Muslim community to apologise for the behaviour of the small minority that she encountered, and to invite her to sample the excellent delights of Muslim culinary dishes with perhaps the hope that she may write yet another book extolling the tastes of a true multi-cultural tradition.
Alan R Pendragon, South Knighton


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Women bishops discrimination
The much maligned Human Rights and Equality Acts ban among other things gender discrimination, so how does the General Synod of the Church of England, whose head is our Queen, justify its refusal to allow women bishops?
This glass ceiling is illegal and the CofE should be prosecuted.
This ludicrous ruling comes hard on the heels of the death of a 31-year-old pregnant woman in a Belfast hospital who was refused a life-saving abortion on, would you believe it, religious grounds.
I wonder if the doctors responsible for this poor woman's death sleep well at night and would they have made the same decision if one of their own children was in a similar predicament?
Truly, God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
Don Tallis, Wigston


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Protest at Curve was a disgrace
On the evening of November 16, I and some friends went to Curve theatre where a demonstration took place against a performance by a group of Israeli dancers.
The behaviour of the demonstrators was an utter disgrace, bringing disharmony to a city known for harmony.
Their shouts and chants were full of hate and anger. Even if they are right in their opinion that Israel is an apartheid state (a position I reject), how can that be the fault of a group of talented dancers simply seeking to earn a living and use their abilities around the world?
"Shame on you" was shouted at people going into the Curve. Shame on the demonstrators I say!
David Evans, Leicester


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Day of activities highlights choices for disabled people
Paralysed former rugby player Matt Hampson and disability minister Esther McVey joined more than 2,000 visitors at an event for disabled people.
They helped officially open the Choice Unlimited event at Leicester Tigers' Welford Road stadium on Wednesday to show what equipment and services are available.
It included displays of electric wheelchairs and vehicles, a Formula One racing car simulator and demonstrations for young people by the Leicester Cobras wheelchair basketball club.
Exhibitors representing employment, education, health and social care showed visitors the sort of services they could provide and a theatre area was set up for a speed networking session, workshops and a young person's question and answer time.
The event was organised by the Leicester Centre for Integrated Living and topics discussed included the Olympics and Paralympics.

In the photo above, left to right: Matt Hampson, Esther McVey, Steve Cooper (CEO of Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living) 

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Emma Craig-West, Gurbz, Sheri Paige
Fourth day of our week-long exhibition in Highcross for Inter Faith Week.

First volunteers on the display this morning are Emma Craig-West, one of my longest-standing and supportive friends from the earliest days of Creative Coffee Club onwards (on the left in the photo above) and Sheri Paige, Vice President, Student Welfare at De Montfort University Student Union (on the right). Standing between them is a visitor to the exhibition this morning - Gurbz (AKA Mistah G). He and his sister, Anita Kang, will be holding a fashion show charity event in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, in July 2013. I chat with Gurbz about their proposed fundraiser, and about how things went down at Choice Unlimited II in the Tigers Stadium at Welford Road yesterday.

It's a busy morning, especially around the little white tree. Emma's good at drawing people in and encouraging them to write their dreams, hopes, prayers and wishes on the labels. In the photo above, she's with boys from the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.

John Florance, from BBC Radio Leicester, arrives around 1100 to do a feature about the exhibition. He records a few minutes with me and with Sheri (photo below). Emma has conveniently gone off to the Post Office. John asks me for a quote about the Church of England Synod's vote on women bishops. After stalling him for a while in the hope that Emma (a church-going Anglican) will come back in time to say something interesting on the subject but it falls to me after all. When I tell John that there are eight different religions represented on the display, and that for seven of them (and for a lot of the Christians too) the vote on women bishops isn't of much importance, he switches off his microphone and asks if I could say something a little more interesting that he can use in a segment that he'll be doing at noon on the topic with Barbara Butler and Stephen Foster live in the studio. So I tell him that, as a discerning consumer of social media, I've found the blogs and tweets about the subject over the past day or so very interesting. When he asks me to pick out the most interesting, I reference Ruth Gledhill and Giles Fraser on Twitter, with brief mention of what they said.

Sheri Paige, John Florance
I'm not on the rota for this morning and came down so I could be here when John turned up. While I'm happy for him to record stuff with the volunteers, but it wouldn't be right to leave them alone to do a radio interview. Neither am I on the rota for the 1200-1400 slot, but one of the volunteers has cancelled, so I stay on to provide cover.

Dr Angela Jagger, member of the Board of Directors and former Secretary of Leicester Council of Faiths is on duty here for the next couple of hours. Angela was my tutor on an Open University Course that I took way back in 1992, "The Religious Quest". Next time I met her, some 15 years later, she was a member of the interview panel for this current post.

Sherry Fulloway, Angela Jagger (and John Coster)
Angela is on the right in the photo above, along with Sherry Fulloway, whom I know from the Christians Aware Monday evening courses at Christchurch, Clarendon Park (and John Coster, Editor of Citizens' Eye Community New Agency lurking in the background).

Angela is on the right in the photo above, along with Cherry Fulloway, whom I know from the Christians Aware Monday evening courses at Christchurch, Clarendon Park (and John Coster, Editor of Citizens' Eye Community New Agency lurking in the background).

Malika Kraamer (who curated the marvellous Suits and Saris exhibition at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery earlier this year) and Kate Dawe (from Victim Support) are volunteering on the exhibition from 1400 till 1600. Kate has brought some leaflets about Hate Crime which we put out on the table.

Ruth Fraser, Noel Singh
Kate and Malika hand over to Ruth Fraser of Leicester Quakers (whom I first met on the recent Walking Pilgrimage round Clarendon Park) and Noel Singh, Policy and Partnerships Manager at at Leicestershire County Council (photo above) at 1600. I pay a flying visit to the exhibition on the way to a meeting of Leicester SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) at Mayflower Primary.

When I return from SACRE, Bev Farrand and Angela Lynn Hunt (from Leicester Cathedral) are on the final shift. They might have been talking about the women bishops vote; but then again ...

Beverley Farrand, Angela Lynn Hunt
Here are some of the messages that visitors and volunteers have hung on the tree today:
I would like my daughter to grow up as a Christian. I would also like my family to succeed in most things
All faiths please get together
Doesn't matter if you're black or white, just smile
Society to work together in peace and harmony - one LeicesterI pray for peace and good health to all people
We teach our children that we are the same on the inside. When the world remembers this lesson, wars will finally end and we will find peace.
Hope my son has a good safe future
Wish peace and prosperity in our family
Happy Christmas from PJEA young boys
I wish health, wealth and peace for my family and the world