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The number of Muslim MPs elected to the British parliament is expected to more than double at next week’s general election, and could reach up to a dozen or more.

The election is set to see the first Muslim women members of the House of Commons and the first Muslim MPs representing the Conservative Party.

In addition, Britain’s parliament is also likely to include its first Iraqi Kurd and first Bengali, while there is the possibility also of Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob becoming the first hijab-wearing MP, as already reported by IRNA.

Muslim candidates of various political persuasions are involved in a spectrum of intriguing contests for parliamentary seats around the country in part due to a record 146 MPs stepping down.

Labour has no less than seven Muslims, including three women, defending seats, the Conservatives one and another selected to capture the party’s number one target seat in Gillingham and Rainham, in eastern England.

A Muslim MP is also certain to be elected in Bethnal Green and Bow in East London, the most populous Muslim constituency, where uniquely no less than five Muslim candidates from different parties are vying for the seat vacated by anti-war Respect MP George Galloway.

Altogether a record of around 80 Muslim candidates are standing in the elections and according to the Muslim News, up to 15, or at least double the four, who were all Labour and all male, elected at the last election in 2005.

The elections are the closest for decades with so many uncertain factors and analysis also suggest that Britain’s two million Muslim population will play a decisive influence in the outcome.

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A British Muslim who descecrated a town’s war memorial with graffiti glorifying al-Qaeda walked free from court yesterday – after lawyers ruled he was not a religious extremist.

Tohseef Shah, 21, showed “no remorse” after admitting he had sprayed the words “Islam will dominate the world Osama is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” on a plinth, magistrates heard.

He was seen with an accomplice on CCTV and was later trapped by DNA evidence after throwing away a spray paint can at the scene.

Senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyers watched the footage after a street cleaner found the damaged council memorial in Burton upon Trent, Staffs, last December.

Burton JPs heard the CPS ruled Shah was politically and not racially or religiously motivated. He got a two-year conditional discharge for criminal damage. He also has to pay £500 compensation and £85 costs.

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A school has become the first non-Islamic primary in Britain to get strict accreditation for serving Halal food, it emerged yesterday.

Although it is a non-faith school, 95 per cent of pupils at Daisyfield Primary School in Blackburn, Lancs are Muslim.

In an illustration of the rapidly changing face of Britain, it is the first state, non-Muslim, primary school to get the certificate from the Halal Monitoring Committee.

Although many primary schools in the UK serve Halal meat, they are certified only by the Halal Food Authority.

The Monitoring Committee enforces tougher checks on packaging, delivery and preparation.

Headmaster Peter Fenton, who received the certificate from local councillor Salim Mulla, said: “I am pleased our self-managed kitchen has been recognised as meeting the standards of the Halal Monitoring Committee for purchase, storage and preparation of our meals.”

Moulana Hanif, Halal Monitoring Committee local area representative, said: “I would personally like to thank Daisyfield for taking this very important step towards supplying genuine Halal products to the ­children attending the school.

“We hope all schools will follow, so that genuine Halal products are provided to Muslim children, which is a very important part of our faith.”

Tory MP David Davies said it was important for Muslim children that their faiths and beliefs were recognised. But he warned: “It is also important that we allow the full integration of immigrants. Concentration of certain ethnic groups in small areas does not help that.”

The ritual method of slaughter practised in Islam has been criticised by some animal welfare organisations who claim it causes severe suffering to the animals as they bleed to death.

In 2003, an independent advisory group – the Farm Animal Welfare Council – concluded the way Halal meat is produced causes severe ­suffering to animals.

FAWC argued that cattle took up to two minutes to bleed to death under Halal practice. The chairwoman of FAWC at the time, Judy MacArthur Clark, said: “This is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn’t suffer is quite ridiculous.”

Halal butchers deny that their method of killing animals is cruel.

Majid Katme, of the Muslim Council of Britain, stressed that it is “a sudden and quick haemorrhage. A quick loss of blood pressure and the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain.”

Daisyfield’s move has provoked anger among some locals. One claim on an internet comment board was that it “forced kids to eat Halal meat”. Another said: “It’s the Islamification of Britain.”

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Home Office chiefs were last night accused of pandering to Islam after it was revealed that they handed out a staggering 15 times more funding to a Muslim police support group than to its Christian equivalent.

A furious backlash followed revelations that the Christian Police Assoc­iation received just £15,000 over the past five years while the National Association of Muslim Police was paid £90,000 in the past two years alone.

The newly released figures revealed that the CPA received an average of £3,000 a year, while the NAMP received £45,000 a year, despite both organisations having around 2,000 members.

The information was released by Home Secretary Alan Johnson after a written parliamentary question from his shadow Chris Grayling.

Don Axcell, executive director of the CPA, said repeated requests for additional funding had been ignored. And he disputed the figures the Home Office released, saying the sum they had received was even less.

“The only money we received was £10,000 in 2009,” he said. “We have applied for more funding but have either been turned down or ignored.”

Last night Christian groups reacted with anger after learning of the difference in Home Office funding. Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance, said the move was “yet another sign of discrimination” against Christian groups in the UK.

Mr Craig, a councillor in the London borough of Newham, added: “Christians are constantly marginalised and discriminated against by the Government, who are ignoring one of this country’s principal faiths.”

The money was awarded as general funding or for specific projects. The NAMP received general funding of £90,000 over the past two years, £45,000 from 2008/9 and another £45,000 from 2009/10. The CPA was given general funding of £5,000 in 2004/5 and £10,000 in 2009/10.

The NAMP was formed in July 2007 and hit the headlines in January this year after it said the Government’s anti-terrorism strategy “stigmatised” Muslims.

President Zaheer Ahmed said the money was carefully regulated. “We do not get it in a lump sum. It comes every quarter and we do not get the next instalment unless the Home Office is satisfied our accounts are in order.”

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A secular Muslim woman councillor has been forced to dress more conservatively after receiving death threats and sexually harassing phone calls from members of her own community.

Shiria Khatun, 38, has called in the police over the sinister calls in which threats were made not only against her, but also her four young children.

In one they warned they would dig up parents’ graves and bury her there instead.

The Labour councillor in the controversial borough of Tower Hamlets—named in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last week as a centre of Islamic fundamentalism—is considered one of the area’s most progressive politicians.

She was elected in 2006, worked for Ken Livingstone as a transport adviser at London’s City Hall and frequently campaigns for more Muslim women to enter politics.

However, over the past year she has been the victim of a “sick” harassment campaign. She has been bombarded with anonymous calls and even followed home.

At first she was “too embarrassed” to call the police, but when the threats, mostly made in the Bangladeshi dialect Sylheti, targeted her family she decided to act.

She said: “As a councillor I’m meant to be a strong woman and I didn’t want to show that I was bothered, but it’s gone too far.

“They’re really disgusting. They would talk about my Western clothes, my tight jeans and my body parts.

“One man said—and it sounds much nastier in Sylheti—‘I know where you live and I’m going to come and show you and your kids’. I just hung up.

“I really thought it was a pervert, but then it started to get more intense. My parents died when I was young and the callers must know that because they said they would dig up their graves and bury me inside. I think they’re sick.”

Following the calls, she started wearing more loose-fitting traditional Asian clothes and glasses instead of contact lenses to be “taken more seriously”.

She said: “I didn’t even realise that I was giving into them, but my skirts started getting longer and the whole thing left me demoralised.

“Other Muslim women have advised me to dress down because of rumours within the Bengali community, mostly men, criticising me for being too Western looking.”

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The BBC has learned that large numbers of women who come to Britain from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh say they have been abused by their in-laws.

Many are deported when their marriages break down, because they could not prove the abuse took place. Police say the incidents are not being reported because of family pressures, and fear.

This woman who did not want to be identified has told of her experience of domestic abuse. See the video here.

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The Muslim prison population in England and Wales has sharply increased in recent years. The BBC’s Ushma Mistry hears from former inmates and prison officers who claim gangs of Muslim prisoners are an increasingly powerful force.

“Muslims run it. Muslims run the prisons and there’s nothing the screws can do about it. For a Muslim you’d say it’s good but for a non-Muslim, it’s very, very bad,” a former inmate called Jay says.

‘Jay’ has spent many years inside various prisons in the South of England. It is a claim which is backed by former prison officers and other inmates.

Jay, 24, is a Muslim and has been in and out of prison for most of his life. He openly admits to helping to convert non-Muslim inmates to Islam and has meted out violence against anyone who dares to “disrespect” his religion.

He first went to prison when he was 15 and said there were hardly any Muslims inmates back then.

“At the beginning not many knew about Islam. There weren’t many converts. The mosque was empty, but nowadays jails are run mostly by the Muslims,” he said.

“There are certain brothers that convert purely on the basis that they read Islam and they want to believe in something that does good for them. Then other people because they want to be looked after.

“I’ve been in jail five times and on my last occasion, I’ve seen jails being run by Muslim inmates.

“Muslim prayers on a Friday are very, very busy. In some prisons there’s no space. In one jail I was in, they do the prayers in two sessions because there’s no space.”

Muslims represent 12% (9,795) of the prison population in England and Wales, according to the latest available figures from 2008. This has risen by 50% over five years.

In some high security prisons, the figures are well above average.

In 2008, Muslim prisoners accounted for a third (34%) of prisoners in HMP Whitemoor, in March, Cambridgeshire, and about a quarter (24%) of inmates in HMP Long Lartin, in Evesham, Worcestershire.

Speaking anonymously, a former prison officer, who worked at HMP Long Lartin, told the Donal MacIntyre programme about cases where non-Muslim prisoners were seriously assaulted and intimidated for refusing to abide by unofficial rules imposed by Muslim gangs, about eating pork or listening to Western music.

“Muslim gangs was something I was very concerned about – the situation changed where underworld gangsters who used to keep discipline and order were no longer in charge in the prison,” she said.

“The younger guys, who were being forced to convert, were doing it more for protection from a Muslim gang rather than follow the faith – most of them weren’t interested in the faith.

“I knew one lad quite well who was approached by the radical Muslims, and he changed. He just seemed very frightened all the time.

“He used to be forced to pray at certain times and I know for a fact they would be woken in the middle of the night to pray.

“He even grew a long beard even though he didn’t want to. I asked him why he grew the beard and he said ‘It’s survival miss, survival'”.

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