Muslim event to coincide with July 7 anniversary

Jeevan Vasagar
Monday July 3, 2006
The Guardian


It must count as one of Britain's trickier public relations jobs. Europe's biggest Muslim cultural event opens in London this week and it will coincide with the anniversary of the July 7 attacks.
The festival, Islam Expo, will feature a recreation of an Arab souk and a timeline tracing 1,400 years of Islamic history. Former hostage Norman Kember will be discussing the occupation of Iraq, while BBC correspondent Frank Gardner, who was shot while filming in Saudi Arabia, will talk about reporting the Muslim world.

Other speakers include TV journalist Rageh Omar discussing his documentary An Islamic History of Europe, and the academic Tariq Ramadan on Muslim youth. There will be performances by whirling dervishes, calligraphy workshops, North African drumming and a seminar on Islamic gardening. There will also be a conference on finance, aimed at encouraging Muslim countries to invest in London.

The event has been planned since 2002, and the venue booked last spring, but by chance the festival will coincide with the anniversary of the attacks on the capital. The festival could not be postponed because an advance had already been paid for the venue. Instead, organisers plan to make a virtue out of the coincidence and host a commemoration service to which people injured in the bombings and victims' relatives have been invited.

Ihtisham Hibatullah, a spokesman for Islam Expo, said: "We thought about changing the date but then we said, 'It's not as if Muslims should be held responsible for extremists' actions'. Around July 7 there will be a lot of interest around Muslims in this country, so why not have the mainstream Muslims' voice rather than the fringe?"

The opening ceremony on Thursday will be conducted by Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, and Lord Coe.

Stay tunned, I hear that the Skinheads are going to celebrate Nazism next week and Jewish people around the world are invited!

Give me a break