Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that the hon. Lady knows the answer to her own question. Under the procedures of the House, many Billsgood or baddo not get the time that their promoters and sponsors perhaps think would be sufficient for them.
Mr. Swayne: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can the record show that it was the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), who objected to all three of my highly worthy Bills?
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (MidBedfordshire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you confirm that the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), a Government Whip, has objected to a Bill that has been supported by five Ministers and the majority of the House?
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you not agree, and is there any way of making it absolutely clear, that the Government have objected to this Bill, which would attempt to make it much more difficult for irresponsible teenagers to fire air guns at animals and at people, thereby causing injury? Is it not a disgrace that the Government are against that sort of sensible measure to protect the public?
Dr. Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there any way in which I can show for the record that a Government Whip has just blocked a Bill that was modelled on another that arose out of the terrible Fred West murders case?
Claire Ward (Watford): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there any way in which I can place on the record the fact that the points of order made by Opposition Members today are a pantomime, given that when they were in government they objected to
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (MidBedfordshire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you confirm that Opposition Members and Labour Members have been consistently trying to get the Home Energy Conservation (No. 2) Bill through all its stages during this Session? The Government have gone against the sovereign will of Parliament.
Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. By my reckoning, the Government have today callously killed 33 private Member's Bills. Can you confirm whether that is a record? It strikes me that this Government have excelled more than any other in the heartless and inconsiderate killing off of these Bills, many of which my hon. Friends obviously cared about and took the trouble to bring to the House only to find the hopes of many people outside the House dashed by the Government and the Government Whip.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I cannot answer off the cuff from the Chair the question that the right hon. Gentleman has posed. I dare say, however, that that information can be unearthed with a degree of research.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am conscious that the Government have objected to both the Food Labelling Bill and the Food Safety (Amendment) Bill in the extraordinary calumny this afternoon of defeating more than 30 Bills of good measures. I have a record of taking a keen interest in those particular matters on behalf of my constituents and consumers throughout the country. The Government have always proclaimed, but, clearly, by their actions, they are not prepared to follow through, their concern for the safety of the public in terms of the food that they eat and the protection of farmers' interests
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. First, the hon. Gentleman cannot enter into a debate on the substance of these measures. Secondly, there is still some time left in this Session, and I do not think that he needs advice from me on the opportunities that may be available to raise the subjects in which he is interested.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Since I was elected to the House, a number of Adjournment debates have explored issues of concern to specific communities. Among the most recent was a debate on Sikhs in Britain that was initiated by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). In discussion with my constituents, a series of concerns affecting the Muslim community have been raised with me. I am therefore grateful that Mr. Speaker saw fit to grant me this opportunity to highlight its concerns.
Islam is one of the world's great religions. "Islam" derives from the word for peace, and it involves allegiance to God and to his prophet Mohammed, and the Koran sets out the teaching of Mohammed as relayed to him by God. There are five pillars of the Islamic faith. Shahada is the profession of faith, and salat is the formal act of worship. Zakat is the giving of alms to the poor and is assessed on the basis that all adult Muslims give 2.5 per cent. of their capital assets once a year. The hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim is supposed to undertake at least once in their lifetime. I understand that an estimated 20,000 British Muslims undertake it each year. Sawn is fasting during Ramadan.
There have been Muslims in Britain for centuries. It is worth placing it on record that Britain's first mosque was established in Woking in 1889, and London's first mosque was built in 1941. An estimated 1.2 million to 1.8 million people of Muslim faith are in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 675,000 to 780,000 Muslims actively attending one of the 660 mosques in the UK.
There are three mosques in my borough. The oldest is Harrow central mosque, which has been active for 20 years. It developed from one house that was converted into a mosque, and it gradually extended as other neighbouring properties were bought and adapted. The mosque is used predominantly by Sunni Muslims. The second mosque is in Stanmore, in the neighbouring constituency of the UnderSecretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), and it is used mainly by Shia Muslims. The third mosque, the Mehfil Ali mosque in north Harrow, is in my constituency and it has been in use for 10 years. It is used predominantly by Shia Muslims, and by Sunni Muslims as well. The three mosques serve an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Muslims, who are also served by a variety of other local cultural and social organisations for which a key co-ordinating body is the Middlesex Muslim forum, which was set up two years ago to promote dialogue within local Muslim organisations and between the local Muslim community and decision makers. In particular, I commend the work of Riaz and Razir Esmail for their establishment of the forum and for keeping it as active as it is.
In 1997, the Runnymede Trust published a report, "Islamophobia: a challenge for us all", which described Islamophobia as an unfounded hostility to or dread of Islam. It considered the practical consequences of such hostility. They include the unfair discrimination against Muslims in the provision of services; the violence, verbal abuse and vandalism of property that takes place simply
The Runnymede Trust rightly drew a distinction between unfounded hostility to Islam and an entirely legitimate and democratic disagreement with elements of Islamic faith or particular Muslim organisations or activities. It is certainly not wrong to challenge or criticise the speeches of one or two extreme clerics and the activities of their adherents, but it is patent nonsense to think that they reflect the opinions of the vast majority of Muslims in my constituency or more generally.
As a prelude to a week of articles that explored the depth and breadth of the Muslim community in Britain, the opening paragraph of a leading article in The Guardian a month ago reflected the concerns of many Muslims in my constituency. It said: