Dates for assembly

David Self

3 November 21-27 Islam Awareness Week

Established in 1997, Islam Awareness Week aims to combat Islamophobia. This year's theme is Past and Present: 1000 Years of Islam and Britain.

Outline script

Two hundred years ago, an Indian Muslim called Sake Deen Mahomed came to Britain. In 1815, he opened his "Vapour Baths and Shampooing Establishment"

in Brighton. In those days the word shampooing was used to mean massaging.

Although he struggled initially, soon the rich and fashionable were visiting his establishment and, in 1822, King George IV appointed Mahomed as his personal "Shampooing Surgeon". Even so, Mahomed continually offered free treatment to the poor.

These weren't the first customs that Muslims brought to Britain. In the 8th century, all England south of the Humber was called Mercia and was ruled by King Offa (pictured above). Offa not only built his famous dyke as a defence against the Welsh, he traded with Muslim merchants - so his coins carried an inscription in Arabic: "There is no God but Allah."

From the Muslim world, we got our numerals. Until then we had used Roman ones (V equals 5, X equals 10 etc), a system with no zero which handicapped most mathematical procedures. The Arabic world gave us not only arithmetic but also algebra and trigonometry. Test tubes, the compass and the first surgical tools were all pioneered by Muslim inventors.

Muslims also established the first universities - or madrassahs. In a madrassah, the sheikh or professor taught while seated in a chair, assisted by readers. When Britain finally got round to opening universities in Oxford and Cambridge, our professors were "appointed to the chair" of their subject. Assistant lecturers were called readers. Over the centuries, there has been hostility between Western and Muslim empires but also respect for Islamic scholarship. Indeed, it could be said to have provided a foundation for British academic and educational life.

Follow-up Attempt addition, subtraction and multiplication sums using Roman numerals. "Quickly now, what is MDCLV minus CCCIX?"

Islam Awareness Week is co-ordinated by the Islamic Society of Britain, Unit 5, The Whitechapel Centre, Myrdle Street, London E1 1HL. Its website has links to a "virtual classroom" and a comprehensive article about Islam in Britain.


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David Self

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