Muslim cubs just want to have fun

21st July 2006 at 01:00
On a warm summer night outside the Dar-ul-Isra mosque in Cardiff, scout leader Salaheddin Aboulgasem awaits his cub pack.

The 1st Cathays Al-Huda troop, the first in Wales for young Muslims, which officially opened in March, has been a big success. There are 150 members of all ages, and within minutes two more parents approach Salah to see about getting their sons involved.

Soon Salah, with an assurance beyond his 19 years, leads the boys to a hall behind the mosque and starts the session. Helped by fellow leader Faraz Ali, he divides them into four groups for a mix of fun and games.

Cubs and scouts may have a white middle-class image but Salah, who moved from London to Cardiff three years ago, has been involved in scouting since 1997 and was part of Britain's first Muslim scout group.

"There are now 15 across the UK," he says.

Mark Waghorn, the Scout Association's programme and development adviser, says it is a misconception that the movement is for Christians only.

"There's always room for cultural and religious differences."

Muslim scouts swear allegiance not to the Queen but to God and the country in which they live. Among the beavers, cubs and scouts of 1st Al-Huda are a few white children from non-Muslim backgrounds. But Junaid, aged nine, could speak for most when asked what drew him to the cubs.

"I heard there were lots of activities," he says. "We've been to the Gower where we learned to look after ourselves, washing dishes and cleaning our clothes. My dad used to be a scout in Pakistan."

Ahmed, also nine, was keen to join so he "could learn a lot of stuff, medical stuff, and how you help people".

Apart from the Gower, he has also been to the "Oxford water camp" where he enjoyed abseiling and rock climbing.

Ist Al-Huda recruits come from all over Cardiff. A good turn-out at the recent summer fete saw them raise pound;600 to support their various camps. Some, such as that to Hadrian's Wall, take them a long way from home.

Salah, whose father is Libyan and mother from Bridgend, says the movement supports Muslim values such as citizenship.

"The Prophet says the community should be run by young people with the wisdom of the old," he says. "We have a waiting list of about 40 children - the impact has been amazing. We're now trying to work with the council to support us. We've an excellent opportunity to achieve something here."

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