Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Plain Cigarette Packaging

Australia (which BFTF is always minded to pronounce as Auuussstrraaaaliaaaa in the style of a famous 1980s BT advert) recently introduced draft legislation that would remove all branding from cigarette packaging as part of efforts to reduce the level of smoking in the country.

The response of the tobacco industry was to launch a multi-million dollar campaign against the changes. Simon Chapman (Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Australia) has summarised the arguments of the tobacco industry before, very easily, demolishing them in a article in the New Scientist. In essence, the tobacco industry suggests that :

a) there is "no real evidence" to support the policy
b) Use of plain packaging would represent a "seizure of their intellectual property"
c) Plain packaging would result in a rise in counterfeit cigarettes

This is of relevance to the UK because the Government here is also considering similar legislation. A government report earlier this year (report earlier this year ("Healthy Lives, Healthy People") contained a number of disturbing statements suggesting that the government was taking the views of the tobacco industry seriously.

In turn, this has provoked BFTF into writing the following message (with slight amendments as required) to both Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health (web form here) and to Stephen Williams MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health (email : stephenwilliamsmp@parliament.uk)

Dear Mr Williams
I would like to thank the Government and the APPG on Smoking and Health for setting targets for smoking reduction (as outlined in the Healthy Lives, Healthy People report of 9th March this year) and hope that you are able to achieve the reductions aimed for.

One aspect that does cause concern, however, related to proposals for plain cigarette packaging. . .

I note that the “Healthy Lives, Healthy People” report expresses concern regarding the efficacy of plain packaging, the increased risk of counterfeiting, and the issue of “competition, trade and legal implications”. Simon Shapman (professor of public health at the University of Sydney, Australia) has discussed some of these issues in a recent article in New Scientist (“Time to pack it in”, 30th April Issue, P22). As you are no doubt aware, Australia has released draft legislation to remove branding from cigarette packaging.

Efficacy
Regarding the efficacy of plain packaging he points out that, in Australia, Tobacco companies have poured some $10million into “a proxy campaign against the plan. . . from the hitherto unknown ‘Alliance of Australian Retailers’”. He adds that many Australians are wondering “if it won’t work, why is the industry bothering to waste its money campaigning to hard against it?”

Perhaps most persuasive are the words of a 2008 cover story in the Trade Journal ‘Tobacco Journal International’ which simply, and presumably accurately, said “Plain Packaging can kill your business”

I could go on – and on – regarding this point, but I hope that is not necessary.

Counterfeiting
Mr Williams, I would not wish to insult your intelligence by pointing out that the world is awash with counterfeiters who can mimic Levi’s jeans, Rolex watches and even entire Apple Computer Stores. They are unlikely to find the manufacture of a small cardboard box graced with a Silk Cut logo a particularly difficult hurdle to clear.

Legal Issues
According to Mark Davison, professor of law at Monash University in Victoria regards the intellectual property argument of the tobacco industry as being, “so weak, it’s non-existent” and that while WTO rules prevent others from using a trademark, they do not provide an absolute right to use it yourself.

In summary, I would encourage the APPG on Smoking and Health to resist the misleading arguments of the tobacco industry and submit legislation for plain packaging at the earliest opportunity.


A message was also sent out to a number of local mosques suggesting that this was an area where common cause could be found with the wider society in achieving a social good and that the mosques may wish to send similar messages to lobby for plain packaging on cigarettes. Doing so would not only help to achieve this social good but would also demonstrate to the Muslim community that this kind of action is very much part of being an active British Muslim.

It does not really need stating that politicians are much more likely to pay attention to a community organisation (such as a mosque) than they are to individuals.

Dear Reader, perhaps there is an issue of some kind that is concerning you - if so, perhaps you would like to consider directing your complaints towards the people who can make difference (MP's, organisations etc). . .

UPDATE (12 SEP 11)
Recently received a response from the Department of Health which stated that the Government had:
"taken full account of all the concerns raised by all those with an interest in this issue – retailers, the tobacco industry, as well as public health and NHS practitioners and organisations".

It goes on to say that the Government believes that the changes strike the right balance between:
"the expected public health benefits in the long term, with mitigating burden on business at the current time.

Regarding the issue of plain packaging, the response merely repeats the Governments position by stating:
"The Government has an open mind on plain packaging and will explore the competition, trade and legal implications and the likely impact on the illicit tobacco market of options around tobacco packaging."

Overall, the response does not give me a sense that there has been any process of engagement, or that the specific comments made by BFTF regarding plain packaging have been taken on board.

UPDATE (10 SEP 12)
With the legislation having been in place for several months now, BFTF wondered what the effect had been, so asked the DoH and also a local supermarket. Feedback hopefully coming soon.

UPDATE (03 OCT 12)
Recently received a response from the DoH:
"The legislation ending permanent open public displays of tobacco products is being introduced because there is evidence that tobacco displays in shops can promote smoking by young people and undermine the resolve of adults who are trying to quit. People who smoke and are addicted to nicotine will continue to be able to buy cigarettes and tobacco in the normal way. There is, therefore, unlikely to be a large immediate effect on tobacco sales. The aim is to help to protect future generations of children from unsolicited promotion of tobacco through product displays.

You may also be aware that the legislation will not be implemented in the majority of smaller shops until April 2015. Clearly this phasing will also delay the overall impact of the legislation. However, you may also be interested to know that the legislation includes a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to evaluate the effect of the legislation by April 2020."
Update Jan 2015
It's now over THREE YEARS since this post first started to cover the issue of plain cigarette packing, and it sickening that the UK government STILL hasn't introduced the relevant legislation - a tardiness that has not been seen in many other areas of Government health policy.

So exasperated has the UK's medical community become that some 4,000 health professionals have recently signed an open letter to the PM and Health Secretary concerned that PP legislation will not be introduced before the election, as had been expected.

Five times as many signed the letter as had signed a similar open letter supporting a ban on smoking in cars, a measure that the government, in contrast, will actually introduce.

The letter points out that:
"over half a million children have taken up smoking since the government first announced it would consult on plain standardised packaging of cigarette packs in 2011 and every day hundreds more join them”.

and also dismisses government claims that delays are due to the EU.

Meanwhile, in Australia, recent research looking at the effect of the 2012 introduction of plain cigarette (PP) packaging in Australia (see here) concludes that :

"Since implementation of PP along with larger warnings, support among Australian smokers has increased. Support is related to lower addiction, stronger beliefs in the negative health impacts of smoking, and higher levels of quitting activity."

The report also notes that support from smokers to the packaging changes has increased from 28% before the change to 49% today, with the strongest support was among smokers who intended to quit.

Co-author David Hammond comments that:
"The study adds to a growing evidence base that will reassure regulators that the sky will not fall if they introduce plain packaging, as the tobacco companies have suggested".

Monday, 29 August 2011

Update : Palm Oil in ASDA "Best for Baking"

Updated this post about Palm Oil in ASDA "Best for Baking" with a further response from ASDA (See end of post for update).

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Recipe - Easy Mackerel Curry

Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work. So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it a "MegaHertz Menu". . .

Easy Mackerel Curry

Sadly, BFTF is too incompetent to cook lamb or mutton successfully, and feels uneasy about the conditions that chickens are reared in so shies away from that as a dish. As dal is also beyond BFTF's abilities that leaves fish as the only protein source that BFTF dare tackle (no pun intended).

Overfishing is a real issue worldwide, but one way can ensure you are buying fish that has been sustainably caught by buying products that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified.

There are a number of posts on this blog relating to Fish and sustainability (see here and here).

With MSC certified mackerel being available in most supermarkets, this dish is an easy one to make

240g mackerel fillets in tomato sauce (i.e. two of the small rectangular "ring pull" cans)
1 chopped onion
200g peas or mixed veg
salt, pepper,
a little oil


Boil the peas/mixed veg for 4-6mins (NB you really don't need to add much water at all and less water equals less time to get to the boil)

Get the mackerel out of the cans and onto a plate, chop up the fillets a little

Fry the onion in the oil until nicely browned. While this is happening, drain the peas/mixed veg)

Once the onions are brown, add the mackerel and the peas/mixed veg. Give it a quick stir to calm things down.

Add the salt and pepper, give it a good mix.

Serve.

Perhaps surprisingly, this dish makes a great sandwich filling and also goes well with Potato Dauphinoise


The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

BFTF Washing Up Index

Whilst they may be great chefs, there is one aspect of cookery that Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver or Gordon "I can swear for England" Ramsey are always strangely silent on - the Washing Up.

Just as some dishes are easy to make and some are hard, so some dishes result in virtually no washing up at all - while other produce washing up that requires the use of jackhammers and a gritblaster to sort out.

Perhaps those celebrity chefs lead a charmed life, where there is always someone else to do the washing up - but BFTF (and no doubt yourself, dear reader) has to live in the real world where it would be good to know what the washing up implications of a particular dish were.

To help out with this, BFTF has compiled a "Washing Up Index", which is shown below. All the recipes on this blog will include a "Washing Up Index" rating, so that you know where you stand.

BFTF "Washing Up Index"
VERY HARDLots of stuff stuck to plates and dishes, significant soaking may be required, likely to clog sink
HARDLots of stuff stuck to plates and dishes, likely to clog sink
MEDIUMGood clean required but everything breaks up easily and does not clog sink
EASYSome care and a little elbow grease required
VERY EASYLittle or nothing to wash, everything comes off easily
It would be great to know if you have any dishes that have unusually low or high Rating on the Index. . .

Recipe - Potato Dauphinoise

Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work. So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it a "Binary Bistro". . .

Potato Dauphinoise

BFTF is a fan of potatoes - not least because they are so spectacularly easy to cook that even BFTF can do it without making a mistake.

Having said that, BFTF was wondering about new ways to cook potatoes recently and became aware of this French recipe (don't ask how because BFTF has no idea, although it may have been featured on a Jamie Oliver programme). It's widely available on the Internet and seems to come in two flavours (as it were)
a) Pre-boil the potatoes (about 40mins cooking time)
b) Make everything in one shot (about 90mins cooking time)
It may come as no surprise that it is version (a) that is described here. . .


1-5-2.5kg potatoes (cut into 2-3mm slices)
500g double cream
500g full fat milk
250g grated cheese (mature cheddar is good)
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic paste

Bung everything (except the cheese) in a large pan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Stir gently and frequently until potatoes almost cooked, about 15mins

Transfer to greased oven dish and add cheese (either in alternate layers with the potatoes or all on top)

Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C and cook for a further 15-25mins

Serve

This dish goes really well with Easy Mackerel Curry


There are two types of people in this world,
the sensible ones who like their Potato Dauphinoise with a crispy cheese skin. .  . .

. .  . and the weirdos who don't !




This dish is rated as "VERY HARD" on the BFTF Washing Up Index, so don't say you weren't warned. . . .

Paper Sourcing at Igloo Books

Deforestation is a worldwide environmental issue. It results in the destruction of irreplaceable communities of plants and animals, as well as contributing to climate change, increased flooding risks and decimation of the livelihoods of the native peoples who live in forested areas. Some more of the background to this problem is described in this recent post.

Feeling unable to buy an interesting book because there was no evidence that it had been printed on paper made from sustainably grown trees, BFTF sent off the email below:
Dear Igloo Books,
I'm hoping you can provide some information on your policy regarding the paper used in your publications.

Some years ago, I decided to stop buying new books as I did not want to be supporting the destruction of the worlds natural forests to produce the paper used in these publications. Instead, I started buying second hand and from charity shops.

I recently saw a interesting book published by yourselves at my local ASDA, but could not see any indication that it was printed on sustainable sourced paper. As a result, I had to put the book back on the shelf, with something of a heavy heart it has to be said.

Only a minute earlier, I had put a copy of Bill Bryson's "At Home" in my shopping basket, safe in the knowledge that it was printed on FSC certified paper (I mention this in the hope that it provides evidence that my intention to buy an Igloo publication was not an idle threat).

So my question to you is : Is the paper used in Igloo Books publications sustainable sourced (ideally with some kind of third party verification such as being FSC certified)?


Dear Reader, perhaps we are all to ready to complain about things and not ready enough to tell organisations when they are doing THE RIGHT THING.

If you know of a company that is behaving in a particularly ethical manner, why not let them know it?

This kind of action has a number of benefits.
a) Obviously, it helps protect the worlds forests.
b) It is an area where the Muslim community can find common ground with wider society, rather than just campaigning on issues of self-interest.
c) If the leaders of the Muslim community were to get behind actions like this, and recommend them to the congregations at Friday prayers, it would encourage the Muslim community to see this kind of action as being something that Muslims should do.

It would be great to hear what you think, or what response you have had when pursuing this kind of action

FSC at Random House

Deforestation is a worldwide environmental issue. It results in the destruction of irreplaceable communities of plants and animals, as well as contributing to climate change, increased flooding risks and decimation of the livelihoods of the native peoples who live in forested areas.

You can find out more about this issue at the following places :
www.fsc-uk.org/?page_id=5
www.greenpeace.org.uk/tags/pulp-and-paper
www.ifees.org.uk


But, unusually for such a severe problem, you can make a real difference to reversing this situation, by ensuring that any paper products that you buy are made from Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) certifed or recycled paper.

FSC paper will have come from trees that are sustainable grown and have not been planted in areas that have previously been covered in natural forests. Although price competitive, FSC paper may not always be the cheapest paper on the market. But the cheapest paper is so for a reason, often because it has been produced by simply chopping down an ancient rainforest and converting it to paper. It's a bit like a bloke selling very cheap cars - because they are all stolen. Your local supermarket will have FSC paper versions of kitchen towels, printer paper, notepads etc and a number of publishers have also switched to FSC paper.

Talking about publishers, BFTF recently send the following, self explanatory email to Random House.

Dear Random House
I just wanted to say thank you for using FSC certified paper for many of your publications.
Some years ago, I decided to stop buying new books as I did not want to be supporting the destruction of the worlds natural forests to produce the paper used in these publications. Instead, I started buying second hand and from charity shops.
As a fan of Bill Bryson, I picked up a copy of his book "At Home" (Imprint: Black Swan) in ASDA recently and was chuffed to see that it was printed on FSC paper. As a result I felt able to buy it there and then (and a very entertaining and interesting read it is proving to be). Please keep up the good work.

Dear Reader, perhaps we are all to ready to complain about things and not ready enough to tell organisations when they are doing THE RIGHT THING.

If you know of a company that is behaving in a particularly ethical manner, why not let them know it?

This kind of action has a number of benefits.
a) Obviously, it helps protect the worlds forests.
b) It is an area where the Muslim community can find common ground with wider society, rather than just campaigning on issues of self-interest.
c) If the leaders of the Muslim community were to get behind actions like this, and recommend them to the congregations at Friday prayers, it would encourage the Muslim community to see this kind of action as being something that Muslims should do.

It would be great to hear what you think, or what response you have had when pursuing this kind of action

Recipe - Plum Compote

Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work. So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it a "Silicon Smorgasbord". . .

Plum Compote

BFTF has always been interested in the idea of making jam, but has been less keen on the perceived need for paraphanelia such as muslin filters, airtight jars and gelling agents. All sounds a bit technical.

But then an auntie(see note at end of post) down the road presented the BFTF household with a big bag of plums from her plum tree. There were too many to eat so a preserve of some kind was in order.

A work colleague recommended a recipe for a Plum Compote (a compote is basically a runny jam) and this has proved very successful. . .

12 ripe(ish) plums
1/2 cup sugar (fairtrade is good)
1/2 cup water

Cut plums into quarters. Remove and discard stones (they contain a toxic chemical)

Bung everything into a saucepan and bring to a strong simmer

Keep simmering for 20 minutes, longer if you want a thicker result.

Allow to cool, put in a plastic container and freeze. Scoop out spoonfulls from frozen whenever required.

This compote is "the business" when added to vanilla ice cream. .

This recipe rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Note : In many asian cultures, anyone you meet is one of the following:
"Brother / Sister" - any male / female under about 40
"Uncle / Auntie - any male / female over about 40

This works pretty well until, one day, you walk into a shop and one of the staff says "What would you like, Uncle" - and you think "Uncle!!! Uncle!!! Do I look like an Uncle? I'm still a "Brother", sunshine".

Indeed, BFTF has actually said in the past "you can call me brother, thank you very much!"

So there you go, dessert recipes and socialogical trivia all in one post. It's all here on Building for the Future. . .

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Peng

Having just got my head around the fact that youngsters say "sick" when they mean "very good", I am now told that that I am already behind the times and the correct term for something impressive is "peng". Kids clearly have too much time on their hands if are able to muck about with the English Language. Bring back National Service I say, that ought to keep them occupied.

In an effort to push back this tide of change, BFTF make sure it drops the 80s equivalent, "Raas" into conversation every few months, in the hope that the word will come back into circulation. No luck yet. . .

It would be great to hear what kids are using to mean "good" where you are, just leave a comment to this post. . .

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Palm Oil in Super Noodles

Palm oil is used in many foods and household products. It is also increasingly being used as a feedstock for biofuels. The demand for palm oil is resulting in peatlands being drained and forests being cut down in south-east asia to make way for vast palm oil plantations. BFTF recently noticed that an ASDA own brand product that it had bought contained palm oil so asked ASDA what assurance they could give that the palm oil had not been grown on land that had been reclaimed from forest or peatland (see here). Having gone to effort of finding out about the issues and drafting up an email in the case of ASDA, it is a relatively easy job to now ask a similar question of the makers of that British Tea Time Favourite - Batchelors Super Noodles.

BFTF has to say that it is a big fan of noodles, not least because they are a food that kids can cook for themselves from a relatively early age (BFTF, you are a BAD parent !)

So, getting back to the matter at hand, BFTF sent the following to Batchelors via their feedback form.

"I recently bought a packet of Batchelors Mild Curry Super Noodles and note, with concern, that it contains palm oil. What assurance can you give me that the palm oil used in this product has been grown on land that has not been reclaimed from peatland, or forest."
Dear reader, you may wish to nudge a supermarket or other retailer in the right direction regarding some item that you purchase. There are lots of areas where producers can be held to account - treatment of workers, care for the environment and animal welfare being just three.

This last item - animal welfare - is an area where the Muslim community (BFTF certainly included) perhaps needs to take a look at itself and ask whether it is demanding the level of animal welfare for livestock and poultry that Islam mandates. For example, - is keeping a chicken in a tiny cage for its entire life consistent with Islamic teachings on kindness to animals?

And of course, this type of action is an area where the Muslim Community can find common ground with the wider society and work together to achieve positive change. This is perhaps a much more productive approach than being active only in areas where the Muslim community wants some kind of special treatment.
We can't do everything, but we can all do something - and as grocery shopping is one of the biggest of the household expenditures it can be used to do a lot of good if we choose to.

UPDATE (28 Aug 11)
Received a response from Premier Foods saying that they were a member of the Ethical Trading Inititive (ETI), which is potentially a GOOD THING, but perhaps not quite relevant to the question of Palm Oil agriculture as the ETI is primarily focussed on the rights and working conditioms of workers, rather than the sustainability of raw materials.

Premier foods also said that they obtained their Palm Oil from a "sustainable source" and that they were "committed to using ingredients from sustainable sources".

BFTF was a little concerned a Palm Oil plantation might be "sustainable" going forwards, but not all all sustainable if you considered that it had been carved out of irreplaceably forest or peatland. To try and clarify things a little further, BFTF sent back the following (over two emails, but combined together below for clarity):
"I am glad that Premier Foods is a founding member of the ETI and would certainly encourage you to ensure that all the workers in your supply chain are paid a living wage and that your subcontractors and suppliers fully meet the requirements of the ETI base code. If you were able to state that this was the case on your product packaging, it would be a powerful incentive for me to buy your products over those of your competitors.

Having said that, I am not sure how the ETI is relevant to this issue at hand as there is no reference to environmental sustainability in the ETI base code (so far as I can see). Also, while your suppliers of palm oil may have plantations that are "sustainable" on an on-going basis, that is not quite what I asked.

My question was to ask "What assurance can you give me that the palm oil used in this product has been grown on land that has not been reclaimed from peatland, or forest."

I have asked a similar question of ASDA in relation to one of their products and they have told me that whilst they cannot guarantee that their palm oil has been grown on land that has not been reclaimed from forest or peatland at the moment, they hope to be in a position to do so soon. I'm hoping that Premier Foods is making similar efforts and can let me know when they intend to me in a position to make a similar guarantee (perhaps they already are?)

I note that it says that Premier Foods is "committed to using ingredients from sustainable sources".I am a little unclear as to what this means. Does it mean that:
a) All of Premier Foods ingredients are sustainably sourced now.
b) All of Premier Foods ingredients will be sustainably sourced at some undefined point in the future.
c) Some of Premier Foods ingredients are sustainably sourced now and you are working on the rest.
d) Something else.
I am also a liitle unsure as to what Premier Foods definition of "sustainability". Do you have a policy on this that you could point me towards?"

No doubt there will be further updates to this post in future!

UPDATE (12 Sep 11)
Received a further response from Premier Foods, this time actually addressing the issues at hand. The person handling the question from BFTF has, it seems, asked the Head of Science for some information on the issue, and they have responded with a policy statement. The statement is rather reassuring and states that Premier Foods is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (see here) and that, since January 2010, they have sourced 100% of their Palm Oil using the Green Palm programme. It goes on to recognise that:
"areas of tropical rainforest are being converted to agricultural use, in Malaysia and Indonesia, to facilitate the extension of palm oil plantations. . . .We have been advised that there is sufficient existing cleared land in the region not currently being put to agricultural use that could, and should be utilised to meet the increasing global demand for palm oil, in preference to clearing additional rainforest."
The Green Palm Progamme (see here) is endorsed by the RSPO. The RSPO, in turn works on a series of "Principles and Criteria" (see here).

Somewhat surprisingly, these cover a wide range of issues, covering issues such as workers rights, soil fertility and ensuring respect for land owned by local communities. The key ones from the perspective of the issue at hand are
"Criterion 7.3: New plantings since November 2005, have not replaced primary forest or any area required to maintain or enhance one or more High Conservation Values.
and
Criterion 7.4: Extensive planting on steep terrain, and/or on marginal and fragile soils, is avoided.
If (and on hopes that is a small "if" and not a big "if") the palm oil producers are actually adhering to these criteria then that is a VERY GOOD THING.
So, to close out this dialogue, BFTF sent the following :
"Thank you for this comprehensive response. I am glad to see that Premier Foods is a member of the RSPO. I have read the RSPO ""Principles and Criteria" and been greatly heartened by the breadth of coverage they give to environmental sustainability and to the rights of workers and local communities.

I would urge Premier Foods to ensure that the Palm Oil suppliers working in the Green Palm programme genuinely implement these Principles, including Criteria 7.3 and 7.4 relating to conservation of primary forests and areas of high conservation value.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Somewhat to my own surprise I now find myself able to tell you that I think I can buy Batchelors SuperNoodles with a clear conscience (which will be a tremendous relief to my kids!) and that this will continue to be a regular purchase for me.

I am placing my trust in you. Please don't let me down.
Dear Reader, perhaps there is an issue that you feel strongly about regarding the practices of a company or organisation. If so, why not challenge them to explain themselves. As many NGO's who have been guests on the Building for the Future radio show have said, it does not take may people to complain about something before panic sets in at Head Office and changes are made. . . .

Friday, 19 August 2011

Recipe - Mini Muffins

Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work.

So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it "Virtual Victuals". . .

Mini Muffins

500ml milk (semi skimmed of full fat)
250ml oil (vegetable or sunflower)
250g brown sugar (Fairtrade, if possible)
2 eggs, beaten (Free Range - there is no excuse for buying anything else)

500g self-raising flour
250g chopped fairtrade milk chocolate (or chopped glace cherries, or raisins)


Place milk, oil, sugar and eggs in a bowl and stir together for a couple of minutes.

Add Flour and mix until no free flour remaining. DO NOT OVERMIX, the mix should remain lumpy

Add Chopped chocolate and mix for about 30seconds.

Pre-heat oven to 200C

Use fairy-cake baking trays (and paper fairy-cake cases), fill cases about 80% full. The amounts above should give about 38 mini-muffins (which is annoyingly 2 more than the spaces in three standard trays)

Place in oven and cook for about 20mins (until nicely browned on top).

Remove from oven, take cases out of tray and allow to cool for 5-15mins then remove cases and your mini-muffins are ready.

Eat within a few days.

BFTF usually makes these in combination with 250g biccies. For some reason, blokes seem to prefer the muffins while the biccies seem to be a hit with the sisters. Don't know what is going on there, but there you go. Incidentally, you can use the same approach as described here (admittedly for tuna) when buying fairtrade chocolate.

A plate of mini-muffins and 250g biccies




The dish rates as "MEDIUM" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Art, Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer Update

Received a response from Nottingham Contemporary saying thanks and that they would pass on the email to the exhibitions team.

See the original posts for more information:
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/art-rick-davies-and-michael-hansmeyer.html

Himmah - Arimathea - Update to Pt 3

Received a response from Lloyds TSB Foundation (who are funding Nottingham Arimathea Trust) saying that it is great to hear charities funded by the Foundation are being supported by their local radio stations.

See the original posts for more information:
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/himmah-arimathea-pt3-actions.html

Killings in Syria - What can you do?

It is difficult to imagine how anyone can see the way in which the Syrian authorities are reacting to the street protests there without feeling compassion for the protestors and anger that that government in a Muslim country can treat its Muslim population in such a manner.

The concern is magnified by the fact that past experience (such as the massacre of thousands in Hama in 1982(see here)) suggests that the government will, in the end, have no qualm about killing whole swathes of its population to achieve its ends..

The account of the Syrian author Samar Yazbek (see here), who was detained by the Syrian authorities earlier this year, provides a graphic description of the torture that detainees are subjected to:
"The bodies were nearly naked. There was a dim light seeping in from somewhere, feeble rays for enough vision to discern that they were youths of no more than 20 years old. Their fresh young bodies were clear beneath the blood. They were suspended from their hands in steel cuffs, and their toes barely touched the floor. Blood streamed down their bodies, fresh blood, dried blood, deep bruises visible like the blows of a random blade. Their faces looked down; they were unconscious, and they swayed to and fro like slaughtered animals"

She goes on to describe the sounds of torture that she heard:

"Abruptly they took me out of the cell and opened another, and as they did so, the sounds of screaming and torture came from somewhere. Never had I heard such sounds of pain. They did not stop until we left the passage."

So what can on ordinary person do to stop the killings and torture?

It’s a difficult one to answer, but one thing that has been mentioned by a virtually all guests on the Building for the Future Radio show, is that is does not take emails or letters from as many people as you might think to provoke a change. With this in mind, BFTF has tried to contact the organisations who may be able to help stop the killings, starting with the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference)

The OIC (www.oic-oci.org)website contains a number of statements calling on the Syrian authorities to stop the killing of protestors, although it stops short of condemning the authorities outright.

"I welcome the statements that the OIC has made against the killing and torture of protestors in Syria. However, I strongly feel that the OIC should unequivocally condemn the killings and take practical steps to stop the killings and indiscriminate torture of civilians that is happening there. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. I am concerned that the OIC will not do anything substantive until a massacre like that in Hama in 1982 occurs, or that the OIC is waiting for the West to do its job for it. My question to you at the end of this is : What powers does the OIC have to stop the killing in Syria and how does it propose to use them?"
Perhaps the most representative Muslim body in the UK is the MCB, and they have issued a press release (see here) and shown below:

"The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) today welcomed the recent but belated condemnation by the United Nations of the Syrian government’s crackdown of its own people. For months now the regime has attacked innocent protestors who are making legitimate demands for human rights, representative government and the rule of law. . . The MCB has already spoken out against abuses elsewhere in the region and today re-iterates its call that our government must be consistent in its policy of demanding that Arab governments in the region respond to the democratic wishes of its people... "

BFTF sent an email to the MCB saying :

"I just wanted to thank you for the press release your have issued regarding the Syrian authorities killing and torture of protestors. An accusation that is widely laid against the Muslim community (with some justification) is that Muslims protest when non-Muslims kill Muslims but are silent when it is Muslims killing Muslims. As a community we must do a better job of being consistent about human rights abuses. Your press statement is a step along this road. Thank you again. May I ask what message you have given the Syrian government (or their embassy in the UK) regarding the killings in Syria and what their response has been.

The other regional body who, one would think, would be interested in stopping the killings is the Arab League (www.arableagueonline.org). The English language section of their website is “under construction” (how very 1990’s) so I have no way of contacting them. A Google translation of the Arabic section of their website suggests no statements on what is happening in Syria. Grasping at straws somewhat, BFTF sent an email to the MCB asking them to forward it on to the Arab League:
“I am dismayed by the silence of the Arab League regarding the killing and torture of protestors in Syria. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. An accusation that is widely laid against the Muslim community (with some justification) is that Muslims protest when non-Muslims kill Muslims but are silent when it is Muslims killing Muslims. The inaction of the Arab League feeds this perception. My question for you, at the end of this, is to ask why you have not taken any substantive measures to stop the killing and torture in Syria”
BFTF also contacted the Syrian Embassy in London (www.syremb.com), using the Feedback form on their website, leaving the following message:
“I, alongside much of the UK’s population (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) have been appalled by the killing and torturing of innocent protestors that we are seeing in Syria. Frankly, the authorities - and yourselves- should be ashamed at allowing this kind of indiscriminate cruelty to be unleashed on the population. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. My question, at the end of this, is to ask what pressure you are placing on the authorities in Syria to stop the killings, beatings and torture of protestors. Please do not think of comparing what is happening in Syria to the recent riots in the UK. You and I both know that the violence unleashed by the Syrian authorities is of an altogether different order."

Lastly, BFTF emailed local mosques suggesting that they may wish to lobby the Syrian Embassy on behalf of their congregations - and tell their congregations that they are doing so.

Also personally contacted my local masjid to ask them whether they could send an email to the Syrian Embassy if BFTF was to draft one up for them.

Dear Reader, if you feel strongly about the human rights abuses in Syria, or indeed in any other country, you may wish to lobby the relevant organisations (as described above). It may not be perfect, but group action really does work, and it certainly works better than just complaining to your friends about the situation.

Or perhaps you feel that BFTF has got the wrong end of the stick and that there are much more effective practical steps that can be taken to stop the killings in Syria. If so, why not leave a comment with your suggestions or, er, comments.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Palm Oil in ASDA "Best For Baking"

Palm oil is used in many foods and household products. It is also increasingly being used as a feedstock for biofuels.

The demand for palm oil is resulting in peatlands being drained and forests being cut down in south-east asia to make way for vast palm oil plantations. This is particularly ironic as the palm oil is then used to make an allegedly "green" fuel (see here for more about biofuels).

You can read about the issues in more detail here and here.

Anyway, BFTF bought some of ASDA's own brand "Best For Baking" spread recently and noticed that it contained Palm Oil.

Wanting to know what ASDA's policy was on Palm Oil, BFTF sent the following to ASDA via their feedback form.

"I bought some of ASDA'a own brand "Best For Baking" spread today and note, with concern, that it contains palm oil. What assurance can you give me that the palm oil used in this product has been grown on land that has not been reclaimed from peatland, or forest."

Update (21 Aug 11)
Received a response from ASDA describing how they were taking steps to look at the safety and wellbeing of Orangutans, including a training DVD for Palm Oil plantation workers (eh? BFTF Does not recall mentioning them in its original email. . . ). The response then goes on to state that ASDA was the first retailer to join the roundtable on sustainable palm oil (RSPO) and that they had “committed” to only sourcing palm oil from producers who respect the rainforest.

This is all very well (if a little ambiguous in places), but it does not really answer the question that BFTF asked. Sooooo, the following was bounced back to ASDA

 Dear ASDA,
 Thank you very much for taking the time to respond.
 However, you appear to have sent me the answer to someone else’s question. I am glad to see that ASDA is concerned about Orangutans but I have checked my original communication and can find no request for information on policies relating to Orangutans, or indeed any other primate.
 I am heartened to hear that ASDA has joined the RSPO. However, the RSPO is relatively weak regarding prevention of deforestation and peatland drainage. For example, Greenpeace state that “Many RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry.”
 I would therefore be very grateful if you could answer my original question. In case of confusion, this was “"What assurance can you give me that the palm oil used in this product [ASDA Best for Baking] has not been grown on land that has been reclaimed from peatland or forest."
In addition, could you please clarify what is meant by “committed” in the phrase of your response stating that ASDA has “committed to only source palm oil from producers who show respect for the rainforest and the large apes living there”. Do you mean that palm oil used by ASDA is from producers who “show respect for the rainforest” right now, or that it will be at some undefined point in the future?

Update (28 Aug 11)
ASDA responded within a few days, even calling me to let me know that they were getting some information from the buyers to answer my question completely. The response stated that ASDA were in the process of installing systems in their factory sites would allow them to "be 100% able to stand by a claim that all the palm oil used in our product is from sustainable sources."

At the current time, ASDA felt that there was a "very high chance" that the palm oil in this product was from non-reclaimed land and that while they could not yet guarantee this, they were working hard to be in a position to do so.

In response, BFTF sent a final, closing set of comments to ASDA (see below).
Thank you for this comprehensive, clear and unexpectedly honest set of comments. When ASDA is able, I would certainly encourage the labelling of products that use palm oil from non-reclaimed land to state this fact, as this would be a powerful incentive for me to buy your products over those of a competitor.

In the meantime, whilst I remain a little nervous, your comments have given me sufficient confidence to use ASDA own brand products that contain palm oil. Sadly I shan't be using "Best for Baking" again as it is - and there is no easy way to say this - absolutely rubbish as a replacement for butter when baking biscuits.

Dear reader, you may wish to nudge a supermarket or other retailer in the right direction regarding some item that you purchase. We can't do everything, but we can all do something - and as grocery shopping is one of the biggest of the household expenditures it can be used to do a lot of good if we choose to.

By the way, "Best for Baking" turned out to be a very poor substitute for butter in biscuits (see here for the recipe). . .

It would be great to head what you think. Did BFTF go far enough? Not far enough? Would the last comments from ASDA have been enough for you to buy palm oil based products from them?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Himmah – Arimathea – Pt1 – What they do

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

As well as this here blog, BFTF also hosts a weekly show on Nottingham's Radio Dawn 107.6FM. The show often features interviews with organisations ranging from Greenpeace to Trading Standards to local Youth Clubs.

Last weeks interview was with Mohammed Sajid from Himmah Nottingham and Wesal Afifi from Nottingham Arimathea Trust (NAT) who were summarising the work that had been performed over the last year by the Community Aid Nottingham Project (now called the Community Fund).

The project aimed to provide a subsistence allowance to some of the most destitute refugee and asylum seekers in Nottingham.

Sajid described the incident that first made him realise the scale of the problem in Nottingham. He had noticed that there was a very quiet, elderly gentleman who would be at the door of the Islamic Centre when it opened in the morning. Sajid noticed that the person would use the showers at the Centre, say his prayers and then leave later in the day – but it was only when Sajid began talking to him that he realised the sadness of his story. talked to the visitor and was shocked at his story.. .

The apparantly elderly gentleman told Sajid that he was 44yrs old, partially blind and had fled Algeria to escape persecution. He had sought asylum in the UK but there had been problems with his application and he was now destitute, reduced to sleeping in a shed at night.

He also told Sajid that he was not the only person in Nottingham who was in this situation and that there were some 60-70 others who were similarly destitute (some in Nottingham estimate that there are actually several hundred people being caught in the destitution trap)

Together with some friends, Sajid set up the “Community Aid Nottingham” (CAN) project which aimed to provide a £20 per week subsistence allowance for destitute asylum and refugee status seekers who were being housed by Nottingham Arimathea Trust (NAT).

Before describing the work of CAN and NAT in more detail, it is perhaps worth stepping back a little to understand some of the terminology and processes involved.

An ASYLUM SEEKER is someone who has fled their homeland to another country and exercised their legal right to apply for asylum.

A REFUGEE is someone whose asylum application has been successful and has proved that they would face persecution in their home country. It is worth mentioning that Arica and Asia host more than 75% of the world’s refugees, with Europe looking after 14%. (UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Returnees, Internally displaced and Stateless Persons, 2008)

A REFUSED ASYLUM SEEKER has had their claim for asylum turned down and been told that they cannot remain in the UK. This does not necessarily mean they were lying or that it is safe for them to go back to their country. Administrative errors, failures in research and a lack of good legal representation all lead to asylum claims being turned down.

The asylum seeker can appeal if their claim fails, but this process can take many weeks, months or even years. Critically, once all their appeals have been completed, the asylum seeker receives no subsistence or accommodation support at all. Wesal described how their plight has become even more dire in recent times due to the fact that two of the major legal aid providers have gone into liquidation in the last year, due partly to cases now being funded on a flat rate rather than hourly basis.

Some asylum seekers may end up sleeping rough whilst others may “couch surf”. As you can imagine, this is a precarious existence and one that makes it very difficult to organise ones case during the appeal process, not to mention the stress and mental health issues that it can cause.

Many asylum seekers who are in this situation contact the Refugee Forum or the Red Cross for help. Whilst these two organisations can provide advice and administrative help, they cannot provide accommodation.

The Refugee Forum or Red Cross will, in turn, contact organisations such as NAT for help with accommodation.

NAT are a charity funded by a number of organisations, including the charitable foundation Lankelly Chase and the Lloyds TSB Foundation (the funding for Wesals position is currently coming from Trent Vineyard Church). They manage 3 houses (two for males, one for females)in Nottingham which are used to house destitute asylum seekers. The aim is to provide accommodation for asylum seekers during the period between their initial application being turned down and receiving further evidence which solicitors can use to prepare further submissions or fresh asylum claims. This time period can range from a few weeks to a several months.

When a place becomes available NAT calls for referrals from partners such as the Refuge Forum and then assess the cases based on need. They also ensure that the person offered the place is actively looking to resolve their case.

NAT try to ensure that the asylum seekers in their accommodation are provided with legal representation and a volunteer befriender or mentor. This is someone who they meet with regularly to get to know Nottingham, practice their English or help with phone calls to solicitors etc.

NAT also helps people to find medical support and English classes, as well as giving them volunteering opportunities. One of the houses has a vegetable garden that is being developed by the residents who are also planning to build a chicken coup so that they can live a more sustainable lifestyle on a low income.

However, whilst NAT can get funding for trips and activities, it finds it much harder to get support for the asylum seekers essential living costs. The Refugee Forum provides some help with this by providing a weekly food parcel of basic foodstuffs and a £10 per month allowance, but are unable to offer more due to the relatively large numbers of asylum seekers that they are supporting.

This is where the Community Aid Project kicks in. Being focussed on fewer people (i.e. those in NAT Accomodation) it is able to provide a more significant subsistence allowance of £20 per week. This is crucial to giving the asylum seekers some dignity and self-respect by allowing them to purchase basic items. The effect it has had on the asylum seekers can perhaps best be understood by listening to their own words (taken from a project feedback report) which are shown in Part 2 of this post.

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

Himmah – Arimathea – Pt2 – Feedback Further Work

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

Feedback from the asylum seekers who had been supported by CAN and NAT was very positive, as can be seen below:

Male Feedback Comments
“We can organise ourselves now we have money, instead of spending all day walking to projects and restaurants seeking free food”.

“We have choice now in that we can buy food or maybe something else we need, such as socks or underwear. These items need replacing often, especially if you have few items and the discomfort when they are worn is difficult”.

“Without money we have no choice and no dignity. We are still deprived much dignity but this is much better than the old ways of support” [food parcel and £10 cash a month from Nottingham Refugee Forum].

“What I came to this country for is protection not for money or anything, but we are treated like animals for years to try to force us to leave”.

Female Feedback Comments
“Before I used my £10 to top up my mobile to ensure I could contact people when I needed help, now I can top up when I need to and I feel safer knowing I have credit and people I can call when I need to with any problems”.

“Before I didn’t like to go out in the evenings in case I had to walk home late at night. Now I can get a tram or a taxi and it means I am going out much more, I’ve even started college again in the evenings”. (Disabled young woman)

“We can now buy clothes, rather than just taking what people are giving you. It makes me feel much better having the choice and being able to go into shops knowing I can choose things”.

“We can spend money on toiletries and sanitary products for women. These are essential needs but no one provided for them before. We had to buy the very cheap products because of very limited income and they were uncomfortable, but now we can buy what we need and the better products which are much nicer for us to use”.

Community Aid Nottingham raised £4271 (mostly as Zakat, but some as Sadaqah), which was spent on providing a subsistence allowance for 9 residents (many of whom benefited in the first quarters support), of the 9 residents, 6 were Muslim and 3 were other faiths. 5 were disabled and 5 had complex mental health difficulties. 6 residents were male and 3 were female. They came from Iran(x 2), Syria(x2) , Zimbabwe(x2) , Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq , Kenya and Rwanda

Over the six months of funding the ages of the residents ranged from 17 (age dispute client, where client says he is 17 but Home Office have assessed as 18) to 46, with the majority being in their twenties, which reflects the trend in terms of asylum seekers in the UK.


The work of CAN has now been taken over by Himmah Nottingham under the “Community Fund” Project. With the original funding having been used up (indeed, the Community Fund is now in debt to NAT !), Himmah are looking to raise funds to keep this project going so the destitute asylum seekers can continue to be given a little dignity and help whilst they are enduring some very difficult circumstances.

Interestingly, and unusually, Sajid was keen to point out that Himmah are more interested in getting peoples time than their money. What they would like most of all, is volunteers to sign up to a place on a nine week rota, so that they just had to come in on a Saturday morning one week in nine to help in preparing occasional meals and in food distribution at the Refugee Forum or to simply spend a little time talking to the asylum seekers. To volunteer your time, donate money or simply to find out more about the project, you can call on 07980 407282 or visit the website at www.himmah.org

BFTF asked Sajid about lobbying and whether it had any effect. His response was to point out that the lobbying by a number of local groups involved with asylum seekers had led to a commitment by the UK Borders Agency to look for a local venue for asylum seekers in Nottingham to report to, instead of having to travel to the Loughborough Reporting Centre every 2 weeks, a journey that is almost impossible if you have no income. Additionally, Citizens for Sanctuary are now running a mini-bus to Loughborough to make the journey easier for destitute asylum seekers who have health problems.

Given Wesals background in refugee activities both in the UK and in her home country of Egypt, BFTF asked what the differences were in the treatment of asylum seekers in the two nations. Wesal responded by saying that the biggest difference she had found was the very hostile press and media coverage that asylum seekers are given in the UK compared to Egypt.

Lastly, BFTF tries to avoid interviews ending on a note of gloom and doom by always asking guests what they think the best thing about living in the UK is. Wesal’s answer to this question was that she really valued the diversity of the population in the UK and thought that it was great that you could be on a bus and hear a dozen different languages being spoken. More practically, the diversity of cuisine has resulted in Wesal getting a taste for curry, something that was rare back in Egypt !

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

Himmah – Arimathea – Pt3 - Actions

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

There are certainly plenty of avenues to follow from this interview.

You can donate time or money to the organisations mentioned in the interview by visiting their respective websites :

Community Fund : www.himmah.org or call 07980 407282.

Nottingham Arimathea Trust : www.nottinghamarimathea.org.uk

Notts Refugee Forum : www.nottsrefugeeforum.org.uk
(There is a LOT of information on this site about lobbying, campaigns and other activities to provide fairness for asylum seekers and refugees)

By the way, BFTF has put it’s money where it’s mouth is be setting up a small monthly standing order for the Community Fund. A standing order allows Himmah to plan ahead with some idea of what funding is coming along in the future.

Looking a little wider, there are a number of emails that could be sent out to let organisations know that their work is appreciated, or to suggest that they should get involved. You may wish to send emails similar to some of those below, the recipient is sure to be more persuaded by two emails than by one !


Email sent to Lloyds TSB thanking them for supporting NAT

Email send to local mosques suggesting that this project is something that they may wish to support, particularly as it challenges the notion (which can be found in a disturbing number of non-Muslims and in Muslims) that the Muslim community is not interested in helping the wider society. Suggested that the Nottingham Muslim Communities Facilitator may wish to raise this at the next meeting, suggested that the chairman of Nottingham Jamaat Ahle Sunnnat may wish to encourage mosques to support this project - and tell their congregations.

BFTF has already personally contacted a local mosque and asked them to support this project which they have kindly said they would.

It would be great to get a comment from you, dear reader, especially if you have been able to make a positive difference to this, or any other, project.

Update (15 Aug 2011)
Received a response from Lloyds TSB Foundation saying that it is great to hear charities funded by the Foundation are being supported by their local radio stations.

Pt1–What they do,     Pt2–Feedback and Further Work,     Pt3-Actions

Monday, 8 August 2011

Art, Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer

The arts represents perhaps one of the largest minefields for British Muslims to navigate due to the conflicting messages they receive.

For example, on the one hand Islamic Bookshops will have literature stating that photography of living objects is forbidden - whilst on the other hand Islamic magazines will readily print pictures of contributors.

Similarly, the reading and writing of novels is condemned as idleness by some Muslims (see here for the battles that a Saudi fiction writer has to go through) - whilst at the same time, a prominent Muslim charity is running the Muslim Writers Awards.

Crikey, talk about not knowing what to do for the best!

Stepping back a little to consider the wider arts situation in the UK, it is perhaps the case that it is worth looking at the common ground between Muslim communities and the wider society rather than focussing on what divides them. For example, the council art galleries in many towns hold a number of exhibitions each year, all of which are ignored completely by Muslim organisations.

But is that really fair? Perhaps some (indeed, perhaps all) of these exhibitions are just as much of interest to Muslim communities as they are to the wider society. Perhaps these "common ground" exhibitions are a useful way for Muslim communities to engage with the wider society. . .

Let's take a practical example.

There is currently an exhibition (see here) by photographer Rick Davies at the Ffoto Gallery at the Dairy(?!) in Cardiff. The Guardian describes the images as "panoramic photos of Wales' changing landscape" and goes on to say that "hi-tech plants can be seen as far as the eye can see like a city of the future, though rows of cars. . .show this is present day". The review goes on to remark that "train tracks, metal pipes and monster mining operations seem to overshadow the mountains in the distance".

This exhibition sounds really interesting and thought provoking! The nature of the relationship between industry and the countryside is something that is a concern for all communities in the UK. What's not to like?

Or, to take another example, the New Scientist (30th April edition) has a fascinating article about the computer generated geometric sculptures of Michael Hansmeyer. Some of these have over a million facets and need to be constructed by cutting out individual one millimetre layers and then stacking them up. You can see some examples of his work here. Again, Michael’s geometric patterns seem to be in keeping with Islamic tradition and to offer the possibility of making some genuinely new structural forms.

Perhaps, if Muslim organisations supported exhibitions like this, it would help to remove the perception that Muslims communities only engage with arts bodies when they want to complain about something. It might also help British Muslims to constructively engage with the arts community instead of placing themselves away from it. The reality is that by being silent in this area, our mainstream Muslim organisations are leaving the extreme elements as the only ones defining the relationship between Muslims and the arts, and their definition is one that is very destructive and disrespectful of the artistic heritage of this country.

Since actions, rather than words, are the focus of this blog, BFTF has sent out the following:

Nottingham Contemporary
An email to say that the work of Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer look really interesting and it would be great to see their work exhibited in Nottingham. As someone from the Muslim community in Nottingham, I think that this kind of work lies in the "common ground" where the artistic traditions of the Muslim communities and the wider society overlap. Should you be in a position to host exhibitions of work similar to that of Davies or Hansmeyer, you may wish to consider contacting some of Nottingham’s Muslim organisations (Mosques etc) to see if they are would like to view the exhibition and, perhaps, recommend it to their communities.

Jammat Ahle Sunnat and Nottingham Council's Muslim Communities facilitator
Sent email summarising this post, in particular the bit saying the if the Muslim community does not engage with wider society then someone else is probably going to do it on their behalf.

Update (15 Aug 2011)
Received a response from Nottingham Contemporary saying thanks and that they would pass on the email to the exhibitions team.