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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 16:27 GMT
Islamic college shocked at arrest
Mosque under construction at Islamic centre site
Sajid Badat was a student at Blackburn's Islamic college
The Islamic college searched in connection with the arrest of Sajid Badat has expressed shock at the detention of a former pupil it had seen as conscientious.

Abdus Samed Ahmed, head of the College of Islamic Knowledge and Guidance in Blackburn, said Mr Badat had been a good student.

"We have a thorough and normal vetting process at the school and Badat passed the checks," he said.

We have a thorough and normal vetting process at the school and Badat passed the checks
Abdus Samed Ahmed, head of the College of Islamic Knowledge and Guidance in Blackburn
"We have been here seven years and have an excellent relationship with the local council, police and other key agencies."

Mr Badat was enrolled on a five-year course but he left this summer of his own accord, the head said.

He was known as a bright, but very quiet student and "kept himself to himself", Mr Ahmed added.

Ibrahim Master, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said Mr Badat had been a bright student with about four A-Levels and 10 GCSEs.

"Most of his education had been received in Gloucester and most of his life was spent in Gloucester," he said.

We promote at all times good citizenship, community harmony, tolerance and respect for other religious values
Ibrahim Master, Lancashire Council of Mosques

He added that, during the search of the college, officers examined the locker and room Mr Badat had used as a boarder.

Mr Master had earlier defended the college as promoting good citizenship.

"This college provides both religious and secular education and as such we promote at all times good citizenship, community harmony, tolerance and respect for other religious values so that students engage with the rest of society in a civil and positive manner," he said in a statement immediately after the search.

The role of Islamic colleges

The Islamic college movement in the UK is small but growing.

There are some 100 Islamic educational institutions in the country, ranging from nurseries to higher education institutions.

About 40 are traditional Darul Uloom colleges like that in Blackburn.

These take children from 13 to 21 and offer enhanced faith teaching in the morning and GCSE or A-Level studies in the afternoon.

Ibrahim Master, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques
Ibrahim Master said the college promoted tolerance and respect
Yusuf Bhailok is a leading figure in the Islamic college movement with first-hand knowledge of those in Lancashire.

"Our schools perform important services within the community," he said.

"It takes six years to finish the initial elements of the Islamic and faith tuition.

"The teaching covers Arabic, Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic history and thought."

Moving into state sector

Islamic colleges have been criticised in the past because of slower progress towards GCSEs and A-Levels.

One Scottish college recently shut its doors, reportedly because of poor standards of teaching.

Islamic study centre in Blackburn
Mr Badat had boarded at the college from the age of about 22
But most of the schools are large professional bodies with increasingly close ties to state tertiary colleges which assist in exam preparation.

Secondly, more colleges are becoming part of the state sector - to the delight of those involved.

One of the largest, Leicester's Islamic Academy, is currently bringing its 300 students into the state fold.

"We know the GCSE and A-Level results are not of the same standard as the state schools," says Mr Bhailok.

"But those coming out of the schools are citizens who have been inspired by their faith to work for their communities.

"These are very well mannered individuals with wider and deeper understanding of society."

British-born Imams

But the colleges are also playing a huge role in changing the face of mosques.

For years, the Muslim communities 'imported' Imams because they could not find enough at home.

Some of these men have lacked linguistic skills or the cultural sensitivities to speak authoritatively to British-born Muslims.

Dr Zaki Badawi, the most eminent Islamic cleric in the UK, once said he had been "horrified" to find Imams working in London's largest mosque in the 1970s who spoke no English - and therefore did not understand British culture.

But that is all changing. Two years ago, government ministers tweaked immigration and employment rules to favour British-born or educated Imams.

It now means there are a growing number of Imams who were born and bred here.

"Some of these boys who emerge are superb," says Mr Bhailok.

"They can directly relate to young people and their problems.

"I have heard young Imams give sermons on drug abuse, neighbourliness and speaking out against domestic violence in Asian communities.

"They hold sway because their first language is English and they have the confidence and authority to speak to their community - and to other communities too because they have been raised in modern Britain to understand inter-faith issues.

"If we did not have Islamic colleges then we would not have these Imams."

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