ONCE more the year draws to a close and the time for reflection is upon us. Life is busier than ever at the Lancashire Council of Mosques, an umbrella body for the county's mosques which aims to represent the views of the Muslim community in Lancashire in every forum and sector, including education, employment, health, etc.

As such, we are viewed as the public face of the Muslim community within the county and beyond. In this capacity, we have a responsibility to both present and promote the positive contribution and active involvement of Muslims in community and county life.

The Muslim community and the mosques have much to offer in the form of culture and diversity. The mosque buildings themselves are a great contribution to Lancashire's landscape heritage. Lancashire has had a great track record over the years and is a great model for other counties in diversity and understanding.

However, we have faced many challenges over the past year.

First of all, the Iraq issue has hung over us all for the best part of the year. Indeed, the year has been a troubled one for the international community with conflict rife in many.

Closer to home, we were reminded again how important our work really is and how much more we need to do when the BNP won the Mill Hill seat in Blackburn.

To this effect, we sent out a joint statement with the Bishop of Blackburn appealing to the good sense of the people of Mill Hill to not to give their support to bigots and extremists.

We pray that in the coming year human fraternity will win out over differences and misunderstanding. It is a spiritually inspiring period in which we have already celebrated Eid and now Christmas is here too. Let us hope that our quest for peace and tranquillity sees better fruition in the year 2003. We wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

IBRAHIM MASTER, Chairman, Lancashire Council of Mosques.