ONE of the joys of my thirty-six years as Blackburn’s MP is suddenly discovering some gems which I had not known about before.

My caseworker Mumtaz Patel had been asking for me for some time to visit the Abu Hanifah Foundation (AHF), which her nine-year old son attends. It’s in College House, on Preston New Road.


Mumtaz told me it was terrific, and I needed to see it. It’s formally a “Madrassa” (Arabic for a “School”). I’ve visited scores of Madrassa over the years, here and abroad. Whilst I was happy to agree to this visit I was far from certain what I would find special about this one.

But Mumtaz was right. The two hours I spent there last Thursday were truly uplifting. I saw the school in action, and then had a great discussion with the trustees and parents behind the Foundation.

For those of my generation, with church-going parents, Madrassa are really the Muslim equivalent of Sunday Schools, which I attended with great regularity until I was ten. The principal difference is the time commitment, as typically these children attend each weekday after school (and what a boon that is to parents!).

What’s distinctive about this Foundation is the breadth of what they provide for their children. Of course, they teach the tenets of Islam. These, by the way, are completely familiar to any Christian, or Jew. The same lessons from the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount are contained within the Holy Qur’an. Jesus, and the Virgin Mary are both revered in Islam. All three are “religions of the book”.

This Foundation then builds on these messages to ensure that the “next generation of Muslim role models… have a broad and balanced education in Islam so that they are God conscious and productive British citizens”, to quote from their vision statement. There’s no institution more “British” than the Scouts. Guess what? AHF has both Cub and Beaver Scout packs. As with my 28th Epping Forest Cub Pack, most groups were Church-based. Commendably, the Scouts have moved with the times, and now embrace other religions. I’m told that almost a third of Scouts around the world are Muslim.

And there’s no game more British than football. We invented it. AHF is an FA chartered club, coaching up to three hundred youngsters each weekend.

Most mosques and Madrassa in our area make real efforts to inculcate British values, and institutions, along with understanding of the Muslim religion. AHF is by no means unique. But it was a brilliant example, thanks to the dedication of its founders, and parents. Their youngsters are being brought up to be the best of British.