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issue no.3//october-december 2011

The only magazine for young people, by young people


About

sl

Hi there.

W

elcome back to SL Magazine - a unique and innovative magazine produced especially for young people in Solihull and the surrounding area.

What’s innovative about SL Magazine? How does it differ from other publications? Well, what’s cool about SL is that it’s produced entirely by it’s readers. SL is about giving young people the opportunity to express themselves positively in the community. From arts to entertainment, fashion to politics, SL will keep you up to speed with whatever young people are talking about. But SL isn’t just about the day-to-day. SL is also about change. Perhaps not changing the world (not yet anyway) but changing and challenging the small worlds we live in. We hope SL will be one small, positive contribution to a nicer kind of society. We want to promote the good things that young people do, show pride in diversity and create links to local charities and community groups. So why just be a reader? We are always on the lookout for new contributors with something to say. Whether it’s through writing, photography or illustrating get involved and pick up some experience along the way. Email slmagazine@zoho.com. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that we are entirely not-forprofit. SL Magazine is set-up as a social enterprise. That’s not to say we don’t need to make money. As with all magazines we have to cover our printing costs, that’s why there’s a whole host of local businesses that are advertising in the magazine. They recognise what we’re doing and are keen to support us and young people in the area. Anyway, now you know a us and what we’re about, all that’s left is to say is: enjoy the magazine! SJB and BK

front cover image explained

The image is a manipulation of a photograph of Tariq Jahan, whose son Haroon died in Winson Green in August. His story is explained on p19 in a special ‘Local Hero’. We felt he had become an iconic figure and so replicated the iconic Barack Obama ‘Hope’ style poster. We tried to make the cover as plain as possible to show our respect to this extraordinary man and his message of calm that no doubt saved many lives.

credits Simeon Bright Benedict Kent slmagazine.org

Editors:

Advert Design: Back cover image:

Tim Stock timstock.co.uk

Barnaby Kent barnabykent.com

Contributors: Words: Stuart Lethbridge, Samia Amir, Miriam Hussain, Nat Kent, Mariam Khan, Dominique Grace, Claire Hargreaves, Jonathan Lowe, Charlie Alcock, John Hodges, Fauzia Khan, Jessica Millward Robert Leftwich, Daunish Negargar, Danielle Carrington, Carl Sealeaf, Safrina Ahmed, Daniel Williams, Dr Issam Ghannam

Images: Nat Kent, Dominique Grace, Deena Chauhan, Amber Winter-Moore, Barnaby Kent Special thanks to: Bev Bishop & Tim Stock

SL Magazine is an independent, not-for-profit magazine. We have no political or religious affiliation. We strive for honest, accurate reporting. If you feel we may have fallen short of this then contact us by emailing the editor at slmagazine@zoho.com


contents

contents Young Blood

Turning Japanese

Supermarket Sweep

One of Solihull’s new young councillors talks politics

The young people emigrating in search of work and fulfilment

Should we be welcoming new supermarkets to the area?

9

11

14

Riots: Reasons and Reactions

Bearing Fruit

Beardyman

Reflecting on the August social unrest

The success of the stomach pleasing Soul Food Project

Birmingham’s premier spinner of yarns gives tips on writing

16

23

27

Editorial

4

Awash with optimism

22

News

6-7

Games Prospector

24

Inside Man

8

Top 5 viral videos

25

Counting the cost of uni

12

Create

26-30

Recession report

13

The Qur’an and me

31

Your views

14


editorial

editorial

A

new academic year could easily be described as a fresh start – a new term, a new college course, a new uni, new teachers and maybe even a new job if you’ve been lucky. But this Autumn is also a time for some serious reflection. The dramatic events of the Summer cannot be swept under the rug until some big questions have been answered. Questions like: what social factors, if any, led to the August riots that

began in Tottenham and spread to Birmingham and other UK cities? What is the most appropriate punishment for those accused of ruining peoples’ livelihoods. How far can you blame socio-economic factors before you are forced to admit personal responsibility? And why is the current government continuing to cut youth services at a time when they are most needed? But against the fog of grey questions stands the figure of Tariq

Jahan. Whilst people both young and old have been swept around by the tides of economic insecurity, educational uncertainty and personal despondency, Tariq Jahan’s speech, delivered just a day after he lost his son, shines like a light-stand to those who value dignity, hope and peaceful resolution over revenge. We hope you enjoy this issue. SJB & BK

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Student Luke Whitehorn on Mt Snowden

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Get involved. Everything in SL Magazine is produced by young people, so why not be a part of it? Write. Photograph. Illustrate. Whether you’ve got something to say or looking to get your name in print, be a part of SL Magazine. email: slmagazine@zoho.com

twitter: @SL_Magazine

facebook: search for ‘SL Magazine


So Co lih me ul an ld d in se in e g w us ee du k ri Oc ng t1 -9 To put it simply, the Delhi in Solihull is a class above other local Indian restaurants. It’s a professional and welcoming place where the excellent service lasts from the minute you step in to the moment you step out. With the kitchen open to the entrance hall, customers can see the chefs preparing dishes and inhale the tantalising aroma of southern Indian spices on which much of the menu is based. The restaurant’s seating is upstairs, an intimate but sophisticated space with plenty of windows that makes dining at sunset a rather splendid experience. The Delhi prides itself on its creative reinterpretations of the staples of Indian cuisine. Notably, their popadoms come with six accompaniments including the Delhi’s

treasured pickled garlic and their tamerin sauce. Their passion to use fresh ingredients means that the fish dishes are extremely popular. The pan-fried sea bass is a richly flavoured, crisp starter whilst the Calcutta fish supreme makes for a creamy and delicately herbed main course. The curry sauces are rich but not too heavy and spiced to the heat of your choosing. At the Delhi you certainly get what you pay for. Starters from around £3 and the average main course at around £10 make it an affordable place for a special occasion. It’s also worth booking in advance as seating is limited and fills up fast on popular nights.

Two starters, two main courses, two breads or rice, two glasses of house wine or Cobra beer,all for £20. To reserve a table call 0121 705 1020.

Ed

Sunday to Thursday, dining in customers only. Fish dishes £2.50 supplement. The Delhi Solihull, next door to the Metro Bar. www.thedelhi.com


news

Stats show graduate unemployment rise A survey has found that 27.7% of UK graduates were still not in full-time employment three and a half years after graduating. The research from Higher Education Statistics was based on the responses of 49,065 graduates who left university in 2007. Out of the 27% not in full-time employment 21% responded as working part-time or studying, 3.5% responded as ‘other’, leaving 3.5% considered as unemployed. The ‘unemployed’ figure has risen from 2.3% in 2003 and 2.6% in 2005.

Young people ‘will work into their 70s’ A recent report suggests that young people who have just started their first job will not receive their State pension until they are aged 72. The report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers looked at workers aged 18-24 and estimates that they will be in their job for over 50 years. A man currently receives his State pension at 65 and a woman at 60. Ed Wilson, a director in PWC’s pensions practice, warned that young workers need to start making regular contributions to their pensions: “Young people could still be working into their 70s if they fail to save independently.”

Gangs grow in jails New gangs are forming in UK prisons due to the high influx of convicts in August. According to a prison watchdog, people charged in relation to the Summer’s riots have joined gangs for their own protection. Latest figures show that 1,700 people have appeared in court following the riots, with 900 of those remanded to

Pupils’ eye for a photo earns them prize Two Arden Academy students have won the Knowle Society’s ‘Knowle as I see it’ photography competition. The competition asked young people to capture what they most liked and disliked about Knowle. Lucinda Baker (year 12) and jail awaiting trial. 176 people have been convicted, and 26 of them are juveniles. The chief inspector of prisons has said that new inmates with no previous involvement with gangs have been joining gangs in jail, mainly for self-protection. Other gangs have formed when

Sophie Leonard (year eight) won first prize with entries showing “imagination and good technical skill.” The Knowle Society also wants to start a youth group and hopes that the photography competition has been a good step in that direction. prisoners have been transferred from one jail to another in a different area of the country. So far prison staff have been successful in managing the rising tensions, but their work is made even harder as the prison and probation service continues to see thousands of frontline job losses.


news

Miliband’s new deal Ed Miliband has told young people that he would cap university tuition fess at £6,000 - rather than the current £9,000. At the Labour Party Conference he said: “Three thousand of our brightest young people, at state schools, get the grades to go to our most competitive universities. But they never go. That can’t be right.”

Solihull - so tasteful? The town celebrates its diverse, multicultural cuisine with a week of culinary demonstrations, cooking master classes and kids activities. Chefs representing Asian, European, American and British cuisine will be showcasing their talents in Mell Square where visitors can try flavours

from around the world and taste samples from the latest menus. A number of restaurants in Solihull will be putting on special menus during the week with 13 of them offering Kids Eat Free deals. Solihull Dining Week runs October 1-9.

Keep it short to win A short story competition for young writers is being launched by The Gentlemen Press, an independent, Birmingham-based publisher. The competition is open to writers from the West Midlands aged 13-21 and will accept submissions of 5002,000 words. The entries will be judged by Jean Ure, Nine Arches and David Belbin. 12 winning entries will be published in an anthology called ‘Objection to Perfection,’ due

to launch at The Book Barge in Birmingham. To enter go to www. thegentlemenpress.com/competition. php. Competition closes October 31.

Going Supersonic Now in its ninth year, the Supersonic festival is anything but your average mainstream festival. Supersonic curators pride themselves on compiling the most experimental and exciting music out there, so expect an utterly eclectic mix of alternative music with a decent heavy metal weighting. As well as the music there’s a number of film screenings, exhibitions and workshops running across the weekend. Supersonic takes place at the Custard Factory in Digbeth October 21-23. Got news? Email us slmagazine@zoho.com


viewpoint

inside man “What time does the revolution start?”

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ou sometimes see them wandering around the town centre; pale, penniless, their faces scrunched up against the sunlight. These people have slid into a twilight existence of squalid flats, late nights and tangles with men who want paying back. They’re recovering students, and there’s more of them than you think. When I was 18 I too dabbled, but got out and started to realise the lucky escape I’d had. I must confess I was a horrible failure as an undergrad. I lived off-campus, ate from plates and regularly made it to the 10am lectures. I succeeded on one count – Countdown, which I enjoyed, despite never cracking the Teatime Teasers. Before starting at university, an older cousin had assured me that campuses were full of mind-blowing ideas and gorgeous young ladies. Well, suffice to say, he’d clearly not studied at Birmingham. Politics was rarely discussed. I once got excited when I overheard someone ask, “What time does the revolution start?” But in hindsight, I think they’d probably said, “What time does the party at Revolution start?” Neither were the girls as broadminded as I’d been led to believe.

sl

One of the first young ladies I spoke to hailed from somewhere in the Home Counties and seemed to regard the Midlands as an outpost of civilisation. “Tell me,” she drawled, “Do you have bad winters up here?” So at the end of my first year, I left uni and set off to get a job. At the time I thought I was unusual, I’ve since learned that drop-out rates are at a record high. Why is this? My own circumstances were perhaps unusual, even my fellow quitters leave with at least a few good stories about traffic cones and scandals behind the squash courts. But nevertheless, there are 76,000 other people who arrive for freshers’ week but don’t make it to graduation. Having spoken to a few, it seems a lot of people go to university because they feel they ought to. Many schools, with one eye on next year’s league tables, push university harder than the alternatives. So much so that apprenticeships and other options are seen as second-best. Others are simply not up to it. Having staggered through clearing, they find themselves studying a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree at a campus which has cleverly changed its name to sound slightly like the red-brick university just down the road.

SL Magazine is distributed to over 100 locations across Solihull and Birmingham, including schools, colleges, libraries, youth centres and shops.

But what of those people who stick at it? The recovering students that I’ve referred to. They too are in a difficult position being as they are, laden with debt and playing the jobseeker’s equivalent of musical chairs. When the dance anthem stops, they’ve got to prove pretty quick. And with the tuition fees going up again next year, UCAS forms are starting to look more and more like a Faustian pact. A few years of mixers and girls in denim skirts and then they claim your soul. But remember that Mr Clegg will only drag you to hell once you’re earning above a certain income. He’s a considerate chap like that. Fact is, I think we need to take a long, hard look at higher-education… and the comedown. At the minute so many people are getting degrees they’re at risk of becoming meaningless. And with the fees going up by the hour, we could see a whole generation that’s penniless. But it’s not just for me to say no. Every 17 and 18 year-old must make their own decisions – and mistakes. Just be sure that to have the time of your life, you’re not going to end up with debts that will last into the next one. To advertise call 07522 425 558 or email slmagazine@zoho.com


interview

New kid on the block The local elections in May produced eight new councillors in Solihull. Samia Amir quizzed the youngest of these - Councillor for Shirley South, Peter Doyle.

SA: You are one of the youngest members on the Solihull Council What made you go into politics? PD: As one of the few members under 30 I am one of the youngest, but politics and policy should not be about age but passion to continuously improve the quality of life for our constituents and the next generations. I have always been interested in the politics of governing the nation and I would like to work some day in central government but would like to have worked in local government for some years first. SA: How do you think we could get more people involved in politics? PD: I think that for the most part, people just don’t know what politicians ‘do’ beyond the tabloidexploited scandals they seem to so often be involved in. Which is why I ‘tweet’ and have a website dedicated to my work as a Solihull Councillor. SA: What made you represent the Conservatives? PD: I hold no negative feelings towards other (mainstream) parties or their members but I have always leaned towards the conservative policy when I have watched debates and read manifestos. I must also say for the record that I contacted all of the three main parties in Solihull and the Conservatives

were the most welcoming towards me becoming a representative of their party. SA: What do you think about the current issues regarding tuition fees? PD: I would love to see free education for all in the UK but I understand the pressures of government budget cuts. In Solihull we had to slice £15 million from the annual budget this year! We live in a capitalist society which means we benefit from the services we pay for. It is statistically proven that the average graduate will receive a substantially higher salary so it is only fair that it is they who pay and not the tax payer who does not go to university. SA: You were elected for Shirley South ward in May, how did you get involved with your local community? PD: First of all when I met the Conservative selection committee I insisted I represent the ward in which I live, which is Shirley South. Had I been offered Olton I would have walked away. I have been involved in many community projects and assisted residents with their issues and represented them at council meetings (a highlight reel can be seen on my website). SA: What would your advice be

for young people interested in politics? PD: First of all follow my website (shameless plug). I would suggest that they get in touch with a local political group or youth council and read their literature and ‘get involved.’ The more you do that the better you will understand and it may well draw them in (as it did with me). Most council meetings are open to the public and can be sat in on at the Civic Centre in Solihull. The crossparty banter can be quite amusing at times, I would recommend any young person to pop along and hear a debate. SA: Being on the Education, Children and Young People Scrutiny Board, what are your views on the local government and young people? PD: Solihull has a fantastic reputation in all aspects of providing for and protecting its young people. Education is at a very high level and is improving all of the time, there are many talented and dedicated people who work at Solihull Council in the Youth services divisions (education and welfare) who I am very proud to work along side on the ECYPSB. You can follow Peter Doyle on twitter @Solihull_Cllr or visit his website: www.pdoyle.co.uk


A-level results in university U-turn

E

WORDS: Miriam Hussain very year thousands of students open those crisp university, and that maybe the brown envelopes that progression into higher education contain the key to their futures. wasn’t for me or the many other Students are either immediately students in my position. delighted or disappointed and Jobs, apprenticeships, placements tears can be interpreted as good and internships are all alternative or bad. routes that students need to be This year I was one of those aware of. Perhaps my efforts and students. I hard work would candidly opened be better placed the crisp brown in an alternative envelope only venture to to find that the A-levels? ‘A’s I’d hoped for I’ve since were missing. I decided that felt sick. All the the grades hard work I had written on that put in had been www.notgoingtouni.co.uk certificate are wasted and the not a reflection grades that I of the person or had achieved www.apprenticeships.org.uk character that were simply not I am, and have good enough. considered that www.totaljobs.com Disappointment maybe my skills was the first are suited to emotion, then something else. www.jobrapido.co.uk anger that I There are so should have many fantastic tried harder. opportunities out But I quickly there. Whatever realised that thousands of other you got in your A-levels and students were also feeling the same especially if you didn’t get the grades disappointment and anger. They too required for your university, then had worked hard and not achieved maybe it’s time to try a new venture. what they desired. There are thousands of opportunities Then it dawned on me how that you can get your hands on, students and parents alike have that may give you more satisfaction become utterly expectant on the than any results could. Don’t be upwards progression of school-todisheartened because A-levels are college-to-university. It also dawned definitely not the be-all or end-all. on me how hard it is to get into

Useful links

to japan!

feature


feature

L

ast June a research group called GfK NOP estimated that 27% of 1,000 UK workers were willing to move abroad for work, with the percentage even higher for younger workers aged 18-29. In 2008, Oxford graduate Nat Kent did exactly this. He packed his bags and left a recession-soaked London for the neon lights of Tokyo. WORDS: Nat Kent

It was finally my Grandma who said I was nuts. I was two years out of university and getting by just fine. I had a good job in a good company earning decent money. But I was bored - bored of the ugly outer borough of London where I lived, bored of working in IT consulting, bored of being in England. I wanted a challenge. In my last year of uni I had gotten into Studio Ghibli movies and had subsequently spent many an idle moment at work daydreaming about the verdant paddy fields and

“Welcome to the Birmingham of Japan!” said my new boss when he met me off the bullet train. “Do you like the city?” I asked him. “No”, came the dispiriting reply. But I liked the city. In Japan the cities are clean and safe, everyone is always polite and before you get used to how it all works you’ll find something crazy, ridiculous, intensely beautiful and/or delicious around every other corner. There were definitely challenges. Most people arrive without speaking the

Starbucks reading manga with your green tea frappuccino (Or doing something more cultural. Naturally.) Another challenge is the work. You leave England to learn about another country but chances are you put the rice on the table by teaching English. I had neither worked with children nor aspired to, so a Japanese Junior High School was an interesting place to end up at on a number of levels... But as long as you keep an open mind and do your best, it turns out

language or knowing the scripts but the plunge into the helplessness of mute illiteracy is followed by an exhilarating journey of discovery. If you persevere with the language, a whole civilisation opens up to you and before you know it you’re in

times like these, that seems quite a trite lesson to take away. But by leaving the country and seeking excitement (and employment) overseas, it seems like such idealism doesn’t always have to be misplaced.

pan!!” Ja f o m a h g in m ir B e h you’ll be fine. In “welcome to t canyons of neon . So for me, Japan seemed like the natural choice of destination. Never having been to East Asia, my grasp of what it was like was a little shaky, but I had a vague idea that you could get a job teaching English there with no trouble. And somehow that turned out to be pretty much correct. It seems English people possess a much-sought-after skill: having been born in an English-speaking country. Armed with this hardearned qualification and a vaguely enthusiastic attitude, I sailed through the interview and a couple of months later found myself landing in Tokyo. After a week of training I was despatched to Nagoya, a large city right in the middle of the country.


feature

Calculating the cost of uni

J

anuary’s student protests may seem like a distant memory, but the proposed rise for university tuition fees still stands. All students hoping to go to university from September 2012 will be paying increasing fees of up to £9,000 per year. These cuts were amongst many made by the government in an attempt to take control of the country’s recessive economy. But is it fair? Many took to the streets of Westminster to object to the government’s proposal. After all, we live in a democracy and our voices should be heard as loudly as the MPs’ who are making the decisions that will affect the generations to come, right? Despite the government trying hard to market the silver lining of the proposal - that bursaries are available to low-income households and that students won’t have to pay back their loan till they’re earning over £21,000 - the decision is still highly unpopular with many future students as they realise they will be in thousands of pounds of debt by the time they leave university. Some also see the proposed cost of tuition fees as a deterrent to those wanting to study at a higher level. With current university fees averaging at around £3,200 per year and growing rapidly, many students feel that the government is avoiding cuts in other sectors because students are an easy target. Those universities wishing to raise fees above £6,000 will need to set

WORDS: Mariam Khan out measures that aid those from poorer backgrounds, not just as they start out but in the long-term too. With each university offering its own specific scheme, these measures will take forms of bursaries and other aids.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), students taking courses costing £6,000 for three years will leave university with a debt of about £30,000. Fees increasing to £9,000 would see this debt going up to £38,000.

From the perspective of the tax payer the increase in student fees is somewhat relieving. This is because direct fees paid by students only make up 29% of a British university’s entire income, whilst 35% comes from the government, and the rest comes from investments and from other sources such as research grants. In September 2012 this balance is going to change dramatically as the majority of the cost of university fees will transfer from the taxpayer to the student. Personally, I feel that this increase in fees will not only deny many people the benefit of education, but will also deny them the great experience that going to university offers to individuals, that is the personal development of who you are. The choices you make at university can mould your future career. Missing out on this opportunity because you can’t afford it isn’t fair, and students shouldn’t be measured by their parents’ income or willingness to obtain loans that will haunt them for years to come. Every person thinking of going to university will have to decide whether it will be worth the cost. Will taking out loans and having to repay them make students more responsible with money or will it discourage many from education altogether?


feature

Recession report T

WORDS AND ILLUSTRATION: Dominique Grace he recession. It’s haunted the whole of the UK since 2008 but has supposedly hit us students the hardest. From 2012 university tuition fees will increase to a maximum of £9,000, which will leaves us with at least £27,000 of debt once we graduate. Yet the government is still broadcasting their concerns about our generation living on the doll and warning that unemployment levels are at an all time high. Well, why might that be? Because we can’t afford to go to university and if a job is out there, we are being turned down for people with degrees and higher levels of education. It’s an unstoppable cycle that this generation of young people are stuck in, unable to get out of unless we have the privilege of going to university. And even once we’ve got a degree finding a job is by no means easy. That’s why the teenagers and young people have fought back. Protesting and shouting and letting our voices be heard, to let the government know that what they are doing is criminal

and unfair. What’s undeniably unfair is that the government’s cuts have targeted a section of society that has not been particularly educated in money management nor had the life experience to learn it. In a time of high unemployment and predicted debt we could really use a little help! However, it seems that articles such as this one are not going to change the decisions that have already been made for us. It’s tough to find a positive view in all this but we have to be strong minded and stubborn like we always have been. Despite the fear of unemployment and the anxiety over our futures, we cannot carry on with this depressive mood as we won’t feel any better nor get anywhere quickly. We’ve got to keep being proactive, keep persevering and keep on at the government to let our voices be heard. At the end of the day we have done nothing wrong and we will come out on top of this unlike the current government. Don’t let them rain on our parade.


Your views Last issue we looked at internships. This issue we’re keen to hear your views on the rise and rise of supermarkets.

       

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Not-so-su Save the greengrocers

         

            

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I am currently on an unpaid, publishing internship in London. Although I believe entry-level work experience is brilliant and one of the best ways to learn, the lines between what we can and can’t experience are blurred. I can’t do anything that constitutes paid work which makes it difficult to get the full experience. Luckily my agency pay for my travel, but well over a grand’s worth of expenses has come out of my own pocket. This makes it more difficult for the talented but less well-off people to get noticed. Being paid would not only widen our range of experience but help those who aren’t as well-off. Alice Morgan I enjoyed reading [SL issue 2] and absolutely agree that unpaid internships give an unfair advantage to young people able to afford the experience, rather than those who might be best suited to, or indeed best assisted by the opportunity. However, there are other ways to start a career in politics. Political activism, energy and idealism can be as valuable as internships. Councillor Alison Walters

W

ith three new supermarkets being planned for Solihull, Claire Hargreaves weighs the pros and cons of supermarkets and asks whether we can afford to shop anywhere else?

Trade, in the English dictionary, is defined as ‘buying, selling, or exchanging of goods’. This simple process that may have been the kickstart of human civilisation, has since evolved to such a complexity that in 1916 the first self-service grocery

Retail stats The British Retail Consortium estimates that:

12 per cent of high street shops are vacant Over the past year there’s been a:

3.2 per cent drop in the number of people visiting shops in the East Midlands.

6.6 per cent drop in the number of people visiting shops in the West Midlands.

store was opened. Clarence Saunders, an American entrepreneur developed Piggly Wiggly, an early form of the supermarket which grew to become a familiar franchise in the USA. In its time Piggly Wiggly was a novelty. It had opens shelves and no staff to shop for the customer. But for us in the 21st Century, popular opinion on the supermarket is divided. Are we still appreciating the supermarket’s ability to create convenience (as well as jobs) on a mass level, or are we despairing because of the way it has drawn us away from our charming greengrocers and butchers? On the one hand, it is hard to ignore the fact that most of the country’s population use the supermarket. It may be daily, weekly, or even just annually, but we nearly all do and it’d be tough to find a person who doesn’t. It seems like we just can’t resist the supermarket’s permanent offering of ‘deals’, its convenient choice of brands, and its ability to supply your whole week’s shopping within a single trip. But maybe we are not all so easily seduced our local convenience store. Produce is a very debatable issue and many would agree that the best and freshest produce is only available at


upermarkets?

s or save our pockets?

A rough history 1916

Piggly Wiggly, the first selfservice grocery store, opens in Memphis, Tennessee

1930

King Kullen opens - “America’s first supermarket”

Artists’w impressions of ASDA in Shirley, Sainsbury’s in Dorridge and Waitrose in Knowle

1950

Sainsbury’s opens its first supermarket in Croyden

1956

Tesco (UK) opens in Malden

1961

Morrisons opens in Bradford

1973 the village butchers, or the familyowned bakery. Another commonly held view is that local, independent stores are a traditional part of British culture and should be preserved at all costs. As well as their personalised service, independent retailers also provide the variety and market for local customers and businesses that is simply not provided by the supermarkets.

However, whilst the freshest and most organic food may be available there, does our exponentially declining economy prevent us from shopping at these more luxurious stores? This leaves us with the much discussed and debated question. Where should we shop if, put off as we are by the faceless, behemoth corporations, are unable to afford to support independent, local stores?

Lidl opens as a discount supermarket in Germany

1989

German discount supermarket Aldi, opens store in UK

2013?

Sainsbury’s opens in Dorridge?


Riots: Reasons and Reactions


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cover story

hose dramatic August evenings may seem like a long time ago now, but as time has passed the questions of ‘what happened’ and ‘why’ have not gone away. We are still looking through a glass darkly, but by talking and listening to different

community voices, we may begin to see more clearly. ‘Why?’ is a big question and not easily answered. Here we present the raw reactions of two contributors written not long after the events. We also interviewed Casey Rain whose Birmingham Riots blog was at the

forefront of the news. Charlie Alcock uses poetry to express his reaction to the unrest. Tariq Jahan was rightly lauded for his words following the death of his son, Haroon, in Winston Green. In the aftermath of the death and destruction he was perhaps the only shining light in those dark days.

I t

O

nce again events have occurred that have shown teenagers in a bad light. They’ve been depicted as lawless, mindless criminals that do not care about the rules. However, I think most teenagers will agree with me in saying that we are not all like that. Whilst 100-200 hooligans were running around town having the best

WORDS: Jon Lowe time of their lives, most teenagers were watching the televised carnage from home. Judging from some girls’ Facebook statuses when false reports announced that Primark had been torched – well, let’s just say it was a good job they were indoors. During the trouble outside, most teenagers were on social media

websites inside, dreaming up hilarious groups for people to join and mocking the rioters. Despite this, the message from most of the media is that all teenagers were responsible. Luckily (I hope) for teenagers across the West Midlands, I was given the privilege of arguing my case to the masses. Well, to the people that were listening to BBC WM on August 10 at 19:58.


Local hero

M

y name is Tariq Jahan and One man was killed, hundreds I come to speak for what injured. happened to my son. Today we stand here to plead with On the evening of August 10 2011 all our youth to remain calm, for our Tariq Jahan’s 21-year-old son Haroon communities to stand united. and two others were run over and Now rumours had spread again, killed on Dudley Road, Winson carried on social networks and blogs. Green, Birmingham. The following People were coming to Birmingham. day Tariq faced the media clutching a People from Manchester, Nottingham, single piece of paper. Leicester and Derby. They were Winson Green was about to be Step forward if you want to lose angry, they wanted revenge. torn apart. It is an economically poor your sons, otherwise calm down and Why are we doing this?? I’ll ask community, close to the city centre, go home. my son. and home to an imposing prison with They did. Birmingham was As Tariq was speaking a crowd of spared more tragedy. In less high-employment and low prospects. community leaders looked away from than 90 seconds Tariq Jahan had In 2005, unfounded rumours spread the cameras and towards the father. given a calm speech that moved a that ignited race riots over two nights. Some wiped away tears. community, a city and a country.

But still the question remains. Why did the riots happen? Many have said they were due to social or economic factors. Could the riots be down to the youth displaying their aggression and anger? Scrapped E.M.A and rising tuition fees have combined with the highest youth unemployment in years. It begs the question; do the young people who took part in the riots have a future anyway, even

without being convicted with criminal records? I’m in no way saying that this is a just reason for violence and destruction, but one of the points I made in the radio broadcast was that adults can express their political opinions through voting, but how can young people do that? I’m able to write for a magazine like this one but not everyone has that opportunity.

I strongly believe that more programs need to be set up so that young people can voice their opinions. We are the future generation, we should have an influence in the world we are growing up in, or at the very least be able to express our opinions in matters that affect us. follow us on twitter: @SL_Magazine


SL_Magazine Hi Casey, to start off with tell us a little bit about yourself...

CaseyRain OK, I’m 23, a professional musician (producer and vocalist) and a member of a band called Swami :) My stage name is S-Endz :)

SL_Magazine Why did you decide to set-up the birminghamriots2011. tumblr.com blog?

MAGAZINE l s vs asey ain the future is here

Casey Rain started the Birmingham Riots tumblr blog, which quickly became an indespensible source of the latest information during the disturbances. Reporting events far ahead of traditional news media, the blog received tens of thousands of visitors and propelled Casey to the attention of people across

the Midlands and beyond. He was interviewed by news outlets from the BBC to a French national newspaper. In honour of the role twitter played in allowing people to communicate during the unrest we interviewed Casey over the site. All questions and answers are 140 characters or less.

SL_Magazine

SL_Magazine

Could they happen again?

What needs to happen now to stop a repeat of the riots?

CaseyRain I wanted2do something useful and figured collating info to a centralized place would be a positive contribution.

CaseyRain

SL_Magazine What do you think were the causes of the riots?

Have the riots damaged the reputation of young people?

CaseyRain

CaseyRain

Failure on all levels from government cuts to high unemployment to racial profiling to police brutality to recession effects.

Perhaps to some people. I think perceptive folks see that the real reputation damage is to the government/ police.

Yes, if major change does not happen in a few key areas.

SL_Magazine

CaseyRain A reversal of tory arts cuts, a considerable police effort to stop racial profiling, and more money put into apprenticeships.

SL_Magazine And finally, what are your plans for the future?

CaseyRain My band swami have a new album coming out soon called #upgrade - it’ll blow your mind!


I

watched more BBC News during those few days than I ever have done in my life. I watched interviews with distraught business owners, with youth workers, even with members of the clergy. They all had different opinions on why the riots had happened. Some thought they were almost justified, that the violence came out of longstanding social problems, made worse by recent events such as government-inflicted budget cuts and job losses. They felt that these riots were practically inevitable, and found it almost surprising that everyone under the age of 18 hadn’t already put on a hood and smashed the windows of the nearest Orange shop. A very small minority of people, including, I’m guessing, the rioters themselves, were telling themselves that it was all down to the shooting of Mark Duggan, who was shot in London after apparently attempting to shoot a police officer. Granted, this was the original cause of the protests in Tottenham but it seems the shooting of one man can now compel teenagers on the other side of the country to burn down local businesses, or break into an Argos. I’ve been to Argos. I can honestly say that shopping there is one of the most annoying and frustrating experiences you can ever inflict upon yourself. But never once did I consider looting and smashing its

England in 2011 An unelected government in power who drains the blood of those who need it most and throws them on a cold stone floor to cower behind a mountain that they do not own. The heroes of our time, most proud and bold, parade themselves on television screens. They paint themselves in coats of burnished gold to mask an altogether darker sheen. With trembling hands we peek out through the blinds and watch our cities bursting into flame. Something vile seeps into our minds and no-one really knows who is to blame. And yet, in every dale and every hill England’s battered spirit slumbers still. Charlie Alcock

WORDS: John Hodges windows to be the solution. Personally, I reckon that some of England’s “yoof” simply watched the Tottenham riots and thought they could get away with it in other cities. It was an opportunity to get a free widescreen TV. Whilst some have tried to use ‘underlying social problems’ to justify the riots, there is certainly no way of justifying the deaths that happened in the West Midlands, or the shooting in London.There may be exceptions to the rioters who were out simply to get a free phone or two. Perhaps,

some of them really do feel society owes them something, or they really do have a problem with Mark Duggan’s death. But it remains blatantly obvious to most people that vandalising shopping centres and helping yourself to a new TV isn’t going to solve these problems. What’s really frustrating (even more than a trip to Argos), is that none of them seemed to think about the livelihoods they were destroying, not to mention the normal people who were forced to bare the brunt of their greed and stupidity. What’s more, I was really looking forward to that England-Holland friendly!


Awash with optimism S ometimes life doesn’t seem to go where we want it to and it’s not always quite the revolving door that we’d imagined it to be. It can be quite a tough crowd at times but as George Bernard Shaw once wrote: ‘There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.’ We shouldn’t let not getting our heart’s desire diminish our yearning for it. Because where there is a will, there is a way. There will be times when we are struggling on our journey to reach our destinations, i.e. not getting the grades we wanted, not getting into our first choice uni’s, not getting a job we’d worked so hard for. This can make us feel like the four walls of life are closing in on us and we might lose our perspective. But as cliché as this may sound everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it’s what we learn through the journey that matters, that helps us to grow as individuals, that makes us more competent. Sometimes we may even ponder the thought of giving up because we didn’t get to where we wanted to be. But stop that passing thought right there! If we look back we can learn from things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to. They say experience is a big price to pay but that’s not necessarily true. It just shows us that we shouldn’t lose our desire and passion for what we truly love because at the end of the day ‘what

WORDS: Fauzia Khan PHOTO: Barnaby Kent you sow is what you shall reap’ and nothing tastes better than victory. We shouldn’t ever take anything for granted because one day we might wake up and realise that we’ve lost a diamond while we were too busy collecting stones. Some scientists have been laughed at because of their discoveries. When we look at the stuff that other people have achieved it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the sky is the limit. We shouldn’t wallow in what we didn’t get while others got it. We all have our own legends to fulfill, our own stories to write, our own canvases to paint. The only way for us to know the future is to make it. Remember the words of Epictetus: ‘The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.’ What a thought to contemplate, eh?

SO

Food that speaks to the

viewpoint


T

,,

OUL

We wanted to combine soulful food with the growing youthful music scene.””,,

WORDS: Jessica Millward

ILLUSTRATION: Deena Chauhan

he Soul Food Project is the vision of Matthew Beck. As we sit on the plush leather sofas of the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, a seemingly typical British pub, you wouldn’t assume that it was home to the new, innovative food of the Deep South. The Soul Food Project is the first entirely Cajun kitchen to be brought to Birmingham, with an interesting menu consisting of the classic Cajun Jambalaya dish, a mix of peppers, rice and various varieties of meat, whilst the unique ‘Po’ Boys’ sandwiches offer a lunchtime flavour of the Deep South. Matthew explains that the chef behind these delicious meals is Carl, a classically French trained chef who felt the need to create an interesting menu of brand new meals the likes of which Birmingham had never seen before. The aim was a menu consisting of flavoursome, locally-sourced foods that were also available at fair prices. They wanted to explore the vibrant cuisine of New Orleans by combining a mixture of family recipes with a selection taken from Cajun cook books, to practise the Deep South idea of building something from nothing. However, the pair would also like to change the menu seasonally to keep the project fresh and exciting. They didn’t want to fall into the

category of the typical ‘gastro pub’, so the kitchens at the Hare and Hounds, as well as at The Victoria in Birmingham city centre, are promoting the authentic Soul Food Project menu which is targeted at just about anyone. The combination of music and soulful food has proved to be a great success amongst their customers, with the project hosting live music nights, where the public can come along and listen to a set of live music whilst trying out the mouth-watering food. Matt explains that they usually have reasonably well-known artists playing, supported by lesser known musicians, as he likes the idea of giving newer bands and artists the chance to be noticed, much like his own mission to promote lesser known Cajun cuisine to the British public. Once a month, the project holds themed nights in which a country is selected and a tailored menu is created to bring to life that country’s interpretation of what Soul Food is. The night has a pre-set menu of 3 courses for £15 and each month’s menu stimulates the taste buds in a variety of ways. Matt says they’ve had a great response to these themed nights, with fantastic feedback from the public and they plan to hold a British themed night in the near future. The Soul Food Project also has plans for further expansion. Matthew

and Carl want the company to grow into more cities in England, making Cajun cuisine a well-established and popular choice nationwide. Festival catering is also a considered option for the project; its established links with live music would present a great opportunity for the project to grow, catering at larger music events with more customers. The pair enjoy the exhilarating connection with the audience that would allow them to share the joy of their food within the excitement of a festival atmosphere. However, as Matt explains, no one knows what the future holds. However, one thing is certain, the food is new, exciting and delicious and The Soul Food project is definitely going to grab some attention!


gaming

Games Prospector:

Can the games industry strike gold? WORDS: Robert Leftwich

I

n order to talk seriously about the state of the video games industry we need to look back at where gaming has been, where it is now, and where it could go in the future with the right support. For nearly all of gaming’s history it has been considered a medium for children and nerds. In the past this has limited what games can achieve and has stopped a lot of potentially great games from being released, or has at least forced them to censor themselves (Medal of Honour). Video games are still perceived by the press and by the world at large as a medium for children despite the ‘15’ and ‘18’ labels on most new releases. This results in games being condemned as inappropriate whenever they want to cover something sensitive or controversial, such as sexuality or genocide. However, film, books and other art forms address these issues all the time. This problem is made worse by companies who market violent games at children (I’m looking at EA and the adverts for Dead Space 2 here), as well as ignorant parents who buy 15 and 18-rated games for their tenyear-olds. So, what needs to happen for the games industry to move out of this ‘kid’s toy’ perception and be accepted as a mainstream form of artistic and entertainment media? The answer is

two-fold: 1. Games need to appeal to a wider audience. This started to happen with the PS2 and its dance mat, Buzz, and other early casual games. It was then followed by the Nintendo Wii and DS which both brought gaming to people who had never tried it before. Regardless of my views on such games and, in particular on their content, they have certainly helped to move the medium forwards towards acceptability. If this trend continues into the next generations of consoles then it will throw open the door for the second thing that needs to happen. 2. Games need to be as ambitious as film and literature in terms of their scope and depth in order to be truly deep and innovative. Games like Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, Pokemon Black/White, LA Noire, Portal and the Fallout series are all great examples of games that have moved in this direction. They are all either technologically innovative or have deep story lines that explore moral, political and

philosophical issues, or do both. But it’s not just the game creators who can move the industry forward. You the consumer need to reward developers for innovation. None of these games will continue to be made if no-one buys them, but if innovative games start selling as well as the Call of Duty series then the medium is set to improve. What the improvement of innovative gaming doesn’t mean is that all games are going to become ‘arty’ and no fun to play. Silliness, cartoon-style graphics and copious violence are all parts of the gaming heritage, as much as points, levels and achievements and they won’t be going anywhere fast. Innovative games need to become a larger part of the release schedule and they need to sell themselves to a wider audience. With more money in the industry, we’ll see new technology developed and new genres and playtypes emerge. That will be good for gamers and game-makers alike and I think it’s what we all want to see.


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ince the creation of YouTube in 2005, the meaning of the word ‘viral’ has changed dramatically. In the context of the internet, ‘viral’ now describes videos that are shared at a high rate and amass millions of views in a short period of time. Whether somebody posts a video on their Facebook, sends a chain email with a link to it, or even makes their own video in response, the fact is that in a few days time you and all your friends will have seen it. It is an interesting phenomenon and possibly one of the most effective advertising techniques for businesses to utilise. Viral videos are popping up every day but it takes a truly extraordinary video to stay viral, and more importantly to stay in our thoughts. It’s hard, but not impossible. So, here we go. My top 5 viral videos of all time... 5: Double rainbow guy Possibly the most recent video on the list (2010), it records Paul Vasquez’s reaction to a rainbow with two arcs, with cries of “It’s a double rainbow all the way man” and accompanied by a host of semidisturbing gasps of happiness. It has over 29,000,000 views and has helped Vasquez gain an endorsement deal with Microsoft. 4: Gingers do have souls! An underrated video with significantly fewer views than “Double Rainbow Guy.’ It’s essentially a redheaded boy screaming at the

feature

Viral videos WORDS: Daunish Negargar

camera for 3 minutes in response to an episode of South Park. It’s become a successful meme (an image passed around the internet) but to this day people aren’t sure what to make of it. Is he mentally deranged or a comedy genius? 3: Leave Britney alone! It’s one of the first videos to go viral (2006), it sparked numerous parodies and was even featured in the movie Meet the Spartans. Chris Crocker (who in the original video shrieks at viewers to leave Ms Spears alone) has gone on to become a successful YouTuber in his own right, although it isn’t clear whether people really respect his views or just watch for his frequent temper tantrums. 2: Pokémon theme music video A simple concept, it features Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla lip syncing to the Pokémon theme tune in ‘hilarious’ fashion. 1: Charlie bit my finger! Was there ever any doubt? These two brothers stole the hearts of the world and racked up over 357 million views. There’s no need to describe the video because unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have already seen it. With a video camera and a YouTube account, viral videos have the capacity to make anyone a star. Just don’t let a bitten finger, or a few broken bones put you off.


create

Get creative! Submit your own creative writing / illustration / photography to slmagazine@zoho.com

Half Full On the table stands proud, a cool glass of water. The meniscus lies firmly on the halfway line. Unwavering. Unmoving. Half is gone, half is still to come. Half is the past, half is the future. The line is where we stand. Empty. Gone. Past. Words being hurled across the pavement. Lies poisoning our blood flow. Failures mounting up, higher and higher until the light is shrouded. But half is still to come. Wonderful dreams painting the sky with bright colours. Love, a secret mystery to be unravelled. Joy around the corner like the first ray of sun. Hope in our hearts, throughout our trials. Danielle Carrington


interview 27

How did you first become interested in writing? I’ve always scribbled stuff since the age of 9. At primary school I wrote a story that one teacher liked. She asked me to write more, as part of a group project. One pupil did illustrations, another did a cover and bound the story. The teacher said it was so good she’d get it published, but then promptly disappeared. After we came back from holiday she was gone. From then on I was determined then to get ‘something published’.

What made you choose short stories instead of another form, like the novel?

A

lan Beard is a 57-yearold, Birminghambased author of short stories and flash fictions. His first collection ‘Taking Doreen out of the Sky’ was published in 1999, and his second collection ‘You don’t have to say’ was published just last year. A skilled wordsmith who was instrumental in establishing local publisher the Tindal Street Press, Beard now works as a librarian at Birmingham City University. Carl Sealeaf interviewed this remarkable writer and asked about his experiences during a career that has spanned over three decades.

I love short stories and have from college. I read stories in magazines and anthologies all the time and read collections. I read novels too, with nearly as much pleasure but find they’re sometimes too long, often I feel they could have been edited down. Nothing beats the rush of a great short story. Are short stories more challeng ing to write than longer pieces? I’ve not written a novel so can’t really say – I did attempt one in my twenties but it petered out. To me it’s probably more challenging to write a novel, but many (e.g. Hemingway) say that writing short pieces is much more difficult because every word counts, and there is no room to be discursive. In that way it is similar to poetry I suppose.

How long did it take before your work receive d serious notice? I started writing ‘properly’ (i.e. bought A4 page-a-day diaries – which I still use) when I left college in 1980 when I was 25. It took five years to get a story in a national magazine (London Magazine ), although I had some earlier pieces in regional magazines (West Midlands Arts Report; South West Review).


Many of your stor ies are set in Birm ingh am, but how much of your writ ing is base d on your expe rien ces whil st living here? My experiences do feed into my work, but a lot come from my family who mostly live in rural Gloucestershire. I grew up in the country but on a council estate attached to a large factory where everyone worked (I spent a year working shifts there before moving away to college). When I set ‘industrial’ stories in this country setting they didn’t seem to fit. I moved to Birmingham in 1982 and realised it was perfect for the type of stories I was writing, so just changed the background. Of course the more time I spent in Brum the more the stories grew out of what I was seeing/experiencing here: the riots in 1985 (and more recently of course), the factories shutting down (Longbri dge etc), my own work place experiences (absolutely not factory based). In many ways though I think I am still writing about my extended family, adapting their worries and experiences into my stories. Has there been any subject matter which you’ve found difficult to write about?

My pieces often deal with drugs and sex and violence, so I do get a bit embarrassed when my mum is in the audience (e.g. at my launch). Other than that I have no problems. How far do you research and plan each piece, and how much do you base on instinct? Instinct is the first impetus. I just write phrases and situations down that appeal. Research – not a lot – and planning – quite a bit – come later. I often move sequences of events around and find that often gives me the clues I need to finish the story, to make it ‘shapely’, or to put it another way, to make it work. I also belong to a writers’ group who are a real help in the final stages of getting the stories working. What advice would you give for those of us who are hoping to become writers?

Don’t give up, even if you have given up. Go back and start again. Join a group (a good one, where you can trust the judgement of other members) – that forces you to write and to have an audience.


create

Even if all we can do is say "I'm sorry" until it is as meaningless air And to start with, sorry. Sorry for sitting down as you took the fist from my mouth. Sorry for God playing the piano during your first dinner party; his fingers lemon wedges, no umbrella for the damper. So sorry - the funeral shoes; untamed, the handful of stars, the overcooked babies. I know how true humanity does not squeal. Sorry for handing you fifty tiny pills, one for each day of my madness. I am so, so sorry for licking each tiny seed as the Countdown theme song hums, cracking the robin eggs at our window. I'm sorry for admitting my loneliness, as if admitting my pregnancy. The curve of my motherhood is architectural, yet you no longer touch me. You say I am not lonely, but we are all simply alone. I’m sorry for being a survivor, allowing someone else to take my heart and place it on the washing line. Yet, you say, I do not need it. Safrina Ahmed

After she left After she left I finally understood 80s power ballads. Daniel Williams


WORDS: Daniel Williams & Fauzia Khan ILLUSTRATION: Amber Winter-Moore

Lighthouse You remind me of a lighthouse - I do not mean you are tall or striped, but when I saw you, I think I began to see my way again. DW

haiku

Bleak Thoughts

S

he’d regularly sit there at 11:39. She knew the exact time as her alarm clock lay next to her on the mahogany bedside table. The fluorescent green of the dials always caught her eye. They reminded her blades of grass on a warm and breezy summer’s day. Sometimes Ruby felt as though she had nothing better to do then to dwell on her thoughts, whether they involved wallowing in self-pity at the tribulations life or pondering upon philosophical issues. She’d often dream of a world in which she would find a hole in Plato’s, Fletcher’s, Bentham’s or even Aristotle’s theories and reach a solution that was always there, right in front of everyone’s noses.

Ruby was constantly seeking answers and always thought that everything in life was bound to have an answer. However, she knew this couldn’t be true because so much had taken place in her life that she couldn’t be certain about. So much so that she felt she would lose her mind trying to comprehend what was going on. But that was life, its mysteries reflecting the clouds on a rainy day, or even a mid summer’s morning because one minute everything would be as clear as crystal whereas the other times it would reflect a dark night in which dozens of catastrophes had taken place. There was therefore one certainty about life and that was that it was uncertain. But Ruby wasn’t happy with that.

Still trying to write haikus that aren’t too weird grasshopper starlight DW Ruby’s thoughts often contradicted concepts on which there was a general consensus. In her world the sun could be the moon and the moon could be the sun and it would not matter. She accepted that even though her mind may be tangled in the enchantment of the mysteries of life nothing could ever take that enchantment away. And after seeing the tears of her mother, Ruby had shed tears of her own. It had been precisely three years since Ruby and her mother had seen her nieces and were possibly never going to see them again, a tragedy that had hit them both hard. It had left scars and broken hearts. Still, everyone always found a reason to be miserable or an excuse to wallow in self pity. FK


feature

The Qur’an and me

As part of our series on religious texts we asked Dr Issam Ghannam, Chairman of Building Bridges, to write about the Qu’ran. Here he explains his belief in the sacred text of the Islamic faith.

F

ourteen centuries ago, God sent down the Qur’an and instructed the Prophet Muhammad to teach it to mankind. This book of guidance and wisdom calls man to the truth and instructs all human beings to adhere to the values which this mighty revelation contains. From the day of its revelation to the ‘Day of Judgement,’ the Qur’an, the last divine book, will remain the sole guide for humanity. The perfection of the literary language of the Qur’an, the incomparable features of its style and the superior wisdom contained within it are some of the definitive proofs that it represents the word of our Lord. In addition, the Qur’an contains within its words many miracles which prove it to be God’s word. One of these attributes is the remarkable number of scientific truths which are contained in it. In this book there are innumerable examples of information humanity has only been able to discover with the technology of the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, until the mid-20th century, the prevalent view across the world was that the universe was infinite, had existed forever and that it would continue to do so for all time. According to this view, known as the ‘static universe model,’ the universe had no end or beginning. In maintaining that the universe is a collection of fixed, static and unchanging substances, this

view has constituted the basis of materialist philosophy and has consequently rejected the existence of a Creator. However, as science and technology progressed during the 20th century, the static universe model has been completely uprooted. We have now entered the 21st century and a new dawn is upon us. Through numerous experiments and calculations conducted by some of the world’s most prominent thinkers, modern physics has proven that the universe did indeed have a beginning, that it came into being from nothing in a

single moment in a huge explosion. The moment of creation was described in the holy Qur’an in chapter 21:30: ‘Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together [as one unit of Creation], before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?’ Furthermore, it has been established that the universe is not fixed and static, as materialists still stubbornly maintain. On the contrary, it is undergoing a constant process of

Since 2001 Building Bridges has been promoting community adhesion and understanding in Solihull through a range of activities including graffiti removal, fund raising, meeting with local MPs and running awarness days in schools. movement, change and expansion. These recently-established facts are nails in the coffin of the static universe theory. Today, all these facts are universally accepted by the scientific community. In the Qur’an, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago at a time when the science of astronomy was still primitive, the expansion of the universe was described in the following terms: ‘And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it.’ (Qur’an, 51:47) Of course, we should not view the Qur’an as a book of science. However, within its verses many scientific facts are expressed in an extremely concise and profound manner. Quite simply, the scientific facts in the Qur’an could not have been known at the time of its revelation, which demonstrates that it is the word of God and that He is the Creator and Ruler of the entire universe.


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