Anne Hailes: Boris Johnson would do well to read Declan Henry's book Voices Of Modern Islam

Boris Johnson gets stuck – for publicity?

WHEN Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip line across the River Thames it didn't seem to faze him one bit and there were plenty who thought it was an intended hiccup – great publicity.

He won't be there on Sunday August 19 when those who dare will launch themselves off a 30-metre platform and fly at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour across the River Lagan in order to raise money for Action Cancer.

Come on girls, so many of us have taken advantage of Action Cancer's breast-screening service – it's only right and proper that we and our friends support this challenging event. What a great chance to enjoy such a stimulating experience.

Registration fee is £48 per person and participants are encouraged to raise a minimum of £100 in sponsorship to help fund Action Cancer's services throughout Northern Ireland – they cost £4 million every year.

The charity provides counselling and complementary therapy to those living with cancer or anyone supporting someone with their diagnosis. This is available to both adults and children from age five; also a personal mentoring service for those dealing with their diagnosis.

Other services include acupuncture, scar therapy, physiotherapy, yoga and Pilates, one-to-one and group life coaching.

It's vital to be aware of how to minimise the risk of cancer and Action Cancer's special health promotion programme deals with this. Information on the complete range of services is available from For more information on the Zip Line challenge call 028 9080 3349.


AUDIENCES were bowled over by 14-year-old Sam Gibson in his role as the paperboy in the Lyric production of the same name.

Last week when he was on holiday in Croatia we talked and he told me his new-found stardom is only sinking in. Learning lines, two weeks' rehearsal with his ‘family' of 35 other brilliant teenagers, then the nerves of opening night – indeed, of each one of the four nights on stage.

“I don't mind that; you need it for the adrenaline to flow!”

Set in 1975, he sees the play by Tony Macaulay as a tale about an ordinary boy living though bad times, not just a kid with an imagination but one who wants to make a difference.

For Sam one scene in particular struck home. “The women on the peace march is a bit of history you don't hear much about and I think it was particularly powerful. I definitely want to go on with a stage career,” he said. “I don't see myself with a nine-to-five desk job. When I was six I discovered theatre and the rush you get so this has been a dream come true and I want Paperboy to survive, even if I'm not in it, I want it to live on.”

This modest young man is destined to go far.


TWO mentions on the one page, even if it's for his buffoonery. After his comment about Muslim women who wear the burka looking like letter boxes, Boris Johnson would do well to read Declan Henry's latest book Voices Of Modern Islam.

Ignorant statements like his do damage to community relations and are totally offensive.

In this latest of over half a dozen books, Declan uncovers many aspects of being Muslim today. He declares that, as an Irish Catholic born in Sligo and now based in England, writing this book has given him cause for deep reflection, brought him closer to his own faith and that he has discovered there is a deep connection between the three faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

He has gone to the source and talked to over 100 Muslim interviewees and so presents a wide range of experience and opinion, the roots of their faith, Sharia law, arranged marriages and sexuality.

In his foreword, Dr Taj Hargey, Imam at Oxford Islamic Congregation, says that Islam in our time is by far the most controversial and contentious of all global faiths.

“This timely book is an invaluable resource in generating an enlightening and positive public debate surrounding Islam as well as a better understanding of this hugely variegated and proliferating religion within the United Kingdom.”

Complex Subject Examined

For Declan it's been a voyage of discovery. “What I present here is a taste of Islam in Britain at one particular moment in time.”

He writes: “Islamic terrorists have poisoned the hearts and minds of many non-Muslims into believing that something evil and cruel lies at the heart of Islam.”

Just as many think being from Ireland automatically means you are carrying a bomb. In both cases nothing could be further from the truth. There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, four million in the UK, with many living in Northern Ireland. All will identify with the stories told in this book.

Naazir: “To become a Muslim is simple. The first two steps you need to take are to believe there is only one God and that the Prophet Muhammad was the Last Messenger that God send to Earth.”

When they meet, the greeting is ‘Salaam' meaning ‘peace on you'; being a responsible Muslim means respecting parents and your spouse, being honest and trustworthy, supporting others. Teaching includes: “While broth is being cooked for your family, add a little more water to it so that your neighbour might also share in it.”

Islam also stresses freedom of religion for all, so leaving people to follow the religion of their choice.

Declan addresses misconceptions – issues of homosexuality and abortion, why some Muslims dislike dogs, the question of cleanliness, the subject of halal meat and the slaughter of animals, faith schools, dress codes and do Muslims hate Christmas?

Also an examination of extracts from the Qur'an and their relevance in the 21st century.

Without doubt this is a fascinating and important book; to read it fully takes time but is rewarding.

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