Monthly Archives: May 2009

Interview with former Mayor of Huddersfield; Karam Hussain

Former Mayor of Huddersfield

Former Mayor of Huddersfield

In the final hours of his term as Mayor, Former Mayor Karam Hussain invited me into the Town Hall parlour to take an Oral History recording of his life as Mayor, achievements; his struggles of starting work at the age of 15 in the textile mills and how he still has a strong sense of belonging to Kashmir, his birthplace. He recalled memories of coming to England at the age of fifteen to see his dad who had left for England when he was born and described the way in which his granddad called him back to live in Kashmir after finding out he was working in England in the mills at such a young age.

Karam Hussain spent many years between homes, six months with his parents in England and six months with grandparents in Kashmir. He recalls enjoying the experience and highlights the way in which it has deepened his knowledge and life experiences, but Karam decided to settle in England when he married and started his family; as England provided a better life as was viewed by many South Asians at the time. He describes how life was hard in England and he only managed to go back to Kashmir every now and then, but he achieved his ambitions with will power and determination, describing his previous role as Mayor with a focus of bringing communities together.

Karam Hussain was Mayor of Huddersfield from May 2008-2009. He is the second South Asian Mayor of Huddersfield after former Mayor Mohan Sokhal whose term as mayor completed in 2002.

 Listen to this oral history on the Asian Voices website, along with many other oral histories from the Huddersfield community on www.asianvoices.org.uk.

Eggless – Food and Religion

Food is an important aspect in many faiths and many religions have specific requirements. Religions from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all have religious requirements. Depending on the how strictly you follow your own faith influences the extent to which you will follow these regulations. Christianity includes the faiths of Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant and each of these faiths have varying food influences and requirements. Catholic and Orthodox Christians observe several fast and feast days during the year and Protestants celebrate Christmas and Easter. Even the ritual communion celebrated by Christians involves food and drink which represents Jesus through bread and wine.

But imagine coming to live in a country where you are alien to the culture and language and then having to maintain your religious food requirements. In Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, all of these faiths have foods which are forbidden. In Islam the concept of Halal and Haram is applied. Halal means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’ and this concept is applied not just in food, but all aspects of a Muslim’s life. Halal foods are allowed and those prohibited are Haram meaning ‘not permitted’ which includes pork and alcohol.

Judaism follows a similar requirement with regards to food and Kashrut refers to laws permitting food in the Jewish religion. Kosher means food ‘fit’ or ‘permitted’ and foods which are not permitted include pork and shellfish. Kosher and Halal foods have specific religious requirements at the time of slaughter and it is this which differentiates Halal and Kosher meat from other meat.

To access Halal food in the 1960’s in Yorkshire was a challenge and many people resorted to undertaking the preparation and animal slaughter at home just to be able to eat meat once a month and maintain their religious beliefs. Now walking about in Huddersfield, Bradford, Dewsbury, Leeds and many other Yorkshire towns, you will be hard pressed not to be able to find any Halal meat shops or grocery stores catering to the needs of the South Asian community, but there are still some gaps in the food market that are not being met and are still not catering for all religions or faiths.

Hinduism believes in the interdependence of life and people who practice the Hindu religion don’t eat meat from any animal or any food that is involved in the taking of life. Many Hindus are vegetarian, which is not compulsory and most Hindus do not eat beef or beef products, as the cow is sacred. This belief in life means that many Hindus do not eat eggs. So if you were celebrating an event, where would you go to get an eggless cake? London, Birmingham, but what about locally? Why do you have to undergo challenges to maintain your faith? Understanding the role of food in cultural and religious practice is an important way of showing respect and responding to the needs of the people from religious communities, from which we will be able to avoid assumptions about a person’s religious beliefs and culture.