Mosque request saves walk-out councillor’s role

Cllr Malcolm Hey
Cllr Malcolm Hey
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A LETTER from a Muslim group has saved the position of a councillor who walked out of a meeting to avoid an Islamic prayer.

An emergency meeting was held yesterday to consider removing Councillor Malcolm Hey from the city council’s religious education panel.

It comes after the Tory walked out of the council chamber on Tuesday, to avoid a prayer said by Imam Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo.

But he has kept his position on the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (Sacre) after a last-minute plea from the President of Wessex Jamaat, Roshan Gangji.

He wrote to education boss, Cllr Terry Hall, saying that he should be ‘forgiven’.

In his letter he said: ‘We have a responsibility to each other.

‘What has happened is at best an aberration and we need to give thought to create space for deeper understanding.

‘We need to ponder whether suspension will create a change of attitude. I very much doubt it.

‘I humbly request to consider what Jesus and Prophet Muhammad would do.

‘Show compassion and forgive the aberration.

‘I request he take time out to reflect.

‘The cabinet could ask he meets with other faith leaders in the community and share a meal.’

Cllr Hall said she called the meeting after concern from the public about his role with Sacre, and whether his beliefs conflicted with the views of the council.

She added: ‘I’m mindful of the letter from the Jamaat, so despite community concern I recommend Cllr Hey not be suspended.

‘I hope he’ll take the opportunity to reflect.

‘We’ll forward him the Jamaat’s letter, and tell him if he leaves prayers in future, consideration will be given to removing him from Sacre.’

Sacre includes members of religions, teaching staff, and representatives of Portsmouth City Council.

It guides religious education in city schools.

Cllr Hey still insisted he hadn’t done anything wrong, but admitted he thought he would be taken off the panel.

He told The News: ‘The Jamaat has been gracious in its attitude. I’m grateful. I don’t feel I was wrong, but I expected to be removed from Sacre.’

‘I will stay on it, as I hope I make a contribution to it.’