The man who brought Islam to Liverpool
Abdullah Quilliam was faced with missiles of abuse, but he was undeterred
Dear readers — Jack here with a quick personal note before we move on to the edition. On Wednesday I woke up to some pretty horrible news about a bereavement close to me and as such I’ll be off for a few days. That means I won’t be able to get our weekend read finished up in time, so there will be nothing in your inbox on Saturday morning. Apologies for that, but in life some things do take precedence over 2,000 words on Sensor City, Liverpool’s troubled tech incubator. Enjoy today’s edition instead, which is about Abdullah Quilliam, the first Muslim convert on the British Isles, and the remarkable life he led. And have a lovely Post-free weekend too, if that’s at all possible. See you next week.
Editor’s note: As is now tradition at The Post, this edition is being sent out to our full list, with non-paying readers only able to see the very beginning of the email. If that’s you, you’ll get a little taster of Mr Quilliam’s life, but no more than that. If you want the full chapter and verse and all the juicy details buried tantalisingly beyond that pesky paywall, you’ll have to pay up. Why might we pull such a cruel trick, you may ask? Are we sadists? No, we’ve done this — reluctantly — because we’re funded entirely by our paying members and in order to continue, thrive and revive quality journalism in Merseyside, we need your financial support. Consider taking out a subscription today and blow that paywall to smithereens.
Your Post briefing
Riverside MP Kim Johnson has apologised after calling the Israeli government “fascist” at Prime Minister’s Questions. The remark — “since the election of the fascist Israeli government last December there has been an increase in human rights violations against Palestinians” — prompted Johnson to be summoned to see the party’s chief whip, and on Wednesday afternoon she said that she wished to retract it, apologising “unreservedly” for her “intemperate language”. “While there are far-right elements in the [Israeli] government, I recognise that the use of the term in this context was wrong,” she added, noting that given the state’s history “fascist” was an insensitive use of terminology. A spokesperson for Keir Starmer called the comments “completely unacceptable”.
Police chiefs have finally issued an official apology for their failings that led to the deaths of 97 people at Hillsborough. “Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong. Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy,” said Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, as he announced a report setting out what police officers will do to learn lessons from Hillsborough, such as making every force sign a charter for bereaved families to acknowledge mistakes with “openness” and “candour”. The report is said to represent the police’s response to Bishop James Jones’ own 2017 report into Hillsborough, which has still yet to garner a government response, something Jones called “intolerable”. The now-implemented duty of candour was, however, was one of his suggestions, and he welcomed the police report.
Major cuts at Halton Council, where almost £7 million will be saved over three years by scrapping two children’s day care centres, a meals on wheels service, a school meals service and funding for a learning Disability Nursing Team. Mike Wharton — the council’s Labour leader — said funding authorities was “not a priority for this government”. The council unanimously backed the decisions, and Wharton apologised “unreservedly” that the news of the closures had been broken online before staff could be briefed. “We are a council that cares about our staff and the way this was handled fell way short of what I expect,” he said.
🌙 The team at Squash are making the most of the full moon on Sunday with a night of short films based “on nature, community gardening & land-based rituals”. After the films, there will be a full moon walk in the park and a hearty supper on sale. It’s free, but with a suggested donation between £7 and £5.
📸 Alternatively, spend a few hours on Sunday lunchtime wandering around Crosby Beach and Marina taking photographs with amateur photographers. It’s a relaxed event, bring whatever equipment you like, but there is one rule: no doling out tedious lectures about what your fellow photographers might be doing wrong. Meet outside the Waterloo Sunset cafe at 11am.
🇨🇳 Contrary to elsewhere belief, the world of tea is far richer and more varied than a shootout between PG Tips, Yorkshire and Tesco’s own brand. In celebration of Lunar New Year, FACT are teaming up with the Liverpool East and South East Asian Network for a celebration of the ancient rituals of drinking tea. It’s free.
By Jack Walton
A wonderful academic study came out after Mo Salah started playing for Liverpool in 2018, which analysed the societal impact the Egyptian forward had on the city. It reported that Liverpool fans had been so enchanted by Salah, a devout Muslim, that the rate of Islamophobic tweets had halved and that local hate crimes fell by 16%. Fans even had a song for him:
“If he’s good enough for me, he’s good enough for you.
“If he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too.
“If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me.
“Sitting in the mosque, that’s where I wanna be!”
Despite what that study claimed, it’s perhaps not best to be too heady about societal progress on the basis of a single player — sporting history teaches us nothing if not that most prejudices are expendable at the price of speed, strength and talent — but Salah’s embrace in this city nonetheless signifies that we’ve come some distance.
Nowhere is this better encapsulated by the mosque that Salah has been reported to worship in. It’s a building in Kensington, on Brougham Terrace, a little over a mile away from Anfield. Attendance apparently rose by 10% after it emerged Salah, nicknamed the Egyptian King, occasionally came here to pray.
This mosque is run by the Abdullah Quilliam Society, named after Abdullah Quilliam, the first Victorian Christian to convert to Islam. Quilliam, however, didn’t enjoy the same reaction as Salah has as a Muslim living in Liverpool. This was the late 1800s and frankly, Quilliam’s new faith was considered heretical. Rather than songs of praise it was missiles of dissent, often eggs or stones catapulted at him and his fellow converts. When the mosque first opened it “immediately attracted Islamophobic vandalism,” according to Ron Geaves’ authoritative book on Quilliam’s life. “This began with stones being thrown at the back windows, scattering glass over the carpet upon which prayers were held” writes Geaves in Islam in Victorian Britain. And yet, more than a century late, it lives on.
Quilliam was born the son of a watchmaker in Liverpool, but he wasn’t born Abdulluh. His name was Henry, and after living for a while on the Isle of Man he returned to Liverpool and trained to become a solicitor, famed for his distinctive get-up of frock-coat and striped trousers. He became known as a “poor man’s solicitor” because he would take on cases for free, in particular chasing errant fathers with paternity orders.