A major shopping centre in Greater Manchester is removing the new Indian-style commodes it had installed after a public backlash against the move sparked fears of rising racial tension.
The shopping centre is visited by nearly 140,000 people every week, including Asians.
Outside the UK, the news also attracted the attention of the media in India.
Manchester has a significant minority of Asian origin. The Manchester airport and Royal Mail have installed Indian-style commodes [as has Canterbury Prison for its foreign inmates], but the Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre has decided against providing the facility to its customers.
Managers of the centre had planned to install the Indian-style commodes along with western ones in its newly refurbished toilet blocks after undergoing cultural awareness training.
Retired Rochdale Council training officer Ghulham Rasul Shazhad, who has been awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and a Community Crimefighter Award, gave the course. Mr. Shazad pointed out that was a large Muslim Asian community in Rochdale who preferred to use the squat toilet.
Mr Shazhad said: “I identified a need in the community as there were a lot of empty water bottles found by the Western public toilets in Rochdale.
“In the Muslim culture we prefer to use water after relieving ourselves which is used with the squat style toilets.
“In local mosques there are usually six or seven nile pans alongside just one or two Western toilets.
“When I explained this to shopping centre bosses on my cultural course we thought it would be a good idea to introduce these in Rochdale.”
Reactions to the installation of squat toilets were positive at first, the BBC reports.
Khan Moghul, from Manchester Council for Community Relation [said]: “It is a very good idea and I have no problem with it.
It just shows that the people of Greater Manchester are becoming more cosmopolitan and global-minded.”
A spokeswoman for the [shopping] centre said: “It is just about doing what any business would do.”
“If there had been a decision to provide only eastern European toilets I would really have expected some sort of backlash.”
Well, there was not only a backlash from “cosmopolitan” Rochdale but from all over Britain.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, voiced concerns that, apparently, many of his fellow Britons share (read the comments posted to related items in Sky News and the Daily Mail):
‘This strikes me as a classic case of excessive pandering to a politically correct minority.’
‘We in Britain are rightly proud of our toilets, and the onus is on people who come to this country to appreciate them for what they are.’
‘It’s absolutely ludicrous – Thomas Crapper would be turning in his grave!’
The squat toilets, one for women and one for men, which have already been installed in the Rochdale shopping centre, will be scrapped and when the refurbished toilets open, they will not be available for use.
The Rochdale Council had been against the idea, but was not consulted when the plans were put into operation.
The council reportedly put pressure on the centre’s parent company, DB Estates, to rethink the idea.
Council Leader Irene Davidson appealed for the decision to be overturned, and said if the council had been consulted, it would have been against the installation of the pans.
The refurbishment of the toilets was paid for by the shopping centre.
Responding to the latest development, deputy council leader Ashley Dearnley said:”I’m really pleased that the shopping centre have realised that this was the wrong thing to do in every respect, both for the town and race relations.”Davidson said:”I have had one threatening and one extremely rude letter about these and I would like an apology from the Exchange because they have yet to say publicly that they were responsible.
“The toilets are there but they will not be used, and their future is short. I am absolutely shocked at how the council has been treated”.
She added:”Rochdale is blessed with a diverse and friendly population. We get on well and respect one another. Doing things like this is divisive and does not help our borough.”
Councillor Farooq Ahmed called the toilets ‘an embarrassment to Rochdale’ which had stirred up racial tension.
Source: Prasun Sonwalkar, PTI / IndiaReport, 08 Aug 2010 ; BBC, 15 Jul 2010 ; James Tozer, Daily Mail, 15 Jul 2010
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It is not a matter of racism but also a matter of Health