The Yeminis

BIRMINGHAM'S FIRST ASIAN COMMUNITY

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In 1999, Shaikh Muhammad Qassim al'Alawi died in Birmingham at the age of ninety. As a boy he looked after sheep in Yemen in the south of Arabia, but in 1925 he joined the British merchant navy.

After seeing the world he settled in Cardiff and dedicated the rest of his life to religion and public service.

By the 1940s, Birmingham possessed a small Yemeni community and many men married local women. There were few opportunities for Yemenis to practise their Muslim religion and they lost contact with their roots. In 1941 Shaikh Muhammad moved to Balsall Heath in Birmingham where many Yemenis lived.

He established the city's first zawiya or centre for prayer in Edward Street and became the leader of the community for nearly sixty years. The zawiya was Birmingham's first mosque. When he died the brother of the President of Yemen attended his funeral.

KEYWORDS: Yemini, Birmingham, Balsall Heath, Migration

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