by NEIL HUDSON
THE mother-in-law of suicide bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan is said to be devastated at the cruel irony which has befallen her and her family.
The grandmother, who worked tirelessly to promote peace and understanding in her home town and beyond, was said to have “no idea” that her own son-in-law harboured such malice.
At a meeting at Dewsbury Parish Church yesterday, Bishop of Pontefract the Right Rev Tony Robinson said he had visited Farida Patel, 65, – a regular attendee of Kirklees Interfaith Council and his personal friend – on Wednesday.
Addressing a congregation of Christians and Muslims, he said: “It was a big shock for her to find out. She has worked tirelessly to open doors and build bridges. She worked at Birkdale [High] School [in Dewsbury]. When I went to see her on Wednesday, she was devastated. She had no idea at all. And we need to keep Farida and her family in our prayers. They feel terrible about what has happened.”
Mrs Patel, who is believed to have retired from teaching, was the first Asian woman to be invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace in 1999, when she met the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, Tony Blair and Prince Charles.
She was honoured for her work with the Inner City Religious Council, where she worked with the government to produce a booklet, ‘Challenging Religious Discrimination.’
She said at the time: “It was a once in a lifetime experience to be treated like a VIP and it felt like I was in another world.”
And in a completely different world, her son-in-law Khan, a 30-year-old teaching mentor to countless young children, plotted and planned his cruel crime.
Authorities now suspect Khan travelled at least twice to what is believed to have been al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and then used his outwardly respectable position to influence and recruit gullible young children.
He married Mrs Patel’s daughter Hasina, 28, with whom he had an eight-month-old child, Myriam, and another on the way, although reports indicate the couple may have separated recently.
Coun Khizar Iqbal (Con, Dewsbury South) said: “I have known her a long time. She was well known and respected. I am sure she is feeling very distressed by the whole thing.”
Mrs Patel’s home, on Thornhill Park Avenue, Dewsbury, was still shrouded behind police covers as their investigation continues.