SWINDON'S politicians and council staff have learned the true meaning of Jihad at a Broad Street mosque.

More than a dozen visitors learned that it means peaceful struggle' during an Islamic awareness course yesterday.

Swindon Council chief executive Gavin Jones joined ward councillors and council staff for discussions and lectures at Broadgreen Community Centre.

Mr Jones said: "When I first took on this job I made it very clear that promoting equality would be a key issue.

"Looking at Islam is a great way of doing this because it affects so many people in Swindon."

Mr Jones has worked in Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia, so was clued up about the basics of the faith.

"I knew some things, but I have certainly learned a lot," he said.

"If you consider our community it's becoming increasingly diverse, and the needs of our citizens have changed, so we have to adapt."

Kaushar Tai, of Education Islam, came from Yorkshire to give the lectures.

He said: "I get a very positive feedback from each place I go.

"More than 95 per cent of people come away saying good things about what we do."

Mr Tai has worked with SureStart programmes in the past, and started giving lectures in 2004 to spread the peaceful side of Islam.

He said: "The people who bombed London and the Twin Towers are not Muslims.

"We hear the word Jihad in the media as a violent word, but it actually refers to the peaceful struggle every Muslim undertakes each day."

Michael Yohans from Swindon Council's housing department welcomed the chance to learn about another faith.

He said: "I am a Christian, and it has been amazing to find out just how similar our religions are.

"It's very important to know about Britain's second largest faith."

During a visit to Jamia mosque, shopkeeper Azim Khan demonstrated the midday prayer, or Zuhr.

He said: "When I came to Swindon in 1969, there were a dozen Muslim families.

"Now there are more than 5,000.

"For the most part we live our lives without any trouble which makes me very proud."

Last month the mosque was hit by a firebomb attack, but Mr Khan praised the response of local residents.

"I had dozens of calls from people of all faiths, asking me if I needed any help," he said.

"It just goes to show that the vast majority here live in peace and harmony."