The stately, history-steeped Waldorf Hotel in Aldwych was the venue on 25th November 2022 for a reunion of past and present activists of the Muslim Council of Britain to reflect on a quarter of a century’s experiences and ponder the future. The evening programme was also attended by well wishers and a cross-section of Muslim civil society drawn from academia, the arts, media, the charity sector, political circles and mosque trustees, guided through by Aaqil Ahmed (right most in the photo). The message, well-delivered by the Secretary General Zara Mohammed (left most) was for British Muslims “to be bold and confident – we are a force for good”.
Apart from MCB’s affiliate ranks, among the 300 guests: from academia, Emeritus Professor Tariq Modood OBE and historian AbdoolKarim Vakil; professions, barrister and author Hashi Mohamed (latest book ‘A Home of One’s Own‘)* and Alderman Kausar Zaman; media, Muslim News editor Ahmed Versi and Islam Channel founder-CEO, Muhammad Ali Harrath; charity sector, Muslim Charity Forum CEO Fadi Itani OBE, Islamic Relief UK Director Tufail Hussain, National Zakat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Lucy Bushill-Matthews; chair of trustees of the Finsbury Park Mosque; Muhammad Kozbar; political world, Afzal Khan MP, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons – and an Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, 2000-2002.
Among those called on to speak was the ever-witty Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who prior to embarking on a political career, had served on the MCB’s Legal Affairs Committee. He too echoed Zara Mohammad’s call, by referring to the Islamic values of empathy and compassion “that make Britain a better place”.
Notwithstanding the conspicuous absence of the Conservative Party and ministerial-level representation, important messages of solidarity in the struggle against Islamophobia and social inequalities were delivered by Sir Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Anwar Sarwar, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Louisa Rolfe OBE, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, pledged the commitment to root out racism in the ranks with the support of the Met Police Chief, Sir Mark Rowley.
In the course of a panel discussion, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the founding Secretary General of the MCB, (third from right in photo) roll-called some of the past activists now absent but always remembered: Judge Khurshid Drabu; the veteran journalist and editor of Impact International Hashir Faruqi; the heart surgeon Dr Rahim Khan; the educationalist Nawazish Bokhari, and the writer AbdulWahid Hamid who was central to the launch of the MCB in 1997. In her contribution, Naz Shah Labour MP for Bradford West and Shadow Minister (Home Office) (second from the left) commented on the importance of the MCB as a source of advice for Muslim parliamentarians. Former Secretary General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari (second from right) recounted experiences when British Muslims were confronted by the crises of 9/11, 7/7 and ‘the War on Terror’. A remark by Sir Iqbal conveyed the mood of the evening – “the Muslim community was once on the fringe – now we are in the mainstream”. The proceedings concluded with a moving du’a from Shaikh Ibrahim Mogra.
* A Home of One’s Own – Why the Housing Crisis Matters & What Needs to Change ‘ published by Profile Books, 2022.