Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi (L) and Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling enjoying a lighter moment at the awards gala dinner (Photo: Summayya M Juma/The Muslim News)
Main sponsor of the Awards, Chair of The Prestige Group, Mahmood Al-Najar, and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. (Photo: Sumayya M Juma/The Muslim News)
The prestigious The Muslim News Awards for Excellence, celebrating the very best of Muslim contributions to British society, held its eleventh ceremony at Grosvenor House, London, on March 25. Guest of Honour, Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, joined the celebrations at the Gala Dinner with over 550 guests.
Grayling, said: “I am pleased and honoured to be taking part in this year’s Muslim News Award ceremony, celebrating the achievements of some real role models in our community.” He said the event was a “great occasion” and commended the work of the Muslim community in Britain. “You should be proud of what your community has achieved and is achieving” and that the success stories “we are going to hear tonight are really fine examples of people who have stepped up beyond themselves and have actually gone to make a difference to others.”
Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, and Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan were among the special guests who handed some of the 16 awards.
They were joined by civic and religious leaders, as well as representatives from the worlds of politics, business, academy, student, sport and the arts, to honour the unsung heroes and heroines of the community.
There was no shortage of exceptional achievements in this year’s nominations. Acknowledging this, Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was unable to attend the event, sent a video message saying it was “humbling to see the level of talents and commitment in each category.”
“Muslims make an enormous contribution to Britain whether it be in religion, business, the arts, academia, the local community, sport or in countless other areas,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who also was not able to attend, said that all of the winners and nominees have “truly inspirational stories, setting the standard not just for the Muslim community but our society as a whole.”
Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband, sent his greetings too, and was “pleased to see the Awards going from strength to strength.”
“They are an effective way to recognise not only excellence in business, sports, arts, and technology, but also to publicly praise those who have served both the Muslim and the wider communities.”
The Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi, in his welcoming speech, congratulated all the nominees and said, “The awards ceremony showcases the brilliance of the British Muslim community – huge contributions made by diverse men, women and young people from around the country. And this shows that Muslims are fully integrated in the British society and that multiculturalism has been and is working.”
The reason why the Awards did not take place for the last two years was not because of lack of nominations, explained Versi. “No, we had a deluge of those. It was because we lacked enough sponsorship to make this event a success. Selling good news is a tough call.”
He pointed out that a good number of top British athletes at the London Olympics came from ethnic communities. “Hopefully these Olympics will change the discussion; rather than denouncing multiculturalism, we need to learn that multiculturalism will play an increasingly important role within Britain.
Versi ended by saying, “Tonight we are celebrating talents in our community, not only excelling in their respective professions but also contributing to the country.”
Grayling presented the Award for Excellence in the Arts to comedian and actor, Jeff Mirza. Mirza said he felt “honoured and privileged” to receive the award.
Award for Good Citizenship went to Dr Azeem Ibrahim, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and academic, who has founded numerous non-profitable projects including a private grant giving body, The Ibrahim Foundation.
Aliya Al-Yassin picked up the Children’s Award, and Furqan Naeem won the Young Person’s Award for Excellence.
Al-Yassin said she was “honoured” to win in this tough competitive category of talented youngsters.
The award for Health went to Dr Abdul-Majeed Salmasi, who is an expert heart specialist and Director of Cardiovascular Teaching and Training at NHS Brent.
Dr Ghada Karmi, campaigner for Palestinian rights for over 30 years, felt “honoured and very much appreciated” to be receive the Award for Excellence in Promoting Understanding between Global Cultures and Faiths.
The Award for Excellence in Engineering, Science or Technology went to one of the world’s most eminent nuclear scientists, Professor Saeed Durrani.
The award for Excellence in Education went to the late Syed Nawazish Bokhari. He devoted much of his time to British education, as a member of numerous education bodies.
Asif Iqbal, the winner for Excellence in Community Development, received a standing ovation. As a deaf campaigner for disability rights, currently working in several related organisations, he has become an inspiration in furthering British community development.
Exchange Blackburn Cathedral won the Award for Championing a Muslim Cause. They were “delighted and humbled” and said it was a “glittering event” and they were “very grateful” to be part of it.
The Award for Excellence in Media went to Tasnim Nazeer, a freelance journalist contributing to various newspapers.
Dr Ikram Butt, first British Muslim to represent to represent rugby, received the Award for Excellence in Sport.
Award for Excellence in Community Relations went to Sajda Mughal, a community and women’s rights activist.
Dahabshiil, one of the largest international money transfer businesses in the horn of Africa, received the Award for Excellence in Enterprise.
The Judge’s Special Iman wa Amal award went to Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, a specialist in Special Education Needs and Parenting and a community activist.
The Special Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Muhammad Hashir Faruqi. He received a rapturous applause. He said even though the Award was given to him, “it actually belongs to the fresh and promising faces in this hall; so over the new generation. Most of you are British born and have therefore a greater obligation to add value and enhance the culture of Britain.”
Entertainment was provided by Silk Roads and the comedian Jeff Mirza. Silk Roads had interactive performance called, The Jinn’s Challenge, which was led by Alia Alzougbi. When a king’s son grows ill, the bravest of the brave, must face the Jinn of the cave to bring back the elixir of life. Who will succeed? The performance was humorous and interactive with the guests. She was accompanied by fellow Silk Roads members Khaled Hakim, on daf drum and Rezia Wahid.
All winners received a beautifully and intricately designed brass astrolabe. The astrolabe was a highly developed tool used throughout the Muslim world to measure the altitude of stars and planets. By the eighth century, they were used to aid navigation, locate the qiblah (the direction towards the Ka’bah in Makkah Muslims face when praying), calculate the lunar calendar and to assess meteorological conditions.
Versi thanked the main sponsor of the evening. “I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Mahmood Al-Najar without whose support this event would not have been made this event possible.”
For list of the shortlist and panel of judges and speeches visit www.muslimnews.co.uk/awards