[Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi speaking at The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event. (Photo: Abdul Datoo/The Muslim News)
Prime Minister, Lords, Ladies, distinguished guests, ministers and friends, Assalamu ‘alaykum (peace be with you).
Thank you all for braving London’s rush-hour traffic to attend this, the twelfth, Muslim News Awards for Excellence event. I would like to begin by welcoming all those who have been nominated for the awards to be presented this evening.
I would like to thank all our readers who took the time to nominate the men, women and children whose endeavours and activities mark them out for recognition of excellence.
These awards are all about you. You are the reason we are here tonight. Your creativity, dynamism and enthusiasm to make a difference, is what we are here to celebrate tonight. As in previous years, we have been humbled by the quality and the quantity of entries for each award category.
Indeed, this year has set a new record for the number of nominations received. Given the disproportionate focus on bad news reporting when it comes to Islam and British Muslims, it is all the more important that we should honour good practice, and celebrate the exemplary work of the illustrious men, women and children present among us tonight.
There are countless individuals and organisations striving to make a difference to the way Muslims are perceived and portrayed in our society. This award ceremony is one way to ensure that their contributions are not marginalised or overlooked.
Once more, The Muslim News Awards for Excellence has brought together over 800 people of all ages, backgrounds and disciplines, from around the country as far as Scotland, to demonstrate to all – and to young Muslims in particular – that vitality, dynamism, diligence, creativity, inspiration, progress and reward are all alive and kicking in the British Muslim community.
It is represented here in abundance.
Yet, in the face of our many visible successes, there are those who refuse to relent and insist that Muslims are ‘disloyal’ to our country and in ‘need of integration’.
A decade ago Muslims were, in the main, observed and viewed through the lens of fundamentalism. A decade on they’ve come to be observed and seen through the prism of violent extremism and terrorism.
The preoccupation with the actions of a tiny violent minority and a small though vocal provocative fringe, has come to eclipse the everyday achievements of the British Muslim majority.
The media bears a degree of responsibility for this state of affairs and it is worth remarking on the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry established by the Prime Minister.
It is our hope that the sealing of the Royal Charter will usher in an era of a fairer portrayal of British Muslims in our media; devoid of distortion and bias.
As for The Conservative Party, it is not today the Tory party of old. William Hague when Leader of the Party, made significant efforts to turn the Party around and began to demonstrate a greater understanding of Britain’s diverse communities.
It was under William Hague’s leadership of the Party that we saw Britain’s first Muslim member of the European Parliament, Bashir Khanbhai.
Now we have two British Muslims in the European Parliament, both from Conservative Party, Sajjad Karim and Syed Kamall.
This change has continued under the current leadership of David Cameron. There are now two Conservative peers of the Muslim faith and one of them, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, was the first Muslim cabinet Minister .
During the last elections, for the first time, two Muslim standing for the Conservative Party were elected in the House of Commons, Sajid Javid and Rehman Chisti. There are also six Muslim MPs from the Labour Party. The visibility of British Muslims in our political and public institutions is transforming, in small but significant ways, the negative stereotyping we have all witnessed in recent years.
Their contributions, their presence and their faithful service is a matter of deep pride in our community. Let us recognise that too here tonight.
Allow me to reflect on just a few of the interventions we have seen under the leadership of our Prime Minister that give cause for pause and proper recognition by the Party to celebrate all the communities that make up British society.
The Prime Minister welcomed the World Islamic Economic Forum to the UK last October.
For first time the Forum has been held outside a Muslim majority country. At the Forum, the PM announced the issuing of the UK’s first ever Sukuk, to the value of 200 million pounds.
The Prime Minister also outlined plans for the development of Shari’ah compliant student loans, to ensure that British Muslim students are able to take full advantage of the UK’s world-class Higher Education Institutions.
The Prime Minister further announced funds for seed capital for Muslim entrepreneurs, recognising the potential for growth in Islamic finance and industry. An industry that is set to grow to £1.3 trillion this year.
The Government’s, Help to Buy mortgage scheme, has now been extended to include a Shari’a compliant alternative to mortgages, the Home Purchase Plans. The development of Islamic finance has been covered by The Muslim News since the paper’s inception 25 years ago.
The Muslim News continues to be the largest circulating, not only Muslim newspaper but ethnic paper too, reaching over 150,000 people in the UK and the website receives up to 1.5 million hits a month.
My congratulations to all of those who are successful and win here tonight. I wish you all a very enjoyable and inspiring evening.
Before I invite the Guest of Honour, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the person who made this evening possible, Mahmood Al-Najar, Chair of The Prestige Group.
And now I would like to invite the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron.
List of the winners, presenters and sponsors CLICK HERE
There are fifteen categories of the awards, for a full shortlist, CLICK HERE
Judging panel CLICK HERE