Ahmed J Versi, Editor, The Muslim News and Prime Minister David Cameron at Twelfth The Muslim News Awards for Excellence. (Photo: Adam Szczepanski/The Muslim News)
Prime Minister, David Cameron, joined over 800 people to celebrate the very best of Muslim contribution to British society.
The Twelfth The Muslim News Awards for Excellence gala dinner, Britain’s longest standing Muslim awards event, was held in central London on March 31.
The Guest of Honour, Cameron, presenting the Enterprise award to Shabir Randeree, Executive Chair of DCD Group, said, “I’m delighted to have taken part in this year’s Muslim News Awards for Excellence, where we were able to champion and celebrate the huge contribution British Muslims make to our country. I was truly impressed hearing about the extraordinary work of the nominees and winners, and it was great to have been able to meet some of them tonight.”
Cameron praised the charitable work Muslims are doing in the UK. “Muslims give more to charity than any other faith group. And they play a huge role in our communities, day in, day out.”
He also acknowledged the Muslim communities role in helping the victims of the floods in winter. The young Muslims from Huddersfield “got together with other faith and voluntary groups, they layed sandbags in Worcester, protected a church in Surrey from the deluge, and showed above all that our British community spirit could never be dampened.”
This is year is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Prime Minister said hundreds of thousands of Muslims gave their lives in the war. “So tonight, we should remember them and all those British Asians and Muslims who serve in our Armed Forces because their legacy, their work is our liberty.”
The Government is also tackling Islamophobia and it “means making absolutely sure that no person is held back from living their life or reaching their goals simply because of the faith they follow.”
There are concerns within the Jewish and Muslim communities that religious slaughter may be outlawed. However, Cameron promised that “while I’m Prime Minister of this country Halal is safe in Britain.”
Welcoming the guests, including the Prime Minister, Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi, praised the shortlisted nominees. “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.”
Versi said despite 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,” he added.
Special guests included Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, Minister of State at Ministry of Justice, Simon Hughes.
They were joined by civic and religious leaders, as well as representatives from the worlds of politics, business, sport and the arts, to honour unsung heroes and heroines of the community.
Khan said he was “inspired by the winners and their great achievements.” Presenting the Education and Sport awards, he added that the media reports on negative news about the Muslims every day. “However, this is one night in the year we can have a night off unequivocally celebrating the best of British Muslims.”
Hughes, presenting Alija Izetbegovic award on Good Citizenship, paying tribute to Izetbegovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s late President, said “it is only thanks to people like him that that part of the world has any chance of a secure and stable future for the Muslims and other communities.”
In a message to the awards, Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband, said: “Tonight’s awards ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the great talent shown and contribution given by Muslim people in all walks of life.
“The awards recognize not only excellence in business, sport, arts and technology, but also those who have served their communities selflessly. It is a true celebration of values core to our country – of community and commitment, of education and learning.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said in his message: “The Muslim News Awards for Excellence has become the flagship event for Muslim communities in the UK highlighting British Muslim contributions to society which might otherwise go unrecognized.
“The contribution of British Muslims to the country’s rich multicultural landscape cannot be underestimated.”
The special Judges award went to Ola Lawal, an active volunteer working to improve the lives of the young and disabled people, as well as the local community around her.
Amongst the other 15 winners were, in sport, Mo Farah, Olympic gold medalist, who is also involved in various philanthropic initiatives; in the media, Roohi Hasan, a senior producer at ITV News; children’s award went to 10-year-old, Ahmed
Saleh, who has won numerous kickboxing and freestyle karate titles at national, European, and global levels; Editor’s Lifetime Achievement award went to Professor Dawud Noibi.
All winners received a beautifully and intricately designed brass astrolabe, the iconic image of the twelve year old awards ceremony. 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.