Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Pasha Receives Lifetime
Achievement Award

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, the General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations of the United Kingdom & Ireland (UMO), was given The Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award at The Muslim News Award for Excellence Annual Ceremony, held at London’s Grosvenor House, on Monday, the 15th of March, 2010.

Over 800 people celebrated the Tenth Annual The Muslim News Awards for Excellence - Britain's longest standing Muslim awards event. The coveted award ceremony recognised the very best of Muslim contribution to British society. Special guests included Communities Secretary, John Denham, MP, and Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, MP. 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.

Presenting the Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Pasha, Mr. Ahmed J. Versi, the Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News, said, “As we mark the tenth year of The Muslim News Awards, this new accolade recognises those who have made exceptional contributions to the life of Britain’s Muslim community. Unlike the other Awards – whose recipients are chosen by a strictly independent panel of judges – this tribute is granted by the Editor of The Muslim News.”

“The winners of this Award personify the spirit of this entire initiative. They are our community’s unsung heroes who have diligently, courageously and persistently expended energy and striven to improve the lot of British Muslims,” said Versi.

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha
On receiving the Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Pasha said, “I was surprised to receive this Award as I was not expecting it. I do remember Mr. Ahmed Versi attended our first annual conference of Union of Muslim Organisations of the United Kingdom & Ireland (UMO) 40 years ago. Since then he has been consistently supporting our organisation and giving prominent coverage to our conference particularly our Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi celebration which is our main daw’ah activity, for which Allah the Almighty will reward him.”

“Regarding the acceptance of this award, I am hesitating whether I am violating the commands of Allah the Almighty for whose pleasure I have been doing little service to Islam and the Muslim community,” said Dr. Pasha and mentioned, “In the Holy Qur’an, it is made clear in one verse that Allah the Almighty has said: Paradise is reserved for those who do not aspire to greatness in this world nor seek mischief but piety is their guiding principle. However in another verse, he said: seek what is best for the life Hereafter (Akhirah) but do not neglect your share in this world.”

Dr. Pasha also said, “In this spirit, I am accepting this award which I hope will not affect my reward in the Akhirah. I commend Mr Versi’s enterprising spirit to provide this platform to the Muslim community to prove that practising the tenets of Islam in no way inhibits their ability to reach the top of their professional and academic positions.”

The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, MP
Earlier, the Guest of Honour, Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, MP, said, “The Muslim News Awards are an excellent opportunity to celebrate the fantastic contribution that British Muslims across the country make to the UK.”
The Home Secretary also said, “we are celebrating the enormous contribution that Muslims make in every aspect of British life - whether that’s in politics, academia, law, sport, the arts, healthcare, humanitarian aid, the military, business and finance, or indeed, cuisine

The Home Secretary presented the Al Biruni Award for Excellence in community relations and said, “Al Biruni is not only celebrated as one of the fathers of modern mathematics – he was also an outspoken campaigner against intolerance and prejudice between Muslims and Hindus in 11th century India.”

“Each of the nominees exemplifies this spirit – whether it’s by building bridges between faiths, improving relationships between Muslim communities and the police, or promoting understanding and awareness of Islam through important cultural events such as the Edinburgh festival,” the Home Secretary added.

The Home Secretary mentioned, “Our history and our values are deeply entwined – Muslim communities have been part of British life for many centuries, long before the waves of emigration from the Commonwealth in the 50s and 60s. There are references to Islamic scholarship in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and there have been sizeable Muslim communities in this country since at least the 17th century.”

“Just as we have a shared history, so we also have shared values. The key principles of Islam – the right to life, the right to worship, freedom of expression, justice and tolerance – are universal,” said the Home Secretary and added, “They are echoed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drawn up in 1948.”

Alan Johnson, MP, said, “There is a responsibility on government to tackle social exclusion, deprivation and discrimination in all its forms – we know that in our schools and universities, only a fraction of the potential of young Pakistanis and Bangladeshis is realised, despite significant improvements in recent years. And we know that there are Muslim communities in the UK which are disproportionately affected by poverty and unemployment, who struggle to access services or face discrimination and harassment because of their faith or ethnicity.”

“Tonight’s award winners and nominees exemplify the talent, passion and commitment among Muslim communities to making the UK a fairer, more tolerant and safer place and I’d like to thank all of them for their contribution to the wellbeing and prosperity of this country and its citizens,” said the Home Secretary.

Editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi
Earlier, while welcoming the distinguished guests, ministers, religious leaders and community leaders, Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News, Ahmed J. Versi, said, “We began this event ten years ago because we wanted to acknowledge the noble accomplishments and displays of distinction within the British Muslim community and showcase the tremendous contributions British Muslims make to Britain. We wanted also to identify and highlight Muslim role models for the younger generation.”
Versi said, “I wrote then that the contributions of British Muslims to our society and economy, was not readily acknowledged and that Islam and Muslims suffered under the glare of an excessively negative media. I said then too that ‘I look forward to the day when Islamophobic stereotypes will become an anachronism and as unacceptable as racism is now.’ Sadly, things haven’t moved on much since then.”

“On the contrary, Islamophobia has considerably worsened and stories reflecting positively on Muslims and Islam are a rare thing indeed,” said Versi and argued, “This is an unfortunate state of affairs because there are enormous contributions being made by British Muslims in all sectors of our society. Yet, in the face of our many visible successes, there are those who refuse to relent and insist that Muslims are in ‘need of integration’.

Versi also mentioned, “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 extremism and terrorism. The preoccupation with the actions of a tiny violent extremist minority and a small vocal provocative fringe has come to eclipse the everyday achievements of the British Muslim majority.”

As the general elections are approaching, as an Editor of The Muslim News, Versi touched upon “over a decade of the Government and reflect on how matters have fared for British Muslims, particularly for those of us working in the media.”

Speaking about the Labour Party, Versi mentioned, “Labour picked the first Muslim for a safe Parliamentary seat and appointed Muslim peers, as well as Muslim advisors for a host of initiatives. There are now four Muslims in the House of Commons, all of them Labour. And we have the first Muslim minister attending the Cabinet, the Rt Hon Sadiq Khan.”

“The Government fulfilled many of our longstanding requests: A question on religion to be included in the national census of 2001; funding of Muslim schools; Shari’ah compliant financial products working within UK financial regulations; outlawing of religious discrimination at work place and in service delivery in public institutions and outlawing of incitement to religious hatred,” he mentioned.

The editor of the Muslim News, said, “However, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and more so since the July 7 2005 bombings in London, relations between the Government and Muslim organisations have suffered from episodes of severe strain.”

“Muslims, especially young men and university students, are predominantly viewed by the Government through the lens of extremism,” said Versi and argued, “This certainly cannot be healthy for nurturing of active citizens for tomorrow’s Britain.”

Speaking about The Conservative Party, Versi mentioned, “It was under William Hague that we saw Britain’s first Muslim member of the European Parliament. This change has continued under the current leadership of David Cameron. There are now two Muslim Tory peers and one of them Sayeeda Warsi, is a member of the shadow cabinet.”

Speaking about the Liberal Democrats, Versi said, “And the Liberal Democrats too have made strides in supporting Muslim issues and they have one Muslim peer. They aptly reflected the society’s feeling on war on Iraq by taking a robust stand against it. Nick Clegg demanded that our Government and the European Union halt arms sales to Israel during Operation Cast Lead in which hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians, including many children were killed.”

There is a pressing need for whichever party comes to form the next Government “to re-visit policies that improve relations with the Muslim community and help rejuvenate community cohesion” and “Questions like ‘are you a Muslim first or British first’ or ‘are you from Pakistan’ will, such is our hope, no longer feature in the discourses of the future,” said Editor of the Muslim News and the main sponsor of the event.

Winners and Presenters of Award for Excellence
This Awards ceremony is about recognising those individuals who aspire to attain their very best as members of the British Muslim society. It is those British Muslims and non-Muslims that have proven themselves worthy of recognition for their contribution to Britain that we are here to honour this evening.

Al Biruni Award for Excellence in Community Relations was awarded to Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra. This Award was presented by Rt Hon Alan Johnson, MP, Home Secretary. Ibn Battuta Award for Excellence in Media was awarded to Faisal Al Yafai. This Award was presented by Liberal Democrats.

Ibn Khaldun Award for Excellence in promoting understanding between global cultures and faiths was given to Salma Abbasi. This Award was presented by John Denham, MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Sankore University Award for Excellence in Education was given to Dr Nadia Durrani. This Award was presented by Irfan Akram, UK Fundraising Manager of Muslim Hands.
Annemarie Schimmel Award for Championing a Muslim Cause was given to Tim Cooper. This Award was presented by Samia Ahmed, PA to UK Director of Islamic Relief. Ummul Mu'minin Khadijah Award for Excellence in Enterprise was awarded to Iqbal Wahhab. This Award was presented by Karim Saad, Founder,

Malcolm X Young Person’s Award for Excellence was given to Zain Haider Awan. This Award was presented by Meral Hussein, Religion and Belief Commissioner, Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development was awarded to Mohammed Mangera. The Award was presented by Dale Simon, Director, Equality and Diversity, Crown Prosecution Service.

Alija Izetbegovic Award for Good Citizenship was given to Wakkas Khan. This Award was presented by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Chair of Board of Trustees, Muslim Aid. Imams Hasan and Husayn Children's Award for Excellence was awarded to Abdul-Akbur Ali. This Award was presented by Salmi Kidwai, Muslim Council of Wales.

Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sport was given to Kolo Abib Touré. This Award was presented by Mrs Faezeh Hashemi, President, Islamic Federation of Women Sport. Alhambra Award for Excellence in Arts was awarded to Mohammed Umar. This Award was presented to him by Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Fazlur Rahman Khan for Excellence in Engineering, Science or Technology was awarded to Dr Haifa Takruri-Rizk. This Award was presented by Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP, Shadow Home Secretary. Ibn Sina Award for Health was awarded to Sohail A Khan. This Award was presented by Dominic Grieve, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice.

Imam wa Amal Special award was given to Dr Gill Hicks. This Award was presented to him by Fatima Hussain, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Chair of the independent panel of judges.