Wednesday, 27 April 2016

OIC Istanbul Summit 2016

13th OIC Summit in Istanbul Turkey:
Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted more than 30 heads of state and government as well as top officials from 57-member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the two-day Summit in Istanbul, Turkey from 14-15 April, 2016. The theme of the Conference was “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace.” The 13th Islamic Summit aimed at overcoming differences in the Muslim world.

Prominent guests at the meeting included Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The two-day summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation OIC) got underway on Thursday, 14 April 2016 with a speech by Erdogan from the Summit venue in Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire from where the Ottoman sultans for centuries ruled Muslims from the Balkans to Arabia.

Turkey has said it wants to use the meeting to narrow differences between the world's estimated 1.7 billion Muslims. However, the gathering risks being overshadowed by disputes on issues ranging from Syria to Yemen.

While the summit marks one of the most significant gatherings of heads of state for years in Istanbul, some prominent leaders such as Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was notable by their absence.

[Acknowledgement] This write-up is prepared from the sources: OIC website, press agencies, Saudi Gazette, Arab News and Al-Jazeera English website.

Background information of the OIC
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world. The Organization was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco on 12th Rajab 1389 Hijra (25 September 1969) as a result of criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

In 1970 the first ever meeting of Islamic Conference of Foreign Minister (ICFM) was held in Jeddah which decided to establish a permanent secretariat in Jeddah headed by the organization’s secretary general. Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani is the 10th Secretary General who assumed the office in January 2014.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
(Formerly Organisation of the Islamic Conference)
Founded on 25 September 1969 &
Holds international Summit every three year
Member – 57 Islamic Countries
Representing 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide
Head Quarter – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Present Secretary General – Mr. Iyad Madani
OIC protecting and defending true image of Islam
OIC promoting trade & economic ties between member countries
OIC calls itself collective voice of Muslim world
Israeli-Palestine conflict is high on the agenda at this OIC Summit
OIC Summit is meant to address rising threats of Islamophobia & Sectarianism

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008 which laid down the objectives and principles of the organization and fundamental purposes to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. Over the last 40 years, the membership has grown from its founding members of 25 to 57 states. The Organization has the singular honour to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN and other inter-governmental organizations to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. In safeguarding the true values of Islam and the Muslims, the organization has taken various steps to remove misperceptions and have strongly advocated elimination of discrimination against the Muslims in all forms and manifestations.

The Member States of the OIC face many challenges in the 21st century and to address those challenges, the third extraordinary session of the Islamic Summit held in Makkah in December 2005, laid down the blue print called the Ten-Year Program of Action which envisages joint action of Member States, promotion of tolerance and moderation, modernization, extensive reforms in all spheres of activities including science and technology, education, trade enhancement, and emphasizes good governance and promotion of human rights in the Muslim world, especially with regard to rights of children, women and elderly and the family values enshrined by Islam.

On the back drops of the Summit
This Summit took place in Istanbul in the back drops of ISIL, Daesh terrorism, Syrian conflict sending hundreds of thousands of refugees to the unwelcoming European borders.  Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the summit was being held at a time when "the Islamic world is experiencing many disputes within itself.

"Fratricidal conflict causes great pain. Sectarianism divides the Ummah," he told OIC foreign ministers on Tuesday, using the Arabic world for the Muslim community. Still he was optimistic and said, "Hopefully, this summit will pave the way for healing some wounds."

Issues discussed
The issues included the question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, conflict situations in the Muslim world and migration, situation of Muslim communities in non-OIC member states, combating terrorism and violent extremism, Islamophobia, and the humanitarian situation in the Muslim world.

Twelve issues were tabled for discussion by leaders of the Muslim world at the meeting started Thursday (14 April 2016). There was also discussion on the OIC Program of Action: 2016-2025, advancing scientific cooperation among member states in the areas of health, higher education and environment, advancing cultural, social and information cooperation in the Muslim world, poverty eradication and development of infrastructure in the OIC member states, legal and statutory issues, and empowering OIC to deliver on its mandate.

Opening Speech of Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Fight Sectarianism
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, the 14th of April, 2016 urged Muslim leaders gathered for the OIC summit to end sectarian divisions in the Islamic world and join forces to fight terror. “I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” Erdogan said in his opening speech.

“We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only the Muslims suffer,” he said, adding the summit meeting could be a “turning point” for the whole Islamic world.

Re-structuring of the UN Security Council
He also called for the re-structuring of the UN Security Council, so that the Muslim world has an effective voice. Erdogan lashed out at Daesh and Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria as two “terrorist organizations that are serving the same evil purpose.”

Multinational Police Coordination centre
He said that the OIC had accepted a Turkish proposal to set up a Multinational Police Coordination Centre for Islamic states to fight militants, to be based in Istanbul. “We need to establish an organization to further strengthen cooperation in the fight against terror,” he said.

Unify the Muslim world
Several leaders have expressed their commitment to unify the Muslim world in the face of severe political, economic and social challenges.

Palestinian question,
In his speech, read out by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Soukry, President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi said that as the chair of the previous summit, Egypt had done everything it could to advance the cause of Muslims across the globe. This would continue under Turkey, as the new chair, particularly with regard to action on the Palestinian question, which should be resolved with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. He commended the OIC for holding a summit on Palestine in Indonesia in March.

Erdogan agreed with El-Sisi’s call for action on Palestine, and also endorsed the call for unity among Muslim nations to tackle the problems of vulnerable communities. He said Turkey was doing everything it can to help refugees, and had already saved around 100,000 from drowning in the Aegean Sea.

Surmount Sectarianism
In his opening speech, Turkish President Erdogan said, “I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam.”

“We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only the Muslims suffer,” he said, adding the summit meeting could be a “turning point” for the whole Islamic world.

Condemn daesh
Erdogan lashed out at the Daesh (the so-called IS) militants who seized swathes of Syria and Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria as two “terrorist organizations that are serving the same evil purpose.”

Opening Speech of King Salman bin Abdulaziz
Addressing the opening session of the 13th Islamic Summit Conference of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Thursday, the CUSTODIAN of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman called for adopting a strong position against attempts by some vested interests in blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of some member countries and thereby inciting sectarian strife and divisions.

“The present day realities make it incumbent on us to stand united more than ever to fight the scourge of terrorism as well as to protect the younger generation from its fierce attack. Terrorism targets the youths to get out of the path of their righteous religion and be driven by those who are creating turmoil using the name of our religion, which has nothing to do with them,” he said.

King Salman referred to the major initiative taken recently by the Kingdom in combating terror. “We have made a serious step in this direction through forming an Islamic military alliance, consisting of 39 countries, in order to coordinate all efforts through intellectual, media, financial and military initiatives based on the OIC’s principles and objectives.”

King Salman said by interfering in the internal affairs of others, some vested quarters were instrumental in further aggravating the sectarian division within the Ummah. “The Muslim world is reeling under conflicts and crises that are represented by the blatant interference in the affairs of a number of Islamic countries apart from sowing seeds of discord and division, and inciting sectarian strife. Armed militias are being used to destabilize our security and stability so as to spread their influence and domination,” the King said and called for a strong position to prevent such interference and maintain the security and safety of the Muslim world.

Solution to Palestinian issue
King Salman also called for finding solutions to the burning issues facing the Muslim world. “Finding a just solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with the Arab peace initiative and international legitimacy resolutions is in the forefront of these issues,” he said.

End to Syrian crisis
“Putting an end to the Syrian crisis in accordance with the decisions of Geneva 1 and Security Council resolution 2254, as well as to support the existing efforts to end the Libyan crisis are other top issues. On the Yemeni issue, we support the UN efforts for the success of consultations to be held in Kuwait in implementation of Security Council resolution 2216,” the King said hoping that the summit would come out with decisions that would further bolster solidarity and achieve more collaboration for the betterment of the Muslim Ummah.

OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani
In his keynote address, OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani said the pan-Islamic body has put the fight against terrorism as it main priority but at the same time he noted that only 21 member states have so far ratified the OIC agreement in this regard.

He urged all Palestinian factions to resolve their differences in order to form a consensus government. He announced that the OIC is working with Iraq to hold the 2nd Makkah Conference to achieve reconciliation in that country.

Madani appealed to the development of humanitarian work in the organization, and announced that the 14th session of the Islamic Summit will be held in Gambia in 2018.

Iyad Madani, secretary general of the 57-member Islamic bloc, said the summit took over 200 decisions. The conference expressed concern over the rising tide of xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism in Western countries, and called on Western states to take necessary measures to combat these and to ensure the safety and well-being of Muslims there.

Condemning Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories and its increasing atrocities, the summit confirmed full solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to free themselves from the 49-year-long occupation and called on the global community to support efforts to empower the state of Palestine by all means.

The Summit proceedings concluded on Friday, the 15th of April 2016 with the adoption of a resolution on Palestine, the OIC Ten-Year Program of Action for 2015-2025, the final communiqué, and the Istanbul Declaration.

Final Closing Session
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who chaired the final session of the OIC summit, lamented the fact that Muslim countries who are “the heirs of a civilization that was built on columns of peace and justice are being remembered more for wars, armed conflict, sectarianism and terrorism.”

Chairing the final session of the summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that sectarianism, racism and terrorism are the three largest challenges confronting the Muslim world. “As Muslims, we cannot overcome our difficulties without achieving unity in spite of our differences.” The Turkish leader said establishing an international arbitration body in Istanbul was part of the OIC 2025 Action Plan, endorsed by the summit.

Erdogan also welcomed a decision reached a day earlier to create a Turkey-based police coordination centre aimed at increasing cooperation against terrorism.

Final Communique of The OIC Summit
Muslim leaders of the 57-member organization OIC discussed at the OIC Istanbul Summit a range of issues such as the humanitarian fallout from Syria’s civil war and passed their final resolutions.

Deplored Iran’s interference
The OIC said in its final summit communiqué, “The conference deplored Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of the states of the region and other member states including Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia, and its continued support for terrorism,”. It “deplored Iran’s interference” and “continued support for terrorism” not only in Syria but also Bahrain, Yemen and Somalia.

Condemned Daesh
The Communique also expressed strong condemnation of the Daesh group and the role of Iran and its proxies in regional conflicts. The conference pledged to combat terrorism in all its forms and condemned Daesh for its use of chemical weapons in Iraq.

The final declaration expressed hope that negotiations that started in Geneva on April 13 would contribute to resolving “the Syrian crisis as soon as possible.”

Bilateral Cooperation Council
At the sidelines of the summit, Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum to create a bilateral cooperation council.

Jeddah-based English daily Arab News summarises the OIC Summit’s final communiqués which denounces Tehran’s plots as follows:
• Islamic Summit Conference supports Islamic Military Alliance for Combating Terrorism
• OIC rejects Iran’s inflammatory statements on execution of judicial decisions in Saudi Arabia
• Muslim leaders denounce aggression against Saudi missions in Tehran, Mashhad
• OIC communique deplores Iran’s continued support for terrorism
• Summit deplores Iran’s interference in internal affairs of Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Somalia
• Leaders rap Hezbollah for terrorist activities in Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen
• Hezbollah under fire for supporting terrorist activities that undermine security of OIC states
• Leaders stress need to preserve Syria’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity
• Summit reaffirms its principled support for rights of Palestinians
• Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey commended for generously hosting Syrian refugees
• Member states & international community urged to support Syrian refugees
• Daesh condemned for using chemical weapons against the civilians
• Summit reiterates continued support for legitimate Yemeni government of President Hadi
• OIC reaffirms support for people of Kashmir and calls on India to implement UN resolutions
• Conference reiterates its principled position against terrorism in all its forms

Istanbul Summit Final Declaration
A pan-Islamic summit, bringing together leaders from across the Islamic world, concluded in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Friday, the 15th of April, 2016 with a pledge to combat terrorism, cast aside sectarian differences and address regional conflicts. Followings are part of the final declaration of the Istanbul Summit published in Saudi Gazette.

Deploring its interference
The 13th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) harshly criticized Iran, deploring its interference in the internal affairs of regional states and other member countries including Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia, and its continued support for terrorism, according to the final communiqué issued at the end of the two-day summit.

Condemned Hezbollah
The conference condemned Hezbollah for its role in terrorist activities in Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, and for supporting terrorist movements undermining security of OIC states.

Defend human dignity
The leaders emphasized their shared commitment to defend human dignity by working toward alleviating poverty, addressing social injustices and creating equal opportunities for Muslim minorities.

Interaction with other religions and cultures
The summit recognized the need for the Islamic world to enhance its outreach and interaction with other religions and cultures through constructive dialogue, mutual understanding and moderation.

Condemned terrorism and sectarianism
The OIC condemned terrorism and sectarianism in all their forms and manifestations regardless of motive and wherever and by whomever committed, and call for equal determination toward all terrorist organizations. It renewed unwavering commitment to strengthening cooperation between the OIC and other international organizations to prevent and combat the scourge of terror.

Rejected all attempts to affiliate terrorism
The conference rejected all attempts to affiliate terrorism with any nationality, civilization, religion or ethnic group, and refuse provision of any direct or indirect support to the groups that call for violence, extremism and terrorism.

Fostering tolerance, respect, dialogue
The summit also emphasized the importance of fostering tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples, besides reiterating that intercultural dialogue, mutual respect and finding common grounds for solidarity are the only means to build peaceful, prosperous and socially cohesive communities.

Solidarity with Muslim minorities
The summit expressed solidarity with Muslim minorities in many non-OIC member states who still face serious oppression and whose rights are disregarded in many cases.

Enhancing the role of Muslim youth
The conference encouraged efforts aimed at strengthening and enhancing the role of Muslim youth in society, and improving the conditions for their education and employment.

Contribution of Muslim women
The conference underlined the importance of the contribution of Muslim women to social life as well as of strengthening the role of women in development of Islamic countries.

Increase intra-OIC trade to 25 percent
The Muslim leaders reaffirmed their resolve to increase intra-OIC trade to 25 percent in the coming ten years. They also welcomed the adoption of the “OIC-2025: Program of Action,” setting ambitious targets in various fields for the member states to achieve over the next ten years.

The leaders also vowed their commitment to continue efforts aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the OIC in making justice and peace prevail all around the world. — With input from Agencies

Summit Resolution on Sustainable Development
Jeddah-based English daily Saudi Gazette summarises the OIC Summit’s final communiqués on Sustainable Development as follows:
The 13th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which concluded in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Friday (15 April 2016), underscored its keenness and unveiled its program of action aimed at achieving sustainable development of member states in all spheres of life.

Affordable and clean energy
In the final communiqué, issued at the end of the conference, over 50 heads of state and top officials from across the Islamic world have emphasized that access to affordable and clean energy is crucial for achieving sustainable development for the member states. They also acknowledged the importance of integrated water resources management, through conservation, prudent use, and bringing down of wastage to the minimum.

Adoption of the ‘2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,
The summit welcomed the adoption of the ‘2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,’ which has 17 goals and 169 targets. The conference vowed its commitment to their successful implementation within the stipulated time frame, taking into consideration the role of national authorities in cooperation with international bodies.

Sustainable development finds a key place in the OIC Program of Action for the next decade (2016-2025). The summit called upon the member states, the OIC organs and institutions, international partners as well as other stakeholders to undertake all necessary measures for its effective implementation.

Ten-year Program of Action (2006-2015)
The conference noted with satisfaction the successful conclusion of the Ten-year Program of Action (2006-2015), which provided the Islamic Ummah with a forward looking blueprint with a view to enhance Joint Islamic Action in various domains.

Enhance well being
The OIC reiterated its commitment to work together for a better tomorrow and enhance the well being of around 1.7 billion peoples in the 57 member states. It also affirmed commitment to address the shortcomings in the previous decade and to introduce the necessary improvements for the effective implementation of the new program of action.

Culture must be used as leverage for a sustainable development
The summit emphasized that culture must be used as leverage for a sustainable and inclusive development, along with Islamic values, the most significant aspect of which is to mainstream culture as a strategic tool for achieving OIC goals.

Childcare and well being
The conference entrusted the OIC General Secretariat with the task of developing a strategy for the OIC in the field of childcare and well being in the Muslim world, which takes into account, among other things, the health, psychological and educational conditions of children and mothers in areas of conflict, and the issue of child marriage and violence against children. It reaffirmed that preserving the wellbeing and physical health of children is a duty of every parent and society as prescribed by Islam.

The conference welcomed the significant improvement in health care coverage and services in the member states leading to declining trends in child mortality rates from a higher base rate of 125 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990 to 66 deaths per 1,000 births by 2013.

Media, including the social media
The OIC gathering stressed that the media, including the social media, is the most effective tool for spreading information and shaping public opinion. The summit recognized the decisive role it can assume in projecting the bright image of Islam as well as that of the member states to the outside world and achieving the objectives of Islamic solidarity. The conference also called for investment in the development of media infrastructure, improving the professional capacities of media workers, facilitating easy access by the public to information, enhancing OIC media institutions and deepening coordination among them to advance Joint Islamic Action in all fields.

Developing knowledge-based society
The Istanbul meet acknowledged the need for developing knowledge-based society through supporting research and technology for the overall development of the member states. For that purpose, it encouraged expansion and intensification of research and development activities in the institutions and centres of excellence including those in the OIC subsidiary and affiliated ones.

OIC Secretary General felicitated
Muslim leaders acclaimed OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani. “The Muslim leaders commended the efforts of the OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani for his initiatives aimed at promoting and defending unified position on issues of common concern, including the dialogue among civilizations and religions; promoting interfaith harmony, tolerance and non-discrimination; and safeguarding historic and Islamic character of the holy places as well as Islamic heritage.”

This write-up is prepared from the sources: OIC resources, press agencies, Saudi Gazette, Arab News and Al-Jazeera English website.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Muslim News Award for Excellence 2016 Recognises the very best of British Muslim Achievement

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2016 ceremony recognises the very best of British Muslim Achievement

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Over 500 people celebrated the 14th of The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event – Britain’s longest standing Muslim awards event – on Wednesday, 20th of April 2016 at Marriot Hotel London. The coveted award ceremony recognised the very best of Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to British society.

Ayaz Bhuta, one of the world’s best wheelchair rugby players and paralympic athlete and European Bronze Medal winner, won the Sport award. Good Citizenship award went to Professor Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, the UK’s oldest and largest children’s charity.

Guest of Honour
Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, MP
Guest of Honour at the event, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP, said: “Tonight’s awards typify not only Muslim communities at their best, but Britain at its best.”

He mentioned, “British Muslims have made significant contributions to our country, and all the winners and nominees have offered a helping hand for others, through their charitable and community-based work.”

“The Muslim News awards demonstrate how successful British Muslims are working hard to make Britain even greater, and I offer all the winners and nominees my best wishes,” said Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, MP.

Special guests included Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster Leader, Baroness Manzoor, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions and Sadiq Khan MP, Labour candidate for Mayor of London. Also present was Dianne Abbott MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

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.

Messages of support to the event
from all party leaders
Prime Minister, David Cameron, MP, who has attended the event in the past, said: “In this, their 14th year, The Muslim News Awards for Excellence once again highlight an outstanding group of people. Those recognised today represent the United Kingdom at its very best and I would like to offer my personal congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.”

Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, MP, said: “This awards ceremony is an important opportunity to recognise the huge contribution that Muslims across Britain make to our country every day, showcasing the talent and excellence of individuals in their fields of expertise. From business and technology, to the arts, and sport, it is fantastic to celebrate the achievements and hard work of Muslims from all walks of life.”

SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson, MP, said: “For 14 years the Muslim News Awards for Excellence has paid tribute to the brightest and best, and year after year it has showcased role models who lead by example for younger generations.”

“The Muslim News plays an important role in the Muslim community, both giving voice to the community as a whole and giving expression to the diverse range of views within it,” he mentioned.

Angus Robertson, MP, also said: “I am 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.”

Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News said in his welcoming speech: “I would like to thank all our readers who took the time to nominate men, women and children whose endeavours and activities mark them out for recognition of excellence.

Mr. Versi mentioned, “As in previous years, we have been humbled by the quality and quantity of entries for each award category.”

“At these awards too we identify not only those British Muslims who have excelled in their fields and contributed to the society, but also those who are not Muslims who have stood up to defend Muslims,” Mr. Versi said.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence took place on Wednesday 20 April at the Marriott Hotel London.

Welcome speech by Ahmed J Versi,
Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News
at the 14th ‘The Muslim News Awards for Excellence’
Ahmed Versi, the Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News welcomed all those who have been nominated for the awards this evening. He also expressed thank to all the readers who took the time to nominate men, women and children whose endeavours and activities mark them out for recognition of excellence.

In this connection, Versi particularly pointed out, “Since our last The Muslim News Awards, two issues have heavily impacted on the Muslim community – “new counter terrorism measures and huge increase in Islamophobia and Islamophobic attacks.”

He said, “These are indicative of a growing climate of fear against Muslims. Yet, despite all the challenges, Muslims have continued to put their best foot forward, as exemplified by the deluge of nominations we have received, celebrating the contributions Muslims have made to the British society. It makes me proud to be a British Muslim.”

Aims of the Award
Speaking about the aims of the Award, Versi mentioned, “We had two aims when these Awards were first conceived. The first was to find much-needed role models, especially for young people. The second aim was more ambitious: to provide a counter-narrative for the day-to-day drip-feed of negative and often sensationalist news and comment that passes for journalism.”

Role of Media
Speaking about the role of the Media, he said, “The role of the media in this regard should not be overestimated. I have no hesitation in stating that the climate of fear is generated by the press desperate to seek out, and at times manufacture, examples of Muslim misdemeanour. This was most recently exemplified by the appalling way Muslims have been framed as the fearful “other” in the documentary on Channel 4 following the ICM poll on “What British Muslims Really Think”. Whatever Trevor Phillips says, I say that today is the real demonstration of what British Muslims are really all about. The conclusions from this documentary demonstrate to us how it is possible to use media to spread pernicious hatred against Muslims.”

Versi also mentioned, “The sensationalism from both print and broadcast media comes during a climate of international terrorism that Muslims here in the UK have little control over and very little sympathy for, despite media headlines that insist otherwise. The outcome is not only a climate of fear, but also actual violence against Muslims.”

In this connection, Versi mentioned about a special conference organised by The Muslim News last year. He said, “Last year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the newspaper, The Muslim News organised a special conference that brought together leading figures in the media world with Muslim community activists. The landmark conference produced a series of public interest recommendations for the media, the most imperative of which is an urgent need to separate personal journalistic prejudices from the reporting on Islam and Muslims.”

Political leaders empathised with Muslims
Versi mentioned that only two political leaders empathised with Muslims at the height of recent Islamophobic attacks. “One was the much maligned Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who joined Muslims at Finsbury Park mosque vigil after it was attacked. The other was Leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon,” said Versi.

He also mentioned, “Sturgeon observed one minute silence at Glasgow Central Mosque to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris realising fully well the difficult time Muslims were going through. Importantly, the Government made much needed policy decision on reporting of Islamophobia attacks. Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that police forces should record anti-Muslim as well as anti-Semitic crimes.”

Versi also said, “Discussions and proposals to promote integration and cohesion are always welcome. But the starting point should not be, that Muslims are the problem, “not quite British enough”, and must be civilised into a notion of Britishness, nor should it be that Muslims are only seen through the prism of extremism and terrorism.

“Instead we need to hold onto our universal values and not let those who wish to divide us, who wish to break us or who wish to impose their muscular liberalism onto us all, to win,” he said.

Multicultural nation with diversity and talent
Speaking about huge diversity and talent, Versi also mentioned, “We are a multicultural nation with huge diversity and talent as we see here tonight. At these awards too we identify not only those British Muslims who have excelled in their fields and contributed to the society, but also those who are not Muslims who have stood up to defend Muslims. Despite the inaction of our leaders and the continuous hostility from sections of our media, these examples tell us that at the grassroots, we can find countless examples where Muslims and non-Muslims come together in solidarity.”

Speaking about the last year annual Big Iftar event, Versi mentioned, “Last year, Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, launched the annual Big Iftar event at the Ismaili Centre in London. This is one of the many initiatives that the Communities Secretary is involved in as his responsibility of community engagement.”

Versi also congratulated all those who are shortlisted for the awards. He wished them all a very enjoyable and inspiring evening. He said, “My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the sponsors, including Human Appeal, one of the fastest growing Muslim charity in the UK, which this year, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. My special thanks to Muhammad Amersi, who made this evening possible. I would like to extend my congratulations to the Queen on her 90th birthday.”

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.

Alhambra Award for Excellence in Arts was awarded to Swadeka Ahsun, International Artist. This Award was presented to her by Kate Green, MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.

Annemarie Schimmel Award for Championing a Muslim Cause was given to Jonathan Freeman, Managing Director, Mosaic. This Award was presented by Mohamed Amersi, Founder of Inclusive Ventures Group.

Malcolm X Young Person’s Award for Excellence was given to Saif-Abbas Chato, Higher Education Dept Facilitator – Shia Ithna’Asheri Madressa. This Award was presented by Riaz Esmail, Trustee of The Salaam Centre.

Alija Izetbegovic Award for Good Citizenship was given to Harris Bokhari, Founder, Naz Legacy Foundation. This Award was presented by Lt General Gordon Messenger and Sponsored by Armed Forces Muslim Association.

Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development was awarded to MADE [Muslim Action for Development & Environment]. The Award was presented by Sayed Lakhte Hassanain, Chairman of Muslim Hands; sponsored by Muslim Hands.

Al Biruni Award for Excellence in Community Relations was awarded to British Muslim Heritage Centre. This Award was presented by Dianne Abbott, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Sankore University Award for Excellence in Education was given to Dr David Browning, Founder Registrar, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. This Award was presented by Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Labour Party candidate for the Mayor of London

Fazlur Rahman Khan for Excellence in Engineering, Science and Technology was awarded to Tipu Zahed Aziz, Professor of Neurology, University of Oxford.  This Award was presented by Rt Hon Angus Robertson MP, Scottish National Party Leader in Westminster

Ummul Mu'minin Khadijah Award for Excellence in Enterprise was awarded to Farouq Sheikh, Chair, CareTech Holdings PLC and Tariq Usmani, CEO, Henley Homes plc. This Award was presented by Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Ibn Sina Award for Health was awarded to Dr Zafar Iqbal, Head of Sports Medicine , Crystal Palace FC. This Award was presented by Othman Moqbel, Chief Executive of Human Appeal; sponsored by Human Appeal.

Ibn Battuta Award for Excellence in Media was awarded to Assed Baig, Journalist, Channel 4 News. This Award was presented by Imran Madden, UK Director of Islamic Relief; sponsored by Islamic Relief.

Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sport was given to Ayaz Bhuta, Athlete, Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby. This Award was presented by Baroness Manzoor, CBE of Knightsbridge.

Imams Hasan and Husayn Children's Award for Excellence was awarded to Bushra Ulfath, student Mulberry Girls School. This Award was presented by Dr Suhaib Hasan, Trustee, Muslim Aid; sponsored by Muslim Aid.

Imam wa Amal Special Award was given to Professor Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Barnardo’s. This Award was presented by Wakkas Khan, Chair of The Muslim News Awards for Excellence Independent Panel of Judges.

The Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Adeela Shabazz, Director, African Muslim Welfare Trust. This award was presented to him by Ahmed J. Versi, Editor The Muslim News.

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.