Welcome speech by Ahmed J Versi, Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News at the Fourteenth ‘The Muslim News Awards for Excellence’

20th Apr 2016
Welcome speech by Ahmed J Versi, Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News at the Fourteenth ‘The Muslim News Awards for Excellence’

Welcome speech by Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News:

 

Wednesday 20 April 2016

 

Rt Hon Greg Clark, distinguished guests. Assalamu ‘alaykum (peace be with you).

Thank you all for braving London’s rush-hour traffic to attend this, the fourteenth, Muslim News Awards for Excellence event.

I would like to welcome all those who have been nominated for the awards this evening. 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

My congratulations to all of those who are shortlisted for the awards here tonight.

I wish you all a very enjoyable and inspiring evening.

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.

And now I would like to invite Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Greg Clark

[Photo: Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News welcoming the guests at the fourteenth The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event in London 20 April 2016. Photographer: Adam Szczepanski/The Muslim News]

NOTES:

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2016 Short-list

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2016: Meet the independent panel of judges

 

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2016 Winners, presenters, sponsors and categories

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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