Obituary: Prof Muhammad Anwar, scholar-activist

24th Jul 2020
Obituary: Prof Muhammad Anwar, scholar-activist

Prof Muhammad Anwar, race relations scholar, April 4, 1945-June 11, 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Fatima Jamila Anwar)

Several individuals and organisations have been mourning the loss of a friend and a colleague and offering their condolences to the family of the late Professor Muhammad Anwar, who passed away in London on June 11.

Their tributes are complimentary, appreciating what he believed in and stood for achieving social justice and equality and empowering disadvantaged communities: helpful and supportive of the ethnic minority groups and individuals in their campaigns and endeavours.

Paying their tribute the Muslim Council of Britain stated, “He will be remembered with affection as a warm and helpful scholar, ready to offer his expertise and advice when called on by community organisations.

Muhammad Anwar was a scholar-activist unstinting in responding to requests from community organisations, whether it was to provide statistics, speaking at events, attend meetings with civil service officials or review their reports.”

One of his PhD students observed, “His PhD students, of whom I was one, researching diversity and European Muslim communities, went on to become academics, politicians and public servants in countries including the US and Turkey.”

He gained a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences (1965), and a Masters in Sociology (1967) at Punjab University, Lahore, before serving as a lecturer in Sociology at the Government College in Peshawar.

After moving to Britain in 1970, he completed a Masters at Manchester University (1971), and a PhD at Bradford University (1977) about Pakistanis in northern England.

He then worked for Rochdale Community Relations Council in Greater Manchester, helping newly arrived immigrants on social security, housing and immigration issues until he joined the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 1981.

He served as Head of Research at the CRE in the 1980s. From the CRE Anwar went to the University of Warwick as Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations (CRER, 1989-94) and continued there as a Research Professor.

At the CRE he availed every opportunity to impact social and public policy by producing a series of issues-based reports and representing the CRE on various national platforms to advance the agenda of equality, including as a member of BBC Advisory Committees and assisting in defining the ethnic categories for collecting census information.

He was author, co-author and editor of various publications, including Between Two Cultures (1976), Race and Politics (1986), British Pakistanis: Demographic, Social and Economic Position (1996) among many others.

I had the great privilege of working and collaborating with Anwar over the past four decades on numerous projects and initiatives, including co-authoring British Muslims and State Policies (2003). He was very generous with his time and support.

Sadly, our last joint venture remains incomplete. In keeping with his approach, he wanted to collect the views, ascertain perception and experiences of British Muslims, comparatively young Muslims, concerning contemporary developments and challenges and charter their progress or otherwise over the generations.

I managed to supervise amassing very rich data, based on in-depth interviews conducted in Birmingham and various London Boroughs, with a significant Muslim population.

In the late 60s and early 70s, those of us who were promoting British Multiculturalism and Bi-culturalism had to defend cultural, religious and linguistic diversity by advancing the argument that ‘integration’ should be judged by minorities’ participation in British political, civic and economic cultures. Therefore, Anwar embarked on encouraging and monitoring the political participation of minorities.

“Greater participation will ultimately lead to greater integration” he believed, and he was the joint editor of two collections in this field, Black and Ethnic Leaderships: The Cultural Dimensions of Political Action (1991) and From Legislation to Integration (1999).

He was one of the pioneering experts on and scholars of the political participation of ethnic minorities and race relations legislation.

He was made an OBE for Services to Education in 2007. On retirement in 2012, he was appointed Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick’s Department of Sociology.

Professor Anwar leaves behind a wife Saeeda and two daughters.

Dr Qadir Bakhsh, MBE

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