Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, joined over 520 people from all sections of the society from the worlds of politics, business, sport, the arts, civic and religious leaders, to celebrate and honour exemplary contributions done by Muslims in the society.
The Thirteenth The Muslim News Awards for Excellence gala dinner, British Muslims pioneering awards event, was held in central London on March 25.
The Guest of Honour, Miliband, presenting the Arts award to Halima Cassell, sculptural artist, said, “The Muslim News Awards celebrates the very best of our country. These awards shine a light to enormous contributions that British Muslims make to our country. Your dynamism and determination contributes millions of pounds to our country, creating jobs and supporting public services.”
Miliband acknowledged that Muslims are central to Britain’s history and future. “Whether it is the bravery of Muslim soldiers who fought in the WWI or the generosity, through Zakat, of British Muslims, donating millions to good causes at home or abroad, the Muslim community is central to our history, and in my view, is a cornerstone of our country’s future.”
Miliband condemned discrimination and attacks against Muslims and said Islamophobia was on the rise and needs to be tackled. “We heard heartbreaking stories of kids in schools being taunted and bullied after the appalling Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, which we all condemned. Our society can’t be strong if some of its people are living in fear.
Hate crime, whether it is based on race or religion, gender, sexuality or disability, is intolerable. That is why we need a stronger approach that confronts Islamophobia head on.” Miliband also said his government would “revive police and CPS guidelines to tackle the surge of Islamophobia in social media.” He added that Islamophobia should be tackled in schools too as “we need our schools to be playgrounds of understanding where our children discover each other’s worlds and absorb each other’s cultures.”
Welcoming the guests, including the Leader of the Opposition, Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi, congratulated those who were shortlisted for the awards.
“With the huge focus on bad news stories when it comes to Islam and British Muslims, it is all the more important that we recognise those Muslims among us who are doing great things to transform the lives of their communities and society.
“We should honour and celebrate the exemplary work of the men, women and children present among us tonight. And we should do so because their achievements are rarely highlighted as good news stories in our media,” he said.
Special Guest, Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, congratulating the shortlisted people, said that the awards ceremony is “all about inspiration” and is reflected “by your hashtag #inspiringmuslims.” She added that it was “fantastic to be here tonight and to recognise the inspiration of the Muslim community here in Britain.” Morgan said Muslim schools she visits “are truly inspirational.”
Presenting the media award to Fatima Manji, General Reporter for Channel 4, Morgan said the media is “very powerful but it is also force for good. It challenges us, it makes us think, it keeps us on our toes.”
Former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, said Muslims are from the most diverse communities “who make huge contributions in many areas of the society, including the civil service, magistrates, judges, court officials, prison staff, imams who work as prison chaplains.”
Presenting the Education award to Nahda Trust, Hughes also said there was an increase in Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims. “The Government takes it with absolute seriousness.
It is never acceptable for people to be discriminated against or subject of verbal, or through the tweet and social media attack. We must work together until it becomes unacceptable. Every Muslim must be able to walk the streets of every part of Britain in safety, with dignity and respect.”
Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, who received from Miliband, The Muslim News newspaper’s Special Recognition for his outstanding contributions to the Muslim community, said, “We leave here inspired, recognising the fantastically talented British Muslims doing remarkable amount of work.”
In a message to the event, Prime Minister, David Cameron, who attended the awards last year, said, “Britain’s Muslim communities make an incredible contribution to this country. We see it around us, every single day – in our schools and our hospitals, in businesses and in the arts. The Muslim News Awards for Excellence does a fantastic job of honouring those who go above and beyond – people of whom our country can be truly proud.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said, “This ceremony is a prestigious event organized by a highly respected publication. I would like to take this chance to pay tribute to the vision, inspiration and hard work of all the Muslim entrepreneurs who are helping to make our economy stronger, and those community heroes and education pioneers who are making our society fairer.”
The Special Judges award went to the late Dr Muhammed Abdul Jabbar Beg, a distinguished historian.
Amongst the other awards 15 winners were Moeen Ali, England cricket all rounder, for Sport, Zaidah Ahmed for Good Citizenship, Isha Kausar Hakeem for Children’s Award and many others.
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.