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March 28, 2009
The Muslim News marks 20th anniversary
The Muslim News marks its 20th Anniversary this month, determined as ever in retaining its position as the leading campaigning newspaper for the country’s two million Muslim community.
Its Editor, Ahmed J Versi, said that it remained a “job unfinished” and would continue to be published in raising and successfully championing issues of concern of the community.
“It is respected and supported by the British Muslim community and is seen as unbiased and an objective newspaper. We have contributed to, and influence news agenda,” Versi said about its achievements.
“The younger generation is now dynamic, politically aware, vocal and are not afraid to speak out on the human rights abuses against British Muslims and Muslims around the world despite the draconian way the anti terror legislations are being implemented,” he said.
Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, congratulating The Muslim News, said, “For twenty years now The Muslim News has been informing and inspiring British Muslims and I’m always pleased to have the chance to read the news and views coming from Britain's Muslim community. Through your media reporting and the prestigious The Muslim News Awards for Excellence the impact of The Muslim News on British life has been substantial.”
Opposition Leader, David Cameron, sending his best wishes to The Muslim News said, “The Muslim News has achieved a huge amount in the last 20 years – entertaining, informing, stimulating debate and raising the profile of issues of particular interest to British Muslims.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, commending The Muslim News for reaching a milestone, said, “Over the last tow decades in independently reporting the stories and addressing the issues which are important to the Muslim community in the UK, it has firmly established itself as an authoritative commentator on British and international Muslim affairs. Beyond this, with its annual The Muslim News Awards the paper has led the way in acknowledging excellence and leadership in the Muslim community.”
The monthly was founded by Versi in February 1989, at the height of the Satanic Verses crisis.
The Muslim News Editor said that he started the paper because the “so-called mainstream media was not reflecting the concerns and contributions of the community.”
“The main aim was to reflect views and news of Muslims and provide a forum for the Muslims in the UK and in addition Muslims around the world. It was also to unite Muslims in the UK – one was using English as the language of the paper; being non partisan, non sectarian, inclusive and reflect authentically events and news of the Muslim community,” he said.
Versi said he was always optimistic that The Muslim News would continue, despite some of his friends suggesting it would only last a matter of months, but he added that he did not expect it to be as influential as it is now and that it would be recognised and respected internationally too.
The circulation of the monthly, by far the largest of any newspaper for British Muslim, reaches over 140,000 people in the UK alone, transcending conventional ‘ethnic’ boundaries as it reaches Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, Turkish Cypriots, African, African Caribbean, Kashmiri, Sri Lankan, Afghanis, Arab, Iranian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Kosovans, Bosnians, and others. Its website, which is updated several times a day, www.muslimnews.co.uk, receives up to 1.5 million hits a month.
Versi, who was ranked by the Guardian in 2005 to among the 20 most powerful Asians in the British media, admits that The Muslim News, which is run on a shoe-string budget, and run by largely voluntary staff, “punches above it weight.”
The paper, which is distributed free, is funded entirely from advertisement revenues.
He said he had hoped that it would have become a weekly publication but had not happened due to the “reluctance of the Government and local authorities to advertise as they do in the non-Muslim ethnic media.”
During the past 20 years, The Muslim News has run many exclusive exposes, including that the Special Branch police going around the UK interrogating Muslim families in their homes that led to an apology to be issued by the Government.
Versi’s achievements have also included interviewing world leaders from the late President of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic and the late President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya to the late Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantissi, Hizbullah leader Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, and Bishop Gabriel Roric, Sudan’s former foreign minister.
In Britain, he has also interviewed former Prime Minister Tony Blair twice, Opposition Party Leaders, William Hague and Michael Howard (twice), Lib Dem Leader Paddy Ashdown, and other cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers, as well as police chiefs and religious leaders.
In March 2000, Versi took a proactive lead in raising the profile of Muslims with the launch of the first ever The Muslim News Awards for Excellence, which has become annual celebration of unsung Muslim achievements attended by eminent guests such as the Prince of Wales and then Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.
“We wanted to do something that would help the community and we found that there was hardly any acknowledgement of British Muslim contributions to society,” he said.
Two years ago, the Editor also started a political dialogue between cabinet ministers and shadow ministers and Muslim youth at the House of Commons, with the help of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, who has since been promoted to Communities Minister.
The reason, he said, was to encourage the younger generation to participate in the political process and engage in debate with the political leadership of the country.
Away from the spotlight, Versi also strives to encourage young Muslims in particular to fulfil their potential. Twice he helped organise a team of British Muslim women to compete at the International Islamic Women’s Games held in Tehran.
He also works with the youth to train them in participating in the civil society and also trains young people in journalism.
Two decades on, The Muslim News has become a historical record of the highs and lows faced by Britain’s Muslim community, whether it be the numerous cases of Islamophobia that that has affected real lives of Muslims or the multitude of unrecognised success stories.
“The Muslim News has been the first and only newspaper to tell the story of the Muslim community as it is. It is a campaigning paper, reporting and witnessing the evolution of the Muslim community and their identity in society,” Versi said.
Editorial in The Muslim News on its twentieth anniversary:
Messages from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Opposition Leader David Cameron, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg and others:
For further information contact us on 020 8863 8586 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release
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