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April 04, 2007

Hilary Benn praises the good work by Muslims

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence

Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn Wednesday praised the contributions made by British Muslims to create a more just society.

"Like all great faiths Islam urges its followers to create a more just society, and very generously British Muslims are playing their part by giving to good causes. “ Mr. Benn said at the seventh annual The Muslim News Awards for Excellence in London.

"The Muslim News Awards for Excellence celebrate the hard work and dedication of all those who are doing something practical to improve the lives of people in their community,” he said.

In his keynote speech at the event, the International Development Secretary extolled British Muslims as being “very generous” for donating to special causes.

“The UK is doing the same through its rising aid budget, as we help poor communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other countries around the world to be able to build a better life," he said.

The awards are designed to celebrate the achievements of both Muslims and non-Muslims in the British society. More than 700 guests will be attending the ceremony.

In a message to the Awards, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said every community should have within it role models for the younger generation to look up to and learn from, and that the event “is creating a much-needed source for this.”

“Acknowledging and celebrating individual achievement, as these Awards set out to do, is a great way of highlighting the immense contribution which Muslim people make across all walks of national life, to the benefit of society as a whole,” Opposition Leader, David Cameron also said.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said that the awards covered a range of area that underline “the wide and varied contribution that the Muslim community makes to life in Britain.”

Opening the awards ceremony, Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News, and organizer of the Awards, said the annual event would accentuate “noteworthy achievement in the face of negative stereotyping.” If, he said, the “media image of our community is warped, we must do more than merely hope for a more wholesome picture to emerge. “

The ceremony is seen as an important highlight in the British-Muslim calendar. Members of all the different political groups have shown their support for the ceremony, while representatives for all walks of life are participating in attending.

“There are individuals and organisations striving to make a difference to the way in which we are viewed. These awards are one way to ensure that their contributions are not sidelined,” said Versi

He also spoke the awards impact on the younger generation and the importance of showcasing contributions and achievements. “Self-image means more to the younger members of the Muslim Community. Its impact on nurturing a healthy identity is as indisputable as the need for relevant role models.”

“If we fail to highlight what our community is accomplishing, we can be sure that others - for whom faith is academic, problematic, or irrelevant - will throw up less constructive, but seemingly attractive, alternatives. “

The ceremony brings together politicians, religious leaders, journalists, community activists along with representatives from the world of sport, culture, academia, amongst others.

Amongst the nominees shortlisted are:

Halima Cassell is nominated for excellence in the arts. Her art fuses her Asian roots with a fascination for African pattern work and a passion for architectural geometry. Sir Sigmund Sternberg has been nominated for championing a Muslim cause award. Sir Sigmund Sternberg founded the Three Faiths Forum which has achieved enormous success in promoting respect, cooperation and friendship between Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities across the UK.

Other nominees include Isola Akay for the sports award, Emdad Rahman good citizenship award, Pari Rashid for community development award, Dr Naveed Zaidi, for engineering, science and technology, Zubeida Malik, reporter for Radio 4’s Today programme for the media award and Tariq Ramadan for his contribution to Islamic thought.

The monthly newspaper launched its first awards ceremony in 2000, to mark the 10th anniversary of publication as Britain’s leading Muslim newspaper, when the guest of honour was International Development Secretary Clare Short.

Following on, the Awards for Excellence has been attended by high profile guests including Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales

Nominations for awards were taken from 14 different categories of Muslim achievements, ranging from science and engineering to community development, young person and the arts.

Nominations from Britain's 1.8 million Muslim community are made by members of the public and the shortlist and winners are decided by an independent panel of seven distinguished judges.

The judging panel for this year were: DR KAMAL TAWFIK ELHELBAWY is an advisor at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism (UK) and at the Global Civilisations Study Centre in London; SABERA ISLAM has over 20 years of community development experience during which time she has set up a number of Government-funded projects in Scotland; DR FATIMA ZOHRA is a local government information manager; DR HASSAN ABEDIN is a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies; FATIMA WALJI advises on benefits and entitlements for vulnerable sectors of the community; LORD MOHAMED SHEIKH is the Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum; DR DOREEN FINNERON is the Executive Director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network UK.

The finalists will be announced on Wednesday April 4.

For the editors:

1. Full list of the short listed people is on our website:

2. Those media wanting to attend the event, MUST register by Tuesday 3 April.

3. For winners name on the day contact the office.

4. The event will take place in Central London on Wednesday, 4 April.

5. Programme begins at 5.30 with Reception and the awards commences at 6.30pm. The Guest of Honour, Hilary Benn, will speak after the Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi, just after The event will end at 10.30pm

6. TV footage and still photographs will be provided by The Muslim News. No TV or still cameras will be allowed, without prior permission.

7. In a message to the Awards event, Rt Hon Gordon Brown , Chancellor of the Exchequer says:

“Tonight, you are embracing the diversity and talent within the Muslim community - in the arts, sport, technology, business, to name but a few - and celebrating the achievements and valuable contribution British Muslims make to this country. Every community should have within it role models for the younger generation to look up to and learn from, and tonight's event is creating a much-needed source for this.”

7. Leader of the opposition, David Cameron , says:

“Britain is rightly proud of its ethnically diverse society. And it is important to remember that all of us – whatever our background or faith – have got far more that unites us than divides us. Acknowledging and celebrating individual achievement, as these Awards set out to do, is a great way of highlighting the immense contribution which Muslim people make across all walks of national life, to the benefit of society as a whole.”

8. Liberal Democrats Leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, says:

“The awards have covered a range of areas, from arts and media to engineering, science and technology, and from health and sports to community and citizenship. This serves to highlight the wide and varied contribution that the Muslim community makes to life in Britain.”

9. Awards Presenters:

Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP, Secretary of State for International Development will present the Sankore University award for excellence in EDUCATION

Doreen Lawrence, Director, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust will present the Ibn Battuta award for excellence in MEDIA - for fair, accurate and balanced reporting on an issue involving Muslims nationally or internationally.

Dominic Grieve, MP. Shadow Attorney General will present theUmmul Mu'minin Khadijah award for excellence in ENTERPRISE - for achievement in business and commerce

Muhammad Abdul Aziz, Commissioner, Commission for Racial Equality will present the Al Biruni award for excellence in COMMUNITY RELATIONS - for promoting understanding and respect between Muslim and non-Muslim communities at the national or local level

Faezeh Hashemi, President, Islamic Federation of Women Sport will present the Faezeh Hashemi award for excellence in SPORTS - for outstanding sporting achievement or the initiation of a sports project for the benefit of the Muslim community at national or local level

Simon Hughes, MP, Chairman, Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Consitutional Affairs will present the Alhambra award for excellence in ARTS for achievement to fine art, the performing art or architecture

Dr Abdul Bari, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain will present the Annemarie Schimmel award for CHAMPIONING A MUSLIM CAUSE - for a non-Muslim individual, initiative or organisation which /who has supported a Muslim cause.

Susan Scholefield, Director General, Equalities, Dept of Communities & Local Government will present the Uthman Dan Fodio award for excellence in COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT - For a person, project, or initiative aimed at raising the quality of life of Muslims locally or nationally.

Sir Ken Macdonald, QC. Director of Public Prosecution will present the Alija Izetbegovic GOOD CITIZENSHIP award - for showing courage and determination in securing rights for British Muslims

Rear Admiral Amjad Hussain, Director General (Weapons) - the highest ranking Muslim serving in the armed forces will present the Fazlur Rahman Khan award for excellence in ENGINEERING/ SCIENCE/ TECHNOLOGY

Fadi Itani, Islamic Relief International Manager will present the Malcolm X - YOUNG PERSON’S Award for Excellence

Councillor Salma Yaqoob, National Vice Chair, Respect Coalition, will present the Ibn Sina award for HEALTH - For promoting health awareness in the Muslim community

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence independent Panel of Judges member, Dr Fatima Zohra – she is also helps at the Muslim Women’s Helpline will present the Iman wa Amal SPECIAL AWARD - For outstanding contribution, a special award at the discretion of the judges

10. Awards & Sponsors

Sponsored by Dept of Communities & Local Government

Sponsored by Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Sponsored by Melchem Pharmaceuticals

Sponsored by the Commission for Racial Equality

Sponsored by Ministry of Defence

Sponsored by Husaini Islamic Centre

MALCOLM X YOUNG PERSON’S Award for Excellence

Sponsored by Islamic Relief

Judges speech by

LORD MOHAMED SHEIKH, Chairperson, Panel of The Muslim News Independent Panel of Judges

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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