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On Meeting Miliband @ The Mosque

20th January 2013
written by Sibt Ali

Having attended the event at Regents Park Mosque on Thursday with Ed Miliband, I have been left feeling optimistic but reminded that a lot more still needs to be done.

Questions were posed to the Labour Leader which were varied in nature and sometimes quite tough and somewhat direct!  Stop and Search, the economy, Muslim MP’s stats, Prevent and more.  One point that has to be noted were the number of women who were engaged and ready to ask the questions. More questions were asked by women of all backgrounds and ages than by men which is encouraging. Indeed, some young girls from Islamia School were first to stand up and hold Mr Miliband to account about the economy.  Great to see them with such confidence at such a young age!

He jokingly mentioned that he had lived close to this Mosque but it was the first time in 43 years that he had come inside.  I hope he can find more opportunities to come inside this and other Mosques in other parts of the country.  He is most welcome! Meeting each other, coming to each others’ places of worship, having dinner together, making friendships and building bridges are all things we should be working much harder at, whatever level we are.  This is the kind of pro-active work that the Islamic Society of Britain has been doing for twenty years.

Female participation and engagement is crucial for us going forward.  How many women do we have as CEO’s of the Muslim led charities?  How many women are engaged in Mosques on boards and at senior decision making level?  Why are Muslim women (Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin) the lowest in number in employment and one of the highest groups suffering mental illness.  These and many other issues need to be discussed, worked through and addressed as a priority if the community is to move on, mature and grow.

Having Sadiq Khan there was good and he is a role model for many.  We need more opportunities to engage and work with him as well as other members of the Labour Party and this I know is something that many women would welcome as an opportunity.   It was a shame that the three newly elected female Muslim MP’s were not present and I would like to see them engaging with the community more in the future.   Good to see Dame Margaret Beckett there though as a strong female leader who can inspire many others to achieve like she has being the first and only female leader of the Labour Party.

We know of the common challenges that all women face when moving into politics or even in the workplace generally. Of the FTSE 100 company CEO’s only 2 are women and we all know that there are not enough women in Parliament anyway, whatever background.  Within the Muslim communities we have some extra challenges and cultural barriers  that can sometimes be placed in the way of women progressing and pursuing a career in politics.  Often it is men in the community that discourage and dissuade women from getting more involved.  This has to be tackled and I feel that good working relationships with all the mainstream political parties and a broad range of community groups and individuals is the way to go.

And we and they need to be bold enough to move beyond the usual groups and work with new people.  I can’t wait for the Somali-British women to really find their feet, understand the system and show us all how it’s done! Culturally they come from an atmosphere where women are very much involved and in charge and I know we will see many emerging as leaders in the future.

So well done to Mr Miliband and the Labour party and let’s hope we see more of this kind of positive engagement in the future along with the other main parties.  The Muslim women of the UK are ready!

Julie Siddiqi – Executive Director

Islamic Society of Britain

Leave a Reply

  • Handan
    28th March 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Salaam alaikum.

    I quite agree with you about the role of women as role models in our communities. More needs to be done.

    Ironically I guess this was the sentiment behind my my little rant this evening on my blog about the Young Muslims Birmingham Outdoor Camp! Honestly, I think it’s brilliant that this camp is happening at all.

    But wouldn’t it just be fantastic if there was an identical camp for young girls of that age group too? If they too could have the opportunity to be inspired and energised, imagine the long-lasting effect it would have on our communities.

    I hope these sentiments will result in positive action from the grass roots, as much in the political establishment.

    If we can establish equal opportunities in participation, equal opportunities in leadership will surely follow. :)

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