There is a distinct lack of positive British Muslim role models in our media – hardly a day goes by when we aren’t confronted with a British Muslim who has said, or done, or thought about doing
There is a distinct lack of positive British Muslim role models in our media – hardly a day goes by when we aren’t confronted with reports of a British Muslim who has said, or done, or thought about doing a horrible act.
Racially aggravated abuse of Muslims has increased significantly, recently, the Watchdog Faith Matters has reported it is receiving 50 phone calls every 24 hours to report incidents. With increasing acts of terrorism and violence being linked to Islamic extremism, it has become all too easy to taint the entire Muslim world with the same brush. But some of Britain’s most prominent figureheads in sport, politics and entertainment are in fact Muslim and it is important for the good of our society that they get as much air time as those currently on our screens.
Here’s a list of ten (we could have listed more) positive British Muslim role models – I’ve not listed them for their piety or for their excellent work in the community but solely for the fact that they are British, they are Muslim and their position in society is largely positive.
Maajid Nawaz, Chairman of Quilliam. Former political prisoner and one of Amnesty’s “Prisoners of conscience”, Nawaz’s journey from prison has lead him to to set up the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam. He has been published in some of the world’s leading newspapers, has spoken at numerous international events and warmed the hearts of many in this country with an electrifying performance on BBC’s Questions Time.
James Caan, Entrepreneur. The suave, open-collared businessman is known for his role in the TV show, Dragon’s Den. Possibly the most amiable of the fiery dragons, this self-made millionaire may be out of the show, but he’s certainly into philanthropy. His James Caan Foundation focuses on access to education and he promotes entrepreneurship as a way out of hardship.
Zayn Malik, Entertainer. He of the One Direction fame is not one to shy away from his heritage, even celebrating it on Twitter. The X Factor protégé has taken the USA by storm with his fellow band mates and has sparked a bit of resurgence in the popularity of boy bands, if only among shrieking teenage girls. Having won two BRIT awards and sold over 14 million singles, it’s no wonder 2012 was labeled “The Year of One Direction” by Huffington Post.
Amir Khan, Boxer. Amir is one of the best boxers England has ever seen, having lost just three of his 31 matches. He is a former four-time world champion across different weight categories and is the youngest British Olympic boxing medalist. Khan’s fancy footwork and pelting punches won silver in Athens 2004 at the tender age of 17. He previously boxed in the lightweight division, where he held the Commonwealth, WBO Inter-Continental, and WBA International titles.
Mo Farah CBE, Athlete. Mo shot to fame after his double Olympic win at the games last year in London. Champion of the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, he holds pretty much every running title out there, and he has now set his sights on the marathon. But he is probably most famous for his celebratory dance, the ‘mobot’, which blows Usain Bolt’s power pose out the water.
“Now here’s one I prepared earlier.” The infamous phrase synonymous with the phenomenally popular children’s show, Blue Peter, has been uttered by Konnie Huq more times than most. In fact, she is the third longest serving presenter and the longest serving female presenter from 1997 to 2008. Her Xtra Factor gig was a bit of a flop, but he stint on Blue Peter will outshine all of that.
Natasha Khan, Singer. better known by her stage name, Bat for Lashes, has been dubbed the 21st century answer to Siouxsie Sioux, Bjork, Kate Bush and Annie Lennox – quite a formidable combination! She may have been pipped to the post for Best British Female BRIT Award this year, but the girl has also received Mercury Prize nominations and has one hell of a stage presence.
Shazia Mirza, Comedian. Is Shazia the funniest Muslim in the UK? Most definitely. Having toured the US and much of Northern Europe, it’s no wonder she was a semi-finalist on season six of Last Comic Standing. Mirza was listed on the Muslim Women’s Power List as one of the 20 most successful Muslim women in the UK. Funny and powerful, there’s not stopping this comedienne.
Mishal Husain, journalist. is one of Britain’s five most powerful Muslim women, and is the main anchor for BBC World News and presents Newsnight. While many would shy away from the prickly Paxman, this Cambridge graduate holds her own when probing politicians. Gathering significant praise, Husain is fast becoming one of Britain’s most prominent presenters.
Baroness Warsi, Politician. She may not be the first Muslim to serve in the UK government, but she is Britain’s first fully fledged Muslim cabinet minister. Now a life peer and shadow minister for community cohesion, Lady Warsi has been named as Britain’s most powerful Muslim woman. A remarkable example of how two of society’s possibly greatest barriers can be overcome.
Some are widely recognised, a few surprising and others plucked from relative obscurity. But what they all represent is that Muslims play an important part in making up the great and the good of Britain.