OF Britain, not IN Britain

Great Fellowship and a heartfelt and erudite talk from the first female President of the Islamic Society of Britain

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Fellowship in the Broadest Sense of the Word

Six of our members - Mike Sinclair, Keith Wood, Malcolm Acors, Ed Harrison, Roger Kettle and Peter Greene, made the trek over to Stort Valley Rotary Club on November 4th. to attend a regular club meeting.  There was fellowship, good food, good conversation and a most interesting talk by Sughra Ahmed - Lancashire born, a third generation Briton of Pakistani descent who is the first female President of the Islamic Society of Britain.

She is presently a Programmes Manager at the Woolf Institute in the Centre for Policy and Public Education, where she designs training programs and promotes freedom of religion and faith.  Previously, she worked in the Policy Research Centre.  She is a Trustee of the Inter Faith Network UK, and a Specialist for the Christian Muslim Forum.  Sughra has a BA (Hons) English Language and Literature and an MA in Islamic Studies; she is a qualified Chaplain and holds a Diploma in Islamic Jurisprudence. She is also a contributor to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. Earlier this year she was awarded the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Award for Muslim Woman of the Year at the British Muslim Awards.

As she puts it, she is “Of Britain” not “In Britain”.  IE she considers herself a 3rd generation Briton whose life is here.  Her family came here for temporary work, and life was tough - 22 of them sharing a house and “hot-bedding” as they worked shifts.  But when UK legislation was going to change so that family members couldn’t join them if they weren’t UK citizen, they brought their families here to keep options open.The overwhelming majority of the current generation don’t ever question where they are from, they ARE British.

The Islamic Society of Britain will be 25 years old in 2015. It’s a grass roots organization representing its members only. All officers are elected. It has 3 Aims

  • To promote greater understanding and awareness of Islam
  • To organise, educate and enhance the development of British Muslim communities
  • To encourage positive contribution to British society and the promotion of social justice

The principal themes of her talk were that she and the majority of Muslims don’t ever question where they are from, they ARE British.  They’ve worked hard to build a life and families and want peace and understanding.  They just don’t understand where this extremism is coming from.  But its an uphill struggle - no matter how much they shout about peace, the facts of the incidents like the 7/7 bombings, Lee Rigby, David Haines and the other beheadings make it difficult to get their voices heard.  But most Muslims deplore these violent actions, don’t understand the motives any more than we do, and her organisation was amongst the first to condemn them.

With this background she then answered a series of questions about Islam in the UK, Muslim dress, the Koran, and other matters, all of which were answered with candour, clarity and humour.  If only there had been more time!