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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Lead Christians and Muslims collaborate on project to alter the situation from Minorities in Pakistan and the UK

Secretary of State for International Development MP Justine Greening Speaking at Minority - Majority meeting Tuesday 12th March 2013.

Christians and Muslims of all backgrounds converged in Balham, South London, to identify ways to improve the quality of life for minorities living in the UK and Pakistan.   The Event was termed the Minority - Majority Project and was organised by a series of partner groups including; London Borough Faith Network, Stockwell Green Community Services, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and British High Commission.  

Speakers at the event included;

  • Catriona Robertson - LBFN
  • Malik Gul - WCEP
  • Humera Khan - An-Nisa Society
  • Anwar Akhtar - The Samosa
  • RT Hon Justine Greening MP - Secretary of State for International Development)
  • Toaha Qureshi MBE SGCS
  • The Revd Rana Youab Khan - Former Inter-religious coordinator for the Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • The Rt Revd Irfan Jamil, Bishop of Lahore
  • Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP for Tooting
       Listed in order of appearance at event.

The meeting started with some video footage of a recent trip to Pakistan undertaken by a number of the speakers above, which facilitated an understanding of the experiences faced by many minorities living there.  The footage was part of an attempt to identify areas of concern and good practice.  The study was taken in the city of Lahore.  

Malik Gul was the commentator for the evening.  A description of the visit to Pakistan was provided by Catriona Robertson, she gave an explanation of the aim of this project "A Muslim-Christian dialogue on how faith traditions in the UK and in Pakistan are understanding and addressing issues of conflict and consensus." This set the tone of the event which was an engaging attempt for wider collaboration, to fashion change for minorities here in the UK and in Pakistan.  

MP Greening spoke of how the"Department of International Development" wanted to work with young Pakistani Groups, from the UK Diaspora in challenging for reform and better equality in Pakistan.  She encouraged the growing diaspora to work together across national and religious boundaries for a better future for our communities. At the end of her speech she was presented with a scarf printed with the Olympic Tartan.  

I presented MP Greening with a copy of the BPCA's recent report on the "Targeting of Minority Others' in Pakistan", during a discussion in the break period.

Later Toaha Qureshi MBE spoke of how when he came to the UK he had suffered racism in the early years, however he described how the UK's focus on equality had allowed him to become a successful entrepreneur. 

The meeting broke for a  tea break and then MP Sadiq Khan described how as a young Muslim he had to struggle with his cultural and religious identity.  However he spoke of how modern Britain was a place of acceptance and inclusion.

At this point a series of workshops were held, by splitting visitors into three groups.  I joined a discussion on how the Pakistani Diaspora in the UK could make a positive contribution to the future of Pakistan.  The discussion concentrated on what message we could give to DFID to challenge for change in Pakistan.  The group decided to ask DFID to ensure a significant portion of the £665 million sent to Pakistan for holistic educational reform, should be ring-fenced for the leveling of the disparity in literacy levels between minorities and the Muslim majority.  We also felt that DFID should challenge the Government of Pakistan to remove Islamic Studies as a mandatory subject in the Pakistan National Curriculum.  We called DFID to challenge for a standard National Curriculum to be utilized within all schools in Pakistan, as practices vary significantly. A request to DFID to challenge for the removal  of the extra 20 marks awarded to students who can evidence they have learned sections of the Quran, when applying for Medicine, Law and other senior academic studies in Pakistan, as this practice is discriminatory.  

What really took me by surprise and many others around the table, I should add, was the notion put forward by a young Muslim man that as "Pakistan is a Muslim nation we should be able to insist on learning Islamic Studies and retaining the 20 Marks allocated for learning sections of the Quran."  The misguided young man had only earlier indicated his disgust when describing discrimination when using the name Muhammed in employment applications.  His experiences indicated the name was being used to screen him out of opportunities.  It was only when he removed this identifier that he secured employment.  Despite obtaining sympathies from around the table, he still held to his discriminatory stance on Islamic influences being retained as tools for progress in Pakistan.  To me,  it seems we still have some way to go with  altering the mindset of those in Pakistan that have been subjected to propaganda and caricatures of minorities living there.  

The Revd Rana Youab introduced the Bishop of Lahore.  He explained how when he started off in his career in the clergy he was under the tutelage of Rt Revd Irfan Jamil. 

The Rt Revd Irfan Jamil shared a short message which he humorously referred to as a short message service (SMS) . He described the need for good people of all faiths to be visionaries for change in a very moving speech, that was met with great applause.

Malik Gul  - Director WCEN

Humera Khan AN-Nisa Society

Anwar Akhtar - The Samosa

Toaha Quershi MBE - Chairman SGCS

MP Greening presented with the Olympic tartan scarf.

MP Sadiq Khan

Wilson Chowdhry (BPCA) with Catriona Robertson (LBFN) and Julian Bond (Christian Muslim Forum)

Rt Revd Irfan Jamil - Bishop of Lahore

Wilson Chowdhry with Rt Revd Irfan Jamil, Revd RanaYouab Khan and Susanne Mitchell (Greater London  Presence and Engagement Network).

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