On the 24th April 2018, British Muslims for Secular Democracy was delighted to celebrate our 10th Anniversary of fighting for the rights of Muslims in a secular UK democracy.
Seated upstairs in the University Women’s Club in London, members of the British public heard as the co-founders of BMSDemocracy – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Dr Nasreen Rehman – and prominent figures in the British Muslim community – Dr Omar Khan, Nazir Afzal OBE, and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – shared their personal experiences on the past and present struggles of being a Muslim in the UK, as well as their thoughts on the evolving challenges ahead.
The topics discussed were varied, covering issues from Islamophobia, terrorism and the rise of the far right, to challenges surrounding political correctness, patriarchal communities and rising instances of hate crime. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Dr Nasreen Rehman began, recounting the founding ideals of BMSDemocracy, commented on the future direction of the organisation, and paid tribute to Asma Jahangir, co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. This was then followed by the rest of the panel, who spoke on the difficulties and successes of their own careers; including Baroness Warsi’s criticism of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, Nazir Afzal’s evaluation of the responses to his role prosecuting the Rochdale sex trafficking gang, and Dr Omar Khan’s exploration of the work of the Runnymede Trust.
After fielding questions from the chair and audience, the evening drew to a close with a hilarious performance by comedian Zahra Barri, and a chance for the audience to network and debate over canapés and drinks.
In response to the issues discussed and the changing political and social climate, BMSDemocracy has taken new directions in its work: from a renewed focus on LGBT+ Muslims and the spread of sectarianism, to advising schools on Muslim issues and holding the UK Government accountable for its contributions to Saudi Arabian war crimes in Yemen.
We thank our speakers and audience for attending and sharing their views, and hope everyone came away more insightful on the pressures in creating an equal, secular society, and the difficulties Muslim face living in the UK.