First Pakistani Muslim Peer of ‘The House of Lords’ in San Jose
By Imran Hussain Khan Sudahazai
Lord Nazir Ahmed addresses the HDF Fundraiser
On May 17 Baron Ahmed of Rotherham, South Yorkshire also known as Lord Nazir Ahmed was in San Jose for the HDF fundraiser. He flew from London to California for this exclusive event. His stay only extended to two days and considering it’s an eleven-hour flight each way that was quite an effort. Lord Nazir is an extremely busy gentleman, as one would be if he is an official sanctioned by the nation’s nobility.
Lord Nazir Ahmed is a Peer and not a ‘Pir’ as he repeatedly points out to his South Asian constituents and friends. The Peerage is a system of titles of nobility in the United Kingdom, part of the British honours system.
Lord Nazir or Baron Ahmed per the official title, has made quite a name for himself. He has mediated on behalf of the British Government, Muslims and Pakistanis all across the world. Not to mention his efforts in securing the release of Gillian Gibbons the schoolteacher imprisoned in the Sudan.
No stranger to politics and civil service, Lord Nazir joined the Labor party at the age of 18 and was voted in as the ‘Justice of Peace’ for his region in 1992. In 1998 he became the second Muslim (the first being: 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley (1827-1903)) to be made a life peer. At 40 years old this placed him amongst an elite bracket of persons to have been conferred with such a grand title at a relatively young age.
He has a degree in Public Administration from Sheffield Hallam University and is an entrepreneur by trade.
We had the opportunity to meet with Lord Nazir for breakfast and a brief chat before he flew back to his House in London. (This is a very abridged version of our conversation.)
I began by asking him on how he adapted to a change in his lifestyle and title?
Lord Nazir: “I would like to begin by thanking Pakistan Link and its readers for allowing me this opportunity. I have never considered myself a leader of any type. I see myself as a worker. Therefore, as a community worker I had the opportunity to work with local authorities and councils to ensure that schools, hospitals and prisons had halal meals and provisions were met for Muslim students, patients and inmates. I ensured that trained imams were ready and present for Muslim employees of various governmental organizations such as the Police and the Army. So my role at the local level was to make sure that Muslims received their fair share of the representation and rights that they are entitled to.
“At the national level, the debates and issues are of a slightly different nature. So you become part of something which does not just involve your community or Diaspora but affects the whole nation and its myriad of religions, faiths, cultures and peoples. So becoming a Peer placed me at the forefront of the challenges that all British people face and not just anyone community or group.”
Although Lord Nazir’s point was strong on representing all of British society at the highest levels, I wanted to know what he was doing to represent the very community that he was from.
Lord Nazir: “ After 9/11 and 7/7 Muslims in this country and all across the western world have been demonized and face a much harsher climate to live in. Muslims are under attack by the media, some government policies and socially disingenuous individuals that are making a living out of the spread of hatred. I know what the Muslim community is feeling, I am a part of it, so at the local level I approach mosques, schools and local communities to try and first of all dispel and distance ourselves from any deviant ideologies that contradict Islamic principles and teachings and secondly I try and educate the educators who do not have a firm grasp of the issues and the true nature of Islam. These problems cannot be ironed out by standing on a pulpit and broadcasting to whomsoever cares. One must approach all actors at the local level and understand that we do have problems within out communities. Greater than any extremist Islamic ideology our youngsters are faced with the curse of drugs, prostitution, crime and unemployment. Those are the real issues that we must tackle at the local level. However, when I represent the community at the national or international level I do not lay down the blame and begin to accuse my communities. I defend them within the context that they are in. You will have seen plenty of Muslim MP’s blaming and shaming Muslims on the national stage. You are supposed to serve your communities and relay the issues that cause their demise and not use them as a staging tool for the propagation of your own career ambitions or furthering the goals of other parties.
“Take the example of President Bush’s speech in the Israeli Knesset. He attacked the Democrats not in Washington or somewhere in the US but in another country. He could have said the same thing in his nation and thus maintained the dignity of the nation.”
So what was the role of government in tackling these issues and recognizing the real causes of alienation and disparity within the Muslim communities in the UK?
Lord Nazir: “There is one of two reasons. Either the government has failed to acknowledge the real issues and problems faced by a predominantly immigrant Muslim minority that has now extended itself into third and fourth generational British heritage or it has been a calculated ploy to cause a growth in the fears and resentment against the Muslims. Many people have their own views on this issue, as I am sure you and your readers do. The Jews faced a similar barrage of vitriolic and pernicious haranguing before the onset of the Second World War and we are beginning to experience a similar trend at present both in Europe and North America.”
Has the British Society been shocked into a sense of disbelief at the rapid rise of its Islamic leaders, representatives and national figures and so it’s a backlash against what Europeans are calling a Muslim invasion or the rise of the fifth column?
Lord Nazir: “No, I don’t agree with that point because if you look at the number of MPs, Peers and other representatives from the Islamic community the numbers have only increased! The real problem has been the media’s focus on the extremist preachers such as Abu Hamza etc… During the times of the Satanic Verses, Gulf War and practically any other incident involving Muslims, it was the extremist right wing preachers who aired their views and the media sensationalized their viewpoints and acquiesced those with the majority of Muslims in the UK. The mainstream Muslim community can be held to fault for their lack of participation and organization in denouncing these one-sided distorted viewpoints. However, I do know that many people did try, including myself and the media always chose to ignore us. So that is an area of concern but it’s up to the Muslim community to band together and let their fellow citizens know who they are and what they stand for. Surprisingly enough Muslims and non-Muslims share the same concerns with regards to food prices, gas, schools, jobs and future prospects. Therefore, we don’t really have many differences and so we should participate in the political and social structure of our nations to bring these points home to our UK or American communities who may have received rather negative images and viewpoints with regards to Muslims as a result of the biased sensationalist media.”