Sports stars Mo Farah and Amir Khan join list of supporters

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WBA Super and IBF Light Welterweight Champion boxer Amir Khan and 5000m Gold Medallist Mo Farah join a host of figures to lend their support to the Muslim Writers Awards.

"I would like to congratulate the Muslim Writers Awards (MWA) on reaching their 5th anniversary. It is amazing how big and popular the competition has become since its inception in 2006. It is important that we continue to support all the young Muslims who have a love for literature and writing. The MWA does just that by giving a foundation and platform in which these gifted youngsters can showcase their talent.

Being a well recognised boxer I am regularly in contact with journalists and writers. Thankfully, a lot of the coverage I have received has often been positive! But I admire the work that they do and the way they are able to tell the story of my fights in such a descriptive way. To do that undoubtedly takes talent and I would encourage anyone who has a passion for writing to pursue it and to not be afraid to enter their work into the MWA. I remember reading that the great boxer Jack Dempsey once said, ‘I was a good fighter but it was the writers who made me great’. The pen is so strong and has so much worldwide influence, especially in the age we now live in with numerous newspapers, books, social media and the internet.

I have no doubts that the MWA will continue to go from strength-to-strength and will be celebrating many more anniversaries. If you have a passion for sport, news, fashion or storytelling then you should back the MWA by entering your works. If you feel strongly about anything writing is a great tool to express yourself. Well done to the MWA for giving young Muslims the opportunity to do just that."

Amir Khan, Unified WBA and IBF Light-Welterweight World Champion

"Excelling in every arena is our responsibility. Much the same way as I do my best in sport, it is a delightful honour to be associated with the Muslim Writer’s Awards, a wonderful initiative supported by Muslim Hands which is all about inspiring and encouraging the next generation of Muslim writers.
 As the Muslim Writer’s Awards enters its fifth year and with the debut in 2010 of the Young Muslim Writers Awards, I would like to congratulate all those who have been involved in this project and those who have been shortlisted for the awards."

Mo Farah

2011 IAAF World 5000m Champion
2011 European Athlete of the Year
2011 Nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award
2010, 2011 Named the British Athletics Writers Association Award

"As relationship fundraisers for the charity sector, we usually support good cuases from behind the scenes. However, we’re especially excited to be celebrating a landmark five years of the Muslim Writers Awards in London this month, by sponsoring the Unpublished Poetry category for 2011. Poets, like all artists, have the potential to lift our souls above great divides and bring people together. So congratulations to all our finalists. We hope you enjoy your evening."


"In his famous spiritual travelogue, the Road to Mecca, Muhammad Asad narrates the lament of a prominent scholar of al-Azhar, who almost a century ago said about the students there “they gobble up all the printed pages from books that have been written centuries ago… they no longer think for themselves; they read and repeat, read and repeat, generation after generation.” Asad is quick to remind him about the great thinkers, writers, theologians, historians, philosophers, mathematicians Al-Azhar had produced.

“It stopped producing them several centuries ago.” Replied the Shaykh ruefully.

 It is no surprise that in early Islamic history, the pen of a Muslim was a distinguishing feature of human civilisation. The Islamic message began with the words, “Read! Read in the name of thy Lord” and “Read, and your Lord is Most Generous, who taught by the pen.” The book of guidance is titled al-Quran, which means recitation. Words implying reading, writing and saying appear almost one thousand and five hundred times in various forms in the noble Quran.

With passion to serve humanity, Muslim scholars and writers, spread from the East to the West, were busy producing books, manuscripts and treatises at a phenomenal rate and on every subject, from science and mathematics to arts, law and philosophy.  Caliph al-Mamun paid translators the weight in gold of each book they translated from Greek to Arabic. In Cordoba, rulers of Spain had a library of six hundred thousand volumes. Public book collections were an important feature of mosques. The Muslim medieval historian, Yaqut, said that he could borrow two hundred volumes without leaving a pledge.

Then came the period when the link between pen and faith weakened. With that the pen of Muslim became dry - for the ink was the faith and its mission of developing human life and society.

I’m delighted that through the commendable initiative of the Muslim Writer’s Awards the great tradition of writing in our community is being encouraged. In the youth of Muslim diaspora we have a unique generation with a great deal to offer. This generation is a fusion of cultures and experiences, outlooks and ideas, often seen at variance. In the mundane and everyday living, there are countless reflections, syntheses, accommodations, negotiations, illuminations, that we must discover, document and share. They can provide the essential building blocks for a richer and better world from the new reality of shrinking and diverse societies. I am confident that the pen of Muslims can once again take its rightful place and make its mark in the human quest for truth and discovery.

Celebrating its fifth year, MWA seeks out the fine minds of the Islamic world to pick their pen and share their thinking. Thinking or Taffakkur is the foundation for writing and for rejuvenating faith. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who participated in the awards and those who won them. I am proud, excited and privileged to offer MCB’s support."

Farooq Murad, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

"It gives me great pleasure to offer support to the Muslim Writers Awards once again. At a time when the written word can travel across the globe within minutes, the challenge to utilize writing to spread positive messages is being met.

Over the past five years MWA has stimulated young people in greater numbers to show an interest in writing and reading, thus broadening their horizons immeasurably. The work of MWA in awarding and appreciating outstanding written works cannot be understated as it plays a part in the revival of the literary culture.

The written word has been instrumental in the establishment, propagation and defense of the Muslims. This has been the channel through which generations of Muslims have debated, found strength and excelled. The introduction of MWA in the twenty first century is highly significant.

MWA awards are coveted and serve to empower emerging writers. By holding high profile events MWA also promotes marketing of the books. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the winners and entrants and I hope this will inspire more people to take up this art.

Finally, I hope and pray for the continued success of MWA and all those who are involved."

Ismail Patel,  Chair, Friends of Al-Aqsa

 "I used to be completely against the idea of competition in poetry but I realised how important competitions can be in getting people to write down their thoughts and getting involved in a wonderful art form.
I think at times like this when the Muslim community has lots of ideas said about them which are not necessarily coming from them using poetry is a great way of getting people to represent themselves in a creative and interesting way.

I’d like to pay respect to the Muslim Writers Award’s and most of all I’d like to wish the contributing writers all the best.

Wordup, and increase de peace."

Benjamin Zephaniah, Author, poet and Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing, Brunel University

The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: "Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 107

"I am delighted to be able to support the Muslim Writers Awards on its 5th anniversary.  In politics, the power of the written word is often overlooked in favour of great oration – but it was the invention of the printing press that gave real impetus to the development of democracy in Britain and around the world.  It was mass literacy and the democratisation of knowledge through reading that changed the world.

In 2011 however we face a growing problem: many people rarely read for pleasure, if at all, and some have never learned to read.

In my 2008 publication ‘Fairness not Favours: How to reconnect with British Muslims’ I outlined the some of the educational challenges that our children face.  One third of British Muslims are under the age of 16 – a new generation of young people looking for inspiration and role models, and the first place many of them look is the Muslim community in Britain.

There are huge challenges to overcome in educational attainment in this generation.  Of all black and ethnic minority groups in the UK, people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins are the least likely to have academic qualifications, and have some of the lowest attainment levels in secondary level education.  For example, just 37% of Pakistani origin boys achieve more than 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (girls do better, at 50%), and there are growing concerns about increasing levels of school exclusions amongst Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali origin boys.  

These are serious problems which have worrying implications for the life chances of young Muslims in Britain.  There is no doubt in my mind that the promotion of literature by British Muslims has an important role to play in tackling these problems.  That’s why I take great heart in the support the Muslim Writers Awards has garnered in recent years, and welcome the introduction in 2010 of the Young Muslim Writers Awards; it’s a wonderful way of introducing a whole new generation of young people to the great power of reading, writing and literature.  

What it is so impressive is that for all of these challenges, there is still great breadth and depth of talent to be found, and these awards do a fantastic job of recognising this.  The 2011 shortlist shows that Muslim writers are doing an incredible job of documenting the story of what it means to be a Muslim in the world in 2011 – demonstrating the power the written word has to question, inform, excite and inspire.

To our children, growing up in a complex world with increasingly challenging questions to address over national, cultural and religious identity, the ability to read and explore literature is the most useful tool they have.  By celebrating and promoting the diversity and talent of our own writers, we are creating new role models and providing opportunities and ambition for a whole generation of young people with talent, energy and creativity to burn.  Long may they continue."

Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Justice Secretary, Shadow Lord Chancellor

"Effective writing is more important than it has ever been, not least because the variety of communication tools we have at our disposal increases our opportunities to put metaphorical pen to paper. Whether writing socially, for pleasure or for work, your writing skills could change the world. Someone’s writing helped to usher-in sweeping political change in the Middle East earlier this year thanks to their words on social networking sites and text messaging. Who knows what effect your words could have?

Communication is not only about revolutions, of course, but when you want to tell people the facts, or put your points across in a debate, or tell a story – fact or fiction   you must engage the reader and make your words believable. That’s not always easy, and it takes practice and the determination to keep going even when you don’t feel that you are getting it right. That’s a feeling that all writers experience, even the professionals.

The Muslim Writers’ Awards offer budding writers the opportunity to challenge themselves to produce some engaging examples of their writing and have them judged by the experts and then, insha’Allah, by their peers in the open market. We all have the opportunity to publish our work these days, on networking sites, blogs and other “new media”, but there is something intensely satisfying about someone else telling you that your work is of such a high standard that they’d like to put it into the public domain. It’s not an ego trip; it’s a personal challenge to write something that other people will want to read.

The entrants for the Awards set themselves that challenge and some will have their efforts acknowledged by a prize. Not everyone can win, so simply taking part should be seen as an acceptable aspect of the writer’s often lonely journey. If you are a winner, many congratulations; may this be the first of many successful forays into the world of writing. If you haven’t quite pulled it off this year, don’t give up. Do some rigorous editing and analysis of your work, and then enter again next year, and the next; and the year after. Whatever you do, keep writing. We need to hear your voice and read what you have to say. It’s a big world out there with plenty of media space waiting to be filled with words; determine to make them your words. Start writing today; we’ll wait."

Ibrahim Hewitt, Senior Editor, Middle East Monitor, Chairman, Interpal

"“I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words,” said the great Turkish author Orhan Pamuk during his Nobel Prize for Literature lecture in 2006. This talent he describes – the talent for which he is renowned – is a talent that is confined to very few people. We all scrawl, text, tweet, scribble and type away in our everyday lives. But very few people have the mastery of language that enables them to convert life, as Pamuk says, into literature. That is why it is so important to celebrate the craft of the writer, which is what you are doing here tonight.

What is particularly special about these awards is that they are bringing to the fore the excellence of Muslim writers. Output has never been stronger – just look at the array of talent across the shortlist, and just look at the attention garnered by this event. When I spoke at the awards in Birmingham in 2008, I commended how the event had gone from strength to strength in just two years. Since then, it has become even bigger – and is now seen as a mainstay of the literary calendar. That fact is not only testament to the hard work of founder Imran Akram and his team, but the wealth and diversity of the prose and poetry which is being produced.
The entrants, and everyone involved in the awards, are doing something particularly important: inspiring other people to pick up the pen. I am always saying we need more role models in politics – but we need them in literature too. Because once someone has led the way in a field, it opens up the door for many others who realise ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too’.
The Muslim Writers Awards has another important role – promoting the work of our Muslim writers to a wider audience. In doing so, they are sharing the insight these authors, writers, poets and bloggers provide into our rich and diverse Muslim cultures. After all, there is not one ‘Muslim culture’, but many. And there are many, many more stories to be told.
So I want to commend everyone involved tonight – from the organisers to supporters, the nominees to the judges – and wish you all the best."

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Cabinet Minister and Conservative Party Co-Chairman

"At times in the past decade, it has seemed hard to be both 100% loyally British and 100% committed as a Muslim.  In future, it needs to be much easier.
Of course, Britain has been here before.  Two hundred years ago, it was still difficult to be 100% loyally British and 100% committed as a Roman Catholic.  Today, hardly anybody sees any conflict at all.  More recently, and within living memory, the Jewish community was seen by some as “un-British”.  Since then, the Jewish community has made an immense contribution to Britain’s social and economic development.  We need the contribution of the Muslim community to be recognised in the future as equally significant and valuable.
And writers have a unique contribution to make.  They can put into words ideas which others are only dimly aware of.  They can explore in their writing what it is to be both British and a Muslim – the hopes and the challenges, the disappointments and the things which instil pride.  They can describe for one part of our community how another part is feeling, and so help to build insight and understanding.  They have a key role in establishing what it means to be a Muslim in Britain, so helping Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
I warmly welcome these awards.  The achievements they will be highlighting are important for everyone in Britain.  And I hope the awards will draw new writing to the attention of a larger audience, and help a new generation of Muslim writers in Britain to achieve the recognition which is their due."

Rt. Hon. Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Minister of State for Employment

"There are many good news stories emanating from the British Muslim community which are not heard. The Muslim Writers’ Awards, a project run by Muslim Hands, helps to bridge that gap. The initiative is all the more important as we have huge talent in the Muslim community that can make a real difference. It is commendable that this is being showcased.

In today’s world where it is very difficult to find positive stories about Muslims, this event will go a long way to counter negative stories and will highlight the brilliant work, achievements and tremendous contributions that Muslims make to Britain.

By outing the achievers we are identifying Muslim role models for tomorrow - something that is so much needed.

Writers are important in a society as they influence the way we think and act. By rewarding Muslims for their work in this field, the Muslim Writers’ Awards will encourage and motivate others to strive to improve and excel and help the improvement of not only Muslims but of the wider society too.

The work of those who have been short listed will be an inspiration to all of us.

I am looking forward to reading and being inspired by the works of those who have been nominated for the awards. What we will see today is just a drop in the ocean of talent that we have in our community. We can draw an enormous pride from the nominations alone.

I hope you all have an enjoyable evening.God’s Revelation to humanity came as words.

Ahmed J. Versi, Editor of The Muslim News and CEO of The Muslim News Awards of Excellence

"The first word of the Qur’an is ‘Read!’ Muslims today have to command the very highest standards of literary skill to communicate the Divine Message to as wide an audience as possible, and to explain the essence of being Muslim in the modern age. It is my pleasure to support the Muslim Writer’s Awards, now in its 5th year, because for such literary skills to flourish, MWA needs all our support and encouragement."

Sarah Joseph, OBE is editor and CEO of emel media group.

"The Islamic Society of Britain support the development and encouragement of people to write
and to express themselves through all forms of art and literature.  It has always been a great medium to bring people together from different faiths and traditions.  Well done to the Muslim Writers Awards for encouraging positive expression through writing and especially for our young people."

Julie Siddiqi – Executive Director, Islamic Society of Britain