Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed


Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed

Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed (born 1958) is a member of the House of Lords, having become the United Kingdom's first Muslim life peer in 1998. Many of his political activities relate to the Islamic community both in the UK and abroad, and he has often attracted controversy. He is a member of the Labour Party.

Contents

Early life

Baron Nazir Ahmed was born in a Jat family of Mirpur (Azad Kashmir, Pakistan) and is a nephew of late Kalyal Mohammand Yousaf who was also a member of Mahraja Hari singhs's perjah Sabah in 1944, but soon after his birth, at the age of 7, his family migrated to the UK, where he was brought up. He attended Spurley Hey Comprehensive school, then Thomas Rotherham Sixth Form College. He studied Public Administration at Sheffield Hallam University and joined the Labour Party when he was 18 years old.

Politics

While he worked during the week-day as a greengrocer in a local market, he began his political career as a local councillor, with most of his activity centred around the North of England. He founded the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992. Ahmed was also made a Justice of the Peace in the same year and chaired the South Yorkshire Labour Party for some years.

In 1998 Ahmed was appointed to the House of Lords, becoming the first Muslim life peer as Baron Ahmed, of Rotherham in the County of South Yorkshire. Lord Ahmed took his oath on the Qur'an. At the age of 40, he was also one of the youngest peers to achieve this position. As a Muslim peer, much of his activities relate to the Muslim community, both at home and internationally. Ahmed led one of the first delegations on behalf of the British Government on the Muslim pilgrimage of the Hajj, to Saudi Arabia and has advocated legislation against religious discrimination, international terrorism and forced marriages.[citation needed]

At home, Ahmed speaks on wider equality issues, and has spoken several times on issues of race, religion and gender. He is seen as one of the leaders of the Muslim community in Britain. He claims to have tried to calm tensions following the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in 2001. However, on 23 February 2005, he hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the controversial Israel Shamir, during which the latter claimed, among other things: “The Jews like an Empire... This love of Empire explains the easiness Jews change their allegiance... Simple minds call it ‘treacherous behaviour’, but it is actually love of Empire per se.” Although this invitation raised some controversy, Ahmed firmly refused to discuss the matter.[1]

In August 2006 he was a signatory to an open letter to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, criticising the UK's foreign policy.[2] In 2007 he responded to the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie by claiming he was appalled, stating that Rushdie had 'blood on his hands'.

In September 2007, Ahmed flew to Islamabad with Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a bid to end Sharif's exile from the country by military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who had ousted him in a coup d'état. Ahmed negotiated with police to allow Sharif to enter the airport terminal and pass through customs, but Sharif was arrested later, and deported.[3]

After the reform of the House of Lords, Ahmed took over from Lord Sudeley to act as Host for the Forum for Stable Currencies.

On 19 June 2007 Lord Ahmed criticised the honouring of Salman Rushdie with a knighthood because of what Lord Ahmed saw as Rushdie's offensiveness to Islam.[4] He was reported to have said, "It's hypocrisy by Tony Blair who two weeks ago was talking about building bridges to mainstream Muslims, and then he's honouring a man who has insulted the British public and been divisive in community relations."[5] "This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far." He also said on BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he had been appalled by the award to a man he accused of having 'blood on his hands'.[4][6]

In November 2007 Ahmed was involved in a diplomatic effort to secure the release of Gillian Gibbons from custody in Sudan. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, allowed her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Lord Ahmed, from Britain's ruling Labour Party, and Baroness Warsi, an opposition Conservative, visited Khartoum and had a meeting with the President of Sudan. Following this the President pardoned Ms Gibbons and she was allowed to return to the UK.[7]

In June 2008, political editor of Newsnight, Michael Crick, reported that Ahmed had been rumoured to be preparing to defect to the Conservative Party, but that he had denied this.[8]

Activities

As a resident of Rotherham, Ahmed has spoken on behalf of the communities in that region, particularly the families of the former steelworkers of the 1960s, from the Indian subcontinent who are now second or third generation British. He has expressed that he is anxious to see that these regions continue to live peacefully amidst the growing move towards the far right across Europe, and strives to encourage positive integration into society so that people of all cultures can live together harmoniously.

Born in the region, Ahmed has a personal interest in seeing a peaceful resolve to the ongoing bloody dispute in Kashmir and seeks international mediation to achieve this. As well as being an active figure in the Indian Subcontinent, he has worked on the plight of Muslims around the world ranging from the collapse of former Yugoslavia, especially to the Bosniaks and Palestinians. He has been on many delegations to the Arab world, the US, Eastern Europe, Africa, the former states of the USSR and the Far East, meeting with heads of state to discuss their respective problems and how he may be able to assist them.

Ahmed helps with various charitable causes and is on the board of several organisations from local groups such as his position as President of South Yorkshire Victim Support, to international bodies such as his board membership on the SAARC Foundation.

The World Forum

Lord Ahmed was among the founders of The World Forum, an organization set up to promote world peace in the aftermath of the 9/11 with an effort to build bridges of understanding between The Muslim World and the West by reviving a tradition of Dialogue between people, cultures and civilizations based on tolerance.

Controversies

In December 2001, Lord Ahmed claimed that his phone had been tapped by the government because of his opposition to its intervention in Afghanistan. He claimed he had a heated conversation with Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane, during which Dr MacShane claimed to have transcripts of Lord Ahmed's private conversations. The government denied that Lord Ahmed was under surveillance, and Dr MacShane said that his remarks had been misinterpreted.[9]

On 25 July 2005 Lord Ahmed, while interviewing with Robert Siegel on National Public Radio, said that the suicide bombers of 7/7 had an "identity crisis" and that "unfortunately, our imams and mosques have not been able to communicate the true message of Islam in the language that these young people can understand."[10] Christopher Orlet of The American Spectator did not agree with Lord Ahmed's "identity crisis." He said, "That's not an identity crisis, Lord Ahmed, that's religious psychopathy. That's a bloodthirstiness that makes Dracula look like a teetotaler."[11] Lord Ahmed did acknowledge, "the community leaders and religious leaders, who have kept very close contacts with South Asia and the Middle East rather than keeping a good contact with the British society where we live."[12]

On 30 November 2006, the New Statesman 'revealed' [1] that Lord Ahmed campaigned against his fellow Muslim and Labour parliamentarian Shahid Malik during the Dewsbury election in 2005. Ahmed instead backed Sayeeda Warsi, vice-chair of the Conservative Party, a personal friend. According to the New Statesman's report, Warsi "welcomed Lord Ahmed's support". The New Statesman confirmed that Lord Ahmed denies supporting the Conservative Party in any way.

Geert Wilders threat

On 11 February Melanie Phillips (columnist) claimed that Lord Ahmed had threatened to "bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the Lords if the campaigning anti-Islamist Dutch MP Geert Wilders was allowed to speak" at a broadcast of the film Fitna Mr Wilder's had been invited by Peers from the House of Lords to debate issues of social inclusion.[13] This claim was later denied by Lord Ahmed, but the House of Lords authorities had determined to provide adequate security, if necessary. In the event, the film Fitna was broadcast as planned, but Mr Wilders denied entry to the UK, this meanwhile led many commentators to deplore the action by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith as appeasement.[14][15][16]

Fatal road crash and subsequent jail sentence

On 25 December 2007, Lord Ahmed was injured in a crash on the M1 motorway near Rotherham in which Martin Gombar, 28, was killed. Mr Gombar had been drinking alcohol before the crash and the vehicle had turned round and stopped, straddling the second and third (outer) lane, following a collision with the central reservation (median). Although initially leaving his vehicle, he returned to the car apparently to retrieve his mobile phone before being hit by Lord Ahmed, who was driving his Jaguar X-Type. Lord Ahmed's wife and mother, who were passengers in his car, also received minor injuries.[17]

On 1 December 2008, Lord Ahmed appeared at Sheffield Magistrates' Court in connection with a charge of dangerous driving. Lord Ahmed admitted sending and receiving five text messages on his phone while driving two minutes before the crash, and pleaded guilty to the charge before him. He was banned from driving until his sentencing. On 22 December, Sheffield Magistrates' Court referred the case for sentencing at the Crown Court on 19 January due to its "aggravating features".[18] This was later put back until 25 February.[19] Lord Ahmed was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, which meant he would serve six actual weeks in jail and was disqualifed from driving for 12 months.[20] On 12 March 2009 Lord Ahmed was freed by the Court of Appeal.

Lady Justice Hallett said it was important to state that Ahmed's offence was one of dangerous driving, not of causing death by dangerous driving. Hallett said that there was "little or nothing" Ahmed could have done to avoid the collision and that after being knocked unconscious, he had come to and 'risked his life trying to flag down other vehicles to stop them colliding with the Audi or his car'. She said that while his prison sentence had been justified, the court had been persuaded it could now take an "exceptional" course and suspend the sentence for 12 months.[21] Lord Ahmed was freed just 16 days into his sentence.[22]

Family life

Ahmed married Sakina Bibi in 1974.[23] They have three children and three grandchildren, and continue to live in Rotherham. He also lives in Aldersbrook, London E12.[24]

Notes

  1. ^ "Lord Ahmed's unwelcome guest", Stephen Pollard, in The Times
  2. ^ "Minister criticises Muslim letter". BBC News. 12 August 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4787119.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  3. ^ Salman Masood and Carlotta Gall (10 September 2007). "Ex-Premier Arrested Upon Return to Pakistan". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/10/world/asia/10cnd-pakistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  4. ^ a b "£80,000 reward to 'execute' Rushdie as knighthood row escalates". Evening Standard. 2007-06-19. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23401048-details/%C2%A380%2C000+reward+to+%27execute%27+Rushdie+as+knighthood+row+escalates/article.do. 
  5. ^ Campbell, Duncan (2007-06-19). "UK 'deeply concerned' over Rushdie comments". London: The Guardian. http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2106596,00.html. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Foster, Peter (2007-06-19). "Pakistan government intervenes in Rushdie row". London: The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/19/wrushdie119.xml. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  7. ^ Weaver, Matthew (4 December 2007). "Sudan teddy teacher lands in UK after 'ordeal'". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/schoolsworldwide/story/0,,2221636,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | NEWSNIGHT | Michael Crick's blog | "I will not defect," says Labour peer
  9. ^ "Bugging claim denied by minister". BBC News. 17 December 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1713464.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  10. ^ Lord Ahmed: Suicide Bombers Had Identity Crisis
  11. ^ Christopher Orlet Refuses to Buy Lord Ahmed's Defense of Suicide Bombers
  12. ^ Lord Ahmed: Muslims Failed to Build Relations with their British Neighbors
  13. ^ "Britain capitulates to terror", Melanie Phillips, in The Spectator
  14. ^ Grayling, AC (13 February 2009). "Silencing free speech". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/13/civil-liberties-freedom-of-speech. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  15. ^ "Geert Wilders Faces Jail Time for His Stance on Islam". Fox News. 24 February 2009. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,499408,00.html. 
  16. ^ http://www.bostonherald.com/news/us_politics/view/2009_02_23_US_lawmaker_hosts_anti-Islamic_Dutch_lawmaker
  17. ^ "Peer involved in fatal M1 crash". BBC News. 27 December 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/7161259.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  18. ^ "Texting death crash peer in court". BBC News. 22 December 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/7794894.stm. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  19. ^ "Sentencing of Lord Ahmed put back". The Star. 26 January 2009. http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/Sentencing-of-Lord-Ahmed-put.4910215.jp. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  20. ^ Britten, Nick (1 December 2008). "Lord Ahmed admits sending text message while driving just before fatal crash". London: The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/labour/3539830/Lord-Ahmed-admits-sending-text-message-while-driving-just-before-fatal-crash.html. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  21. ^ Adetunji, Jo (12 March 2009). "Labour peer freed by court of appeal in dangerous driving case". London: guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/mar/12/lord-ahmed-appeal. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  22. ^ "Jailed Peer Ahmed Freed Early From Prison". Sky News. 12 March 2009. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Labour-peer-Lord-Ahmed-freed-about-two-weeks-into-his-12-week-jail-term-over-fatal-crash/Article/200903215240245?f=vg. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  23. ^ RSA - Ahmed, Lord
  24. ^ Planning application No. 04/01184/FUL, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

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