Category: House of Lords

Contributions of the Ethnic Minorities

My Lords, I recently spoke in your Lordships’ House on issues currently facing British Muslim communities following Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech. I briefly touched on the positive contributions made by Muslims in the United Kingdom. I shall expand on this. I am chairman of four companies. I am also the president of the Conservative Muslim Forum and have been involved extensively in both community and charitable work. My thoughts reflect my own experiences and findings.

My glorious religion has been hijacked by a tiny minority who are totally distorting the image of Islam and understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, as a result the entire Muslim community is in some circles tarred with the same brush. There are over 3 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and they have contributed significantly in all walks of life. We are currently commemorating the centenary of the First World War. Over 400,000 Muslims fought in the war. The first Victoria Cross awarded to a non-white person went to a Muslim named Khudadad Khan. I invited his grandson to an event that I hosted recently. Muslims also took part in the Second World War. This includes members of my own family. Muslims have therefore been actively involved in loyally serving the King and the Empire.

I am the joint treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and very close to the Armed Forces Muslim Association. Muslims are represented in all three services of our Armed Forces. They have held and continue to hold senior positions, and include one rear-admiral, two group captains and a lieutenant-colonel.

I am co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic Finance and Diversity in Financial Markets and a patron of the Islamic Finance Council UK. The United Kingdom has the biggest centre for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world. The UK’s Sharia-compliant assets exceed £20 billion. The Islamic finance industry therefore generates considerable revenue for the country and provides employment. It also gives us a high standing in the enormous and growing market for Islamic finance across the world.

I am co-president of the British Curry Catering Industry All-Party Parliamentary Group and a vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh. There are over 12,000 British Bangladeshi restaurants and takeaway places in the United Kingdom. This curry industry, owned mainly by Muslims, employs over 100,000 people and has an annual turnover of nearly £5 billion.

There have been great Muslim dynasties, notably the Umayyad and the Abbasid. Muslims at that time led the world in various fields, including mathematics, science, astronomy and medical knowledge. These attributes are in the DNA of Muslims. There are now a significant number of Muslim doctors who work in the United Kingdom and make a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of the country. Also, many Muslims are successful bankers and accountants. My own brother qualified as a chartered accountant and was very successful in his field. Muslims have also done well on the sports field. There are a number who have excelled, including Mo Farah in athletics, Moeen Ali in cricket and Amir Khan in boxing. We also have successful Muslim media figures, such as Mishal Husain, Asad Ahmad and Mehdi Hasan.

When I became a Member of your Lordships’ House, I took the title of Baron Sheikh, of Cornhill in the City of London, because of my strong connections with the City. I have met many Muslim entrepreneurs who have created thriving businesses. They have generated income for the country, provided employment and furthered our trade. There is also wider Muslim representation in both your Lordships’ House and in the other place. There has recently been a fresh intake following the general election.

Some 33% of Muslims are aged 15 years or under. This youthful population is a strategic asset at a time of an ageing population and will be economically active in the future labour market. Encouragingly, 73% of Muslims here state that their only national identity is British. I hope and believe that the Muslim community will continue to play a significant part in our country’s future.

The speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, was in some parts unfair and irrelevant, and will not help community cohesion in this country.


Political Situation in Gaza

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, for securing the debate. Achieving lasting peace between Israel and Palestine must remain a significant priority for the international community. The issues in the Gaza Strip are far-reaching and affect us all, not least the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Last month, the Daesh insurgents threatened to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms. Daesh is trying to destabilise Hamas and create tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Daesh has carried out bombings in Gaza and rocket attacks on Israel. In the light of this, the need for the international community to find a just solution to the plight of the beleaguered Palestinians becomes all the more pressing. We need to consider the implications of a spread of the brutal Daesh threat to Gaza and, perhaps, the West Bank. I ask my noble friend the Minister whether our Government have considered the security implications of increased Daesh influence in these areas.

We need a more balanced and equitable approach to these issues, and we could begin by recognising Palestine as an independent state. In October last year in the other place MPs voted by 274 to 12 on a Motion to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel. At the moment, 136 countries have recognised the state of Palestine, including the Vatican and Sweden. I ask my noble friend the Minister what the Government’s present position is regarding recognition. Further, does she feel that we have a fair and balanced attitude when looking at Palestine and Gaza? We must all work to the establishment of a two-state solution and the creation of a viable sovereign independent state of Palestine, living peacefully alongside a secure Israel. Can we take a more active role to achieve this objective?

This debate may be about the political situation in the Gaza Strip, but of equal importance is the humanitarian situation. I care deeply about humanitarian issues and have been involved in facilitating four convoys of humanitarian aid being sent to Gaza following the Israeli invasion in 2009. I subsequently visited Gaza with the consent of those on my Front Bench and the Conservative Party. I saw for myself the devastation that had been done and tragically continues to this day. I have also visited Israel and the West Bank.

It has been a year since the cessation of the 50-day assault on Gaza, which left more than 2,200 mostly innocent Palestinian men, women and children and 71 Israelis dead. There was a programme yesterday on the BBC that showed how the children of Gaza have been traumatised following the invasion. Little has been done to stem the tide of poverty, destruction and deprivation that has engulfed the strip. The situation is dire: more than 100,000 people are still displaced and homeless; unemployment stands at more than 50%; and 80% of residents depend on food aid. Medical supplies are at an all-time low; 25% of people have no access to fresh running water and there are frequent power cuts. I, with others, have tried to get medical and humanitarian aid into Gaza, without success, for more than six months. We must all use our influence to ensure that the inhuman siege is brought to an end. Can the Minister confirm the Government’s commitment to seeing an end to the brutal siege of the people of Gaza?

We can no longer stand by while the rights of Palestinian people are systematically abused and their suffering continues. Nor can we hide behind the idea that Palestine simply is not ready politically or economically to support a political state. We must work proactively with the international community to achieve a two-state solution.

CMF Youth


Lord Sheikh hosted an event for CMF Youth where the guest speaker was Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote on the importance of ethnic minority participation in politics.

In his address Lord Sheikh said it was important that the BME community should get more actively involved in the political scene both at local and national level. The BME community now constitutes around 10% of the population. The total number of Parliamentarians in both Houses is about 1450 and the total number of Parliamentarians from the BME community is around 80. We would like to see at least 145 British politicians who are from the BME community. Lord Sheikh also stressed the importance of the BME to vote at the next general election and if they have not yet registered that they should do so immediately. He also emphasised that people from the BME community must also join and vote for the political party of their choice and not sit on the sidelines.

CMF Women


Lord Sheikh hosted an event for Conservative Muslim Forum Women’s branch entitled “Women: Empowerment and Political Representation”. The Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP was scheduled to speak at the event but unfortunately was unable to do so as she was ill. Andrea Leadsom MP who is the Economic Secretary to the Treasury was fortunately able to attend instead and spoke about her experiences in politics.

Lord Sheikh said that he believed in the empowerment of women and at one time he was a visiting university lecturer and he found that his female students were very focused and determined and their achievement was better than their male counterparts. Lord Sheikh also appreciated the work Andrea Leadsom has undertaken on Islamic Finance as he is involved in Islamic Finance and in fact is the Co-Chair of the All Party Group on Islamic Finance.

Contributions of Muslims in the First World War

My Lords, Honourable Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentleman.

Good evening, Assalaamu Alaikum.

I am pleased to welcome you all to this meeting in the grand surroundings of House of Lords.

The purpose of the meeting is to commemorate the contributions of the Muslims during the First World War and also strengthen the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslim Community.

I spoke twice in debates in the House of Lords to commemorate the centenary of First World War.

Today I want to focus on the contributions of Muslims during this war.

The significant part played by the Muslims is not widely acknowledged and the sacrifice made them and the suffering that they endured need to be fully appreciated.

I hope following today’s discussions we can all appreciate their contributions and perhaps address this imbalance.

India raised the world’s largest volunteer armies, a total of 1.5 million during the First World War, and even more in World War II. This was greater than the combined total of all volunteers from Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

There were in fact 400,000 Muslims who were part of the Volunteer Army.

They fought out of love and loyalty to the King Emperor and the Empire.

This marked the first time the Muslim soldiers ever fought on European ground.

They were originally called upon for help when the British Forces were suffering heavy causalities which reinforces just how historically important their role was.

Indian Expeditionary forces, of which there were seven, provided crucial support and fought directly alongside British Forces in Europe for example at the battle of Neuve Chapelle, they provided half of the attacking force.

A British General described them as a magnificent body who performed the most useful and valuable service.

The expeditionary forces also saw action in East Africa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Suez, Gallipoli and Palestine.

More than 74,000 Indian troops which included Muslims were killed or declared missing in action during World War I, a number that is testament to the level of sacrifice and loyalty shown by the Indians in supporting the Allied Forces.

Participants from the Indian sub-continent were recognised for their bravery and valour in combat during the First World War with over 9,200 decorations, including 12 Victoria Cross medals.

Sepoy Khudadad Khan who was a Muslim was the first native-born Indian to win the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the face of overwhelming numbers.

He served in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis regiment.

There were two other Muslims who were awarded the Victoria Cross and their names are Mir Dast and Shahamad Khan.

There were many military hospitals set up in UK and perhaps the most famous of which was in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where Indian soldiers including the Muslims were treated.

A number of Muslims who died as a result of their injuries sustained during the action in the First World War were buried on the Horsell Common in Woking.

We should never forget their contributions. The Union Jack meant a lot to them and a number of them paid the ultimate price. The Muslim soldiers were able to prove that it was possible to be loyal to both their faith and a country simultaneously.

Jahan Mahmood who is a military historian will talk about Contributions of the Muslims in greater detail when he makes his presentation.

Now I want to talk about the relationship between the Muslim community and the Armed Forces.

I would like to maintain and strength the harmonious relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslim community.

I am actively involved in promoting this, both on the ground and at the various meetings that I have addressed. I am committed to this cause; in fact, I am wearing a Royal Navy tie given to me by Commander Richard Moss after a recent talk I gave at HMS “President”.

The Armed Forces have set up the Muslim Association of the Armed Forces.

I was in fact present when Lord Richards launched the Association and became its founding Patron.

I am very pleased that the Armed Forces Muslim Association has been moving forward since its inception.

The Association has organised several activities which I have attended and I will support them as much as possible.

You will notice that I am wearing a Royal Navy tie which was given to me by Commander Richard Moss after a recent talk which I gave at HMS Preisident.

I have also been given a RAF tie and and handkerchief which was presented to me by Squander Leader Zahour Hussain.

Unfortunately Squander Leader Zahour Hussain is unable to be with us today but he and other RAF officers including a Group Captain came to see me in the House of Lords last Friday.

I would like to mention that I speak on defence matters in the House of Lords from time to time.

There are over 600 Muslims who are currently serving in the British armed forces.

There are now nearly 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom.

Muslims have done very well in every field in this country.

I would like to encourage more of the ethnic minorities to join the Armed forces and the police force.

Muslims are now part of the British population and it is important that we get involved in every walk of life.

It is also imperative that we must maintain and strengthen the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslims in the country.

I am sure that Brigadier Alastair Aitkens and Captain Naveed will talk about this matter further.

As we with members of the Armed Forces and there is fighting in Syria and Iraq I would like to focus particularly on the role of Islam in the conflicts we are seeing in the Middle East.

I believe that it is important for the honest, peace-seeking, law-abiding majority of Muslims in this country and overseas to speak out against those who commit evil in the name of our religion.

The so-called jihadists in Iraq and Syria do not understand the principles of Islam.

They are harming women and children, forcibly converting people of other religions to Islam and committing barbaric acts.

There are clear rules of engagement in Islam relating to warfare, which were laid down by Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—and Caliph Abu Bakr.

Those rules include the following:

  • give diplomacy a chance before battle starts; respect treaties;
  • do not harm women, children, the elderly and religious persons;
  • do not destroy crops and trees;
  • protect all places of worship; treat well all prisoners of war;
  • allow the bodies of soldiers slain in battle to be buried in dignity.

These rules of engagement were laid down well before the Geneva conventions. The acts of the so-called jihadists are totally unIslamic and we utterly condemn what they have done and are doing.

In the 7th century when Muslims conquered Jerusalem, Caliph Omar signed the first Jerusalem declaration, which preserved the rights of existence and ensured the well-being of everyone in Jerusalem.

Subsequently, when Saladin conquered Jerusalem in 1187, he allowed people of all faiths to live in peace.

Before him, when Christians conquered Jerusalem in 1099, they mercilessly massacred all Muslims and Jews. In time of warfare Muslims should follow the examples set by Caliph Omar and Saladin.

The so-called jihadists are forcibly converting people to Islam. That is not allowed in Islam. It is written in the Holy Koran that there is no compulsion in religion.

In regard to treatment of non-Muslims by the so-called jihadists and our relationship with other communities, I emphasise that it is written in the Holy Koran that Allah says:

“O mankind! We created you male and female and made you nations and tribes, that you may know one another”.

We live in the United Kingdom, which is very much a multicultural society, and it is important that we maintain and strengthen relationships with everyone in the country.

Unfortunately there is a tiny minority of Muslims who have committed acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom and also countries overseas. Islam forbids act of terrorism and suicide bombings.

It is written in the Holy Koran:

“If anyone killed a person it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind”

A tiny minority of young Muslims in the United Kingdom have chosen to join terrorist groups overseas.

These young people have been radicalised. Parents, community and religious leaders have a role to play in ensuring that individuals do not fall prey to extremists’ teachings.

There must be supervision of the social media as young people are been radicalised by propaganda on the social media.

We must listen and communicate with the younger generation and gently put them right in order that they can follow the right path.

We need to ensure that the imams are appropriately trained and can effectively communicate with the young.

I am very keen that we interact with the Muslim Youths and promote them in every way.

I am very glad that our MC today is Zaniab Sheikh, she is indeed one of the many young Muslims who are progressing well in United Kingdom and we must all encourage them in every way we can.

Thank you.

Contributions of Muslims in the First World War





Lord Sheikh hosted a meeting the House of Lords to commemorate the contributions of the Muslims during the First World War and also strengthen the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslim community. Lord Astor of Hever, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) attended and spoke at the event.

Brigadier Alastair Aitken OBE and Captain Naveed Muhammed of the British Army also both attended and spoke. Jahan Mahmood, Military Historian, gave an outline of the Muslim contributions during the two World Wars and also brought items of memorabilia. There was also a Quranic recital by Imam Asim Hafiz OBE who is the Imam to the Armed Forces.

In his speech Lord Sheikh mentioned that India raised the world’s largest volunteer armies, a total of 1.5 million during the First World War, and even more in World War II. This was greater than the combined total of all volunteers from Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He also said that there were in fact 400,000 Muslims who were part of the Volunteer Army and they fought out of love and loyalty to the King Emperor and the Empire.

Lord Sheikh also mentioned that participants from the Indian sub-continent were recognised for their bravery and valour in combat during the First World War with over 9,200 decorations, including 12 Victoria Cross medals. Sepoy Khudadad Khan who was a Muslim was the first native-born Indian to win the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the face of overwhelming numbers.

Lord Sheikh is very keen to build a stronger relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslim community.

Three Faiths Forum


Lord Sheikh hosted the 2014 Parliamentors Alumni Awards organised by the Three Faiths Forum in the House of Lords. The Awards were held to appreciate the mentoring youth work undertaken by Parliamentarians. In his speech Lord Sheikh spoke about why interfaith dialogue is important in building bridges between the communities and praised the Three Faiths Forum and the work they undertake in promoting community cohesion. There were seven Parliamentarians in attendance.

Visit of Bangladeshi Speaker




Lord Sheikh invited the Speaker of the Bangladeshi Parliament the Honourable Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury for a meeting at the House of Lords. She was accompanied by the Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh and an MP from Bangladesh. Dr Chaudhury was recently elected the Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.



Sunni Muslim Association


Lord Sheikh hosted a group of children from the Sunni Muslim Association in the House of Lords. The children were given a tour of Houses of Parliament and Lord Sheikh explained the workings of Parliament and encouraged them to get involved in politics. They also had afternoon tea in the House of Lords following the tour.

Africa Business Safari


Lord Sheikh hosted an event organised by the Association for African Owned Enterprises (UK) in the House of Lords entitled Africa Business Safari – Bridging the Partnership Gap with Southern Africa. Lord Sheikh made the keynote speech and mentioned his connections with the continent as well as the importance of investing in Africa. There were also representatives from the Zimbabwean Embassy and Zambian High Commission in attendance.