Muslims Celebrating the Achievements of Muslims

Last week, I was invited to attend two Awards ceremonies that brought together talented British personalities (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to celebrate the work of those who, through the written word, or creative industries had contributed to British society. The events were a hub for young Muslims to mingle, exchange experiences, and most of all, to be noticed – and to be honest, I do not think I have ever seen so many Muslims network their hearts out under one roof in my life. But although the purpose of both events may have been the same, I could not resist the temptation but to compare the two.

The Muslim News Awards held at Grosvenor House this Tuesday was a star-studded evening, but if it hadn’t been for my fellow blogger and friend Alam, I doubt I would have had the energy to sit through it, let alone be guided and introduced to a number of fascinating people (I am told this is usual in networking-savvy “Muslim” circles and a necessary part of the “getting noticed” process). The purpose of the night however confused me somewhat. The Awards ceremony applauded the work of established personalities (both Muslim and non-Muslim) – to mark excellence within the Muslim community. These people, in my opinion were already celebrities, and I wondered why we were using a “Muslim” event to recognise activities they were partaking in which actually contributed to British civil society, and not just Muslim communities.

The Muslim Writers Awards established by Innovative Arts however was held at the prestigious ICC in Birmingham and came together to celebrate the work of ordinary Muslims who had taken their first steps (and I must say, they are very big steps for the likes of me) in the media world; be that through blogging, short-story writing, or poems, the evening brought together a variety of people from all backgrounds who it seemed, have no other outlet which will recognise their achievements. It was refreshing to see so many young, unheard of faces and voices have the chance to be seen and heard, to be valued, and most of all, to be rewarded for a talent that for me at least cannot be equalled.

But the most stark realisation for me was why do we need “Muslim” events to celebrate talents that are much the same as non-Muslims? Why do Muslims feel an urge to establish their own awards and bodies to help aspiring young Muslims? I wondered whether there really aren’t enough avenues or opportunities for young Muslims to have their voices heard, or whether it is simply a confidence-building issue amongst those who see themselves as a minority group. The reality however, whichever way you choose to look at it, is that there is still a long way to go in what I’d like to term as “media acceptance” of Muslim (and minority ethnic) voices. As one writer quite eloquently put it, “unless I am writing about honour killings and hijabis, publishers just don’t want to know“. Let’s hope that initiatives like Innovate Partnership enable more, young and talented voices, from all ethnic backgrounds and religions to be heard. Bravo!