Britain’s first Muslim judge Khurshid Drabu dies aged 72

Khurshid Drabu

One of the founding members of the Muslim Council of Britain and the UK’s first Muslim judge, Khurshid Drabu, has passed away at the age of 72.

Judge Drabu was rushed to hospital a few days ago after suffering a heart attack in Southampton.

He served as the Muslim Council of Britain’s Constitutional Advisor and chair of its legal community. He was also involved in the establishment of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and served on the boards of several organisations, including the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.

Leading the tributes, Harun Khan, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Judge Khurshid Drabu has been the bedrock of the Muslim Council of Britain. As our constitutional advisor, Judge Drabu has ensured that the organisation remains a democratic body accountable to its affiliates. My predecessors and I have benefitted from his wise counsel on countless occasions. He has a lifetime of public service behind him.

“He campaigned for equal rights for Asians, and then for Muslim communities. And he was an advocate for the common good, serving on interfaith bodies and seeking understanding between communities. He was a role model, mentor and pioneer, being one the first Muslims to serve as a judge.

“It is by the grace of Allah that Judge Drabu passes away just as the Muslim Council of Britain begins to celebrate its twentieth year. I know how keen he was to attend. I hope his legacy lives on in the organisation for the next twenty years. My condolences and heartfelt wishes go to his wife, Dr Reefat Drabu, and his children and grandchildren.”

Born in Srinagar, Kashmir, Khurshid Drabu came to the United Kingdom in 1971 following studies in India. He was called to the Bar of England & Wales in 1977.

In 1986 he became the Deputy Director of UK Immigrants Advisory Service (The UKIAS) – a government aided voluntary body with remit to advise and represent immigrants with rights of appeal under the Immigration Acts.

In 1990 he joined the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) as its first Deputy Legal Director. Amongst his responsibilities was carrying out a review of the Race Relations Act 1976 and it was under his watch that the CRE brought attention to the glaring inadequacy of protection for followers of faiths from unfair discrimination.

In 1996 he was appointed to the Immigration Judiciary. He became the Vice President of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal in 2000 and served as Senior Immigration Judge until 2007 when he took early retirement. He then worked as a Fee Paid Judge at the Upper Tribunal in the Asylum and Immigration Chamber.

One of the founders of the Muslim Council of Britain, Drabu served it for fifteen years as its Advisor on Legal and Constitutional Affairs as well as its Election Commissioner.

In 2007 together with a small group of people he developed and gave shape to Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) for promoting good governance in mosques through a scheme of self- regulation.

He was the Muslim Advisor to the Ministry of Defence, having first been appointed in 2002.

In 2010 Drabu was awarded the honour of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010 by HM the Queen.

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