The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) will elect a new leader on January 31 with candidates Ajmal Masroor and Zara Mohammed vying for the top job.
The winner will replace the outgoing Secretary General, Harun Khan, who was elected for two consecutive terms and has held the office since 2016.
Zara Mohammed, from Glasgow, is the current Assistant Secretary General of the MCB and has a background in law, receiving her Master’s Degree in Human Rights Law from the University of Strathclyde. She recently headed the task force set up by the MCB to investigate the government of Sri Lanka for their forced cremation policy.
And Ajmal Masroor is a long-time Muslim activist, counsellor and imam based in London. Masroor is a frequent contributor to Muslim and mainstream media on topics such as Islam in Britain, integration and counter-terrorism. He has unsuccessfully run to be a Liberal Democrat MP twice.
In a recent debate on Islam Channel Zara Mohammed said she would create a diverse and inclusive organisation should she win.
“We are dealing with an unprecedented time with huge challenges before us,” she said. “I’m already part of the leadership team, doing the work, delivering on the ground, and I think what we need to do now is build on the foundations of the excellent work the MCB is already doing.
“We need to further engage, not just within, but we need to build alliances with civil society, we need to be seen as an organisation that doesn’t just benefit Muslims but benefits non-Muslims too. We need to be a symbol of hope and of confidence, we need to continue to empower each other… and finally we need to excel as an Ummah and as individuals.
“Why doesn’t the non-Muslim community look to us for the solutions? Why can’t it be seen that the Muslim community is doing a fantastic job right now, not just in being good but in being leaders that we all want to follow?”
Meanwhile, Ajmal Masroor said that, if elected, he would try to bring Muslim communities together, increase the MCB membership, make it more sustainable, and engage with everybody.
He said: “If I’m elected as the Secretary General I would like to give the MCB a stronger voice as well as greater representation of Muslim communities across the board. I’d like to invest in younger people more insha’ Allah, build confident Muslim families, take the Muslim Council of Britain to the grassroots, foster better relationships with the media, encourage greater Muslim participation in civil and political arenas, eradicate all forms of inequality, discrimination, racism and Islamophobia, promote better cooperation between Muslim communities and the society at large, help create a more inclusive and more ‘common good’ MCB, and make MCB more financially stable.
“Within the first few months I would want to increase our membership and within two years double our membership and make MCB more sustainable, more representative and more powerful.”
In response to accusations that the organisation had lost connection with the ordinary Muslims of Britain, both candidates pledged to work hard on winning grassroots support.
Both candidates also pledged to uphold the democratic nature of the organisation embodied in the principles of Shura – seeking counsel according to the teachings of Islam.
On the issue of tackling racism within the Muslim community, particularly against Black Muslims, both candidates sought to make this a priority in their term as Secretary General.
The first clear difference emerged when the two candidates were asked about their stances on the Prevent counter-terrorism programme.
Zara Mohammed recommended a pragmatic approach, working with the government to reduce the impact of counter-terrorism policies on Muslim communities which she said “hits home and hits hard.” She said she would aim to establish a relationship where the MCB can advise the government against what she referred to as “abusive” acts committed in the name of counter-terrorism.
Meanwhile, Ajmal Masroor pitched for a more drastic change, claiming that “the government got away with murder.” He went on to say that the government has “created a draconian policy” and that he supports the scrapping of the Prevent agenda. He suggested introducing a bottom-up model via educational programs and empowering families instead of “spying against one another.”
The Muslim Council of Britain says it is the UK’s largest and most diverse national Muslim umbrella organisation with over 500 members including mosques, schools, charitable associations and professional networks.
Founded in 1997, it says its mission is to empower Muslim communities to achieve a just, cohesive and successful British society.
The MCB publishes reports, guidelines and resources to inform the mainstream discourse on British Muslims and to empower its member organisations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It considers itself independent, cross-sectarian and democratic.