It’s October, which means it’s Black History Month in the UK. According to recent data, there are approximately 272,015 Muslims of African heritage in the UK, which means they make up about 10% the Muslim population in Britain.
While that may not be the biggest number, black Muslims are still making waves in Britain. To celebrate this important month, we want to shout out the black British Muslims who are doing big things in the world of art, media and sport.
Sadly, we won’t be including Mo Farah on this list. He’s got enough national treasure clout already. These are the people we’re showcasing this UKBHM.
Hashi Mohamed is an Oxford graduate, barrister, journalist and broadcaster who presented the documentary Adventures in Social Mobility on BBC Radio 4 earlier this year. Social mobility is an issue close to Mohamed’s heart. When he’s not serving as Special Adviser to Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Mohamed writes frankly on the difficulties faced by young people from poorer backgrounds.
One of 12 children, Mohamed arrived in the UK at nine, not knowing any English. Although he attended some of the worst performing schools in London, he went on to receive a full scholarship to study a postgraduate degree at Oxford. Despite his own success, he believes there must be significant changes in top professions if young people from backgrounds similar to his are to succeed.
In an article for the Guardian, he wrote: ‘Employers must see hiring youngsters from poorer backgrounds as good for business as well as for a fairer society. They must be assisted with a real chance to succeed, in a non-judgmental context and inclusive environment. They must do more to focus on potential rather than polish.’
We share Mohamed’s hope for a future where success stories like his aren’t the exception that proves the rule. Check him out on Twitter.
Nathan Ellington is a retired professional footballer who spent the better part of two decades playing for a string of clubs up and down the English divisions. Wigan fans will recall the formidable partnership he formed with Jason Roberts when the club won a historic promotion to the Premiership back in 2004.
In 2005, Ellington converted to Islam prior to marrying his wife, Alma, who hails from Bosnia. Unfortunately, his new faith would cause friction between Ellington and some of his managers. This ranged from backhanded comments about his faith, to being dropped for dubious reasons. Ellington, who always fasted for Ramadan when he was a pro, says he was once benched by during the holy month as the manager claimed he was worried about his performance. Yet this only happened halfway through Ramadan, right after the coach first learned Ellington was Muslim.
As Ellington wrote in 2013: ‘he said it was playing on his mind that I wasn’t eating or drinking. I said I was playing before without him noticing.’
In an effort to end the stigma surrounding Muslims in sport, Ellington founded the Association of Muslim Footballers in 2011. The AMF supports Muslims in the professional game, ensuring they are treated fairly and that their faith is respected.
If you know Beyonce’s Lemonade (and obviously you know Beyonce’s Lemonade), then you’ve already heard snippets of work by the brilliant Warsan Shire. The 28-year-old British Somali poet is a wonderful, inspiring voice for women all over the world, and it’s no surprise that Beyonce chose to recite Shire’s powerful poetry in between tracks on her groundbreaking visual-album.
Shire has already released three collections of poetry, been named the first Young Poet Laureate for London and, as we may have mentioned, helped create one of the biggest albums of the past few years.
Shire’s poems gently tread through issues of identity, belonging, love and loss. She’s also not afraid to tackle some really tough subjects, so no matter which of her poems you read, you’ll come away feeling inspired, knowledgeable, and empowered – all things that you should feel during Black History Month.