Were You There? MCB's 10th AGM
In addition to Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, the AGM was addressed by Ama Uzowuru, Vice President of the National Union of Students.
In his speech, Brendan Barber noted that the Muslim Council of Britain and the TUC shared common origins - notwithstanding one was formed 10 years ago and the other in 1868: "We both arose as a result of grassroots initiatives. The organisations which came together to form our respective Council and Congress were concerned that the people they represented lacked a voice; that they were misunderstood; and that a few extremists in their midst were colouring the public perception of the work that they were doing. It is perhaps one part of British history that we do not dwell on too much, but at the time that the TUC was formed, in the late 19th century, there were a number of terrorist attacks on workplaces undertaken in a misguided belief that this was a way of advancing workers rights. The role of the TUC, as seen by our founding fathers, was to advocate an alternative, democratic approach to the cause of working people. You can see the parallels".
Ama Uzowuru of the NUS reiterated a commitment to defend civil liberties on campus and also to stand up to right wing extremists.
Other sessions on the day were chaired by Professor Daud Noibi and Judge Khurshid Drabu. In the business sessions, delegates were presented with MCB accounts by Treasurer Mrs Unaiza Malik and a number of consitutional amendments relating to affiliation fees and the legal incorporation of the MCB were debated and subsequently adopted. MCB's project managers also presented their reports and plans.
The closing session, chaired by Iqbal Sacranie, was addressed by HE Ebrahim Rasool, Premier of Western Cape Province, South Africa, and a member of the ANC National Executive Congress. This will remain a memorable moment in the minds of the delegates and invited guests from the community and the diplomatic corps. For the first time in the MCB's history, a speaker was accorded a standing ovation.
Speaking on the theme of 'Muslim identity and a multicultural society' to a packed hall, the Premier called on Muslims in Britain to work towards the establishment of an abode of security, peace and testimony - 'darul-aman, darus-salaam and darus-shahada'. He noted that this was a time of tension, with Muslims facing physical and psychological oppression, and subject to suspicion and stereotyping due to the 'War on Terror'. Long-standing values were often forgotten in times of stress, and he urged Muslims to eschew both acqueiscence and extremism. He commended the MCB for serving as a 'point of coherence', 'a point of articulation' and a 'point of focus' for British Muslims and their religious identity. He noted that Government cannot pick and choose with whom it seeks to speak to - the only credible dialogue will be with the institution that represents the community and has its trust.
The Rt Hon Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Secretary of State for Wales, was scheduled to attend and respond to Premier Rasool's talk. However a political commitment in Wales prevented this participation and his message to the MCB's Annual General Meeting was read out instead.