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UK Muslim body elects first female leader in surprise move

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
It is not clear what if anything Zara Mohammed can do to reverse the MCB's longstanding irrelevance to British Muslim life

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has elected its first female leader since its creation in the late 1990s.

In a surprising move the MCB, which claims to represent hundreds of mosques and Islamic institutions across the UK, appointed the young and inexperienced Zara Mohammed to the post of secretary general.

The appointment followed an internal vote in which Mohammed secured 107 votes. Her opponent, the Bangladeshi-born Ajmal Masroor, garnered only 60 votes.

Mohammed, 29, is vaguely described as a “training and development” consultant.

Born in Glasgow (Scotland), she is also reported to be a specialist in human rights law. 

Mohammed, who is also the youngest person to be appointed to the post, replaces outgoing secretary general, Harun Khan, whose roots are in Bangladesh.   

She will hold the secretary general post for an initial two-year term but is allowed to contest the position for an additional two years in 2023.

On being elected the new secretary general, Mohammed said she wants “more women and young people” to aspire to leadership roles.

"I think women sometimes hesitate to take on leadership roles even though they are more than qualified to do so”, she added.

Formed in 1997, in part as an initiative by the then Tory government led by John Major, the MCB is not regarded as an influential organization, not least because it has failed to unify the UK’s diverse Muslim communities.

In fact the MCB has been in decline since 2005 when the British government cut all ties with it after accusing the umbrella body of not taking a sufficiently hard stance on so-called “radicalization” issues.  

In the light of its decline, and its concomitant lack of access to both government and influential leaders in the Muslim community, the MCB may be trying to appear more dynamic and responsive by appointing a young female leader.


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