Cordoba Heritage Series: Victoria and Abdul – The Story of a Queen and her Muslim Confidant

Cordoba Heritage Series: Victoria and Abdul – The Story of a Queen and her Muslim Confidant

The Cordoba Foundation is launching a new series of talks called ‘Cordoba Heritage Series‘ aimed at exploring, understanding and appreciating our common heritage and creative legacy to offer solutions to difficult questions of identity and belonging in today’s  ‘West’.  By exploring the shared history that acknowledges the many sources of western culture from the east, we recognise the history of empire as a history that belongs equally to all its heirs, of every race, faith and nation.

In June 1887 two Indian servants were sent to Queen Victoria as a present for her Golden Jubilee. One was the 24-year-old Abdul Karim.   Young Karim immediately caught the Queen’s eye and was rapidly promoted to become her Indian Secretary. He cooked her curries, became her Hindustani tutor and delighted the elderly Queen with his stories about India. She honoured him with titles, gave him houses in Windsor, Balmoral and Osborne and extensive land in Agra. He advised her on Indian politics and soon became the lonely monarch’s closest companion. Despite the objections of her family and courtiers, who even threatened to overthrow her on grounds of ‘insanity’, the Queen stood by Karim till her last days, and refused to let him go.

Victora & Abdul is the story of an unusual relationship between the Empress of India and a humble servant which flourished at a time when the British Empire was at its height. At its heart, it is a story of love and friendship in the midst of tensions and unease about the ‘Other’.

Venue: Initiatives of Change UK, 24 Greencoat Place, London, SW1P 1RD. (Click here for more directions on getting to the venue)

Date and time: Thursday 10th May 2012, 6.30pm

Roundtable Discussion: Islam in the Balkans

Roundtable Discussion: Islam in the Balkans

A roundtable discussion with
Dr Ahmet Alibašić – Bosnia-Herzegovina
Thursday 26 April, 2012
Islamic Forum of Europe (Meeting Room)
3rd Floor, Business Wing,
London Muslim Centre,
38 – 44 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JX
Nearest tube: Whitechapel or Aldgate East.

Dr Ahmet Alibašić is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo where he teaches Islamic culture and civilisation. He is also the director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Sarajevo. Dr Alibašić completed his doctorate at the Sarajevo University in 2011 researching Islamic opposition in the Arab World. He studied Arabic Language and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later studying Islamic studies, political science, and Islamic civilisation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dr Alibašić is actively involved in inter-religious dialogue and served as the first director of the InterReligious Institute in Sarajevo (2007-2008), which was jointly established by the Islamic Community, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and Jewish Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 2003 until 2007, he served as Deputy President of the Association of Islamic Scholars in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dr Alibašić has authored and translated a plethora of books and articles, ranging from Islam and politics, Islamic movements, Islam in the Balkans, democratisation of the Muslim World, human rights, opposition legitimisation in Islam, to church-state relations in Europe and the United States.

An invitation-only event. Limited spaces.


History in the making, as written by the youth

It might be a cliche and often an elaborate exaggeration to term a particular event “historic”. However, few can doubt that along with the Civil Rights movements, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions that have swept through the Arab world are no less momentous or historic.

While the first decade of the millennium got off to a bad start with the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the ramifications which resulted in death, destruction, war, conflict, fear, and division across the world, the second decade seems to have started off with an entirely different theme.

The “Arab Spring” fully deserves to be labelled “historic” for two main reasons.

The first is that the sweeping changes and transformations taking place were totally and completely unexpected, and almost without any introductions or preliminary phases.

Speaking to a political analyst from Tunisia, where the tidal wave commenced in January this year, he assured me that despite his expert knowledge and close following of Tunisian politics and society, he could never have predicted what then happened. The same is true for Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and other locations throughout the Arab world.

To read  more, please click here

Film Launch – Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football and the American Dream

Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football and the American Dream

Doors Open: 6:00 pm

Film Starts: 6:30 pm followed by a Panel Discussion till 9:00 pm




Join us for this first UK screening with Director Rashid Ghazi, Coach Fouad “Walker” Zaban, Former Principal of Fordson High Imad Fadlallah and the stars of the Fordson Tractors Football squad Ali Baidoun, Bilal Abu-Omarah, Baquer Sayed, Hassan Houssaiky.

Presented with support from The London Tigers and The Cordoba Foundation

Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football follows a predominately Muslim and Arab high school football team from a working-class Detroit suburb as they practice for their big cross-town rivalry game during the last ten days of Ramadan, revealing a community holding onto its Islamic faith while they struggle, under the dark clouds of growing anti-Muslim hatred, for acceptance in post 9/11 America.

Through the eyes of the team, their coaches, and their fans, Fordson offers an unprecedented glimpse inside the lives of a community that is home to the largest concentration of Arabs in any city outside of the Middle East, and their determination to share in and hold on to the American Dream.

Winner of…

Grand Jury Award for Best U.S. Documentary, 2011 Traverse City Film Festival

Best Documentary, 2011 Manhattan Film Festival

Special Grand Jury Award, 2011 Slamdance Film Festival

Special Jury Prize, 2011 DEADCenter Film Festival

Audience and Founders Award, 2011 Politics on Film Festival

Best Documentary Award, 2011 Detroit-Windsor Film Festival

Best Documentary, 2011 Land Lock Film Festival

Champion of the World Cup Film Awards

2011 Cine Golden Eagle Award

This screening is made possible by the generous support of the Cultural Attaché’s Office

For more details visit

Fordson Tour site coming soon to

Occasional Papers: Evolving World – The Universality of International Law in a Globalising World

Occasional Papers: Evolving World – The Universality of International Law in a Globalising World

Occasional Papers is a publication of The Cordoba Foundation that provides a medium for diverse opinions, presenting a comprehensive view of the myriad perspectives pertaining to dialogue and cross-cultural exchange. This is done by publishing important contributions by experts and world leaders

This issue  explores ‘The Universality of International Law in a Globalising World’ and  highlights the keynote address given by Hishashi Owada, President of the International Court of Justice, at the London Muslim Centre on 20th January 2012, convened by the Pro Bono in the LMC

Launch Event: An Introduction to Effective Lobbying & Campaigning

Launch Event: An Introduction to Effective Lobbying & Campaigning

As a sequel to Working with the Media guide released in 2008, this is the second in a series of training manuals produced by The Cordoba Foundation. The guide provides the targeted  readership with practical guidelines and tips to ‘up-skilling’ with the necessary information, tools and guidance to become not just active but proactive citizens – and ultimately to play a better and more effective role in society.

The guide aims to give our readers, in particular British Muslims, the knowledge and confdence to engage with lobbyists, politicians, campaigns and people of infuence to bring about changes – from addressing national and international issues by lobbying MPs and Ministers, to local issues such as services provided to the surrounding community and residential areas.


SAJJAD KARIM (Member of European Parliament) – Video

JEREMY CORBYN (MP for Islington North, London)

NEIL JAMESON (Director, London Citizens)
AISHA ALVI (Barrister) – Won the legal right to wear the headscarf in school.
MOAZZAM BEGG (Director, Cage Prisoners)
NABIL AHMED (President, Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS))

Moderator: ANAS ALTIKRITI (CEO, The Cordoba Foundation)

Date & Time : 1 March 2012, 6pm

Venue:  The Islamic Cultural Centre and The London Central Mosque, 146 Park Road, London NW8 7Rg (Nearest Tube – Baker Street)

Places Limited!!! Registration is essential!!!

To book your place, please click here (External website registration and ticket printing)

Event Report: Launch of ‘An Introduction to Effective Lobbying & Campaigning’

Event Report: Launch of ‘An Introduction to Effective Lobbying & Campaigning’

photo 2.jpgOn Thursday 1st of March at the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Cordoba Foundation (TCF) Launched their second in a trilogy of toolkits for community groups titled ‘ Effective Guide to Lobbying and Campaigning’.




photo 3.jpgThe toolkit is designed to build confidence amongst BME community groups to help political engagement.  It will serve as a go-to guide for practitioners whereby they can gain benefit from the balance of theory, practical advice and case studies that the guide offers.  The toolkit can be the main resource for future training and workshops given by TCF to help cement the points in the guide. Speakers at the launch included Neil Jameson, Moazzam Begg, Aisha Alvi and Jeremy Corbyn, MP.  Each spoke from their own experience about the need for people  and civil society to be continuously involved in applying pressure collectively.

photo 1.jpgTCF hopes that the toolkit on ‘Effective Lobbying and Campaigning’ and the one on ‘Engaging with the Media’ will serve as key reference points in the future for practitioners on the ground.




For more information, please click here 

Event Report: National forum maps out creative ways forward after last year’s riots

Event Report: National forum maps out creative ways forward after last year’s riots

A former bishop to HM Prisons told a forum held in London that custodial sentences and bail provisions for some of the rioters of last August have been too harsh. Dr Peter Selby, formerly Bishop of Worcester and Bishop to HM Prisons, criticised a ‘system of disregard’ for the wellbeing of disenfranchised young people, which had led to the riots. ‘I am seriously worried that you blight somebody’s whole life for one night of foolishness’ by handing down prison sentences for minor crimes, said Bishop Selby. With 1,400 people in the system still awaiting prosecution and sentencing, ‘there are real grounds for concern. The punitive response to individual rioters, resort to constraint and control and the use of prison disproportionately for the poorest add to up a system of disregard’ for their and society’s welfare, he said.

He was speaking at a conference on ‘After the riots: from blame to positive action’, held at the Initiatives of Change centre in London on 1 February. The forum was organised jointly by Burning2Learn leadership training programme for young people, the Civil Society Forum, The Cordoba Foundation, and Initiatives of Change. It brought together some 100 community and faith leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations from London, Nottingham, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Ipswich and Norwich.


Welcoming participants on behalf of the organising committee, Don de Silva, Head of Programmes at IofC UK, said the event would be a listening forum. He continued: ‘Many of the individuals here have hands on experience in dealing with critical issues, such as social exclusion, family life, youth offending and community cohesion. The forum aims to bring the values dimension into the riots debate. It will provide a space for dialogue. We will avoid any points scoring. We hope that the forum will encourage everyone to start with themselves, look at their own responsibilities, not just that of the others. We need both personal and systemic change to make a lasting difference.’

The event was kick-started with a short presentation by a group of young people from Croydon, Wolverhampton and Kent. Seventeen-year old Maria said: ‘It is fairly obvious that what has happened has had some really damaging and lasting effects on the persons involved; those who took upon themselves to vandalise and steal and shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. Do we really have the time to be processing each and every case? Surely, our time would be more productively used ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.’

Clasford Stirling, a community leader from the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, told the conference that ‘the system doesn’t provide for young people. We have four youth groups to deal with 100,000 people. It can’t happen. We need 20 youth clubs.’


The rioters had come together in protest against the police following the shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in Tottenham on 4 August. At first the rioters found it ‘a sense of fun. The looting came afterwards. When you are having fun you don’t care.’ That fun had criminalised them. Politicians hadn’t always obeyed the law either and ‘the rich get richer because they steal’. Describing himself as a disciplinarian and ‘a serious dude’ loved by his children, Stirling admitted that some parents didn’t impose enough discipline.

Dr Selby criticised ‘a system of punitive attitudes’ that disregarded what effect this would have on the welfare of young people and the future of society. He contrasted this with ‘individual acts of over-indulgence at the top’ by some bankers and politicians who ‘bent the rules to their own interests’ and were resistant to regulation and control, and which ultimately led to ‘attacks on the lives of the poor’.

Emphasising that he was never in favour of rioting, Dr Selby said the riots were ‘the result of the economics of disregard that we have all created’. There was a need for systemic changes. ‘I don’t believe that the world will become a better place only by people becoming better people,’ even though this was essential from a Christian perspective. ‘I incline to a systemic view of things.’

‘Individual acts of looting and robbery, resistance to authority and, ultimately, violence against persons add up to a system of disregard,’ which had marginalised too many young people, he said. It was important that we attune our consciences to ‘a moral universe’. ‘If you propagate a system of disregard you are acting outside the guarantees of a moral universe. Last August was a call to live for a system of regard.’ Charlie Ryder, a musician, actor and former prisoner, told how he had served eight months in jail for taking part in a violent demonstration outside a BNP bookshop in 1993. His father’s drinking had had a bad effect on his upbringing, he said. He told the forum that young people needed a sense of forgiveness and healing to retain their sense of self-worth. He now works with the chaplaincy at Wormwood Scrubs Community Chaplaincy, and has collaborated with the Forgiveness Project.

Maxine Cockett, a community leader from the St Ann’s district of inner-city Nottingham, told how she had been part of earlier riots in the 1980s. When the riots of last August reached Nottingham, she urged the rioters to go home before the police found them. ‘We can do something positively,’ said Cockett, one of the organisers of an annual ‘Holding Hands Around St Ann’s’ demonstration of community unity. Every generation needed opportunities. Too many young people leave school at 14 ‘with no stake in their communities’. Greg Davies: ‘The problem with youth clubs is that they are She wanted to work together with others in the community to ‘find solutions’ so that young people are not marginalised and don’t riot. ‘I hope there won’t be any more riots. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we have riots again,’ she said.

Greg Davis, founder of the United Estates in Wythenshawe, Manchester, spoke about the inner-city cultural community centre, which helps to ‘foster a sense of belonging, education and training’. The problem with youth clubs is that they are ‘nice places’ for ‘nice kids’, he said. ‘The kids who most need the support of a youth club are the ones least likely to go. There are issues of class, ethnicity and gender. They need youth clubs for kids who don’t go to youth clubs.’ In the previous generation, traditional figures of respect were teachers, parents, police and faith leaders. Now they faced abuse from kids. ‘Those who can relate and garner respect are now more likely to be sports coaches and dance teachers.’

Ian Montague from the grassroots Glasgow charity FARE (Family Action in Rotherfield and Easterhouse) told how he had grown up in the Gorbals slum area of Glasgow. It had ‘the worst housing project with razor gangs’ and there was a lack of hope and vision, he said. As a teenager he had thought, ‘I can’t change them but I have to do something. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes!’ Going into education, he launched a community newspaper ‘to irritate those who should be doing something’. Twenty years ago, the Council gave six flats to use for a youth project. The young people took  responsibility for this space.

Eighteen months ago the entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne, of the Dragon’s Den TV series, contributed. They now had assets of £2 million. ‘There is money and there is room!’ commented Montague. ‘We have to find who has got it!’


Mason West, from Alabama, Tennessee, represented EYES (Engage Youth Empowerment Services) in Wolverhampton at the forum. Colour, caste and religion were used as reasons to divide, he said. ‘We need resources to pull together’ and invest in youth, ‘raising their expectations, empowering them, giving them confidence, helping them to find their voice and engage. Once they are plugged into the system they can change it. Then there’s no need to worry about them being radicalised or rebelling.’

Ann Edwards, from the Suffolk village of Wenhaston, said that Suffolk has many of the most deprived areas of the country. ‘Regardless of whether you live in the town or the countryside, how can you engage to make a difference?’ she posed. The villagers had safety concerns about children skateboarding on the main road through the village. Residents located an unused area where they created a skateboard park for the children. This gradually developed to accommodate the needs of the community. £144,000 was raised for a new sports complex, which has tennis and skateboarding facilities integrated for all ages and backgrounds. They also revived a youth club. There has been almost no vandalism as it was very much a community generated project in which everyone took pride. ‘Small, simple ideas can have a big impact on the community,’ she said. Her personal inspiration had come from ‘taking time for quiet reflection every morning, listening for direction and seeking inner peace’.

Closing the forum, Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation remarked: ‘What we have learnt today is that the greatest resource and asset we have is people.  Society leads us to believe that it is money – stuff – that matters but what really succeeds is a project that places its worth on people and their work. This is the message that we give to the young people today. All of us can make a change. All over the world, we see the resurgence of the youth as a force to transform society. In the Middle East, we were told that young people were lazy and indolent, yet they have been at the forefront of the Arab Spring. Likewise, we tell people here that it is the spirit, endeavours and courage of the youth, that can shift paradigms, and they need to be supported’.

A young rioter commented afterwards: ‘I did not know that there were many people who cared and listened to people like us. This event is a rebirth for me.’


(Photos courtesy of: John Leggat)

For more information, please click here

For The Cordoba Foundation thoughts on this issue, please click here


To read the conference report and recommendations, please click here

Poetry Masterclass & Performance: Mark Gonzales

Poetry Masterclass & Performance: Mark Gonzales

Following ongoing demand, internationally reknowned spoken word artist Mark Gonzales will make his UK debut with this poetry masterclass and performance in London, exclusively with Muslim Writers Awards.

Date: 18th January

Masterclass: 10am – 4pm (Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E)

Performance: 7pm – 9.30pm (D’Gaf, Stratford, E15)

Tickets: £25 (for masterclass and performance) / £10 (for performance)

Places are limited.  Booking essential at

This event is supported by The Cordoba Foundation

Forum: After the Riots

Forum: After the Riots

Organised by Initiatives of Change (IofC) UK, the Civil Society Forum and The Cordoba Foundation,

How best to understand and respond to the recent riots in England has been the cause of much debate and concern both with decision-makers and the media. The situation challenges us to consider what can be done to reverse the trends that cause such unrest and lead to a breakdown in ‘civil behaviour’ and also to recognise the positive response of those who came forward to mitigate the impact of the riots.mid-Firemen_in_action_at_Tottenham_riots.preview.jpg

Initiatives of Change (IofC) UK, together with the recently established Civil Society Forum and The Cordoba Foundation, plan to hold a one day forum to understand different perspectives on the underlying civic, moral, political and social challenges and explore what we can do individually and collectively in response.

The keynote address will be given by Dr Peter Selby, President of the National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards. He was previously Bishop of Worcester, Bishop to HM Prisons and a Church Commissioner. His book, Grace and Mortgage, opens people’s eyes to the corrosive effect of debt on the poor and the environment.

The Forum will be held at the IofC UK centre at 24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD on 1 February 2012. As individual citizens, communities, and NGOs and government organisations have been collecting thoughts and gathering together in and towards action, the event will bring people together to take the thinking further, share understanding and look at what can be done.

Double-deck_burning_in_2011_england_riots.preview.jpgWe will explore the underlying issues, particularly the challenge of re-engagement both practically and morally, approaches to tackling the main challenges, identify specific ways forward, and consider how all participants can make a contribution, individually and collectively.

The day will be a combination of inter-active presentations, and large and small group dialogue. It will create space to reflect and explore ways to tackle dis-enfranchisement and dis-engagement in civil society and include consideration of what stopped the violence starting and spreading in different areas

The forum will focus on seeing where we may need to build and adapt our approaches, and to find action that we can take in our own communities, and organisations.

The organisers are inviting individuals and groups including community and faith-based groups, NGOs and government organisations, who can make a particular contribution.

To ensure workable numbers for the venue and the participatory nature of the event, attendance will be by application. Notification will be given at least four weeks before the event.

If you wish to attend, download the application form and send to either Esther Risdale or Don de Silva

For more information about the event, please click here

Please click here for a briefing note on the riots