Muslim Writers Awards 2008 recognises Britain’s literary talent

Muslim Writers Awards 2008 recognises Britain

“Call me Muhammad” states superstar Jermaine Jackson

The annual Muslim Writers Awards 2008 recognised the breadth and quality of literary talent within the UK’s Muslim community. At a glittering ceremony – attending by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and guest of honour Jermaine Jackson – eight awards were handed out to deserving winners, following a review of 10,000 entries by a panel of independent judges.

The event took place on Saturday 29th March 2008 at the ICC in Birmingham, and attracted support from the Prime Minister, local government and celebrity advocates like and James Caan (Dragon’s Den). The ceremony was broadcast live to millions of viewers across the UK, Europe and the Middle East by Islam Channel. Jackson delighted the audience during his televised interview by asking the host to refer to him by his chosen Muslim name of “Muhammad”.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged his support for the awards, stating: “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring excellent writing by Muslim writers to new audiences, and increase the mutual understanding of the people of Britain. Through literature we can learn about disparate cultures and widen our perspectives of the world. I would like to congratulate all of the participating writers and the winners of this year’s awards.”

The Muslim Writers Awards initiative is now in it’s second year, and is organized by Innovate Arts – a non-profit body. MWA 2008 recognised the work of 26 writers across eight categories, ending with the prestigious “Writer of the Year” awards being presented by Jermaine Jackson at the glittering Awards gala. The initiative has received a phenomenal response from the British Muslim community, and many prominent guests including Lord Ahmed, Respect Councillor Salma Yaqoob and Nighat Awan OBE – owner of the Sher Khan Restaurant Group.

Imran Akram, Head of Innovate Arts, commented: “The 10,000 submissions we received clearly demonstrate that British Muslims are passionate about creative expression. The body of work that we’ve reviewed this year includes heart-felt poetic compositions, educational children’s stories and compelling fiction pieces. The nominees for each category represent the cream of British Muslim literary talent. However, the initiative has a wider objective than the awards themselves. We want to encourage talented British Muslims, of all ages and backgrounds, to develop their powers of creative expression. This is a vital tool for encouraging integration and cementing community cohesion.”

Winner of the prestigious “Writer of the Year 2008” Award was 38-year old Aliya Vaughan from Brixton in London. She was also the recipient of the Best Children’s story Award. While the “Published Writer of the Year 2008” was former Guantanamo detainee, and Birmingham bookstore owner, Moazzem Beg. Beg gave a powerful acceptance speech recalling how faith and prayer strengthened the bond between the “Enemy Combatants” during the abuse and humiliation meted out by their captors.

Winners from the South East
The South East was well-represented amongst the list of winners. As well as the two awards won by Aliya Vaughan, the Non-fiction award was presented to Londoner Shelina Janmohamed and Woking resident Fatima Martin won the prestigious “Novel Writer Award”.

Winners from the Midlands
In addition to the honour given to Moazzem Beg, young Solihull writer Kashif Choudry picked-up the “Short Story Writer Award”.

Winners from the North
The North of England provided two success stories. The first was the youngest winner of the night, Humaira Rashid from Dewsbury, who picked up the gong for “Under 16’s Writer of the Year”, while the “Poetry Writer Award” went to Bradford’s Shameam Akhtar.

Awards Categories and Winners

NON FICTION AWARD
(sponsored by Yorkshire Bank)
Shelina Zahra Janmohamed (Age: 33) London

SHORT STORY AWARD
(sponsored by Dept. for Communities and Local Government)
Kashif Choudry (Age: 28) Solihull, West Midlands

NOVEL AWARD
(sponsored by Radisson SAS)
Fatima Martin (Age: 49) Woking, Surrey

POETRY AWARD
(sponsored by Birmingham City Council)
Shameam Akhtar (Age 38) Bradford

UNDER 16’s AWARD
(sponsored by Islam Channel)
Humaira Rashid (Age: 16) Dewsbury, West Yorkshire

BEST CHILDREN’S STORY AWARD
(sponsored by Muslim Hands)
Aliya Vaughan (Age: 37) Brixton Hill, London

PUBLISHED WRITER AWARD
Moazzem Beg, from Birmingham

WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Aliya Vaughan (Age: 37) Brixton Hill, London

Further information about the Awards can be found at www.muslimwritersawards.co.uk.

About Innovate Arts
Innovate Arts is a not for profit “Community Interest Company” that supports the development and promotion of arts and arts-related projects across the UK. We actively work with local and national stakeholders from both public and private sectors to help nurture and promote talent and address issues related to cohesion and the integration of all communities into mainstream British life.

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