Photo caption: Dr Mohammed Ali OBE, Chief Executive of QED (right) receiving the Uthman Dan Fodio for Community Development by Zaid AL-Rawni, Head of Communications, Islamic Relief (UK) at The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event on 31 March 2014

I founded QED in 1990 because I am passionate about the power of education and employment to transform the lives of ethnic minorities- there are 8m ethnic minorities living mostly in urban areas of Britain. Like many of those we help, I didn’t speak fluent English when my father came to the UK to work in Yorkshire’s mills in the 1950s. Since then, as CEO of this charity, I have been honoured with an OBE for my work; QED’s presence is known not just on the streets of the local communities where we deliver our education, training and employment services, but in Parliament, the EU, and Pakistan.

Receiving a major national award at the Muslim News Awards is recognition of the hard work QED has done for almost a quarter of a century that hinges on our motto: Turning Challenges into Opportunities.
We don’t just deliver practical educational and employability programmes; we advocate change from the top down. These Awards are a powerful and positive recognition of the fact that teaching and training opportunities can, and do, change lives, and in turn can transform communities and the world we live in.

However, as I said in my brief speech when I received the award, although it’s important to celebrate the successes of British Muslims, we should not underestimate the challenge ahead. Muslims suffer more than double the UK’s average poverty level, with just a 30% economic activity rate for Muslim women. What’s more, there’s a negative perception of Muslims in society perpetuated by the activities of a tiny minority of Muslims; such people exist in all societies. We can and need to do more. And to do more, we need support and resources.

The Prime Minister David Cameron who attended the Awards ceremony said they were a celebration of the huge contribution Muslims make to British society. Yet educational under-achievement, high unemployment/under-employment, and unfair discrimination contribute to a self-perpetuating spiral of deprivation. Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have an all-white executive leadership, according to research which warns of a “diversity deficit”. Imagine what we could be celebrating, if these discriminatory barriers were removed?

We work with schools, colleges, training establishments, community groups, universities, trade bodies, private companies, local authorities and central government departments to bring lasting change to the grass roots, to where it’s most needed.

There is a cost to the tax payer, to the Treasury, and more importantly to the health of our communities if we weren’t doing this vital work.

As members of the European Integration Forum, we have established partners from all sections of society, nationally and internationally, and delivered programmes for the European Union, Department for Work and Pensions, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and many more.

BUT we need to do more.

If ERSA members want to develop a deeper understanding and ways of doing “business” with ethnic minority communities, I urge you to contact me direct on m.ali@qed-uk.org or T: 0300 500 1000. Visit www.qed-uk.org to find out more.