BISCA Awards: Humanizing Muslim Identity in UK

SHAFAQNA – Recognizing the efforts of British Muslim scholars and imams, deemed as the pillars of the Muslim community, the aptly named British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements (BISCA) will take place on Friday June 12th in London.

“A lot of imams are doing incredible work in different fields in various parts of the UK,” BISCA founder imam Abdullah Hasan said.

“(The rewards are a response to) What is happening in the in the UK with the media onslaught against imams and Muslims, to give some positivity (to their image), to celebrate their positive contributions (to society).”

The idea of the awards was first suggested to honor Muslim scholars who work quietly in the British Muslim community, steadfastly contributing to making it better and prosperous for all.

The event, planned next June 12, will be held at the Waterlily in London.

The awards are not without controversy, some have objected saying that they do not wish to be involved as to them this is perceived as ‘showing off.’

However this is exactly why the awards need to take place, Abdullah Hasan said.

“As they (the imams) will not promote themselves, we as a community need to celebrate and recognize (them). (We need to) inspire the younger generation to become imams and scholars.”

The awards are open to all Muslims, irrespective of the denomination they are affiliated with, be they Sunni, Shiite, etc.

Any individual is able to nominate an Imam and/or Scholar directly on the website.

The awards are broken into the following categories: Interfaith work, Charity work, da`wah work, chaplaincy work, youth work, media engagement, community cohesion, women’s empowerment, education and teaching and outstanding khatib [preacher].

The awards are based on a points system with five categories, each offering 10 points, allowing for a maximum of 50 points in each category.

The awards are intended to be non-political, however all members of the community, irrespective of their political allegiance are invited to participate.

Inspiring Event

Identified as the ‘People’s Awards,’ BISCA will fill a niche in the market where other categories of awards have already been allocated.

It is intended that this model will be replicated across Europe with discussions already taking place in for example Sweden, then across the seas to the United States; often viewed as the thought leader  in this space.

Imam Hassan, who studied Shari`ah in Jordan and has been an imam for the last ten years across the UK, including London and Manchester, said the winners will be announced by a group of prominent scholars.

“(The winner is selected) by a group of judges who will conduct their own research (into the nominees) before allocating scored points),” he told

Judges include Mawlana Shaykh Shahid Raza (Head Imam at Leicester central mosque), Dr Shuruq Naguib (co-chair of the British Association of Islamic Studies), Mufti Abdul Kadir Barkatullah (a prominent scholar in sharia law), Dr Fella Lahmar (a teacher of hadith, fiqh and other Islamic studies, also presenting a series on British Muslim TV), and Aamer Naeem (CEO of PennyAppeal, Editor of British Muslim TV).

To this end, numerous organizations are involved which include the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Council of Wales, the National Zakat Foundation, the Muslim Association of Britain, MADE, Alchemiya, MEND, and more.

Currently, the initiative is supported by a number of brands such as Al Rayan Bank, British Muslim TV, Penny Appeal, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief and more.

While no government funding has been involved in the current initiative, it is hoped that a more coherent strategy for next year may allow from such support. Moreover the listed price of £10 per ticket will be donated to various charities.

Controversially, some of the organizations involved, specifically one charity has gained a notorious relationship with donors who are frustrated with the perpetual SMSs and messages calling for donations. This form of aggressive marketing has turned many people off the organization despite their good efforts.

In a general context, Abdullah Hasan hinted that on the night BISCA will announce a new initiative, part of which will include rules for ‘best practice’ for organizations and charities.

It is hoped that the substance of this additional initiate will be a wake-up call to those who abuse donor goodwill.

BISCA have a number of media partners.

The award ceremony will be filmed by British Muslim TV who will later air a 45 minute highlight of the evening.

After the event, the BISCA website will be updated to include bios of the various winners along with segments of video footage from British Muslim TV. Those who are on social media can keep an eye out for the hashtag #BISCAawards2015

At a time when Muslims do have a serious image problem in society, BISCA is perhaps the next step of trying to humanize the Muslim identity in the UK, marking a clear difference between headline attention seekers and the better values within the general Muslim community.

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