Keith Scott nominated Kawther and Hafiz Hashmi for the award this year. The award was established by the Week of Prayer for World Peace to recognise significant contributions by individuals, organisations and projects in furthering peace, justice and reconciliation. It focuses on grass root initiatives.
Below is the entry he submitted and the award was given at the WPWP annual gathering on Sunday 16 October.
Hashmi and her husband Hafiz Hashmi have worked tirelessly to integrate the oldest mosque in the country and its worshippers into the wider community over the last 13 years.
Kawther has worked as ‘Faith Links Adviser’ for 12 years (11 years with the Diocese of Guildford and 1 year with Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum), she is also a chaplain for Surrey and Borders Partnership, supporting those with mental health illnesses. Hafiz Hashmi is the Head Imam at Shah Jahan Mosque. They are both founding members and trustees of Surrey Muslim Association and trustees of the interfaith forum Woking People of Faith.
"Woking is an example to the rest of the country of interfaith understanding and the integration of Islam in the community" the Minister for Faith said. Lord Bourne said the strong interfaith links in Woking “is where we want everybody to be”, paying tribute to the leadership of the Imam and Kawther, describing it as “very powerful in the world in which we are living”. “We should be shouting about what is happening in Woking,” said Lord Bourne. “It should be happening elsewhere.” They organised a prayer and peace vigil for the victims of the New Zealand shootings and all the community were invited to come and show solidarity and unity against such terrorist attacks and hundreds came from diverse backgrounds.
The mosque is involved in the community, from the annual Armistice Day parade in Woking Town Centre, helping the homeless and refugees, as well as working with people of all faiths and hosting regular visits from schools. Along with formal open days at the mosque, it is open for anyone to visit. The mosque organised a food bank during the pandemic and served the local community, majority of beneficiaries were not Muslim. Woking News and Mail reported on a royal visit to the Mosque and helped at the foodbank.
Kawther and Hafiz worked hard to encourage people to get vaccinated and the Mosque opened up as a pop up vaccine clinic.
Kawther and Hafiz recently spoke to Surrey live about Hajj, the journey which brings the message peace, harmony and unity to all mankind.
Kawther has delivered many talks about demystifying Islam and particularly about Women in Islam, including a talk to Farnham Humanists on Women and Shariah at the Hop Blossom Pub to further nurture the much-needed understanding and communication between Muslims and non-Muslims. Her work also reaches to those who have no true knowledge of Islam but do things claimed to be in its name. In her presentation “Women in Islam”, she defined key terms and described the use of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadith, and Shariah Law. She told how in the early days Shariah gave previously unheard-of rights to women, and the spirit of Islam is for women to be equal to but different from men. Many important, powerful, and accomplished Muslim women can be found in history.
She organised a day on ‘Do women have a role in leading religion’ when prominent religious leaders explored the topic of gender. Over 80 people attended. Panelists for the event included Julie Siddique, listed in the Times’ 100 Most Influential Muslim Women in the UK list, Rabbi Kath Vardi, interfaith campaigner and Bishop Jo Bailey-Wells, the Bishop of Dorking and 10th female bishop in the Church of England. The speakers each presented a brief exploration of gender in the leadership of their religion before an audience question and answer session. Kawther commented: “Through events like this we can help to shine a light on significant issues, like gender in religious leadership, which may otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged. It was fantastic to see so many people come together to explore this important topic from an interfaith perspective, building friendships and understanding between faiths.”
Kawther works to promote the Faith Infrastructure and its engagement in developing, improving, and extending services in communities across the county of Surrey. She has a BA in Accounting and Finance and Islamic Studies qualifications from the Institute of Classical Islamic Science, Lahore, Pakistan. She has been teaching Islam voluntarily for over 15 years.
She has been active and valuable part of the Woking Debates committee for several years. The debates consider topics of peace and social justice and with her network Kawther has been invaluable in finding speakers and has spoken at two of them.
She has also been working with faith communities over the last two years on climate action and is currently working closely with the Mosques in Surrey to decarbonize and recruit energy champions for the community.
Hafiz Hashmi has been an Imam since the age of 17; he has Masters in political science, Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He came to the UK in 2004 as an Imam at a Mosque in Nelson, Lancashire and moved to Woking in 2010 to be the Head Imam at Shah Jahan Mosque.
Hafiz has worked hard to build bridges between the Muslim community and wider community, he has at times had to face resistance from fundamental Muslims with his work on interfaith particularly around the time of Christmas when he personally visits the Churches to give gifts and extend greetings during the Christmas celebrations. He remains firm with his views to engage with people of all faiths and no faith or belief, for peace and harmony. He regularly participates in civic engagements to ensure the Muslim community are represented, including the latest Mayor’s service, which was held at Shah Jahan Mosque in June 2022.
Keith Scott, member of the Quaker faith
Kawther and Hafiz Hashmi are a major asset to the community promoting an unapologetic peaceful and loving Islam speaking to all communities and creating a better and more open community.
Date: Monday 24th October 2022