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Celebrating inspirational Muslim women in Leeds

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An event in Leeds has celebrated the stories of inspirational Muslim women who have contributed over many generations to the life of the city, but whose stories remain largely untold.

Held at the Leeds Islamic Centre in Harehills, the second annual ‘Muslims of Leeds’ event was an offshoot of a national touring series of events organised by MEND, a campaign group which works to tackle misunderstanding and foster friendships across communities.

Shahab Adris, a regional co-ordinator for the organisation, said that while the stories of prominent British Muslim figures like footballer Mo Salah, cricketer Moeen Ali, boxer Amir Khan, athlete Sir Mo Farah, Bake Off star Nadiya Hussein and Dragons’ Den’s James Caan often get heard, the achievements of ordinary people do not get the same focus.

The event heard that - in the year that the country marks 100 years since women were first granted the vote, as well as the year when the #MeToo movement emerged - it as even more important to focus on “her-story” rather than history, and to reflect stories of passionate, empowered and independent Muslim women in Leeds.

He said: “We have an exhibition that tours all over the country, which highlights Muslim contributions to the NHS and to business, for example.

“But we decided we needed to celebrate local heroes from Leeds.

“The focus this year was on Muslim women, and we wanted to celebrate the contribution of Muslim women of many generations to Leeds life. These real stories need to be exposed to as many people as possible.

“We had an almost 100 per cent female panel and there were many strong women sharing their stories.

“We had a good number of people in the audience who were not Muslim too.

“ I am really delighted that people appreciated the essence of the event.

“Well done to all the volunteers who put it together. They have come up with a winning formula - and we hope to replicate it.

Among the speakers was a young boxer who has opened her own gym, a doctor, a university lecturer, a journalist and broadcaster, and a spoken word poet paying tribute to the strength of women.