The result marks the first time an imam has won a council seat.
Adeel Shah, who at 28 is one of Britain’s youngest imams, was elected as a councillor in the East Hampshire locals. Shah is with the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party, which ‘strives to be the voice of the community with the powers above and to work on local projects to benefit fellow residents‘ and to lay the foundations for peace.
Having won the town council elections in May 2019, the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party stood candidates for the six East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) seats. Shah joined the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party and was co-opted on to Whitehill Town Council in January. In the local elections in May, he won the local town seat uncontested, as well as the district seat, substantially beating the Green, Conservative and independent candidates to be duly elected.
Adeel Shah is one of an estimated 30,000 Ahmadi Muslims in Britain. He began studying to become an imam at 17. He is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the third most popular branch of Islam. Ahmadiyya is committed to the teachings of peace, love, justice and sanctity of life. The young Imam is based in and around London and also in the Baitul Futuh mosque, the largest mosque in Britain and one of the biggest in Western Europe. He has spoken out to raise awareness about Islamophobia in society and the media.
Left Foot Forward caught up with the young imam to find out what motivated him to stand as a councillor and what he hopes to achieve.
“As an imam and a councillor, you have the opportunity to serve people in different capacities,” he said.
“Both roles involve serving the community and helping people. Islam teaches us to be of service to others and to do good deeds. By fulfilling the role required from a councillor by the residents they represent, you are in many ways fulfilling this fundamental teaching of Islam. You help people by addressing their concerns and providing them with guidance and support. By being able to contribute positively in their lives, you are able to serve the people in the best possible manner and make a positive impact in their lives.”
Shah described how the position of imam and councillor are crucial because they both involve aiding those in need and serving the community.
“As a councillor, I can use the knowledge and skills I acquired as an imam to make a positive difference in people’s lives. My experiences as an imam, which includes travelling to Ghana, Pakistan, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, across the UK and much more, and spending time with the local residents, will help me better comprehend the realities of the people I represent as a councillor. We owe it to the people who depend on us to take care of them.
“Combining my responsibilities as an imam and a council member enables me to devote time and energy to both while making sure I carry out my duties in a way that is just to the people that I represent – and this includes all in East Hampshire.”
The councillor said that the response to the election campaign and his seat selection was incredible, with people sharing their support and solidarity to him and the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party.
“Good, hard-working, honest folk with no agenda other than to help the town and do their very best for it,” said one resident.
The councillor says that his ultimate goal is to create a positive impact in the communities he interacts with, and “to know that by the end, the residents and all service users were content with the service and care that was provided to them.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
Image credit: Adeel Shah
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