ATL Enterprise

A view from within

'No better time for working together'

Telegraph & Argus
Thursday 11th May 2006
By Fiona Evans

A convert to Islam urged decision-makers at a Bradford conference to listen to young Muslims.

Speaking at the British Discourses on Islam A View from Within conference at Bradford's Hilton Hotel yesterday, Maurice Irfan Coles, chief executive of the Schools Development Support Agency (SDSA), said there had never been a better time to train a country to form a multi-faith democracy.

Mr Coles, who converted six years ago, said: "In terms of a discourse we have to engage Muslim youth. Knowing the situation in other European countries there has never been a better country to train to form a multi-faith democracy. There has never been a better moment."

Mr Coles was among several people, including the Bishop of Bradford, invited to speak at the conference.

"It's lovely to come to Bradford and hear about the positive things," he said. The conference, organised by ATL (Yorkshire) Ltd (formerly known as Asian Trade Link) and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Yorkshire Forward and the Home Office, brought together 200 delegates from across the country.

Policy-makers, academics, senior practitioners and experts within corporate governance, public, voluntary, faith and private sectors met to discuss issues and ideas relating to Islam.

Delegates were invited to workshops and were offered the chance to find out about past, present and future challenges facing the Muslim community.

ATL director of operations and development, Ayub Ismail, said: "We want key stakeholders and practitioners to engage with the Muslim community at strategic level. We want to create an environment of inclusion of mainstream Islam.

"We hope that people will have a better understanding of issues impacting the Muslim community locally and how they can engage more effectively at developing services at local, regional and national level."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Rev David James, highlighted some of the positive partnerships already in place such as Bradford's Civic Network, which showed cross-faith condemnation of terrorism in the wake of last year's London bombings.

The Bishop praised the achievements of Muslim women, such as former Skipton Girls' Grammar School student Ruzwana Bashir, who became president of the Oxford University Union.

"The future must be open to women like this to use their God-given gifts for the good of wider society," he said.

"What I see happening in this conference and increasingly as I go around Bradford is a new confidence being exhibited by British Muslims who carry with them an ethos of professionalism.

"Today's conference must not be a one-off.
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