SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Shafaqna: Actually in our talk today, we want to know more about the situation of Shias in the UK, mostly in Manchester and actually before that we want an introduction about you and then we will to the situation about Shias in the UK. We want to know about their future, how you see their future according to their situation at hand and then about their strengths and weaknesses that they have now and the activities that they have conducted in this regard and actually the future that you see as ideal for Shias and how you think that we reach that. What’s your ambition and what are your real wishes? Both of them.”
Dr. Aftab: To begin with, my name is Aftab Ahmed. I’ve lived in the UK since 1965. I was a little boy when I came here. All of my education was done here, my family is here and ‘alhamdulilah’ I’m one of the established Muslims in the UK. My aim has always been to promote my religion. To make Islam a more user-friendly way with people because I believe the biggest gift Allah has given to us is ‘ekhlag’ and we don’t use it in this country. I’ll give you an example, I don’t know you two, you don’t know me, but because we’re Muslims, we’re sitting together. If somebody comes now, they’ll think that we’ve known each other for 20 years, but if a White person came here, we’ll be sitting like this. Do you understand? We don’t relax. Because of this, the White people don’t actually see us as we are. They will see us as people who are very pulled back. We don’t want to mix with them; we don’t want to talk to them; only when necessary. And the ‘ekhlag’ we keep for ourselves. We should export ‘ekhlag’. If we export ekhlag, we have no problem in this world. Believe me, the whole world will become Shia Muslims with just ‘ekhlag’. Because I’ve done this myself. I tell my friends, I tell everybody that the simplest way to make somebody be yours; your friend is this. For instance, when you cook at home, after you’ve eaten, everybody’s eaten; whatever’s left, the clean food; you make one plate. If your neighbour is Black, White or Chinese it doesn’t matter. Take the plate, knock on his door and give it to him, we will say “I don’t want it”. You say “please take it”. He’ll take it from you and maybe he’ll throw it in the bin. Next day again you do this, next day again. For 7 days, you give him food. On the 8th, don’t give him food; he will knock on your dinner and say “where’s my dinner?”. Now he’s yours, ok. If he’s a thief, if he’s a robber, anything he does, He will be your friend. From that day on, you will give the key to your house, you will give him anything and he will look after everything for you because you did ‘ekhlag’. Not the food, it’s the concept that this person is nice to me and that’s what we need to do in this country. If we take ‘ekhlag’ out of Islam into the outside world, we can make this world, honestly, so much easier for Muslims. That’s my philosophy, whether right or wrong. But that’s how I feel. So that’s that. Secondly, we have a problem because there are Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Indians, Jordanians and Syrians. We’re all separate. We are not working together. Even the young people, I’m of one the old ones. Even the young people, for instance, you ask me about Jaffaria. That is my centre, I will go there. You will go to Islamic Centre. Some people go to Iraqi Centre. We don’t make programs, we don’t do ‘ekhlag’ to come together. Until we make ourselves together, we can’t ask other people to join us, so we’ll have to work from number one if inside. For instance, if an Islamic centre does a program, the organizers, if they have to go and knock on people’s doors of other communities, they should try and get at least 10 people from each community to come to their function and same with the others. So we try to get people together, that’s the first point.
shafaqna: “Yes, yes, yes. But before going into detail, I want to have an introduction about you and the activities you have the responsibility for.”
Dr. Aftab: “My introduction is very simple. I am a person who lives in the UK, who works, I have a family but I work with Islam and for Islam. That’s my purpose.”
Shafaqna: “Great. So you are also a councilour?”
Dr. Aftab: “I’m a councilour in Manchester for the Labour Party for Levenshulme ward. I was a councilour first in 2004 and I’m a councilour again from 2011 to 2015 and ‘inshalah’ in these four year, I hope to make Islam more user-friendly in the town hall and in Manchester.
Shafaqna: “Inshalah, inshalah. So you’ve mentioned one problem about the different Muslim nationalities being separate so this is one of the conditions of Shia communities actually in the UK, but they are separated based on their nationalities. Any other characteristics of Shia communities or if you can call it Shia society in the UK? Can you describe them more please?”
Dr. Aftab: “The biggest problem we have is that Shias don’t have an identity in the UK. The Wahabis are recognized, the Sunnis are recognized, and their communities are recognized.”
Shafaqna: “You mean the recognition by the government?”
Dr. Aftab: “The government and the community. But the Shia people are not recognized because the Shia community has never gone forward. For instance, the day of Ashura. The day of Ashura is the important day for Shias, but we don’t invite other people from other communities to come so they think ‘what are we doing, these people are barbarians, and these people are crazy. Some are using knives, some are beating their beating their chest, some people are doing something, they’re crazy’ but when they come and they see, they do it as well. I’ve seen white and black people do it, they do everything but only when they understand so Shias don’t have an identity. That is the biggest problem.”
Shafaqna: “You think because of the population because we more population of Sunnis. You think that is the reason?”
Dr. Aftab: No, there are a number of reasons. The first reason is this that the Shias have never tried to say that they are separate, that they’re different. They’ve allowed Sunnis and Wahabis to speak for them. This is the biggest problem. Even though when it comes to religion, we are very different but Shias have never made any kind of commitment to political life. They’ve never, for instance, here in town hall, there are 10 Muslim councilours but only one Shia. Nine are Wahabis and Sunnis. I only came because I wanted to come. My religion did not bring me here.”
Shafaqna: “Do you have a Wahabi councilour in Manchester?”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes, He was the Lord Mayor here as well and what I’m saying is that I’m here because I brought myself here. My Shia community did not bring me here. There’s a big difference and this is a basic problem. The biggest drawback; it’s a very good drawback but we’ve never used. There has never been a Shia terrorist, ever. All the Shias, all the Sunnis and Wahabis have been terrorists, whether it’s here, whether it’s Pakistan, whether it’s Afghanistan, Saudi, wherever. There has never been a Shia terrorist, ok? But the Shia community has never said this. Because we keep quiet. It’s the Wahabis who do all the bombings, all the problems but they are also the advisors to the government in 10 Downing Street. Do you see what I’m saying? ‘I’m bombing but I’m also buying the government’. So I what I would say ‘I was bombing.’ Because of this, the government in this country and Europe believe that Shias are the most dangerous people.
Shafaqna: “Why, you told me now that we don’t have any Shia terrorism. Why does the government of this country think that Shias are the most dangerous group?”
Dr. Aftab: “Because their advisors are Wahabis and Sunnis. They’re not going to say Shias are nice people and we are doing the bombings. They are saying that Shias have a different agenda. The Shias’ agenda is to takeover Saudi Arabia, to takeover the two holy sites, they want to takeover this, and they want to do this. Their agenda is similar these things that We are telling you.”
Shafaqna: “But I think the government, especially the government of the UK and United States understand about Wahabis because this country made Wahabis and tried to make that ideology in that country for attacking Afghanistan or Pakistan. Why do they think that Shias are a danger and they listen to Wahabis and Sunnis? Sunnis and Wahabis are councilours.”
Dr. Aftab: “It’s very simple. If I say to you, for instance, I say Shias, they want to kill everybody, for instance, ok? I say to you again, again and again. There’s no Shia saying ‘no, we don’t want to do this. We love peace.’ Because the Shias are not saying this, they believe what’s being said. That’s the problem. They know that there’s never been a Shia terrorist but because the Shias are not saying this, they believe that the Shias are dangerous because they won’t speak therefore they’re doing something. If the Shias answer and they say ‘look we are not doing wrong. We believe in peace. We are not the bombers. Your advisors are the bombers. How can the advise you and bomb you at the same time and say we are wrong?’. Once the Shias say this, the government sets up a notice. Because there are no responsible Shias, the government believes one, the Shias don’t want to engage, two, the Shias have their own motive and three, the Shias think that they are superior and nobody likes anybody who’s superior. This is the problem.”
Shafaqna: “Are you thinking that we have a way that the government of the UK can see the reality of Shias? Would they can understand and accept the position of Shias?”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes. What we should be fighting for is that I’ve taken 6 Shia people from different Shia Islamic centres to Downing Street on 5th March. I’m taking a letter signed by all 400 Shias saying ‘we want peace, we love peace, we are all human beings, we’ve arrived in the UK and we want to be recognized by the government and separate Shias from Wahabis and Sunnis. I’m doing this on 5th March.”
Shafaqna: “Did it influence and affect the government and the people of the UK?”
Dr. Aftab: “Once we take this letter to Downing Street, it will open the door but after that the Shia community wants to be recognized and they will have a direct link with the Prime Minister’s office. They can write to them, they can speak to them, they will invite them and the process will start. My job is to start the process and then let the people take it from there.”
Shafaqna: “To create this opportunity for Shias to have their voice heard.”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes. I believe this is my job to create the opportunity for Shias in this country. Once the opportunity has came, then I back and let the people in because I’m not a leader, I’m not somebody who wants show my name, my name, no. All I want is for Shia communities to be recognized. I will take them there, after that they can do how they feel. There are many committees in Parliament and the House of Commons where there are Muslims involved but only Wahabis and Sunnis. I believe that by opening this door on 5th March, Shias will take the opportunity to join these groups in the House of Commons so when they make a decision about Islam, they are included; they can then say what they feel, what they feel, not what the other Muslims say what we want and we just accept it. That’s the idea.”
Shafaqna: “So there is a question for me. Previously, Shias used to be silent and didn’t take part in this kind of activity. Do you think that by this initiation, the previous routines will change and do we have other people like you who can continue to use this opportunity and take it further and do you think there is the potential in the existing Shia community to do so?”
Dr. Aftab: “You know there so many brilliant young people in the Shia community, there are so many professional people in the Shia community. I believe once they see that the door is open, they will use that door. At the moment because we have no voice, because they don’t know that the government accepts them, they’re quiet. they might say ‘no way’. That’s why they’re quiet. And when the door opens, they realize that the government did not say ‘who, so, go away’, they will come forward, especially our women. Shia women have a huge part to play in the UK because our laws are not like the Wahabi laws about hijab. Ours are very relaxed so when this country sees a role model of a Shia woman and they notice that they are more respectable than a Wahabi or a Sunni role model and again it’s up to the door. That’s my job or at least I think that’s my job and this is where people like you come afterwards. Look at the Wahabi, look at the Sunni; they are very different. Now, in the west, these are western clothes only with a scarf. Their clothes are different, their manners are different and their behaviour is different so why not promote something we have.
Shafaqna: “That way they can accept that we are from this society.”
Dr. Aftab: “So as I said before, I believe we should not say ‘they are wrong, they are wrong’. We just do what we think is right and let the people decide. Once you go there like this, for instance and they see you and the Wahabis will start to think ‘what is this?’. It’s this thinking. This is what we want. We want them to start thinking. Once they start thinking, you’ll see that the doors will open very quickly. Now, Israel wants to attack Iran or doesn’t want to attack Iran. This is always the threat. Why? Again, because the Muslims, the Shias in the world or in Europe are quiet. If Israel knew that by trying to attack Iran, the Muslims in Europe will rise, they will condemn them, they will be against them. They will not do this. It’s because they know that because we are quiet. If they attack Iran, Wahabis will not say anything; the Sunnis will then say ‘well done’, ‘mashalah’. But because Shias are quiet, they can say these things. If they think that by attacking Iran, this country and everywhere there are Shias will start destroying. I’m not saying we should attack. What I’m saying is that there is no threat to them but we are a threat and we’re living here. We have to stand up and the best way is political. protection is better than cure”
Shafaqna: “We’ve talked about some of the weaknesses of Shias here. Can you talk about some of the strengths that Shia communities also have here?”
Dr. Aftab: “The only strength we have is the fact that if we exported Shiaism, there is no difference in the philosophy of Shiaism. For instance, I say we would want to bomb America. I’ll be the pilot. This is what I’m saying, ‘ekhlag’. If I said the said same thing ‘WE’RE GOING TO BOMB AMERICA’ and they’ll say ‘WHAT?!’ but because the way you say it and this is the way to make people understand what you want. This is politics. Politics is not writing ‘fatwas’ and telling them you are right and they are wrong. This is wrong. Politics is to win somebody without fighting. It can say the same thing in a different way. It can say ‘look, if Israel and America don’t change their change their ways, then we would have think about our sake; that’s it and people understand what you are saying but you don’t just say ‘take them off the face and wipe their name’”
Shafaqna: “Winning someone without fighting.”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes, so you have to win without fighting. So that’s the first thing and this is our first strength; our women in this country. Even very important is the ‘ekhlag’ and I keep coming back to this; this is my favourite topic for non-Muslims; ‘ekhlag’. You can win them. When I go to functions, there are 300-400 people, mostly black people and I believe unless I can win at least 50%, I’ve not done my job. I must win at least 50% of their hearts otherwise I’m not doing my job and all I do is like I’m doing here, I just talk and I give them a balanced view. By the end of the night, they ask me for my card, they ask for my number, they shake my hand and the next day I get phone calls saying ‘thank you for coming, etc’. From that time on, I did something in their department, I just go ‘oh yes we remember’. But if you go somewhere and your religion is stopping you from being yourself, that’s not religion. That’s Wahabism. You can’t talk to people, you must be like this, and you must do this. It’s now prayer so must stop everything and you must go and pray. Your clothes must be this and this. You know, there are so many factors and we have so much relaxation and we don’t use this, even our prayer time. If we are in a meeting, we have the luxury of saying ‘ok I’ll pray later’ but to a Wahabi or a Sunni that is very bad.”
Shafaqna: “It’s questionable.”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes, it’s questionable, So again tolerance. So our first strength is women, second is ‘ekhlag’ in whichever way and the third strength we is the fact that we never opposed the government in everything in this country so therefore if we now start asking the government for things that we want, because we’ve never opposed them, they should not say no, they should listen to us. That’s our third strength and our fourth strength is the fact that we have so many young professional Shias in this country. If these young professional people were all vocal and they all said what they believed, I think Shias would get a different flavour and so would this country. These are our strengths.”
Shafaqna: “Very good. Just to elaborate for the first one because you’ve talked about women. I’m interested in the sense that you’ve talked about the balance that we have in Shia Islam, of course in the way of covering that the Shia women have. What other aspects do you consider as a strength regarding women?”
Dr. Aftab: “You see, the difference between Shia women and Sunni women is that the Shia professional woman is more likely to succeed in this country than Sunnis or Wahabis. If the people have a difference, If the Shias, Wahabis and the Sunnis go together, they will see the difference in the ‘ekhlag’ and the way they behave, ok? Our problem is that our girls are never given the chance to come out but we have more professional Shia women that Sunnis and Wahabis. This is the fact. Because when you come from abroad, they’re from Pakistan, India, Syria, wherever they come from, they’ve got no education. There’s only Shiaism. Whereas the other, they come from their countries as students.”
Shafaqna: “You mean that Shia women have more social roles than others, for example, Sunni or Wahabi women? So that’s why we have more professional and the way they behave is different.”
Dr. Aftab: “What I’m saying is that when a Shia woman comes from say Iran, she has two duties. One, she’s a Shia and she has to understand that her community is watching her. The other is she’s a student. When a Wahabi or a Sunni comes from say Pakistan; Wahabis cannot come. The girls cannot come because they must have some ‘meher’ otherwise they can’t come. That’s number one. Number two, if they do come, they are so tight in themselves. They can’t talk to a man, they can’t do this and they can’t do this so their sphere is tight, ok? So because of this, they are far from society. Because our women have never come forward to introduce themselves; this is why we are behind as well. If our women were to understand that they don’t have to do anything special, they just have to be themselves, they’ll come forward very quickly. And if that happens, then the Shia women will become a part of this country in all professions. At the moment they’re not. Even if they are, because they have no voice, because Shiaism is not labeled and they don’t have an identity, they are quiet. Once they have that identity. Once they know that yes, this country, these people know who they belong to, they will open. That’s the power we have in the women. Along with this, you will find that we expect or at least I expect my daughter to compete with a man, ok? To be equal. This is what Islam say, it’s not from me but I want my daughter to compete with and go as high as she can. If she can beat him, good. If not, at least try. You don’t have this in Wahabism. They will only go to one level and then they must stop because the man feels that she’ll come out of Islam so they stop them. So they have this ceiling, we don’t have a ceiling.
Shafaqna: “Ok. I’m going to the other question. Some other questions that we have are about the summary of the activities that you have done about Shia communities. Actually, you have mentioned some them but can we have a summary of them all?”
Dr. Aftab: “In 1973, I started the Muslim school called ‘Muslim Students’ Association’. I was 16 and in this country at that time, nobody heard of any Muslim boys’ school and the whole country was against it. They couldn’t understand why Muslim boys wanted to make an organization. I made the organization and within 6 months I had 12 schools in Manchester who had joined me. Over 2000 boys and girls joined this organization and at that time because in this country, the first people who came here were Sunnis. Everybody else came here but the first people who established themselves were Sunnis; all the mosque were Sunnis, the Imams were Sunnis, everyone was Sunni. So women were in this as well. I established mosque in every school in Manchester in 1973 and the education officers, the headmasters couldn’t understand what is happening. Every boy at 1 o’clock and girl were going to do their ‘wudu’ and do their ‘salat’ and they couldn’t understand what is happening.”
Shafaqna: “In a Shia way?
Dr. Aftab: “No, it doesn’t matter but usually the Shias were hidden, completely hidden. If I was a Shia, I would still pray the Sunni way. I wouldn’t pray the Shia way. This was the fact because I don’t want people to know I’m Shia.
Shafaqna: “You emphasize the unity?”
Dr. Aftab: “No no, because Shias felt that they had to hide. They hid. I was Sunni before. My father and myself were Sunni but my mother was Shia and I grew up with both and I was about 19 or 20 when I said to myself ‘I’m going to sit down. I must think which way and then I started reading and studying and ‘alhamdulilah’ I came to this direction, not this direction. But until then I was Sunni but I’ve never been a person who has said ‘this is right, this is wrong’. I let everybody do what they feel. My job is to start something and then let people carry on and let other people take it from there to the next step and then other people from there higher and higher and higher but my job is to open the door. This is what I believe is my job. Anyway, this was the first thing we did, then we started a youth centre in the UK and then I went to university in London. Then again I was involved in the university life, I was involved in the union, the student union, Islamic societies and in London they made me the head of the UK Islamic mission. I don’t whether you’ve heard of this one? It’s a Sunni but the difference is that it’s very small. It’s on the border between Sunnis and Wahabis this organization. It’s on the border, so they have Sunnis’ and Wahabis’ this organization’s theirs. So yes Wahabis, very extreme Wahabis and very extreme Sunnis together. The made the head of the youth for the whole UK in 1979 and I learnt a lot from there. Then I came to Manchester and our centre here was opened and I started working with people. I’ve always worked with the community, not as a guide or a councilour, just as somebody who helps so reading letters for them, writing letters for them because they can’t write English and helped them to understand, going to offices with them and speaking on their behalf as an interpreter, that kind of thing; I always did that and always ‘fisabililah’, never any money. I’ve never charged a penny for my service to this day, ok? And there are other people, my fellow councilours, etc who will charge £3000-£4000 for jobs. I’ve never charged anything. I believe by doing this, ‘Allah’ will takeaway what he has given because I am trying for ‘halal’ money. If you are in trouble and I say to you ‘ok, give me money’, you will give it because you are in trouble but in your heart you will feel bad for me so that’s why I don’t take money. Anyway, and I must say at least 95% of all things that I do are successful and my other people are 20-25% successful; this is the difference and I believe this is because I have this distance and I don’t want to come closer, ok? So then I started to do this. I joined the Labour Party in 1993 and then the people from my community, they said to me that they want me to become a councilour. This is Sunnis and Wahabis and I thought about it. In the year 2000, I was elected as councilour for Longsight. I have the biggest majority in Manchester which is very big for a Muslim person. There are 99 councilours, all English and I had the biggest majority, the biggest number of votes I had. I also had the least number of votes against any candidate so against me was the lowest vote and for me was the highest vote so I had two records and up to now nobody has beaten me. That’s because the whole community, I work with everybody. They worked with me. In that time between 2000-2004, I did halal food for Muslims, I did deaths. Before I became a councilour, on average it would take 4-5 days to release a body when someone’s died from hospital to release them for burial but now it takes 3 hours from death to delivery. So when a Muslim dies in hospital or at home, they’ll take the body and do a post-mortem, everything within 3 hours which is very very fast and you’ll have the body the same day and you can bury them the same day. The cemetery is open 7 days now; before it Monday-Friday now it’s open 7 days. You could bury on any day, whether it’s Christmas Day, Bank Holiday no problem. It’s open for Muslims, only for Muslims. ‘Alhamdulilah’ I did this. Our marriage, they don’t recognize in this country. Our ‘muta’. If you do ‘nika’ in England, you must do an English marriage ceremony as well. If you marry in Pakistan or Iran, they’ll recognize that it won’t get recognized. I’ve done it now they recognize it so you don’t need an English ‘nika’.
Shafaqna: “What is it that you are recently engaged with?”
Dr. Aftab: “Yes, well again I’m a councilour here now and in this time round I have decided that this time I must bring the Shia community level with the Sunnis and Wahabis so when the government asks for Islamic opinion, they have Shia as well, not just Wahabi and Sunni. They must get the Shia perspective as well and along with this I am ‘inshalah’ in the process of arranging for I hope very good, very big conferences. One in Glasgow, one in Manchester, one in Birmingham and the final one in the House of Parliament in London for Shias. The ideas is to get all the problems that they have together, so in Glasgow we say we speak for education. All the problems are about education so from all over the country are going to Glasgow where we discuss education. All the problems about education for Shias we put them together. Then we come to Manchester. We have maybe employment or national health, something like this; different topic so all the problems that Shias have in the country regarding that topic, we’ll put together here, then Birmingham and then finally, we’ll do the biggest meeting/conference/seminar in the House of Parliament and ‘inshalah’ the Home Secretary will be the guest and will deliver all our data to him and then expect an answer. This will be done ‘inshalah’ by the end of summer so we’re in the process of planning it out.”
Shafaqna: “we have many problems, many weaknesses in the Shia society in the UK. What do you think about the future? What we need and what we have to do in the future that can receive good things for our society and make the government understand us or something else, for example, a party that can be entirely Shia? What’s your idea and what’s your program?”
Dr. Aftab: “I honestly believe that by making a political party in this country, you are going to destroy yourself. There are only three parties in this country but only two are important; Labour and the Conservatives. By joining these parties, we can have a voice. Out of the two parties, I believe Labour is best because it listens to what we want, their rules are Muslim friendly. They’re not perfect, they’re not the best but they’re the best we have at present. If Muslims joined these parties, the right Muslims, not Muslims who want to become ministers and MPs. Yes they should become this, this is not my problem but they should become that for the right reason. The right reason is they want to promote the true face of Islam in this country, ok? If we get the right people in this party and they put forward the proper Islamic view in their parties, you will find that 5 years from now, these parties will begin to change towards a better understanding between Islam and the rest of the country and that is important, not starting your own party. If you start your own party, you are pushing yourself against everybody. You have to work 20 times harder to make yourself accepted and even then everything you do will be suspicious but if you join these parties, you have done half the work. Next is your ‘ekhlag’, your own identity and your own dignity. If I have dignity, it doesn’t matter if this is the Prime Minister, it is the Queen, and who it is. If I have dignity, I can make understand who I am and what I want but if I don’t have dignity, it doesn’t matter if I’m the biggest king, people still regard me as ‘okay, thank you’, yes? So in this country, to succeed, I believe that the Labour Party is the best because this is the party that is more Islamic friendly because they’re socialist. They don’t talk about religion, they leave religion alone. The Conservatives are right-wing, they can’t leave religion alone because their laws, their rules need to have limits. You understand? So because of limits, we can’t work with those limits. We must have a free hand so we can change the policy of this country to help us and to help Britain. By doing that, by bringing more young people into politics, I think you’ll find that this country is ‘win to change’ provided we show them why. The good side. All they hear is bombings, all they hear is terrorists, and all they hear is bad things. They never hear any good. So what we need to do is to be honest. I mean, in your life, honestly what you are at home is what you are outside. It’s not different. But these people because they don’t know this, they believe that maybe we something else outside and we are different when we’re together. This is the problem. So by getting the right people in politics; by making Shia Islam more open, more understandable to them and by being honest and direct.
Shafaqna: Do you have any request from Maraje?
Dr. Aftab: “I have a very simple request but a very big request. In the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of Britain, there is no identified Shia building. The Wahabis and the Sunnis have fantastic buildings, mosques and centers. The Hindus have two centres, one in London and one in Preston. These centers are world renowned. Their architecture is from India. People now do coach trips every month to see these buildings. What they’re doing is promoting Hinduism. My request to a Maraje is we need a symbol in this country that the young Shia people can identify with which is an Islamic centre like no other. Whether it’s the library like no other, IT the best, the Imam in the centre who can speak Arabic, English, Farsi and Urdu and he can speak about any religion. So anybody who comes and asks him a question, he can answer that question and give them the Shia perspective and also have knowledge that he can say “look, I can tell you this but read this book. This book on page this and this will say this to you”. If we have a centre in this country like this, the young Shia community of this country will gyrate towards it. They will have an identity. Then you can start the work. Without having an identity, we have our own identity in Pakistanis, we have an identity in Iranians and we have an identity in the Iraqis so there’s no joint identity. To make a joint identity, we need a symbol.” — www.shafaqna.com