Shahid Malik

Shahid Malik (born November 24, 1967 Burnley) is British Member of Parliament for Dewsbury and serves as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice. He is the first British Muslim to be made a Minister in any British Government. In June 2007, on becoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown made the historic decision to appoint Mr Malik as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development. The position was unpaid. It was a very rapid rise to ministerial level given that Mr Malik had only been elected as the Member of Parliament for Dewsbury at the 2005 General Election. On 4 October 2008, Malik was moved to his current position.

His constituency of Dewsbury is viewed as one of the most challenging in the UK. In 2005 the BNP recorded its highest vote in the country in Dewsbury and two months later his constituency was home to the ringleader of the 7/7 attacks, Mohammad Sidique Khan.

Early career

Shahid Malik studied Business Studies at the South Bank Polytechnic in South London. He then worked with the East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council, working on business development - a career which eventually took him to the job of chief group executive of Pakistan Muslim Centre (PMC), Sheffield and then as chief executive of Haringey Regeneration Agency in north London.

He was little known in Labour circles until he was elected to the Labour Party's National Executive Committee (NEC) (the first non-white person to hold that position) at his first attempt in 2000. Prominent left winger, Mark Seddon, then editor of Tribune, was defeated in the same election, and it claimed by Malik's supporters that this motivated numerous Tribune diary stories targeting him .

Burnley Riots

Malik shot to national prominence in June 2001 during the riots in his hometown, Burnley in Lancashire. His father, Rafique (a former Mayor), was Deputy Mayor of the town at the time. He claimed to be trying to calm the crowds of British Pakistani youths who had been confronting the police and whilst doing so Malik was beaten by the police, handcuffed and arrested. The event was caught on television cameras. Images of Shahid, his face covered in blood, having refused to have it washed off, were broadcast nationally. Malik was later offered an apology by Lancashire Police and praised by the Chief Constable for his 'peace-keeping' role during the disturbances.

Standing for Parliament

Shahid Malik had hoped to be selected in Burnley where Peter Pike had indicated he was standing down. However, the National Executive Committee decided that this Constituency Labour Party should have an all-women shortlist Malik, however, responded to the decision by writing an article in The Guardian reafirrming his support for the policy of all-women shortlists. He stood for selection in Brent East after Labour lost the 2003 by-election but was controversially left off the shortlist, despite winning more nominations and votes than other candidates - indeed Malik had more votes than the sum of the votes of two male candidates (Robert Evans and Raj Jethwa) who went on to be shortlisted. Insults were traded that the selection had been 'stitched-up' for Evans, the by-election candidate; however, Yasmin Qureshi went on to win the Brent East selection but then failed to regain the once safe Labour seat at the general election in May 2005.

On 30th November 2006, the New Statesman 'revealed' that Labour peer, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, campaigned for the Tories during the Dewsbury election in 2005. Ahmed is said to have backed Sayeeda Warsi, vice-chair of the Conservative Party, a personal friend. According to the New Statesman's report, Warsi "welcomed Lord Ahmed's support".

The Middle East, the USA and the Holocaust

Shahid Malik served as an international election monitor for the Palestinian Presidential elections in 2005 and Parliamentary elections in January 2006.

As an anti-hate campaigner he has written articles on the Holocaust and been a supporter of the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day – remembering the Nazi genocide. He has also given talks across the UK alongside one of the world’s best known Holocaust survivors, Eva Schloss, the stepsister of famous war diarist Anne Frank.

Malik was an open critic of the war in Iraq. Despite this the London Evening Standard suggested that Shahid had overstated his opposition to the war in Iraq in an attempt to be selected in Brent East. He complained to the Press Complaints Commission over these newspaper reports which were subsequently retracted acknowledging Shahid had on numerous occasions expressed opposition previously, including on national news broadcasts and at the Labour Party Annual Conference.

However, despite being openly critical of the war in Iraq, Shahid Malik voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war. His decision to vote against investigating the war, despite his opposition to it, has not sat well with some constituents.

In August 2006, while Parliamentary Private Secretary to Schools Minister Jim Knight, he became the most senior British Parliamentarian to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister criticising the UK's foreign policy silence following Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

Later in 2006, he visited the bombed areas of Lebanon and was shocked by the devastation caused by Israeli bombings of civilian areas. On his return to the UK he raised the issue in Parliament where he asked the Foreign Secretary: "Is my right hon. Friend aware that, according to the Mines Advisory Group and a cross-party group that was in Lebanon last month, some 32.7 million sq m of land are infected and contaminated by cluster munitions? According to the Mines Advisory Group, if the Israeli Government were to give it grid references for the 1.2 million bombs that were let loose in the last three days of action, instead of three children dying a day, as is the case, the number would, it hopes, be much less. Will he use his good offices to ensure that we put sufficient pressure on the Israeli Government to move forward on this important issue?"

In October 2007, it was revealed that he had on two separate occasions when visiting the USA been detained. In November 2006 he was detained for an hour while entering JFK Airport in New York, where he had been invited by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to deliver an anti-terrorism speech to a mainly Muslim audience of 300. In October 2007 he was returning from a Ministerial trip when he claimed to have been detained for some 40 minutes at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport and had his hand luggage searched for explosive traces. He had the previous day had a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security on security issues.

US security officials, however, stated that they reviewed a videotape of his detention, which shows that he was detained for eight minutes. The officials also rubbished his assertion that he was chosen because of his religion. However, US Authorities later accepted in writing that the eight minutes they referred to was the time for secondary screening and not the time he was detained. The US Homeland Securities Department accepted that his actual detention was considerably longer than eight minutes.

Constituency M.P.

At the 2005 General Election, Dewsbury recorded the highest BNP vote in the UK and in the following summer was again in the media for being home to the lead 7th July suicide bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan. Shahid has been an outspoken critic of extremism and terrorism as well as the right-wing BNP. He is respected for being fair and honest on tough issues, being at the forefront in encouraging Muslims to integrate into British society and to go beyond condemning extremism and confronting them. He also opposed a Muslim teacher a Dewsbury primary school who claimed she was being discriminated against because she was not allowed to wear a niqab while teaching young children. She subsequently lost her case at an employment tribunal. He has also called for the swift removal of failed asylum seekers in order to ease community tension in his constituency.

When elected in May 2005 Shahid Malik set himself a target to open the doors of democracy for his constituents. At the last count, October 2007, Shahid announced that some 2,250 people from Dewsbury and Mirfield had been guests of the MP at Westminster. The overwhelming majority were school students.

In November 2007, Mr Malik launched a libel action in the High Court against the Dewsbury Press and former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott. Mr Malik later agreed to an out-of-court settlement after the defendants agreed to print an agreed statement in The Press newspaper.

In the agreed statement in the Press newspaper former Conservative Councillor Jonathan Scott said: " I am happy to make clear that my letter was never intended to accuse Mr Malik of orchestrating gangs of thugs or playing the race card. This was an interpretation some people placed upon my letter and subsequent article, an interpretation which I disagreed with. I never intended to accuse Mr Malik of having any responsibility for the threats and acts of intimidation made against me."

And in addition, Mr Lockwood who was editor of the Press newspaper at the time said: "We want to make it clear that we never accused Shahid of any impropriety whatsoever during the elections."

In the agreed statement Mr Malik said: "I have been brought up to believe that the most precious thing I have is my integrity and reputation and so I am thrilled at the outcome. I can now continue serving the people of Dewsbury and Mirfield with my head held high."

Significant National and International roles prior to becoming an MP

Shahid Malik has had a number of significant national roles prior to being involved in politics. These roles include:

National Chair of the Urban Forum: Elected annually via 450+ member organisations - a renowned national regeneration policy network made up of residents and community organisations , with the aim of pushing power to local people in deprived neighbourhoods.

Commissioner to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission: Appointed by then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam as the only Great British Commissioner (1999-2002) to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which was born out of the 'Good Friday Peace Agreement' – dealing with equalities issues between Catholics & Protestants, Unionists & Nationalists, and discrimination by race, gender, disability, sexuality, age.

Commissioner for Racial Equality, Great Britain: Law enforcement agency under the Race Relations Act 1976 working to eliminate racial discrimination across Great Britain.

Vice-Chair of United Nations body, UNESCO UK: Working to engage UK civic society in UNESCO's work in contributing to world peace, security, justice and human rights, by promoting collaboration between nations on educational, scientific, cultural and communications projects.

Government Adviser on Community Cohesion and Neighbourhood Renewal

Parliamentary Jobs and Distinctions

Shahid Malik was elected as the Member of Parliament for Dewsbury in May 2005 and became the only newly elected Labour MP to be placed on the powerful Home Affairs Select Committee.

In December 2005 he won the prestigious House Magazine 'Best Maiden Speech of the Parliament' award which is regarded as the Parliamentary Oscars. The award is made once every four years and Shahid beat off over 100 other new MPs.

In January 2006 he became the Parliamentary ' Pool Champion ' – with the title came £1500 which he donated to local charities and causes in his constituency.

In February 2006 he was runner-up in the 'Channel Four News Rising Star Awards'.

In the Government reshuffle in May 2006 he was promoted to the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Schools Minister.

In June 29th 2007 he was appointed a minister in the Department for International Development, making him Britain's first Muslim Minister albeit one of the few who do not get paid for doing their job.

London bombings

Since the London bombings of 7 July 2005, Malik has played a prominent role as one of the public faces of Muslim leadership in the UK. He has spoken in criticism of some of the responses to the bombings, and some of the suggestions of what needs to be done. He was invited to join a national working group of key Muslim leaders seeking answers to the bombings. He has called not just for internal reform within Muslim communities, but also for the rest of society to help tackle poverty and isolation of minority groups.

Problems With US Airport Security

Shahid Malik protested on 28 October 2007 at having been detained and searched for explosives at a Washington airport on his way home from a meeting with the US Department of Homeland Security. This was the second occasion that this Member of Parliament had been searched, having received the same treatment at JFK airport during a visit to the USA in November 2006. Mr Malik commented as follows: "The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave, but I really do believe that British ministers and parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress."

US security officials first reacted by stating that they had reviewed a videotape of his detention, where they stated that he was detained for eight minutes. The officials also rubbished any assertion that he was chosen because of his religion yet only three people were held and all three were Muslims.

However, US Authorities later accepted in writing that the eight minutes they referred to was the time for secondary screening and not the time he was detained. The US Homeland Securities Department accepted that his actual detention was considerably longer than eight minutes.

Mr Malik seemed quite philosophical about his treatment and later wrote on his website: “"Following discussions with the USA Ambassador to the UK, Robert Tuttle, I have happily accepted his apology for the mix up that occurred during my departure from Washington Dulles airport over the weekend. In addition, following discussions with representatives from the Department of Homeland Securities in the USA, I want to reiterate my belief that no malice whatsoever was intended. I am looking forward to getting back out to the USA and continuing our work in tackling the common global challenges that our great nations face."

True to his word he spent his honeymoon in the USA in February 2008.


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