Kaneez Shaid, Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and Chair of Trustees of Citizens UK, came to Newcastle to share her story and inspire others to tackle social injustice.
“Continue to stand up against all forms of injustice,” says Kaneez Shaid. “If you do not act, then who will? If not now, then when?”
Shaid gave a joint lecture with Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria and former Solicitor General for England and Wales, in which they explored identities of citizenship and equality that are forged in the public spaces of civil society.
The event, which took place last Thursday in Curtis Auditorium, was part of Insights Public Lectures and co-sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society.
Shaid told The Courier that she hopes her story will show why the model of community organising is “a powerful method of coming together for social justice”.
“Citizens UK model of community organising offers a powerful platform for those who feel powerless. CUK provides citizens the training and the tools to bring about the change they want to see.”
Shaid pointed to a growing tide of anti-Muslim sentiments on the streets, following 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks, and urged to address issues around extremism.
She called Muslims to face up to social injustice and challenge the assumptions that damage “the common good” by “building strong relationships within families and society”.
Shaid herself has been falling a victim to Islamophobic behaviour in a workaday life. She has been called a terrorist at a petrol station; she has been asked by a colleague why her “religion was advocating the killing of other humans”.
“Underground I experienced passengers physically getting up and moving away from me.”
She added: “There is zero difference between Muslim values and British values. Be proud of who you are.”
The lecture, which was held the following day after International Women’s Day (IWD), also addressed the underrepresentation of women in public service.
Dr Helen Jarvis, Reader in Urban Social Geography, said: “Since the Tyneside Geographical Society began in 1887, the most frequently cited highlights are lectures by Captain Scott in 1904 and Winston Churchill in 1932.
“Lost in the hundreds of men’s names listed in this Attendance Book are a handful of inspirational women and, regrettably, far too few representing contemporary experience.”
Asked what International Women’s Day meant for her, Shaid said:
“My public and private life full of examples of very powerful women role-models who work hard everyday on what they passionately believe in.
“On a day like IWD, I take a moment to reflect on all those wonderful women who inspire me - including women leaders in the community, amazing women leaders within Citizens UK and on our board of Citizens UK’s trustees; my female work colleague and, of course, within my own family - particularly, my devoted mother and two incredibly affectionate sisters.”
She thanked the many women in this country who had stood up against gender inequality, “because of their bravery, women in Britain are stronger, empowered and protected by our legal system.”
“I was once asked at a job interview with a construction company how I would cope with managing men and would I not find them intimidating. I remember feeling quite determined in my response in reassuring them that no man had ever intimidated me.
“All women are successful. Women are also given a special role assigned to them as sisters, wives and mothers. Indeed, in Islam, we believe that ‘paradise lived under the feet of your mother.”