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Statement from the Council as Islamophobia Awareness Month begins

Published: 1 November 2022

To mark the beginning of Islamophobia Awareness Month, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Hamza Taouzzale, Deputy Leader, Cllr Aicha Less and Local Imam, Kabir Uddin MBE have emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion within the local authority. This commitment is at the heart of the council’s values, and how Westminster celebrates diversity as our strength whilst understanding importance of representing all our residents. 

The Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Hamza Taouzzale, said:

My name is Hamza and I live in Lisson Green!

I am Muslim and my heritage is Moroccan. My grandparents came over in the 1970s and started working in the hospitality industry. I’ve lived in Westminster my whole life and absolutely love it here.

In 2018, aged 18, I became a councillor representing the people of Queen’s Park. I was, and still am, the youngest councillor ever to be elected to the city council.

Fast forward four years, I’ve served in the shadow cabinet as the member for communities and sat on several different committees all while attending University for my undergraduate and master’s degrees.

Then in May 2022, just after the election, I was elected by the council to become the Lord Mayor of Westminster.

I am the youngest Lord Mayor ever, the first Lord Mayor from a minority ethnicity, and the first Muslim to be Lord Mayor.

As Lord Mayor, I am Deputy High Steward of Westminster Abbey which also means that I’m the first Muslim member of College at the Abbey!

This position has opened up a lot of new areas and given me access to events that I never even knew existed.

It gives me a chance to show people – such as big business leaders and diplomats - how brilliant and diverse our great city really is.

For me, being Lord Mayor is part of the journey I began as a Youth MP in Westminster at the age of 16. Then, as now, I want to champion change and ensure that our residents are at the forefront of what’s done in this great city.

But that’s not all. Being the first Muslim Lord Mayor also means that I’m able to experience Ramadan while in office and that’s something I’m really looking forward too. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help educate and explain to people a bit more about my faith.

I have several months left as Lord Mayor and I hope to attend many more events all over the City!

Councillor Aicha Less, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Leader for Communities and Public Protection said:

I have lived around the church street area since I was 8 years old. I attended local schools and worked in Westminster my entire working life. I am a single mum to two adult daughters and a full-time councillor for Church Street, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Public Protection and Communities. 

Growing up and navigating the system wasn't simple, as I was a Muslim woman from another background. At times I thought I didn't fit in and found it even more challenging with people that had similar backgrounds. Even to this day, there is a stigma around Muslim women that have certain positions and it's usually by men of similar backgrounds. However, slowly but surely, I am starting to break down those difficult barriers and addressing our differences in an impactful way and I'm starting to see an increase of more men approaching me for their issues. 

My role is being a voice for the many and empowering everyone and not just for women. I am their representative and want to make a positive change for the future. 

Imam Kabir Uddin MBE said: 

I’m a born and bred Londoner who grew up in Westminster. I studied in Gateway Primary & North Westminster Secondary School, before graduating with an MA in Islamic Theology in Yorkshire, UK. I am a proud father of 3 children.

Having been the Muslim Chaplain for HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the best part of the last two decades serving in a diverse Chaplaincy team, I have held the responsibility to ensure delivery of faith and pastoral needs of those in custody.

I’m also the operational manager and serving as a senior Imam at Hafs Academy located in the ward of Church Street, Westminster. Hafs Academy is a faith & spiritual centre, which acts as a hub for the community, its social activities, and educational programmes.

In association with Westminster Council, our organisation provided pastoral support to Afghan Refugees during the recent evacuation. I also supervise the provision of extensive youth support which includes mentoring and educational programmes and provided bereavement & serious illness support to the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic.