Can't connect right now! retry
Friday May 29 2020

Two British Muslims get major positions in UK cultural institutions

Ismail Amla, appointed as a board member of UK Sport

LONDON: Two prominent British born Muslims of South Asian origin have been appointed to senior leadership positions of major British cultural institutions.

Harris Bokhari, a board member of the Princes’ Trust Mosaic and founder of the charities Patchwork and the Naz Legacy Foundation, has been appointed by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a trustee of the Natural History Museum - making him one of only three Muslim trustees in major British museums and currently the only British born Muslim to have achieved the feat.

Speaking to The News and Geo, Bokhari said: "I am delighted to be joining the Natural History Museum as a trustee. The museum is a true national treasure home to one of the world’s most important natural history collections with a crucial mandate to educate some of our most prescient global issues. I am looking forward to doing all I can to bring the awe-inspiring experience of visiting the Natural History Museum to new audiences.

“I personally have so many fond memories of roaming the Museum as a child and getting lost in the new worlds it exposed to me. Sadly for many other children of BAME backgrounds, this has not been the case. Therefore one of my personal priorities will be to ensure that the Museum continues to reach out to diverse audiences so that we can all equally share in its joy and wonder. Being currently the only British born Muslim trustee of a major British Museum just shows how far we have to go to achieve adequate BAME representation in the leadership of British cultural institutions. 

These institutions play such an important role in helping our society connect with their heritage. Having governance teams who reflect the realities of contemporary diverse Britain will be an important step towards achieving that," he added. 

Bokhari becomes the first Muslim trustee of the National History Museum and currently their youngest. Bokhari’s father Naz Bokhari came to the UK from Sialkot Pakistan in 1960. He was the first Pakistani and Muslim head-teacher in the UK.

Ismail Amla has been appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture Oliver Dowden MP as a board member of UK Sport, the government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United Kingdom, making him the only Muslim and BAME person currently on the board. He is currently a Chief Growth Officer at Capita. He is from Bolton, a diverse town with a large South Asian population.

Speaking to this correspondent, Amla said: “Sport has been such an important part of my life and is something which I believe has huge value to local communities and so I’ve always taken huge pleasure in supporting grassroots sport in various ways over the years. I’m excited to now be joining UK Sport and have the opportunity to play a part in helping to make sure that the success of our brilliant Olympic and Paralympic athletes inspire communities up and down the country.”,

British born Muslims are currently under-represented when it comes to UK cultural institutions, both in leadership and participation. These appointments represent a shift towards greater inclusion and participation, and are expected to encourage more people from under-represented backgrounds to apply for such leadership positions.

"It's so important that we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply for public appointments, which was why I was delighted to see Harris and Ismail take up these roles," said Oliver Dowden, MP Culture Secretary, in a statement. "Our public bodies should represent society as a whole and the Government is determined to help make that happen.”