Honours winners in Brent speak of pride at being recognised by the Queen
PUBLISHED: 15:01 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:01 08 January 2019
A faith leader in Brent has been given his second honour by the Queen while a new councillor is made MBE recognising the decades he's already spent volunteering.
Among the honours recipients is also a primary school deputy head who was convinced the letter heralding her recognition was an invitation to jury service until she opened it.
It was a surprise for all three of them.
Mustafa Field, director of Faith Forum for London, has been made OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to faith communities and social cohesion.
He’d already been made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to young people in London in 2012.
“It was a real surprise to get the OBE,” he said. “It’s a real honour – it recognises the work we do with faith communities at this important time.
“I’m very proud to work in London. I live in Brent and worked with faith communities all across Brent – I’m really proud of the diversity.
“There’s a real mixture of views and opinions. One of the ways London manages diversity is through respecting the views of others even when they might not be shared by all of us.”
He added: “Our capital gains strength from this understanding and accepting this diversity, and that’s important with the current Brexit debate. Wherever we stand on Brexit, Britain feels far more divided.”
Talking of the Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jewish communities within Brent, he added: “The work we do with different faith communities involves [...] facilitating respect, making sure that people come together even when they don’t agree on everything, and finding that common ground is really important.
“Brent is a beacon of that common ground.
“Faith communities are at the forefront of delivering services to people as we have seen small voluntary organisations disappear.
“I’m really honoured to get this recognition and having two awards from her Majesty the Queen is significant and allows me to possibly talk about some of the issues that I really care about with more credibility because often civil society voices can be drowned.”
Labour councillor Tariq Dar has represented Mapesbury only since May, but he has volunteered in the borough for four decades – and it is for this that he has been made MBE.
Known to many as the chair of the Pakistan Community Centre and also a trustee of both the Central Mosque of Brent and Cricklewood Library, he said he is on the hunt to find out who recommended him, so he can thank them.
He added: “I’m pleased that the past 40 years have been recognised and that of other volunteers.”
The father-of-four came to live in Brent from Pakistan in 1965, aged 13.
A former grocer, he took his first coachload of people to Yorkshire to watch a charity cricket match in the 1970s to raise funds for Help the Aged.
He said: “I’ve never looked back since.”
Of his move into politics, and standing for the Labour Party in Mapesbury, he added: “I think to be a good councillor you have to be a good community worker and work within the voluntary sector.
“This is the best community in the world. People have so much respect for each other, it’s time to pay back.”
Jashu Vekaria, deputy headteacher of Uxendon Manor Primary in Vista Way, Wembley, thought the letter telling her she was being made MBE for services to primary education was a joke.
She said: “I read it again and again. Was I reading this correctly? Could this be a prank?
“It was an earth moving moment that genuinely took my breath away!”
A teacher for 16 years, Ms Vekaria moved to the school in in September 2010.
She spent her first two years as an advanced skills teacher and was promoted in 2012 to deputy headteacher.
Also voted best teacher in the Pearson Teaching Awards in 2016, she added: “To know someone has gone out of their way to take time out to write a nomination about me is totally unbelievable and very humbling.
“They’ve changed my life and hopefully for many other teachers who can now be inspired to continue to work hard, regardless of the accountabilities and pressures they face in the job.”