On the 11-12th February, Forward Thinking held a political leadership programme in London for 18-30-year-old British Muslims from the North West and Yorkshire with an interest in politics. The programme sought to help participants better engage with politics by equipping them with the practical skills to do so. Thirteen participants were involved and the event focused on increasing political literacy, leadership and communication skills.

This leadership programme developed out of a series of roundtables that Forward Thinking held in 2018. During those discussions those from an Islamic faith background stressed that their routes into politics appear to be extremely narrow, with barriers high and access to support and positive roles models low. Muslim women in particular were noted to be specifically marginalised. In response, Forward Thinking sought to address these needs by facilitating the ‘Pathways into Politics’ leadership programme.

Speakers from a range of different backgrounds spoke to participants across the two days. These included: Amro Hussain, director of the APPG on Freedom of Religion or Belief; John Grogan, Dominic Grieve QC and Tom Brake, former MPs; Peter Oborne, journalist; Hauwa Shehu, head of the CPS Muslim Network; Cllr Rakhia Ismail, Mayor of Islington; Cllr Amna Abdullatif, Councillor for Ardwick; Hashim Bhatti, businessman and former Councillor; Dilowar Khan, Dr Abdullah Faliq and Sufia Alam, East London Mosque; Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former diplomat; and Rosalind Comyn, Policy and Campaigns Officer for Liberty.

Participants noted how inspiring it was to meet Muslims working in public and political posts and to learn more about their experiences. Participants also welcomed the opportunity to engage with individuals that they would not typically meet and valued the space for informal conversations and networking that the programme provided.

After the final meeting of the programme one participant commented that ‘the programme did show many different ‘pathways’ there were to becoming involved in politics’ and that there is not just one route to becoming politically active.

Following the programme, Forward Thinking will be exploring follow-up engagement with participants and will be working to coordinate mentorship opportunities with MPs, councillors and other relevant individuals.