On 10-11 February 2021, Forward Thinking held the second Pathways into Politics conference.

Pathways into Politics is a programme that aims to develop the political literacy, leadership and communication skills of young British Muslims through regular engagement with political figures from a range of backgrounds.

The programme was a key component of our work in the UK during 2020. Throughout the year we worked closely with a group of young British Muslims to develop their ambition to engage with politics and ability to do so. Following the success of the programme, we recruited a second cohort of participants to join.

Speakers included: Amro Hussain, Director of the APPG on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton; John Grogan, former MP for Keighley; Dominic Grieve QC, former MP for Beaconsfield and former Attorney General; Mai Khidir, founder and CEO of Sudanese NGO Al-Sudaniya Mentoring; Hauwa Shehu, CPS District Crown Prosecutor; Thoraya Obaid, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Hannan Sarwar, Conservative Councillor for Wilmslow; Amna Abdullatif, Labour Councillor for Ardwick; and Fozia Shaheen, Labour councillor for Toller.

Each session was interactive and participants explored issues relating to local, national and international politics. The group discussed traditional party politics and the benefits and drawbacks of the UK party system. Participants explored whether political partisanship hinders or encourages political progress and examined the role of cross-party cooperation in the UK. The group also discussed the changing role of the United Nations within the current political context. Increased isolationism was said to have limited the ability of multilateral organisations such as the UN to create positive change. The United Nations is a sum of its parts and changes to the structure of the UN, particularly the Security Council, were noted as necessary if progress is to be made in the future. Speakers also gave advice on networking, public speaking and leadership.

Participants reported that engagement with a diverse range of speakers was inspiring and exemplified that there is no single way to be involved in political and public life. The group also valued hearing from Muslims involved in politics and learning more about their experiences.  We are now planning a series of follow-up events in line with participant feedback and suggestions. Follow-up events will focus on developing participants’ knowledge as well as their practical skills.