Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed
|The Right Honourable
The Lord Ahmed
13 October 1998
24 April 1957 |
|Alma mater||Sheffield Polytechnic|
|Occupation||Property development and management |
Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed (born 24 April 1957) is a member of the British House of Lords. He was appointed on the recommendation of Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998. Many of his political activities relate to the Muslim community both in the UK and abroad. He resigned from the Labour Party in May 2013.
Ahmed was born in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 24 April 1957 to Haji Sain Mohammed and Rashim Bibi. His parents moved the family to the UK when he was 11 and he has lived in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, since his childhood. He attended Spurley Hey Comprehensive School, then Thomas Rotherham Sixth Form College. He studied for a degree in Public Administration at Sheffield Polytechnic and joined the Labour Party when he was 18 years old.
In 1990 Ahmed began his political career as a local Labour Party councillor, becoming the chair of the South Yorkshire Labour Party in 1993 and holding both positions until 2000. He founded the British Muslim Councillors' Forum and was a Justice of the Peace between 1992 and 2000. He was both the first Asian councillor of Rotherham and the town's youngest magistrate.
Ahmed was appointed to the House of Lords having been created a life peer as Baron Ahmed, of Rotherham in the County of South Yorkshire on 3 August 1998. Although there have been many claims that he was the first Muslim life peer, including by Ahmed himself, or the first male Muslim peer, he was in fact the third Muslim life peer; the other two, Baroness Uddin and Lord Alli, were raised to the Peerage on 18 July whereas Lord Ahmed was so raised on 3 August. There have been earlier Muslim hereditary peers, the first being the 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley.
He led the first delegation on behalf of the British Government on the Muslim pilgrimage of the Hajj. At home, he speaks on wider equality issues, and has spoken several times on issues of race, religion and gender; he has advocated legislation against religious discrimination and forced marriages.
He tried to calm tensions following the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. However, on 23 February 2005, he hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the controversial Swedish writer Israel Shamir, during which the latter claimed, among other things: "The Jews like an Empire.... This love of Empire explains the easiness Jews change their allegiance.... Simple minds call it ‘treacherous behaviour’, but it is actually love of Empire per se." Shamir also claimed, "Jews... own, control and edit a big share of mass media", a statement that was to be echoed by Lord Ahmed in 2012. Although this invitation raised some controversy, Ahmed firmly refused to discuss the matter.
On 19 June 2007 Ahmed criticised the honouring of Salman Rushdie with a knighthood because of what he saw as Rushdie's offensiveness to Islam. He was reported to have said, "It's hypocrisy by Tony Blair, who two weeks ago was talking about building bridges to mainstream Muslims, and then he's honouring a man who has insulted the British public and been divisive in community relations." "This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far." He also said on BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he had been appalled by the award to a man he accused of having 'blood on his hands'.
In September 2007, Ahmed flew to Islamabad with Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in a bid to end Sharif's exile from the country by military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who had ousted him in a coup d'état. He negotiated with police to allow Sharif to enter the airport terminal and pass through customs, but Sharif was arrested later, and deported.
In November 2007 Ahmed was involved in a diplomatic effort to secure the release of Gillian Gibbons from custody in Sudan. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, allowed her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Ahmed, from Britain's ruling Labour Party, and Baroness Warsi, an opposition Conservative, visited Khartoum and had a meeting with the President of Sudan. Miss Gibbons, who had been given a fifteen-day prison sentence, was released after eight days following a Presidential pardon and allowed to return to the UK.
On 13 May 2013, two days before he was scheduled to appear before the Labour National Executive Committee in relation to antisemitic remarks he allegedly made in an interview on television in Pakistan, Ahmed resigned from the Labour party stating that he could not expect a fair hearing. 
Ahmed has operated as a property developer concurrent with his political career. He helps with various charitable causes and has been on the board of several organisations, including a period as president of South Yorkshire Victim Support and as a trustee of the British Heart Foundation. He resigned from his position as a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation in March 2013 as a result of the allegations of antisemitism.
In December 2001, Ahmed claimed that his phone had been tapped by the government because of his opposition to its intervention in Afghanistan. He claimed he had a heated conversation with Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane, during which MacShane claimed to have transcripts of Ahmed's private conversations. The government denied that Ahmed was under surveillance, and MacShane said that his remarks had been misinterpreted.
In 2002, Ahmed was accused by campaign group Baby Milk Action of changing his position on Nestlé's sale of baby milk in Pakistan at a time when he was negotiating a paid advisory role with the company. He subsequently did become a consultant.
On 25 July 2005, Ahmed, while interviewing with Robert Siegel on National Public Radio, said that the suicide bombers of 7/7 had an "identity crisis" and that "unfortunately, our imams and mosques have not been able to communicate the true message of Islam in the language that these young people can understand." Christopher Orlet of The American Spectator did not agree with Ahmed's "identity crisis". He said, "That's not an identity crisis, Lord Ahmed, that's religious psychopathy. That's a bloodthirstiness that makes Dracula look like a teetotaler." Ahmed did acknowledge, "the community leaders and religious leaders, who have kept very close contacts with South Asia and the Middle East rather than keeping a good contact with the British society where we live."
On 30 November 2006, the New Statesman reported a claim by fellow Muslim and Labour parliamentarian Shahid Malik that Ahmed had campaigned against him during the Dewsbury election in 2005. He alleged that Ahmed instead backed Sayeeda Warsi, vice-chair of the Conservative Party, the daughter of a personal friend. According to the New Statesman's report, Warsi "welcomed Lord Ahmed's support". The New Statesman also printed Ahmed's refutation, saying "I never told any constituent of Dewsbury to vote for the Tories"
On 3 February 2009, Melanie Phillips, a newspaper columnist, claimed that Ahmed had threatened to mobilise 10,000 Muslims to prevent anti-Islamist Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the House of Lords to speak at a screening of the film Fitna. Wilders had been invited by a peer to debate issues of social inclusion. This claim was later denied by Ahmed, but the House of Lords authorities had determined to provide adequate security, if necessary. In the event, the film Fitna was broadcast as planned, but Wilders was denied entry to the UK, thus leading many commentators to deplore the action by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith as appeasement.
Fatal road crash and subsequent jail sentence
On 25 December 2007, Ahmed was involved in a crash on the M1 motorway near Rotherham in which Martin Gombar, 28, was killed. Gombar's car had been involved in a crash and he had left it in the outer lane. Apparently trying to return to his vehicle from the hard shoulder he was hit by Ahmed, who was driving his Jaguar X-Type. Ahmed's wife and mother, who were passengers in the car, also received minor injuries.
On 1 December 2008, Ahmed appeared at Sheffield Magistrates' Court in connection with a charge of dangerous driving. Ahmed admitted sending and receiving five text messages on his phone while driving two minutes before the crash, and pleaded guilty to the charge before him. He was banned from driving until his sentencing. On 22 December, Sheffield Magistrates' Court referred the case for sentencing at the Crown Court on 19 January due to its "aggravating features". This was later put back until 25 February. Ahmed was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison by the presiding judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, which meant he would serve six actual weeks in jail, and he was disqualified from driving for 12 months.
On 12 March 2009 Ahmed was freed by the Court of Appeal. Lady Justice Hallett said it was important to state that Ahmed's offence was one of dangerous driving, not of causing death by dangerous driving. Hallett said that there was "little or nothing" Ahmed could have done to avoid the collision and that after being knocked unconscious, he had come to and "risked his life trying to flag down other vehicles to stop them colliding with the Audi or his car". She said that while his prison sentence had been justified, the court had been persuaded it could now take an "exceptional" course and suspend the sentence for 12 months. He was freed just 16 days into his sentence.
A Pakistani newspaper, The Express Tribune, alleged that Ahmed said "If the US can announce a reward of $10 million for the captor of Hafiz Saeed, I can announce a bounty of ₤10 million on President Obama and his predecessor George Bush", at a business meeting in Haripur, Pakistan, on 15 April 2012. On learning of these allegations, the Labour Party immediately suspended Ahmed pending a formal investigation. He later responded by stating "I'm shocked and horrified that this whole story could be just made up of lies...." Ahmed went on to say that he was not issuing a bounty but rather calls for the prosecution of George W. Bush and Tony Blair due to the "war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan" in what he considers to be "illegal wars".
Video footage of the meeting, released on 18 April, showed that Ahmed had been misquoted and instead had said, "Even if I have to beg I am willing to raise and offer £10 million so that George W Bush and Tony Blair can be brought to the International Court of Justice on war crimes charges." The same day, The Express Tribune offered a "clarification" that it had "erroneously reported" Ahmed's statement and that their reporter had incorrectly cited the name of Obama. The article stated that the newspaper "deeply regretted" its mistake. His suspension was later revoked on 25 June 2012.
In November 2012 Ahmed claimed that the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai might have been carried out by unnamed official elements in Pakistan as part of an effort to discredit the Taliban. He subsequently accepted that he gave the speech whilst having "no idea what happened" and that this was not the case.
Jewish conspiracy comments
On 14 March 2013, The Times newspaper in London revealed that Ahmed had blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his driving conviction. In an interview given in Urdu, broadcast on a Pakistani television channel in April 2012, the peer claimed that he was jailed because of pressure on the courts by Jewish owned media: "My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this." He also alluded to further Jewish involvement regarding the judge, claiming that Mr Justice Wilkie was specifically selected to judge his case having previously been appointed to the high court after helping a "Jewish colleague" of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair during an important case. The Times pointed out that neither of these claims about the judge were factually correct.
Reactions were negative. Katie Wheatley, a criminal law expert, said that if Ahmed had made such claims in Britain he could have faced prosecution for a hate crime. The Labour party immediately suspended him, saying it "deplores and does not tolerate any sort of racism or anti-Semitism." Jewish organisations condemned the comments, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, saying, "We are appalled by Lord Ahmed's alleged comments which recall the worst Jewish conspiracy theories." In contrast, the chairman of the UK-based Kashmir Watch International was reported by The Nation, an English-language Pakistani paper, as saying, "Lord Ahmed has, in fact, been made the target of a deep-rooted vendetta by the rivals – mostly the Jews lobby for his "crime" of exposing the increased anti-Muslim approach and policies of the Jews including their backed British media."
Ahmed's initial response was that he had no recollection of making the comments and that he would have to examine the transcripts with his solicitors. On 18 March he resigned from the Joseph Interfaith Foundation as a result of the allegations. At about the same time, he ceased to be a member of the International Expert Team of the Institute Research of Genocide, Canada.
Among the pieces written in the immediate aftermath of the revelation was one by Mehdi Hasan in The Huffington Post which claimed that antisemitism within some otherwise well-integrated sections of the British Muslim community was commonplace. In the 28 March interview with Ahmed resulting from this article, Ahmed apologised, describing his comments as "completely unacceptable" and the product of a "twisted mind". He could not explain why he had made the comments.
His appearance before Labour's National Executive Committee to determine whether his suspension should be lifted or whether he should be expelled was due to take place on 15 May. On 9 May it was reported that he was considering preempting the hearing by leaving the Labour party and on 13 May he resigned from the Labour party. In his letter of resignation he again stated that he has no recollection of the interview, that The Times had failed to provide the footage in order for it to be forensically examined and, consequently, that he was unable to get a fair hearing. He alleged that the video was deliberately doctored, perhaps by "elements in Pakistan who bears [sic] grudge against me".
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- "Race Relations (Religious Discrimination) Bill [H.L.]". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 7 June 2000.
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- "Antisemitism: the hatred that refuses to go away". The Guardian. 3 March 2011.
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- "Sudan teddy teacher lands in UK after 'ordeal'". The Guardian. 4 December 2007.
- ""I will not defect," says Labour peer". BBC News. 20 June 2008.
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- "Silencing free speech". The Guardian. 13 February 2009.
- "Britain deports Dutch 'provacateur'". International Herald Tribune. 12 February 2009.
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- "Lord Ahmed admits sending text message while driving just before fatal crash". The Telegraph. 1 December 2008.
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- "British Peer Lord Ahmed suspended after 'offering £10m bounty on Barack Obama and George Bush'". The Telegraph. 16 April 2012.
- "Suspended Labour peer Lord Ahmed 'horrified' by bounty claim". BBC News. 16 April 2012.
- "Footage sheds light on bounty allegation". The Telegraph. 18 April 2012.
- "Clarification: Lord Nazir Ahmed's statement in Haripur". Express Tribune. 18 April 2012.
- "Labour lifts Lord Ahmed's suspension". BBC News. 30 June 2012.
- "Schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai could be victim of government plot, Labour peer claimed". The Telegraph. 1 November 2012.
- "Muslim peer Lord Ahmed blames Jewish conspiracy for jailing him". The Times. 14 March 2013.
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- "KWI flays suspension of Lord Nazir membership". The Nation (Pakistan). 26 March 2013.
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- Debrett's People of Today 2012. Debrett's. 2011. p. 12.
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Announcement of his introduction at the House of Lords
- Facebook page