The first ever Arabian Business London Awards took place at a prestigious gala reception on Friday
Lebanese businessman Ayman Hariri, the son of the late Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, and the brother of Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s current leader, was one of the top award winners at the first-ever Arabian Business London Awards, which were held at a prestigious gala reception at 8, Northumberland Avenue in central London on June 21.
A graduate of Georgetown University, Hariri cut his teeth working in the family business, which was one of the largest construction companies in Saudi Arabia.
He has invested in start-ups which have since been snapped up by Google and he founded Vero, an ad-free social media platform that lets users share music, videos and photos and is quickly gathering global users have become jaded with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The awards event was held in two parts: The first section honoured those who have made major contributions to British society, while part two included a select group of achievers from our home region who have enjoyed success on a truly global scale and deserved to have their contributions acknowledged.
The awards took place at 8 Northumberland Avenue, in central London, and the exclusive banking partner was Barclays, the event planner was Grosvenor Capital and the social media partner was TINT.
One of the first Arabian Business Global Achievers to be awarded was Palestinian-American property magnate Mohamed Hadid, who flew in from Los Angeles especially for the event. Born in Palestine, he is an entrepreneur who made his name in the United States and is a true example of the American dream.
“The opportunities were there for me in Washington. I realised I could compete there. All I had to do was do something a little bit different, have a little bit more edge, a different style. I could compete because I was different and it worked for me,” he told us recently in an exclusive cover interview.
Another one of the our international achievers was Dr. Habib Al Mulla, Executive Chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla. Al Mulla started his law firm in the UAE in 1984. Since then it has grown to become one of the most respected full service law firms in the country, with a team of over 40 lawyers from diverse international and Middle Eastern backgrounds.
A graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Harvard Law School, he is credited with creating the concept of financial free zones in the UAE and was the architect of the legal framework that established the Dubai International Financial Centre, a move which has certainly paid dividends as the financial freezone is now home to 2,137 global companies, is staffed by 23,604 finance and legal professionals and manages assets of just short of nearly $100 billion.
Our other prestigious Global Achievers included Talal Moafaq Al Gaddah, CEO of MAG Lifestyle Development, Mansour Bin Jabr, Chief Operating Officer at Bin Jabr Group, Promoth Manghat, Group Chief Executive Officer of Finablr, Prasanth Manghat, CEO of NMC Health and Simon Haslam, Group Chief Executive Officer at Network International.
The first half of the night honoured awardees from the United Kingdom and included an eclectic mix of personalities from across the full spectrum of British society.
Our big winner of night was someone who is used to getting awards as only a few weeks ago he received a medal from Prince Charles as part of the New Year’s Honours.
Awarded by the royal establishment for improving inter-police Muslim relations, things have certainly come a long way since Inspector Mustafa Mohammed joined the police force in 1986.
Back then, he was one of a small number of Muslim officers. He has worked hard to help examine the issue of Islamophobic hate crimes and built the police force’s relationship with the Muslim community, actively encouraging members to join the force.
The number of Muslim police officers has grown to such an extent he went on to form the West Midlands Police Muslim Association and is also currently president of the National Association of Muslim Police.
He has been described by colleagues as a passionate and determined role model and is a worthy winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Last week marked the two year anniversary of the Grenfell tower blaze which caused the death of 72 people in central London.
737 days after the blaze, the winner of the Humanitarian Award, Zain Miah, the founder of the Grenfell Muslim Response Unit, continues to be as busy as ever, responding to the ongoing needs of victims and families and working in collaboration with the local council, authorities and other specialist organisations to ensure needs are met and relief is provided to all victims of the fire.
The FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 is currently taking place over in France. We will have to wait until July 7 to find out who will claim the trophy, but one thing that is certain is that Dr Rimla Akhtar, winner of Award for Sports, will be watching closely.
She was the first person who publicly identified themselves as an Asian, Muslim woman on the Football Association Council, she has spoken out many times for sport to adapt to accommodate Muslim athletes, she is the chair of the Muslim Women's Sport Foundation, she has been a trustee of the Kick It Out, an organisation campaigning against racism in football and is was awarded an MBE in 2015.
Another big star helping to break down barriers for Muslims in Britain is Mariah Idrissi, our winner of Young Achiever of the Year.
A British model, public speaker, and online personality, this woman gained national recognition as the first Muslim hijab-wearing model when she appeared in a campaign for multinational retailer H&M in 2015.
She soon became the new face of "modest fashion" and was signed to the Select modelling agency, joining the likes of Agyness Deyn, Irina Shayk and David Gandy.
Born in north-west London to Pakistani and Moroccan parents, one of her biggest public events was a TEDxTeen talk at London’s O2 Arena in front of an audience of thousands, so it is clear this woman is someone who is on course to really make a difference and be one of Britain’s stars of the future.
The editorial team also decided to award Chris Doyle, head of the Centre for Arab and British Understanding, the Editor’s Special Achievement Award for his work tirelessly promoting positive relations between British and Arab communities for over a quarter of a century.
Having studied Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, he is a frequent commentator on radio and TV and in in 2013 he was called upon to appear as an expert witness in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in Parliament discussing UK relations with the Gulf.
He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East and has organised and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took a Parliamentary delegation to the West Bank in September 2018.
The winner of the Award for Business was Gatehouse Bank and we were honoured to have its chairman Fahed Boodai present in London to collect the trophy.
The bank has been operating in the UK in London, Milton Keynes and Wilmslow since 2008 and is the fastest growing Sharia-compliant bank the country. It garnered press earlier this year when it launched its first Home Purchase Plans — the Sharia-compliant equivalent of a traditional mortgage — positioning itself alongside more traditional high street British banks.
“We’re seeing strong appetite,” the company says. “The early signs are showing a demand for Sharia-compliant products from people who value good service.”
Speaking of good service and customer demand, the winner of the Businessman of the Year was Noman Khawaja, founder of the halal retail chain Haloodies.
Previously a dentist, six years ago Khawaja decided that modern Muslims had outgrown Britain’s scant choice of halal food offerings. “Muslims want what non-Muslims have,” he told Arabian Business in an interview a few months ago.
Offering a range of halal foods, such as burgers and pre-packaged meats, this brand is now available in most of the UK’s mainstream supermarkets and it has proved popular with the ‘new generation’ of Muslims who are affluent and engaged with social media. But, the real sign of its success is that its market is expanding very quickly and it is now popular with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Staying with food, the winner of our Community Award was founded in 2004 with the aim of selling olive oil in the UK from Palestine, with the goal of supporting the plight of Palestinian farmers.
Initially funded by hundreds of customers who put up payment in advance of receiving their oil, the organisation quickly established itself as a UK social enterprise. It has since gone on to expand its portfolio of products and it has now pioneered the world’s first Fairtrade certified olive oil.
Its products are now available across the UK and, to top all that, Vogue magazine just days ago said their za’atar is the best in the business.
Our winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year was Kazi Rahman, the CEO of Firnas Airways. Often dubbed the “halal Richard Branson”, he previously went from cleaning plane toilets to following his ambition to follow in the footsteps of his Virgin boss hero.
Launching the first ever Sharia-compliant airline in Britain, this business leader wants to offer something different to the flying public.
Already a star of the UK documentary ‘How To Start An Airline’, this Bangladeshi-born entrepreneur is hoping his big, ambitious project will soar in the next few years.
Our winner of SME of the Year is another truly inspirational story. Arriving in the UK in 2012 as a refugee fleeing the Syrian civil war, Razan Alsous, settled into her new life in Yorkshire. Although she had a pharmacy degree and a scientific background, she found it difficult to get a job.
At the same time she also found it hard to get hold of the cheese she loved so much back in Syria. She decided to solve both problems in one go and set up her own business making Syrian-style cheese in Yorkshire.
Using a loan of just £2,500 from the local Enterprise Agency, Yorkshire Dama Cheese has thrived and after just four months of production won the Bronze Prize for the World Cheese Award in 2014.
Three years later, the company’s new factory was opened by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal and she also went on to win The World Cheese Award gold prize.
Our winner of Businesswoman of the Year is someone who juggles multiple roles. Firstly, Shelina Janmohammed is a British writer who has written books called Love in a Headscarf - a memoir of growing up as a British Muslim woman – and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World, which was described by The Guardian as "the first detailed portrait" of this fast-growing section of British culture.
Additionally, she is also vice president of Islamic branding agency Ogilvy Noor, where she aims to demystify what exactly it means to be a Muslim or Arab in modern Britain.
“They believe that faith and modern life go hand-in-hand – they are globally connected, tech-savvy, and they can be great allies in sharing brands,” she told us in an interview recently. “People are coming to us and asking how to embrace it properly. They are nervous; they want to get it right.”