Attending the launch of ‘Muslims in the North’ at Leeds City Museum 

Staff from Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) attended the launch of ‘Muslims in the North’ at Leeds City Museum on Wednesday, 6 March. The display celebrates the trailblazing contributions of Muslims in various fields including commerce, healthcare, law and research. 

Below are our personal responses to the event and information about the exhibition itself. We very much hope you will visit it. 

Tahera Mayat, GHWY’s Collaborative Outreach Officer 

I experienced imposter syndrome during my PhD, but it’s not something which is unique to Higher Education (HE) as was evident from our speakers. The launch event had themes: imposter syndrome; importance of support of family and faith; intersection of religion and race with gender and/or socio-economic background; and being first e.g. a first-generation HE student.  

Maria Hussain (Lecturer at Leeds University Business School (LUBS)), whose research underpinned the display, welcomed everyone to the event. This was followed by a Quran recitation, which I found moving to hear in a non-religious environment.  

The event was opened by Al Garthwaite (Lord Mayor of Leeds) who talked about the richness and diversity of our communities. We also heard from Nazir Afzal, OBE (former Chief Crown Prosecutor of North West England); Dr Mumtaz Patel (Consultant in kidney care); and Professor Ghazala Mir (Chair in Health Equity and Inclusion).  

The event closed with the opening of the ‘Muslims in the North’ exhibition. This displayed the moving stories of three of the speakers – Nazir Afzal, OBE; Dr Mumtaz Patel; Professor Ghazala Mir – as well as Mohsin and Zubair Issa, CBE (joint owners of Asda).  

I enjoyed attending the event. It was great to see Muslims being represented in a positive light. 

Helen Sykes, Head of GHWY 

As a non-Muslim, I very much appreciated the opportunity to be part of this event and to share in the pleasure of celebrating successes.  

For me, what was important about this being the ‘Muslims of the North’ event is part of recognising someone for who they are and the richness of the history and life experience they bring with them. It is also part of the counter-narrative against what can be very negative othering of people who are not from the dominant majority.  

Our speakers represented success from a range of sectors but with the common themes of faith, passion and dignity. 

It was powerful to be in the room to experience the live Quran recitation, which I have only previously heard as a recording or coming through speakers. As an atheist, it gave me a fresh perspective to consider when hearing about the importance – alongside family – of their faith to the lives of our speakers: how it has been a support through difficult times as well as a joy during periods of success. All spoke of the personal peace and comfort it brings them. 

I found it distressing to hear about the experiences of racism, which were particularly highlighted by Nazir Afzal. Nazir spoke candidly about what he had gone through as a child, and also talked about the damaging rise of both Islamophobia and antisemitism, especially recently. He expressed compassion and sympathy for all those affected. 

Further information 

The successful launch event, which was sponsored by LUBS and co-organised by Maria Hussain and Shames Maskeen (Leeds Trinity University), was attended by around 175 people.  It was good to see strong staff and student representation from these as well as other local HE providers, and to have the opportunity to meet various people we have only previously met virtually.  

You can visit the exhibition at the Leeds City Museum, as part of the Voices of Asia Gallery. Find out more.



Photo (c) Maria Hussain