Birmingham Community Leader Honoured

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Abdullah Rehman, founder of Balsall Heath Forum, made MBE in New Year Honours


A Balsall Heath community leader has been made MBE in the New Year Honours.


Abdullah Rehman, a founder of the Balsall Heath Forum, received the honours as recognition for his dedication, spanning over two decades, to transforming the inner-city area into the thriving and diverse community it is today.


The citation with his MBE reads: “He inspires a whole community to follow his lead and act to improve their neighbourhood.”


The former grocery store worker, who founded the Balsall Heath Forum in 1992, also established a neighbourhood watch scheme which helped to drive out prostitution from the area.


Abdullah became chief executive of the Balsall Heath Forum two years ago and, in recent times, has driven through the Neighbourhood Plan with his colleagues.


The first of its kind in the city, the scheme is designed to guide both development and investment in Balsall Heath.


An inspirational figure in the community, he has also raised funds for community schemes as well as assisting the police and political leaders across the spectrum to help the area flourish.


David Cameron notably spent a night with the Rehman family in 2007 to learn about how the inner-city area had been transformed and also to gain insight into the life of a British Asian family from the family of four, consisting of Abdullah and his wife Shahida and their two daughters Zainab and Amina.


The experience had such a lasting impact on the Prime Minister, it not only sowed the seeds of a lasting friendship between the pair, but also was the inspiration for David Cameron’s Big Society Policy.


Since the famous night, Abdullah has been consulted regularly by the Prime Minister over issues relating to community building and radicalisation, the latter of which has seen Abdullah be critical of David Cameron.


Earlier this year, the community leader spoke out against the Government’s rhetoric on extremism, warning that the language used left British Muslims feeling alienated and could be to the detriment of relations between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.


In response, David Cameron presented a keynote speech on extremism at Ninestiles Academy in Acocks Green in which he stressed the distinction between the terrorist group ISIS and ordinary Muslims.


Following his speech, the Prime Minister paid homage to the community leader.


David Cameron said: “I was chatting to Abdullah beforehand.


“He was very inspiring to me because he was taking part in the Balsall Heath Forum which is a great expression of the Big Society – people who got together and weren’t happy with the way things are.


“It’s been a great success.”


 


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