A Triumph for the Young Muslim Writers Awards 2016 with a ‘Special Recognition Award’ for Young Refugee
Three hundred people enjoyed an exciting afternoon when the talents of young writers were celebrated at the Young Muslim Writers Awards 2016, a Muslim Hands project presented in association with the Yusuf Islam Foundation, on Saturday 3rd December in London. A total of nine trophies were awarded with a Special Recognition Award for young Syrian refugee Muzoon Almellehan.
Muzoon proudly received the Special Recognition Award for ‘Championing Children’s Rights to Education’ at the ceremony. The 17-year-old Syrian refugee who fled with her family from the war-torn city of Daraa in 2013 spent much of her time in the Jordanian Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps going from home to home encouraging young people and their parents to continue their education. Muzoon was then resettled alongside her family in Newcastle, England, where she is completing her studies and works with the Malala Fund. She explained to the audience her passion for education: “Education is my strength and my shield. It is everything… We need education to rebuild our country and to build a great future.”
The event was hosted by award-winning television and BBC radio presenter Nadia Ali and awards were presented by multi-award winning author SF Said who is best-known for his book Varjak Paw, children’s author and screenwriter David Solomons, Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Society of Literature, Kate Wakeling, a poet and ethnomusicologist, highly-acclaimed writer and film producer Sheila Nortley, a Young Muslim Writers Awards 2015 winner and TEDxTeen speaker Safeerah Mughal, Mohamed Ali, the CEO and founder of Islam Channel, Asmaa Islam Georgiou, CEO at the Yusuf Islam Foundation, and Shahid Bashir, Deputy CEO at Muslim Hands.
Asmaa Islam Georgiou congratulated the winners and those who took part, saying “Well done to all the young writers themselves for putting pen to paper and fingertips to keypad, and to their parents for supporting them.”
Very moving speeches were given by the presenters of each award, with SF Said describing how as a child he found sanctuary in books and urging the young writers to “write the stories you want to read”, and David Solomons gave an important and personal speech about how “not winning is crucial to the writer’s journey.”
Upon receiving the prestigious award, Writer of the Year Lamees Mohamed commented that “Being a Muslim woman is hard, and it feels amazing to have my voice heard.” This follows on from the very moving speech given by Deputy CEO of Muslim Hands, Shahid Bashir, who stated “People are talking about us for us, and the Young Muslim Writers Awards is our humble attempt to address that in a small way.”
Performances on the day included a powerful spoken word poetry performance by the Young Muslim Writers Awards 2016 judge, teacher and recently appointed Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi. There was also a wonderful performance of ‘The Little Pot of Earth’ by the acclaimed storyteller Vanessa Woolf, with the children in the audience gripping the edges of their seats in anticipation.
Muslim Hands announced at the ceremony that as of 2017, the Young Muslim Writers Awards will be introducing three new categories: play script, screenplays and journalism.
The Young Muslim Writers Awards was set up as a standalone competition for 5 – 16 year olds in 2010, following its success as part of Muslim Hands’ Muslim Writers Awards. Since then, it has encouraged and nurtured the writing talents of thousands of children through creative writing workshops and the annual competition.
For the fourth consecutive year, the ceremony is presented in association with the Yusuf Islam Foundation, an umbrella organisation which has over thirty years of experience operating in education, community development and philanthropy. The ceremony will be broadcast on Islam Channel, the official media partner of the competition since 2006.
The following proud winners took to the stage with a round of applause and received their well-deserved trophies by the presenters:
Key Stage 1 Poetry
‘The Caterpillar’ by Zaynab Valji (from Bushey, Hertfordshire)
Key Stage 1 Short Story
‘The Circus and the Robbery’ by Rayan Rasool (from Burnham)
Key Stage 2 Poetry
‘The Beauty of the Sun’ by Hannah Shums (from Hounslow)
Key Stage 2 Short Story
‘The Wondrous World of Azile’ by Eliza Tahir (from Southgate, London)
Key Stage 3 Poetry
‘Home’ by Zoya Anwar (from Manchester)
Key Stage 3 Short Story
‘Pit Stops’ by Lamees Mohamed (from Leicester)
Key Stage 4 Poetry
‘War Child’ by Imaan Irfan (from Woking)
Key Stage 4 Short Story
‘The Foreigner’ by Sumaiya Fazal (from Leicester)
Writer of the Year Award:
‘Pit Stops’ by Lamees Mohamed (from Leicester)
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