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September 08, 2017
Ishreen Bradley with thanks for contributions from Azahim Mohamed, Alan (Ahamed Hussein) Wahab and Mohamed Saleem

Forty five years is a long time for any association to exist in the UK. The Sri Lanka Islamic (UK) Association formed on 19 November 1972 is the oldest Sri Lankan association in this country. On that date, a few committed Sri Lankan Muslims living in the UK gathered at the home of Mrs Shams Cassim to start creating a future for their children where Sri Lankan and Islamic traditions could continue to thrive - as well as provide social gatherings and a voice for Sri Lankan Muslims living in the UK.

Many informal meetings were held with over 30 families gathering at the home of the late Mrs Shams Cassim (spearheaded by Nizar Cassim) prior to the birth of the present Sri Lanka Islamic (UK) Association - fondly known as the "SLIA".

The dedication of the SLIA's founding members was such that they opened up their homes to the community during the 1970s and 80s - planning and hosting religious, social, sports and cultural events. As our younger generations have grown up in the UK and our community has become more affluent, our interests have expanded to include more charitable and educational aspects.

Since its inception, the SLIA's religious activities, library of resources and the regular newsletter have played a key part in connecting and informing Sri Lankans living in the UK about the SLIA's activities consistent with its mission: to promote charitable, social, cultural, sports and educational activities that achieve unity and strengthen relationships in line with our religious and cultural values for the benefit of our members and the communities we engage with.

Our first Librarian and Editor of the Newsletter was Marhoom Sabir Ismail. The Newsletter has subsequently been edited by Amin Ismail, Mohamed Saleem, Ishreen Bradley, Fathima Sulaiman and Manjula Ossman. Mohamed Saleem has also supported us in brining these communications into the current era with a website, Facebook page and regular text messages to communicate urgent news to the community. Our online presence is now being progressed by our youngest committee member, Khalid Malhar. Our legacy and track record has been preserved by the excellent photographs taken of our events by Past President Amin Ismail over the past 45 years.

President Jazal Marzook with his Exco team from left to right:
Jezri Mohideen (Chair, Building Subcommittee), Sadat Sadiq (Assistant Secretary),
Azhar Salahudeen (Secretary),Alan Wahab (Vice President), Jazal Marzook (President),
Ishreen Bradley (Chair, Charity Subcommittee), Latiff Abdeen, Fazly Wahab (Treasurer),
Rafat Hashim (Chair, Religious Events), Khalid Malhar (Assistant Treasurer)
Religious Activities - Our Core Foundation:
alternate textPast Presidents with Imam Farooki
The SLIA's first President, M T M Zahir set the stage for a strong foundation of religious activities, with the religious highlights being the two Eid celebrations where our members have the opportunity of meeting each other, sharing a meal and praying together. These events are also a forum for our children to develop and display their knowledge of religion and culture. Typically, over 300 of our members attend each of our Eid functions.

alternate textShaykh Shamsaddin al Fassi
our sponsor and spiritual guide
Since its inception, SLIA has celebrated Meelad Un Nabi in honour of our beloved Prophet every year and maintained our religious traditions from our homeland, including the conducting of spiritual Dhikr and Halara on a regular basis. Past Presidents Arooz Liawdeen, Iqbal Ossman and Hilardeen Ossman continue to be key players in ensuring these activities are enriching for the community.

We are proud members of the Union of Muslim Organisation UK, Muslim Council of Britain, Sri Lanka Muslim Organisation UK (Cosmos) and the Islamic Council of Europe.

alternate textShaykh Shamsaddin al Fassi
our sponsor and spiritual guide
The SLIA has also held religious classes to educate our children and adults on recitation of The Holy Quran, learning the Arabic language and understanding the formal and more subtle aspects of the Islamic faith...initially in the residences of members - the family homes of our stalwarts: T S Cassim, A M Hammard, M T M Zahir and Muin Marikar. As the class sizes increased, a need for larger premises was necessary we moved to Alperton High school then Welldon School to cater for the increasing demand. With the arrival of more Sri Lankan's into the UK in the 1980s, it became important to have our own premises. A suitable premises was identified by Mr Latheef Abdeen during the Presidency of Mr Thalaath Ismail and fully operational as a community centre by the Presidency of Mr Ishaq Thahir.

SLIA Premises
SLIA was the first Sri Lankan association to have its own premises in the UK. Many fund raising projects were undertaken to collect funds for the purchase of a building.

The Crescent Fair held in 1978 and the screening of Sinhala film "Sarungala", screened in 1979 were major fund raisers. Many Members contributed a monthly sum of £1.00 per month which launched the building fund and donations were received by many well wishers. After the Building was purchased Mr Farook Zavahir and Mushin Hamza helped The SLIA with further donations. The SLIA also, received funds from the Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Community of Muslim affairs (a charitable Saudi Arabian organisation based in the UK) and Dr Shaykh Shamsaddin Al Fassi.

As a result of these efforts, SLIA under its charity Islamic Cultural Home UK trust was successful in purchasing a property outright in Hanwell that has supported the community since 15 January 1994. Past Presidents Farook Saleem and Nizam Ismail were elected as the Permanent Trustees of the SLICH trust. Much of the work required to move us from finding a suitable premises to having the legal and logistical infrastructure was established by the transition committees from 1991 to 1995, and we have to thank Past Presidents: Nakeem Jabbar, Ishack Thahir, Nissther Annis and Feisal Musafer for their contribution to this cause. The centre used to house the library and held many SLIA activities. As a result of continuing growth of the Association, this facility is no longer large enough to house our activities and is being rented to raise funds for expansion. A new extension is under consideration by the present Committee.

Social Events To Add A Bit Of Spice
alternate textYounger Members determining
future activities
Social events also, play a major role in the life of the SLIA. Jovial and enjoyable trips have been organised for the community, starting with the legendary annual day trips to the Blackpool lights initiated by our second President Mr Nizam Ismail. It was on the way back from these trips that our appetite for sport began to shine as Past Presidents TS Cassim and Thalaath Ismail would set up ad-hoc sports meets to keep us youngsters active.

alternate textYounger Members evening at
Mosaic Restaurant
In the early 1990s, under the Presidency of Thalaath Ismail, an initiative was started to engage the younger members of the SLIA to ensure the legacy of the founding fathers continued into the next generation. The President asked his daughter Ishreen Bradley to establish a forum for exploring and progressing interest with the (then) younger generation. The younger members met at Moorish restaurant Mosaic in Old Street to discuss and explore where they would like to take the SLIA. The key focus for younger members at the time were sports and social activities and resulted in an indoor sports meet and a short break in Centre Parcs organised by Haleem Ossman and Ishreen Bradley. The succession from the founding fathers to the next generation was formally recognised by the first Executive Committee that comprised fully of second generation Sri Lankan Muslim living in the UK in 2001 under the Presidency of Althaf Zahir - son of our first SLIA President.

More recently the SLIA has organised trips abroad to Morocco and even a Hajj trip to Mecca.

Showing our Prowess in Sports
alternate textYounger Members determining
future activities
We have had a successful sports calendar with annual sports meets - outdoor and indoor, and a successful cricket team. SLIA's cricket team was represented in the major cricket league for a number of years and captained by cricket masters: Tuan Faleel, Nakeem Jabbar and Fazly Wahab among others. More recently our next generation of talent has shown up in the guise of the junior Faleel boys and Imran Ismail, where our SLIA team triumphed over 'The Hoppers' (a Kent based team that coaches young sports talent in underprivileged parts of Eastern Sri Lanka). A number of sports meets involve multicultural events and attract sponsorship from regional funders, including several run in partnership with Women Engaged in Building Bridges - an organisation set up to increase understanding between different communities living in the UK. We have continued to actively participate in multicultural sports activities with the unique and first ever Sri Lankan intercultural sports event - Serenity- initiated by our very own Haleem Ossman and Alan Wahab.

Intercultural Cricket Match 2014

Intercultural Cricket Match

Interfaith Sportsmeet 2010
Cultural and Educational Activities to Connect us with Our Heritage
alternate textPast President Farook Saleem
Handing over
Singhala translation of Quran
SLIA is keen to maintain awareness of our members' cultural heritage and we provide events to educate our children on our Sri Lankan culture. At a recent event, our children entertained us with Singhalese songs, dress and a beautiful rendition of the Sri Lankan National Anthem. In return they and the 100+ audience were treated to good traditional Sri Lankan food from all cultures and faiths.

Our commitment is to work closely with the UK Sri Lankan High Commission in sharing our culture more widely. A landmark event in this regard was our collaboration at the opening of the Sri Lankan exhibition and Festival of Sri Lanka at The Commonwealth Institute in London, July 1981. We worked together to provide our delicious Muslim food as well as choreograph and perform traditional Sri Lankan dances for our then President Premadasa, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip. We were delighted to have the opportunity of shaking hands with such nobility as they took the time to personally meet each of us. More recently, with many tragedies facing our motherland, our cultural education efforts have taken a charitable bent and we are looking to create projects that enable our children to spend their summer vacations giving their time to the underprivileged in Sri Lanka while learning at a grass roots level what life can be like in our country. This enables our youngsters to develop themselves and make a difference in a way that they get a wider cultural education.

SLIA Children's Festival at Harrow Civic Centre 2008

Slia trip to Morocco 2014

SLIA trip to Morocco

Women of SLIA

Charitable Projects to Feed the Soul
Since its inception the SLIA has been involved with many charitable projects. As the community has grown in strength and success, the membership has taken a more focused approach to charitable services with our younger generations seeing this as a core function of the SLIA.

alternate textPast Presidents
To this end, we work alongside a number of different charities, including Muslim Aid and VOSD (Volunteer Organisation for Social Development) to deliver capacity building and rescue contributions to deserving communities. Our 40th birthday, under the Presidency of Gazali Hammard was celebrated in partnership with Muslim Aid and a significant contribution provided to their good works.

SLIA's aim is to work closely with the Sri Lanka High Commission in ensuring the best application of funds raised for our charitable activities to support Sri Lanka.

The Tsunami which hit Sri Lanka on Boxing Day 2004 brought all Sri Lankan organisations in the UK together under the banner "Sri Lanka Muslim Tsunami Relief". Then SLIA President Azahim Mohamed was elected the Chairman of SLMTR, which collected and distributed substantial funds to all the affected areas in Sri Lanka.

The SLIA has played a huge part in assisting when major calamities unfold in our country. Two scholarships were established with the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship funds following the recent floods that effected large parts of Sri Lanka, including the Kolonnawa district. We have also helped with rehousing a family that was made homeless by this calamity.

Each year the SLIA provides funds from generous donations received for the Ramadan appeal to distribute food parcels to householders worthy of Sadaqa and Zakat (both forms of Islamic charity). To date, we have focused this effort in Hambantota for the Tsunami Village and in Mullaithivu for the Neeravipitty Village. The SLIA is also, involved in housing support projects in Mullaithivu and other areas, providing necessary amenities, water wells, drinking water and toilet facilities to needy villagers.

Many charitable events are organised and run by female members of SLIA to support deserving causes within and outside Sri Lanka. For example, the sponsored walk in Regents Park and the Book writing competition in collaboration with Muslim Aid - both held in the first half of this year, enabled our association to contribute over £17,000 to help with medical aid in Syria. These valuable projects have been led by an enthusiastic and efficient cohort of female members, including: Manjua Ossman, Ayesha Ibrahim, Zuleikha Cassim, Shahra Mohamed Saleem and Yumna Mohideen.

In Conclusion
As we reach our 45th birthday in the Presidency of Jazal Marzook and his Executive Committee, we are thrilled to be heralded by all Sri Lankan communities in the UK and abroad as a strong well-established Sri Lankan Association. As we Muslims say, "Masha Allah"! It is the unity and support that we receive that makes this possible and that has made us a beacon in society. The generous contribution, participation and success of our members continues to fuel our pride in delivering on our vision, which is to connect our members with their Sri Lankan heritage
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