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Tribute to Lord Sheikh by Lord Popat

Lord Sheikh: 13 June 1941 – 22 September 2022 | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

4 min read

Businessman, philanthropist and writer, Lord Sheikh was the Conservative Party’s first Muslim peer and a much-loved asset to both party and Parliament

Mohamed Iltaf Sheikh was born in Kenya on 13 June 1941, the son of Mohamed Abdullah Sheikh and Kalsum Ara Sheikh; the family originated from the Punjab, India. 

He was brought up in Uganda and moved to London aged 20 to join Sun Alliance as a trainee broker, taking his qualifications at Holborn and City of London colleges. 

Of his family’s arrival from Uganda, in the clothes they stood up in, he recalled: “Idi Amin took everything from us, except what we had in our minds. Because we were doing very well in Uganda, we came here and we were prepared to work hard. What we did in this country was perhaps what we had learned in Uganda, and that is to use our brains, to use our initiative, and we have done very well.”

Sheikh was the author of An Indian in The House: The Lives and Times of the Four Trailblazers Who First Brought India to the British Parliament (2019) and Emperor of the Five Rivers: The Life and Times of Maharajah Ranjit Singh (2021). At the time of his death, he had nearly completed a historical novel.

He chaired the Sheikh Abdullah Foundation and was a patron of Orphans in Need. 

He was elevated to the House of Lords in 2006 and was an active peer, regularly speaking in the House of Lords on a variety of subjects. He founded and co-chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Islamic and Ethical Finance and was co-chair of the APPGs on Turkey, and the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. He was also a vice-chair of the APPGs on Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Of his family’s arrival from Uganda… he recalled: ‘Idi Amin took everything from us, except what we had in our minds’

As part of his work in the House, and across the world, he promoted Islamic and ethical finance. His work saw him travel to various countries around the world to work towards expanding trade between the United Kingdom and overseas countries.

As a Hindu Member of the House of Lords, I admired his efforts in community cohesion and his work to ensure we can all practice our religions freely. Lord Sheikh was a patron of several Muslim and non-Muslim organisations and was actively involved in strengthening relationships between various racial and religious groups. His coat of arms signified the values of education and gives a message that Islam is a religion of peace.

A much-loved asset to the Conservative Party, Lord Sheikh was the first Muslim Conservative peer and he will always be remembered for the tremendous role he played in strengthening relations between the party and the British Muslim community. Having set up the Conservative Muslim Forum, Lord Sheikh was a pioneer in helping the party engage with British Muslims. 

In recent years, Lord Sheikh’s expertise and guidance was instrumental in supporting the party to tackle accusations of Islamophobia. He was always an advocate for promoting the party’s shared values with the Muslim community of family, hard work, compassion, sacrifice and opportunity. Thanks to his help, the party was able to host its first ever Iftar reception at Conservative Campaign Headquarters this year, reflecting the sheer strides we have made in our engagement with the community. Given the success of the Iftar reception, I hope it will be made an annual event, which will be a fitting tribute to Lord Sheikh’s memory. 

Lord Sheikh was a businessman, academic, philanthropist and writer. His loss will be felt by those of us in the House of Lords and the many lives he touched through his work in business, academia, philanthropy and through his writing.

Lord Popat is a Conservative peer

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