Lord Drabu: A community stalwart
Thursday, June 18th, 2020
Lord Khurshid Drabu CBE who passed away on 20 April 2018 was the first Muslim judge and a prominent British Muslim serving as a senior advisor to the Muslim Council for Britain.
Lord Drabu was born on 8 March 1946 in Srinagar, Kashmir. His early education was in Kashmir and he completed his law degree at Aligarh University in India. He arrived in Britain in 1971 and worked initially as a lecturer in law at Salford College of Technology.
He later worked for the Immigration Advisory Service and then in 1990 he was appointed as the deputy legal director of the Commission for Racial Equality, his duties included reviewing the Race Relations Act 1976. He served as a magistrate and then as president of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for 12 years. He also served at the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal as vice president until 2007. In 2002 he became an advisor to the Ministry of Defence and he also supported interfaith work by becoming a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation. In recognition of his contribution to public life, he was awarded a CBE in 2010.
However his major contribution to public life was as one of the main guiding hands behind the development of the Muslim Council of Britain. He was Constitutional Advisor from very early on and the first chair of the Legal Affairs Committee. It was a measure of the trust that he was held in that he was asked to be the Election Commissioner for every election at the MCB since 2000. He was also instrumental in helping set up the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in July 2005.
A calming force, his contribution towards the integration of Muslims in British life is second-to-none. In what was a difficult and trying time for the British Muslim community, Judge Drabu brought wisdom, patience and a sense of confidence.
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said: ‘My friend and mentor Khurshid Drabu was a pioneer in promoting community cohesion and interfaith work in Britain, and it is fitting that his CBE was for “bringing communities together”. He spent his life bringing people from all walks of life together – young and old, rich and poor, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Jews and people from all backgrounds – all for a better and more cohesive society’.
Harun Khan, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: ‘Judge Khurshid Drabu has been the bedrock of the Muslim Council of Britain. As our constitutional advisor, Judge Drabu has ensured that the organisation remains a democratic body accountable to its affiliates. My predecessors and I have benefitted from his wise counsel on countless occasions. He has a lifetime of public service behind him. He campaigned for equal rights for minorities, and then for Muslim communities. And he was an advocate for the common good, serving on interfaith bodies and seeking understanding between communities. He was a role model, mentor and pioneer, being one the first Muslims to serve as a judge. It is by the grace of Allah that Judge Drabu passes away just as the Muslim Council of Britain begins to celebrate its twentieth year. I know how keen he was to attend. I hope his legacy lives on in the MCB for the next twenty years. My condolences and heartfelt wishes go to his wife, Dr Reefat Drabu, and his children and grandchildren.’