Queen rewards Barnet’s best
A headteacher from Southgate is among eight borough residents to be granted a birthday honour from the Queen. William Samuel Atkinson, who teaches at Phoenix High School in Shepherd’s Bush, was given a knighthood, the highest honour possible. Three residents from the borough received an OBE and five an MBE.
Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Antony Lillis, cabinet member for community and children’s services, congratulated Sir William on his achievement. He said: “Sir William truly is worthy of a knighthood and has been a magnificent servant to the thousands of pupils that he has nurtured since joining Phoenix in 1995.”He is an inspirational figure and I am sure that he will continue to lead Phoenix High School from strength to strength over the coming years.” Receiving OBEs were Muhammad Abdel Haleem, professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, for services to Arabic culture and literature and inter-faith understanding; Sayyid Yousif Al-Khoei, director of the al-Khoei Foundation, for services to community relations; and Maurice Djanogly, for services to business and the arts.
Included on the MBE list were designer Wale Adeyemi, for services to the fashion industry; playwright Tanika Gupta, for services to drama; Shirley Julianne Rodwell, for voluntary services in the field of appeals and public relations for people with learning disabilities; Diane Scott, for voluntary service to North London Hospice; and Roger William Smith, for services to young people in Barnet and Brent.
New Southgate resident Professor Haleem, who has written scores of books and articles on Islamic cultural issues, believed his honour may have been in recognition of his most recent publication: a modern translation of the Qu’ran, published in 2004 by the Oxford University Press.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted, of course, and very honoured.
“I think the most important publication I have done recently is a new translation of the Qu’ran into English, because it gives quite a different image of the text in its language, style and message.
“Translations are normally written in quite out-of-date language and it was felt by my students that this was not the language they encountered at school and university.
“A number of crucial terms have been misinterpreted, so I gave improved translations of these to get across the true spirit of the Qu’ran.
“It is a very important job because the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews, has been based on a distortion of teachings of the Qu’ran.”
Mrs Rodwell, 74, who lives in Brent Street in Hendon, was awarded an MBE for her role as one of the founders of the Wesminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities.
She founded the charity in 1962 with five mothers, all of who had children with learning disabilities. According to Mrs Rodwell, it has since grown to be one of the leading charities in its field, supporting 15 care homes for disabled children.
She said: “I was absolutely amazed. My name was first put forward six years ago but they only told me that this morning. My first thought was ‘why me?’ I think it was because I’ve been there since the beginning.
“I’d never have won it without all the other people who work with me.”
Sixty-nine-year-old Mrs Scott, from Hendon Lane, won her award for helping to raise over £1 million for the North London Hospice. She believed the key to her success was her focus on the “personal touch”.
She said: “I work about 20 hours a week, and I always make sure that I go to see people personally. I never phone anyone.
“I get involved with writing brochures, holding concerts, getting hold of raffle prizes and awards: anything that might raise money.
“I basically bare my bones to these people. It’s the only way to do it.”
Yousif Al-Khoei, 48, of Church Lane in The Hyde, gained an OBE for his role in promoting community relations, as the director of the al-Khoei Foundation.
The foundation, set up by his father and based in the neighbouring borough of Brent, helps support Muslim women and children in the community and has also encouraged a number of inter-faith initiatives, including a service for victims of the 7/7 bombings of all backgrounds.
He said: “In this day and age there are so many negative stereotypes of Muslims, especially in the mainstream media, so it’s crucial that we work together.
“We encourage integration between communities and want people to feel confident and friendly with their neighbours and society at large.”
Honours lists are published twice a year, at New Year and in mid-June on the date of the Queen’s official birthday. They award people who have made a difference in their field of work or community and enhanced the UK’s reputation in a particular area or activity.