LONDON – In a major leap for the Muslim minority in Britain, a Muslim woman was named on Tuesday, May 24, as the lord mayor of the district of Bradford.
"I am looking forward to being a positive and active ambassador for this wonderful district," Naveeda Ikram told the BBC.
"I'm keen to see more participation and better confidence from all communities in the democratic process."
Councilor Ikram was installed on Tuesday as the new lord mayor of Bradford. Chosen as the first Muslim woman for the post, Ikram is a Labour councilor for Little Horton since 2004.
A mother of three, Ikram, a former Deputy Lord Mayor, is one of the first Pakistan-born females in Britain to take on the leading civic role.
A psychology and sociology graduate, she was one of the only two Bradford councilors selected in 2007 to take part in a national course designed to identify future leaders.
The Muslim mayor is the co-founder of Bradford Unites in Disaster, an umbrella organization representing fundraising groups across Bradford. She is also a governor at Newby and Bankfoot primary schools in the district.
Though being the first Muslim to fill Bradford's mayoral post, Ikram is not the first British Muslim to serve in a high-profile public post.
In 2007, Labour MP Shahid Malik became the first British Muslim minister after he was named as a minister under Secretary of State for the Department for International Development (DFID).
Malik has also served as Justice Minister, Home Office Minister and most recently as Minister for Race, Faith and Community Cohesion.
Another Muslim MP, Sadiq Khan, was appointed in 2007 as a government assistant responsible for parliamentary affairs.
In the 2010 parliamentary elections, eight Muslims were elected as MPs in the House of Commons. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British-born of Pakistani origin, is the first Muslim woman to serve in the British Cabinet as minister without portfolio.
Last November, Lutfur Rahman became the first elected Muslim mayor of the East London borough of Tower Hamlets.
Ikram said it was "a great privilege" to be selected as Lord Mayor of Bradford.
"As a proud Bradfordian it’s a tremendous honor and privilege to be selected as the Lord Mayor of such a great, diverse and significant place as Bradford district," she said.
"Although we face some difficult times right now I believe that we have a great future and, over the coming year, I hope to play my part as an ambassador for all our communities in projecting a positive, forward looking image of the district."
Ikram's selection was seen as a boost for women's role in the political landscape.
"Unfortunately politics has a bad reputation with some things in Parliament viewed as an old boys’ approach," Val Slater, the Deputy Lord Mayor, told The Telegraph and Argus.
"So it’s important Naveeda and I are there as role models so we can show there’s a different approach to politics."
Councilor Slater, who was appointed as the Deputy Lord Mayor, said she and Ikram were determined to mark their year by showing the importance of women in politics.
"It’s really important to have women’s voices heard and women’s voices listened to," she said.
"I’m looking forward to engaging with a really wide cross-section of Bradford’s community and being a really good ambassador."
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2 million. The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.