An inspirational Muslim leader who worked with the police to reduce fear in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing has been honoured with a top award.
Dr Abdel Kareem Awad, who has been Imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Rhyl since 1996, has worked with North Wales Police to encourage recruitment from his community and to promoting multicultural friendships.
Over the years, he has worked tirelessly to reduce tensions in his community and strengthen the relationship between local Muslims and the police.
Through his engagement work at the mosque, Dr Awad was instrumental in reducing tensions in the town following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017.
He worked in partnership with North Wales Police to ensure the force was able to support victims of the attack who lived in the area while also supporting the wider Muslim community.
He is also actively involved in the We Stand Together campaign led by North Wales Police to ensure the Muslim community continues to feel safe and reassured, especially following national and international incidents.
His efforts were honoured at North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones’ annual Community Awards, which saw Dr Awad presented with the Equality and Diversity Award during a ceremony held at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.
“It’s a dream to be honoured and awarded by my brothers and sisters. They are a part of me and my community,” said Dr Awad, who is also lead for the North Wales Muslim Council.
“I’m so happy. I have two PhDs but this award is very different. There is no comparison. I believe no other local Imam has been presented with such an award by the police, not even in Liverpool or Manchester. This is a first.
“This will give my community a different impression, one of reassurance and positivity that not only is their Imam honoured by them but also by the police as well. This is a police force that is about humanity, understanding and moral support.
“I have served the community for 25 years but to be acknowledged by the police is a different issue altogether. This award is not only for me it is for all of Wales. It will challenge the impression of the relationship between Imams and the police.”
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector, said: “This award is given to a local person or group who have supported equality, made an impact on hate crime and have also embraced community engagement to reduce tensions in communities and reduce fear of crime.
“Trust and confidence in policing are vital and the support given by Dr Awad to North Wales Police has been instrumental to positive engagement during difficult times and in encouraging young Muslims to look at the possibility of a career within North Wales Police.
“His advice and guidance to policing has been invaluable and his work to promote understanding has included inviting local schools to visit the Rhyl Islamic Centre.
“He is due to retire in the near future and this award is in recognition of his years of hard work, support and commitment to making a difference not just to communities, but also to policing.”
Dr Awad, 64, who is Palestinian, taught English throughout the Middle East including Yemen, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where he undertook his training to become an Imam.
He came to Britain in 1994 and studied for two PhDs, the first in Applied Linguistics at Liverpool John Moores University and the second in Quranic Discourse at the University of Manchester before being appointed Imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Rhyl two years later.
A published author, Dr Awad’s guidance has been instrumental to North Wales Police in the implementation of policies within mosques and guidance around key events such as Ramadan.
He has also helped to promote recruitment opportunities within North Wales Police within the Muslim community to improve BME representation within the Force.
He said: “I don’t believe in oneness or the word ‘me’ or ‘I’, I believe in ‘we’. ‘We’ can achieve, ‘we’ can obtain and ‘we’ can progress together.
“Our mosque is a place for all members of the community to come and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.
“We have school visits which have been fantastic and open days.
“I also promote and encourage our community and there are two young lads who are now going to join the force.”
Dr Awad is also a senior Imam at Al-Rahma which is the biggest mosque in Liverpool and is invited to lead prayers and deliver lectures at events and mosques all over the UK.
By developing close relationships with the police, Dr Awad said he believes Imams can help increase safety and security within the wider community.
“We need to work together. I believe in the word ‘together’. Together we will build a unique community and a cohesive community,” he added.
The PCC’s Equality and Diversity Award is presented to a local person or group who has supported the equality agenda and made an impact on hate crime. It is aimed at someone who has embraced community engagement to reduce tension and fear of crime in the community.