A senior Indian-origin imam has been conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Leicester in recognition of his work for his local community.
Muhammad Shahid Raza, who serves as Head Imam at Leicester Central Mosque and is a leading Muslim cleric and teacher in the UK, was born in Bihar and studied in Moradabad, Agra and Meerut before moving to the UK.
"The city of Leicester has always been a place of significance in my life since I emigrated here from India in the late '70s. One of my first responsibilities as Imam of Leicester Mosque and then Leicester Central Mosque was to oversee the moral and spiritual education of children," he said in reference to the honour.
"I have always strived to instill in my students a desire to achieve academically and integrate themselves as valuable members and contributors to society. I am delighted to note that many of my former students have gone on to graduate from this university and of those many are now working in this city as civil servants, teachers and doctors or owners of small businesses.
"For this reason I reflect on this award fondly and I hope it will further inspire the young Muslims of Leicester," Raza said.
He was awarded his honorary Doctorate of Laws by University Chancellor Lord Grocott at the university's degree ceremony at De Montfort Hall today before an international audience of graduating students and their families.
Raza leads the Friday prayers at Leicester Central Mosque and is credited with designing and conducting the first in-service training course for imams in the UK.
As executive secretary and registrar of the Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK, he is engaged in a number of initiatives directed towards the wider community in Britain, Europe and North America through his association with organisations such as the InterFaith Network UK and the InterFaith Youth Trust in London, the university said in a statement.
In the 2008 New Year's Honours list, he was awarded an OBE for services to the Muslim community in Leicester.
Reverend Canon Dr Stephen Foster, Coordinating and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Leicester, said, "Muhammad Shahid Raza has been a hugely influential figure in our city and County as a leading Muslim cleric and teacher over a period approaching 40 years."
"In terms of Interfaith dialogue over that period, again his influence has been profound. As we presently travel sensitive times and roads in interfaith issues, his wisdom and insight into same will continue to be so important both locally and far beyond. The University of Leicester I know honours him...Rightly and gratefully so," Foster said.