Khan Becomes First Western Minister To Visit Pilgrimage Site

Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan has spent the third day of his official visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting a group of British students and senior deans at the Islamic University of Medina.

There they discussed the needs of Muslim communities and the importance of standing up to violent extremism.

Mr Khan also made a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca (Umrah), the first western Government Minister to do so.

There are concerns from Muslim communities in the UK that the governance arrangements of UK Mosques need to be strengthened. One of the aims of the Government's Prevent strategy is to build capacity in Muslim communities through strengthening Islamic faith institutions and leaders.

The Government is working with the Muslim community to increase the number and standard of faith leaders trained in the UK, who have the language, pastoral and other skills to engage with young people in their communities. There are a number of British students who choose to train at respected Islamic universities in the holy cities. The Islamic University is one of the world's leading centres of Islamic scholarship and hosts students from more than 150 countries, including almost 50 from the UK.

Speaking after their discussions Sadiq Khan said: "The students were clearly excited at seeing a British Minister in Medina. We had a really good discussion about their studies, perceptions of living in Saudi Arabia, and their clear ambition to return home and benefit our communities.

"I was encouraged by the university's obvious commitment to ensure that the students have sufficient expertise and knowledge to stand in the way of violent extremism. "

The visit to the Islamic University was preceded by a visit to one of Islam's most holy sites, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. At the Mosque Sadiq Khan met with local imams, where they discussed some of the challenges facing young Muslims, both in the Muslim world, and the UK. He also witnessed an historic manuscript being restored by a team of dedicated staff at its specialist manuscript library.


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