An audience with Moeen Ali at The Institute of Directors, Pall Mall, London attracted a large number of big hearted guests who together contributed to raise the princely sum of £260,000 for Orphans in Need’s Orphan Village in Kashmir.
Commiserations were announced for Orphans in Need CEO Tufail Hussain and his family after the recent tragic death of his three year old son Umar.
Islam Channel presenter Raheem Jung was the host for the event. He said: “We have the capability within this gathering to bring about great and positive change. We have the chance to transform the lives of some of the most needy children on our planet.
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“There are children in Kashmir living in sewers. I have personally gone out to the orphanages and seen this. The orphan child indeed has a special place in any global community and I hope our effort tonight will help alleviate their plight.”
To great approval, Jung announced that the planned new build orphan home would be named after Umar Tufail Hussain, the late son of Orphans in Need CEO Tufail Hussain.
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Lord Mohamed Sheikh, the House of Lord’s Peer and Patron of Orphans in Need addressed the audience. He said: “Muslim charities are carrying out sterling work in many parts of the world and I have spoken about this in the House of Lords.”
“Many are not aware that my middle name is Altaf. There is a famous poet named Altaf and I will read an excerpt from one of his poems: ‘God does not grant his mercy to those who don’t feel the pain of others.’ We can learn great lessons from that!”
The event was attended by Lord Mohamed Sheikh, former Liverpool Football Club Doctor Dr Zafar Iqbal and BBC newsreader Asad Ahmed who carried out an entertaining Q&A with England and Worcestershire star Moeen Ali.
The left handed batsman and right handed off spinner is a hero to millions all over the world. He said: “when we were young my father installed nets in our back garden. Every day we played cricket after school. I didn’t hang out with my mates – My spare time was all about cricket. My dad asked for a mere two years of commitment and it paid off.”
“Dad quit his job as a Psychiatric Nurse to coach us full time. My parents were very different. Dad was convinced we’d be playing professionally and everything we did was geared towards that.”
The long hours and the sacrificing of a cabbage patch in Ali’s mum’s garden has paid off a million fold and the England star nicknamed the ‘the beard that’s feared’ has now become a global icon. Ali isn’t the only cricketer in the family: “My dad runs the MA cricket academy in Sparkhill, Birmingham, my nephews play cricket, my cousin Kabir Ali played for England as well as my brother (Staffordshire captain Kadeer Ali).
“It wasn’t easy. Like I said, my dad gave up his job to support us,” said the Orphans in Need Global Ambassador.
Moeen’s ascent is simple and easy to replicate for willing youngsters. He advised: “We played till we dropped, every day and in all conditions. The weather was not an obstacle and even now I fast when I play. At the age of fourteen I became single minded and knew exactly where I needed to be.”
Indeed Moeen Ali was on a fast track to success and made his England debut against Sri Lanka in 2014. He took it all in his stride: “I wasn’t nervous at all - in fact my family were more nervous. I’m looking forward to the Ashes. It is a cricketing dream and I can’t wait to be fit, available and ready for selection for England. I haven’t been chosen for the ODI’s against New Zealand to allow me to prepare for the Ashes. I was disappointed at first, who wouldn’t be, but after a few hours I was ok. It was a decision taken for my benefit.”
Fasting and observing Ramadan in sport has become a topic of discussion in recent years with professionals, managers and sport scientists engaging in heated debates as to whether a fasting sportsperson can perform at peak levels individually and in a team. Ali is adamant: “For me there is no other option. Humans are very accepting in nature and I have been fortunate to have always received excellent support. I have never had any issues with eating Halal food, or being able to pray or fast. In the early stages of my career there was some scepticism from the team around fasting for long hours during the day and there was a little worry about my welfare. It’s all fine now.”
Ali could have played for Pakistan. Everyone wanted to know if he would have considered playing for the land of his forefathers. He answers swiftly; “There was never any doubt. It was always about England for me. When I was younger I was asked to play for Pakistan. We have a mix in our family. Dad is a huge supporter and is of mixed race, mum is from Kashmir and my grandmother is English. As far as I was concerned all I wanted to do was play for England. There was never any other consideration and I feel beyond proud when I step out on international duty. I am a Muslim but if you meet me you’ll realise how English I am too.”
Ali is the Global Ambassador for Orphans in Need. He is very proud of his association with charitable efforts: “Orphans in Need is very special to me. It’s all about the humanity perspective. I have the logo on my bat and this is a great source of pride for me.”
Last year Ali wore ‘Save Gaza’ wristbands in the game in England's first innings of the third Test against India at the Ageas Bowl. He explained his reasons, “The ECB supported me. My intentions were clear. I explained that it was for humanitarian and not political purposes and I wanted to raise awareness of people dying and the situation they are in. I was grateful for the level of understanding by those surrounding me as well as the support I received.”
Ali has advice for aspiring cricketers: “Be who you are, care about your neighbor’s, look after them. Be the best human being you can be and be good to yourself and everyone around you.”
With Ramadan less than a week away Ali finished with a greeting: “I wish everyone observing Ramadan a blessed and fruitful month. This is a joyous part of the year for over a billion humans, to worship, purify, unite, serve and celebrate. I hope all your worship is accepted and your needs fulfilled. Do look after your community and spare a thought for those less fortunate. Lastly, and in advance of a great day ahead, I wish everyone a joyous day of Eid at the end of Ramadan.”
· 600,000 orphans in Kashmir due to decades of war; most of them live in poverty.
· 80% of the orphans drop out of education after high school.
· Because of poverty, manywidows are forced to give up their children to poorly run orphanages. These orphanages struggle to provide basic care to their children.
· There are 40,000 widows in Kashmir.