Meet Shaz Meah - Redbridge’s faith liaison officer
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 December 2014 | UPDATED: 09:09 12 December 2014
For a job position which is in the early stages of its existence it is a little surprising Shahnuaz – or Shaz as he prefers to be called – was so keen to take on the role.
But the 30-year-old married father fought off stiff competition to become just Redbridge’s second-ever faith liaison and community officer.
Shaz Meah openly tells the Recorder his work, visiting faith venues and meeting different religious leaders means the back end of 2014 has been a pleasing period of his life.
“It is one of the few times I can honestly say I am happy to come into work,” says Shaz, as he reflects on five months in the job.
“I want to stay in this role as long as I possibly can,” he adds.
The officer, a practising Muslim, says he has not had “any negative reaction” to the work he has been carrying out with the diverse faith community.
“I have been to all the mosques in the borough, the majority of the synagogues and I have not received a ‘we do not want you here’ kind of attitude.”
Shaz – like his predecessor Sarah Scannell – is wary of differing public opinion of the police, especially perceptions which may have been cultivated in “different worlds”.
Yet Shaz is insistent he has never been made to feel “uneasy”.
“I go into any venue with a view to learn about other people’s beliefs,” he explains. “It is increasing my knowledge of my own religion – Islam – and others too. We have got big faith groups in Redbridge.”
Redbridge, Shaz says, is a rare example where a multitude of faiths co-exist so close together.
“You’ll be walking past a mosque and next door there will be a church – Albert Road is a prime example of that,” he points out. “In Ilford Lane there is a church next to a mosque.”
Shaz cites the tragic murder of Polish Catholic Magdalena Welna in Valentines Road, Ilford, in October as one such example of where faith communities united.
Unusually, for Redbridge and London as a whole, a resident-led candlelit vigil was quickly organised two weeks after the stabbing.
Residents Peter and Ruth Musgrave, of Valentines Road, approached the parish priest Stephen Pugh, of St Margaret’s Church, in Balfour Road, Ilford, to organise an observance to “reclaim the community”.
The couple had read about the positive impact vigils had in the aftermath of homicides in North Carolina in the United States.
It was a decision that was duly noted by Shaz, who attended the vigil.
“It is encouraging to see how good our borough is at working together,” he says. “The vigil was a Christian organised event.
“When you looked at the people attending the vigil you noticed only some were Christian – some were overt Muslims. Hopefully this unity will spread across London.”
Shaz’s smile widens as he makes his point. With his vision and obvious insight it is clear the borough of Redbridge has the right man for the job.
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