My friend Hashir Faruqi, who has died aged 92, was a scientist of Pakistani heritage who found his vocation as a journalist and community activist after settling in London in the early 1960s.
He launched the bi-monthly Impact International magazine in 1971 from a modest office in north London, and ran it on a shoestring budget for 35 years, providing English-reading Muslims with news and analysis from an independent, post-colonial perspective. At its peak it had 28,000 subscribers in 85 countries and 80,000 readers.
Hashir was also a guiding figure in initiatives that gave British Muslims a voice in the public space, including as a founding trustee and chairman of the Islamic Foundation and as a trustee of Muslim Aid. His vision for the Muslim Council of Britain when it was launched in 1997 was for it to eschew fatwa-giving and act as an umbrella body working for the common good – advice which the council took up.
Hashir was born in Benares (now Varanasi) in pre-partition India to Sufairah Syed, a housewife, and her husband, Nizamul Haq, a tax inspector. He graduated with a degree in entomology from Kanpur Agricultural College, where he was secretary of the Muslim students’ union, and after migrating to Pakistan in 1953 he worked at the ministry of agriculture. He was on deputation to Saudi Arabia for a year, and in 1963 went to Imperial College London to to do research into locust control, remaining in the UK for the rest of his life.
In the UK, Hashir began contributing to weekly meetings of the London Islamic Circle at Regent’s Lodge, now the site of the London Central Mosque. I first encountered him there when, as a wet-behind-the-ears A-level student, I was being harangued by a hardcore Arab nationalist and Hashir stepped in to extract me from the situation.
He worked initially as a community organiser at the UK Islamic Mission, but also wrote a satirical column for the magazine the Muslim, and after several years decided to set up Impact International. He supported himself solely, if frugally, on revenues from the magazine, later refusing offers of better paid journalistic work in favour of maintaining his integrity and independence.
In 1980 Hashir found himself in the news rather than analysing it, when the Iranian embassy siege began in London. He had been visiting the embassy to seek a journalistic interview, and ended up among the 26 hostages taken by a terrorist group, showing coolness under fire.
Impact International ceased publication in 2006 but Hashir’s small flat in Kilburn, north-west London, continued to be an essential stopping point for scholars, poets and activists. Friends will long remember these salons, which would often feature impromptu poetry recital contests and were graced with his home cooking.
Hashir’s wife, Fakhra Begum, whom he married in Benares in 1954, predeceased him. He is survived by their daughter, Sadia, and sons, Ausaf, Rafay and Irfan.