Sir Gulam Noon MBE, is the President of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)
And guess what? He’s a Dawoodi Bohra! He is the first non-white, non-Christian in 300 years history of its existence to become the President of LCCI. (Just like the ex-finance secretary of the European Union at Brussels – a Bashir Khanbhai from Tanzania at the time)
Sir Gulam is also Chairman and Managing Director of Noon Products Ltd. Noon Products is an ethnic foods company, supplying over one million ready-made meals a week to retail outlets.
“India is an important market for British companies not only because of its rapid economic growth, but also because of its close historic ties with the UK.” – Sir Gulam Noon.
Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin is the 97-year-old spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohras. His organization the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, consists of many Dawoodi Bohra’s who are considered a subset of Ismaeli Shia Islam. The majority of the religion resides in India.
Dawoodi Bohra's Carrying His Holiness
Badri Mahal in central Mumbai is the nerve center for the ever growing community. You will no doubt see the bearded and identically dressed individuals in white tunics and gold embroidered hats walking purposefully down the streets.
The total Da‘udi Bohra population of the world is said to exceed 700,000 with more than half living in Gujarat, India. However since the 1920’s Mumbai has become the permanent seat of the da‘i mutlaq of the Da‘udi Bohras and the central hub of administration for his da‘wa organisation.
The Bhendi Bazaar is well known in Mumbai, with its huge Bohra population, and colourful market, its the perfect area for Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin to redevelop. His initiative calls for the renovations of 270 buildings in the Bhendi Bazaar vicinity to rehouse 25,000 resident (mainly Dawoodi Bohra tenants) into new buildings.
The Dawoodi Bohras are a very close-knit community.
The majority of Dawoodi Bohras in the past have been traders. Not anymore. It is increasingly common for the Bohra community to have a major piece of the professional world. Sri Lanka in particular, many have chosen to become doctors. As the encouragement from the leaders is to excel in both religious matters and secular knowledge, the number of professionals in the community is rapidly increasing.
What is suprising is the same amount of importance is now placed on the education of women is to that of men, as many more Dawoodi Bohra women choose to enter the workforce.
At the last count there was approximately one million Dawoodi Bohras worldwide. With the majority of the population living in India and Pakistan.
The Dawoodi Bohra’s have their own communial language. This language is taught by every parent to their children from birth, as well as the local language of the country in which they reside. This language is called “Lisanul-Daawat”.
It is written in Arabic letters but is actually a mixture of Urdu, Gujarati and Arabic.
In Surat, a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community has sought direction from the Human Rights Commission and the Gujarat High Court claiming the community has boycotted her and other family members socially and financially from the community. This is due to her ‘uncovering’ scams committed by the religious leaders.
Zohra Cyclewala, who is a manager of a community cooperative bank branch, was socially boycotted by the Ameel (the name given to the regional religious head of the mosque) of the Dawoodi Bohra community after she accused the leaders of ‘scamming’ the community members. When Zohra Cyclewala negated to accept the Ameel’s decision, she took it to the High Court, only to result in threats of dire consequences if she proceeded with the allegations. She has even filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
”The entire thing happened when I issued notices to community leaders to repay the loans they had taken from the bank. The leaders did not want to repay the loans and so hatched a conspiracy against me and they asked me to resign. When I refused to do so, the Ameel boycotted me socially and financially from the community,” said Zohra.
To exert pressure on Cyclewala, the Ameel and other high members of Jummat Committee at the Sami village in Banaskantha, alienated her brother Tamim, who also lived in the village. The Ameel cut all basic facilities and supplies to Tamim’s family, which shocked Zohra Cyclewala. This is what pushed her to lodge a complaint at the local police station.
”I visited my paternal house in Diwali last year and this gave a chance to the clerics to take revenge and they even targeted my brother. This is ridiculous. How can they socially boycott my brother?” she said, adding “Tamim is totally devoted to Dr Syedna Saheb and he has never acted against the community even after the boycott. I am going to pursue the case and will fight till I get justice