A fresh series of star-studded nights from the best British Muslim performers began in London on Friday after a three-year hiatus because of Covid-19.
International humanitarian charity Penny Appeal launched the British Muslim Variety Show in the UK to raise money for orphans.
The line-up includes poets, comics and theatrical performers; who will take to the stage in 10 UK cities as part of the fifth edition of the charity’s Orphan Kind fundraising campaign.
Previous runs of the show have raised up to £500,000 ($616,000) which goes towards providing meals for children in the UK and countries in the Middle East, as well as across Asia and Africa.
As the cost-of-living crisis hits families in the UK, the charity’s Yorkshire-born founder, Adeem Younis, told The National his drive to help others comes from his own underprivileged childhood.
“I know how it feels. My father died when I was six years old. When I was at school I was using free school meal tokens. The team we have are all passionate to save lives,” the British-Pakistani founder says.
Despite the struggles of his youth, the philanthropist has previously described the experience as one full of “love and opportunity and inspiration".
After his father’s death, Younis’s mother worked to provide for the family, setting up her own market stall business, which stirred the future entrepreneur to start his own businesses, including the successful digital matrimony platform, SingleMuslim.com, in 2000.
“As soon as I could, I would do my best to help contribute to our family. Even just selling sweets in school. I saw entrepreneurship as a form of empowerment, as a springboard to elevate you from difficult times. This is what drove me as a teenager to set up my first business and, it’s what moved me into philanthropy too,” he says.
Younis, who started the Penny Appeal in 2009, published his memoir, Small Change, Big Difference: The Penny Appeal Story, last year during Ramadan.
The charity, a two-time Guinness World Record holder for the longest live broadcast of a charitable event, has raised more than £100 million since it started, including the delivery of millions of meals to people around the globe.
Younis hopes this year’s series of the Big Muslim Variety Show will hit previous fundraising targets again. The money will be spent on providing orphans worldwide with clothes, health care and education.
Beyond his altruistic aims, the humanitarian says the shows are an opportunity to “showcase the best of Muslim talent in Britain".
“We’re comfortably British and comfortably Muslim in that we are comfortable with both identities. Our show is a mixture of traditional Nasheed singing and poems as well as beatboxers, artists and comedians,” Younis says.
“Having a variety show that brings the family out shows how privileged we are to be able to do this, especially when people in other parts of the world don’t have access to basic human needs, like access to health facilities.”
The roster of performers is impressive and explains why the variety show has previously drawn in total crowds of 10,000.
Comedian and actor Abdullah Afzal — best known from BBC hit show Citizen Khan — will be hosting, with his rapid fire and hilarious anecdotes about Muslim lifestyles.
Audiences will also be able to see other established acts such as spoken-word artists Sukina Pilgrim and Faisal Salah, Nasheed artists Safe Adam and Ismail Hussain as well as comedians Prince Abdi and Aatif Nawaz.
There will also be a special performance from Neelain Blues, a collective of drummers and poets from Africa and the Middle East, as well as Italian-Pakistani singer Sajal and writer-performer Chifa.