Founder of Islamic Relief honoured for exceptional contribution at the Charity Awards 2023

6/15/2023 10:59 AM

The co-founder of Islamic Relief Worldwide, Dr Hany El-Banna OBE, has been awarded the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement at the Charity Awards 2023.

Dr El-Banna received the recognition for his nearly four decades of leadership in the humanitarian sector.

The Charity Awards is Civil Society Media's annual awards programme, which recognises and rewards those doing exceptional work in all areas of charitable activity.

Dr El-Banna worked part-time when he first began his charity work alongside being an NHS doctor in Birmingham. He started Islamic Relief in 1984 and left the medical profession to concentrate on building the organisation in the 90s.

Today, Islamic Relief is the world's largest Western-based Muslim international aid and development NGO. The organisation operates in 40 countries with 450 staff and is one of the 30 biggest UK charities by income.  

At the event, Dr El-Banna said: "The journey is not the flashlight, is not the award, it is not the prestige, it is the length of the challenges we face wherever we go."

He also cautioned that the recent responses of the UK to refugee crises in Syria, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Yemen were causing it to lose sight of its values.

"We should not forget our homemade British values, which we are losing badly," he said.

Inspiring figure for British Muslims

Cathy Phelan-Watkins, director of Civil Society Media and wife of the late Daniel Phelan (the creator of the Charity Awards), praised Dr El-Banna as an inspiring figure for young British Muslims pursuing a career in humanitarian work. She said he is widely respected as the "godfather" of the Muslim charity sector.

She added: "As the then heir to the throne, Prince Charles, said when he attended Islamic Relief's 25th anniversary, none of the charity's achievements would have been possible without the vision, passion and sheer dedication of this truly extraordinary man."

Islamic Relief tweeted that it was proud of its founder, thanking him for his "inspiring leadership, and incredible work around the world."

Tufail Hussain, director at Islamic Relief UK, tweeted: "A very proud moment last night for the @IslamicReliefUK family as our founder @drhanyelbanna was awarded the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement at the prestigious #CharityAwards - great to see UK civil society recognise and celebrate the legend 👑."  

After serving at Islamic Relief until 2008, Dr El-Banna shifted his focus to new endeavours. These efforts culminated in establishment of the World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF), the Muslim Charities Forum, and several other notable initiatives.

Currently, Dr El-Banna is still the chair of WHAF and stays active in the charity space. During the earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February, he was in Jordan and promptly joined field teams to help the coordination of relief operations.

Dr El-Banna El-Banna's timeline

  • Founder and chair, the Humanitarian Forum (now the World Humanitarian Action Forum) 2006 – now
  • Founder and chair, Muslim Charities Forum 2008 – 2022
  • Chair, Zakat House, 2009 – 2022
  • Chair, International HIV Fund 2008 – 2015
  • Awarded the OBE for services to the community 2004
  • Co-founder and president, Islamic Relief Worldwide 1984 – 2008
  • Founding trustee, Muslim Aid UK 1984 – 1999
  • Doctorate in foetal pathology, Birmingham Medical School 1991
  • NHS doctor, 1977 – 1994
  • MMBCh in Medicine, Al Azhar University, Cairo, along with a Diploma in Islamic Studies 1976