On the 5th April 2024 the flagship Human Rights Iftar organised by Amnesty International UK and the Inclusive Mosque Initiative brought together speakers including anti-racist campaigner Shaista Aziz from the Three Hijabis, Sarah Al Sarraj, a trustee of the Inclusive Mosque initiative, Nabila Hanson, China Country Coordinator at Amnesty and our very own Blueprint Architect and Tower Hamlets resident, Sumayyah Zannath to celebrate the power of community work in demanding universal Human Rights, from local organising to freedom for Palestine. 

The panel discussion was moderated by Hafsa Haji from The Nejma CollectiveThe discussion spanned across topics from pop culture and its impact on representation as well as community mobilising, what direct action looks like and creativity as a tool for activism and a more liberated future. 

The speakers highlighted how key moments in recent years have led to campaigning for international justice and a call for social change, including how food is being weaponised in Gaza, to the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the racist abuse following the England World Cup.  

Extracts from the panel discussion at the Human Rights Iftar: 


Tell us about your work imagining and organising for a more just local food system in Tower Hamlets… 

Sumayyah: The work I do is rooted in food and land. Our relationship with food and land is currently shaped by the violence of colonialism, but many of us come from heritages that have very intentional and nurturing relationships with the land and food. The Blueprint Architect group came about to create a blueprint for a local food system that is rooted in that intentional and nurturing relationship with food and land. However, through the work, we quickly realised that we don’t need to come up with a new blueprint; it already exists in our work, our bodies, and our relationships with each other and relationships to our land. But that isn’t recognised as a valid source of knowledge in the NGO and funding space so a lot of the work we do is to resource communities to explore and rebuild.  

We talk about using the framework of reparations to rebuild our relationship with the earth, and central to this framework is healing. As a community we need to rebuild a relationship with the land that we live with now in Britain but that’s hard because we are told so often this isn’t our land. As soon as we make a mistake we are told to go back to where you came from because this isn’t our home, but that isn’t viable for me. I was born here and the land of my ancestral heritage in Bangladesh is drowning because of capitalism and colonialism. I need to build a relationship with the land that is here, and to connect the struggle here with struggles happening across borders.  

"As soon as we make a mistake we are told to go back to where you came from because this isn’t our home, but that isn’t viable for me. I was born here and the land of my ancestral heritage in Bangladesh is drowning because of capitalism and colonialism. I need to build a relationship with the land that is here, and to connect the struggle here with struggles happening across borders"  

Also, from a Muslim perspective, the entire earth was given to us as a blessing – we are each given the responsibility of stewardship over all of the earth. The way the earth is organised, by borders and by ownership, it’s un-Islamic. All land is for everyone, and it cannot be given out to people to own or restricted using arbitrary and violent borders. 

This is where Gaza comes into our organising. It’s important for us to connect the way that food and land is weaponised in Gaza, and the way food and land is weaponised here. It’s the same violent structures of colonialism and imperialism that use starvation and famine as a tactic in genocide in Gaza and that raise the price of baby milk in Britain and then criminalise mothers for trying to ensure their babies are fed. It’s the same violent structures that deny indigenous Palestinian rights to land and that gentrify and evict working-class and racialised communities in London. It’s different manifestations of the same systems of violence. We don’t see ourselves as just allies with Palestine, but we see each other as one global community of solidarity and resistance against systemic, colonial violence. 


Bethan, Just FACT Programme Manager

What does community mean to you? 

Community is not something that can be decided by the state or violent institutions or borders. It is important that we remember that we are part of a global community built on solidarity.

At the Nejma Collective, we rebuild our community relationships with people in prison to defy the state’s attempts to decide who and how we build community by violently removing our neighbours and isolating them in prisons.  Community is about intentional solidarity, and when we build, we build together. Land is not a resource or commodity that we extract from, but land is central to our community, we build with and alongside and for the land, not on it. 

We need to build with the people that we don’t know yet, the people we have not yet involved in our organising but then the key question becomes how do we keep each other safe? Many of our neighbours want to organise but recognise the reality that it is not safe or see it as a feasible option so how can we support them? First, how do we ensure that we meet people’s material needs? Sometimes it is very difficult, practically, between the responsibilities we have and finding the energy to organise. It’s important that we support our neighbours and communities by ensuring that their material needs are met.That could include community growing spaces that support with providing food, or community care for people with children or other caring responsibilities. 

Secondly with safety – we can see how violent the police are, including through the violence of Prevent, particularly with organising around Gaza and Palestine and towards racialised and vulnerable communities. Aunties are scared to organise because of a real fear of violence from the cops that comes from histories of violent policing. 

One approach to this is to always question who is on the front lines? To ensure that those with the privilege and power to be on the front lines are there and ready to defend our more vulnerable neighbours. Also, it’s important to recognise the reality that we are all already always unsafe. Whether you are on the front line or not, and despite your positionality, policing and imperialism exist to destroy life and defend power and so we are always open to violence and so we must always be ready to resist. 


Share an example of direct action with community organising? 

It’s been great to see people make connections between systems of violence across the world, and it’s becoming commonplace for people to link the genocide in Gaza to imperialism and policing in Britain. 

The Nejma Collective have great clips making the connection between the UK and global violence. We have a duty, with our privilege of benefitting from being in the imperial heartland, to hold these systems accountable and to build beyond them towards systems of care. In particular, Tower Hamlets as a community is amazing! 

We’re very explicit in our solidarity with Palestine, it’s part of every aspect of our lives and our community has boycotted everything that they can. And, just to relate it back to my role as a food justice organiser, the way communities have responded to the boycott has shown just how intentional and political their relationship with food is. 

The question within the food and environmental sector has always been about how to encourage people to be ethical consumers. Often NGOs and charities come into local communities ready to teach people about how to be ethical consumers and overlook that they are already applying their own ethics and intentions to their relationship with food. People are not as apolitical or unintentional in their relationship with food and the environmental as some of these organisations suggest – they are being very explicit that food is political and that they are refusing to allow their food to be a tool of violence, imperialism and genocide and it will be interesting to see how and which of these organisations respond. 

Sumayyah Zannath

Sumayyah Zannath (she/her) is a community organiser, researcher and facilitator, focusing on reimagining what care and solidarity can look like between communities and land. She is part of the Blueprint Architect group, which is a collective of organisers and food growers exploring community-centred responses to food injustice in Tower Hamlets. She is also currently organising as part of Land in Our Names, a grassroots land and racial justice collective that is exploring what reparations, land justice and food sovereignty can look like within Britain. Sumayyah is also a researcher at Nejma Collective, an abolitionist group organising alongside incarcerated Muslims within the UK. For questions or thoughts, feel free to drop her an email at [email protected] 

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