Meeting Dawood Masood for the first time, it’s impossible to believe he’s only 20.
The former Luton Sixth Form College student – who started the #Not in my Name campaign and founded the Quba Trust to help those in need – has just been named Bedfordshire’s Young Person of the Year.
He’s raised thousands for charity and is head of education at the Al-Hira Educational and Cultural Centre in Beechwood Road where he tries to provide better understanding of Islam to young people.
And as part of his mission to promote community cohesion, he’s met former members of the English Defence League – including Tommy Robinson.
Dawood’s dedication and commitment were appplauded by Bedfordshire Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis, who presented him with his YOPEY award.
She said: “With so much dividing faith communities, it’s refreshing to see a young man who is doing so much to bridge the gulfs.” She added: “He is clearly a natural leader and role model. Recognising the value of bringing people together shows great insight and determination.”
Dawood has been volunteering at the Al-Hira Centre – where his father Professor Masood Akhtar Hazarvi is director – since he was 16. His input changed the institution almost beyond recognition.
Dawood recalled: “There were no computers, no CCTV, nothing. Now we have records of all our 400 students, their parents and teachers. There is a new syllabus emphasising manners, morals, the etiquette of seeking knowledge, behaviour and respect.” He’s also set up a football club that plays matches against groups with different faiths.
A keen player himself, Dawood is in the second year of an accountancy and finance degree at the University of Bedfordshire and has his sights set on becoming a politician.
“You don’t get anywhere by just shouting,” he explained. “You need to get in a position where you can change the law.”
As the youngest member of Luton Sunni Council of Mosques, he’s been to Westminster to meet MPs on several occasions. And he firmly believes young people should have a bigger say: “They’re the future, their opinions are important.”
He doesn’t think Luton’s problems are as bad as they’re painted. “The community is opening up, they’re expressing themselves, they’re getting involved,” he said. “I really want to leave a legacy, I’m passionate about helping others, but it has to come from your heart.” Dawood is engaged to be married to his first cousin, Affaf, an architectural student. “She’s perfect for me,” he smiled. “And I know she’ll support me in my work.”