Barrister, Author and Inter-faith worker Zia Chaudhry MBE very kindly visited CEL to speak with staff about his past career in the legal profession and his current life encouraging and nourishing relationships between communities and faiths.
Born in Burley to parents raised in Pakistan, Zia Chaudhry tells of how he always knew he wanted to do something that would make his parents proud – even if he didn’t always know what that might be.
His family moved to Liverpool from Burnley at a young age, where he attended Blue Coats School. For those who are unfamiliar, Liverpool Blue Coat School is one of the most prestigious schools in the country with a competitive entrance exam. From here, he went on to study Law at Manchester University, and was called to the Bar in 1991 where he enjoyed a 27-year career as a criminal barrister.
During his visit to the CEL office, Zia spoke about his upbringing in Liverpool, and how, despite his own relatively easy and happy childhood as a Muslim in a primarily non-Muslim school and city – his own experiences often didn’t match up with those of his friends who were also from a Pakistani background.
“One of my friends is now on the King’s Council, as a very successful barrister, but his background was from a very average school in Blackburn, and all of his mates were of a Pakistani background. When he went to University, all his mates were of a Pakistani background. He went into the law and again the people that he was spending time with – his practice is in Manchester – were other Pakistani barristers and solicitors, again, who all had a similar background to him.”
“My experience was very different, because I came to Liverpool, I went to a school in South Liverpool where in my year there were two or three Asian kids. Which meant inevitably I had to make friends with English kids, and that, you can imagine, coloured my views on life and on friendships and relationships.”
Over his 27 years as a criminal barrister it became clear to Zia that he had a talent for speaking in front of people and putting his opinion and arguments across in a compelling way – a naturally important skill for a successful barrister.
This ability has helped Zia not only during his professional life, but in his interfaith work, communicating and bridging the gap between communities and helping to foster positive relationships.
Since putting his legal career aside, Zia has worked tirelessly to foster and nurture the relationships between different communities and faiths, and to improve the lives of those around him. In recent years Zia has earned an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University, published a book on the realities of growing up as a Muslim in Britain- Just Your Average Muslim – and received an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen in 2015.
In response to the latter, Zia is quoted as saying “I’ve done nothing more than try to be a good Muslim, which as it happens is pretty much the same as being a good British citizen.”