EAST Lancashire organisations have been recognised the first British Muslim Awards.

The inaugural event honoured the achievements of Britain’s Muslim individuals, groups and business people, and highlighted the work of Blackburn-based Euro Garages and the Foodbank project.

Members of the Muslim community rallied together to collect food for the borough’s needy people in the run-up to Christmas, gathered five tonnes of goods and subsequently gained a nomination for the community award.

Councillor Salim Sidat, who spearheaded the Foodbank campaign, said: “Nearly 10,000 nominations came in from across the country so to be in the running was very good, I’m chuffed.

“It proved to us what we can do together, regardless of race or religion, we can work together and achieve something great.

“But I do think people should be inspired to do what they can regardless of whether there’s an award in it or not.

“Our main aim was to work for the community, as far as we are concerned, people should work together in this time of need.”

Coun Sidat and his team of six fellow organisers worked into the night while they were collecting the food, checking no items were out of date, separating them out by category and tidying up afterwards.

He also spent his own money on the project, covering the food and travel expenses of volunteers. He said: “The awards were the first time we had all managed to get together since the project and now we have more planned, which is another reason it was such a good night.

“There were so many inspirational and genuine people there.”

The group’s celebrations were bittersweet, as they shared the knowledge that community members in Blackburn are going to have their work cut out for them in the near future.

Coun Sidat said: “The food issue is not going to go away.

“The benefit cuts and bedroom tax are going to hit us really badly, disproportionately and unfairly so compared to other places in the country.”

Euro Garages was nominated for business of the year, recognising brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa’s corporate acumen.

The pair have grown their firm from scratch in 2001 to owning 70 forecourts and producing aturnover of £305m.