Malik was born in Burnley, Lancashire, in 1967. His father Rafique Malik was a district councillor between 1976 and 2006 and a mayor of Burnley, having emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s. His mother was a Justice of the Peace. He attended Barden High School and Burnley Sixth Form Centre before studying Business Studies at the South Bank Polytechnic in London and later attending Durham University. Malik is one of seven siblings..
Prior to Parliament, his three main areas of work have been in the urban regeneration and development field; the voluntary and community sector; and domestic and international anti-poverty, education, human rights and equalities sector.
In local/regional regeneration terms after graduating Malik initially worked with the East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council in a business development capacity. This was followed by roles as Group Chief Executive of the Pakistan Muslim Centre (PMC), Sheffield; Head of Policy and Development at the Greater Nottingham Training and Enterprise Council; and then as Chief Executive of Haringey Regeneration Agency, managing a £150 million development programme.
He also served for three years as Chair of the Board of Directors of VONEF (voluntary organisations network for European funding in Yorkshire and the Humber); and served as National Chair of the voluntary sector body Urban Forum (1999–2002) elected annually by the 400 plus member organisations. The Forum was a respected national regeneration policy network made up of residents and community organisations, with the aim of pushing power to local people in deprived neighbourhoods.
Following the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998 he was appointed by then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Mo Mowlam MP, as an Equality Commissioner for Northern Ireland (1999–2002). The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland was born out of the 'Good Friday’ peace agreement and was charged with dealing with equalities issues between Catholics & Protestants, Unionists & Nationalists, and discrimination by race, gender, disability, sexuality and age. Malik served as the only ever person from England, Scotland or Wales (Great Britain) to have been appointed a Commissioner in Northern Ireland.
From 1998–2002 he was appointed as a Commissioner to the Commission for Racial Equality. The organisation was a law enforcement agency under the Race Relations Act 1976 and worked to eliminate racial discrimination across Great Britain. It has subsequently been subsumed into the Equality and Human Rights Commission EHRC
He served for six years as an Independent Governor of Sheffield Hallam University; and for several years as a member, Queen Mary University Policy Advisory Board and as an Adviser to Middlesex University.
Internationally, Malik served Vice-Chair of United Nations body, UNESCO UK, working to engage UK civic society in UNESCO's work in contributing to world peace, security, justice and human rights, by promoting collaboration between nations on educational, scientific, cultural and communications projects. Malik also served as an international election monitor for the Palestinian Presidential elections in 2005 (and subsequently, as an MP helped monitor the Palestinian Parliamentary elections in January 2006).
Between 2001–2005 he also worked as an adviser to Government on Community Cohesion and Neighbourhood Renewal. He has also been a Fellow of the Institute of Management (FIMgt) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
In June 2001 Malik was arrested and allegedly beaten by police during racially motivated riots in Burnley. He said he had been trying to stop the violence and told the BBC he had been arrested by "very hyped-up" police. "The riot shields were smashed in my face, causing four to five stitches above the eye, a black eye, lacerations to the arm, bruises on the back of the head, on the body and on the legs." On leaving Burnley General Hospital Malik said: "No recriminations. This incident should not stereotype all police officers". No charges were brought by Lancashire Police and Malik was offered an apology. In April 2003 Malik won a public apology and "substantial" libel damages after being wrongly accused of throwing bricks during the riots in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph on 17 January 2002. Malik's lawyer told the High Court in London: "At the time referred to in the article, he was in fact acting as a mediator and peacemaker in a volatile situation following disturbances in Burnley."
In 2000 Malik was elected as the first non-white member to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. He was re-elected each year until 2005 when he stood down after being elected as an MP. Malik sought selection in a number of seats including Leeds Central and Tottenham. In 2002 he had hoped to be selected in his home town of Burnley where Peter Pike had indicated he was standing down. However, the National Executive Committee decided that the Constituency Labour Party should have an all-women shortlist. He then stood for selection in Brent East after Labour lost the 2003 by-election but was left off the shortlist despite having gained the most nominations in the selection process.
In 2004 Malik was selected as the Labour candidate in Dewsbury for the 2005 general election. Labour saw a 6% drop in its vote nationally in 2005, and despite a 4.2% swing to the Conservatives in Dewsbury, Malik comfortably retained the seat for Labour with a majority of 4,615 ahead of Baroness Warsi. Upon his election Malik became one of the first British born Muslims to become an MP.
At the 2005 House Magazine Awards, his was awarded the best Maiden Speech among the one hundred plus new MPs elected in 2005. In February 2006 he was runner-up in the Channel Four News awards in the 'Rising Star' category. Upon election, Malik was appointed to the Home Affairs Select Committee. He also served on the Environmental Audit Select Committee until the cabinet reshuffle of May 2006 when he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Minister of State for Schools Jim Knight. He served as an international monitor for the Palestinian Presidential elections in 2005 and Parliamentary elections in January 2006. In June 2007 Malik became Britain's first Muslim Minister after Gordon Brown appointed him as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for International Development.
In October 2008, Malik was appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice and in March 2009 was subsequently appointed into a dual role as a Home Office Minister. In June 2009 was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
In the 2010 general election Malik lost his seat. There had been significant boundary changes in his constituency which he felt had counted against him. Malik commented that the changes "'brought in 26,000 extra Tories' from rural areas including Denby Dale and Kirkburton". In his speech on election night Malik also drew attention to the role played by an independent candidate, Khizar Iqbal. He said Iqbal had been "brought forward not to win but to make sure that I lost". Iqbal had been supported by anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell. Iqbal's election agent, Jonathan Scott, was also a former Conservative Councillor and had been the election agent for Baroness Warsi in her unsuccessful bid to become the Dewsbury MP in 2005. Councillor Khizar Iqbal was allowed to re-join the Conservative party in May 2011.
Soon after his election to the House of Commons in 2005 Malik became one of the public faces of Muslim leadership in the UK and a leading voice in the battle with Islamic extremism in Britain. In the government reshuffle of 9 June 2009 Malik was given ministerial responsibility for issues of race, faith and community cohesion. In 2008 Malik was made an honorary Doctor of the University of Bradford for his contributions as Member of Parliament and, in particular, in recognition of the distinctive role he has played in working towards community cohesion and in striving for racial harmony. He served as an Adviser to the government on Community Cohesion following race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in 2001.
Shahid Malik was regularly voted as one of the top five sexiest male MPs in the United Kingdom Parliament. In the Sky News poll, which annually conducts its poll of the 650 Members of Parliament, he regularly topped the poll as the sexiest Labour MP.
Just two months after Malik was elected to the House of Commons it was revealed that the leader of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, Mohammad Sidique Khan, came from his Dewsbury constituency. Malik described the bombings as "the most profound challenge yet faced by the British Muslim community". He said: "Condemnation is not enough and British Muslims must, and I believe are prepared to, confront the voices of evil head on."
Later Malik confronted the issue in an article for The Times newspaper. He wrote: "Yes, foreign policy causes anger among many British Muslims but this does not in itself cause terrorism. Unquestionably, the lethal ingredient is a twisted, perverted interpretation of Islam whereby you can legitimately kill yourself and other innocent people, and you will go to Heaven." He concluded that: "For British Muslims the fight against extremism is not just for the very soul of Islam but for the freedoms we enjoy as Britons."
Malik found controversy in February 2007 when he wrote, again in The Times, that the Muslim Council of Britain should "stop whingeing and show leadership." Referring to their decision not to play a part in Holocaust Memorial Day, Malik wrote: "Its flawed moral leadership places the MCB alongside the likes of the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, as nonattendees."
In October 2006 Malik garnered national attention when he spoke out in support of the decision to suspend, and later sack, a Muslim teaching assistant from Dewsbury for refusing to remove her veil in the classroom. Aishah Azmi, 24, was asked to remove her niqab veil after pupils found it hard to understand her during English language lessons. The school said she could wear the veil outside the classroom. Malik said: "In schools the top priority has got to be the education of our children... I believe the education authority has bent over backwards to be accommodating and has been extremely reasonable and sensible in the decision it has come to.""There is no religious obligation whatsoever for Muslim women to cover themselves up in front of primary school children."
In June 2009 Malik spoke out against comments made by Nicolas Sarkozy after the French President declared the burqa was "not welcome" in France. Sarkozy said: "The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience." Malik responded publicly by saying: "It is not the job of government to dictate what people should or should not wear in our society – that is a matter of personal choice."
"There are no laws stating what clothes or attire are acceptable and so whether one chooses to wear a veil or burqa, a miniskirt or goth outfit is entirely at the individual's discretion."
Malik placed an early day motion (EDM 434, 2005), which attracted 178 MPs signatures and led to the first picket and strike in the Houses of Parliament and eventually to improved pay and conditions for the cleaners of Parliament. EDM 434 stated: That this House values the cleaners who maintain high standards of service to Parliament; believes the parliamentary cleaners should be treated with respect and that it is wrong that, despite the widespread concern over their pay and conditions of employment, their pay has only increased from the national minimum wage of £4.85 per hour to £5 per hour; is concerned that the parliamentary cleaners only enjoy 12 days' paid holiday and have no company sick pay or pension; believes the time has come to end this sorry state of affairs; and urges the parliamentary authorities to reach agreement with the two contractors on making available the necessary resources to ensure that cleaners earn the London living wage.
Malik's first and longest Ministerial role was as International Development Minister where his roles included:
• Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Minister • All DFID Country Programmes globally apart from Sub-Saharan Africa • UK Civil Society (British Red Cross, Oxfam, Islamic Relief etc.) • Governor, Asian & Inter-American Development Banks • Chair Board of Governors Caribbean Development Bank • Asia, MENA, South America and Europe Development Minister • Aid Effectiveness Minister
Malik was responsible for the UK’s largest global aid programmes including in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as the Middle East and North Africa, the rest of Asia, South America and Europe. He was also the UK’s Aid Effectiveness Minister working to ensure that the impact of aid was maximised, and gave evidence to the Parliament’s International Development Committee on the issue.
In his role as the UK Minister responsible for Humanitarian Affairs, Conflict and Security Operations he had responsibility for overseeing the response to humanitarian emergencies both natural and man-made. For example, it covered disasters such as cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh cyclone Nargis in Burma; and the Pakistan earthquake, as well as man-made challenges, which meant supporting the work in Afghanistan, Iraq as well as for example UNRWA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO etc.
Some of the individual initiative’s in countries were in partnership with other countries and were relatively sizeable for example he signed a £90m maternal and new born health programme in Pakistan which was designed to save the lives of an estimated 30,000 women and some 350,000 children.
Malik was involved in the transition of Nepal out of civil war into an inclusive democracy. In this role he acted as an honest broker engaging with the Maoists leader Chairman Prachanda and the seven party alliance including PM Koirala. Other troubled areas that Malik engaged with as Humanitarian Minister included Darfur.
In addition, Malik’s focused his efforts on the Far East with visits and support to Vietnam, Indonesia Myanmar and Thailand.
He signed the UK’s first ten-year partnership agreement in the Middle East with the government of Yemen. and developed a MOU with the Islamic Development Bank.
He also served as an observer to both Palestinian Parliamentary and Presidential elections.
He was responsible for the UK’s work with the Asian Development Bank, Inter- American Development Bank and Caribbean Development Bank – serving as Governor on each (Chairman of the latter).
In terms of UK civil society he was responsible for the distribution of £120 million per year to small NGOs as well as large ones such as the CAFOD, Red Cross, Oxfam, Action Aid, Christian Aid and Islamic Relief etc. He launched the UK’s Youth volunteering schemes and others that linked the UK with the developing world and Co-Chaired the DFID/Trade Union Congress International Development Forum.
As Communities & Local Government Minister Malik’s role included: • Preventing Extremism Minister • Community Cohesion & Faith Minister • Race and Migration Minister • Thames Gateway Minister • Olympics legacy Minister • Fire & Rescue Minister
He served as Minister for the Fire and Rescue Service, Minister for Community Cohesion and Faith, Minister for Race and Migration, Minister for Preventing Violent Extremism and the Olympic Legacy and Thames Gateway Minister. As the Thames Gateway and Olympic Legacy Minister he was responsible for Europe’s largest regeneration area covering East London, South Essex and North Kent. In addition, he was responsible for ensuring the £9 billion Olympics investment had a beneficial impact on the regeneration of East London for the next twenty years. He also oversaw work with major businesses such as Land Securities PLC and helped initiate the dredging of the Dubai Ports World’s £1.8 billion UK investment, which will eventually create 36,000 jobs in the UK.
Malik dealt at the most senior level with all local authorities in East London and throughout the Thames Gateway, private sector organisations and development agencies. He was for example responsible for the appointments of Board members on the Olympic Park Legacy Company and for the restructuring of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation and the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation following their quinquennial review.
He also Chaired the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership with Bob Kerslake, the then CEO of the Homes and Communities Agency, as his co-chair. The partnership was made up of all the council leaders/CEOs and other agencies across the Gateway.
As Fire and Rescue Minister he worked with local fire and rescue authorities to help prevent deaths, injuries and damage to property. He also worked in partnership with the Fire and Rescue Service and other agencies to build the resilience and capability to deal with major emergencies, including terrorism and natural disasters. This involved management of a £400m plus technology and change management programme.
On 6 October 2006 Malik launched a libel claim for £100,000 damages against both The Dewsbury Press editor Danny Lockwood and former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott over a letter by Mr Scott criticising the Labour party's tactics following his defeat at the Kirklees council elections in May 2006. Malik believing the material amounted an accusation of racism. The defending newspaper suggested the case was attack on freedom of speech and a petition was presented to the Prime Minister protesting against Malik's legal action. In a trial at the High Court the jury failed to reach a majority verdict. A retrial was due to have taken place but with costs believed to have escalated beyond £300,000 the sides came to an agreement out of court and Malik dropped his claim. In an agreed statement Scott stated “I am happy to make clear that my letter was never intended to accuse Mr Malik of orchestrating gangs of thugs or playing the race card. This was an interpretation some people placed upon my letter and subsequent article, an interpretation with which I disagreed.” Lockwood said, “We want to make it clear that we never accused Shahid of any impropriety whatsoever during the elections.” Malik said, “I am very pleased that after a discussion with Danny Lockwood, he has been able to give me the assurances I required.” No costs orders were made against either side involved.
On 25 October 2007, while on Government business, Malik was stopped and searched by United States airport security staff at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. Malik said of the incident: "The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave, but I really do believe that British ministers and parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress. Obviously, there was no malice involved but it has to be said that the USA system does not inspire confidence."
On 15 May 2009, Malik stepped down as Justice Minister and Home Office Minister in order to allow the Prime Minister's independent adviser on Ministerial interests, Sir Philip Mawer, to investigate accusations in The Daily Telegraph that he had breached the Ministerial Code by accepting preferential rent on his office and home. However, the inquiry concluded that he was in fact paying the market rent and Sir Philip cleared him of any breach. On 9 June, Malik rejoined the government as Communities and Local Government Minister.
Malik was accused of irregularities in relation to his expenses. This came almost immediately after he was cleared of breaching the ministerial code. After a thorough 10-month inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Malik was cleared. On receiving the news Malik said: "I have now been cleared of breaching the ministerial code of conduct by the ministerial standards adviser Sir Philip Mawer, cleared of any abuse of expenses by a parliamentary review conducted by the Department of Resources, and now finally cleared of abusing office expenses by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon. Today's outcome represents the end of a 12-month nightmare and I would like to thank all those family, friends and constituents who have stood by me and kept the faith – we have today all been vindicated."
Malik attacked the BBC's decision not to broadcast an appeal by the Disaster and Emergencies Committee to help raise millions of pounds for people in need of food, medicines and shelter following Israel’s three-week assault on the Palestinian territory. The article states "Britain’s first Muslim minister Shahid Malik warned that the Corporation’s decision would be seen around the world as 'one which inflicts still further misery on the beleaguered and suffering people of Gaza' ”.
Cohesion Minister Shahid Malik said the £45million-a-year “Prevent” strategy would also work in deprived white areas rather than concentrating on Muslim youths.
Former Government adviser Paul Richards criticized the move: “There is a real danger that if ministers relax the focus on Muslim youth, then it dilutes efforts to tackle terrorism.”
Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis also criticised Malik accusing him of having “watered down the policy”.
Mr Malik said that Prevent, which includes measures like helping mosques to spot the early signs of extremism in vulnerable youngsters, was too focused on the Muslim community. He added: “You speak to any Muslim on the street anywhere in this country and they will say they are as opposed as you and I are to extremism, to terrorism. “But the frustration is that they are constantly linked with terrorism as a community as a whole.” He went on: “It is not just about the Muslim, it is actually about everybody in our society having a role to play and we cannot dismiss or underestimate the threat from the far right.”
Malik claimed £185,421 in parliamentary expenses for 2006, the highest amount claimed by any MP. Some £163,000 of this was used for staff and office etc. while the rest some £22,110 was claimed for personal use as part of his ‘staying away from main house’ allowance (ACA). 183 other MPs claimed exactly the same amount and in 2007/08 he again claimed the maximum personal ACA allowance as did 142 other MPs. Following Sir Thomas Legg's audit of MPs expenses he retrospectively lowered spending limits on items which led to some 468 MPs being forced to make repayments. Malik (239th out of 468) was ordered to repay £1,300.
Following a complaint, the Parliamentary Standards Committee concluded that part of Malik’s home insurance claim breached the rules and he was ordered to repay £235 and apologized. A spokesman for Malik said the claim had previously been "approved twice by the Parliamentary authorities and subsequently audited as eligible by Sir Thomas Legg”.
Malik and his staff regularly had to intercept abusive and racist communications sent to his offices in Westminster and Dewsbury. In June 2008 Malik acted against YouTube after supporters of the far-right posted a 39-second video clip warning him not to "mess with the big boys", cutting from a still of the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, to a shot of Malik covered in blood. The video was removed from the site following a further complaint from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In December 2009, a 55-year-old man from Woodley, Berkshire pleaded guilty under the Malicious Communications Act of 1988, of sending an indecent or grossly offensive email to Malik for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety. He was fined £200.
In December 2009 an envelope containing suspicious white powder was sent to Malik's office at the House of Commons, triggering an anti-terrorist investigation. Comments written on the envelope suggested it had been sent by a supporter of the far-right. The substance was later found to be harmless.
Malik is divorced. Although over a hundred MPs employed family members in their offices, Malik is the only MP to have employed his father.
Malik won the Parliamentary pool championship for three years running between 2006 and 2008, becoming the only MP to have ever retained the trophy. Prize money for the championship must be donated to charity and Malik donated his winnings, £4,500, to organisations in his constituency. After his 2008 victory he withdrew from the competition, saying: "A good champion knows when to hang up his cue and I honestly am starting to feel a bit guilty about winning all the time."