Lord Nazir Ahmed was born in a Jat family of Mirpur (Azad Kashmir, Pakistan) and is a nephew of late Kalyal Mohammand Yousaf who was also a member of Mahraja Hari singhs's perjah Sabah in 1944, but soon after his birth, at the age of 7, his family migrated to the UK, where he was brought up. He attended Spurley Hey Comprehensive School, then Thomas Rotherham Sixth Form College. He studied Public Administration at Sheffield Hallam University and joined the Labour Party when he was 18 years old.
While he worked during the week-day as a fishmonger in a local market, he began his political career as a local Labour Party councillor, with most of his activity centred around on the North of England. He founded the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992. Ahmed was also made a Justice of the Peace in the same year and chaired the South Yorkshire Labour Party for some years.
In 1998 Ahmed was appointed to the House of Lords, becoming the first Muslim life peer as Baron Ahmed, of Rotherham in the County of South Yorkshire. Lord Ahmed took his oath on the Qur'an. At the age of 40, he was also one of the youngest peers to achieve this position. As a Muslim peer, much of his activities relate to the Muslim community, both at home and internationally. Ahmed led one of the first delegations on behalf of the British Government on the Muslim pilgrimage of the Hajj, to Saudi Arabia and has advocated legislation against religious discrimination, international terrorism and forced marriages.
At home, Ahmed speaks on wider equality issues, and has spoken several times on issues of race, religion and gender. He is seen as one of the leaders of the Muslim community in Britain. He claims to have tried to calm tensions following the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in 2001. However, on 23 February 2005, he hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the controversial Swedish writer Israel Shamir, during which the latter claimed, among other things: “The Jews like an Empire... This love of Empire explains the easiness Jews change their allegiance... Simple minds call it ‘treacherous behaviour’, but it is actually love of Empire per se.” Although this invitation raised some controversy, Ahmed firmly refused to discuss the matter. In August 2006 he was a signatory to an open letter to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, criticising the UK's foreign policy.
On 19 June 2007 Lord Ahmed criticised the honouring of Salman Rushdie with a knighthood because of what Lord Ahmed saw as Rushdie's offensiveness to Islam. He was reported to have said, "It's hypocrisy by Tony Blair who two weeks ago was talking about building bridges to mainstream Muslims, and then he's honouring a man who has insulted the British public and been divisive in community relations." "This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far." He also said on BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he had been appalled by the award to a man he accused of having 'blood on his hands'.
In September 2007, Ahmed flew to Islamabad with Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a bid to end Sharif's exile from the country by military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who had ousted him in a coup d'état. Ahmed negotiated with police to allow Sharif to enter the airport terminal and pass through customs, but Sharif was arrested later, and deported.
After the reform of the House of Lords, Ahmed took over from Lord Sudeley to act as Host for the Forum for Stable Currencies.
In November 2007 Ahmed was involved in a diplomatic effort to secure the release of Gillian Gibbons from custody in Sudan. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, allowed her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Lord Ahmed, from Britain's ruling Labour Party, and Baroness Warsi, an opposition Conservative, visited Khartoum and had a meeting with the President of Sudan. Following this the President pardoned Ms Gibbons and she was allowed to return to the UK.
As a resident of Rotherham, Ahmed has spoken on behalf of the communities in that region, particularly the families of the former steelworkers of the 1960s, from the Indian subcontinent who, are now second or third generation British. He has expressed that he is anxious to see that these regions continue to live peacefully amidst the growing move towards the far right across Europe, and strives to encourage positive integration into society so that people of all cultures can live together harmoniously.
Born in Pakistan, Lord Ahmed has a personal interest in seeing a peaceful resolve to the ongoing bloody dispute in Kashmir and seeks international mediation to achieve this. As well as being an active figure in the Indian Subcontinent, he has worked on the plight of Muslims around the world ranging from the collapse of former Yugoslavia, especially to the Bosniaks and Palestinians. He has been on many delegations to the Arab world, the US, Eastern Europe, Africa, the former states of the USSR and the Far East, meeting with heads of state to discuss their respective problems and how he may be able to assist them.
Lord Ahmed helps with various charitable causes and is on the board of several organisations from local groups such as his position as President of South Yorkshire Victim Support, to international bodies such as his board membership on the SAARC Foundation.
Lord Ahmed was among the founders of The World Forum, an organization set up to promote world peace in the aftermath of the 9/11 with an effort to build bridges of understanding between The Muslim World and the West by reviving a tradition of Dialogue between people, cultures and civilizations based on tolerance.
Lord Ahmed likes to spend what is left of his spare time in reading, travelling and sampling international food.