Lord Sheikh hosted the 2014 Parliamentors Alumni Awards organised by the Three Faiths Forum in the House of Lords. The Awards were held to appreciate the mentoring youth work undertaken by Parliamentarians. In his speech Lord Sheikh spoke about why interfaith dialogue is important in building bridges between the communities and praised the Three Faiths Forum and the work they undertake in promoting community cohesion. There were seven Parliamentarians in attendance.
Category: Interfaith Dialogue
Lord Sheikh was asked by Abdul Latif, Chair of the British Muslim Association of Merton to attend as the Chief Guest at its annual Seerat-un-Nabi dinner on 23rd February 2013 at Drake House.
In his speech, Lord Sheikh mentioned various sayings of the Holy Prophet and also talked about interfaith dialogue and the acceptance of other faiths in Islamic history.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society visited Birmingham to explore how faith based initiatives are promoting wellbeing and providing services in the city. Members of the delegation included Lord Sheikh, Baroness Richardson, Stephen Timms MP and Jim Dobbin MP.
The delegation visited local faith centres including Birmingham Central Mosque, Central Synagogue and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara meeting with faith leaders and City Council members to discuss the impact of faith on the city and the city’s growing number of faith initiatives.
The Muslim Community and Education Centre, Palmers Green Mosque held an interfaith dinner on 5th February 2013. The attendees included Rt. Hon. Don Foster MP, Integration Minister, Department for Communities and Local Government and Lord Sheikh.
Lord Sheikh was asked to speak at the event and in his speech he mentioned the Holy Prophet and his respect and acceptance of people of other faiths.
During the event, attendees also assisted in the packing of hampers for distribution to homeless people as part of the Cosy Toes Homeless Initiative.
The Islamic Cultural Centre and Exhibition Islam jointly organised the VIP Event – Islamic Cultural Exhibition which was arranged as part of the United Nations World Inter Faith Harmony Week 2012 at the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque. Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at the event together with several other Parliamentarians and Ambassadors of different countries and members of inter-faith organisations.
In his speech Lord Sheikh spoke about how Muslims have integrated into the community here in the United Kingdom referring to a survey that was published in the Sunday Times showing Muslims to be more patriotic than the rest of the population. Lord Sheikh went on to speak about the demonisation of Islam in the media and the need for the media to act in a responsible manner and avoid the use of inflammatory language.
Lord Sheikh referred to the Exhibition and spoke about the history of Islam as well as mentioning the Hajj Exhibition that is currently being held at the British Museum. Finally he mentioned how each person needs to spread the message of peace in order to help promote peace and harmony.
Lord Sheikh hosted an event in the House of Lords which was organised by the Muslim Council of Britain Inter Faith Relations Committee to mark the UN World Inter Faith Harmony Week 2012. The event was titled “Building Trust, Peace and Harmony through Interfaith Relations”. The Guest of Honour was Her Royal Highness Princess Badiya El-Hassan of Jordan and other dignitaries in attendance included His Excellency Mr Mazen Homoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
In his speech Lord Sheikh mentioned the fact that there are more similarities than differences in people and that we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between communities. Finally Lord Sheikh spoke about the similarities between Islam and other religions and the need for everyone to act as Ambassadors and convey the message of peace to help promote harmony between various racial and religious groups.
My Lords, I was brought up in Uganda, where there were people of different racial and religious backgrounds. I learnt to speak several languages and developed an understanding of, as well as respect for, all religions. I am a patron of several organisations which include Muslims as well as groups of other religions.
I believe that there are more similarities than differences between people and we should highlight similarities in order to establish closer links between communities. I feel that the lack of understanding leads to suspicions and divisions between people. Islam teaches us to celebrate the difference and diversity that God has created in our world. Despite the image portrayed in some parts of the media, Islam has a long and proud history of tolerance of and respect for people of all faiths.
Islam is one of the Abrahamic religions and, according to Islam, people of the book are Muslims, Jews and Christians. The books of Allah are the holy Koran, the Torah, the Gospel of Jesus and the Psalms of David. I may add that in the holy Koran there is a whole chapter on Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are a number of similarities between Sikhism and Islam, and I would like to state that the foundation stone of the golden temple was laid by Mian Mir, a Muslim holy person.
I am chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and membership of the forum is open to everyone. At all our meetings, we invite persons of all faiths and racial origins. Our guests include members as well as non-members of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Muslim Forum is an active organisation and a substantial part of the work that we do is promoting harmony among various racial and religious groups.
We recently held a meeting at which the two main speakers were an Arab lady and a Jewish lady, both of whom talked about peace between people. The Arab lady was from Gaza and had lost several members of her family during the fighting in Gaza following the Israeli invasion. A book has been published which highlights cases where Muslims saved Jews from the atrocities of the Nazis in the Holocaust. I am in fact launching this book in the House of Lords next week.
Unfortunately, there is a demonisation of Islam in certain quarters, and it is important that the media act in a responsible manner in this regard and avoid use of inflammatory language. In regard to suicide bombings, Islam forbids suicide. In the holy Koran it is written that,
I am proud that this country has a longstanding respect for pluralism and tolerance, grounded in a firm respect for liberty. I am also pleased that we seem to have moved away from the concept of what was termed “state multi-culturalism”, whereby the Government decided what was good, and sought to impose their vision. That resulted in an unhealthy degree of intolerance in the name of tolerance: what we should be seeking to build is dialogue and understanding, not an imposed vision decided by Ministers. The best way to challenge extremism is to promote integration and cohesion. That is not something that Ministers or Parliament can impose from Whitehall or Westminster.
In his speech in Munich, I believe the Prime Minister was right to focus on eradicating the things that tear us apart. Separation can lead to extremism, and extremism can be a very unpleasant spectacle. That means that we need to focus on what brings us together, rather than obsessing about what makes us different. We need therefore to talk about integration, which was the real message underpinning the Prime Minister’s speech in Munich.
Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at a meeting held by Building Bridges which is an organisation that is engaging with both Christian and Muslim communities in order to bring them together and highlight their many similarities and promoting interfaith dialogue.
In his speech Lord Sheikh highlighted the many similarities spoke about how the Quran regards Muslims, Christians and Jews as people of the Book and he also mentioned the fact that Jesus is mentioned more times in the Quran than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He added that many non-Muslims do not realise that the Sura Maryam (Mary) in the Quran contains the story of the birth of Jesus.
Cllr Raza Anjum, who is a member of the Conservative Muslim Forum Executive Committee, was also presented with a Building Bridges Award to recognise his considerable work in promoting peace, harmony and interfaith dialogue.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hameed, on initiating the debate on interfaith dialogue, which is a subject very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, in view of the time constraint I am not able to deal with the matter fully.My life has been shaped by a multicultural and multifaith background and it has been greatly enriched in consequence. I was brought up in Uganda and my formative years were spent in an environment where my fellow school pupils came from different religions and racial backgrounds. Uganda at that time was an affluent country, and one of the reasons for the prosperity was the existence of peace and harmony between the communities. In 1972 General Amin expelled the Asians and a significant part of that community came to United Kingdom.
Britain is a land of opportunity. This country provided us with the environment and circumstances where our hard work and positive attitudes towards other communities enabled us to flourish. I honestly believe that the British, for all their faults, are tolerant. This country for many years has welcomed people from abroad who have been able to settle and work here and have contributed towards the advancement and well-being of the United Kingdom. I am indeed proud to be British and to live in a country where the freedom of an individual and his or her religious beliefs are respected.
In 2003, the Conservative Party formed the Conservative Muslim Forum and I was asked to chair it. I was subsequently asked to chair the newly founded Ethnic Diversity Council of the party. One of the issues that we are actively promoting is interfaith dialogue and the building of harmony among the various religious and racial groups. There are more similarities between people than differences and it is important that we promote the similarities, as all religions have a message of peace and harmony.
I am a practising Muslim and proud of my religion. Islam regards Muslims, Christians and Jews as people of the book and we believe that the books of Allah are the Koran, the Torah, the Gospel and the Psalms. There is frequent reference to Jesus Christ, Moses and other prophets in the Holy Koran. The Koran contains a chapter on Mary, mother of Jesus. Islam is indeed a religion of peace and forbids any form of suicide bombing. Jihad is an Arabic word which means to try one’s utmost, and a Muslim must carry out good deeds. I am mentioning these points because I have spoken on these and other matters on a number of occasions at various meetings. I feel that I should dispel any misunderstandings and correct wrong ideas. It is important for us to do that as part of the interfaith dialogue, as it creates understanding and respect for one another.
Unfortunately in certain parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in the north of the country, there is a lack of interaction and engagement between the various communities. I am pleased that there are initiatives that are creating good relationship between the communities. There is a need for interfaith dialogue at every level, including parliamentary groups, national organisations, community leaders, religious groups, places of worship and, of course, the communities. It also requires support of the Government and local authorities. I am indeed an optimist and believe that with a holistic approach we can achieve this.
I wish to mention the role of the media and I ask that they show restraint in their choice of stories and words relating to any religious group. We are proud of our free press in Britain and we applaud that freedom, which is the key part of our democracy. We need, however, to exercise this freedom with care and responsibility.