Category: Islam

Memorial for the Late Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn

Lord Sheikh, alongside Baroness Uddin, arranged a remembrance meeting to celebrate the life, achievements and legacy of the late Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn.

The meeting was held on Wednesday 30th October 2019 in the River Room in the House of Lords.

Lord Sheikh and Baroness Uddin were joined by members of Lord Adam Patel’s family, fellow Parliamentarians and others who knew him.

 

There were a number of heartfelt speeches given by the following:

Baroness Smith of Basildon, Shadow Leader of the House of Lords

Kate Hollern MP for Blackburn

Dr Al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque

Lord Dholakia

Baroness Warsi

Dr Syed Mohiud-din MBE, British Hajj Delegation

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari MBE DL, Muslim Council of Britain

Baroness Uddin

 

Members of the Late Lord Adam Patel’s family also participated in the proceedings: his grandsons, Mr Faris Seth and Mr Umar Patel recited from the Holy Qu’ran and his son, Hon Ilyas Patel spoke. The Master of Ceremony was Mr Ahmed Azam.

During his speech, Lord Sheikh spoke of how he would remember the Late Lord Adam Patel. He included anecdotes and reflected on the Late Lord Adam Patel’s achievements and his dedication to Islam and social cohesion in British society. Lord Sheikh stressed that Late Lord Adam Patel was indeed a pioneer and a true role model.

 

Overseas Aid: Charities and Faith-based Organisations

My Lords, I am pleased to speak briefly in the gap. I begin by saying that I, with my close family and friends, have our own charity, which is entirely funded by us. In addition, I am a patron of two charities. Muslims all over the world believe in helping people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Muslims also believe that we have a moral duty to support charitable organisations through giving our time and resources wherever possible. I am sure everyone agrees there is a great deal of pleasure in giving, as both the donor and the recipient gain satisfaction.

There are many Muslim charities that are based in the United Kingdom. UK Muslims gave over £100 million to charity during the month of Ramadan last year. That is £38 a second. Muslim charities help deserving causes in the United Kingdom and provide support and assistance in overseas countries. Some of these countries have been affected by war; others are affected by famine, climate change or natural disasters. These charities perform splendid work in providing water, shelter and food. They are also involved in helping people to earn a living. I feel that charities should get involved in the education of young people and the training of people generally in order to make them self-sufficient.

I would like to emphasise that Muslim charities help to support and provide aid to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. They support people of all races, colours and religions all over the world. This fact needs to be appreciated, as it sets out the philosophy of the Muslim charities. I have connections to several Muslim charities and know the trustees and senior executives. There are charities that have been doing remarkable work, going back to the early 1980s. It is the faith of the Muslims, and we believe that faith is the fourth emergency service. Individuals have shown a willingness to volunteer time, professionalism and extend friendship. While the giving of charity is part of the Islamic faith, most Muslims will give charity with humility. Muslims believe in discretion, and we feel that the left hand should not know what the right hand gives.

I would also like to state that Muslim charities are the bedrock of their local communities and help whenever there are problems in the UK. For example, after the Grenfell tragedy, Muslim charities played a vital role in helping the people who were affected. I would like to add that at the charities with which I am connected there is proper governance, accountability and transparency in every aspect of their work. These charities have controlled their expenses and put into practice proper safeguards, which are implemented at all times. I was very pleased that a recent event organised with Islamic Relief that I hosted in the House of Lords was attended by the Secretary of State from the Department for International Development and the Minister. DfID has provided support to Islamic Relief under the UK aid match programme. I would like to ask the Minister: is DfID willing to accept applications from suitable Muslim charities for similar support? 

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development:

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, talked about the generosity of Muslim charities. I attended the wonderful event in the River Room. In one of those amazing juxtapositions, in the space of one week I went from announcing an aid match for the Lent appeal for Christian Aid to doing to the same for CAFOD. I then went to the launch of Islamic Relief, involving zakat. We were UK aid-matching them all. The first time I heard that £100 million had been given in one month by the Muslim community of Britain, I had to double-check it. I thought, “Surely there’s an extra nought on the end”, but the figure is absolutely correct. I do not know why we do not hear more in the media about our British Muslim community. It is the most generous of the faith communities in the United Kingdom and we are incredibly proud of the contribution that it makes to this great country.

Link to full debate on Hansard

Religious Persecution

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Elton for introducing this important and timely debate. Religious persecution has, unfortunately, been a recurring theme in societies throughout history. Historically, people of faith have been targets for persecution and discriminatory practices.

Although the title of this debate refers to the extent of persecution in this century, I will first touch on an event which occurred in the 20th century but which has had a lasting impact. When discussing religious persecution, I must draw upon the horrors of the Holocaust. This was the state-sponsored killing of 6 million people of the Jewish faith. We must not allow anything like this ever to happen again. I fully support the setting up of a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House about the abhorrence of anti-Semitism. The fact that anti-Semitism is still prevalent in many societies is a great cause for concern. It suggests that there remains more work to be done in educating communities about historical injustices that must never be repeated. I was disturbed to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to launch a formal investigation into reports of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any such behaviour in a political party is totally unacceptable. Something is not quite right in the Labour Party if three Members of your Lordships’ House have recently resigned from it. The party must take remedial action immediately.

In December 2018, I led a debate in your Lordships’ house on Islamophobia in the UK. Shortage of time means that I cannot go into the details here. I simply ask the Minister whether the Government now accept the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG on British Muslims, to ensure that we can make meaningful change for Muslims in the UK. The Balkan wars of the 1990s were driven by nationalism and culminated in the enforced deportation and senseless bloodshed of civilians, and the destruction of religious sites such as the 16th century Ferhadija mosque in Bosnia. This week is the UK’s Srebrenica memorial week, and we should always remember the Srebrenica massacre.

We can draw parallels between past events in the Balkans and the present situation in Myanmar. The Rohingya have been brutally persecuted in Myanmar and driven out of their homes in Rakhine State. The Burmese army has led a pogrom against the Rohingya, and has been accused of raping, torturing and killing citizens while systematically burning Rohingya villages. This has led to the displacement of more than 1 million citizens. The United Nations Human Rights Council has referred to the treatment of the Rohingya as genocide. I would be grateful if the Minister informed your Lordships’ House whether Her Majesty’s Government would support efforts by the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

I have spoken in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere against the persecution of minorities. Most recently, I spoke in a debate in the Moses Room regarding the rights of minorities, in particular of Christians in ?Pakistan. What are we doing to provide assistance to Pakistan to improve the position of minorities in that country? Unfortunately, some people have hateful ideologies and discriminate against anyone who is different from them in any way. The plight of the Uighurs in China has worsened, with estimates of the number who have been detained without trial in so-called vocational and educational training camps varying from several hundred thousand to more than 1 million citizens. What representations have the Government made, alongside international partners, to the Chinese authorities in this regard?

Christians in China have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the authorities, and there has been interference with where and how they can worship. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro detailed in his recent report the extent of the increased discrimination against the Chinese Christian community, and commented on discrimination against Christians in several other countries. What steps are the Government proposing to take to implement the recommendations made by the right reverend Prelate?

I wholeheartedly support the efforts and investments made by the Government to defend the right to religious freedom. I also welcome the fact that the UN General Assembly has recently adopted a resolution for an international day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. It is vital that we parliamentarians show leadership, stand in solidarity against all types of faith-based discrimination and adopt a societal philosophy that an attack on one group is an attack on us all.

I end with a famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”. There is a powerful message in this poem.

World Muslim Leadership Forum

Lord Sheikh was invited to attend and make the Welcome Address at the Fourth World Muslim Leadership Forum at Lambeth Palace in London. Lord Sheikh is a European Patron of WMLF. The title of the Forum was: “The Role of Muslim Leadership in Rebuilding Islam’s Global Image”.

This conference aimed to join Muslim leaders from different corners of the globe to explore key issues, address the challenges and provide innovative solutions to delinking perceptions of associations being made between terrorism and Islam. Through strong leadership the conference led by example in opening up the discussion around this crucial challenge.

Delegates included parliamentarians, politicians, experts and scholars, UN bodies, the interfaith community, activists, policy leaders, development practitioners and corporate leaders.

The below pictures show the event Lord Sheikh hosted in the House of Lords on behalf of the WMLF which was held prior to the Forum.

Parliamentary Eid Reception

Lord Sheikh hosted Islamic Relief’s Eid Reception in the House of Lords. The reception was held on 26th June 2018 in the River Room of the House of Lords and was very well attended.

Lord Sheikh  mentioned, “Most Muslims all over the world believe in helping people who are less fortunate than themselves. There are many Muslim charities which are based in the United Kingdom. UK Muslims gave 100 million pounds to charities during Ramadan last year. That’s £38 pounds a second.”

Talking about Ramadan, Zakat and Islamic duty, Lord Sheikh also said, “It is compulsory for us to give Zakat. It is of course the third pillar of Islam. We also like to help others. Although Muslims donate to charities at all times, during the month of Ramadan, the contributions tend to be large and generous.”

Penny Mordaunt, MP, Secretary of State for International Development (DFID) was the keynote speaker and wished ‘all a belated Eid Mubarak.’ She said, “I hope you were able to spend the day with your families and loved ones. And that you were able to reflect on the sacrifices you made and the good you have done during the month of Ramadan.”

 

 

Short Debate on Islam in the House of Lords

On 19 November 2013 the UKIP peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch initiated a short debate by asking the following question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis for the statement by the Prime Minister on 3 June that “There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror”

 

The first response to the speech was made by Lord Sheikh. A transcript of the speech is below:

My Lords, I speak as a Muslim, as a proud British national and a supporter of all faiths and communities. I am privileged to live in a country where people of numerous religious beliefs live alongside each other in relative peace. This is a testament to our nation’s tolerance and unity in equal measure.

I was brought up in Uganda, where there were people of different racial and religious groups, and learnt to respect all communities. I am a patron of several Muslim and non-Muslim organisations that promote harmony between people. I believe that there must be dialogue and respect for others if we are to continue to coexist peacefully. Without these, there is lack of understanding which leads to suspicion and tensions.

I believe this debate today has been called as a result of such misunderstanding. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, questioned the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement that:

“There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror”.

I believe the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement was obvious. There is nothing in any religion, teaching or scripture that condones causing indiscriminate harm to others. It is the interpretation of corrupt minds that seek to justify these actions for themselves and those they manipulate.

The actions of a few fanatical individuals must not be the yardstick by which we judge Islam or any other religion. If we allow this to happen, the culture of fear and division takes hold. When that culture permeates, the terrorists realise their intentions. Later on in the statement, the Prime Minister referred to the murderers’,

“extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justify violence.”

It is that ideology that we are facing, not the religion itself. Terrorists’ motives have time and again been revealed as political grievances. Terrorists twist these grievances, through the prism of religion, into an ideology to justify their actions. It must therefore be clear that these actions were not motivated at root by religious teachings. The united condemnation of the Woolwich attack from prominent Muslims illustrated this.

Let us look specifically at Islamic teaching. As a Muslim, I was taught that human life was sacred. It is written in the Holy Koran,

“whoever kills a human being … it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he has saved all mankind”.

That is why I have consistently spoken about Islam as a religion of peace, and continue to do so. In fact, I even represent that in my coat of arms, which features two doves. I believe that every Muslim should be an ambassador to convey that message and help to promote peace and harmony with other religions. I also believe that both the media and politicians must play their part. Some media circles, in particular, are guilty of vilifying Islam and portraying us with an unfair image.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and in the United Kingdom, there are more than 2.6 million. Such large numbers of people and their faith must not be used as a scapegoat or a political football. It is important that our politicians of all persuasions act responsibly and use moderate language. I find the use of the term “Islamic terrorist” to be improper in the same way that I would the term “Christian terrorist”. That kind of language stokes fear and creates a psychological tie between the religion and the terrorist.

The opposite is in fact true. A report by Demos in 2011 revealed that 83% of British Muslims feel proud to be a British citizen, compared with 79% of people across the whole population. That reasserts that our problem lies with a very small minority. The vast majority of Muslims enjoy practising their religion peacefully in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that anybody looking to cause disharmony should be allowed to come here from a Muslim country or a European country, such as the Netherlands. If we demonise Islam or any other religion, we are doing a disservice to the concept of religion as a whole and the societies that embrace it. I therefore totally endorse the comments made by our Prime Minister.

Islam, Terror & the Communities

After the bombings in Madrid, Kenya, Bali, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, New York and London, one of the threats to National and International Security is a possible terrorist act by a handful of misled extremists who think that they have committed an act of Jihad, killing themselves and others.

We also had the situation that a number of young Muslims have been arrested relating to the alleged plots to bring down Trans Atlantic airlines, some of those arrested have now been charged. Furthermore, there have been arrests at a restaurant in South London and in Manchester.

Islam is a religion of peace and totally forbids, in its strongest terms, any act of extremism and terrorism. Furthermore, Islam forbids suicide bombing and such an act is not Jihad. The extremists have sought to link their evil ideology by using religion that Muslims believe to be one of mercy to mankind.

The term Jihad is misunderstood and I feel that I need to clarify and explain what it exactly means. Jihad is an Arabic word which means to try one’s utmost. It means that a Muslim must control his bad desires and intent and carry out good deeds. It also refers to take action and remove evil in ones life and the society. In a nutshell Jihad refers to doing good and preventing evil deeds.

This country is a land of opportunity and the British people, for all their faults, are generally tolerant.

There are about 1.8million Muslims, which represent about 3% of the population.

There are over 5,000 Muslims who are multi millionaires and whose net assets exceed £4Billion. In London alone, the total turnover of Asian owned businesses is over £60Billion and a significant number of businesses are owned by Muslims.

I have offices in the City of London and Bromley and we transact business nationwide and I meet and see a number of Muslims who have done exceptionally well in businesses, professions and in the academic world.

A significant number of young Muslims are successful in many fields and these are the role models which we need to project. For example, it was announced recently that a Muslim has been appointed to the rank of Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy and there are a number of successes in businesses, professions, sports and in the academic fields.

We Muslims are proud of the fact that we have made a contribution to the advancement and well being of this country. This is our home, for example, I have a daughter who was born here and this is the only country she knows.

Having said this unfortunately there are a number of Muslims who live in deprived areas. The unemployment rate amongst Muslims is high, generally there is under achievement of Muslim children at schools and the health of Muslims is below par. The home ownership amongst Muslims is low. There is lack of inter-action between Muslims and other communities.

There are problems regarding Imams who are brought here from overseas, problems relating to isolation and a very tiny minority of extremists who are involved in criminal and terrorist activities.

First generation Muslim immigrants arrived here and settled in places where work was readily available, which was mainly in urban areas. Many such areas have completely lost their industry and many young Muslims are struggling to compete in the job market with few qualifications. Unfortunately then some Muslims fall into the trap of indulging in criminal activities. Many areas are suffering from a high level of deprivation and these and other aspects need to be looked into and ways thought to address issues of unemployment, education, health and social services.

50% of Muslims are born here and are therefore under the age of 30. Some Muslims are facing an identity crisis. Most regard themselves as British but sometimes there is limited communication between them and the older generation or with the wider British public. The Muslim community must accept that there are problems amongst their midst and in addition to condemnation, the community needs to take positive steps to tackle the issues.

I do not have any problems with my identity. I am a British Muslim. I am proud of being British and also proud of my religion.

Local community associations and mosques have tended to cater for the needs of the older generations, with many young Muslims feeling distanced from the activities of the mosques.

In a number of mosques the sermons are in the vernacular language and the Imams knowledge of English is rather limited.

Encouragement and resources need to be provided for the training of Mowlans in the United Kingdom and the mosques should actively engage and set up activities which would involve the younger generation.

Some of the proposals put forward by the Government to tackle radicalism and radical elements have sent mixed messages to the Muslim community. Care needs to be taken to ensure that all proposals are carefully thought out and relevant communities are consulted to ensure an inclusive approach to difficult issues. The police must only arrest people on very sound intelligence. We need to avoid the Forest Gate debacle when over 250 police officers raided a house and arrested 2 brothers, one of whom was shot.

The academic achievements of Muslim children are below par and their performance is generally low. Ways must be found to improve their performance, which needs support and participation from a number of organizations, agencies and the Muslim community itself.

The answer to tackling the problems is not to rely entirely on policing or an enactment of legislations by the Government.

To combat crime, extremism and terrorist activities we need a holistic solution and approach.

To take this holistic approach it needs active support of the Government, Police, Local Authorities, the community itself and various organizations.

The Muslim community does suffer from Islam phobia. Muslim fear that the media uses phrases such as ‘Muslim Terrorist’ and refers to the name of Islam in a detrimental manner. There are indeed very successful Muslims who have done very well in every field in this country but their achievements are not highlighted often enough.

I am very pleased that David Cameron in his recent speech did not use the words Islamic terrorist but the terrorists. During the IRA campaign we did not refer to the people committing terrorism as Catholic terrorist and it is inappropriate to use the expression Islamic terrorist, these persons who are miss guided should be referred to as terrorist or international terrorist. David Cameron further said that these miss guided persons had a deformed vision of Islam.

Further more he said that he was a liberal conservative rather than neo-conservative.

The media needs to be more restraint in choice of their words and attitude towards the Muslim community. I must say that the British media was extremely understanding regarding the cartoons which appeared in the Danish press and the
British press did not print the cartoons.

We are indeed very proud of our democracy and freedom of press in the United Kingdom. We applaud our freedom of press which is part of our democracy but I feel this freedom needs to be exercised with care and responsibility and the press must be mindful of the religious beliefs of all the communities. We do not make fun of the holocaust .

The other point about the media is that it highlights and reports widely bad actions of the minority but does not give enough coverage to the good points. For example during the demonstration outside the Danish Embassy it widely reported on the placards carried by a handful of persons but failed to report on thousands of persons who demonstrated twice at Trafalgar Square who wanted peace, harmony and moderation.

I also believe that there needs to be inter-action and inter-faith activity between various religious groups and there are projects which help to achieve this. I personally support one such project in Bradford.

I would now like to talk about international issues. Britain sent troops to Iraq with America. Britain also with America tacitly supported the Israeli action in Lebanon. Israel has destroyed Lebanon and its infrastructure. Israel has undertaken wholesale punishment of Lebanon and its people. Nearly a million have been displaced and hundred of cilvilians including a number of children have been killed. We need to ask ourselves what effect such actions of Britain has in radicalizing some Muslims and perhaps driving them to take extreme actions.

The Israelis have used cluster bombs supplies by America which has caused considerable damage and loss of life and the damage to human lives will be continuous. We have allowed American planes carrying bombs for Israel to be refueled in this country. Britain, with America did not call for an immediate ceasefire following the Israeli invasion.

During the Israel invasion of Lebanon William Hague made three basic comments
1) Israel retaliation was disproportionate
2) We should not be afraid to disagree with Israel
3) We should not always mirror the polices of America.

Personally I fully agree that Israel has a right to exit and protect their country and people. My best friend is married to Jewish lady. I have visited Israel twice. I keen on inter faith dialogue and have held joint meetings with Conservative friends of Israel. Kemal Butt is our inter faith officer.

I did see an interview given by Peter Taylor, who recently made the programme on extremism and the Iraq crisis, which was shown on BBC2. According to Peter Taylor one of the reasons for terrorist activities in the United Kingdom and abroad is because of American and British action in Iraq.

An intelligence report prepared by the Americans has clearly stated that the American invasion of Iraq and its occupation has increased terrorism and its future threat. It has also fuelled radical ideas. The report further states that the Iraq war has the made the terrorist problem much worse in the Muslim world and globally.

I think that American and Britain should seriously question their foreign policies. Having said this we should always take action to protect and its interest.

We also have a situation with the nuclear programmes undertaken by Iran. I believe that the problem can best be resolved by dialogue and talking to the Iranian Government. Any sanction or drastic action should be the last resort

I would now like to talk about myself and explain my own background to you.

I was brought up in Uganda in a multi faith and multi cultural environment. I respect all religions and have visited placed of worship of various denominations.

I am a practicing Muslim and my faith is very dear to my heart.

I became actively involved in politics in August 2003 and in September 2005 my name was submitted for a peerage by Michael Howard. Prior to my involvement in politics, I was President of the Chartered Insurance Institute and Chairman of the British Insurance Brokers Association. In both these positions I was the first foreigner to be elected for this honour. I have also held a number of positions in other organizations and associations.

I have always believed that one must become part of the establishment but retain ones own identity.

In January 2005 I established the Conservative Muslim Forum and on my Executive Committee I have a cross section of members from various denominations of the Muslim community. William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Minister; Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Attorney General and David Lidington the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland are also members of the Executive Committee.

The Forum now has a full time secretariat and we have drawn a plan to take forward a number of proposals which include setting up our Youth Wing, a section for Muslim ladies and the establishment of a think tank to look at issues which concern the Muslims in this country. The think tank will address various issues which will include the education of Muslim children, the health of the Muslim community and the criminal activities of some Muslims.

I am very pleased that Conservative Muslim Forum has set up a women’s section and we have a number of ladies who will undertake work on regular basis. The activists will include ladies of various ages and the person who will head the women’s section is a young person aged 27. We will closely with Lady Fiona Hodgson who is the chair person of the Conservative Women’s Organization. My wife Lady Shaida Sheikh who is here is one of the activists. We intent to visit different parts of the country and meet women as well as hold meetings. During the local election recently the women’s section undertook tele-campaigning which we feel was worth while.

I believe that this country is a country of opportunity. In 1972 my family was expelled from Uganda and we came to Britain penniless. We were given refuge in this country and have been allowed to flourish. I started with my company as an employee and today I own most of it and I am its Chairman and Chief Executive. Over a period of three years we won 12 major insurance awards, which is a record, and no other company has achieved this.

I feel that the main reasons for our achievements have been because this country has provided me with the environment and circumstances where my hard work and initiative has paid off.

The way to change any organisation is from within and I always urge the ethnic minorities to join a political party of their choice. We would of course like them to join the Conservative Party and we are at the moment actively looking to recruit new members.

I may add that there is no fee to join the Conservative Muslim Forum but it is necessary for a person who wishes to join the Conservative Muslim Forum to be a member of the Conservative Party or join the party at the time of applying for membership of the Conservative Muslim Forum.

The membership of the Conservative Muslim Forum is open to everyone irrespective of race or religion. In fact there are a number of non Muslims and British persons who are members of the Conservative Muslim Forum. The forum like the Conservative Party is an inclusive organization and welcomes everyone. If you would like to join the forum and like to promote it we would welcome this very much.

David Cameron and the party now like to promote candidates who are women and from ethnic backgrounds and the party has therefore prepared The List A which has a number of women and ethnic candidates.

There are now a number of ethnic councilors including Kemal Butt who won with a handsome majority.

During the last council election we won three additional London Boroughs which has mixed communities. These are Harrow, Croydon and Ealing.

The total number of people of ethnic extraction are about 4.9 million and they are normally clustered in towns and cities where our support is weak. It is therefore important we reach out to the ethnic communities and engage with them and win their support which will enable to win the local and off course the general election.

The Party is changing and one of the changes is to effect measures whereby we win the support of all the communities. We are indeed a one Nation Party and it should be a reality.

Thank you

Islam & the Environment

I am Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and in our last newsletter we had a paragraph concerning the environment. I have quoted the saying of our Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, which is:

‘The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it’

The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, also said:

‘The whole earth has been created a place of worship, pure and clean. Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded’.

Muslims should seek to protect and preserve the environment because by so doing they protect Allah’s creatures, which pray to him and praise him.

Human kind might not be able to understand how these creatures praise Allah but this does not mean they do not do so. In Sura 17 Bani Israil. Verse 44 it is stated:-

The seven heavens and the earth and all beings therein, declare his glory. There is not a thing but celebrates his praise and yet ye understand not how they declare his Glory.

The environment contains Allah’s creatures, which the Muslims consider to deserve protection.

Islam seeks to protect and preserve the environment as Islam, as a way of life, is established on the concept of good (Khayr). Therefore, it is expected that Islam will protect the environment once understood that such protection is good by itself. In Sura 99 Zilzal, it is stated in Verse 7 to 8;

Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.

In Islam, humans are expected to protect the environment since no other creature is able to perform this task. Humans are the only being that Allah has ‘entrusted’ with the responsibility of looking after the earth. This trusteeship is seen by Islam to be so onerous and burdensome that no other creature would accept it. In Sura 33 Ahzab Verse 72, it is stated:

Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it and man assumed it Lo! He is a tyrant and fool.

In Assisi declarations, issued by gathering of world religions in 1986, the Muslim statement was’

Allah is oneness; and his oneness is also reflected in the oneness of mankind and the oneness of man and nature. His trustees are responsible for maintaining the oneness of his creation, the integrity of the earth, his flora and fauna, his wildlife and natural environment.

I was brought up in Uganda, a country once described as the “pearl of Africa” by Sir Winston Churchill. As a young boy I used to fish on the shores of Lake Victoria, swim in the River Nile and visit our game parks to watch with fascination and awe the beauty of the wild. I was lucky enough to see and enjoy the fruits of nature in my youth and it was those experiences that led me to a lifelong love of the environment. I want future generations to be inspired, stirred and captivated by the same natural wonders as I was as a young man. It saddens and worries me when I see the problems that have been created by climate change. The more we understand climate change, the more it looks as if we may be the real culprits.

Climate change poses a serious threat to Africa, and measures to help African countries to “climate-proof” their societies, economies and infrastructure are now widely seen as vital. Sir Nicholas Stern, among others, has recently warned of the uneven impact of climate change on the poorest countries. Most Africans still rely, literally on the fruits of their labour. When crops fail, things fall apart. Lake dissipation, collapsing fisheries, the displacement of millions, and the loss of crops that feed them—all these have a direct and potentially fatal effect.

But of course the problems of climate change affect not only Africa but also the entire globe. The Middle East and Muslim countries, like other regions, need to urgently examine the way in which climate change may affect their future. In an area dominated by arid and semi-arid lands, water is a very limited resource. Water is a scarce resource and with climate change further exacerbating the situation it will continue to be so in the future. The downstream states of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Palestine are under pressure to share the limited waters of the River Jordan. This in turn means examining the inter-relationship between climate variations, water supply, land use, economic planning and demographic change. Such questions cannot be dealt with on the basis of national interest only but demand cross-border cooperation.

As the chairman and chief executive of an insurance broking organization, I see at first hand how the insurance industry is already feeling the impact of climate change worldwide. In the United Kingdom, Europe and America, we are suffering from freak weather conditions; we now have hot summers and excessive rainfall resulting in flooding and stormy conditions in winter. Storm and flood losses in Britain cost £6.2 billion between 1998 and 2003—double the amount in the previous five years. The financial costs of flooding could rise in both the UK and the rest of Europe, increasing the annual flood bill by some £82 billion across the continent. More important than the financial loss is the human cost. It now appears clear that climate change is a threat to the future of the entire world. Hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wild fires and other natural disasters have caused devastation in parts of the globe.

Yet the future does not look promising. Economic growth is expected to propel global oil demand from 84 million to 116 million barrels a day by 2030. Carbon emissions are set to soar by more than 55 per cent over that period. Furthermore, there may be greater use of the burning of coal. This energy scenario is not only unsustainable, but also doomed to failure, according to the International Energy Agency.

The first and best way to alleviate the efforts of climate change and to make dramatic cuts to damaging greenhouse gas emissions is to take a holistic approach with the participation and the support of local authorities, Governments, international organizations and us, the people. The UK government is taking a leading role. Its focus on climate change during its presidency of the G8 in 2005 is most welcome. The UK produces 2% of global carbon emission, but in the UK we have achieved a 15% reduction of Green House Gas emissions in 2002 from 1990 levels, and committed to 60% cut by 2050. All this while economy posted 30% growth which I believe we can be an example to other nations by championing sustainable development.

We would like other countries in the world to follow our example. United States of America and fast growing countries like India and China must all take a positive role to reduce pollution and carbon emissions and preserve energy.

If we take the right action there will be dual benefits; first we will reduce pollution and, secondly we will secure our energy supplies for the future. The UK must set an annual ‘carbon budget’ to limit the amount of greenhouse gas we produce each year, so we can achieve that 60% reduction target by 2050. The government needs to offer tax incentives to drive UK innovation in renewable energy and other clean technology and use public subsidy to support R&D.

With renewable energies, there is real hope that this can be achieved – in wind, solar and waterpower – reminiscent of the early days of information technology or mobile phones. And, like the information Age, the Renewable Age could also herald real opportunities

What can we as people do? Climate change unites us all – each and every one of us will suffer if we allow runaway increases in our emissions to further damage an already ailing atmosphere. More than one-third of the UK’s carbon emissions come from people’s homes and road transport. This is an issue of personal choice as well as government policy.

We can begin by undertaking home improvements to cut down on energy wastage. We can recycle as much as possible. We should make more use of public transport and cut down on air travel, where possible.

We must remember few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts we can make a real difference.

We must choose instead to make the 21st century a time of renewal. By seizing the opportunity that is bound up in this crisis, we can unleash the creativity, innovation, and inspiration that are just as much a part of our human birthright as our vulnerability to greed and pettiness. The choice is ours. The responsibility is ours. The future is ours.

I will conclude by reciting one of my favourite sayings by Mahatma Gandhi;

‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’

Thank you