I am a practising Muslim and keen to maintain and enhance harmonious relationships with people of all religions and ethnicity. I believe that there are more similarities than differences between people and we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between people.
Recently we celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha. This festival commemorates the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. The Eid festival has significance not only in Islam but in Christianity and Judaism as well. Islam in fact regards Muslims, Christians and Jews as people of the book and the books of Allah are the Holy Quran, the Torah, the Gospels and the Psalms of David.
In the Holy Quran there is a chapter on Mary, mother of Jesus and there are verses in the Holy Quran relating to the birth of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary. I may add that the names of Moses and Jesus are mentioned more times in the Holy Quran than the name of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Islam also has similarities with other religions such as Sikhism and I would like to say that the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid by a Muslim and there are writings of Sheikh Farid who was a Muslim in the Holy Book of the Sikhs which is of course the Guru Granth Sahib.
There are over 2 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and Muslims have been successful in every walk of life. There are a number of Muslims who feature prominently in professions, businesses, academia, politics, media and sports. There are also Muslims who are now serving in the Armed Forces as well as the police force and some of them have attained high ranks. Muslims have contributed substantially to the advancement and wellbeing of the United Kingdom.
I would like to stress that Islam is indeed a religion of peace and nearly all Muslims are law-abiding citizens. In fact on my Coat of Arms I have two doves to signify peace in Islam. I regard myself a British Peer who is a Muslim and I am very active in the House of Lords, speaking on a variety of subjects rather than confining myself to ethnic issues. I have however quoted the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and verses from the Holy Quran in the House of Lords.
There are misunderstandings about certain tenants of Islam. The word Jihad is an Arabic word which means doing ones utmost and it is a continuous process. A Muslim must control his actions and live out the Muslim faith as well as possible, it can also symbolise the struggle to build a good society.
In regard to suicide bombings Islam forbids the committal of suicide. In the Holy Quran it is written “who ever kills a human being then it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind”.
As the Copenhagen Conference will start tomorrow, I would like to stress the importance of the environment in Islam. Our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was very fond of protecting the environment and he has said:
‘The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it.’
My maiden speech in the House of Lords was on the subject of the environment and I am in fact connected with an International organisation which brings an Islamic perspective relating to climate change.
I would like to say that Islam gave women certain rights and these rights are written in our Holy Quran which was revealed over one thousand four hundred years ago. A woman was given the right of ownership and inheritance of property, the choice in her marriage partner and the option to apply for a divorce if the marriage does not work out. I fervently believe in the empowerment of women and it is a great pity that some men are chauvinistic and do not adhere to the true principles of Islam.
I have spoken on forced marriages and several other issues relating to marriage.
It is also imperative that we indeed interact with the young and all religious organisations must have youth movements. There needs to be parental involvement to ensure the attainment of education standards and also to provide guidance for the wellbeing of the young.
I believe that the United Kingdom is indeed a land of opportunity and in this great country people are allowed to practice their religion. There are no restrictions here with regard to the right of worship or any religious clothing. There is not only tolerance but acceptance of the religious beliefs of others. I feel that sometimes there are misunderstandings between people because of a lack of knowledge and it is important for all religious groups to interact and engage with others in order to dispel the misunderstandings. There needs to be more dialogue and interaction and we must all work together to engender tolerance, acceptance, harmony and mutual respect of others.
I do visit places of worship and centres of other religions
I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum as well as the Ethnic Diversity Council of the Conservative Party and I am actively involved in promoting what I have said.
I do however appreciate and commend the JAN Trust which is involved in empowering young persons and women and also help people to integrate into the British society. The organisation has achieved considerable success and I hope that they go forward from strength to strength.