SPEECH MADE BY LORD SHEIKH AT THE DIALOGUE SEMINAR FOLLOWING THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION “MUHAMMAD – A MERCY TO MANKIND” AT THE ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTRE AND LONDON CENTRAL MOSQUE ON 16th JUNE 2011
I was brought up in Uganda where there were people of different racial and religious background. I learnt to speak several languages and developed an understanding as well as respect for all religions.
My father was very well known in our home town and as a boy and a youth I accompanied my father with members of my family on visits to Churches, Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurdwaras and other places of worship including the Bahai Temple.
I am a Conservative peer and I am active in the House of Lords. I speak on a variety of subjects and I do not confine myself to ethnic issues but I have quoted The Holy Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to explain the true message of Islam.
I am also chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and I am involved in promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups.
I believe that there are more similarities than differences between people and we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between communities.
I believe it is important to maintain a dialogue between various racial and religious groups and dispel misunderstandings. I also believe that lack of understanding leads to suspicions and divisions between people.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to speak at an event which seeks to break barriers and build bridges between our various communities. Events like this gathering play an important role in affirming and celebrating Britain’s status as a diverse and multi-cultural society.
Mutual understanding, respect, and inter-faith dialogue are essential if we are all to coexist peacefully. Islam teaches us to celebrate the difference and diversity which God has purposefully created in our world.
Sura 49 ayah 13 of the Holy Koran says:
‘O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily the most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who has piety and righteousness”
Despite the image portrayed in some of today’s media, Islam has a long and proud history of tolerance and respect for people of other faiths.
The Holy Koran is emphatically clear on this point, stating ‘let there be no compulsion in religion’, and this has been manifest in Muslim civilization throughout history.
About six weeks ago I visited Jerusalem and I would like to make two points that reinforces the acceptance of all religions in Islam.
In the 7th Century, the Muslims were victorious at the Battle of Yarmouk and conquered Jerusalem. The leaders of the city asked the Muslim generals that they will surrender the city to the leader of the Muslims and thus Khalifa Omar travelled to Jerusalem.
Khalifa Omar did not pray in the Church of Holy Sepulchre as he was concerned that if he prayed there the Muslims will convert the church into a mosque. He respected the Christian faith and prayed in the courtyard.
Khalifa Omar granted the people of Jerusalem a covenant of peace and protection and also said that the holy places of all religions need to be respected.
There is a mosque near the Church of Holy Sepulchre called Khalifa Omar’s Mosque and I have prayed at the mosque.
The relevant excerpts from the Jerusalem Declaration are actually displayed on the outside of the mosque.
I would also like to mention that when Salahuddin Ayyubi conquered Jerusalem in the 12th Century he permitted people of all religions to stay in the city and they were respected and had protection.
We have come to the United Kingdom which is a Christian country and the British people for all their faults are generally tolerant and they have accepted us in this country. It is important that we regard this country as our home and live in peace and harmony with everyone.
I used to be a visiting lecturer at colleges and education is something that is very dear to my heart. I have always promoted the value of education as I believe that good education is the key to a better future.
To us Muslims education and knowledge is very important and we are proud of our contributions to the world of science, learning, literature, mathematics, medicine and commerce. Muslims have also excelled in numerous other fields such as art, architecture, astronomy, geography and irrigation.
Many crucial systems such as the Arabic numerals, and the concept of the zero were transmitted to medieval Europe from the Muslim world.
Muslim scientists developed sophisticated instruments such as the astrolabe, which has been described as the single most important calculating device before the invention of the digital computer.
In the Exhibition today we can see displays of various items which give a very brief description of achievements of the Muslims and their contributions to the world in various fields.
In Islam there have been great dynasties and empires which include the Ummayads, the Abassids in Iraq, the Fatimids in Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and the Mughals in India. All these empires and dynasties have contributed a great deal to the understanding and promotion of the subjects I have described.
Islam is one of the Abrahamic religions and we believe in the Prophets who are mentioned in the Bible including the following Prophets (peace be upon them) –Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob and Jesus. God’s guidance to mankind started with Prophet Adam (pbuh) and ended with Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).
According to Islam people of the book are Muslims, Jews and Christians. The books of Allah are Zabur (Psalms) of Dawud (David), Tawrat (Torah) of Musa (Moses), Injil (Gospel) of Isa(Jesus) and Koran revealed to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The Koran also mentions scrolls of Abraham. I may add that the Holy Koran has an entire chapter which is titled Maryam (Mary mother of Jesus).
There are a number of similarities between Sikhism and Islam and I would like to state that the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid by Mian Mir, a Muslim holy person.
One of the constant companions of Guru Nanak Sahib was Mardana who was a Muslim. He accompanied Guru Nanak Sahib on his journey to Mecca and Medina. In the Guru Granth Sahib there are writings of a Muslim, Sheikh Farid.
In regard to suicide bombings Islam forbids committal of suicide. Islam maintains a protection of life and does not sanction any violation against it, irrespective of people’s religion or race. In the Holy Koran 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”.
This saying is very similar to what is written in The Talmud where it is written “If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world”.
A book has been published which highlights cases where Muslims saved Jews from the atrocities of the Nazis during the Holocaust and in fact I am going to launch the book in the House of Lords.
Finally I would like to reiterate that there are more similarities between people than differences and we should all share the same hopes and take actions to maintain and promote peace and harmony between all the communities.