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.