THE new Commission for Countering Extremism has been set up to fight opposition to fundamental British values including respect and tolerance for those with different beliefs.
As the founder of a charity that works to build a more peaceful and cohesive society, I have been bringing people together across religious divides since 1990. So why am I concerned about the creation of an organisation that is intended to play a key role in tackling those whose views threaten to tear society apart?
My parents taught me that Islam is a simple religion. It means ‘submission to God’ (‘Allah’ in Arabic), and those who accept this way of life wholeheartedly are called Muslims. We believe our religion is not a new one – it started with Adam, who was the first man. He was followed by 120,000 more prophets, including Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad. All of them preached the same thing: submission to the will of Allah.
We believe in five things: that there is only one God and that Muhammad was the last prophet; praying five times a day; fasting for one month of the year; giving part of our wealth to the needy; and, if financially and physically able, going on pilgrimage once in a lifetime.
In addition, and this is critical, my parents taught me that I needed other essential qualities in order to be a Muslim – not necessarily a good one but simply qualifying for the name! These are trustworthiness, truthfulness, standing up for justice and equality between men and women, complying with the law of the land, respecting other people’s beliefs, loving children, honouring and looking after elderly parents and neighbours, and being loyal to any country you call home. These principles are central to the way of life of any true Muslim.