Earlier today I gave my eighth "Thought for the week" on BBC Radio Manchester. I shared the importance of choosing our words carefully, to bring people together instead of dividing them.
We all remember great speeches.
50 years ago this summer, Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream” was heard by tens of millions of people around the world. I was 12 years old, and saw it on TV. I have never forgotten it. With the wonders of the internet, you can now see the whole speech on YouTube.
Great speeches like that are written very, very carefully to get the words just right. Martin Luther King knew that the speech would be one of the most important things he ever did in his life. His words live on long after him.
Most of us will never make a speech before millions of people. However we talk with people every day. Every person you talk to is changed a little bit by the words that you say.
Words can unite or separate us.
Some words can bring people closer together; other words can move people further apart.
I just want to share two examples.
If I talk about Allah while you talk about God and someone else talks about Adonai, it is easy to think that we are talking about different gods.
I am sure that there are millions of people who don’t know that Muslims pray to the God who rescued the children of Israel from Egypt; the same God who caused Jesus to be born of a virgin.
That is why I always use the word “God” when I am speaking in English.
My second example is the word “we.”
“We” is a very small word, but one of the most important we ever use. It divides the world into two groups, people who are “one of us” and other people.
If I use the word “we” to refer to British Muslims, I am automatically cutting them and myself off from the rest of the country.
That is why I use the word “we” only to refer to all Britons together. When I want to talk about British Muslims, I use the words “British Muslims.”
Try it for yourself. Before you speak to someone, ask yourself a question. “What words can I use that will bring us closer together instead of separating us?”