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What makes us a nation?

We become a nation from our sense of shared history, from thinking of all citizens as part of our extended family, and from only using the word "Us" to refer to all Britons.


13 March 2016

Earlier today I gave my 29th "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.

The Muslim Prayer for the Nation was on my mind, and this led me to explore what it means to be a nation. Some of the ideas were covered in an earlier "Thought for the Week" just over a year ago, Why it is vital to learn history.

Thought for the Week

Churches and synagogues regularly have “Prayers for the Nation.” Very simply, they pray to God to give our elected leaders wisdom, and to take care of our country and its citizens.

I think that mosques have yet to develop the same habit. That is why I was delighted when some Muslims I know wrote a Muslim “Prayer for the Nation”, in English. I have shared it on my website and through social media.

That led me to ask what we mean by “The Nation.”

There are some communities that we can see and touch. In a small village, it’s easy to think of the other residents as a community. You see them every day. You probably know most of them by name.

But in our country we have over 60 million people. Almost all of them are people you will never meet, let alone get to know.

So what makes a nation? I believe it is the way that we think about our country. Our shared past, our shared present and our shared future.

My ancestors didn’t fight in the Spanish Armada, on either side. They were peasants in northern India. However, the story of the Spanish Armada is part of the story of the country we all share. That makes it part of my history.

Our nation, Britain, is happy to adopt anyone who is willing to love the country, just as it adopted me.

Learning our shared history makes us one nation. Thinking about other Britons as our extended family makes us one nation. Using the word “Us” to mean everyone in Britain makes us one nation.


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