On 14 April 2018, at the request of my friend Dr Ghulam Abbas I gave a talk to about 30 people of Pakistani origin in Huddersfield. They ranged in age from mid-teens to mid-40's. I covered three separate topics:
Below you can listen to the 6-minute recording, or if you wish read a transcript. I also recommend reading my page "Integration advice for individual French (and British) Muslims."
All of us live in this country. That can be a good experience, or it can be an awful experience. The only influence we have over which of those two alternatives happens is what we do, both each of us individually, and what all of us do collectively.
I have lived in this country for over 65 years. I was less than two years old when I came here as Abbas has mentioned. I grew up with some Muslim friends in Manchester, but my environment was overwhelmingly white. In many ways it is much much easier being a Muslim in Britain today than it was then. But sadly, in some ways, it has become harder.
Much of what I said earlier about career success will also help with integration. But I do want to give you just 5 extra pieces of advice.
My brown skin is a part of who I am. I cannot change it. I do not drink alcohol because I am a Muslim. I am not prepared to compromise that.
But conversely, I always dress like any other middle-class white British person would dress. That is a choice. I see no point in making myself look different by dressing differently.
Only you can decide which differences are fundamental and non-negotiable, and which differences you will eliminate.
You are an ambassador for Islam. That applies whether you like it or not. Other Muslims need you to do it well.
That requires learning about Islam and about other religions so that you can talk in a positive way about Islam, how it fits with other religions, how it fits with human rights and why it is a religion that every British person should welcome in this country, regardless of their own religious beliefs.
I have worn this Union Jack lapel pin for eight years. I started doing it because I noticed that Barack Obama always wears a lapel pin.
This week, from Monday to Wednesday I was at Exeter University at the annual conference of the British Association for Islamic studies. About half the people there were Muslims and about half were non-Muslims. Not a single person that I chatted with mentioned this lapel pin or asked me anything about it.
But I am certain that every one of them saw it because you can’t miss it if you are talking to me. And as soon as they saw it, they knew how I felt about my country. Words were not necessary.
When was the last time somebody said to you “This is not your country. Go home.” It happened to me last week.
On a train, coming back from Exeter, a stranger did not use those exact words, but other things that he said implied just the same. They made me angry, and I am sure that if you hear those words, they make you angry.
But it is not enough to just think that this is your country, or to say that this is your country. You have to show this is your country by what you do.
As an example, the overwhelming proportion of the charity money that I have given in my life so far has gone to places like Manchester Grammar School where my children went, Clare College Cambridge where I went, and to many other charities working in this country.
Now that does not stop me giving some money for tsunamis, earthquakes or floods in other countries. But my main focus is right here, making this country a better place for Muslims and a better place for non-Muslims.
This country is going to have elected politicians whether you get involved with politics or not. The only difference is that if you don’t get involved with politics, you have no say over who those elected politicians are.
The first step of political engagement is simply to vote, in every election.
Beyond that, give some money to the party that you most support. You’ll never find a party that you agree with 100% but there are always some parties you like more than others.
If you join a political party, you have some kind of voice inside it, no matter how small that is.
Most importantly, remember that politics is not just about Muslims or foreign policy about one or two overseas places. There are many things that you and I should be as concerned about as everybody else in the country is concerned: health, education, crime, the economy, taxation and so on. Your views on those issues should determine which political party you support.
There are only a tiny handful of issues that I regard as genuine Muslim issues. Freedom to practice halal slaughter. Freedom to wear clothing for religious reasons. Freedom to practice and teach religion.
All of the major parties are agreed on these issues. They are not a reason for choosing one party against another.
I expect to spend the rest of my life in this country. Most of our children will spend all their lives here. What kind of country it is depends upon what every one of us does.