British values fit well with Islam says head of Muslim Council

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SHAFAQNA –  The Prime Minister last month delivered a strong speech on extremism, directed ­primarily at Muslims, in which he spoke about the need to promote strong British values.

Writing in the Sunday People, Dr Shuja Shafi asks what exactly are British ­values and who gets to define them?

Before Mr Cameron’s Cabinet ­colleague Michael Gove changed his mind, he is once reported to have said “there is something rather un-British about seeking to define Britishness”.

Now Mr Cameron says that we must be “respecting ­different faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life”.

That way of life includes respecting democracy and the rule of law, ­freedom of speech, of worship and the of press plus equal rights ­regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith. These human values ­resonate ­positively in our Islamic faith, even though both extremists and the ­anti-Muslim bigots who thrive on negative ­stereotypes of Muslims would have you think otherwise.

I have no problem in ­supporting these values. I only wished they were applied consistently.

We talk of ­democracy and the rule of law at home while our foreign policy lends support to dictators and ­human-rights abusers abroad.

And while we struggle to get to grips with British values, we find it even harder to agree on the history taught in our schools from which we derive our values.

Of course we should ­celebrate the contribution of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish soldiers who fought for our freedoms in the First and Second World Wars. We seem less keen to discuss the legacy of colonialism that has a direct effect in the world we live in. This debate on British values is relatively recent and I welcome it.

But must it take place under the shadow of terrorism, where ­supposedly un-integrated Muslims are the ­primary focus?

As individuals and communities, we have long been part of the fabric of this country. We’ve given much and have much more to give.

As a community we face many ­challenges in overcoming ­marginalisation, discrimination, ­disadvantage and suspicion.

It is these obstacles, not Islam or Muslims, that stand in the way of our fuller participation in society.

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