Lessons from Eid al-Adha

Sajid Javid celebrates the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha with figures from Britain's faith communities.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

Let me start by thanking Hassan Rasool for that beautiful reading.

I’ve been marking this festival every year for as long as I can remember.

And hearing that reading just then really took me back to when I was a boy, sat on the floor of a mosque in Bristol.

As a child I always got really excited about Eid.

With so many imams and other faith leaders here today I’d like to say it was because I was a holy young man.

That I was deeply moved by the religious meaning, the lessons we can learn…

To be honest, I was really just looking forward to getting lots of money from all the adults in the family!

I remember when I was little, one December I complained to my brother.

I said: “It’s so unfair, all my friends are getting Christmas presents but we don’t get any.”

And he said: “Don’t be daft, Saj… They only have one Christmas each year, but you get TWO Eids!”

Things are bit different with my kids.

We celebrate the big Muslim festivals; I was back home in Bristol over the weekend marking Eid with my mum.

But we also mark all the Christian ones too.

Which is great.

Except I’m now on the hook for THREE sets of presents AND a whole pile of Easter eggs!

I suppose it’s a model of modern Britain.

And it has echoes in my professional life.

I’m here today celebrating Eid.

Yesterday I spoke at the Chief Rabbi’s Conference, looking ahead to the high holy days of Judaism.

And as the Cabinet Minister responsible for community cohesion, I meet with figures from all the major faith groups, as does Lord Bourne, who’s here with us today.

There’s a story I heard not long after taking on this job.

I shared it with the Rabbis yesterday and I think it bears repeating this afternoon.

It’s about meeting between Nigeria’s first president, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and the first premier of the Northern Nigeria region, Ahmadu Bello.

They were trying to find ways to defuse the religious tensions that divided the country they both loved.

Azikiwe, who was a Christian, ended the meeting by saying “Let us now forget our differences.”

To which Bello, who was a Muslim, replied, “No – let us now understand our differences.”

There are more than 63 million people living in these islands and no two of us are the same.

We believe in different things, we vote for different parties, we worship in different ways.

And that’s one of the things that makes Britain great.

We don’t brush our differences under the carpet and try to impose a one-size-fits-all secularism.

We bring together different people and different ideas and from that we create wonderful things.

But those positives can only come about if we understand each other, if we respect and embrace our differences.

That’s why dialogue between people of different faiths is so important.

That’s why I’m pleased to see so many religious groups represented here today.

And why I was so proud to be in the audience a few years ago when David Cameron hosted the first-ever public reading of the Qur’an to be held at 10 Downing Street.

Bringing our often misunderstood faith into the heart of the British establishment sent a powerful message about the Prime Minister’s commitment to Britain’s Muslim community.

And let me reassure you all that that is going to continue under Theresa May.

As the Prime Minister said in her Eid message, she wants to make Britain a country that works for everyone.

And of course that includes Muslims.

It was our previous female Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, who said that “No faith is a faith only for Sundays”.

She was talking about her Methodist upbringing.

But her message rings true for all of us.

Because, at Eid al-Adha, if there’s one thing we can take from the story of Ibrahim and the sacrifice it’s that true faith is about more than what you believe.

It’s about what you are prepared to do.

How you live your life, the values that guide you day to day.

The Islam I was raised to believe in is all about compassion, respect and, above all, understanding.

And I’m delighted to share it with so many of you.

Thank you, and Eid Mubarak.

Published 14 September 2016