PM speech at Eid reception

Transcript of speach given by the Prime Minister at No 10, Downing Street, 22 November 2010.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon David Cameron

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Prime Minister:

Thank you very much for that, and can I say how incredibly welcome you all are. 

There are really three things I want to say tonight.  The first is that I think we should be a country that celebrates and looks up to faith, rather than thinks of faith as somehow a problem or an embarrassment.  I think what Sayeeda has spoken about on this subject is absolutely brilliant, and I am glad that she has made those speeches.

I had a wonderful reminder of the importance that British Muslims attach to their faith, and the importance of faith in general, when I went to stay with a British Muslim family in Birmingham.  One of my duties was to take their very wonderful daughter and son to school in the morning, and I found out that I was taking them to King Edward’s Jewish School in Birmingham.  When I asked the parents why they were sending their children to a Jewish school, they said, ‘We are all Abrahamic faiths and we want our children to understand the importance of faith, and this is a very good school.’  I thought that was a wonderful example of the important role that faith organisations play in our society.

I think we should try and do more to examine and understand how much our faiths all have in common, because they do have so much in common: teaching us, trying to do good works and live a good life, as well as to worship our God, and I think that is an incredibly important message.  So you are very welcome here, it is great to be having this celebration and can I thank everyone who has made it possible.

The second thing I wanted to say is just to celebrate the immense contribution that British Muslims make to our national life.  There are two-and-a-half million Muslim people in Britain and - it is not a well known fact - I gather the first Mosque was established in Cardiff 150 years ago.  I am not quite sure why Cardiff was chosen but there we are!  I think it was something to do with Yemeni seamen arriving in Cardiff and wanting somewhere to worship.

Today, if you look at our armed services they are the largest non-Christian group in our armed services, and serve valiantly in Afghanistan; I have just talked to two brave British Muslims who are serving in the armed forces there.  After Christians, British Muslims are the largest religious organisation in our police force as well.  A huge amount is given by British Muslims into business life, into cultural life, and we should also remember the huge contribution that Muslim charities like Islamic Relief make to the relief of suffering around the world, as I myself have seen both at their depot in Birmingham, but also their amazing work on the ground.  I think tonight is a good opportunity to recognise the massive contribution that British Muslims make to our national life.

The third point I wanted to make - and it has been wonderful that so many people have mentioned it to me just walking from that door to standing here.  The point many people have made to me is the important role that British Muslims want to play in building a big society.

I think this is crucial, because what this is about is just asking ourselves what more can we do not just for ourselves and our families, but what we can do to build a stronger community, what we can do to take more control of our lives, what we can do to actually help solve some of the social problems we have in our country.  When you look at what British Muslims do think and take part in, I think they have - you have - an enormous role to play in that more generous and tolerant and open society that we all want to build.

So, for all those reasons, a very warm welcome.  Please enjoy the refreshments there are and listen to the band, who I think are absolutely outstanding, and I want to thank them for coming all the way from Birmingham today.  I think Eid has messages for all of us about family, about friendship and about worship; that whatever religion we belong to we can take very seriously.

I want to pay a huge credit and compliment to my friend Sayeeda, who I think has done more than any other single person to connect British politics with people in the British Muslim community. 

To all of you: Eid Mubarak.  Thank you.

Published 22 November 2010