A very warm welcome to Number 10 Downing Street. As-salamu alaykum. It’s really great to have you here for this Eid al Adha commemoration. Tonight I want to say something about the importance of Eid; I want to say something about the enormous contribution that British Muslims make to our country; and I want to say something about the work that we’re all doing as a country to help Muslims around the world.
But before I say that I want to say something about what a difficult Eid I know it has been because of the terrible events in Iraq and Syria and the appalling brutality of ISIL. But in the midst of this brutality and the awful beheading of British hardworking good, compassionate men like Alan Henning and David Haines, in the midst of all that, something has emerged in our country which makes me incredibly proud. And that has been the response of British Muslims who have stood up and stood together and said: “These appalling events are not being done in my name.” And I felt so proud of British Muslims in everything that you have said and everything that you have done. And let us say again tonight that these people in Iraq and Syria doing these appalling things, they have nothing to do with the great religion of Islam, a religion of peace, a religion that inspires daily acts of kindness and generosity.
And that leads me to what I wanted to say about Eid. Because I’m not a scholar of any religion but what I love about Eid is it demonstrates how close together our religions are. Because of course we’re thinking of sacrifice, and we’re thinking of compassion. We’re thinking of the moment that Abraham showed his readiness to sacrifice to God because he was prepared to give up his son. But God said, “No, you must take a lamb instead.”
This is the same in my Bible as it is in your Quran. But what I love with what you have done with the festival of Eid is that you’ve taken it one stage further and said that that lamb should be sacrificed in 3 ways: for family, for friends and neighbours, and then a third for those that are neediest in our society and in our country. And I think that lesson of sacrifice and compassion that I understand at the heart of Eid is so important and something that should bring all our religions and our communities together.
The second thing I wanted to say is just about the contribution that British Muslims make in our country. I’ve spoken about the extraordinary outpouring there’s been about these appalling events in Syria and Iraq, but we shouldn’t be surprised about that because British Muslim communities are immensely proud of being British and they give an enormous amount to our country. British Muslims are actually the most generous, charitable givers that there are of any community in Britain, and that’s something to be immensely proud of as well as all the contributions to the arts, to literature, to music, to sport.
Before my conference speech I met an absolutely sensational British Muslim woman who not only ran 2 superb restaurants but was also a teacher, was also a Conservative councillor and was also the mother of 5 brilliant children, all of whom I met. And that made me think about the hardworking people in British Muslim communities who are absolutely standing up for the values that make this country great: values of enterprise, values of family, values of community, values of hard work. And that is what we’re celebrating tonight.
Third and final thing is just to say a word about what we’re doing as a country to help Muslims who are suffering around the world. And I think perhaps we don’t say enough about this, and I think perhaps we need to say more in all our communities to demonstrate to people who care passionately about the suffering people go through about what a generous and compassionate nation this is. We see these appalling problems in Syria with so many refugees and so many people suffering. Britain is the second largest bilateral donor of any country in the world. We’re always the first to step up and step forward, and we should be proud of that.
I’ve just been chairing a meeting today about how we respond to the appalling crisis of Ebola in West Africa, where Muslims and Christians are suffering alongside each other with this appalling affliction. Of course America has taken some great steps but Britain again is the second country in the world, spending £125 million to help people in West Africa. We’re sending ships. We’re sending helicopters. We’re sending doctors. We’re building 700 beds to help those people. If you look at who funds the Palestinian authority, again, Britain is one of the most generous donors, not just to help with aid but also to help with governance and with expertise so that Palestine can have the statehood that it so richly deserves.
So in all these areas we should celebrate what we do, what British Muslims do but what our whole country does for those who suffer around the world. We made a promise to the people of the world, the poorest of the world, that we would spend 0.7% of our GDP on aid and development, and we’re one of the few countries in the world that has kept that promise. And that is helping Muslims all over the world, whether in Syria, whether in Africa, whether in East Asia, all over the world. And I think we should be proud of that.
So, thank you for coming tonight. Thank you for your contribution to our country. I hope that with all the difficulties of Eid we should celebrate the enormous number of people who’ve made the pilgrimage to the Holy City. And so it only remains for me to say Eid Mubarak. Thank you.