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Lord Sheikh’s Speech; 7th June 2021 – Second Reading of the Environment Bill

My Lords, I am the tail-ender and I hope to bat effectively. It is imperative that we redefine our relationship with the natural environment. As I said in my maiden speech, the environment is a passion of mine. I was brought up in Uganda and, as a young boy, would fish on the shores of Lake Victoria and swim in the clean waters of the River Nile. I saw green vegetation around me and wildlife in its natural habitat. I was lucky enough to enjoy nature in my youth, and those experiences led me to a lifelong love of the environment.

It saddens and worries me when I see the problems created by climate change and human actions. Now we have left the European Union, we have the opportunity to set out our own legally binding targets that go above and beyond what has been set before. As we prepare to host COP 26, the Bill demonstrates our determination and commitment to deliver key objectives and set an example for other nations to follow.

Tackling the climate crisis must be a national and international priority, especially as we recover from the pandemic and build better and greener situations. The Bill sets out a clear road map by which we can meet these ambitious targets. It is a modern Bill for a modern age, and we must support it.

As a Muslim, we are taught by the Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—to look after the environment. The most popular Hadith on the environment states:Column 1295is located here

 

“The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it.”

 

This principle reiterates the Holy Koran’s teaching that human beings have been given the responsibility of guardianship over the natural environment. We must all live by these principles and do what we can. The Bill is an important step in doing that.

I welcome the Bill and have been impressed by how it sets out a new environmental system of governance. As a nation committed to healing our planet, we must enforce environmental protection, while holding the Government and businesses to account. I support the targets, plans and policies in the Bill, which are proactive and allow us to set out own path to protecting the natural environment. I welcome the environmental improvement plans and the ability of the Secretary of State to make regulations relating to air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction. Having a policy statement on environmental principles is essential, as protecting the environment and climate should not be an afterthought but should be proactively considered in all legislation.

Furthermore, the office for environmental protection will provide necessary oversight, scrutiny, and enforcement through the courts where needed to restore the natural environment. It will also provide continuity and consistency to hold the Government and successor Administrations to account. I welcome this, but I hope that we can make sure that it is a robust and independent body which can work constructively. It is important that it should deliver the provisions of the Bill, and their adequate enforcement. Can my noble friend the Minister comment on these points, and give us this assurance?

The other issue which concerns me is air quality. In 2021 the Central Office of Public Interest has found that a quarter of homes are in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution. We must act on this, and I am pleased that the Bill has provisions on air quality targets. I look forward to discussing these points further.

I totally welcome Part 5, related to water quality, resources, drainage, and regulation of water and sewerage companies. These provisions are important, as use of water is an important part of our daily lives. I also welcome the provisions in the Bill related to tree felling and planting. According to the Hadiths, Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—told us that if one plants a tree it is deemed Sadaqat jariya: an act of continuous charity. Consequently, we are discouraged from cutting down trees. I co-chair the APPG on Islamic Finance, and I suggest that Islamic finance be used to provide support to the provisions of the Bill, such as the issue of Islamic bonds. Islamic finance provides support to projects which help communities, such as protection of the environment. Can my noble friend the Minister comment on utilising Islamic finance in our activities?

The Bill is comprehensive, and I hope that it can help us to take action in pursuit of our environmental goals. I will certainly follow it through its various stages.

 

 

In 2019 the Conservative Party set up the independent investigation to look into allegations of discrimination following discussions with Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Party asked Professor Swaran Singh to chair the group and there were 5 other members of the team, including a Muslim, Mr Wasiq Wasiq.

 

I have looked at the report and I generally welcome the findings of the group and the recommendations which have been clearly set out.

 

The group analysed 1418 complaints concerning 727 incidents of alleged discrimination and two thirds of complaints referred to anti-Muslim activities. In addition to looking at complaints, the group published a public call for evidence and reviewed representations, and they did also undertake interviews.

 

The findings of the report can be summarised as follows:

  1. The Party complaints system is in need of overhaul and the party has an under resourced and inadequately trained complaints team
  2. The data collection system is inadequate
  3. There is a lack of transparency in the complaints procedure
  4. The systems at Local Party Association levels for dealing with complaints are weak and there are no common understandings on what needs to be done
  5. As a number of complaints relate to social media, and the Party’s Code of Conduct relating to social media were not known.
  6. There needs to be training at both CCHQ and Local Association levels.
  7. Discrimination can be seen as detrimental to emotional health and wellbeing of the people who have been discriminated against.

 

The report sets out recommendations which should be done within the following timelines:

 

Within 6 weeks the Party should:

  1. Publish an Action Plan
  2. Review the investigation and identify where the investigation has been inadequate

 

Within 6 months the Party should:

  1. Publish a progress report
  2. Produce a simple and easy to understand and mandatory Code of Conduct to be applied across the entire membership of the Conservative Party. By having one Code of Conduct all party associations will be able to understand and implement it.
  3. Produce a comprehensive policy and behaviour procedure
  4. Decide whether complaints should be handled at CCHQ or local association, provided the Local Association have been trained adequately to do so.

 

After 12 months the Party should:

  1. Instruct a 1-year review, which should be carried out by the group or another appropriate body to establish the extent to which recommendations have been met
  2. Make sure each party association has at least 1 person who has been appropriately trained, and courses should be offered on an annual basis and refresher courses offered every 3 to 5 years.

 

I believe that the group has identified and reported that there are problems at both Local Association and CCHQ levels. The report sets out what needs to be done and also stated the timelines which need to be adhered to.

 

On behalf of the Conservative Party, Amanda Millings has apologised to anyone who has been hurt by discriminatory behaviour of others or failed by the system.

 

I have had a meeting with Amanda Millings, and I was assured that all the recommendations would be carried out, and in fact work has already begun. The Party has a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of prejudice and discrimination and the Party would like everybody to feel welcome. By implementing the recommendations, it is hopeful that this can be achieved.

 

I do not feel that there is any institutional racism in the Party, but the Party has accepted the recommendations and is willing to take remedial action in line with the investigation’s findings. I think we should all do what we can to ensure the recommendations are undertaken.

 

I have been interviewed on the Television and Radio and I have referred to some of the points stated above.

 

Lord Sheikh

President

Conservative Muslim Forum

My Lords, Her Majesty’s gracious Speech made clear this Government’s commitment to defence and security, upholding human rights, and reducing poverty across the world. I am pleased to note that the Government will be taking forward the biggest increase in defence spending in 30 years, which will help to promote global peace and stability.

I am very concerned with the situation in Yemen, which has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Last Monday, I held a virtual meeting with the ambassadors of Yemen and the UAE to discuss how we can best support the country. What are the Government doing to support the peace process in Yemen? Can humanitarian aid to that country be continued as much as possible? I would like to see the aid budget restored to 0.7% as soon as possible. Will my noble friend comment on when the Government plan to reassess this commitment?

I am very interested in the well-being of our Armed Forces and I welcome the announcement in the gracious Speech to provide national insurance contribution relief for employers of veterans. This will help to support those who have already given so much to this country and is a step towards realising the Government’s commitment to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran. Our Armed Forces have played a significant role in shaping our country’s history. I pay tribute to the Muslims who have been an important part of our past. Unfortunately, the contribution of Muslims to our Armed Forces is not widely acknowledged and has been historically undervalued. In World War I, 2.5 million Muslims supported the allied forces with dignity and honour. In World War II, this increased to 5.5 million Muslims. Unfortunately, some Muslims paid the ultimate price in both wars.

I am the founder and chairman of the National Muslim War Memorial Trust, which is committed to recognising the contribution of Muslims to Britain’s Armed Forces, including the erection of a war memorial on a prominent site in central London. When I initially conceived the idea of setting up the charity, I wrote to my noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and General Sir Nick Carter. They were both extremely supportive of the trust, and the support which I received from the Muslim community was very encouraging. The charity has now been established and, with my fellow trustee, my noble friend Lord Lexden, I have written to the Prime Minister and other Ministers regarding our initiative and hope to receive their support soon. I have also written to my noble friends Lady Goldie and Lord Ahmad. Can my noble friend Lord Ahmad confirm, in his closing remarks, if he is willing to support us and what support he may be able to give?

Our second objective is educational work. This will help to bring communities together and foster harmony between different groups. One of the key reasons why we set up the charity is to combat Islamophobia. People should realise the sacrifices Muslims have made to keep the union jack flying. Telling and building the story of their heroic service will help to build a better Britain for everyone. We are concerned about the findings of the report by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. My fellow trustee Major General Charles Fattorini had discussions with the commission, and we are actively looking at ways to support the report’s recommendations.

I also spoke to the Royal British Legion recently. It commends our efforts, and we look forward to working with it to explore ways in which we can be partners and support each other. Column 641is located hereI have already referred to the concession for veterans in the Queen’s Speech. I am hopeful that our charity will help to recognise the contribution of Muslim veterans and supplement the measures to address racial and ethnic disparities that were announced in the gracious Speech.

Finally, I, like many other Muslims across the world, was disturbed by the Israeli attack on the al-Aqsa mosque. To us Muslims, that mosque is the third holiest place in the world. I have visited it three times and prayed at it. It is sacred, and I believe that what has happened is sacrilege. Can my noble friend the Minister comment on what happened and perhaps try to ensure that it does not happen again?

 

Lord Sheikh’s question on the Statement on Israel and Gaza in the House of Lords on 20th May 2021

My Lords, I am very concerned at the loss of life and violent activities on both sides. I have been to Gaza as well as Israel, and I ask that we actively pursue securing the ceasefire immediately. However, I will refer to a question that I raised in your Lordships’ House yesterday but did not get a reply to. Like many Muslims in the world, I was very disturbed by the Israeli attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque; to us Muslims, it is the third holiest place in the world. I have visited and prayed there three times. It is sacred, and I believe that what has happened is sacrilege. Can my noble friend the Minister comment on what has happened and perhaps try to ensure that it does not happen again?

Response by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, my apologies; I was certainly writing to answer my noble friend’s question. I too have worshipped at the al-Aqsa mosque; it is a sacred site for Muslims. Equally, as we have heard from the right reverend Prelate, the whole essence of Jerusalem is important to all three Abrahamic faiths. Respect for the historic status quo in the holy sites in Jerusalem is also valid. Any violent action, particularly that which was taken on the eve of Laylat al-Qadr, is extremely tragic to see unfolding in a mosque, which is a place of peace. We need to ensure that the sanctity of places of worship is sustained.

19 May 2021

The Conservative Muslim Forum is alarmed at the escalating spiral of violence in Israel and Gaza.  We offer our condolences to all the victims of the fighting. The CMF calls on all parties to take immediate steps to commit to a ceasefire, initiate a political dialogue, and exercise maximum restraint. It is incumbent upon the leadership on both sides at this moment of crisis to refrain from provocations and reprisals, and to instead work towards an immediate de-escalation of tensions.

A settlement can and must be reached through peaceful, political dialogue. It is our collective wish that Arabs and Israelis of all different faiths to live together in peace, dignity and prosperity.  Indeed dialogue, and efforts to promote co-existence between different faiths and nations, are more important than ever in the light of these continuing crises. Only in the past twelve months the CMF has lamented the mistreatment of Muslims in Myanmar, China and now in Gaza.

The CMF supports a practical and peaceful resolution which will allow Jews, Muslims and Christians to worship side by side in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation.

The CMF also wishes to express its wholehearted rejection of any anti-Semitic abuse aimed at members of the British Jewish community.  There is no place for anti-Semitism or any other form of racism in our society.

The CMF is pleased that the U.K. Government remains “fully committed” to bringing about a meaningful ceasefire in Gaza.  James Cleverly MP Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa said earlier today that the international community is “pulling together” to restore permanent peace in the region and called on all parties to work to “reduce tensions”.

The Minister also condemned “acts of terrorism by Hamas” in the Middle East and urged the Israeli government to “adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality” when defending its “security interests”.

He added: “The international community is pulling together, both in the region, in Europe and the United States, to try and bring about a meaningful ceasefire and work towards what can only be the right way of bringing a permanent peace to the region which is through negotiated, political means.”

Following the announcement of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, Faruk Miah MBE, Chairman of Conservative Muslim Forum said:

“The Conservative Muslim Forum joins the nation in offering our deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen & the Royal Family on the passing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh just shy of his 100th birthday.

Prince Philip dedicated decades of public service – to his country, the Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and the Royal Family. His passing will be felt by the nation and the generations of people who benefitted from his charitable efforts and his service. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family and the Queen.”

 

If you wish to leave a personal condolence message to the Royal Family, please click the link below:

Send a message of condolence | The Royal Family

I would like to send my very warmest wishes to all our Muslim members and supporters across the United Kingdom and beyond. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, but it’s much more than just fasting from food. It’s a time of self-discipline, sacrifice and devotion.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar and is a holy month, being the month in which God commenced revealing the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) via the Archangel Gabriel.

Those first verses to be revealed now form Quran surah 96 verses 1-5, since the Quran is not arranged in chronological order of revelation.

“Read! In the name of your Lord who created:
He created man from a clinging form.
Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One
who taught by the pen,
who taught man what he did not know.”

From “The Quran: a new translation” by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press.

This is the second time Ramadan has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which means staying at home and not able to join our friends and families during iftar. Please follow the government guidelines. People should continue to pray at home with their household only and not invite others for Iftar or prayers.

You can learn more about Ramadan at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramadan

On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Forum, I would like to wish all of our Muslim members and friends Ramadan Kareem.  I wish you peace, success and a blessed month.

Faruk Miah MBE

Chairman CMF

Dear Friends,

As we come to the end of 2020, quite possibly the most challenging year of our lifetime, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members and supporters for your kindness and human spirit.

The year started with our elections when I won the mandate as only the 3rd Chairman of Conservative Muslim Forum in 15 years. Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on all our lives across the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with those that have lost lives and wish everyone to keep safe and healthy.

Christmas is an important time for Christians marking the birth of Christ and a time to reflect on the values of love, service and compassion for others.

We all know this year will be a very different Christmas but even if we can’t be together in person, we will be together as a community in sprit.

The festive period offers us a chance to reflect on what we all know has been a very challenging year but also to focus on the message of hope as we approach the new year.

The story of Jesus’s virgin birth occurs not only in the Bible, but also in the Quran, where the nineteenth surah is called “Surah Maryam (Mary).” Wikipedia has a very detailed article “Jesus in Islam” linked below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam

On behalf of the Executive of the Conservative Muslim Forum, I would like to wish all of our members and friends a happy Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.

NEW MEMBERSHIP

As of 1st January 2021 we are introducing a new Membership Scheme as follows:

CMF SUPPORTER (open to non-party members) Cost: FREE
Benefits:
o On CMF mailing list (receive regular updates)
o Invitations to CMF events
o ** No voting rights to elect CMF Executive **

CMF MEMBER (open to Conservative Party Members ONLY) Cost: £25.00
Benefits:
o On CMF mailing list (receive regular updates)
o Invitation to CMF events (Receive Priority)
o Members only events
o Invitation to Annual Policy Forum Meeting
o Voting Rights to elect next CMF Executive
o Opportunity to stand as an Executive

We are also introducing 2 higher tier memberships for those that want a little extra. If you would like more details about becoming a CMF AMBASSADOR or a CMF PATRON please email us at: mail@conservativemuslimforum.com

2020 has been a very difficult year for our finances just like many other voluntary organisations. Unable to hold any fundraising events yet having fixed costs has put CMF in a very difficult position. It would be amazing if you could start the new year by signing up as a new member, renew your membership or just simply make a small donation.

Our bank details is as follows:

Account Name: Conservative Muslim Forum
Sort code: 30-91-35
Account no: 03392069
Name of Bank: Lloyds

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

One of the key priority for CMF in 2021 is to improve our engagement with our members and supporters. With this in mind, we are setting up a number of different ways that you can engage with us including:

o write to us at mail@conservativemuslimforum.com on anything that you wish to discuss, anything that you would like CMF to take up, anything that is impacting your community, suggestions for engaging with individuals or groups, fundraising or event ideas
o join our “Tea and Talk” zoom events, just join the open discussion on topics that impact you. There is no agenda. You have opportunity to meet CMF Executives.
o Join us at our events (when possible)
o Become a Member and join our Annual Policy Forum to shape our priorities for the next 12 months.

Thank you once again for your continued support. Hope you have a wonderful festive break and wishing you all an amazing New Year.

Kind Regards

Faruk Miah MBE
Chairman CMF

On Remembrance Sunday we commemorate the contributions of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and servicewomen who took part in the two World Wars and other conflicts.

A large number of them paid the ultimate price for our freedom and we pay tribute to them for their bravery and sacrifice.

We must remember that these brave men and women included Muslims from different parts of the world and who also died for our freedom. We must also appreciate their contributions.

A registered Charity has now been established which has a distinguished Board of Trustees and the Chairman of the Board is our President, Lord Mohamed Sheikh. The initiative is supported by the British government and by General Sir Nicolas Carter, Chief of Defence Staff.

The name of the charity is “The National Muslim War Memorial Trust” and the objectives are as follows:

“The erection and maintenance of a national war memorial to commemorate the services of Muslim personnel to Britain’s Armed Forces during the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. The Trust will also undertake an educational role to promote in schools, colleges and the wider public arena the contributions of Muslims to Britain’s Armed Forces.”

We will announce later more details of this Charity.

Noor Inayat Khan was sent to occupied France in 1943 to act as a secret radio operator for the British Army. A blue plaque is being unveiled honouring the secret radio operator, who died at Dachau.

A Muslim woman who became an “unlikely spy” for Britain when she was dropped into occupied France during the Second World War has been honoured with a blue plaque at the site of her family home in London.

Noor Inayat Khan, dubbed “Britain’s first Muslim war heroine in Europe”, served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the conflict.

Ms Khan was born in 1914 in Moscow, but her family quickly moved to Bloomsbury in London’s West End at the outset of the First World War.

They then moved to France, where she looked after her mother and siblings following the death of her father.

However, in 1940, the family fled occupied France to Falmouth in Cornwall, where she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained as a radio operator, despite her Sufi pacifist beliefs.

She was recruited to the SOE – which was set up by Winston Churchill – in 1943, and was then sent back to France as an undercover radio operator.

In October that year, she was arrested by the Gestapo – the secret police of Nazi Germany – after she was betrayed by a French double agent, who was reportedly paid to hand her over.

Ms Khan was questioned by Gestapo agents, who managed to imitate her over the radio so as not to arouse suspicion, but she escaped along with other members of the SOE.

She was recaptured nearby and taken to a German prison, where she was shackled and interrogated. She refused to cooperate, and managed to scratch carvings of her address on to her bowl so other prisoners could identify her.

After 10 months she was taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where she was executed with three other women.

The English Heritage tribute will mark the London family home which Ms Khan left for Nazi-occupied France.

Shrabani Basu, Khan’s biographer, applied for the plaque and is unveiling it on Taviton Street in Bloomsbury.

“When Noor Inayat Khan left this house on her last mission, she would never have dreamed that one day she would become a symbol of bravery. She was an unlikely spy,” she said.

“As a Sufi she believed in non-violence and religious harmony. Yet when her adopted country needed her, she unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against fascism.

“It is fitting that Noor Inayat Khan is the first woman of Indian origin to be remembered with a blue plaque. As people walk by, Noor’s story will continue to inspire future generations.

“In today’s world, her vision of unity and freedom is more important than ever.”

The plaque will be unveiled at the address that Ms Khan etched on to her bowl while in prison, with a virtual ceremony broadcast on English Heritage’s Facebook page at 7pm on Friday.

Ms Khan’s plaque comes after English Heritage admitted the number of women represented by the scheme is “still unacceptably low”, with only 14% of London’s 950 plaques representing women.

The charity said that “if we are to continue to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, we need more female suggestions”.