British Values

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

Wednesday 29th March 2017 was definitely a landmark day. On that day, our Government enacted Article 50, following the outcome of last year’s referendum and in doing so they turned their back on the past 40 years of close links with Europe. This was a moment where Britain chose to turn away from group membership with its continental neighbours and strike out alone.

So it seems appropriate at this point to pause and consider what makes life in Britain special? What are the values and attributes which define us as a nation and make us unique? Cucumber sandwiches? Cups of tea? Queueing patiently? While these humorous stereotypes raise a giggle they are not core values which underpin our society.

Ofsted, in its passionate quest to instil British values in every young mind, has defined the core British values as: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and none. Schools, colleges, universities and even nurseries have to now demonstrate that they are promoting these values to their charges. These values are held up as the key to integrating society and avoiding radicalisation and extremism. But I feel that they have fallen wide of the mark.

The motivation for the focus on British values is the fear that British born and educated individuals will become radicalised and pose a threat to life in the UK or abroad. But Britain is not a homogenous society. We are, especially in our urban areas, a rich tapestry of international cultures, languages and faiths. In trying to narrow the remit of values to something ‘British’ we are failing to recognise that core values are international and not confined to single nations. As in the wake of Brexit we turn inwards, we should not forget the value and contribution offered by the rest of the world. Every nation, despite any difficulties in current situations, has something good to offer. Indeed, there is nothing especially uniquely ‘British’ about these values.

The Holy Quran teaches;

‘And mankind were but one community, then they differed;…’[1]

So here we have an excellent example of unification and integration principles. We are all members of the same community: humankind. When we recognise that every individual has value and that we should respect each other with compassion and kindness, not just tolerance, then we will eliminate, among much else, extremism.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a shining example of cohesion and integration both within its membership and wider society. Members belong to many races and nations yet they are united by a common faith and a motto ‘Love for all, Hatred for none’. Within each community where they reside you will find Ahmadis feeding the homeless, visiting the sick and the elderly, donating money to the poor. They truly aspire to be an example of serving humanity.

These are the core values that unite, the recognition that consideration for humanity is paramount and unwavering. You cannot remove extremism by turning inwards and narrowing your outlook. It is only in accepting that all nations and people are equal under God that peace can reign.

[1] 10:20

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