Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:27 pm on 24th May 2012.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Conservative 12:27 pm, 24th May 2012

My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. I do so on three fronts. First, I congratulate him on initiating this most vital debate which celebrates the contribution of all communities to Britain. Secondly, I congratulate him on the 150th anniversary of the Zoroastrian trust funds and, like other noble Lords, I congratulate the Zoroastrian community on that achievement. Thirdly, I congratulate the noble Lord on his personal contribution not just to this Chamber but to the country and business community at large. I assure him that I speak on a factual basis when I say that he is an inspiration to many youngsters from all communities and backgrounds in our country.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said, if you glance at the list of speakers, you will see that there are speakers not just from some defined minority communities but from all communities. That is what Britain represents today. The strength of our diversity is evident. A speaker who is to follow me shares my surname and another comes from Wimbledon, like me. Noble Lords speaking today are testament to the dedication, devotion and commitment shown by many communities throughout the country, and indeed by former generations such as people of my parents' generation who made Britain their home and were willing to work hard. To my mind the most important point is that their success truly reflects the incredible country in which we live.

As we celebrate and recognise the contributions of different communities, particularly the Zoroastrian community, and the contribution that faith has made to Britain, we should also pay tribute and recognise the fact that our country is one where opportunity, progress and perseverance are rewarded, where freedom of religion is not just protected but promoted, and where the strength of our country is evident in the diversity of what Britain is today.

I wish briefly to focus on two elements-first, in terms of my professional background in business and the City. Glass ceilings, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said, have been broken. Look around the Square Mile and you will see the diversity of our nation in the people who work in that most important of London areas- not through regulated quotas but by an evolution in our society, a meritocracy and sheer hard work.

Secondly, as a Muslim in Britain, I consider Islam to be under the microscope, and often headlines are made because of the work of splinter and radical elements who present Islam in a negative and erroneous way. It clear that there are many Muslim communities in Britain-including my own, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community-that demonstrate not through words alone but through actions that they are not just law-abiding citizens but active and productive contributors to the economy and welfare of our society. Therefore, as we rightly condemn those who burn flags on the return of our brave troops, we should also recognise the efforts of Muslim communities such as mine, whose youth groups have raised thousands of pounds through poppy appeals and, indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said, have most recently celebrated Her Majesty's Jubilee by raising a quarter of a million pounds for British-based charities.

Like other Peers, I recognise that all communities serve actively on the front line. They serve their Queen and country. Today, as the world focuses on London, with Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and the arrival of the Olympics, from churches to synagogues, from mosques to temples, and from gurdwaras to community centres-indeed, in every street in every home across Britain-let us raise a glass, say a prayer, or in some cases both, to celebrate these two historic occasions, and also our country and people who make Britain the absolutely incredible place that it is.