Mary Creagh delivers speech celebrating generosity of British Muslims
Mary Creagh, Shadow Secretary for International Development and MP for Wakefield delivered a captivating speech at the Islamic Relief welcoming Ramadan dinner on June 15th in London. She spoke highly of the work of Islamic Relief, and the generosity of the British Muslim public:
““In this holy month, British Muslims will raise in excess of £100 million for those in need, and your charity is now the world’s largest Muslim charity operating in 40 countries – regardless of race, colour, religion, political affiliation or gender. You deliver aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, in the world’s most dangerous places, and I pay tribute to the world’s most tireless staff of Islamic Relief. I know how hard they work, what risks they take, and what a difference they make”
Here is the full text of her speech:
“Your Excellencies, Lords, ladies and gentlemen… I want to thank you for inviting me here tonight, and thanks to Jehangir for his very powerful speech, and to Zac for his very powerful speech as well. We’ve had many battles in the House of Commons, but Zac and I are usually on the same side so I don’t know what that says about him or what that says about me. But we’re definitely both coming from the same place on the environment.
Ramadan is an important month, a time of putting faith into action, and abstinence from food and drink reminds us of the suffering of the world’s poorest people, because when our fast stops, theirs continues. Our fast is a choice, theirs is enforced.
I was talking with my neighbour last year about how long the fast is going to be this year, 19 hours. So I’m hoping that the weather stays cool, that there’s going to be some rain, and it isn’t going to be too hot for all of you. So good luck with that.
Tonight, we celebrate the work of Islamic Relief, and the generosity of British Muslims and the spirit of Ramadan, which mobilises thousands of volunteers, mosques and community organisations – and we’ve heard about that in Jehangir’s speech. In this holy month, British Muslims will raise in excess of £100 million for those in need, and this year’s message is ‘Share your relief with those who need it most’. Let’s hope we can do even better this year, and your charity is now the world’s largest Muslim charity operating in 40 countries – regardless of race, colour, religion, political affiliation or gender. Yours was the first charity I visited when I became Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.
You deliver aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, in the world’s most dangerous places, and I pay tribute to the world’s most tireless staff of Islamic Relief. I know how hard they work, what risks they take, and what a difference they make. And a special thank you goes to Shaheda Dewan and her team for organising tonight’s event. You are a force of nature Shaheda. I hadn’t realise you operate with everybody like you operated with me; very persuasive.
Now I want to touch on the YouGov poll that Jehangir mentioned in his speech, which shows that now is not an easy time to be a Muslim in the UK. I want to convey a message of solidarity and support – we in the Labour Party, and across all parties in parliament hugely value your contribution to our national life.
And I’m proud and delighted to announce that my colleague, Shabana Mahmoud, who is here with us this evening, has been promoted. She is the first Muslim woman to serve in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. So huge congratulations to Shabana on that.
I know from my home city of Wakefield what a positive contribution the Muslim community makes to British society, and we must never stop recognising it and celebrating it. Now I share your ambition for a better world, and we heard about the UK becoming the first country to meet the UN target to spend 0.7% of our nation’s income on development – a tremendous act of solidarity with the world’s poorest people, and we worked across party lines to develop that promise to the world.
But if we wish to end the abuse of power, to end inequality in education and wealth, to end the waste of worklessness and transform our world, we must rise to the new challenges of globalisation, technology, and migration. We have a duty to deliver not just charity but also justice for the world’s poorest people, and we know that without a thriving economy – without small businesses and a private sector – there’ll never be a world without aid. And we know there is no better route out of poverty than work. And not just any work, not work that enslaves people, not work that keeps children out of school locked in a cycle of poverty.
Everyone in this room shares the passionate conviction that people should have decent work, decent pay, the freedom to join a trade union. Two years ago the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh shocked the world. Over 1,100 people died that day, crushed when their factory collapsed. We cannot wait for another Rana Plaza disaster to clean up fashion’s dirty secret. Shoppers in the UK need to know that people who made their clothes have decent work, decent pay and can live a decent life.
There must be no more fashion victims. We need partnerships between governments, companies, NGOs like Islamic relief to raise factory standards, tackle child labour and ensure decent wages and good conditions for workers.
More and more of the world’s poorest people are living in fragile and conflict-affected states. We’ve heard about the crises in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan which I visited three years ago, Yemen, and the Central African Republic have created the largest refugee crisis since World War Two. Fifty-five million people need our help, and I was concerned to see that your poll showed a fall in this country, for taking in refugees.
Over the past two years we’ve seen a huge tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean and people fleeing conflict and putting their lives into the hands of the traffickers, because the world is turning away from them in their hour of need. The UK Government was wrong to withdraw from the Mediterranean rescue force, saying that it acted as a pull factor. But the Government was also right to realise its mistake and to participate in the new Mediterranean rescue force. We pay tribute to the UK’s armed forces who are engaged right now on that task.
The UK has a proud history of helping those fleeing persecution, yet we have offered safe haven, via the United Nations, to fewer Syrian refugees than Germany, Austria, Canada, Sweden, France and Australia. We’ve resettled just 187 Syrian refugees under the UK’s own special scheme, so we continue to urge the Government to work with the United Nations to offer safe haven to the children of Syria.
We heard again from Jehangir of the plight of the Rohingya people in South East Asia where they are fleeing persecution and oppression. Boat loads of refugees, fleeing to neighbouring countries and being kept at sea, in the hands of those traffickers. But ultimately, these challenges can only be tackled through the difficult and long-term tasks of peace building and engagement with governments and nations. So to finish I want to look to the future, perhaps with a little more optimism.
This is a crucial year for development. The sustainable development goals will be finalised in New York in September, and a new global climate change deal will happen in Paris in December. With the right leadership, ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change. We can move to a world beyond charity, and enable people to secure justice, and as the global village becomes smaller and more connected, we are in this room because we passionately believe we must build a world where power, wealth and opportunity is in the hands of the many and not the few.
So 2015 gives us that opportunity for the world to think bigger and do better; for ourselves, our children, and for the world’s poorest people. That is a thrilling opportunity. We must not let them down. I know Islamic Relief will play its part in that, and I wish you Ramadan Mubarak.