Some 700 women attended a national Peace symposium titled “Faith and Loyalty to Britain: The Role of Women” on Saturday 14 January 2017. The event was organised by women from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK to dispel misconceptions about Islam and Muslim Women and demonstrate that loyalty to Britain is part of the practice of Islam.
It was held at the largest Mosque in Western Europe, the Baitul Futuh Mosque in South London.
Keynote speakers were Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office), Ms. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association, and Mrs Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, UK. Distinguished speakers included the Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP and Siobhain McDonagh MP. The event was also attended by Councillors, Mayors, academics, NGOs and invitees from many faiths and beliefs.
The aim of the event was also to highlight the important contribution made by Ahmadi Muslim women who are dedicated to Islam and its peaceful teachings but are also able to contribute significantly to British society, its culture and its economy. A £5000 cheque was presented to Whizz-Kidz a British Charity which is working hard to transform the lives of disabled children.
Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office) said:
“It’s so good to see so many women here to talk about the role we can play in promoting peace and integration. Whether we are mothers, religious leaders or politicians, we all have a role in establishing peace.”
Baroness Williams also commended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association and said:
“Your dedication to your faith and your country is an inspiration for us all. Ahmadiyya Muslim Women demonstrate to me their importance to building strong communities. Thank You!”
Baroness Williams also outlined the Government’s commitment to tackling hate crime which includes action on racially and religiously aggravated hate crime and to protecting communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.
Mrs. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association spoke of the advancement of women since the Beijing UN Conference for Women’s Rights, but said:
“I have come to know that as a Community, you are accomplished and have done a great deal of work for your fellow citizens … I really do believe that it is incumbent on Muslim and non-Muslim women to end this idea that wearing the hijab is an oppressive tool. We are educated women, we have to speak up and challenge these societal beliefs.”
The Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP said:
“I want to congratulate our hosts for leading this event as a women only event; I think it’s great … Muslims are probably the only group in Parliament which are now a majority of women … I think too often in politics we don’t celebrate enough the role of Mum, not just inside the family but in building peace and thinking about how we can build a better future, so good on you for doing that here.”
Siobhain McDonagh MP said:
“I want to thank you for your contributions. I want to thank you for showing loyalty without condition to your country.”
Mrs. Nasira Rehman, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK said:
“Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and unity. Ahmadi Muslim women have been in Britain since 1913 and adopting modest dress have been determinedly serving society ever since. We will continue to do so building on our determination to show society that respect and tolerance for true peaceful Islam and responsibility to God and His creation is a source of unity and peace for all of us.”
Mrs. Rehman also paid tribute to Councillor Maxi Martin, who passed away in 2016 and was a dear friend of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association.
Mrs. Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in the UK and daughter in law of Dr Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel laureate in sciences said:
“This Muslim Women’s Association was established in 1922 to encourage Muslim women to be improve knowledge, serve the community, and train and bring up children to be righteous and loyal citizens. As practising Muslims, we are instructed to love our country and act as an instrument of peace. Loyalty to one’s country is part of the Islamic faith and there is no conflict between this and our belief in Islam”.
Mrs. Farzana Yousuf, a lawyer and National Secretary for Community Outreach said:
“Ahmadi Muslim women believe in loyalty to Britain, we believe in freedom, respect, tolerance and a shared responsibility for our world. In other words, we believe in true Islam.”
Alison Gordon O.B.E, Director and co Founder of Sister for Change, Mitty Tohma President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, Margaret Ali, Director of the Universal Peace Federation, Councillor Brenda Fraser Mayor of Merton, Councillor Wendy Speck Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth and Deputy Mayor of Croydon Councillor Toni Letts were also distinguished guests who attended and spoke. Their thoughtful sentiments were well received by the Symposium.