St George’s Day reminds us that Britain is a diverse nation, but what makes us British? Is it our obsession with the weather, our insistence on apologising, our stiff upper lip or constantly offering cups of tea? It can be hard to define, but what is true is that we are all more alike than we realise.
Our similarities and innate desire to help our neighbours is something I have noticed over the past year, and I have been humbled as a faith leader to see how the nation has rallied together during the pandemic, supporting one another – that rarely makes headlines. The inbuilt strength of the British people is something to shout about.
But as we have also seen in recent months, freedom of speech is something to respect and we need to be mindful of how it impacts diverse communities across the country to ensure that our bond as a society is maintained and strengthened. We may challenge each other’s views, but do so with tolerance and compassion. We do not want to fan the flames of Islamophobia or any other anti-religious rhetoric, and can prevent this by educating ourselves on each other’s differences, because we are all British regardless of our race or religion.
As an imam, today I’m speaking to my congregation about why St George’s Day should be a day where everyone reflects on the past year and recognises how united we are by our shared identity – being proudly British.