Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Prof.Mona Siddiqui addresses General Assembly

Mona Siddiqui addressed the General Assembly on its last day in Edinburgh. Dr Siddiqui is Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam at Glasgow University and Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding. She contributes regularly for radio programmes like Thought of the Day as well as writing for the dailies.

Prof. Siddiqui started her address by stating what a privilege and humbling experience it was to be invited to speak at the Kirk’s General Assembly. She reminded the commissioners that the UK is a multicultural country and that this seemed to have happened, without having a lot of thought to what it actually means. She illustrated this idea with examples from her own life recounting the emigration of her parents from Pakistan into Yorkshire when she was 4 years old and of the decision eventually to remain in the UK due to the opportunities that the country offered the family as a whole. She said her family became British as a natural extension of their living here, but without a full exploration of what it really meant in terms of adoption of a shared identity and values. Nationality for her is not a matter of passport ownership, but rather an affirmation of a place where “I feel I belong so I am motivated to contribute to its society” she stated.

Prof. Siddiqui then spoke about the way the immigration debate captures the headlines and mentioned that stereotypes in portraying diverse communities is the norm rather than the exception. This has had the unfortunate effect of
painting communities with one sweep of the brush without due recognition to the diversity within those communities. This has happened in particular with the Islamic communities of the UK, where the picture presented by the popular press does not present the full diversity and different voices that exist within it.

Prof Siddiqui urged the Assembly to consider that immigrant communities have brought a wealth of intellectual, spiritual and cultural gifts which are enriching the tapestry of the country. However, to live in a pluralistic society means that differences need to be recognised and respected. In order to do this, everyone needs to make a conscious effort to be free of stereotypes and dogmatism. “Every one must confront its own struggle to make the world a better place” she said. Faith is a great inspiration to become fully engaged as an active citizen in society. Active citizenship is not just an option, but a moral and theological imperative for men and women of faith.

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