THE BLOG

My Role in Bridging the Gap Between Britain's Muslims and People of All Other Faiths

03/11/2014 09:14 | Updated 02 January 2015

I'm proud to be British. I'm a proud Englishman too. I'm proud of London, the city in which I was born and in which I live. I'm proud of my wife and family. I'm proud to represent the people of Tooting in Parliament as their Labour MP. I'm even sometimes proud to say I'm a Liverpool FC fan. And I'm proud to be a Muslim.

While I am proud to be the MP for Tooting, I've never sought to pigeon hole myself as a Muslim MP. I am a Labour MP for Tooting, who just happens to be Muslim. Just like many of my colleagues are Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs for constituencies up and down the country who are Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, Hindu or no religion at all.

I represent the views of all of the 109,000 constituents in Tooting who elect me, regardless of whether they vote for me or not, whatever their religion, their sexuality, their background or their class. But I know that when you are elected to public office you are thrust into the spotlight. Just months after I was first elected in 2005, London suffered a horrific terrorist attack. People of all faiths in London were murdered that day. As a MP of Islamic faith, I was expected to play my part in the way the city responded in a calm, dignified and unified way.

There have been other occasions when people who share my faith have looked to me for guidance. And there have been times when non-Muslims have turned to me to articulate the fears and hopes of the Muslim communities, and to shed light on some of the customs, traditions and festivals those of Islamic faith practice and celebrate. I know that with my role comes real responsibility in this area, and I have tried to step up to the plate, contribute my thoughts, and explain to the whole population the hopes, concerns and challenges faced by millions of British Muslims.

And this role is important because, on a daily basis, there's a stereotyping of Muslim communities that is both wrong and unfair. It stokes a dangerous prejudice about millions of British people who are law abiding, work hard and contribute enormously to society.

It depresses me how many people simply equate the length of your beard, the food you eat and the clothes you wear and 'extremism'. If you are a practising Muslim, it does not make you an extremist and I'm determined to play my role in standing up to this kind of sloppy stereotyping.

The very people spreading lies about Muslims being extremists risk putting off Muslims from sticking their heads above the parapet and playing an active role in society. This would be the exact polar opposite of what we want - communities would become isolated and inward looking, instead of playing their part in the running of this fantastic country of ours.

And it also ignores the positive role played by Muslim communities. The three million plus Muslims in this country are an extremely enterprising bunch, contributing over £31billion a year to the economy. Over 100,000 British Muslims are civil servants, lawyers, accountants and doctors. Evidence shows they are one of the most generous communities, with The Times revealing that Muslims top the poll of religious groups in giving to charity.

Sport, business and entertainment include many high profile British Muslims, acting as role models for the whole community, not just Muslims. Take Olympic hero Mo Farah, former England cricketer Nasser Hussain and current star Moeen Ali. And there's Dragon's Den star James Caan and my daughters' particular hero, One Direction's Zayn Malik. There are also British Muslim doctors, nurses, teachers, charity workers, lecturers, journalists, public sector workers doing good work.

Being Muslim is not incompatible with living in modern day Britain. Far from it. My religion teaches tolerance, charitable giving, enterprise, hard work. These are all part and parcel of the way I live my life, and percolate deep into my politics. That's why I became active in my local community - first as a local councillor, then later when I was privileged to becoming the MP for where I grew up, Tooting. That's why I chose to become a human rights lawyer - defending those marginalised and mistreated and standing up to injustice.

And that's why I've not shied away from playing my role, along with many other members of the Muslim community, in standing up to the barbarous acts wrongly committed in the name of my religion, both here and abroad. These are perverse interpretations of Islam, and I will stand up to extremists who hijack my religion.

The values I live my life by are the values of my religion. But these are totally in tune with the things Britain stands for and is famous for the world over. That's why I see my role as important - bridging the gap between the millions of Muslims in Britain, and people of all other faiths and those with no religion. To show that we have so much in common and so little reason to fear each other.

Sadiq Khan is the shadow Lord Chancellor, shadow justice secretary and Labour MP for Tooting