My faith inspires me to be a changemaker
“O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses for God, even if you must testify against yourselves, parents, or close relations, and whether it be against rich or poor.”
I am inspired by my faith to be a changemaker. Providing beneficial services to others is something I’m committed to, as is making a real difference in people’s lives. It’s all about the people’s power. Whatever good we see in society is from the collective efforts of people who care and are willing to do something about it. People like you and me.
One principle is that true change comes when we first change what’s within ourselves, and most importantly, we must believe that change is possible. When planning to set sail towards adventure and better horizons, it is clear that you are at least going to need a map and nautical know-how. Similarly, we must learn to extract, utilise, and channel our best skills towards a shared goal — working for the common good. We’re all one great family, like a flower bouquet; different colours, types, fragrances, and shapes. That’s why we’re beautiful, we each add to this vibrancy and support each other.
Community work has always been special to me. When I see a situation that does not seem just, I notice it and plan how best to bring about the necessary change. There are all sorts of ways to do this. Some examples include running listening campaigns, holding awareness-raising workshops, leading programmes, organising public events, or even at a very local level, having a cup of tea with your neighbours to discuss what needs to change. Collaborating with like-minded people gives us the ancient adage, “United we stand, divided we fall,” and helps us achieve more. I also often remind myself of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
In secondary school in the 1980s, I campaigned ardently alongside a group of girls against a school’s rule which forbade Muslim girls to wear the Hijab.
To us, we were simply exercising our own choice to wear it or not; we saw it as from our faith, a faith we chose and loved. Ironically, it was a “religiously inspired” institution, yet they needed someone like me, from another faith, to be the catalyst for them to begin learning about respecting these fundamental values about freedom of choice and diversity.
By working as a collective, we eventually convinced the school about the importance of respecting cultural and religious values. The outcome pleased me, and thousands of girls have benefitted since. That’s what I call real change; it happens organically, gradually, and peacefully through debates and discussions.
In June 2020, President Biden spoke to galvanise positive change in a video message addressed to Muslim Americans, quoting a Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessing be upon him):
“Whomever among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he is not able, then with his tongue; if he is not able, then with his heart.”
Islam teaches me, and us all, to stand up for justice. The above-mentioned teaching of Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessing be upon him) also teaches us the methodology for change. Most people tend to go with the flow and collude with others in doing wrong. We are taught to work with others to bring about positive change.
During Covid-19, a number of us from different faith communities allied together and managed to achieve amazing results which brought about positive change in the lives of one or two individuals, yet some changes impacted millions of people. An example of one of these larger changes is our campaign to include Iceland in the government’s free school meals voucher scheme. This campaign helped to support hundreds of low-income families during the lockdown whilst schools were closed.
What I have learnt is that it is clear not only must we work on ourselves but also work with others to bring about positive change.
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