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Ed Miliband speech at Eid Ul-Fitr celebration

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, in a speech to Muslim Friends of Labour’s Eid-Ul-Fitr celebration, said:

Assalam O Alaikum

Eid Mubarak.

Before I begin, I would like to thank some of the people who made this celebration possible tonight.

Khalid Mahmood MP and Faiz-Ul-Rasool the co-chairs of Muslim Friends of Labour.

Dr Humera Rasool for your very gracious introduction tonight.

Quwaat-Ul-Islam Girls’ School from Forest Gate who have entertained us with their singing.

I would also like to thank our caterers Mahdus for what I know is going to be an absolutely delicious meal.

And finally, I’d like to thank all of you, our distinguished guests, for taking the time out to be here with us, to celebrate Eid.

Eid is a time of great joy for Muslims.

And we have come here tonight to celebrate the huge contribution British Muslims make to our country.

Friends, tonight is a time of celebration and also a time of sorrow because of what is happening around the world.

And you will understand if I begin by saying something about the events in Israel and in Gaza.

I think we have all been shocked and horrified by the escalation of violence we have seen in recent weeks and, as ever, it is the civilian population that is suffering most from this conflict.

The horrific deaths of civilians, women and children. And as a husband and a father, my heart bleeds for the images that I have seen on our television screens and for the plight of so many people in Gaza.

That’s why I have spoken out on this issue as earlier speakers have said. I speak as a friend of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people, I speak as somebody who abhorred the murders of the three Israeli teenagers at the start of this brutal cycle of violence.

I speak, and I’m sure I speak for the people in this room, when I say that the rocket attacks by Hamas are unjustifiable, outrageous and indeed an act of terror.

And I do also defend Israel’s right to defend itself. But I simply cannot justify what we are seeing unfolding in Gaza.

The mounting death toll of innocent Palestinian civilians by some estimates 1 in 4 of them children and in the past few days two UN schools bombed, including many Palestinian children simply taking shelter from the bombardment.

Friends, that is why I have said very clearly that the Israeli incursion into Gaza is both wrong and unjustifiable.

It is wrong because despite the history of provocation from Hamas, it has led to the killing of so many innocent men, women and children.

Because it will fail to act as a deterrent or as a solution for the rocket attacks and precisely because it risks the recruitment of a whole new generation of Palestinians to the cause of Hamas.

And people across the world are asking ‘how many more children and civilians will die before a cessation of violence is achieved?’ I urge both sides to take a step back and agree to an immediate ceasefire.

And friends, tonight we must renew our long standing commitment to seeking a two-state solution, with both Israel and Palestine living alongside each other in peace and security.

Because there can be no dignity for the Palestinian people, nor security for the Israeli people without it. So let us resolve today that we must do everything in our power to prevent future Eids being marked by this violence and killing.

But we are here tonight to celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr.

My friends tell me that this was a particularly difficult year for fasting, with the long and unusually warm summer days.

In fact, British Muslims had the fourth longest fast anywhere in the world this year.

I am sure Eid must be all the more enjoyable as a result!

And I hope you enjoy the food and drink tonight.

We have people here from lots of different backgrounds.

And I love that we can come together, lots of different religions, under one roof, and celebrate Eid together with our Muslim friends.

But I know too that this is a special time for Muslims to think about their role in the world.

One of the British Muslim community’s biggest strengths is a passion for helping people across the globe.

And when looking at aid relief in countries from Syria, to Iraq, to Gaza, that passion is clear.

From donating prodigiously during Ramadhan to tonight’s donations to the crucial work of Islamic Relief in Gaza.

Since 8th July this year the relief effort, from both Muslims and those of all faiths and none in the UK has raised millions of pounds

And this immense generosity to those who share your faith overseas is not something to be feared.

It is something to be celebrated.

It is something that gives us an opportunity to reshape the way that the world sees the UK, making a difference with overseas Muslim audiences that would not be possible through diplomatic channels alone.

However as many of you in the room will know, as British Muslims your ability to help people thousands of miles away is helped so much by the strength of your communities here in the UK.

And let’s take a moment to look at the phenomenal contribution Muslims make to British life.

British Muslims play an essential part in the economic and cultural life of this great country.

You are an amazingly entrepreneurial community.

You contribute an astonishing £31 billion to our economy.

More than 100,000 British Muslims work in senior management positions in Britain - as doctors, accountants and lawyers.

Here in London, Muslim businesses create more than 70,000 jobs.

And there are countless British Muslims who are role models in every part of our cultural life.

From Olympic hero Mo Farah – what a shame that he couldn’t run in this weeks’ Commonwealth Games – to former England cricket captain Nassar Hussein to One-Direction superstar Zayn Malik.

And you are incredibly charitable community too.

British Muslims gave more to charity here at home than any other community in Britain last year.

Honouring Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam which asks you to look after those less fortunate than yourselves.

British Muslims enrich our society with your culture and traditions, and I hugely respect and admire your contribution.

Without it, Britain would not be the country it is today.

I know that Islam is a religion which prides itself on the values of peace, love, charity and prosperity for all.

Everyone in our country should take the time to truly experience and understand the contribution of British Muslims.

And not give a distorted and unfair view of your community.

Islamic values of service to the poor, loving our neighbours and being upstanding members of our society are absolutely part of British values.

These values are the same ones that British Christians, British Sikhs, British Hindus and British Jews share.

They are One Nation values.

They are our Labour Party values too.

And Labour today is a party that reaches out to all communities, all walks of life.

I have been leader of the Labour Party for nearly four years now.

And in that time, I have realised something.

If Labour is going to win the trust of the people of this country, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, we are going to do it by talking about the issues that matter to them.

And that is what we have been doing.

I am delighted we have a record number of shadow cabinet ministers from BME communities, front benchers from BME communities.

And after the general election, we will have a record number of members of parliament from BME communities too.

And because we have been listening to the British people, we are developing a programme that speaks directly to your concerns.

It is a programme that tackles issues that affect the Muslim community in the same way as it affects all other communities.

Like the cost of living crisis.

The growing gap between those at the top and everyone else.

And the deep problems faced by the next generation, who fear that they will have a harder life than their parents.

And Labour will also tackle problems of specific concern to British Muslims too.

Like the fact that the fight against race inequality has stalled in Britain over the last four years.

So many members of the Muslim community work hard, do well at school and university and then find themselves held back from getting the very best jobs in the boardroom, judiciary or politics.

We have to change that.

And we have to change the pay gap for people who do the same jobs but earn less because of the colour of their skin.

One Nation Labour will do everything in our power to tackle race inequality.

That’s why Sharon Hodgson and Sadiq Khan have laid out our plans to have a Race Equality strategy embedded at the very heart of a Labour Government.

It will be ambitious, reach across all government departments and will have real teeth.

Because when talking about British values, the key thing for Labour is, and always has been, equality

I want to thank you again for coming here to celebrate Eid with us tonight.

And to offer my thoughts and prayers for those who are not able to celebrate Eid in this way.

Who just wanted to be able to live their lives in peace.

To observe Ramadan and celebrate Eid like other Muslims around the world are able to.

Eid Mubarak and Thank you.

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