Speakers tackle religious identity during HG Wells talk

BARONESS Sayeeda Warsi and Bishop Andrew Watson were the guests of honour at ‘An Evening of Religious and Cultural Identity’ held in Woking on Wednesday last week.

The event was organised by Woking People of Faith and took place in the HG Wells Centre in front of 200 guests from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Baha’i faiths.

Prior to the talk Somia Shafiq, who is the Chairman of Woking People of Faith, led a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for the victims of the recent Paris terror attacks.

Bishop Watson of Guildford, formerly Bishop of Aston from 2008, spoke of the need to feel confident in one’s own faith and that Christians had become frightened of saying what they believe in case they offend others, whereas other religions see this as Christians not believing in anything.

He offered a ‘roots down, walls down’ model for positive dialogue and engagement which affirms openness to others, to learning and to adventure from the basis of strong roots in one’s own faith.

Meanwhile Baroness Warsi – lawyer, businesswoman, and the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet – spoke of the British Islamic identity.

She said that it is on a journey to its final destination and wondered whether the wider British community could be patient.

The Baroness added that ‘many people turn on the British Muslim community if they do not immediately condemn and apologise for any and every terrorist attack carried out in the name of Islam by extremists, forgetting the publicity from the Muslim community attacking their actions as being against Islam’.

In answer to a question that suggested Muslims were not doing enough to stop radicalisation in the community, Baroness Warsi pointed out: “There are ISIS conversations going on all around the country between Muslim parents and their children.

“We educate our children so we can send them to a good university and have a chance to have a good job and a decent life; not so that they can become members of ISIS.”

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