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ECR Party

Syed Kamall: on religion and politics

What do moral values mean? Dr Syed Kamall MEP is Muslim and the leader of the ECR Group in the European Parliament. In his opening speech of the Conservatives & Reformists Summit in Antalya 2016 he analyzed religion, ethics and politics.

Today I want to talk to you in broader terms as an elected European parliamentarian, as a British Conservative, as a Muslim and – not least – as an enthusiastic free-marketeer.

It’s often said that British people are uncomfortable talking about religion, and it’s true. It’s as true of me as it is of any of my countrymen. I resist using my faith to ask fellow Muslims to vote for me, but equally I have never sought play down my faith. I have fought all my elections, whether for local councils, London Assembly, for the House of Commons or for the European Parliament, as a British Conservative. I became leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, now the third-largest and by far the fastest-growing Group in the European Parliament, as a British Conservative. In fact, I am probably the first non-Christian leader of any political group in the European Parliament.

Does that mean that my politics are completely detached from my faith? Of course not. I’m conscious that I’m speaking to a room full of politicians. All of you know that your political principles are partly informed by your personal values. Those of you who have faith will try – I hope – to behave as if there is a higher law. All religions teach us the sanctity of life, truth and property. I like to think we are better politicians, just as I like to think we might be better people, if we try not to lie, steal or hurt others.

That, to me, is what values mean. As I say, I am as diffident as any other Briton when it comes to discussing faith, so let me put it like this. I believe that, in the end, we are all personally answerable to God for our actions. I try to remember that sobering truth whenever I have to make choices, either in politics or in my personal life.

I have always advised aspiring politicians to be true to themselves. For those of who profess a faith this means that whether we worship at a church, synagogue or temple, we have to be true to ourselves and to God.

But the authority of God over man does not justify the authority of man over man. Virtue cannot be coerced. We must all make our own choices.

I say this as a Muslim, and I say it as a conservative. Free will is the highest faculty we have. When it is denied, whether in the name of religious conformity or of state power, our humanity is diminished.