Your Royal Highness, Ladies & Gentlemen. Can I first of all my warmest possible gratitude to Princess Badiya who I’m afraid I put a bit of pressure on in order for her to take on this role with Mosaic because I couldn’t think of anybody better suited or qualified. I know just what an energetic, determined, well organised and highly intelligent lady she is.
So I’m hugely grateful to her for everything she’s done so far to help with the development of Mosaic I also secondly just wanted to thank and congratulate the children of Godwin School, Newham, for singing with such incredible gusto to the extent that I wondered whether the knee bone was connected to the thigh bone and all the other various bones that most of you are sitting under.
I very much wanted to take this opportunity to say how immensely proud I am of Mosaic and its quite remarkable achievements since I set it up only twelve months ago.
All along, the objective has been quite simple and straightforward: to extend a helping hand to those members of our Muslim communities who need it, and together with our other diverse communities, about whom I happen to care a great deal. This evening’s Talent Awards are a logical extension of this thinking - to shine a light on the diversity and quality of skills present in this room and the still larger pool of talent you represent; and to celebrate the ways in which you have enriched Britain in every conceivable sense.
What is particularly marvellous, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the way in which Mosaic is catching on not just in Britain, but overseas.
I understand that whether it is in the souks of Dubai or on the streets of Bradford, the ideas which guide Mosaic are simply understood, enthusiastically received and warmly embraced.
Indeed, when I visited Indonesia last month I had the great pleasure of meeting a group of British Imams who were participating in an inter-faith dialogue with local religious leaders.
I was fascinated to hear the views of Mr Qari Asim, the Imam of the Leeds Makkah Mosque, which incidentally has just won a national award for its community outreach work, on how, through a wide range of initiatives including Mosaic, Britain seeks to integrate rather than isolate its minority communities and offers real freedom of choice and of expression.
Mr Asim mentioned the practical example of the workplace, where multi-purpose faith rooms are increasingly in place to allow people to worship as part of their normal working day.
I have to say that it is this acceptance – indeed, this welcome – of diversity which makes me rather proud to be British!
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, from the outset, I envisaged Mosaic to be a set of multiple, but complementary initiatives - and, in a very short time, it has become just that. Its youth mentoring will be in five of our key towns and cities next year.
There is now a media network. And a speakers bureau. And, of course, these Awards. You have already conducted a remarkable 4,000 mentoring sessions and this illustrates to me, at any rate, that you have no shortage of appetite, enthusiasm or determination to continue to develop Mosaic and, most importantly, to inspire the next generation of young people to reach their full potential.
I know full well when I visit different schools and communities around this country, that there is plenty of intelligence and talent amongst our young people. If there is a problem, it is often the fact that there is a need for a little guidance, a structured framework for life, access to an opportunity or two and, crucially, that all-important development of self-confidence and self-esteem. In other words, the missing ingredient is often the forgotten, but vital, education of character. And what exactly is character?
Well, the Oxford dictionary describes it as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, the strength and originality in a person’s nature”. It is worth perhaps remembering that without these qualities we are only half the people we could be – and yet these qualities, these essential skills, are frequently left out of the educational equation.
Despite the complications that religion is alleged to bring to the modern world, it is also perhaps worth remembering that it is the great religions which, at their best, and in imitation of what their founders originally tried to ordain, have long been responsible for the inculcation of those essential qualities which have inspired the highest aspirations of humanity. Perhaps Ladies and Gentlemen we have reached a “character crunch, as well as credit and climate crunch?”.
Now, I have also been very encouraged to hear that many of our Muslim volunteers have brought with them this evening their non-Muslim friends and that young people, from various Faith backgrounds, are now reaping the benefits which Mosaic brings in terms of mentoring, practical visits to workplaces and, if I may say so, the truly inspirational role models from our Speakers Bureau.
As a project which aims to increase understanding in society and, indeed, to break down barriers, the fact that it has been possible to mobilize people of various faith backgrounds around our agenda is I think extremely important. As it was put to me rather eloquently last week: “Since we share a common father in Abraham, we must all be brothers”.
Just as Mosaic is managing to cross the boundaries of Faith and community, it is also drawing support from all walks of life. Rather like the mosaics which are produced by my School of Traditional Arts, which, incidentally, designed Mosaic’s rather splendid logo, the beauty and inner strength of Mosaic is that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
The diversity of volunteers and support it has inspired, from bankers to artists, from doctors to rugby players is, I think, due to an ability to communicate the need to act on matters that affect us all. As we live through a period of great economic uncertainty, we need to remember that disadvantaged members of our society stand to be the most affected. I pray, therefore, that those who can offer continuing support will do so…
In this regard, I could not have been more delighted to learn that Sasha Jaffri has kindly agreed to produce a collection of his distinctive paintings for auction next year, which is a wonderfully generous gesture. And I was most touched to hear that Mosaic’s logo will appear on Asad Rehman’s Formula One BMW racing car in next year’s world series – although, at 200 miles per hour, I am not quite sure anyone will ever be able to see it!
I can just conclude by saying that I really cannot thank you enough for all you are doing to support Mosaic. It is very good of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities, Sadiq Khan, to join us this evening and, if I may, I would like to single out the Department for Communities and Local Government for particular praise: they have been unfailing in their assistance to this project.
I am also more grateful than I can say to Princess Badiya and her steering group and judges for all the time and energy they have devoted to establishing these Awards. I can hardly begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to select those short-listed from such a range of talented individuals and inspiring organizations. I do just want to send my heartfelt congratulations to all those who have been short-listed and I very much look forward to meeting the winners after dinner. As far as I am concerned, they are the best long term investment I could ever make in the future success and well being of our Muslim communities in this country.