As Bristol’s Mayor, I have the great privilege of meeting a vast range of people from diverse backgrounds. I am extremely proud to be living and working in such a culturally diverse and welcoming city, and am grateful for the contributions made by people from all our communities.
Now that this year’s Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr has ended I have been giving particular thought to our great Muslim communities, which make up such a key part of the city’s cultural tapestry.
It has been a difficult time for many in this community, particularly given the ongoing Gaza/Israel conflict and other foreign policy issues which I know weigh heavily on many people’s minds, whatever their cultural heritage or religious beliefs. I hope the spirit of generosity, peace and self-reflection which Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr embody has given comfort and space for truly considered reflection on these difficult and sensitive issues.
At times, some people living in Bristol can feel isolated from the rest of the city. As mayor I care deeply about any inequality or social isolation in Bristol, and have put this issue at the heart of the city’s vision for the foreseeable future. I believe more can be done to help bring our communities together and for all of us to demonstrate that people from all religious, racial and cultural backgrounds is a welcome and valued part of our society.
In order to increase a feeling of acceptance within the city I believe it is important to encourage communication and relationship-building between all of our communities. I greatly appreciate all the hard work involved in the Muslim community staging the annual Islamic Cultural Fayre which takes place this Sunday 10th August 2014. Integration is a two way street and I welcome input from all of our different communities in order to help identify and overcome any barriers which might be leading to any isolation, inequality or hostility.
Bristol is blessed with some superb community leaders and activists who already do great work across the city, and I have always been happy to get involved with campaigns that tackle important social issues. I value the wise counsel of Zaheer Sabir and his colleagues at ‘Building the Bridge’ who have set us all such a good example with their peaceful response to intimidation by racist groups. I am particularly pleased to have been able to lend my support to the courageous young Bristol womens’ inspiring campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which has now gone on to spark both national and international discussions. By supporting these campaigns I believe we can raise awareness of the issues and develop a better mutual understanding of different cultures and practices, even when that means tackling some of the more uncomfortable issues.
I look forward to continuing work with Bristol’s Muslim communities in order to encourage greater equality and promote mutual understanding over the next year. A big part of what I love about Bristol is our reputation for celebrating individuality, diversity and differences in culture. I am profoundly grateful that so many Bristol Muslims and their leaders feel the same way and sincerely hope that a peaceful solution will be found to stop the unbearable suffering that is currently taking place in Gaza and threatens to affect us all.