Speech at Stafford University on the occasion of receiving of an honorary doctorate (7th July 2005)


Vice chancellor, distinguished guests and fellow grandaunts,

I saw a cartoon that made me smile, it shows a pair of dogs turning their backs on an exhibition all about cats. The cats are featured in many different poses. One of the dogs remarks ‘I didn’t like it’. I think we can see a common human weakness in that cartoon dog that automatically discounts any story told by or about cats. As soon as we hear something about another ethnic group, or about another faith or culture or we come across something unfamiliar,  we pretend there is no relevance in it for us. Consequently we erect barriers around ourselves, which unless broken will lead to prejudice and unfair discrimination.

As young citizens of a multi-cultural and multifaith Britain I invite you to reflect on, ‘How do you react to something unfamiliar?’ Do you put up mental barriers? Or do you build bridges connecting yourself to unfamiliar things? Do you tune in or out? Are you curious?

Tomorrow many of you will be working as engineers, technologists, scientists, business people, artists, politicians, soldiers and musicians etc.

I invite you to create your own great dream. A dream like Martin Luther King’s or the Biblical Joseph. You have the potential to realise your dream. The liberal democracy in Britain gives you every opportunity and your degree gives you the skills and know how to actualise your dream.

In your dream let people of all races all religions and cultures work together. Be open and willing to share your ideas, resources and skills for a collective bright future for all. As human beings we not only share a common parentage but a common goal of the common good. Only by understanding our commonalities will we be able to flourish as individuals and as a society.

In that dream let people share whatever they have, knowledge, expertise, food and friendship. You will feel better to help than not to help. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said, “The best of mankind are ones who benefit people the most”. In your dream you will see government working with industry and banks that in turn work with the communities and the community works with families. Families rear children who have a sense of respect and responsibility.

In your dream, there are no rich and poor people, only richness of being. People live morally rich lives, spiritually invigorating and socially interactive where money does not matter. Knowledge, self-knowledge, especially is universally pursued. Crime and violence non-existent.

Oh I’m sorry I’ve been dreaming. Day dreaming, talking in my sleep.

But the truth is that if enough of us dream like that, “Fuller’s utopia will be realised. Let us keep dreaming together. You can change the world around you, tackle injustices, and help make and unmake laws, bring enemies together to resolve conflicts, carry healing to the wounded and hope to the despairing.”

(John Graham in For a Change)

Resolve not to die before you’ve made a difference!

Think about spending every ounce of energy, everyday of your life initiating change around you. I will finish with reading a few couplets from the poetry of a number one selling poet of America-Rumi, who was a great Muslim mystic of the middle ages, he says;

“O Daquqi! With eyes shedding tears like a stream! Don’t cease hoping and seek them! Seek! for search is the pillar of good fortune. Every opening of happiness is from fixing the goal within the heart. Keep saying with all your soul, ‘Where?’ Where? Ku ku like the dove. For God has tied “asking him” to “I will answer”

The prayer of anyone whose heart is purified from sickness will go directly to the Lord of Glory”