St George's Day should be for all, say faith leaders
It's time to reclaim St George's Day from strident nationalists, say faith leaders.
Representatives of the Christian, Muslim and Sikh faiths are among those backing a campaign that features the striking portrait of a woman whose head is wrapped in a Union Jack flag.
The photo campaign is being spearheaded by the Christian Muslim Forum, which is encouraging people to use the hashtag #stgeorge4all to voice their support.
In a statement, the faith leaders say they want to promote a "relaxed and confident English national identity" and a country in which "a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash".
"St George should be a figure of national unity and pride. That's why we – a coalition of English faith groups and campaigners – are 'reclaiming' England's patron saint and demanding he becomes representative of all English peoples," they said.
"We demand him back from those who promote racism and extremism, and from those who say that St George can only represent a single ethnic group."
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They say that St George has too often been "hijacked" and "used as a symbol of triumphalism and division" by the extreme right.
"St George needs to take his rightful place as a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred," they say.
The faith leaders are calling upon people to stand up against those who use St George to promote Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.
They conclude: "As the diverse people of England, we are comfortable with difference, and each other. St George's Day is a time for highlighting harmony and peaceful national pride."
Signatories of the statement are:
Baptist Union of Great Britain
Christian Muslim Forum
City Sikhs Network
HOPE not hate
Islamic Society of Britain
Joseph Interfaith Foundation
London Baptist Association
London Boroughs Faith Network
Muslim Council of Britain
Radical Middle Way
Religions for Peace UK
St Philip's Centre
Three Faiths Forum
Liz Carnelley, Programme Director, Near Neighbours
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL