Changing hearts and minds can be gruelling. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be worth doing. 

That’s why I was struck by an article warning Muslims against speaking out, or else risk being discredited. 

This sentiment is perhaps more damaging and more polarising than the ignorance that does sadly persist. 

There is something ironic in speaking out about “not speaking out”.

I am not naïve to the challenges ahead.

But I will never stop asserting the importance of tolerance and the integral value of British Muslims in our society.

As Muslims, we are instructed by Godly commands to stand firm for justice even if we find our parents acting unjustly, as 4:135 shows: 

O you who believe! Be steadfast maintainers of justice, witness for God, though it be against yourself, or your parents and kindfolk
This teaching has encouraged me to voice my opinion to the media, at events, and conferences. 

I continue to push for what I believe and have never let others make me feel discredited or any sense my opinion doesn’t count. 

While I don’t expect everyone to automatically agree, I do hope it may inspire some. 

Some might ask why it’s so important Muslims make their voice heard. They may argue that the threat of resistance makes such endeavours “pointless” or “too challenging”. 

While I understand their perspective, I disagree profoundly. 

First, there is an old cliché that says, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. It’s simple but it’s true. 

Some of the 21st Century’s greatest heroes are those who were brave enough to make their voice heard and in doing so, achieved monumental change within their communities. 

Martin Luther King was not afraid to speak out and is now rightly celebrated as one of the most influential leaders of America’s civil rights movement. 

While he was undoubtedly criticised, attacked and ignored by many – today his achievements leave us all in awe. 

Second, as a British Muslim I feel privileged to live in a society which places democracy at its heart. 

The ability to speak freely and disagree are among the fundamental liberties of a diverse Britain. It means we each have the right to campaign for changes we believe in and recognising that challenge is something to be welcomed. 

Increasing the diversity of opinion will only enrichen the debate. This week we celebrate International Day of Democracy, and we each have a responsibility to tell our children, siblings, friends and colleagues – both Muslim and non-Muslims alike, that their voice matters.

And that if you believe in something, it’s your duty to make the case for it. Otherwise, who will?

Third, while raising your head above the parapet can be daunting, it is the only way to improve understanding of our communities. Few could have missed the extensive coverage of a Muslim family fostering a non-Muslim child. 

Rather than hide away, Esmat Jeraj, a British Muslim, shared her own family’s remarkable story of fostering over 60 children from all religions over the past 25 years. 

She makes clear that having so many diverse cultures under one roof only benefitted both the children and herself. In speaking out Esmat is not only countering stereotypes, but ensuring prospective foster parents see what a wonderful experience fostering has been. 

The positive reaction to her story has been incredible and she is an example to us all.

Finally, speaking out encourages open dialogue and learning. Communication is about building alliances with those around us, including those from different faiths and backgrounds. 

It is only through sharing our different experiences and perspectives, while being mindful of each other’s beliefs and opinions, that we will improve tolerance. 

That is why at Faiths Forum for London we’re committed to providing a platform for collaboration between different faith communities and wider society. 

It is imperative that we stand by our convictions with confidence and resilience so we can continue to ensure that our voices, and most importantly, the next generation’s voices are not only heard, but respected.  

Because yes, British society is our society too. And I’m proud to say that out loud.

Mustafa Field MBE is Director of Faiths Forum for London.