Islam should have a ‘quintessentially British’ version with minoret-less mosques and no burqas, Warsi says

British mosques should be built without minarets, former Conservative party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said yesterday, in a speech outlining her vision for a “quintessentially British” form of Islam.

Speaking at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where she was giving her inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor, Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi called on Muslims to develop “a very British Islam” in line with Islamic tradition.

The former Minister for Faiths, who resigned from the Government last year over its failure to condemn Israeli strikes on Gaza, said: “Islam is different whenever and wherever it is found. If Islam always takes its cultural references from where it finds itself, British Islam must take cultural reference points from where it grows.”

Part of this, she said, meant building quintessentially British mosques. She argued that minarets, towers built alongside mosques from which the call to prayer is broadcast, were not culturally necessary in modern Britain.

“There is no need for a minaret. There is no need for a mosque to look like it doesn’t fit into its environment. It doesn’t need to be like that. I would love for there to be English-designed mosques.”

She also denied that Muslim women were obliged to wear full Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the full body covering, where it was not part of their social cultural tradition.

“I defend my right to dress modestly – but that doesn’t have to look like it would in Yemen. I cannot understand why you would want to look like someone who walked out of Yemen, unless your parents lived there,” she said. She called on the Government to reach out to Muslim groups from across the spectrum.

Baroness Warsi resigns from Conservative party over Gaza and warns Tories over attracting ethnic minorities

August 10, 2014

Former Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi says her party will not win the next election unless it does more to attract ethnic minority voters. She resigned as a government minister over the UK’s policy on Gaza last week but has now broadened her criticisms. Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said her criticisms would soon be forgotten.

Lady Warsi became the first female Muslim cabinet minister when David Cameron became prime minister in 2010. In her newspaper interviews she also criticised “bitchy” male colleagues and repeated her anger at the government’s handling of the fighting in Gaza. She said: “I will be out there, vocally fighting for an outright Conservative majority. But the electoral reality is that we will not win outright Conservative majorities until we start attracting more of the ethnic vote.”

Lady Warsi said she was one of David Cameron’s earliest supporters in 2005, stating: “This is a guy who gets today’s Britain. He’s a new kind of Conservative. He’s comfortable with today’s Britain. I think the party has shifted since then. The party leadership has shifted since then. I think over time it will be a regressive move because we have to appeal to all of Britain, not just because it’s morally the right thing to do… but because it is an electoral reality.”

She called on the government to “recognise Palestine as a state” and impose an arms embargo on Israel. She also criticised Chancellor George Osborne and chief whip Michael Gove for not using their “very, very close” relations with the Israeli government to help end the hostilities. “What is the point of having that strong relationship if you can’t use it to move them to a position which is in their interests and our interests?”

She also rejected Mr Osborne’s claim that her resignation had been “unnecessary” by saying: “My actions would not have been necessary if he had done what he should have done, which is pick up the phone to people he is incredibly close to and say: ‘It’s unnecessary for you to meet your ends by taking out power stations, taking out homes, taking out schools and killing kids on beaches.'”

Mr Shelbrooke, who is the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said Lady Warsi had “embarrassed herself” and her criticisms would “quickly fizzle out”. He said: “I think within a week, ‘Who was Lady Warsi?’ will be the question. She has ended her career in many ways. Isn’t it best to step down on a point of principle, but don’t you embarrass yourself if you start launching into a tirade about many other things, when you come from a position of having never held elected office.”

The Conservative Party said it would not comment on Lady Warsi’s newspaper interviews at the moment. Lady Warsi stood for election to the Commons in her home town of Dewsbury in 2005 but lost to Labour. She was appointed to the House of Lords in 2007. The government’s chief whip in the House of Lords is to replace Baroness Warsi as a Foreign Office minister, with the right to attend cabinet. Lord Taylor of Holbeach is the new Lords Chief Whip. Conservative MP Lord Bates, replaces Lord Taylor as parliamentary under secretary of state at the Home Office. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who paid warm tribute to Lady Warsi on Tuesday, will take over her faith brief, in addition to his existing responsibilities.

In her letter to the prime minister, Lady Warsi – the first Muslim woman to serve in a British cabinet – said: “I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in government at this time I do not feel that I can be sure of that.” Mr Cameron replied that he understood her “strength of feeling on the current crisis”, adding the situation in Gaza was “intolerable”, but he rejected her call to change direction.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said he had a “great deal of respect” for Baroness Warsi, adding that she had done “excellent work” for the Conservative Party and in government.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Israel had “overstepped the mark” in the conflict and called for the suspension of arms export licences.

The prime minister has faced criticism from some in his own party for not condemning Israel for what they believe is its disproportionate use of force against Hamas and civilians in Gaza. But neither Mr Cameron nor any Conservative minister has said that Israel has gone beyond what is proportionate. The response from the new foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, was telling. What Lady Warsi has labelled a “morally indefensible” position he has dismissed as a call for “megaphone diplomacy”. He emphasised that he felt he had to be “balanced”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC: “The government’s position is wrong and I think Sayeeda Warsi’s statement is completely right about this.” He said that Mr Cameron had to “think much more clearly” about policy on Gaza and had to “break his silence” over Israel’s actions.

But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “I do find it rather surprising that she has chosen now, this particular moment, to take this step when, in fact, we are now at long last seeing some relief, seeing some progress on the issues about which she was so passionately concerned.”

David Cameron’s response to her resignation stated he had “much regret” she hadn’t talked to him about her concerns before she quit. But there was also a warm tribute. “I would like you to know how much I have personally appreciated your support and friendship over the years’ he wrote.

Muslim Minister Quits British Government to Protest Gaza Policies

August 5, 2014

The fighting in Gaza claimed an unexpected casualty among the British political elite on Tuesday when Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim to serve in the British cabinet, resigned, saying the government’s “approach and language” in the crisis had been “morally indefensible.”

The broadside took aim at Prime Minister David Cameron’s refusal to join a chorus of British critics who have labeled Israel’s bombardment of Gaza disproportionate and an outrage. Her decision widened fissures within the coalition government and between the government and leading British Muslims, reflecting the emotional impact of the Gaza conflict, which has been relayed in graphic images on television and social media.

The resignation “reflects the unease and anxiety in Parliament and in the country about the U.K. government’s present position” on the conflict, said Sir Menzies Campbell, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the governing coalition.

Not only that, there were signs of division within Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party. Nicholas Soames, a Conservative lawmaker and former minister, said on Twitter: “The government needs to note and learn from the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi she was right to leave over a matter of such great importance.”

But George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer who is close to Mr. Cameron, called her action “disappointing and frankly unnecessary.”

Shuja Shafi, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, the biggest Muslim umbrella grouping, said Ms. Warsi had taken a “principled stand” and had “spoken on behalf of humanity.”

Ms. Warsi, 43, a lawyer and the daughter of an immigrant textile worker from Pakistan, had been a member of Mr. Cameron’s cabinet since 2010 and had been seen as a political bridge to the country’s Muslim minority.

In her resignation letter, Ms. Warsi said, “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East peace process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

She wrote: “I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in government at this time I do not feel that I can be sure of that.”

She announced her decision on the same day as a cease-fire came into force in Gaza.

Mr. Cameron, who has been accused by the opposition Labour Party of being too cautious on the Gaza crisis, was on vacation when news of the resignation broke. In a letter to Ms. Warsi released by his office, he said he regretted her departure and realized “that this must not have been an easy decision for you to make.”

“I understand your strength of feeling on the current crisis in the Middle East — the situation in Gaza is intolerable. Our policy has always been consistently clear: We support a negotiated two-state solution as the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all and to allow Israelis and Palestinians to live safely in peace,” Mr. Cameron said.

“Of course, we believe that Israel has the right to defend itself,” the letter said. “But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end.”

On Monday, in commenting on the crisis in Gaza, Mr. Cameron pointedly declined to echo the assessment of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, who called an attack on a United Nations school in Gaza a “moral outrage and a criminal act.”

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour opposition, called on Mr. Cameron to change his approach. “He needs to come out much more clearly and say that Israel’s actions are just wrong and can’t be defended and can’t be justified,” he said. Ms. Warsi, by contrast, acted with “principle and integrity,” Mr. Miliband said.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he had “never been ambiguous” in his condemnation of the bombing of United Nations schools in Gaza as “a complete outrage.”

“Clearly the prime minister and I have taken different views on this,” he said, referring to Israel’s actions in Gaza. “We always have done.”

Some analysts said that the resignation also reflected Ms. Warsi’s unhappiness with a major reorganization of the government ordered by Mr. Cameron last month, in which she was not restored to a higher office.

The resignation stirred passions as people in Britain — political leaders, members of the royalty and citizens — began what are expected to be lengthy commemorations of the centenary of World War I, which the country entered on Aug. 4, 1914. Ceremonies to commeorate the occasion on Monday were characterized by broad consensus among the country’s political adversaries.

Ms. Warsi’s resignation recalled the days in 2003 when two senior figures stepped down to protest Britain’s participation in the United States-led invasion of Iraq.

Baroness Warsi ‘saddened’ by rise in Islamic sectarianism

February 18, 2014

 

Islamic sectarianism has become a “deep and dangerous” problem in Britain that is being used to justify acts of religious extremism, the country’s most senior Muslim politician has warned. In a speech during a trip to the Middle East, Baroness Warsi said that differences between branches of Islam were being used by extremists to cause “tension, turmoil and terrorism”. She warned that such preaching was stripping the “soulfulness and kindness of spirit” from the heart of the religion and called on Islamic leaders to “reclaim the true meaning of the religion”.

In her speech, given at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman, Baroness Warsi said such divisions were rarely confronted but posed “a great danger to faith and our world”. “The hatred that can exist between sects – between people who follow the same God – disturbs and saddens me. And even in Britain we are not immune from it. With division being preached by some, and belittling another’s faith or denomination being used as a way of reaffirming one’s own. Often the strongest condemnation seems to be reserved for your brother or sister in faith. ” she said.

But she added she feared it was also politics masquerading as religion. “There’s a deeply disturbing political element to sectarianism when negative political forces exploit these differences,” she said. “And this approach takes on an even more sinister tone when sect is equated with nationality or loyalty to a particular country.”

Baroness Warsi, who was appointed the first Minister for Faith by the Coalition, revealed that she had been personally targeted by a gang who accused her of “not being a proper Muslim”. “They didn’t approve of me appearing in public without my face covered,” she said. “They reduced my faith to a list of ‘don’ts’, defined only in the negative, defining their faith in terms of what they were against, rather than what they stood for. I believe that this approach is at odds with the teachings of Islam.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/baroness-warsi-saddened-by-rise-in-islamic-sectarianism-9137124.html

Allah vs atheism: ‘Leaving Islam was the hardest thing I’ve done’

January 19, 2014

 

Amal Farah, a 32-year-old banking executive, is laughing about a contestant singing off-key in the last series of The X Factor. For a woman who was not allowed to listen to music when she was growing up, this is a delight. After years of turmoil, she is in control of her own life.

On the face of it, she is a product of modern Britain. Born in Somalia to Muslim parents, she grew up in Yemen and came to the UK in her late teens. After questioning her faith, she became an atheist and married a Jewish lawyer. But this has come at a cost. When she turned her back on her religion, she was disowned by her family and received death threats. She has not seen her mother or her siblings for eight years. None of them have met her husband or daughter.

It can be difficult to leave any religion, and those that do can face stigma and even threats of violence. But there is a growing movement, led by former Muslims, to recognise their existence. In more than a dozen countries people who espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam can be executed under the law, according to a recent report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. But there is an ongoing debate about the “Islamic” way to deal with apostates. Broadcaster Mohammed Ansar says the idea that apostates should be put to death is “not applicable” in Islam today because the act was traditionally conflated with state treason.

“The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave,” said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or harmed in any way whatsoever. There is no compulsion in religion.”

Baroness Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith and Communities, agreed. “One of the things I’ve done is put freedom of religion and belief as top priority at the Foreign Office,” she said.

The Ex-Muslim Forum, a group of former Muslims, was set up seven years ago. Then, about 15 people were involved; now they have more than 3,000 members around the world. Membership has reportedly doubled in the past two years. Another affiliated group, the Ex-Muslims of North America, was launched last year.

Zaheer Rayasat, 26, from London, has not yet told his parents that he is an atheist. Born into a traditional Pakistani family, he said he knew he didn’t believe in God from the age of 15. “For a lot of older Muslims, to be a Muslim is an identity, whereas, for me, it’s a theological, philosophical position. They might feel they have failed as parents; some malicious people might call them up, gloating about it. Some would see it as an act of betrayal. My hope is that they will eventually forgive me for it.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/allah-vs-atheism-leaving-islam-was-the-hardest-thing-ive-done-9069598.html

 

Serving samosas to forge friendships: ‘The Big Iftar’ aims to help non-Muslims learn about Islam

A group of Muslims is hoping food can offer a path to racial harmony with “The Big Iftar”, a UK-wide initiative in which mosques around the country are opening to allow non-Muslims to join Muslims for a meal to learn about Islam. The Iftar is the meal served after sundown during Ramadan, the holy month we are currently midway through, when Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset.

 

“It comes when myth-busting is more important than ever,” said Baroness Warsi, Minister for Faith and Communities. “Research earlier this year showed that less than a quarter of people thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life.”

 

Following the murder of Lee Rigby in May, Muslims have come under attack from anti-Islam groups. “It’s about getting the message out that there is a nicer side to Islam,” said Altaf Choudry, 33. “A lot of people have been tainted with the wrong brush.”

 

Mark Buckley, 40, a Christian, welcomed the opportunity to engage with another faith. He said: “Just as Christians need to get out of their church walls, Muslims have to get out of the mosque walls and engage with people in the real world.”

Ofcom examines appearance of Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary in TV coverage of Lee Rigby murder

Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether appearances by the radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby were editorially justified. Mr Choudary was interviewed on the BBC’s Newsnight and Channel 4 News the day after Fusilier Rigby was killed on the streets of Woolwich on 22 May. He also featured on Daybreak on 24 May, refusing to condemn the attack. His comments during the appearances drew criticism from the Faith and Communities minister, Baroness Warsi, and Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary. Ofcom must decide whether Mr Choudary’s comments were justified by the context of the story. This falls under rule 2.3 in the Broadcasting Code, which states: “Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.”

 

Woolwich shows that Muslim leaders have learned how to respond to terrorism

The Muslim response to Woolwich has been a quick and unstinting condemnation of the atrocity perpetrated by two Muslim youths.

The Muslim Council of Britain, within hours of the attack, said: “This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family.” They went on to point out that British Muslims have long served in the Armed forces and that “this attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.”

The significance of these words cannot be overestimated: they prove that Muslim spokesmen are not tacitly supporting jihadists in our midst; and that the Council has learned from its past mistakes.

Contrast this heartfelt condemnation with the extraordinary statement released by the Muslim Council of Britain, following the 7 July bombings in London.

“We do naturally feel deeply for the sufferings, injustices and oppression the world over. Yet we also remind ourselves of the verse of the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity and let not abhorrence of any people make you swerve from justice. Deal justly, that is nearer to God-fearing. Fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do.” (Al Maidah, 5:8) We also call on the international community to work towards just and lasting peace settlements in the world’s areas of conflict and help eliminate the grievances that seem to nurture a spiral of violence.”

 

What a difference from that response to the post-Woolwich one. Muslims have had to embark on this learning curve without any help from the media. In fact, if anything, the broadcasters have been keen to keep the Islamist swivel-eyed loons at the forefront of the agenda – as a furious Baroness Warsi has quite rightly pointed out.

UK minister issues warning against rise of Islamophia

24 January 2013

 

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a senior member of the Conservative Party and a

Minister of State for Faith and Communities, has said that more Muslims are victims of hate crimes now than at any other time in Britain’s history, showing a rise in Isalmophobia which needs to be dealt with effectively.

 

Citing figures from a recent You Gov survey, she presented her evidence. According to the poll results just 23% of people said that Islam was not a threat to Western civilization. Further, only 24% of the respondents thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life – with nearly half of people disagreeing that Muslims were compatible. Finally, nearly half of people polled thought there would be a clash of civilizations between and Muslims and other Britons.

She further mentioned new figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers showing that between 50 to 60 per cent of all religious hate crimes reported to police in Britain are now perpetrated against Muslims.

“My fear is that seeing one community as the ‘other’ is a slippery slope that will enable extremists to advance their twisted interests unchecked, I don’t have to remind anyone what happens when an unfounded suspicion of one people can escalate into unspeakable horror.”

Two years ago Baroness Warsi was criticized for saying that that Islamophobia in Britain “had passed the dinner table test” but the latest police figures show that she was right in raising the issue.

UK Parties are trying to gain Muslim vote

23 July 2012

After the George Galloway’ historic victory of in Bradford by-elections British political parties have realized the significance of the Muslim vote and have been trying to gain support of Muslims. IN this regard, following Labor Leader Ed Miliband, Conservative Party Chair Baroness Warsi has visited the city to meet Muslim women.

Local Muslim Women’s Council members who were the organizers of the event challenged influential Muslim politician Baroness Warsi about immigration policy, education, the impact of cutbacks and austerity and the role Government has played in fuelling Islamophobia.