Last week, religion has dominated an important discussion in the UK. Following a High Court rule banning prayers from formal council meetings, Conservative MP Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, has urged the British people to embrace their (Christian) religion and to not let a “militant secularisation” take hold of British society. In an official meeting in the Vatican with six other British ministers, Baroness Warsi has called for religion to be given a greater role in public life to push back a wave of “intolerant secularisation”. Warsi has complained that religion is being sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in Europe. Overall, she would like to see Europe to be more confident in its Christian roots, rather than denying its religious heritage. Warsi considers religion and strong religious identities to be particularly important in order to encourage social harmony.
21 January 2011
Islamophobia is not just rife but socially acceptable in Britain today. Indeed it “passes the dinner-table test” of being seen as normal and uncontroversial in polite society. So Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim to sit in the Cabinet, was to warn last night.
Her speech has surprised and riled many, not least her fellows in the Conservative Party. What she says is true, which is what so irritates her critics. Prejudice against Britain’s Asian community does not, since 9/11, attract the social stigma that prejudice against other religious and racial groups rightly brings.
Prejudice against Muslims has “passed the dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable in the UK, a senior Conservative is to say. Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Tory Party, will warn against dividing Muslims into moderates and extremists. The baroness, the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, will say such labels fuel misunderstanding.
She will use a speech at Leicester University to accuse the media of superficial discussion of Islam. Baroness Warsi will say anti-Muslim prejudice is now seen by many Britons as normal and uncontroversial, and she will use her position to fight an “ongoing battle against bigotry”.
She is expected to reveal that she raised the issue of Islamophobia with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain last year, urging him to “create a better understanding between Europe and its Muslim citizens”.
23 October 2010
The Conservative party chair, Baroness Warsi, has been banned by David Cameron from attending a major Islamic conference today, igniting a bitter internal row over how the government tackles Islamist extremism.
Warsi, Britains first female Muslim cabinet minister, was told by the prime minister to cancel her appearance at the Global Peace and Unity Event, which is being billed as the largest multicultural gathering in Europe.
The London-based conference is aimed at improving community relations, yet critics have pointed out that a number of speakers who are due to appear have justified suicide attacks and promoted al-Qaida, homophobia and terrorism. An influential voice among the international Muslim community, Warsi believes that confronting extremists at public events is a more effective way to tackle fundamentalism than a refusal to engage with them.
20 August 2010
In the 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010, Mr Winter is below the King of Saudi Arabia — who comes in at number one — but ahead of many more chronicled figures. Winter, who is Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University’s Divinity Faculty, is ranked in an unspecified position between 51st and 60th: considerably higher than the three other British people who make the list — the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi; the UK’s first Muslim life peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed, who was briefly jailed last year for dangerous driving; and Dr Anas Al Shaikh Ali, director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought — making him, at least in the eyes of the RISSC, Britain’s most influential Muslim.
After graduating from Cambridge with a double first in Arabic in 1983, Winter studied at the University of al-Azhar in Egypt and worked in Jeddahat before returned to England in the late eighties to study Turkish and Persian. He says he has no difficulty reconciling the world he grew up in with the one he now inhabits. “Despite all the stereotypes of Islam being the paradigmatic opposite to life in the west, the feeling of conversion is not that one has migrated but that one has come home.”
Last year Winter helped set up the Cambridge Muslim College, which offers trained imams a one year diploma in Islamic studies and leadership, designed to help trained imams to better implement their knowledge and training in 21st-century Britain. This year’s first graduating class have recently returned from a trip to Rome where they had an open audience with the Pope.
Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister said on Thursday it was “humbling” to join the government, after taking part in new Prime Minister David Cameron’s first full ministerial meeting. Sayeeda Warsi is the Conservative Party’s chairwoman and minister without portfolio in Cameron’s new coalition government.
“For anybody to serve in government is a privilege,” said the 39-year-old of Pakistani origin, after Cameron held his first Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street. “But to be born the daughter of an immigrant mill-worker in a mill town in Yorkshire, to have the privilege of serving in Cabinet at such an important time in Britain’s history I think is terribly humbling,” she told the BBC.
Baroness Warsi is one of the extremely few exceptions of the predominantly male and white Cabinet.
Conservative Muslim Peer Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury has criticized a group of Islamic extremists who pelted her with eggs and shouted abuse at her during a visit in Luton. The shadow minister for community cohesion and social action had been meeting local businesses with Tory candidates when she was attacked in the street.
Up to 10 local British male protesters, believed to be members of the controversial Al Muhajiroun group, started shouting abuse at the Peer, accusing her of not being a proper Muslim and supporting the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan. Members of the group then threw several eggs at her, with one hitting her on the side of the head and another soiling her jacket, but she was not injured.
Instead of escaping, Baroness Warsi, surrounded by colleagues and journalists, tried to argue with the group. However, the extremists were unable to engage in the discussion and simply repeatedly asked Warsi whether she was in favor of Shari’a. It is believed the protesters were from the same group of Muslims who earlier this year marred the homecoming of British soldiers from Iraq through Luton, at which occasion protesters waved placards calling them “Butchers of Basra”, “murderers” and “baby-killers”.
A cross-party group of Jewish and Muslim MPs are beginning a tour of English universities to promote better interfaith relations between students. The Coexistence Trust will address tensions created on campuses by the Middle East conflict. It aims to highlight similarities in the histories of the two communities and encourage unity in the face of the prejudice that both have suffered. The tour will visit London, Birmingham, Leeds, Oxford and Cambridge. Led by Labour peer Lord Mitchell and shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Warsi, the tour begins on Monday at the London School of Economics.
The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said tensions between Jewish and Muslim students had emerged in the form of hostile message on internet sites and inflammatory posters on campuses. Occasionally, they have escalated into the recruitment of Muslim students by extremist groups, he said. Hostility towards Jewish students intensified during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 and led to calls for the police to take tougher action in cases of incitement against them.
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The veil was claimed to be cultural and not religious one of Britain’s most senior Muslim politicians said. Yorkshire peer Baroness Warsi called on communities to question non-religious rites and rituals that did little more than create and exacerbate divisions. Shadow Communities Secretary Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury warned that British Muslims as a whole risked “retreating into a theological corner of (their] own making” and had a “foremost responsibility” to break free from a “siege mentality” created by hardliners and “hotheads”. [Full-text here->http://themuslimweekly.com/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=CCB41EC75CC8EF853FC47104&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News
The Muslim community in Britain should abandon its retreat into a victim culture, a leading Conservative Muslim peer said yesterday. Baroness Warsi, the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, attacked hardliners and hotheads who claimed that it was un-Islamic to vote or for women to have access to schools and jobs. She said that Muslims had a particular responsibility to defeat extremism in Britain as the extremists claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. British Muslims should not allow misunderstandings about their religious duties and obligations to cut them off from wider society. Philip Webster reports.