Lady Warsi against the coalition’s strategy towards Muslims

Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism. (Photo: Paul Cooper/Rex Features)
Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism. (Photo: Paul Cooper/Rex Features)

Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.

In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government.

In a series of stinging judgments, Warsi, a former chairwoman of the Tory party and the first Muslim to serve in the cabinet, claims that:

■ The government in which she served has come “to view ever-increasing numbers of Muslim organisations or individual Muslim activists with suspicion”.
■ David Cameron rejected requests for other faiths, including Muslims, to be given an equivalent to the annual meeting he has with the Jewish leadership – a meeting of Jewish groups and figures that the prime minister hosts.
■ Former colleagues in government have failed to show proper concern for the “worries and fear” felt by Britain’s 3 million-strong Muslim community in the current febrile atmosphere.
The government’s response to the dangers of extremists was reduced, she writes, to a “dangerously narrow engagement… a dozen people for a community of over 3 million”.
Warsi decided to speak out after communities secretary Eric Pickles wrote last Monday to more than 1,000 Islamic leaders calling on British Muslims to “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.

Pickles also said that he was proud of the way British Muslims had responded to the Paris terror attacks, but the letter was condemned by sections of the Muslim community. Pickles was accused of treating Muslims as in some way “apart” from the rest of British society. Warsi says this reaction graphically illustrated the gulf that has grown between the coalition government and Muslims.

She says: “The reality is if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then a letter out of the blue to a mosque… with whom government has refused to engage creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic.”

Warsi says: “We will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are all in the same team.”

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.

Christianity at risk of extinction in areas of persecution, says Warsi

November 15, 2013

 

Christianity is in danger of extinction in some countries because of persecution in areas where its followers are in the minority, a British government minister has said. Christians were being driven out of regions in countries such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root, said Lady Warsi, who has responsibility for faith communities.

She raised her concerns and called on politicians in countries such as Pakistan to “set the tone” for tolerance of religious minorities. Lady Warsi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m concerned that the birthplace of Christianity, the parts of the world where Christianity first spread, is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted.

She said 83% of countries had constitutions guaranteeing freedom of religion, but did not implement those provisions. “There’s an international consensus, in the form of a Human Rights Council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths. But we need to build political will behind that.

Asked whether Lady Warsi’s warning of the possible extinction of some Christian communities was correct, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told Today: “I think in some parts of the Middle East that is probably true.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/15/christianity-risk-extinction-persecution-minority-warsi

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/persecution-threatens-extinction-of-christianity-in-ancient-homelands-warns-baroness-warsi-8941249.html

Woolwich killing: universities crack down on the preachers of hate

Universities asked to draw up guidelines on handling preachers with track record of inciting hatred in aftermath of attack. A fresh drive to prevent radicalisation of impressionable students on campus is being launched in which universities will be asked to draw up guidelines on how to handle preachers who have a track record of inciting hatred.

One of the suspects in Wednesday’s murder of Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo, converted to Islam in 2003 and attended events of the now banned al-Muhajiroun group. But it is not clear that there was any university link. Conservative Muslims have urged the government to go further and publish its own official list of speakers that it believes universities should not allow. Mohammed Amin, vice-chair of the Conservative Muslim forum yesterday urged the faiths minister, Lady Warsi, to consider publishing a list of the proscribed preachers.

Lady Warsi: Pakistan’s treatment of women fails Islam

23.06.2011
Muslim Tory minister Sayeeda Warsi criticized Pakistan for denying women rights that were granted in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago. Therefore, according to Warsi, “Pakistan is failing to live up to one of the tenets of Islam which guarantees rights to all women” (Guardian). While preparing to become the first British minister to address the Organisation for the Islamic Conference, Warsi made these comments in an interview with the Guardian. Warsi, who has Pakistani origins herself, had already raised the issue of women’s rights last year. During the interview, Warsi said her heritage allowed her to openly raise these concerns; what is more, she considers herself to be able to deliver a “tough message to Pakistan because she is unencumbered by “colonial baggage””. In addition to the lack of rights for women, Warsi had also voiced concerns about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

UK Muslims warned against ‘victim culture’

The Conservative peer who helped negotiate the release of the primary school teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohamed attacked her fellow British Muslims today for their “victim culture”. Baroness Warsi, a Conservative spokeswoman on community cohesion, also criticised Labour for its “patronage politics” and for having encouraged the “divisive concept” of multiculturalism. Lady Warsi, 36, born to Pakistani parents in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, is the youngest member of the House of Lords. She came to public notice earlier this month when she was asked by Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, to accompany him to Sudan to mediate the release of Gillian Gibbons, who had been jailed for insulting Islam. Philippe Naughton reports. The situation in Sudan had been extraordinary and “thankfully” could never happen in the UK, Lady Warsi told a race relations conference in London this morning.