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Friday, 21 January 2011

Baroness Warsi triggers backlash over 'Islamophobia'

By James Chapman, 20th January 2011, from the Mail Online

Tory chairman Baroness Warsi faced a fierce backlash last night after claiming anti-Muslim bigotry was commonplace around British dinner tables.

The peer, the first Muslim woman to be appointed to the Cabinet, said Islamophobia had ‘seeped into our society’.

She also suggested that followers of Islam should not be divided into ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates’.

Her remarks were condemned by the Right of her party and church leaders, and Downing Street refused to endorse her views.

In a speech, Lady Warsi said: ‘It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of “moderate” Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says: “Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim”. In the school, the kids say: “The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad”.

‘It has seeped into our society in a way where it is acceptable around dinner to have conversations where anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is openly discussed.

‘At various times, Britain has not been at ease with various religious minorities, whether that’s the Catholic community, eventually resulting in Catholic emancipation, or more recently the British Jewish community.

I look at the way those challenges were dealt with and indeed are continuing to be dealt with and how we must bring some of those lessons to the rise of anti-Muslim hatred.’

She added that perceptions of criminality among Muslims were of particular concern.

‘Sadly, one of the concerns that has been raised as I travel around the country is that somehow because there are a minority of people who commit criminal acts who come from the faith of Islam, that somehow means that it is fair game to have a go at the community as a whole,’ she said.

‘'It has seeped into our society in a way where it is acceptable around dinner to have conversations where anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry'.

She also suggested that Muslim communities must do more to make clear to fundamentalists that their beliefs and actions are not acceptable.

Downing Street is understood to have insisted on significant changes to the final version of Lady Warsi’s speech.
One source said: ‘Her remarks do not represent Government policy.’

Lady Warsi’s veteran predecessor Lord Tebbit said she should be more concerned about anti-Christian sentiments expressed by Muslims.

Backlash: Lord Norman Tebbit believes Christians are just as likely to be the subject of bigotry as Muslims:

‘The Muslim faith was not discussed over the dinner tables of England, nor in the bars, before large numbers of Muslims came here to our country,’ he said.

‘I would have told her to go to our Christian churches and listen to what was said about her religion and those who practise it, then to the Mosques to hear what is said in some of them about the Christian faith and those who practise it.’

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, rejected Lady Warsi’s suggestion that distinguishing between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ Muslims fostered prejudice.
‘Extremism as a mindset is spreading throughout the Muslim world’ he said.

‘That is why we must distinguish between those Muslims who want to live peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbours and those who wish to introduce Shari’a into this country, restrict freedom of speech and confine women to their homes.’

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns against State interference in people’s lives, said: ‘I think all but a tiny handful of people are able to distinguish between those who hold to the Islamic faith, and Islamist extremists.’

But former Tory MP Paul Goodman said: ‘She’s right about Muslims because some of what’s broadcast and written about them is dangerous. Try swapping the word “Muslim” when you see it in a newspaper headline with the word “Jewish”.’ ['Jewish' was largely seen as a racial category, not a cultural one. 'Muslim' is largely a cultural category, not a racial one. That's a very big difference.]

He said she was wrong on extremism, however.

1 comment:

  1. She is right: there IS no difference between moderate and extreme mozlems! As Erdogan, the Turkish PM also said, "There is no such thing as "moderate" izlam: there is just "izlam"!!