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A former Conservative minister and party chair will make keynote intervention today to say ‘Muslims Don’t Matter’ to British politicians and the media, amid a wave of “silencing, stereotyping and stigmatising of British Muslims”.
Over a decade since she gave a speech noting that “Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test” in Government, Baroness Warsi will argue the handling of high profile events including the current conflict in the Middle East are examples of how British Muslims are held to higher standards than our fellow citizens. She argues this is creating a climate of fear within a community of nearly four million Muslims.
In her speech at the University of Leeds tonight (19 October) she demands the end of culture wars – clearly targeting Rishi Sunak’s approach to governing. Warsi served as a Government minister under the 2010-2015 coalition, eventually becoming Minister of State for Faith and Communities, until she quit over her disagreement with Government over its handling of the Israel–Gaza conflict in August 2014.
At the time, she argued support for Israel’s attacks and official language surrounding the crisis in Gaza was “morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”
Now, nearly ten years on and in the wake of Israel’s counter-offensive on Gaza following the Hamas attacks, she urges policy makers to change course to avoid “potentially catastrophic” outcomes.
She will note new hate crime statistics which show that in the year ending March 2023, there has been a rise in religiously motivated hate crime. “Once again, Muslims are the most targeted religious group,” the Conservative peer will say.
It comes just a few weeks after Home Secretary Suella Braverman used a speech in the US to say multiculturalism has “failed”, while the Government ramps up its rhetoric against refugees.
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This week is Hate Crime Awareness Week, where is has emerged that in cases where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, 2 in 5 (39%) religious hate crime offences are targeted against Muslims – a total of 3,452 offences in the year to March. Around 7% of the UK population is Muslim.
Baroness Warsi is also expected to reference GB News and Byline Times’ investigations into the channel and its now suspended presenter Dan Wootton. GB News has been criticised for helping to stoke culture wars since its launch in 2021, and now employs several serving Conservative MPs – including deputy Tory chair Lee Anderson, and right-wing backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The former Faith and Communities minister will sound the alarm over racism by warning that if the “climate of hate” towards Muslim communities continues, “we could pave a way for a nation where the dehumanisation, attacks and othering of Muslim communities becomes the normal fabric of British society.”
- Unequal Standards: British Muslims, according to Warsi, are held to higher standards than other citizens, resulting from policy decisions and the handling of events like conflicts in the Middle East. At least five Muslim news presenters have been taken off air since Hamas’ attacks on Israel apparently liking content supposedly ‘biased’ towards the Palestinians.
- Constant Scrutiny: Warsi criticises the UK for adopting a “totalitarian approach” towards British Muslims, undermining the country’s liberal democratic values and appearing hypocritical.
- Labour Party’s Stance: Warsi challenges the Labour Party for banning elected members from attending pro-Palestinian marches
- Demand for Equality: Warsi invites fellow Brits to join a “Muslim civil rights movement” aimed at ensuring equality, freedom, and the right for Muslim voices to be heard and valued equally
- Climate of Hate: The Baroness warns that the ongoing climate of hate could normalise dehumanisation and attacks against Muslim communities in British society
- Muslim Contributions: Highlighting her family’s history, Warsi underscores the significant contributions of Muslims to Britain’s development and cultural diversity, asserting their integral role in the nation’s fabric.
Warsi goes on to refer to the alleged mistreatment of British Muslim communities in the political sphere, arguing that Muslims are not allowed to speak up about key issues. She says that Muslims are vilified for speaking up for freedom of speech and association, and challenging institutional Islamophobia.
“There is a particular irony to this political struggle. Because on the one hand the Government insists on the observance of ‘Fundamental British Values’. But when Muslims challenge actions that detract from our commitment to rule of law…they are demonised, marginalised, excluded from political arenas and treated as outcasts.”
In perhaps her most outspoken remarks, she says there is a “totalitarian approach” to the treatment and scrutiny of British Muslims in society.
“We are a liberal democracy with a long and proud history, we demean ourselves by adopting a totalitarian approach to a section of our fellow citizens, British Muslims. We undermine our stated values, and we appear as hypocrites,” she said.
As well as hitting out at her own party over a failure to tackle Islamophobia, she challenges the Labour Party to avoid “a race to the bottom” after a week in which dozens of Labour councillors have resigned after being told not to attend pro-Palestine rallies.
“Only this week we see reports of the Labour Party banning its councillors and members of Parliament from attending pro-Palestinian marches not others, despite having spent months before the recess fighting the government to protect the right to protest in the Public Order Act.”
New Civil Rights Movement
She asks fellow Brits who believe in equality and fairness to join British Muslims in a new “civil rights movement”, with “a demand to belong, to be a part, to play our part, to have the same rights and freedoms as others, to be heard, to have the right to be heard, for our citizenship to be worth the same as everyone else’s, to be treated equally under the law.”
However, believes that the good in both society and in British Muslim communities have “always prevailed” and will do so.
“My grandfather’s fought Hitlers armies as part of the British Indian Army, they did not give their blood and sweat for the freedoms we have today for their descendants to be stereotyped, stigmatised and silenced.
“They fought for Britain, helped build Britain’s industries and infrastructure, added colour, sounds and wonderful flavours to the rich tapestry of its culture and as a young and growing community British Muslims are once again providing the workforce, entrepreneurs, and international networks.”
After 13 years of Conservative government, Baroness Warsi’s call is, she says, a vision to “Make Britain Great Again”.
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