Tuesday, May 31 2016

Press Reaction to Baroness Warsi's Criticism of Islamophobia

 Reactions to Lady Warsi’s speech at the Sir Sigmund Sternberg Interfaith Lecture last Thursday have been widespread, receiving copious amounts of coverage in news reports and commentaries in the national dailies (see Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the Guardian).

The DM and DE reported that David Cameron had distanced himself from the remarks of his party chairman. The DM reported a Downing Street ‘source’ as saying, “Her remarks do not represent Government policy.” While the Telegraph noted that Cameron believed Lady Warsi’s subject matter to be an “important debate” and that the PM was “looking forward to hearing what she has to say.”

Many commentaries have followed Lady Warsi’s speech. Take this from Richard Littlejohn wrote who wrote in the Daily Mail on Friday:

“In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything. With the inquiry into the London Transport terrorist attack reminding us daily of the atrocities committed in the name of Allah, not to mention the recent revelations about gangs of Muslim men targeting and raping filthy infidel whores on the streets of British cities, Sayeeda Warsi has hardly picked the most opportune moment to accuse the rest of us of raging ‘Islamophobia’.”

“It is an incontrovertible fact that a sizeable number of Muslims ­pursue a separatist agenda and simply refuse to integrate into ­British society.”

“…is it any ­wonder there is suspicion when people see deranged Islamic extremists parading the streets waving placards calling for infidels to be beheaded and ­celebrating the deaths of British soldiers?”

Perhaps Littlejohn should read again the comments made by the Baroness on the actions of a “minority within a minority” being taken to represent the views of the majority. Or would Littlejohn consider that sanctimonious hectoring?

Writing for the Observer, Victoria Coren, focused her comments on the headline-grabbing ‘dinner party test’, appearing to take the Baroness’s comments literally. Coren reflects on the British at dinner parties and their penchant to “…say anything rather than be silent and risk appearing a bad guest.”

Perhaps closer to what Lady Warsi meant by the comment is what Giles Fraser picks up on in Saturday’s Guardian when he speaks of “slippage.”

Fraser, denoting Islamophobia as Britain’s “moral blind spot” observed that:

“The problem Warsi identifies is the problem of slippage. What can begin as a perfectly legitimate conversation about, say, religious belief and human rights, can drift into a licence for observations that in any other circumstance would be regarded as tantamount to racism.”

Jenny McCartney in The Sunday Telegraph focuses on Lady Warsi’s comment on framing Muslims in terms of ‘moderates’ or ‘extremists’. She wrote:

“The trouble is that, as the Government and security services are painfully aware, there exists a small but significant minority of British Muslims – often radicalised young men – who are not moderate at all. Baroness Warsi might desire to strip them of the label ‘Muslim’ and simply call them ‘extremists’, but they themselves are vociferous in championing a particularly intolerant brand of Islam.”

Lady Warsi addressed this in her speech and stressed that "a minority of people that try to justify their criminal conduct and activity by suggesting that it is sanctioned by their faith. It is a problem that we must confront and defeat. But that problem should not lead to unfounded suspicions of all Muslims."

The words of George Pitcher on Friday in the Daily Telegraph, are a welcome rejoinder to the views articulated by Victoria Coren and Jenny McCartney. Pitcher, an Anglican priest, wrote:

“Warsi was entirely right to point worriedly to our dinner party acceptance that casual abuse of and discrimination against our Muslim population is okay. I learned from my parents of the relaxed talk about the ‘smelly Jews’ in England in the Thirties. Variants of the line that supported the idea of an international conspiracy – ‘not all Jews are financiers, but nearly all the money men are Jews’ – has its echo today in the regular observation that not all Muslims are suicide bombers, but all suicide bombers are Muslims.”

“What Warsi and other true-blue Conservatives can do is to stop the line being drawn between Muslims and non-Muslims and to distinguish instead between all of us, of all faiths and none, and those deranged, murderous criminals whom other deranged extremists from the BNP and similar organisations would have us associate with an entire world religion.”

McCartney’s attempt to justify the judgemental reactions to Muslim women who choose to wear the face veil (niqab) also fundamentally ignores the reasons advanced by these very women themselves on why they choose to do.

It is the normalisation of such ill-informed attitudes, so apparent in the discourse of these commentators, which Lady Warsi spoke of.

Leo McKinstry, meanwhile, continues with his tradition of self-righteous, ill-informed bigotry in his column in the Daily Express today. He writes:

“What she calls ‘Islamophobia’ is a perfectly rational concern about the behaviour of a significant section of the Muslim population here, which due to the collapse of our borders is now three million strong and growing.”

Not only does he attempt to blame Muslims themselves for the bigotry and prejudice displayed toward them, he adds that, had the rest of the public not been so restrained, it would be worse:

“…in the face of severe provocation the public has shown the most remarkable restraint towards Muslims.”

Perhaps British Muslims should be grateful?

Edward Said wrote in his book, “Covering Islam”, “malicious generalisations about Islam have become the last acceptable form of denigration of foreign culture in the West” – sentiments echoed by Peter Oborne in his defence of Lady Warsi’s speech:

“Muslims are fair game in British public culture. Polly Toynbee, of The Guardian, is regarded as Britain’s most politically correct columnist. ‘I am an Islamophobe and proud of it,’ she once wrote.” “Let’s imagine for one moment that Toynbee had written instead: ‘I am an anti-semite and proud of it.’ She would at once have been barred from mainstream journalism because anti-semitism is rightly regarded as a noxious, evil creed. With Islam, by contrast, any insult is tolerated.”

The consequences of such attitudes, writes Oborne, is that “British Muslims get spat at, abused, insulted and physically attacked. Vandalism and mosque burnings are common, and often unrecorded.”

And while politicians prevaricate, prejudice continues to grow with fateful consequences for the ordinary British Muslim.


0 #2 Bottom Line from A MuslimChaz Huss 2011-02-15 11:10
Has a British born Pakistani I totally agree with David Camerom's Speech.
Muslims need to take a lead on this issue.We need to eradicate this violent extremism.
These small miniority who have highjacked the muslim teachings need to differentiate between there Faith and Patriotism.Your faith is being at peace with yourself and God and nobody else.Patriotism is being loyal to a Country that gives you protection shelter and free education.
A home gives you protection and shelter and you would fight for your home so why not give the same for your country.
If your Faith dictates to you this is not the case the question should be asked whether this country is right for you.
We live in a Country which is so tolerent,now that tolerence is being tested.If Muslims allows this minority to cause so much hatered and extremism the tide will turn against us in this country which is what I fear.
Why is it the number of EDL numbers increased from a few hundred to over five hundred thousand voters and supporters.
I have no politcal alliance to no party I vote on merit.
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0 #1 CouncillorWyn Foster 2011-02-04 07:09
As a member of The Church of Jesus Chrst of LDS (Mormon) I do try to build bridges with other religions and have attended the local Muslim annual Conference for several years, and have learned something of their beliefs. I have also attended inter faith meetings and have read the account in the Koran of Christ's birth and been told that Muslims regard Jesus Christ as a great prophet. The problem arises when indoctrination takes place. There are closed minds at all levels of Society.
I don't know personally what is said at the dinner parties attended by the Baroness Warsi but when I get together with my friends we discuss a wide range of subjects and race is not high on the agenda. Having said that I have spoken to a very kind and sweet christian woman who lived in Peterborough for some time with her family. She tried to make friends with her Muslim neighbours but her motives were questioned. Eventually her family were told to leave the area as she did not belong there. There can be bigots and good/bad people among all races.
I have been friends with an Egyptian, an ex student, who lodged with our family over 30 years ago. We have mutual respect and communicate regularly. I would ask the Baroness to look at all sides of the picture and please try to be fair and balanced in making judgement.
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