Responding to Gaza
Baroness Warsi’s other battle honours
Sayeeda Warsi has been rightly applauded across the spectrum of British politics for turning her back on a senior ministerial post on an issue of principle. She has shown the British values to be upheld – a voice for fairness at home and abroad – and the underlying vision of the Tory ‘One Nation’ slogan. She now stands heads and shoulders above wheeling and dealing revolving door politicos like Liam Fox and Mariam Miller, or the Ruth Kellys of the Expenses Fiddle. While much has been said of her rejection of Cameron’s foreign policy bias towards Israel, it is also time to acknowledge Baroness Warsi’s bold voice on the domestic front, particularly Islamophobia. As important as her action on Gaza, was this statement:
Let me say right away to British Muslims that I acknowledge that there is 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. Indeed, it seems to me that Islamophobia has now crossed the threshold of middle class respectability. Let me give one example which is very personal to here: It was reported several years ago that students at Leicester University persuaded their union cafeteria to ban pork and go exclusively halal. The trouble was, that turned out not to be the whole story. In fact, as I understand, it the Student Union decided that one out of the 26 cafes on campus should serve halal food. And when you consider that there are a large number of Muslim students at Leicester, that makes sound financial sense! For far too many people, Islamophobia is seen as a legitimate – even commendable – thing. You could even say that Islamophobia has now passed the dinner-table-test.
Take this from Polly Toynbee: “I am an Islamophobe, and proud of it”. Or this speech title from Rod Liddle: “Islamophobia? Count me in”.
But of course, Islamophobia should be seen as totally abhorrent – just like homophobia or Judeophobia – because any phobia is by definition the opposite of a philosophy. A phobia is an irrational fear. It takes on a life of its own and no longer needs to be justified. And all this filters through. The drip feeding of fear fuels a rising tide of prejudice. So when people get on the tube and see a bearded Muslim, they think “terrorist”… …when they hear “Halal” they think “that sounds like contaminated food”… …and when they walk past a woman wearing a veil, they think automatically “that woman’s oppressed”. And what’s particularly worrying is that this can lead down the slippery slope to violence.
MCB’s coordinated action on Gaza
Today over 70 community leaders, activists, business leaders and scholars from across the British Muslim community put their name to a joint letter to David Cameron urging the Government to act decisively to stop the indiscriminate slaughter of Palestinians. The civilian casualties are increasing daily, with over 1,400 dead women, children and men.
The letter represents a consensus view from the UK’s diverse Muslim communities who are united in their condemnation of the overwhelming violence afflicted on the Palestinians of Gaza. Leading Muslims from across the theological spectrum have signed the letter, as have Muslims from the worlds of business, politics and the arts.
The joint letter [1st August 2014] asks the Prime Minister ‘to join other party leaders, and members of your own party who have opposed the Israeli incursion into Gaza. ‘
“It pains us to write to you under these circumstances at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As a community we have witnessed the unconscionable suffering of Palestinian Muslims and Christians. And marking the festival of Eid this week, which is supposed to be a happy time, we cannot help but feel the pain of those suffering at the hands of the ruthless Israeli military.
Mosques and Islamic associations up and down the country continue to pray for peace, for the people of Gaza and for a respite to the violence. That has gone hand-in-hand with great feats of charity to help those affected. It saddens us to find that some charities are being pressured or even prevented from delivering much needed aid because of the say-so of the Israel Defence Forces. We ask our government to work in the interests of British charities, not a foreign entity determined to make the life of Palestinians a misery.” For full text of letter click here.