British minister attacks 'acceptable' Islamophobia

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The first Muslim woman to sit in the British cabinet will warn in a speech Thursday that discrimination against Muslims in Britain has become socially acceptable and must be fought.

Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the unelected House of Lords, blames the media for fuelling misunderstanding with labels such as "moderate" or "extremist", according to extracts published in the Daily Telegraph.

Warsi, co-chairman of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party and a minister without portfolio, will warn that Islamophobia has "passed the dinner-table test" and is seen by many as uncontroversial.

She is due to set out her position in a speech to the University of Leicester on Thursday night.

Research published this month by the US-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found the Muslim population of Britain was now 2.9 million, or 4.6 percent of the population, up from 1.6 million in 2001.

Warsi will say that prejudice has grown with the numbers, and blame "the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media".

The notion that all followers of Islam can be described either as "moderate" or "extremist" can fuel misunderstanding and intolerance, she will say.

"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 to his employees: 'Not to worry, he's only fairly Muslim'," she says.

"In the school, the kids say: 'The family next door are Muslim but they're not too bad'.

"And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: 'That woman's either oppressed or is making a political statement'."

Warsi will also address the issue of extremism, a key issue of concern for governments here since and the 2005 bombings in London by four British-born Muslims, which killed 52 people.

"Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law," Warsi, who has worked as a lawyer, will say.

"They also should face social rejection and alienation across society and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims."

© 2011 AFP

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