LONDON: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has said that pluralist and tolerant Pakistan has shaped her views but unfortunately tolerance and mutual co-existence is under threat all over the world.
In an exclusive interview about her book ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’, the Tory peer said that as a child she visited Pakistan and was able to visit mosques, shrines, village schools, Imambargahs, weddings and other social events with “complete freedom” and without being judged and she remembers that pluralistic Pakistan with fondness where sectarianism was not tolerated and where more freedoms existed than today.
Warsi, who was part of David Cameron’s first cabinet, has dedicated a chapter in her book to Pakistan but the overall theme of her book deals with the challenges British Muslims face in Britain today. Warsi said that she asks questions in the book as who are British Muslims, what’s their place in Britain and how they face the same level of hate and suspicion that once Jews, women and miners were subjected to.
She said that while she was a cabinet minister and sat in a national security policy meeting, a commentator famously questioned about her presence in the meeting and wondered how the war against terrorism could be fought when ‘the enemy within’ was part of the national security meetings. Sayeeda Warsi said that she felt very bad and thought she was addressed in a very unpleasant manner.
Warsi, who resigned over differences with David Cameron on the issue of Gaza, told Geo News that she argues in her book that Muslims have been part of the UK for a long time and Islam came to the UK a long time ago and there should be accommodation for Muslims and Islam. She said that Christianity itself traces its roots to a foreign land. “It was not born in Bradford or Birmingham but in Bethlehem”.
Warsi said that in her book she describes Britain’s diverse community of Muslims and asks questions such as What makes a “violent” Jihadi? Why has government implemented a policy of “disengagement” towards British Muslims for nearly a decade? Are Muslims “the enemy within” as has been described and perceived? And how do we press the restart button to reboot community relations and rebuild a nation in which we are all at ease?
Warsi said that Muslim community leaders need to come out of denial and face facts. She said it was not possible for the imams and community leaders to just keep criticising other faiths. “The best course of action is to practise your own faith and be pious in life rather than attacking others. Muslims in Britain need to do a lot of soul-searching and reform themselves,” said Warsi.