Mehdi Hasan interviews Sayeeda Warsi for the Huffington Post.
Given her work on Islamic finance issues, does she see herself as a Muslim minister, an advocate on behalf of Muslims within the government? “I am a British minister in the British cabinet who happens to be of the Muslim faith. I am not elected, as I keep being reminded by many right-wing blogs. I therefore don’t represent a constituency and I certainly don’t represent the British Muslim community.”
But she goes to chat with the pope as a Muslim – not someone who “happens to be of the Muslim faith” – and agree with him in opposing and hating secularism. Her religion is not a peripheral part of her job. She’s made it central herself.
Irrespective of her religion, she adds, “I hope I am a politician who understands the needs and concerns of British Muslim communities.. I grew up when, actually, no one cared about somebody’s religion; race was the issue that defined you.” But now, she says, “religion is the new race”.
And that is the problem. Race doesn’t come with putative orders from god on how subordinate women have to be. Religion does.
Within nine months of entering government, in January 2011, Warsi delivered a headline-grabbing speech in which she controversially claimed that Islamophobia had “passed the dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable in the UK.
She tells me now that she would have preferred that speech “to have been made by one of my colleagues”. Well, why wasn’t it? “I came into government when there was no acknowledgment that Islamophobia existed, no acknowledgment that we should do anything about it, no statistical evidence that it was out there.”
And now? “Now, we have Acpo [Association of Chief Police Officers] who are disaggregating religious hate crimes so we have a much clearer picture.. we co-funded a project called TellMama, which monitors anti-Muslim attacks.. we’re ensuring that this issue is brought into the training of officials.”
Wait: anti-Muslim attacks are one thing and “Islamophobia” is another. Both Warsi and Hasan are, of course, treating them as the same thing.
Then Hasan gets her to join him in bashing Maajid Nawaz.
I mention Maajid Nawaz, the former member radical Islamist group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, who now runs the controversial counter-extremism thinktank, the Quilliam Foundation, and is said to have helped draft the prime minister’s speeches on extremism.
Should people such as Nawaz – who have been criticized by fellow Muslims for lacking grassroots support – have such influence on government policy? “It would be a worrying sign if government policies on extremism were informed by ex-extremists rather than those who’d never been extremists,” she responds. “Let’s not reward those who who created the problem in the first place.”
I think what Mehdi Hasan really dislikes about Maajid is that Maajid is now a good deal more liberal than he is. That’s why he loves to try to push him to the margins by saying things like “who have been criticized by fellow Muslims for lacking grassroots support.”
So is Nawaz – who is now a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate – the right man to be offering advice to the PM on extremism? “For me what matters is, if you are advising the government, you have to be connected to the community that you try and talk about, you gave to be respected by the community that you are talking of and I think you have to be credible within that community.” Given the Quilliam boss meets none of these criteria, is she saying Cameron should no longer listen to what he has to say? “I’m not going to comment on individuals,” is all the peer will say, proving she can be diplomatic when she wants to.
Aw. Sad for Mehdi Hasan. He so wanted her to agree with him that “the Quilliam boss” is totes outside “the community” but she wouldn’t do it.
What a transparent venomous fuck he is.