Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a former UK minister, has presented a keynote address titled "Muslims Don't Matter: The Silencing, stereotyping, and stigmatizing of Muslims by the British press and political parties."
She methodically cited polling, policy choices, and the management of high-profile events, such as the ongoing Middle East conflict, in her speech on Thursday night at the University of Leeds as instances of how British Muslims are treated differently than other members of society.
She said that in a population of almost four million people, this is fostering a culture of dread.
She called for an end to the cultural wars and a course correction by lawmakers to prevent possibly disastrous consequences.
In her address, Warsi stated: "This week is Hate Crime Awareness Week, and recently published government figures on hate crime once again show that in the year ending March 2023, there has been a rise in religiously motivated hate crime, and once again, Muslims are the most targeted religious group (where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, 2 in 5 (39%) of religious hate crime offenses were targeted against Muslims (3,452 offenses)."
In referencing the treatment of British Muslim communities in the political sphere, she argued: "There is a particular irony to this political struggle because, on the one hand, the government insists on the observance of 'Fundamental British Values' but when Muslims challenge actions that detract from our commitment to rule of law for example with torture and rendition, or challenge actions that undermine democracy, in speaking up for freedom of speech or freedom of association, or challenge actions that undermine respect and tolerance by calling out Institutional Islamophobia, or challenge actions that undermine individual liberty — when Muslims apply these Fundamental British Values in their participation in wider society, they are demonized, marginalized, excluded from political arenas and treated as outcasts.
As a proud and long-standing liberal democracy, we denigrate ourselves by treating British Muslims, a subset of our fellow citizens, in an authoritarian manner. We come off as hypocrites and undercut our professed principles.
She persisted in her effort to eradicate Islamophobia within her party, challenging the Labour Party to avoid a race to the bottom and advocating for mainstream politics to continue serving as a platform for the genuine representation of British Muslims.
She declared: "And only this week, we see reports of the Labour Party, which spent months fighting the government to protect the Public Order Act's right to protest, banning its council members and members of Parliament from attending pro-Palestinian marches, but not others."
She invited fellow Britons who share her views on justice and equality to join British Muslims.
"I ask you to join what is in effect a Muslim civil rights movement, a demand to belong, to be a part, to play our part, to have the same rights and freedoms as others, to be heard, to have the right to be heard, for our citizenship to be worth the same as everyone else’s, to be treated equally under the law."
She further said that her ancestors had fought for Britain, contributed to the development of its infrastructure and industries, and enriched its rich cultural tapestry with color, sound, and wonderful flavors. “Now, as a young and expanding community, British Muslims are once again providing the workforce, entrepreneurs, and international networks,” she added.