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Times: ‘Profound mistrust’ fuelling anti-Muslim hatred, says Baroness Warsi

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, and Richard Ford, Home Correspondent


Anti-Muslim hatred is being fuelled by “an underlying, profound mistrust” and a “misinformed suspicion” of people who follow Islam, according to the country’s most senior Muslim politician.

Baroness Warsi, the Minister for Faith and Communities, will warn today of a “particularly concerning” problem that she believes is “paving the way for anti-Muslim hatred”.

In a speech this evening to the Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) project, Lady Warsi will outline what she believes is a continuing “negative perception” of Muslims.

Almost two years to the day after a controversial speech in which she said that Islamophobia had “passed the dinner table test” — meaning that anti-Muslim sentiment had become so socially acceptable it could be found even in the most civilised of settings — she will warn that the problem has if anything got worse and outline statistical evidence in support.

Citing a recent YouGov survey, where just 23 per cent of people said that Islam was not a threat to Western civilisation and only 24 per cent thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life, she will warn that seeing one community as the “other” was a slippery slope that would “enable extremists to advance their twisted interests unchecked”.

She will continue: “I don’t have to remind anyone what happens when an unfounded suspicion of one people can escalate into unspeakable horror. Let me tell you what’s really dangerous,” she will say. “It’s when people are treated differently because they hold a different religious belief.”

Lady Warsi’s views were rounded on by Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, in West Yorkshire, a fellow Tory. He said that negative perceptions of Muslims are in part being fuelled by the community itself and that the segregation of communities meant there was a lack of understanding and mistrust on both sides.

“In Bradford they don’t mix, they stick to their own areas,” he said. “Muslims in Bradford might blame white people for the problem whereas a lot of people in my constituency would say the problem is that many Muslims don’t integrate, don’t want to integrate and they don’t learn the language”.

Lady Warsi’s speech comes after the arrest this week of two men by police investigating reports that a gang claiming to be Islamic vigilantes have been confronting people in the street demanding they throw away alcohol and cover their bare skin. In one video, posted online, men from the self-styled Muslim Patrol in Whitechapel, East London, tell another man “no drink in this area, it’s a Muslim area” before ordering him to pour away his alcohol.

The Tory peer will urge all faiths to come together to tackle the “scourge” of prejudice and will say: “An attack on a church is an attack on a gurdwara, or a mosque, or a synagogue. Likewise, I believe an attack on a Muslim is an attack on a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu or a Sikh.

“An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths. And an attack on faith is an attack on freedom.”

Earlier this week, Lady Warsi hosted a meeting of senior representatives from the Vatican, the United States and Canada on freedom of religion and belief.

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