Mail on Sunday: Baroness Warsi: Maypoles, harvest festivals, Christmas carols… it’s time for the minorities to join in

By Simon Walters Whoever chose Baroness Warsi’s study when she was moved to the Foreign Office in the Cabinet reshuffle two months ago must have had a keen sense of history. Of all the rooms they could have given her, they chose one in the part of the FO still known as the old India Office. It was from here that the British ruled India, including the Warsi family’s native Pakistan before it became independent. Her ministerial study is directly opposite the magnificent centrepiece of the India Office, the marble-floored Durbar Court with its three storeys of doric, ionic and corinthian columns. Built when Queen Victoria was on the throne, it was modelled on Indian durbars – courts where native princes held receptions for visiting British dignitaries at the height of the Raj. When I started our interview at the India Office by admiring Durbar Court, Sayeeda Warsi winced at my clunking Estuary English ‘der-baah’ pronunciation of the word. ‘It is drrr-ba,’ she said, lending an exotic musical flourish to the prolonged ‘drrr’ and clipped ‘ba’. I could almost hear sitars in the background. Born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, the second of five daughters of Pakistani immigrants, she had a successful career in the law before being made a Tory peer. She defies all stereotypes. She is as Eastern and refined as the Durbar Court, yet as down-to-earth and homely as Yorkshire pudding. She calls herself a working-class Northern mum, yet sends her children to private school. Her accent is half Pakistani and half Yorkshire, and she is fiercely proud of both. After being appointed Britain’s first woman Muslim Cabinet Minister in 2010, Warsi came close to being humiliated when David Cameron moved her out of her job as Tory chairman in the September reshuffle. Unnamed Conservative MPs ran a whispering campaign against her, claiming she wasn’t up to it and had been given the post only because the Prime Minister was desperate to break up the serried ranks of white and overwhelmingly male Tory faces around the Cabinet table. Even more wounding, it was alleged that her brash successor as chairman, Grant Shapps, ran a successful campaign to grab the post from her. Certainly, she has shed no tears over Shapps’s abrupt fall from grace following bizarre disclosures that he used an alter ego, Michael Green, in a parallel career as a downmarket internet entrepreneur. When I mentioned Shapps’s troubles, a beatific smile spread across her face. ‘He’s had a real baptism of fire, it’s been awful,’ she said, archly. ‘He’s had the grief after a month that I had after a year.’ Ouch. Shapps isn’t the only one to discover how Warsi fights like a tigress. When Cameron asked her to move to a more junior role at the FO, she faced being stripped of her Cabinet place. Warsi had other ideas. She made three demands: a new title, that of Senior Minister of State, adding the ‘senior’ to signal she was Foreign Secretary William Hague’s deputy, at least in name; the retention of her Cabinet seat; and the additional role of Minister for Faith and Communities, Whitehall jargon for Race Relations Minister. She got all three. Only the canniest of politicians get to the top of ethnic politics in Britain. Warsi is no exception. She is barely 5ft tall, yet her warmth and presence more than fill her palatial office, with its towering 30ft ceiling. With Conservative support among black and Asian voters pathetically low, Cameron could hardly risk having a woman – and a Muslim to boot – walking out on him. And which white Tory could possibly tackle thorny issues, such as the grooming of vulnerable young white girls by Pakistani men in Northern towns like Rochdale, with her courage and credibility? £140M A YEAR LOST IN TRANSLATION More than 800,000 schoolchildren – one in eight – do not speak English as their mother tongue. Critics say schools’ resources are being stretched as heads are forced to recruit foreign language assistants to help migrant children. Some 240 different languages are spoken in England’s schools including Punjabi, Baroness Warsi’s native Urdu, Bengali, Somali and Polish. In some schools, more than 50 languages are spoken. Taxpayers foot an annual £140 million bill for translation services, including £64,000 a day in the NHS – a 17 per cent rise since 2007. NHS trusts translate pamphlets into 120 different languages. Many public bodies provide translations but the legal obligation to do so is not clear. The Human Rights Act only requires translations if someone is arrested or charged with a crime, while the Race Relations Act says all parts of the community should have access to services. ‘A small minority of Pakistani, Afghani and Bangladeshi men think Asian women are second-class citizens and white girls are third-class citizens,’ Warsi told me. When we met last week, she had just arrived back from a whirlwind trip to Pakistan in her role as Foreign Office Minister for the region. But we have met to talk about her domestic ministerial role, that of Minister for Faith and the Communities. In a wide-ranging interview on the eve of a speech on integration, she insisted there was no contradiction between being a devout Muslim and celebrating Christmas. ‘Being brought up — before the politically correct brigade got going — on harvest festivals, maypoles, Nativity plays, Christmas carols and the Lord’s Prayer, made me much more sure about my own identity,’ she said. ‘I didn’t feel it was all watered down to the lowest common denominator.’ Baroness Warsi fondly recalled how she and her four sisters persuaded their father, Safdar, and mother, Hafeeza, to celebrate Christmas – mainly as an excuse to get presents from Santa Claus. ‘Our house was small and because Mum and Dad took out the chimney-breast, like everyone was doing in the North in those days, we thought Santa couldn’t come to our house – so my sister left the back door unlocked. ‘He still didn’t arrive! My dad said “We don’t do Christmas,” so one of my sisters said to him, “December 25 is the birthday of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. He is really important.” ’ Warsi bursts into laughter at the memory. ‘We introduced turkey, crackers, hats, a tree and tinsel. It became more and more Christmassy every year.’ Did she do turkey with all the trimmings? ‘I have spiced turkey!’ Warsi loves Christmas carols – her favourite is Good King Wenceslas. And while retaining her Muslim faith, she has continued the Christmas tradition with her own children, especially 14-year-old daughter Aamna. ‘Every Christmas, she just had to be Mary,’ she grins. In her first Christmas as Conservative Party chairman, Warsi was horrified to discover the proposed official chairman’s card had no mention of Christianity – so she binned it and replaced it with a ‘proper traditional card, with Merry Christmas on it’. She added defiantly: ‘It took the confidence of a British Muslim to do that.’ And she wants other ethnic minorities to follow her lead. ‘Why not? White people celebrate Diwali and Eid. And we all enjoy Bonfire Night.’ She is equally determined to make more significant changes to improve integration, including getting rid of classroom assistants used to help children who cannot speak English. And Warsi says the proliferation of multilingual forms available for non-English speakers at hospitals, welfare offices and elsewhere merely encourages people not to bother to learn English and hinders their chances of integrating and getting good jobs. She takes the same no-nonsense approach to other issues, such as drugs. Wary of treading on ethnic toes, Home Secretary Theresa May has not responded to calls to ban the legal plant-based drug khat, which is used mainly by minorities. But not blunt Warsi. ‘I have been pushing the Home Secretary to get on with it. We cannot say, “Because it’s Somalian and Ethiopian boys who take this, it’s part of their recreational activity, hey-ho, we will just let them take it.” We would not legitimise marijuana to please the Rasta community, so why do that with khat?’ Are you listening, Theresa? With only six weeks to go before Christmas, I could not resist asking Warsi if she had drawn up her Christmas card list. Would she be sending one to Grant Shapps – or Michael Green perhaps? ‘I’ll send him a Christmas card addressed to the chairman of the Conservative Party,’ she replied. And the twinkle in her eye could illuminate an entire Christmas tree. SHARING WILL HELP WARM THE MELTING POT By MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT What Baroness Warsi says is brave, creditable and straightforwardly good. Her suggestions would be wise whoever made them, but the fact that a British Muslim of Asian ancestry has said these things is important and heartening. For far too long our official and political classes have, in practice, supported a well-intentioned but disastrous multiculturalism which has encouraged some communities to turn in on themselves. No melting pot can function unless it is heated by the warmth of human contact – above all, by a shared language but also, as Sayeeda Warsi urges, by as much shared culture as possible. The idea that Muslims should celebrate Christmas is a particularly happy one – as it happens, the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary is recorded in the Koran. If we were less embarrassed about our own faith and culture, many of our newer citizens might well find it easier, not harder, to fit in.

Guardian Comment is Free: Forced marriage has always been a crime in spirit

David Cameron is right to criminalise forced marriage. This abominable, inhumane act robs people of their lives By Sayeeda Warsi published onFriday 8 June 2012 on In deciding to criminalise forced marriage – the act of coercing a person to marry against their will – the government has made a bold statement: that this heinous, inhumane, oppressive act is never acceptable. The decision couldn’t come soon enough. The government’s forced marriage unit (FMU) provided advice or support in almost 1,500 cases last year, but the true picture is thought to be even graver. One study in 2009 estimated that up to 8,000 women and men, girls and boys could be entering into unwilling unions each year, often being torn from their lives in Britain to live in an unknown land with an unknown spouse. Shockingly, a third of victims assisted by the FMU last year were minors – schoolchildren who suddenly became spouses either here or abroad – the youngest reported case is thought to have been just five years old. We must be clear. This is not like arranged marriage, where two parties consent. In forced marriage, to resist betrothal is to risk ostracism, abuse and even murder. Currently, the law does not go far enough. Forced marriage protection orders were introduced in 2008, but breaching an order is only a breach of civil law. The message this sends out is a dangerous one: it says that Britain equates this enforced matrimony with mere civil misdemeanours. David Cameron was right to announce that breaching these orders would be criminalised. And he was right to consult upon making forced marriage a crime in its own right. The consultation, whose results are published today, shows 80% of respondents – including police, victims’ groups, lawyers and charities – saying that the current measures are not being used effectively. The majority agreed that a new offence should be created. It is something for which I have campaigned for many years. I have met many victims; I fought cases involving victims when I was a lawyer. And, as I wrote here last December, I have always believed that those who use wedlock as a weapon should be vilified and criminalised. There are, of course, those who oppose criminalising forced marriage. The main concern is that the crime will be driven underground as victims will be reluctant to criminalise their families. Sceptics say that the blunt instrument of legislation is insufficient to address such a complex, sensitive issue. They say that the law already protects people from forced marriage because it criminalises its components – such as kidnapping, assault and false imprisonment. I understand their reservations, and have even held sessions with stakeholders to discuss it with them. But the arguments against criminalising forced marriage are the arguments we saw against criminalisation of domestic violence. Legislating against that has transformed lives. And with forced marriage it will raise awareness and it will act as a deterrent – just as it is doing in places where it has become a crime, such as Austria, Germany, Belgium, Cyprus and Denmark. Mindful of those who are too fearful of reporting their parents to the police and thus criminalising them, victims will still have the option of requesting the forced marriage offence to be dealt with as a civil matter, if they so wish. The bottom line is this: forced marriage is a crime in spirit, and so it should be a crime in law. After all, it represents the theft of people’s freedom, the robbery of their liberty and the abuse of their life – adding up to what can only be considered an abominable crime. I am glad that, very soon, the statute books will agree.

Baroness Warsi drops two stone and beats diabetes for the sake of the NHS

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is the first to admit that five months ago she would have been the perfect target for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new crusade to tackle Britain’s battle with the bulge. Stepping onto the scales last December, the Conservative life peer was horrified to see her weight top 12st 10lb — her heaviest since being pregnant with her daughter 22 years ago. Just 5ft 2in tall and with a Body Mass Index of 32.5, there was simply no avoiding the fact that the hips don’t lie. ‘That was my ‘now or never’ moment. I thought: ‘This is not what I want to be,’ ‘ says Baroness Warsi, 49, who in 2007 became the House of Lords’ youngest member at 36. Read about Lady Warsi’s journey here

We don’t need another inequalities review: we need the political will to enact change

“The men and women taking to the streets across the globe under the banner of Black Lives Matter want to be heard. They want to hear an acknowledgement of the mistakes of the past and a genuine commitment to future change. Their ask is no different to the ask many of us have had all our lives.” – Baroness Warsi’s comments on racism for the Times Many like me spent the 1970s dodging racism; both the physical and verbal attacks in school and on our streets. We spent the 1980s marching and angrily protesting and sometimes this manifested as public disorder. We spent the 1990s organising and campaigning. And some of us, myself included, have since the turn of the century felt that the only way to change the system, that for all of our lives has not responded to concerns of racism and inequality, was to run for office and change the system from within. So I hope you can understand my frustration when the government announces yet another commission. It is an example of the way bureaucracy can be couched in compassion to stifle the fight for equality. Over the past five years alone we have had a plethora of reviews, reports, audits and inquiries. Each chaired by respected and informed individuals, each taking evidence, each diagnosing a part of the problem, each making important and necessary recommendations and each gathering dust as policy papers are hardly implemented. In 2015 Dame Angiolini QC conducted a review of deaths in police custody. In 2017 Baroness McGregor-Smith reported on issues affecting BAME people in the workplace. The Lammy review in 2017 made recommendations about the treatment of, and outcomes for, BAME people in the criminal justice system, and the Race Disparity Audit in 2017 started to build and publish data and analysis to understand and assess differences between ethnic groups. In more recent times we’ve had the Grenfell tragedy and the Windrush scandal. The bureaucratic hand-wringing that followed these moments of national shame has led to no real change for those who were so badly let down. We can all agree that we know the problem. so I hope we can all agree that we don’t need another commission: we need the political will to start change. There are changes we can make now. For example, ethnic minority pay gap reporting, a recruitment drive in BAME communities for key roles in teaching and the police, a less eurocentric curriculum, a well-funded strategy for closing the attainment gap at universities and a Covid legacy act as proposed by Compassion in Politics’ Professor Sir Michael Marmot, and groups like Just Fair, that would require government departments to work towards achieving key public health indicators with targets for improving early education and child health outcomes, and ensuring access to decent, well-paid jobs. Perhaps it is because Covid has forced us all to consider our own fragility and the things that matter most to us — friends, good health, existence itself — that more people than ever before have grasped the extent and intolerability of the race divide in Britain. It’s why black and white and others have stood shoulder to shoulder across the world demanding change, demanding that we can do better. I believe in Britain we can.

We are standing by as yet another potential genocide unfolds

The Uighurs are being subjected to the largest surveillance and internment of an ethnic minority since the Holocaust. The horrors of the past are being repeated – and we are failing to act, writes Baroness Warsi for The House.In November last year a data leak of highly classified Chinese government documents to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists led to an explosive Panorama documentary bringing the plight of Uighurs and other minorities in China’s Xinjiang region once again to the public conscience.The internal policy documents of the Chinese Communist Party have been referred to as a Nazi playbook and describes the mechanics behind an Orwellian system of mass surveillance and detention of its own citizens. Read more here.

Personal Principles and the Political Game

“Is the practice of politics providing for the citizen as envisaged in the original Greek meaning, or is it simply a game? And if it is a game, what are the rules? And when playing that game, should we always be aware of our core principles?” – Baroness Warsi, 2016 Politics was described by Aristotle as “of, for, or relating to citizens”. In more modern terms the definition of politics is “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power”. But is the practice of politics really about providing for the citizen, as envisaged in the Greek meaning, or, has the game of politics become an end in itself? And, in the game of politics, is winning the ultimate aim, even if this requires sacrifice of principles?

Leveson Lecture

Good evening, “David Yelland, Tom Watson, Jo Brand, Vince Cable and I” sounds like the start of a story from an after dinner gig – but they are the esteemed company that I now keep by delivering this lecture, the fifth Leveson Lecture. They have all shrewdly and brilliantly shed light on press reform, and they did it very much in the thoughtful and open-minded spirit of Sir Brian Leveson’s report. I am very conscious that they are hard acts to follow. And as I was working on this talk a few days ago, worried whether I should have accepted your invitation to deliver this lecture, I was distracted by another event that was taking place. No I wasn’t tracking Priti Patel’s plane back from Africa along with thousands of other people. I was watching the Prime Minister and others pay homage at a party to celebrate Paul Dacre’s 25 years at the Daily Mail. I tried to find the words that evening to express my disgust – I could not, so I will simply quote my colleague, Andrew, Lord Cooper: “The Prime Minister attending the *celebration* of the repulsive Paul Dacre’s 25 years as editor of the disgusting Daily Mail is another depressing sign of the sickness at the heart of UK politics & the Tory Party weakly traipsing towards the edge of a cliff” Now Either Andrew is very right and brave or that is a spoof twitter account that I have just quoted from. But their evening was about the past. And tonight is about the future. So it is a great honour to be here and a privilege to be associated in this way with the Leveson process. Like you I followed the public sessions of the inquiry with amazement and sometimes with horror, and like so many others I felt deep admiration for those people who had experienced dreadful abuse and were ready to come forward and tell their shocking stories in public. Some of them are here tonight and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for what they did. It is frustrating that, five years after Sir Brian Leveson’s report, his recommendations have yet to be fully implemented. In that famous ‘last chance saloon’ there are still a few drinkers clinging to the bar, but it is by their fingertips and It is only a matter of time before this issue of press regulation that we’ve tried and tried and failed and failed to resolve for the last seventy years has to be faced and fixed. Ladies and gentleman it always astonishes me that those that shout the loudest about Political Correctness gone mad are also the ones that engage in the most vile morally incorrect comments. Those that bemoan Leveson and predict the end of press freedom seem also to be those who despite all the exposed bad behaviour on hacking and invasion of people’s lives have found another form of bad behavior to engage in – preaching hate. And that is my subject tonight. Because hate, ladies and gentlemen, can be preached in papers as well as from pulpits. Preaching hate, hate speech, may seem strong terms, but I believe it is an accurate description of what we are seeing in parts of our national press almost every day. I recognize hate when I see it. Growing up I was subjected to it, “paki bashing” wasn’t a socially uncomfortable word. It was a lived experience. As a lawyer I’ve prosecuted it, and taken instructions from those that have engaged in it, and as a woman I’ve challenged it and as a Muslim in Britain 2017 it’s once more a daily reality. In sections of our press it is relentless and deliberate. Steadily and methodically using paper inches and columns to create, feed and ratchet up suspicions and hostilities in our society, driving communities apart and creating untold – and unnecessary – fear and distress. Poisoning our public discourse, making it almost impossible to have sensible discussions about the real challenges, crowding out tolerance, reason and understanding. And this drip, drip, approach creates a toxic environment where hate crime is the highest it’s been since records began. But for many of you this is not breaking news. It’s evidence Sir Brian Leveson heard in the course of his inquiry – on subjects such as discrimination, incitement to hatred and inaccuracies relating to race and religion, the evidence was pretty shocking. Let me quote Leveson. There was, he said, ‘a significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability’. That’s plain language. ‘A significant tendency.’ And since those words were written it has become far worse. A significant tendency has become something of an obsession. Hate speech in the press has become a plague, an epidemic. Ways of expression that I thought we had left behind with Enoch Powell in the 1960s are now the new normal. Women, the disabled, refugees, the LGBT community, BAME none are beyond the wrath of the hateful write up but I am sure few would dispute that Muslims are now their principal targets. This is true not just of two or three notorious dailies, but also of papers some still regard as responsible and ethical. Anti Muslim hate speech is becoming a regular feature even in the more “respectable” parts of the press and that’s why it’s becoming more dangerous. In 2011 I said “Islamaphobia has passed the dinner table test”, found in the most respectable of settings I was derided by many in the press. I had touched a nerve, it was their dinner tables. It’s since become far worse. Islamophobia is Britain’s latest bigotry blind spot. It’s where the respectable rationalise bigotry, couch it in intellectual argument and present it as public interest or honest opinion that allows the rot of xenophobia to set in and starts to destroy society. Allow me to cite a few examples. The Sun’s front page from the 23rd of November 2015 was as shocking as anything that the Leveson Inquiry heard about. “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.’ It was shocking first of all because it was a lie. The survey they relied upon did not say that, as was swiftly pointed out by those who had read the story closely. Eventually, and in a rare development, even the polling company distanced itself from what was said. But the Sun wanted to believe it, true or not, and so the figures were made to suit the message. Now it was bad enough, you may say, for the biggest-selling newspaper in the country to devote its front page to encouraging a false and derogatory idea about Britain’s three million Muslims. But for me it was the timing that was the most shocking. This was just over a week after we had seen the Paris terror attacks in which more than 100 people had died. Europe was anxious and on high alert, and a huge international manhunt was under way. In these moments I know, and every Muslim knows, that suspicion increases and abuse and physical attacks increase. Innocent people suffer. They are spurned and spat upon in our streets. And sometimes much worse, as police figures about hate crime testify. Yet it was at precisely this time that the Sun saw fit to tell its readers – again, falsely – that a fifth of our Muslims sympathise with the kind of people who carried out the Paris outrages. If the editor of the Sun had been looking for the best way to incite hatred and actual violence, he could not have done it any better. Sadly the Sun has developed a long record of such behaviour. The attack on the broadcaster Fatima Manji, when the paper again encouraged the idea that Muslims by definition were potential terrorists and therefore could not be trusted. And more recently another columnist on the paper was happy to adopt the language of Hitler, announcing that Britain needed to tackle, in capital letters, The Muslim Problem. Where every Muslim is presented as a threat a problem, where group accountability is promoted, where individuals are dehumanized by being presented as a false homogenous block and then labelled as the other then that ladies and gentlemen, is hate speech. Let me turn to that other favorite of those in this room the Daily Express. The relentlessness of anti Muslim interspersed with anti immigrant / anti refugee front pages is exhausting. “Muslim schools ban our culture One in 5 Brits will be Ethnics Muslims tell Britain to go to hell Fury at the police in Burkhas” And on and on. But worryingly whilst the Sun and the Express are familiar suspects in this area, it does not stop with that sort of paper. And Many of you will recall the recent report in the Times headlined: ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’. This was a supposedly serious paper reporting on a serious issue. One involving a vulnerable child. As anyone who is familiar with public and private care proceedings will tell you taking children from their natural parents and placing them in care is a detailed and complex process, but even before we could delve into the detail of this case what The Time was doing was willfully sending a message to its readers that Muslims are frightening people with whom Christian children are not safe. It pandered to bigoted stereotypes, was extraordinarily irresponsible and most shockingly was untrue. The paper claimed that it was concerned in general about children being fostered by families of different cultures, but even in its own story it accepted that this happens far more often to children from minority backgrounds. And so choosing to highlight this case, when it knew otherwise , the Times gave itself away. What shocked the Times, or at least what it hoped would shock its readers, was the idea of a white Christian girl being cared for by Muslims. The Times chose to highlight an instance of cross-cultural fostering where the child was white, even though it knew that it was far more common for it to happen to non-white children. For the Times, clearly, it is intrinsically more concerning that a white child should be with Muslim foster parents than the other way around. And that, for me, is an expression of hatred, and it is also the encouragement of hatred. It is hate speech. We have since learned that the story contained a catalogue of factual errors from the allegation around no English being spoken by the foster parents, to the removal of the crucifix, to the ban on carbonara to the use of a photo of a woman in a burkha, the list goes on, errors which have not been corrected. And More worryingly is not the factual errors but the omissions that were included in the story to allow it to be presented in a distorted way. Andrew Norfolk gave the child a simple cultural identity – white, Christian, English-speaking and with a British passport – and yet this is not the full picture. The child has dual nationality, has lived abroad, perhaps until quite recently, and although she was christened by some accounts she has never regularly attended church. Her maternal grandparents (who are her only known grandparents) are Muslims who pray at home. All of this detail was excluded. Norfolk wrote of the child being ‘taken from her family and forced to live with a Niqab-wearing foster carer’ and of the mother being ‘horrified’ by this. He did not explain that the child was removed from her mother by police as an emergency measure, because of urgent concerns that she (the child) was at risk. Nor did he mention that there were ‘issues around the mother’s possible drug and alcohol use’, or that she has been subject to a criminal charge. Include these details and you have a story that is much more complex and less surprising, but which also does not fit the neat cultural model presented. The Times knew the circumstances, but claims to have withheld details from the readers to protect the girl’s anonymity. I do not accept that. At best Norfolk failed to research and verify, at worst he deliberately misled. Good journalists verify, and he should have done so. The Times has complained that everything in the story was put to the council, which refused to comment. The Times must have known that on 29 August, the day after it published, there would be a case hearing at which it was entitled to be present and where it could not fail to learn more. If it had waited, in other words, it would probably have got a fuller, fairer picture. But maybe it was a picture that the Times did not want. These are individual stories but allow me to give you a broader picture. The statistics and research are deeply disturbing. Let me quote a few- Media representations of Muslims are overwhelmingly negative. For every 1 ‘moderate’ Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of ‘extremist’ Muslims mentioned in the media. Headlines are purposefully divisive and juxtapose ‘Muslims’ against ‘Britons’- the Us and Them narrative is frequently put out there. “The British press most frequently positions Islam and Muslims in stories or contexts that relate to conflict.” Research into one week’s news coverage on Muslims showed that only 4% of the 352 articles studied were positive. In a study of 200,000 newspaper articles, references to Muslim hero(es) were identified only 39 times, brave Muslim(s) was found on 20 occasions and honest Muslim(s) just 6 times out of 20000, and Kind Muslim(s) was not found anywhere in the corpus. And a poll conducted for the Runnymede Trust found that 78% of respondents believed that media coverage of British ethnic minorities promotes racism. If the issue makes for grim reading the consequences of such stories are even more stark. Firstly its about protection. Going back to first principles. The first role of government is to protect its citizens. To quote Leveson, journalists have ‘wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people’. In a modern society that is unacceptable. We cannot leave innocent people, sometimes entire minority communities, exposed to such abuse. We would not do so in any other walk of life. Second, it is about protecting society and enabling the best democratic discussion. We need the information that is given to the public to be accurate, otherwise our public debates are poisoned by falsehoods. In this sense, addressing inaccuracy in news publishing the the most important thing that we can do, because all the other debates – about Brexit, immigration, crime, education, health, defence, poverty – all of them, are being poisoned by false and inaccurate information. So journalists, editors and news publishers need to be properly (independently and effectively) accountable for what they publish. Newspapers like to insist that certain standards of behaviour should be expected of people in the public eye. They certainly hold those of us in politics to account and so they should. But if they demand standards then they too should abide by some especially publications like The Times. Because when the likes of the Times lowers its standards it gives license to others to go even lower. And that is what happened in this particular foster case . The Times’s message was instantly amplified most notably by the Daily Mail, in even cruder terms. More hate speech, worse language, on more front pages, reaching more people. I have mentioned the way that hate speech poisons public discourse. Colleagues in the Palace of Westminster, even ex ministers Robert Halfon and Shaikesh Vara gave comments to the press off the back of that article. They shared and amplified the shock that the Times intended – at least until something more like the truth began to emerge. And the twitter sphere was awash with hateful speech. Let us be very clear about what is happening. Editors are seizing on every opportunity they can find to vilify and marginalise a substantial minority of their fellow-citizens. To make all Muslims appear dangerous and threatening by virtue of our shared faith identity. This is deliberate and it is dangerous. So bear with me whilst I tell you a little bit about British Muslims. They, we, are not a monolithic block. Some are black, some two-thirds are various shades of brown, many are oriental and, yes, some are even white. They originate from all corners of the world, including the continent of Africa and the European mainland, with ancestry which traces back to ancient civilisations in South and Central Asia and Persia; some are simply descendants of your bog-standard Anglo-Saxon. Some are old, but most are young: a third are under the age of fifteen. They are male, female and transgender; they are straight, gay and bisexual. They are monogamous, polygamous, and some, like the rest of the population, simply sleep around. Some wear clothing that shrouds from head to toe whilst others insist their ankles are always bare. Many believe that knee-length is modest enough, whilst some are daring enough to flash a little of thigh. Some wear a nikaab (full face veil), some a hijab (headscarf), some a dupatta Benazir Bhutto style: some prefer a bandana or even a half-shaved head. Some show neck, others tease with a little glimpse of cleavage, and some let it all hang out. They shop at Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, watch for deals at Lidl and Netto; the posh ones even go to Waitrose, whilst the busy and tech-savvy use Ocado. Some even buy their meat there, whilst others insist on Mr Ali, the halal butcher. Some only trust their cousin brother the kosher butcher to guarantee halal. They love a good bargain, are fans of BOGOF; the young adore the voucher websites. They choose private schools and grammar schools and fight like mad for good state-school places. Some get fed up with bad schools, and start free schools and faith schools and some even home school. Some attend the mosque five times a day, others once a day, some only on Fridays and some only as a tourist when they visit exotic Muslim lands abroad. Some use the Christmas break to go on pilgrimage to Mecca because the Saudi weather is at its best; others throw the biggest Christmas parties – tree, crackers and all – and those who don’t celebrate Christmas still have turkey over the festive period. Many use Easter to justify ditching the ‘no chocolate’ diet, some even give up coffee for Lent in solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters, and those who don’t do any of the above still love a great bonfire and fireworks, we are as fascinated with explosives as the rest of Britain. Some are writers and campaigners for free speech, others just read. Some read half a dozen languages, most read at least two, and a very small number can’t read at all. Most speak up to three languages and listen to music in many more. Some act, play instruments, sing and dance. Some denounce fun, and some, like most Brits, have two left feet. Most worry about job prospects, the housing ladder and finding a compatible other. They use dating sites – does a roaring trade – some rely on friends and family to arrange a match. They fall in love, they marry, they divorce. Some are divorce lawyers and judges, some accountants and lots are doctors, and those that aren’t wish they were. They make pizza better than Italians, stir-fry better than the Chinese and sell Bengali food as Indian; one even baked a cake for Her Majesty the Queen. They drive taxis and tubes and buses, they collect your bins and they sweep the streets. They teach your kids, they cure the sick, the fix your teeth, they bank your money and fix your central heating. They police our streets, they gather intelligence both at home and abroad to keep us safe and for over a hundred years they’ve been giving their blood and sweat in our armies to defend the values we all hold dear. They are boy-band heartthrobs and excel in Great British Bake Offs; they run faster than the world and win Olympic golds; they are football heroes and cricket legends; they are elected as members of parliament and members of their Lordships’ house, and one of them is the most influential person in London, our main man, the mayor. British Muslims are everywhere, all 3 million of them and counting. And of this 3 million, less than a tenth of 1 per cent over my lifetime have wanted to cause us, all of us, some really serious harm. I needed to get that off of my chest. And, yes, some are very devout, pious and deeply thoughtful, although these is no correlation between these types and lengths of beards or headscarfs. And some are very, very conservative, rejecting musical instruments like the Church of Christ, wearing clothes that seem to belong to foreign lands, like Haredi Jews, holding deeply illiberal views on homosexuality like some Evangelical Christians and Baptists, and having the potential to be deeply sectarian, like supporters of the two Old Firm Clubs, Celtic and Rangers. Most of us simply just want to get on with our lives. We love Britain; it’s where most were born and the only home we know, and we continue to choose it as home. We enjoy our faith and the principles, practices, culture and community that it inspires. We haven’t quite worked out how we’ve managed to get into this mess where we have become the bogeymen of the far right, the media and the government. Most of us are like rabbits caught in headlights, staring, waiting, frozen, still not sure how to react. And most of us dread breaking news and front page headlines in the Daily Mail. We just want to wake up to a news day which is not another bad-news day about bad Muslims; we want to stop being held collectively responsible for the actions of terrorists across the world and want someone to switch off the bright, glaring, ginormous LED spotlight that seems to follow us everywhere. We have our own dazzling diversity, in the midst of an even more dazzling and wonderful diversity of the United Kingdom. And the rest of us need to acknowledge what British Muslim already know : that substantial parts of our national press are actively hostile . that they do not hesitate to demean, misrepresent, vilify and lie, that Muslims are their favourite whipping boys. British citizens not just seen as second-class citizens but seen as the Enemy Within. Resentment is couched in fear and a community confined to a kind of moral ghetto. Shockingly these individuals run or help to run our biggest newspapers, so they have an extraordinary platform to pursue their ends. Many of you will have read about the new George Orwell memorial outside the BBC’s headquarters, just a couple of streets from here. It carries the fine quotation: ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.’ That argument is often used in the press as an excuse for hate speech. Now I don’t know what Orwell himself would have thought about this, but here is what I think. By all means, tell communities what they would rather not hear, providing it is true. Providing you have checked it Providing you have verified it.Far too often what is written about Muslims in this country is simply untrue. And yes, by all means rock the boat of public opinion, but think before you do it. This is not a game. Journalists have a vital role to play in our society, they have a right to report and challenge but it is not a right to victimise and not a right to bully. Innocent people suffer from this hate speech the drip, drip, drip of daily poisonous headlines playing out as daily low-level abuse on our streets. I am convinced that no reasonable person, no one who cares about life in this country, believes that this hate speech in our national press is harmless. I believe, that it does more to encourage intolerance, abuse and violence against Muslims than anything else. So why is it happening? A cynic will answer – and that cynic will probably be right, to a degree – that it sells newspapers and generates clicks online. In other words that this is commerce at work. Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, has spoken in the past of what he thinks successful editors give their readers – they ‘make them laugh, make them cry or make them angry’. Making people angry gives these papers energy and impact. Anger sells, hate sells. At worst it is deliberate at best it is ignorance. Surveys tell us that 94 per cent of our journalists are white, a figure that is all the more extraordinary when you consider how much of their industry is concentrated here in London, where about 40 per cent of the population is not white. I won’t speculate here about this remarkable mismatch, but I will say this. Not only would their journalism look very different if they employed a few more from the communities they write about but they might learn and reporting may become informed. But there is another reason why this is happening, and it is, in a way, what brings us all together here tonight. It is happening because it can. Hatred, cruelty and abuse by national newspapers prevails when citizens are powerless, unable to defend and protect themselves. This was supposed to be fixed five years ago, but yet it has not been so. Perhaps the most quoted line of the Leveson Report was the conclusion that national newspapers had ‘wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people’. A modern, civilised society cannot tolerate that. Our political parties came together in 2013 and agreed a way of delivering Leveson’s careful recommendations. There was a Royal Charter, whose terms matched the recommendations virtually word for word. There was a clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which made it much harder for any future government to tinker with the Royal Charter. And then there were clauses in the Crime and Courts Act. All of this was approved overwhelmingly by both Houses of Parliament, with all of the political parties in support. These measures were designed to stop the wreaking of havoc in innocent lives. and to redress the balance of power between citizens and newspapers. The whole of the non-broadcast news publishing industry was to be bought into the modern world of effective, independent regulation. And very importantly the reforms were meant to give everyone access to justice when news publishers breached their rights. All this, without impinging on freedom of expression. Indeed Sir Brian Leveson found ways of actually enhancing the freedom that journalists have to investigate and report. And We all know what happened, and as a politician I will put my hands up and say that the political class failed, and in particular my own party, the Conservatives failed more-so. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, the motor that was to drive the whole Leveson machine, remains on the shelf. The consequences of this are dire, and I believe that over the past couple of years they have come to be felt most directly and most painfully by British Muslims. In my real world away from Parliament with real people, friends and family, they are shocked when they see the vile headlines, questioning whether the Press are really allowed to do this?’ The answer is yes they are. Without Section 40 our libel laws protect only those with the means to sue. For the ordinary Brit there is no effective regulation of news publishers and this is one of the great injustices, and one of the great political failures, of our time. Access to justice was at the core of the Leveson recommendations. He wanted everybody to be able to defend their reputation. If you had a viable complaint against a news publisher, he said, it should not matter whether you are a millionaire or a mill worker. You should have justice. So he proposed low-cost arbitration. Anybody should be able to defend their reputation where they had a decent case, at the cost of only a small administration fee – a couple of hundred pounds rather than a couple of hundred thousand. And Leveson foresaw that some papers, by their own choice, might refuse to let complainants go to arbitration – so forcing them to go to the courts. When that happens, he said, it is only fair that newspapers should normally have to pay the complainants’ legal bills. Newspapers complain that this is unfair but is it? What is unfair about embracing arbitration especially when it will save them an awful lot of money too. In Yorkshire we like ideas that save money. And yet the papers have fought this change and I am sorry to say that, so far, my party has let them have their way. And although we have a new Libel Act, its protection extends to only a tiny fraction of the population – the well resourced and the fortunate. Or to view it another way, editors and journalists know that they are usually free to libel ordinary people. Its why we see so many cruel and dishonest reports in our newspapers and online. Another important reason as I’ve said is the absence of effective regulation. And This brings me to IPSO. There is another great line in the Leveson Report, where he reviews the history of press regulation in this country. And He talks about ‘a pattern of cosmetic reform’. I recommend you read or re-read these passages of his report. The way in which, over the years, the press industry has responded to public discontent about their self-regulation would be funny if it was not so awful. It is also remarkably ingenious. And the best proof that the reforms are only ever cosmetic is that after 70 years of ducking and weaving, when we have reached the point where industry chiefs tell us they have created ‘the toughest press regulator in the western world’, we have IPSO. Where do I begin? IPSO supposedly has powers to fine news publishers up to £1 million, but strikingly, after more than three years it has still to find anything going on in the entire British press to justify even a £100 fine. It supposedly has powers to force papers to print front-page corrections and apologies when they commit front-page code breaches. That’s something you might think is pretty basic, not just as a sanction or punishment but also so that readers who saw the story on the front page see the correction on the frontpage too. But no, IPSO doesn’t require front-page corrections, at least not in the national press. Instead it allows them to be buried deeply inside. It is absurdly proud that it has, on a very few occasions, persuaded papers to put an obscure little trailer for an adjudication on the front page, and feels that it’s done its job. How bad does it have to be for IPSO to be moved to order one of the daily usual suspects to print a proper front-page correction. If what we’ve seen is not bad enough, then I genuinely dread the story that will one day be bad enough to provoke IPSO. The cosmetics don’t end there. IPSO supposedly has powers to investigate, but again, amazingly, it can’t seem to see anything worth investigating. Let’s just think about that. IPSO has been around for about three years, through two elections and a referendum, Brexit, fake news and terror alerts and whole lot more. And in These years with an onslaught of hate speech of a kind that I don’t think has any precedent in modern history. But in all of this IPSO has not spotted anything it considers worth investigating. It apparently has little anxiety about press standards. And then there is the handling of complaints – a whole other minefield. If you complain about an inaccuracy you will find that in the first instance what concerns IPSO is not the inaccuracy, not the potential breach of their code of practice, but who you are. Are you the right person to point out that inaccuracy? Pass that test and your complaint will probably be considered, but bear in mind that it will be considered by a body that does not meet the standards of independence spelled out as necessary by Sir Brian Leveson. Think about that. A judge at a public inquiry defined the standards of independence that were necessary to protect the public, deliver fair outcomes and command public confidence. And the industry rejected it. The industry claims that it knows better than the judge how to set up a regulator that is independent of the industry. Now let’s say that you are lucky, and that your complaint is so unanswerable it is actually upheld even by the insufficiently independent IPSO. Undoubtedly you have achieved something but with limited satisfaction. First, months have probably passed, so a correction is unlikely to have much impact. Second, what form will it take and where will it appear? Third, will the adjudication in any

Hinton Lectures – Connection, not coexistence: Building bridges between communities

I’m really pleased you are all here, I’m really relieved that I am here, in the right place, giving the right lecture to the right audience. Because, believe it or not, tonight we have another Hinton Lecture happening right now a few miles from here. So I had real concerns about whether I was going to be at the right one. The Royal Society of Engineering tonight are hosting their flagship annual Hinton lecture in memory of one Sir Christopher Hinton – I understand there is no relationship between the two. They have the former CEO of EDF Energy talking about his life and career. But tonight ladies and gentlemen you have me – so those of you who are at the wrong lecture – please do stay. David Cameron, Ed Miliband, the last Archbishop of Canterbury and I sounds like the start of a very inappropriate joke – but they are in fact the diverse and esteemed company I now keep by delivering this lecture, the 20th Hinton Lecture in memory of Nicholas Hinton – a man whom sadly I only knew in name. I was a newly qualified solicitor in my twenties when Nicholas died. I was idealistic and passionate about change and believed I could make the world a better place. Idealism and passion I’m told by those who knew Nick were very much a part of him. But we have a few more things in common. We both read law. We both came second in the one Parliamentary election we ever fought. And we both at times have become terribly frustrated by politicians and politics. Nicholas Hinton was a giant of the voluntary sector in his roles in NACRO, NCVO, Save the Children, a champion of the sector, described as tough and honourable, he was a brave soul who left this world fighting for it to be better on a peace keeping mission in Croatia. So when I was preparing for this lecture I wanted to say something that I hoped Nick would have supported. I’m grateful to Sir Stuart Etherington for some background information, and I’m particularly grateful to Deborah and Josephine Hinton, who said that Nick was honest, blunt, challenging and always ready to fight for the underdog. And that’s what they would like me to do today. To be honest, blunt and challenging – I didn’t need asking twice. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk today about the sense of unease that we have in Britain today, and particularly the unease between my country, Britain, and my faith, Islam. But first, if you’ll allow me, I’ll give you a little history. Growing up, I knew that we were different, I knew that that difference wasn’t insurmountable – but it was tangible. Let me explain. I grew up, I was born in Dewsbury, a small town in West Yorkshire, in 1971, one of 5 girls born to Pakistani immigrants who came here in the 1950s and 1960s. We lived next door to the Goodlads, and I knew that we and the Goodlads were different. And there were two points of difference for me. My mum grew her coriander and mint and spinach – the essential ingredients she needed for her daily cooking, round the back of the garden in a little piece of mud. They had a greenhouse. They grew their tomatoes in a very civilised way. We also didn’t have holidays and they did, and every summer they would pack up their belongings into this smart-looking caravan and go off to this magical place I only knew as Great Yarmouth. Years later I went to Great Yarmouth and I realised that I probably hadn’t missed out on as much as I thought I had. But I realised that when I grew up, there were two things I really wanted to do. I wanted to grow my vegetables the right way that they should be in suburban England which was in a greenhouse, and I was going to buy a caravan and take my kids to Great Yarmouth. I haven’t done either, but I still feel integrated. In high school the difference became a little more serious In the 70s and 80s “paki bashing” wasn’t a socially uncomfortable word, it was a lived experience. You could say what radicalised me, what prompted me to fight for racial justice, to march to rally to volunteer and to practice the law, was the colour of my skin. Race was the point of difference, the basis of othering, the focus of the far right and the failing in many a politician. Who can forget that appalling election slogan from the 60s “if you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour” But enter the 90s and many a young Asian had started to feel that they belonged and they mattered in this new yuppiefied Britain of huge mobile phones and buy to let properties. I felt that as the daughter of an immigrant millworker I had done alright. As had many I grew up with. We were integrated, living in the ‘white’ parts of town, and yes the occasional offensive note would still be pushed through the door, and the occasional egg will still be thrown at the window, but generally life was good. I was a social mobility good news story and I didn’t mix much in those spaces where racism was overt. But not in my wildest thoughts could I have predicted that having overcome being a ‘problem’ black person, a ‘problem’ Asian person the likes of me were soon to become ‘problem Muslims’. The new bogeymen of the far right, the reason for difference, the basis of othering. And how we came to be here is a lecture in itself. I would recommend reading the book that was nicely promoted by Peter, published by Penguin earlier this year, and currently reduced on Amazon. In 2011 I tackled this issue head on. I said that “Islamaphobia had passed the dinner table test”, found in the most respectable of settings. I was derided by many in the press. I think I had touched a nerve, it was their dinner tables and those of other respectable folk in think tanks, politics, and yes, even in the charitable sector. Because ladies and gentlemen it’s when the respectable rationalise bigotry, couch it in intellectual argument and present it as public interest that the rot of xenophobia sets in and starts to destroy society. It’s when coexistence starts to become impossible and connections are never made. And Islamaphobia sadly is Britain’s latest bigotry blind spot. And it is in this atmosphere that we need to move beyond coexistence and form connections. Allow me to focus a little on the charitable sector and particularly what I call the Shawcross period – a period which right from the outset resulted in concerns of bias raised by many including a parliamentary select committee. William’s previous statements on Islam, Guantanamo, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Iraq War and his associations with the likes of the Henry Jackson Society did not bode well. His statement on “the risks of donor money leaking out to support terrorism”, led to a community under scrutiny despite there being as Tom Keating said in 2014 as part of a report by Demos, no evidence of this charge. As many including the Prime Minister have said Muslims are among Britain’s most generous givers, topping polls on religious groups that donate to charity. And yet a disproportionate number of Muslim charities have in recent years been subject to Charity Commission inquiries carried out under the Commission’s general power to investigate, section 46 of the Charities Act 2011, with Muslim charities making up nearly 40% of those investigated between December 2012 and May 2014. Further disclosure related to terrorist and extremist-related allegations, primarily against Muslim charities, have risen markedly. Data relating to the period 2014- 2015 shows the number of formal investigations by the Charity Commission relating to terrorist abuse of charities stood at 20 while legal disclosures between the Commission, police and other agencies on the issue stood at over 500. Terrorist and extremist-related allegations, primarily of Muslim charities, now account for 22% of all disclosures, a disproportionate increase in allegations when the number of Muslim charities has remained more or less the same. Despite the increase in focus on terrorism and extremism, a review of all published statutory inquiries between 2014 and 2016 into such charities shows that out of the 13 concluded inquiries only one relates to extremism in any form. This view aligns with that of many leading experts in the charity sector, which is that extremist abuse of the charity sector has and remains negligible. Tom Keating, director of the Royal United Services Institute’s Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, states: “the abuse of UK charities in support of terrorism is negligible. The standards are very high and awareness amongst the big charities of this issue is intense.” Data and evidence indicates an increasingly disproportionate focus on Muslim charities and supports claims that this focus is a distraction from real issues affecting the sector. It is the implementation of what a colleague in Cabinet called the ‘Al Capone’ method of policing ‘the Muslims’. I termed it McCarthyism. Ladies and gentlemen I must pay tribute to Sir Stephen Bubb, former head of ACEVO, who has been a fearless advocate of the charitable sector and a tremendous friend to Muslim charities with his much needed support and guidance when they’ve come under fire in recent years. He has been a bulwark against some of the questionable conduct of the Charity Commission and a lifeline for a cohort of Charity Commission employees who have struggled to ensure fairness, transparency and consistency of approach when dealing with charities with a ‘Muslim’ connection. So how do we challenge the myths, the misunderstandings and the outright misinformation to create a sense of ease between all communities that make up Britain today? I would argue that co-existence is no longer enough – we must advocate and encourage connections. The samosa and tea in a draughty church hall have had their day. It’s time to move towards an approach that opposes those that seek to divide and support and act in ways that connect And I therefore have asks of all of us. Firstly the diverse community of 3 million fellow co-religionists, British Muslims. As I have always said to them, Islam is like a river it takes the colour of the bed over which it flows it always has it always will. My Islam flows over bed Britain, and therefore my Islamic identity must have a very clear British cultural reference point. Much work is already being done to carve out and shape a very British Islam – and this work must be supported and encouraged. And the minority amongst these communities who preach separatism must be isolated and challenged, and the vast majority that want to live and engage in mixed communities, a fact supported by almost every poll that has been done, need to be afforded the opportunity to do so. Because Integration must not become the privilege of the middle class, a pastime only available in the fashionable suburbs of town. Secondly I have an ask of my fellow politicians. Successive governments since the last Labour government have implemented a policy of disengagement when it comes to British Muslims. A policy of disconnecting from British Muslim communities. A policy where more and more individuals, activists, organisations are seen as beyond the pale, reasons for not being spoken to. This policy must end. How can we expect communities to connect, for Britain to connect if the government of the day for over a decade, governments of different colours fail to connect with vast sections of its own citizens? Post-truth politics, pseudo-academics, a disdain for evidence, attacking judges, belittling the rule of law, discrediting hard-won human rights and those who defend them, dismissing equalities principles as political correctness, government policymaking reduced to Twitter-friendly messages, policy which doesn’t even meet our own stated values, shock-jock journos and ‘alternative’ news are now a part of the landscape that informs political discourse. The politics of the last twenty four months proves that we can no longer take for granted our hard-fought liberties or the direction of travel. Politicians must push back against the emerging fashion of distorted political claims, of falsehoods and emotively charged messages, campaigns targeted at appealing to primary instincts of fear and greed. Mainstream politicians need to stop serving up lies because, as we are starting to learn to our detriment, fringe politicians are much more effective in this form of campaigning. We let the genie out of the jar and we must firmly put it back. If we are worried about the direction of travel then we, as political parties, politicians and the press, need to stop and think how we contributed in laying that path. We need to ask ourselves why voter turnouts continue to fall, why voters are put off by our naked electioneering, why not acting in the national interest means people stay at home on election day, whilst the marginalised and angry are incentivised to turn out only by extreme political messages. Campaigns which green-light bigotry slowly destroy decency in our society and politicians from all sides must demand and implement a higher quality of public discourse. We must restart those connections. And finally the rest of us. To create connections we must have an understanding of different religions and the state of faith in the United Kingdom. Faith literacy is a must. An honest analysis of who we are and how we got here as a nation is a good starting point. It’s time to get a full and transparent picture of that journey. An evidence based no-holds-barred account of the lurch towards extremism and violence in all its forms. The brave need to step forward. In government, the media and the community we need to see individuals who are prepared to challenge the current ‘accepted norm’: The journalist who will question an editorial bias. The writer who will be scrupulous about the quest for fact. The politician who will resist the temptation to grab a headline. The activist who will square up to ideas which are divisive and the masses who will demand transparency and truth, and call out those who seek to divide. We must demand facts and evidence from those who seek to lead our nations and those who seek to inform our nations. Politicians and journalists who peddle false stories, perpetuate myth and feed and publish divisive headlines do so because we allow them to do so. Each time we vote for a politician who tells lies and each time we buy a paper that has published false stories we feed the monster that slowly swallows decency in society. The decency that we need to ensure we gave connections. We must challenge those who ratchet up the hate and challenge false stories about immigration, scaremongering about refugees and the now almost daily headlines tabloid papers and politicians reach for without fact and explanation. Politicians have an annoying habit of saying “I did a speech on this – you must read it”. So forgive me, but I did a speech on this – only last week – the Leveson lecture. If you survive today please read it. We must challenge the daily feeding of hate and fear. Let me give you an example one that I think you will all be familiar with. The ‘Islamisation of Britain’, we’ve all heard it, a favourite theme of the far right, the scaremongering that instils the ‘fear of a Muslim takeover’ but without any factual basis. 5 per cent of Brits are Muslim, and less than 2 per cent of MPs are Muslim, and a number amongst these too would not define themselves as such. A takeover of 95 per cent of the population by 5 per cent of its citizens or a democratic takeover of 98 per cent of our parliament by 2 per cent of its parliamentarians is simply implausible even for the conspiracy theorists. And yet this headline is peddled. And I want to assure the rest of Britain that whatever we think and whatever the fear we have about these Muslims, successive polls on this suggest that Britain believes anywhere between 20-26% of Britain is Muslim. Well, this may be news to you but British Muslims, like the rest of Brits, couldn’t organise a halal piss-up in a mocktail bar. We must also tackle the underlying causes of a non-cohesive society, the alienation felt by majority and minority communities and the grievances cited. We must address the economic inequalities that feed grievances, giving rise to citizens turning to extreme political or violent ‘solutions’. It means reducing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, those who can access opportunity and those for whom it is out of reach. Income inequality in the UK is increasing: we are the third-most unequal country in Europe and the sixth-most unequal in a list of thirty OECD countries.1 We have large variations geographically: the north–south divide in England continues to grow,2 with children from poor homes in the north-east of England having little or no chance of going to universities like Oxbridge.3 The wealth gap has expanded: the top 10 per cent of Brits hold nearly 50 per cent of all wealth; the top 1 per cent hold nearly a quarter; social mobility has steadily declined; and we are experiencing ‘the worst decade for [growth in] living standards since the last war’. I’m not sure I would have been who I am today had I been born today. Where you are born determines your life chances; family income, not talent, increasingly determines educational attainment; and the top jobs in all professions remain overwhelmingly occupied by those from wealthy and privileged homes. Too many in our communities are simply not connected to the success that Britain has seen, they feel like they simply do not matter. White boys from working-class homes, the group of young people least likely to go to university; families in northern towns such as Barnsley where I have my business, where heavy industry and the mines declined decades ago only to be replaced with low-skilled, low-paid temporary and agency work; single parents who hold down multiple jobs but still need to visit food banks; all victims of a more unequal society but all for whom the solution is presented through a vilification of ‘the other’. Groups like the EDL, BNP and the more respectable UKIP offer a radical alternative to the mainstream parties who they claim have abandoned white working-class areas. Instead of any progressive alternatives, it presents ‘racial’ solutions to real problems. This is not new. We have been here before Now more than ever we must as a nation remake the case for diversity. Peukert, a German historian on writing about Nazi Germany and the values needed to push back against fascist ideology, cites the following values: Reverence for life, pleasure in diversity and contrariety, respect for what is alien, tolerance of what is unpalatable, scepticism about the feasibility and desirability of chiliastic schemes for a global new order, openness towards others and a willingness to learn even from those who call into question one’s own principles of social virtue. These ideals are as relevant today as they were then. So, however twee it may seem, let’s all try to implement these in our lives. Let’s get to know our local communities better, become more than members of a group and interact as individuals. Let’s understand the diversity that makes our nation, the nuance and detail of individual identities, rather than revert to lazy stereotypes. Nadiya Hussein Begum, the 2015 winner of The Great British Bake Off, made women in hijabs more than women in hijabs. Her humour, her personality, her sharing of her deepest thoughts, her anxieties, her tears of joy and her amazing ability to bake made her for all of us an individual. This is a two-way process, as individuals reach out across their differences and find both how much they have in common and how rewarding experiencing that difference can be. And in meeting the other we will start to discover the very complex and multilayered identities that we in a globalized and interconnected world now hold. As Nadiya Begum beautifully put it at the end of her amazing BBC journey through Bangladesh, ‘I am British, I am Muslim, I am Bangladeshi and I am proud of all three.’4 Many Brits have these wonderfully complex and diverse identities. I am no exception. My parents originate from Pakistan. When I was in government, in response to a request from William Hague, the then foreign secretary, Pakistan was the first foreign place I visited. Pakistan and Pakistanis had celebrated my appointment to the cabinet. Attendance at my first cabinet meeting on that warm May morning in a pink shalwar kameez, a traditional Pakistani outfit, led to a frenzy of press interest in Pakistan and created the perfect backdrop against which to build a stronger and more honest relationship between our two countries. I was a British minister who also felt like one of their own. It cut across the narrative of us and them of East and West, victim and aggressor, colonised and coloniser, Muslim and other. We had connections. Diverse Britain has made us a healthier, wealthier nation, with immigrants responsible for founding one in seven of all UK companies,5 and public services like the NHS functioning because of them. And the ‘other’ has proved invaluable for our security services, for police and the armed forces in the form of those who, because of their race, religion or origins, can provide policing and surveillance, both at home and abroad, in ways AngloSaxon Brits simply cannot. And then there are new and expanding markets: something that fascinates me – the halal food and lifestyle industry and the Islamic finance market alone are estimated to reach £2.6 trillion each by 2020.6 And it is this space, this diversity, the stage where we can proudly showcase difference, and it is this stage that we must all protect and preserve. We need a Britain where difference is seen as a source of strength, not as a source of suspicion, and where, in an ever-more globalized, competitive world, especially post-Brexit, this difference gives Brand Britannia a competitive edge. We need a nation that desires connections not coexistence a nation that shouts ‘Hello, world’ not growls ‘Little island’. We need to raise our vision to the horizon, to move on from the debate on British values, increasingly seen as a list of things that existed on these shores before the pesky foreigners arrived. A single list of values which is reductively interpreted and mechanically applied, a list which is not only historically incorrect but also paradoxical. To define an initiative to unite us in a divisive way undermines its very purpose. We need to champion a pride in our country, a confidence, an identity and sense of ‘we’ that is broader than our specific ethnic and religious group, and this national identity forming should be for all that make up the current ‘us’ and the current ‘them’. Let’s stop talking about who we think we are and articulate who we want to be: not British values, but British ideals. We need ideals that are explicitly stated, consistently applied and universally accepted, demanding of all communities the same level of behaviour to the same standard, measured against aspirations that we’ve all contributed to. A national conversation is required to underpin this. A conversation which will help form connections. We must say what we believe and do what we say. If we preach human rights, we must practise them too; if we lecture the world on freedoms, we must implement them passionately at home and we must celebrate, not begrudgingly tolerate, our hard-won equalities framework. These connections are possible if each one of us is prepared to take a few small steps of friendship towards ‘the other’. Let me give you a few practical steps to start with. Go visit a place of worship. Go see a Muslim/Jewish/Christian/Hindu comedian. The fantastic thing about this current phase that British Muslims are going through is that the comedy scene is thriving. Ask your ‘other-race/faith’ friend that burning question you’ve dared not to ask them so far, and if you don’t have an ‘other’ friend, make one. Celebrate an ‘other’ festival. Read a book by an ‘other’ author. There’s a great one called ‘The Enemy Within’. Put yourself in the shoes of the ‘other’. If an ethnic minority person moves into your street, don’t white-flight out. And if you’ve got a moment, think how well you would do in the Qur’an experiment performed by Dutch pranksters. Now if any of you have not done this I would advise you tonight to go home on Youtube type in the Qur’an experiment where two Dutch pranksters took a copy of the Bible and covered it in a copy of the sleeve of the Qur’an, and then read out various passages on women’s rights and homosexuality of which people then said well this was why it was a uniquely violent religion which had no place in Christian Europe, only to be told it was the Bible But most of all we must stand united against hate. In a better bygone era black, Asian, white, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight against racism. We were all black once – and in todays world where Muslims are the new blacks – I’m asking you all to be Muslim, for a short while. Finally ladies and gentlemen. True connections are made when you are true to your own complex identity and open to another’s complex identity. Now I come from a generation of Asian women who had both their career and their husband chosen by their mother. I gave up law and divorced my first husband, so mum’s not happy. But I never managed to live out my passion to interpret the great English classics and give them an ethnic twist and put them on stage. That’s what I really wanted to do, mum said I had to be a lawyer. So when I was writing I chose to finally let the inner actor out and I wrote my soliloquy. Finally the moment where I would like to stand on stage and share with you who I am, so bear with me in finishing this lecture I would describe myself as a Muslim; I would describe myself as a pragmatic practitioner. I’m not content with simply ‘doing’ religion. There has to be a ‘why’: for me reason and religion go hand in hand. The lawyer in me needs to see the evidence, and the politician in me needs to hear the argument. And it’s why belief for me is not a stagnant position, it’s a journey not a destination, evolutionary not revolutionary and ultimately a source for daily reflection, selfevaluation at times of great success and a source of strength at times of distress. My faith is about who I am, not about who you are. It’s a rulebook for me, not a forced lecture series for you. Its strength is a source of peace for me not ammunition with which to fight you. It’s a ruler I have chosen to measure myself against, not a stick with which to beat you. It allows me to question myself, not to judge you. And recognizing myself, being sure of who I am, being comfortable in my identity, does not mean having to downgrade, erase or reject who you are. Because I can only truly accept you for who you are if I am truly sure of who I am.