Why I don’t (totally) agree with Baroness Warsi

I am not sure why the recent statement by the Tory Baroness Warsi that Islamophobia is socially acceptable in the UK has attracted so much media attention (especially as she said something very similar last October) but it has. People either totally agree with her or totally don’t and I think the resulting debate perfectly illustrates the problems with her rather sweeping statements. As a Muslim, many would assume that I totally agree with her about rising acceptance of anti-Islam sentiments but I have my own reservations. I realise that numbered points isn’t the best way to discuss this issue but I just wanted to make some clear and concise points about issues I have with her statement so numbered points work best for me.

First of all, I totally agree with Warsi’s concerns about separating Muslims along the extremists (ie. effectively less ‘assimilated’ Muslim) and the moderates (ie. Muslims who don’t make white people uncomfortable) lines. I totally agree because the separation is unfair, arbitrary and totally misguided. A more ‘Muslim’ Muslim isn’t a more ‘extremist’ one- not at all. I think a focus on this issue could have been really useful as it would be a way to tackle those hidden stereotypes people have about what an ‘extremist Muslim’ actually looks like and believes in. However, Warsi seems to have decided to go down a less considered approach for very broad and useless statements which I think are problematic for the following reasons:

1. How it’s helpful to make these sweeping and unsupported statements about rising Islamophobia? Isn’t the root of Islamophobia that very same thing- sweeping and unsupported statements? Maybe it’s just me but I reckon that society is a lot more complex than Warsi is letting on and maybe there isn’t some countrywide conspiracy to talk Islam down at the dinner table… Clearly, anti-Islam sentiment does exist in the UK just as homophobia, racism, sexism and other prejudice does but they don’t exist totally unrelated from each other or in a vacuum- again I don’t see how it’s useful to talk about the issue in such broad terms.

2. What exactly are her statements based on? [If personal experience than that’s worrying because as a Tory peer I reckon she probably mixes with a very difference crowd of people than your average Muslim.] I know this sounds a little pedantic but I don’t see how she can judge that UK citizens find Islamophobia acceptable just like people can’t look into the minds of every Muslim and judge whether they are moderates and extremists… well unless they reckon they can make that judgement based on appearances but let’s not open that can of worms. Also, last summer I did some research about the representation of Muslim women in women’s magazines which challenged my own assumptions about Islamophobia so I’m a little hesitant to make generalisation based on my own personal experiences or the statements of other Muslims (as Muslims we do have more authority to speak about the Muslim experience but we have to take our experiences with a pinch of salt and some consideration…

3. I  think that her statements, contrary to her aims of genuinely opening up the debate, is just gonna make everyone so defensive about proving that they’re not anti-Islam that it’s going to make the debate less transparent, honest and more superficial. I really don’t see what positive and productive things could come from her statements (other than temporary fame and a raised profile for her, of course..)


(Image via Newton Graffiti on flickr.)

6 responses to “Why I don’t (totally) agree with Baroness Warsi

  1. I agree that not all non-Muslims love us… is that Islamophobia? If it’s ignorance, who best to take initiative (in informing non-Muslims what Islam does & doesn’t say – w the diversity of schools of thought etc; in informing/ educating Muslims who present unIslamic things/ behaviour as Islamic) to change this? If someone knows us/ Islam and disagrees (on something to do with religion, or not), is even that automatically Islamophobia? There is *some* Islamophobia IMHO, just as there is *some* racism etc amongst Muslims (towards Muslims of other background, towards non-Muslims of other ethnic background, let’s not shove that under the carpet!). To solve this, I believe we need to focus on a *positive* approach, enhancing environment for *two* (or multi!) way learning (e.g. through wider engagement in Councils of Faiths/ interfaith groups); sweeping statements indeed will only lead to a clearer line ‘separating the camps’, which would be tragic. My 2p. In peace, Rianne

  2. Of course Islamophobia exists but not liking a Muslim is definitely NOT Islamophobia (there are some Muslims out there I would happily avoid) unless the ONLY reason you don’t like them is because they are followers of Islam. That would be wrong because that’s prejudice which is what Islamophobia is IMHO. Also you can totally disagree with Islam but that doesn’t mean that you have to hate Muslims either.

    A more constructive approach is what I think we need (and what I think Warsi fails to initiate) which goes beyond us saying to each other ‘apparently, we hate each other’…. that helps how?

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  4. You make some interesting points.
    1. Are her statements really that sweeping? On any given day, there will be articles in most of the major newspapers regarding Muslim Extremists. If the general public are regularly being bombarded with articles about Islamic Extremism (as it seems that these days the only type of extremism reported is “Islamic” extremism) then it is very likely that it will become dinner time conversation. It is indeed up to us to make people aware that there is no such thing as “Islamic Extremism” as extremism is not a part of Islam.

    If you go outside of the larger cities (and even a lot of the people within the bigger cities) in the UK, you will find that people are almost totally ignorant of Islam, because there are no Muslims in front of them to disprove the image they’re getting from their preferred choice of brain washing.

  5. So who’s responsible for this skewed view of Muslims? Probably ‘most people to some extent’… some interesting stats (appreciate links may have certain interest, but they link to their sources):

    Europol Report: All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 99.6% that Aren’t

    All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t (as per FBI stats)

    Re: “It is indeed up to us to make people aware that there is no such thing as “Islamic Extremism” as extremism is not a part of Islam.” – ameen! In peace, Rianne

  6. Maybe your both right and there is a widespread and skewed view of Islam and Muslims which leads to Islamophobia but
    1. People have brains just because I read bad stuff about all sorts of people doesn’t mean I’ll believe it. I am not a sponge and neither are a lot of very ordinary and normal people… I think we deserve more credit for having diverse and sometimes contradictory views and opinions (as per racism of Muslims, which Rianne points out above)
    2. Skewed view of Muslims is down to the two things I mentioned above a. broad sweeping statements b. that aren’t backed by real facts.. as the hard facts show (again, following Rianne’s link)

    I think if we want people to be question the views of Islamophobes than we should do the same in everything we hear… including statements from Muslims such as Lady Warsi..
    Peace 🙂

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