Baroness Warsi says Government is not doing enough to reduce 'trust deficit' with Muslims

Lady Warsi says the Government treat Muslims with suspicion

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The Government views Muslims and the Islamic organisations in Britain with suspicion and has failed to connect with them, a former Conservative party chairman has said.

Baroness Warsi, who quit her position in Government last August over its response to the 50-day war in Gaza during the summer, which she deemed “morally indefensible”, has criticised what she called a policy of non-engagement with nearly three million British Muslims.

 

The former Foreign Office minister and first female Muslim member of the Cabinet, writing in the Observer, spoke about a letter written to leaders of 1,000 mosques and organisations by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, in which he urged them to do more to root out extremism in the wake of the Paris attacks that killed 17 people.

The letter was condemned by the Ramadhan Foundation as “patronising and factually incorrect” and the Muslim Council of Britain said that it gave the idea that Islam is inherently separate from British society.

While largely supportive of the intentions behind the letter that claims “British values are Muslim values,” Lady Warsi said the criticism it provoked of the Government acting like “members of the far right” was unsurprising.

The letter claimed that leaders of mosques, schools and Muslim charities had “more work to do” and they should reply to the letter with an outline of what they are doing to “promote the positive image of British Islam.”

Lady Warsi said there had been almost six years of non-engagement, both by the previous Labour Government and now the Coalition. Prime Minister David Cameron had said that anyone who has a problem with Mr Pickles’ letter “really has a problem.”

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Eric Pickles at a Board of Deputies of British Jews event with Theresa May

She wrote: “So while I welcome Eric’s attempt to reach out, the reality is that if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then the chances of success are limited.

“A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain – with whom the government has refused to engage – creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic."

Lady Warsi said that she argued for more engagement by government to reach out to a broad range of people or groups “who purported to speak for the British Muslim community, while accepting that, inevitably, some didn’t do it very well”.

She said there had been a failure to tackle Islamophobic language and hate crimes and described the current climate within the Muslim community as one of worry and fear.

“So it’s no surprise there is a trust deficit, a questioning of motive to a letter sent with the best of intentions. For too many, the hand of friendship felt like an admonitory finger that was once again pointing at Britain’s Muslims,” she added.

Lady Warsi also said it was sad that her calls for a meeting, similar to the annual one the Prime Minister has with the Jewish Leadership Council, with members of other major faith communities had not been answered.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Communities and Local Government and is awaiting comment.

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