Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baroness Warsi's Sternberg lecture at the University of Leicester

Here is the full text of Sayeeda Warsi's lecture:

Back in September I made a speech about faith at the Bishops Conference.

It was the first time that a Cabinet Minister had spoken so frankly about faith for many years.

I think it’s fair to say that the speech caused a bit of a stir in some quarters.

The New Humanist Magazine ran a poll of their readers which ranked me the fifth most dangerous enemy of reason last year.

I was about to think that actually, I hadn’t done too badly, when I discovered that the Koran-burning Pastor, Terry Jones, came one place below me!

But overall I believe the impact of the speech was really positive.

And the main thing I discovered by doing the speech was that there is a large, untapped appetite for a more mature discussion of faith in this country.

I sensed that people were fed up of the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media...

....and that sadly there has been a rise in a sloppy kind of religious illiteracy.

So it was important to take stock of where Britain is with faith.

And I am delighted to be here today to build on what I said.

Your University is helping to raise the whole standard of faith-based debate in this country.

And I know that some fantastic people have given the Sternberg lecture before me.

Professor Hans Kung has spoken about his idea of the “global ethic” and the common values of the main religions...

...Lord Carey has talked about the relationship between Islam and The West, and why the idea of a clash of civilisations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy...

...and Cardinal Cormac O’Connor has explored the current global position of Christianity.

But I want to start my speech today by paying tribute to Sir Sigmund Sternberg.

Although he has connections with the Labour Party, I hope he won’t mind if I say that his life seems to me to be the epitome of the Big Society.

Since coming to Britain as a European Jew in the 1920s, he has spent his life helping to strengthen communities.

For me, as a Rotarian, a big part of that was what he did in the 1990s...

...when he re-established Rotary Clubs in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism.

But from the point of view of my subject today, it is his work with faith communities which is truly inspiring.

From helping to resolve a row at Auschwitz over a Catholic convent... organising the first ever papal visit to a synagogue... establishing the Three Faiths Forum with Reverend Marcus Braybrooke and Dr Badawi....

...Sir Sigmund has shown just how much one person can do to promote a richer, more tolerant, and a more integrated society.

And that brings me to the theme of my lecture today.


In my last speech I made the evidential case for faith in our country.

I showed that contrary to popular belief, faith in this country is certainly not fading away;

I explained that faith inspires many people to do good things which help build a bigger society;

And I announced that the aim of this government is to help not hinder faith communities in the good things that they do.

Today, I want to make a related argument.

I want to make the case against the rising tide of anti-religious bigotry.

In particular, I want to say three things:

First, I want to highlight what I mean by this rising religious illiteracy and condemn the bigotry which it feeds.

Second, I want to explain why I feel these problems are happening.

And third, I want to set out how we can start to deal with it.

In other words, in my last speech, I said that this government does God.

This time, I’m saying we get God.

What I mean by that is we understand faith.

I am not saying that people can’t be anti-religion.

What I am opposed to is the rise of unreasonable, unfounded, irrational bigotry.

Where religion itself becomes a loaded word...

...where free discussion is drowned out by a sensationalist media...

...and where there simply is no room for fair-minded debate.

Now some will be surprised to hear me using the language of reason to defend an essentially spiritual phenomenon – namely individual faith.

Others will say that it’s ok to be irrational about religion...

...because religion itself is not open to rational debate.

I don’t accept that.

Faith and Reason go hand in hand.

This is a point the Pope has made consistently over the last few years.

All through the Bible, there is a close relationship between faith and reason.

Perhaps the most telling are the opening words of the Gospel of John.

“In the beginning was the Word...

...and the Word was with God....

...and the Word was God”.

“The Word was God”

So, at the very heart of Christian faith, we find that Reason and God’s Grace go hand in hand.

And as the Pope made clear when visiting a mosque in Amman last year, this isn’t unique to the Christian religion, but to all the main religions.

“As believers in the one God, we know that human reason is itself God’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God’s truth.”

“In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is far from weakened; rather it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reach beyond its own limitations.”

The point is just as religion shouldn’t fear reason, so reason shouldn’t be denied to faith.

But my worry is that is exactly what is happening right now.

Controversial stories are inflated by the media...

...detracting from serious faith-based debate...

...and leaving us with a situation where instead of philosophy, we’re fed anti-faith phobias.

One telling example of this occurred in 2005, when Ruth Kelly was made Education Secretary.

Now of course, it’s reasonable to scrutinise that appointment and have a discussion about whether Ruth Kelly was up to the job.

But what was it really right that her faith formed such a big part of that inquiry?

And was the appropriate language about her Catholicism used?

At its extreme, this kind of bigotry descends into absurd caricatures.

Where all Catholicism becomes “dodgy Priests in Ireland”.

Judaism becomes “murky international financiers”.

Sikhism suddenly seems to be all about a play in Birmingham.

And Evangelical Christianity is seen as anti-Abortion activists rather than campaigners like William Wilberforce.

For some faiths, these kind of characterisations have increasingly become mainstream.

Today, I want to touch on the way my own faith, Islam, is perceived.

Let me say right away to British Muslims that I acknowledge that there is a minority of people that try to justify their criminal conduct and activity by suggesting that it is sanctioned by their faith.

It is a problem that we must confront and defeat.

But that problem should not lead to unfounded suspicions of all Muslims.

Indeed, it seems to me that Islamophobia has now crossed the threshold of middle class respectability.

Let me give one example which is very personal to here:

It was reported several years ago that students at Leicester University persuaded their union cafeteria to ban pork and go exclusively halal.

The trouble was, that turned out not to be the whole story.

In fact, as I understand, it the Student Union decided that one out of the 26 cafes on campus should serve halal food.

And when you consider that there are a large number of Muslim students at Leicester, that makes sound financial sense!

For far too many people, Islamophobia is seen as a legitimate – even commendable – thing.

You could even say that Islamophobia has now passed the dinner-table-test.

Take this from Polly Toynbee:

“I am an Islamophobe, and proud of it”.

Or this speech title from Rod Liddle:

“Islamophobia? Count me in”.

But of course, Islamophobia should be seen as totally abhorrent – just like homophobia or Judeophobia – because any phobia is by definition the opposite of a philosophy.

A phobia is an irrational fear.

It takes on a life of its own and no longer needs to be justified.

And all this filters through.

The drip feeding of fear fuels a rising tide of prejudice.

So when people get on the tube and see a bearded Muslim, they think “terrorist”...

...when they hear “Halal” they think “that sounds like contaminated food”...

...and when they walk past a woman wearing a veil, they think automatically “that woman’s oppressed”.

And what’s particularly worrying is that this can lead down the slippery slope to violence.


So why is this happening?

We’ve got to start by understanding where this bigotry comes from.

We must learn the lessons of history.

Now I strongly believe that the British story of integration is a positive story.

You need to delve deep into the Dark Ages to find a time when the state was under the exclusive control of one tribe or ethnicity.

Instead, for centuries, our state has represented a set of common laws governing a diverse set of tribes, faiths and ethnicities.

The same can be said about the USA.

America prides herself on being a haven of immigrants, where you can be proudly Irish or Italian or Christian or Muslim – and still American.

As it says on the Great Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum.

This idea of unity from diversity runs through our own history.

It has helped to forge the values of pluralism, tolerance and diversity which define our society.

This gives us our moral authority to criticise, challenge and condemn those nations which far too often do not grant their religious minorities dignity, respect and equality.

But the British battle against bigotry will always be an ongoing battle.

And sadly, at no point does it totally disappear.

So Disraeli did become the first Jewish Prime Minister – but the cartoonists still drew him as an East-End bag-man.

Oswald Mosley’s Fascists never became a mainstream party – but the newspapers at the time were still littered with Anti-Semitism.

And now a Muslim woman is a member of a British Cabinet – but a British citizen today can still be attacked for merely wearing a headscarf as part of her religious observance.

Why is bigotry so resilient?

A big part of the problem is the intellectual challenge of reconciling religious and national identities.

If you look back at our history, you see that we have had particular trouble when it comes to this issue.

Again and again, we found it hard to believe that non-Protestants could be loyal to our country.

The debates on Catholic Emancipation in the 1820s are a fantastic case study.

Yes, a big part of the argument against letting Catholics into Parliament was old-fashioned anti-Catholic bigotry.

Up and down the country, the mob cried: “No Papacy”.

But the interesting thing was the intellectual argument which lies behind the rioting.

Deep down, it all boiled down to this:

Whether a Catholic, whose ultimate allegiance was thought to be to the Papacy, could still be a loyal servant of the British Monarchy.

The problem with Catholicism, as the Protestant establishment saw it, was that it transcended British sovereignty...

...ultimate loyalty wasn’t to the King of Britain but to the Papacy...

...which meant being Catholic and British were two irreconcilable identities.

It was only after Catholic Emancipation passed through Parliament...

...and after we began to break with the medieval European tradition of absolute religious conformity...

....that these problems began to disappear.

But fast forward two centuries, and there is still a sense of suspicion towards those subjects whose ultimate loyalty is presumed to lie with a supranational religion...

....or to an extra-terrestrial divinity.

Just think about anti-Muslim bigotry.

One of the most frequent arguments made against Islam in Britain is the idea that all British Muslims want to overturn British sovereignty and obey a transnational, Islamic authority.

Let me repeat again: extremists are a minority of a minority.

But from this flows a steady drip of suspicion and sense of sedition...

...all feeding the rise of a wider Islamophobia.


Obviously, I find the rise of Islamophobia particularly worrying.

As a Muslim, I’ve had to live with it for many years.

But I strongly believe that my problem is really our problem....

....because of the danger it poses to the whole of our society.

Ultimately, Islamophobia challenges our basic British identity.

One of the most important aspects of our identity is our belief in equality before the law.

But deep, entrenched anti-Muslim bigotry challenges that tradition...

...because it implies that one section of society is less deserving of our protection than the rest.

I commend those who understand and condemn the cancer of Islamophobia...

....whether that be John Denham, Seumus Milne, Peter Oborne, or the Metropolitan Police...

I know that there is also a perverted line of argument which says that Muslims have only got themselves to blame for this hatred.

After all, they’re the ones who blow up tubes and aeroplanes.... treating them differently is actually ok.

But think about it for one second, and you see that this argument is self-defeating.

The deeper Islamophobia seeps into our culture, the easier becomes the task of the extremist recruiting sergeant.

Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law...

...they also should face social rejection and alienation across society....

...and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims....

...or divide our society on the basis of faith.

So what I am saying is this:

At all times, we should be working to drain the pool of people where extremists fish.

The other worrying argument that also forms a basis for justifying Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is the idea that Islam is a particularly violent creed...

....and therefore that an irrational reaction to it is somehow appropriate.

This line of argument takes place at many levels.

At one level, policy professionals push hard against Islam by focussing on a fraction of what makes up the Islamic faith.

And at another level, fascist literature used by the BNP circulates sections of Quranic text out of context.

But anyone who is familiar with the main religions can find phrases which aren’t appropriate to modern life in the ancient texts of these religions.

“An eye for an eye”, is the advice from Exodus.

“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife...both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death”, is what it says in Leviticus.

And “The false prophets or dreamers who try to lead you astray must be put to death”, is what Deuteronomy says.

I could go on....

...and I will.

Some of you here might be fans of the “West Wing”.

This exchange between the Catholic President, Bartlet and a bigoted TV presenter seems relevant here.

President Bartlet:

I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.

TV Presenter:

I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.

President Bartlet:

Yes it does. Leviticus 18:22....I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here.

I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?

While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?

Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?

Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?”

Do you see, Ladies and Gentlemen, you couldn’t make the point more clearly?

These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief, and indeed have been manipulated in the past.

But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith.

It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed.

To be an adherent, one must also be a historian.

This is a point the late Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country once put particularly well when speaking of teachings in the Quran:

“In an age when no country, no system, no community gave women any rights, in a society where the birth of a baby girl was regarded as a curse, where women were considered chattel, Islam treated women as individuals”.


So now that we have traced the rise of religious illiteracy, and explained why this is happening, the question now is what can we do about it?

The answers fall into three categories.

First and foremost, we need political leadership.

Government has got to show that it gets it.

And Andrew Stunnell, the Minister for Integration, has already taken a strong lead.

Not only are we ramping up the fight against all phobias – including homophobia and gender inequality...

...but we are also building on the positive steps taken since the APPG Anti-Semitism inquiry...

....and responding to the concerns of the British Jewish community in a focussed and concerted way. giving funds for Jewish State Schools to improve their security...

...beginning to tackle anti-Semitism on the internet...

... and supporting the Holocaust Education Trusts “Lessons from Aushwitz” project.

At all times, this government is thinking hard about the challenge of stamping out hatred and bigotry...

...and looking at what lessons we can apply from the past, particularly from our work on tackling Anti-Semitism... deal with the new challenges of today.

But in addition to this, we also need to do something else.

We need to think harder about the language we use.

And we should be careful about language around religious “moderates”.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of “moderate” Muslims leads:

In the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: “not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim”.

In the school, the kids say “the family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad”.

And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a Burkha, the passers-by think: “that woman’s either oppressed or making a political statement”.

So we need to stop talking about moderate Muslims, and instead talk about British Muslims.

And when it comes to extremism, we should be absolutely clear:

These people are extremists, plain and simple, because their behaviour has detached them from the thought process within their religion.

Second, we need a response from society.

It doesn’t take rocket science to know what that means.

“Love thy Neighbour” may be a cliché, but it’s a cliche’ because it’s eternally relevant.

Ultimately, that’s the test for everyone in society:

“Do I do enough to make my neighbour feel part of the wider community?”

“Would I be comfortable if my neighbour heard what I said about him?”

“Do I treat my neighbour the way I want to be treated myself?”

Simple questions we need to ask.

As I go around the country I hear many British Muslims raising a number of concerns with me....

... so let me take this opportunity to address the British Muslim community directly...

... if, like me, you feel that anti-Muslim hatred is widespread and rising...

...start to make a difference by doing three things:

First, in his New Year message the Prime Minister asked: how we were allowing the radicalisation of some young British Muslims?

He stated very clearly that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims detest this extremism but they must help to find the answers, together.

Here’s what that means:

Muslim communities must speak out against those who promote violence.

Muslim men and women must make clear that any hatred towards others is wrong.

And above all, not stand on the sidelines, but step forward and help to lead a progressive, united fight.

Second, British Muslims need to learn from and build on the work done throughout history by other communities.

I want to refer particularly to the British Jewish Community and the work done by the Community Security Trust.

Week after week, the CST works with the police and the Jewish community to collect data and details of anti-Semitism in Britain...

....helping to defeat those bigots who say that British anti-Semitism no longer exists.

British Muslims should learn from them.

There is an urgent need for a data collection project.

The first step in addressing the problem is to measure the scale of it.

And I hope that this project will support the work of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, chaired by Kris Hopkins MP.

Third, and above all, British Muslims needs to remember that with rights come responsibilities.

That means no burying our heads in the sand and denying the problem...

...but standing up and doing something about it.

The reason I came into politics is because I felt my country can be better.

I want more Muslims to do that same thing and help ease the relationship between their country and their faith.


Finally, I want to finish with the third response to religious illiteracy.

If we really are going to combat bigotry against religion, faith leaders have to show greater leadership.

This is also your fight – and you need to take the lead.

In Germany, there’s already been a good example of the kind of cross-faith coalition we need.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch spoke out warning against Europe’s rising Islamophobia last year.

And in America, in response to the ugly debate about Park 51, the Jewish Reform movement joined with other faith and advocacy groups in to take stronger steps to protect religious freedom today.

What we need now is for more faith leaders, and more faith communities, to stand up and speak out in defence of faith.

And not just to defend faith, but to explain it properly as well.

Faith leaders need to explain their religion – in a way that people of all faiths and no faiths can understand.

I had the privilege of raising this issue with the Pope when he was over here...

...and whilst he asked me to build on my speech at the Bishops’ Conference, I asked him to use his unique position to create a better understanding between Europe and its Muslim citizens.

If we do all these three things, together, as government, as society, as people of faith, then we can come a little closer to defeating anti-faith bigotry...

...and building a more open, inclusive and, frankly, a more grown-up society.


Blogger Span Ows said...

Wonderful how the country's media and the blogosphere have a field day and 100 opinions about what she said before she said it...something wrong.

20 January 2011 at 19:30  
Blogger pounce_uk said...

Baroness Warsi opined:
"The New Humanist Magazine ran a poll of their readers which ranked me the fifth most dangerous enemy of reason last year.I was about to think that actually, I hadn’t done too badly, when I discovered that the Koran-burning Pastor, Terry Jones, came one place below me!"

This lady does know that Jones the nutter didn't actually burn the Koran.

20 January 2011 at 19:47  
Blogger Quiet_Man said...

It isn't a phobia when they really are out to get us.
As the twin towers incident, the bus and tube incident, the Glasgow airport incident, the grooming of young girls incident, the Bali bombing incident, the shoe bomber incident, the underpants bomber incident...
Yes Islam has passed the dinner table test, people are pretty sure it has no place in a modern society and that no doubt irks islamists and their apologists

20 January 2011 at 19:53  
Anonymous JayBee said...

The Baroness seems to have overlooked something. A mere woman cannot speak for Islam. She has no authority. We must judge Islam by its fruits. If it looks extreme, sounds extreme, and acts extreme then it probably is extreme and we will regard it as such for the purpose of self-preservation.

We can hardly be sympathetic to Warsi's waffle when Islamic preachers of hate swan around spouting their bile. When parts of British cities have already become de facto Islamic republics and we are increasingly strangers in our own land. She is either an exponent of taqiyya or her planet has a different coloured sky. For Islamification is not a little local difficulty, it is part of a worldwide pandemic. With nuclear armed Pakistan near the edge of the abyss, and Iran's belief in the return of the Mahdi, making Armageddon an incentive instead of a deterrent, we could be on the downgrade to a conflagration of unimaginable consequences.

20 January 2011 at 20:01  
Blogger peggy38 said...

Here is my main problem with this speech.

The Baroness quotes John 1 and then glibly states that Islam shares the same idea.

What?? Only if you interpret the passage in a whole new way which has nothing to do with millenia of Christian interpretation can this be true. Or coversely, one would have to turn Islam on its ear in order for it to accept this foundational text which proclaims that Jesus IS God.

What the Baroness so glibly does is to take a single thread of the meaning of the passage is the Logos as Reason and then agree that Reason is agreeable also to Islam. But even then it simply is not true that our faiths meet at this point. Lets just say she is correct that the point of the passage is about Reason and that its not saying that Jesus = God. On the one hand, we still have a text that says that God is the same as Reason. On the other hand, we have a faith, Islam, that refuses to equate anything with God or to put any so-called limits on him (I could of course dither with that most famously Islamic assertion here but I will spare you that) In the space of a few words she goes from reciting a scripture that says that Reason is Divine to talking about reason being a gift from God and tool of man which is the more Islamically acceptable position...and acts like nothing happened, like there is no difference there to speak of.

This is a problem that I think happens all too often when it comes to the "reassuring" type Muslims that we hear from in the public square. I am not sure if its deliberate or if they themselves don't see the distinctions. Perhaps they have perfect faith that all great religions do not fundamentally disagree on anything and so they are simply blind to the real differences. But somehow, I don't quite buy that. Sometimes it is just too glaring a distinction being glossed over as if there were no difference. Maybe its the all too soothing tones that arouse my suspicions. But in the end, just where they are really coming from does not matter as much as the deafening silence from non-Muslims who should be smart enough to know better. But those in the peanut gallery are just as active participants in the pantomime.

If the Baroness really valued the truth as opposed to soothing but ultimately false words, she would just say that both faiths value reason in some form and refrain from drawing any conclusions more grand that that. All thoughtful people should be aware of and wonder at the possible qualitative differences between a faith in which God is Reason itself and another faith in which Reason is subordinate to God. Then we could have a real philosophical dialouge about the value of Reason in our society and in other's.

20 January 2011 at 20:01  
Anonymous Voyager said...


I don't recognise this Neologism but I do know another word to describe Muslim appreciation of Jews.....

When I read Sayeeda Warsi talking about religion "faith" I sense manipulation and distortion. Who is this woman ? This is Cameron's Sarah Palin

20 January 2011 at 20:04  
Blogger peggy38 said...

Sentence redo below.

"What the Baroness so glibly does is to take a single thread of the meaning of the passage ie. the Logos as Reason and then agree that Reason is agreeable also to Islam."

Makes a little more sense this way :-) I hope anyway.

20 January 2011 at 20:05  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

"You need to delve deep into the Dark Ages to find a time when the state was under the exclusive control of one tribe or ethnicity.

Instead, for centuries, our state has represented a set of common laws governing a diverse set of tribes, faiths and ethnicities"

What utter drivel from the British Raj, no wonder India sought independence.

20 January 2011 at 20:06  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Yoir Grace

Thank you for printing Baroness Warsi's speech in full. As with an earlier speech on religion by the Baroness it is important to read her eomments in full without editorial input.

As you demonstrate in the earlier video clip posted today, Warsi is a politician in the finest Blairite tradition who say different things to different audiences.Talking in the street to the Ummah brings forth a different vocabulary to her Sternberg Lecture.

The Sternberg Lecture is clearly pitched at Middle England. Warsi recognises that a deep insecurity pervades British society with regard to the Muslim settlers. If there is one simple test of this insecurity it is to be found by asking the question, 'Was Enoch right?'. For very many years the answer was 'no'. Polite society deemed thar Enoch was a racist without understanding what Powell knew about Islam. No longer. Middle England has seen Islam in action, does not like what it sees and now believes that Enoch was right.

It is certain that Warsi's speech was signed off by Dave and the Cabinet, of which she is a member. One can therefore conclude that at the very highest level there is profound comcern about the polarisation of the debate within British society about the Muslim settlers. About time too.

But what will be the policy response? Warsi's speech is little more than an invitation to sit down in a circle and sing Kumbayah.
We know that does not work because we know Islam is a murderously intolerant religion. We know that 99.99% of terrorrists globally are Muslims males beteen the ages of 17 and 40. We know that there are now no-go zones in the UK, as there are in France and other European countries. No-go zones because these districts are essentially Islamic Emirates, and centres of the low-level civil war being waged against Middle England by Warsi's co-religionists.

Warsi does not talk about this, but David Cameron must.

20 January 2011 at 20:14  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

I commend those who understand and condemn the cancer of Islamophobia

In other words, the fault lies with those of us who find the warped teachings of Islam deeply offensive. The fault does not—and can never—lie with Islam, because Islam is the revealed word of Allah.

The blame culture of Islam again accuses the guilt culture of the West; Muslims make appeal to our traditions of tolerance and liberalism, their appeals spiced with every guilt-provoking metaphor known to Man. But, the West’s values of freedom and democracy are as incompatible with Islam as oil is with water, and, if the West is to remain tolerant and free, it must be intolerant and heartless to Islam.

20 January 2011 at 20:23  
Blogger JamesD'Troy said...

I really like the first portion of Ms. Warsi's speech, but it wasn't long after that she ran off the rails. I think one of the many flaws of her speech, in addition to her logos/reason vis-a-vis Islam argument was the claim that the problems within Islam remain confined to a 'minority' of Muslims.

Baroness Warsi stated;

"One of the most frequent arguments made against Islam in Britain is the idea that all British Muslims want to overturn British sovereignty and obey a transnational, Islamic authority.

Let me repeat again: extremists are a minority of a minority."

Well, that's just not true is it?

While a more recent BBC showed similar statistics, this BBC poll contradicted Ms. Warsi's statement that's it's just a minority;

"36% of 16 to 24-year-olds believe if a Muslim converts to another religion they should be punished by death, compared with 19% of over-55s...

...37% of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer Sharia compared with 17% of over-55s.."

While those stats hardly indicate a majority, they do indicate that a significant portion of Muslims do believe in the brutal, cruel aspects of Islam. Instead of denying there is a problem, Ms. Warsi would be better served acknowledging that there is a problem within Islam that needs to be addressed on its own terms.

Secondly, it's not just British Muslims that maintain such cruel beliefs, again, a significant portion of Muslims do believe is some really awful things. From a recent 2010 Pew poll;

"About eight-in-ten Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan (82% each) endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery; 70% of Muslims in Jordan and 56% of Nigerian Muslims share this view. Muslims in Pakistan and Egypt are also the most supportive of whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery; 82% in Pakistan and 77% in Egypt favor making this type of punishment the law in their countries, as do 65% of Muslims in Nigeria and 58% in Jordan.

When asked about the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion, at least three-quarters of Muslims in Jordan (86%), Egypt (84%) and Pakistan (76%) say they would favor making it the law; in Nigeria, 51% of Muslims favor and 46% oppose it."


Ms. Warsi needs to acknowledge there is a problem within Islam.

20 January 2011 at 20:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace plainly owes the Baroness an apology. Read in full her speech is entirely sensible and wholly different to the slur spread earlier today. It is as plain as a pike that what she was actually saying is that the lunatics who claim to be Moslems may well be lunatics but they are not Moslems. In the same way I imagine Your Grace would disown 'Christian' terrorists and fanatics as Christian.

20 January 2011 at 21:00  
Anonymous AnonymousInBelfast said...

Thanks for posting this in its entirety, your Grace. It becomes clearer why you have had occasion to laud Warsi.

The first half of the lecture is indeed compelling, and though not completely logically sound, will strike a chord with anyone who prefers rational, honest, and respectful debate to intellectual thuggery.

Unfortunately what the second half reveals is that Warsi has not yet come to terms with two essential components of such a debate. Firstly, that within such a debate people can hold views not merely antithetical to your own but outright offensive. Secondly, that intellectual honesty (the idea that reason is at the heart of all acceptable viewpoints) requires you not only to admit that alternative views to your own exist, but that they may have legitimacy where they connect with your own. In other words, that your sacred and inviolate beliefs may be demonstrated to be profane and violation of them may be justified.

This second point is the hardest for anyone to achieve, but I can't see that permitting debate between differing views will bear any fruit unless it is achieved.

20 January 2011 at 21:25  
Anonymous len said...

Well, the reasoning behind Baroness Warsi`s arguments are; we are Multi cultural therefore in the interests of 'harmony and peace' we must be multi-Faith.
Which means Political Correctness is to be(is being )applied to Faith and any statements regarding faith.
This tactic is to be used by (guess who) to rip the heart out of the Gospel. Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14;6)

Jesus NEVER said there are many ways, I am only one of them, so do Christians stand for the Truth or Not?.
Bible believing Christians will be seen some time (in the not too distant future) as troublemakers and extremists, if they are seen as opposing the multi faith doctrine.

20 January 2011 at 21:50  
Blogger Owl said...

I must admit that the following words of advice to her fellow Muslims was a bit hard to swallow:

"Muslim communities must speak out against those who promote violence.

Muslim men and women must make clear that any hatred towards others is wrong.

And above all, not stand on the sidelines, but step forward and help to lead a progressive, united fight."

I can't remember any outcry from British Muslims regarding Salman Rushdie. I don't remember any marches of solidarity against Islamic terrorist attacks by concerned British Muslims.

And now Baroness Warsi is asking them to stand up and be counted.

Have the British Muslim community failed to stand up for their British heritage out of fear of their own extreme community members or were they just unconcerned or, dare I say, at heart in agreement with their more violent brothers?

The silence was deafening.

I wonder if Baroness Warsi has even an inkling of what it means to be a Brit.

20 January 2011 at 23:01  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Owl says it all.

21 January 2011 at 00:46  
Blogger English Viking said...


I wave my private parts in its general direction.

And all who sail in it.

21 January 2011 at 01:22  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

The reason for all of our problems can be summed up in just 3 words.


Understand that we are divided in ever more antagonistic ways by deliberate, largely secret government policy, or understand NOTHING worth understanding on this subject, as well as many others.

All other debate is simply going endlessly around in ever more pointless, self-defeating circles.

My advice is to find your enemy and unite in common purpose, because you can be absolutely assured that the establishment are almost entirely united in their Common Purpose.

Which is to DIVIDE AND RULE, and then divide some more, and so ever more rule over the lives of ordinary people.

This to the point that just as you may start to believe the proverbial THEY could not possibly divide the population any more, they will undoubtedly find more ways to do so.

21 January 2011 at 01:25  
Blogger English Viking said...


British, in the sense that you mean, is the identity obtained through the mere completion of paperwork.

BTW, Has ANYONE, EVER, voted for this wretched woman to be judge and divider over us?

I already know the answer.

21 January 2011 at 01:25  
Blogger peggy38 said...

Is anyone else as amazed as me that Warsi used John 1, a scripture that could not be more contradictory of Islamic theology in order to claim common ground between the two faiths?

Anyway I continue to be amazed. So much so that I have some further thoughts on the lecture in general.

The Baroness calls for honests discussion but I think she is being disingenous at best and dishonest at the worst as you well know. She has even more nerve to decry religious illiteracy when she clearly shows so little understanding of the text she tries to use to prove that Christianity and Islam meet in respect to Reason.

It is one thing to say that Reason is a great thing which is thought well of by all religions. It is quite another to say that Reason is Divine, that it is associated with God and fundamental to Him and his Creation.

These two concepts of the nature of Reason are profoundly different. Its possible that each one has direct bearing on the nature of the societies where they are an influence. But we can't even begin to have an honest and informed conversation about them until we acknowledge the difference. We can't begin to discover the impact of these ideas unless we first start out seeing things the way that they are as opposed to how we wish them to be.

The Baroness' blindness, willful or otherwise, to this fact is certainly symptomatic of the problem. We will never get anywhere as long as prominent figures insist on glossing over real differences to no productive result and no one calls them on it.

21 January 2011 at 01:46  
Blogger peggy38 said...

PS please excuse the spelling above. I do know how to spell ;-)

21 January 2011 at 01:49  
Blogger Manfarang said...

There is no "transnational Islamic authority"for Muslims to obey and neither will there ever be.
Islam is not monolithic and Muslim countries are different from each other.

21 January 2011 at 03:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a heaping, steaming crock...

21 January 2011 at 03:38  
Blogger JamesD'Troy said...

No Peggy, I'm neither surprised nor shocked that Ms. Warsi referenced Christian scripture as a way to give pause to those in here audience. Her use of John, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, et al. was lazy, ignorant, and misleading. It's precisely the type of argument I've come to expect from venal people like Tariq Ramadan, Inayat Bungle, MCB, CAIR, ISNA, et al.

It really comes across as a cynical scheme to silence, if not change the debate by changing the focus upon the Bible's odd and contradictory verses, not to mention false equivalency.

For example, Ms. Warsi can mention Leviticus and reference its call for the stoning of adulterers (Lev. 20:10)all day long. How then, does she jibe and isolate that text with John 8:1-11 where Jesus encounters the adulterous woman, and with the crowd and apostles wanting to apply the old punishment, Jesus challenged them to judge the woman and apply the law. I suspect the answer involves reasons why I find it hard, if not impossible to find any historical examples women or men being stoned to death for adultery by Christians in the eras following Christ.

Even accepting that there are bizarre, if not problematic verses within the bible, the problem with finding offensive material in the Bible is beside the point. What passed two thousand years ago may be but an instant in the eye of 'God', but I don't see even fundamentalist Christians like Westboro Baptist Church putting into practice the kind of punishments applied in the Old Testament.

Now, compare John 8:1-11 with the supposed Islamic 'improvement' 600 years later in Saheh Muslim 4206 & 4207 where Mohammed encounters two adulterous women and one man and executes them. So what exegesis of the Quran do we find in the following centuries and modern era in Islamic lands? The continued practice of the execution of women and men by stoning sanctioned by Islamic nations and Sharia courts across the Islamic world. That's neither an ‘improvement’ nor morally acceptable.

Despite Ms. Warsi's claims, there are very specific issues about the Quran, derived from the fact that it provides the basis for actual 'legal' practices in Islamic countries and societies(insofar as anything as unjust as Sharia law can be called legal). ‘Legal’ practices as practiced in many Islamic nations that are inherently discriminatory towards women and non-Muslims not to mention inherently cruel, oppressive, and racist. Why shouldn’t Britons and Westerners be concerned that some, not all obviously, but some Muslims try to apply inherently discrimantory and cruel Sharia laws in Britain and elsewhere in the West?

21 January 2011 at 03:45  
Anonymous LibertyPhile said...

I’ve grown very tired of being called a bigot. Like many British people I’ve taken the trouble to find out about Islam and I don’t think much of it at all.

And, even if only half of what you read in the press (excluding terrorism etc.) is true it is a great indictment of the faith and its followers.

It’s a great shame Baroness Warsi doesn’t recognise (or chooses not to) that the distrust and dislike of Islam in this country is not based on ignorance or even prejudice.

21 January 2011 at 05:40  
Blogger Ivan said...

May I ask what credentials Ms Warsi has to sound off like a senior archbishop or a university chancellor? Such speeches are the province of those who have already achieved an eminence due to their long service to society - someone like Cranmer. Coming from her it sounds like an overgrown schoolgirl in the old Bollywood movies.

21 January 2011 at 06:13  
Anonymous Voyager said...

When Salman Rushdie's book was burned it was in Bradford before the City Hall by Pakistanis in Bradford who urged Iran and others to take up the cause.

The Public Order Act 1986 was not used by Douglas Hurd as Home Secretary.

Keith Vaz led a march calling for ushdie to be killed

That is something that should be a litmus test for Baroness Warsi - free speech and its protection from Muslim politicians on the make

21 January 2011 at 08:01  
Anonymous Caedmon's Cat said...

It's nice to know that the Baroness is playing her part to accentuate and stimulate religious divisions, share her impressive ignorance and add her contribution to the Gramscian Marxist-Communitarian-Hegelian dialectic. One more cog in the infernal machinery..

21 January 2011 at 09:01  
Blogger AncientBriton said...

An interesting comment on my 'Islamophobia' post:

"tsavogadfly said...
After living for years in Saudi, where the possession of a Bible was a criminal offence, I want the whole world to think about the phrase you put so neatly, regarding the merits of pen versus the sword to express disagreement... I have observed before that Baroness Warsi is a master of taqquia - oops, should say 'mistress' shouldn't I - but she needs to know that more and more non-Muslims are learning about this particular form of lying or dissimulating to protect Islam. I like Jesus's forthright condemnation of all lying. Look it up, Baroness Warsi."

21 January 2011 at 09:45  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

You cannot destroy an idea by burning a book but the symbolism that burning evokes is plain for all (especially Cranmer) to see. To burn is to purify as well as to destroy; it renders the object to dust whether a book, a building, an animal or a human being.

When Islamists burnt The Satanic Verses the book was a substitute for Rushdie himself, the obscene idea of a religiously inspired Fatwa that gave any Moslem the right, obligation even, to kill Rushdie is evidence of the depravity at the heart of Islam. It has no place in a civilised democratic and free society.

However I suspect that there are many here and in other religious groups who secretly admire the fervour and self confidence of Islam and who hanker for a singular rather than a pluralist society where their religious beliefs are embedded in the fabric of society, encouraged and supported by the State and imposed on those who are unwilling to accept them.

Islam is bad, very bad but all religion is at odds with reason and the notion that “God” has given us reason only to reason him out of existence is, you must admit, somewhat absurd. Religion is always looking back, never forward, it is craves certainty and absolutes, it is full of rules, many of which run counter to human nature, it is in a word obsolete.

21 January 2011 at 09:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Condell says it all:

21 January 2011 at 09:53  
Blogger Suboptimal Planet said...

Archbishop Cranmer,

Can you reveal where you found this text? I've been unable to find an authoritative source.

21 January 2011 at 09:55  
Blogger Suboptimal Planet said...

"Can you reveal where you found this text?"

Never mind. I just found it in the obvious place:

21 January 2011 at 09:58  
Blogger Owl said...

English Viking

"British, in the sense that you mean, is the identity obtained through the mere completion of paperwork."

I think you missed my point. This is precisely what I didn't mean.

I think British humour might illustrate my meaning to some extent but it is, obviously, much more than that.

21 January 2011 at 10:27  
Blogger Owl said...

Graham Davis,

"However I suspect that there are many here and in other religious groups who secretly admire the fervour and self confidence of Islam and who hanker for a singular rather than a pluralist society where their religious beliefs are embedded in the fabric of society, encouraged and supported by the State and imposed on those who are unwilling to accept them."

er, no. Where did you get that odd idea from?

I think it might also be helpful to differentiate between religion and creed. They are not usually the same thing.

21 January 2011 at 10:33  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Annon. I have been a fan of Pat Condell for years, he is always spot on. He has been threatened by Islamists and used to publish these violent and hate-filled rants but I understand he was advised to stop, presumably for fear of further inflaming the Islamic morons who wrote them.

21 January 2011 at 10:49  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Warsi isn't the only Muslim female to have an opinion about how bigotry impacts upon religion.

There's this.

And this.

Maybe British Muslims should learn from these two brave women and many others like them? Compared to them it is Warsi who is burying her head in the sand.

21 January 2011 at 11:23  
Blogger Christian Voice said...

Anonymous said: "Your Grace plainly owes the Baroness an apology. Read in full her speech is entirely sensible and wholly different to the slur spread earlier today. It is as plain as a pike that what she was actually saying is that the lunatics who claim to be Moslems may well be lunatics but they are not Moslems. In the same way I imagine Your Grace would disown 'Christian' terrorists and fanatics as Christian."
Sensible? Are you joking? And just how many Christian terrorists are there? Are we training up suicide bombers at Spring Harvest? Well done Cranmer for printing her speech in full. Unfortunate timing for Sayeeda that days before she spoke, an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post, written by the respected Barry Rubin, reporting that a respected cleric in Egypt has justified 'offensive jihad' in Western nations. We report on our own blog.

21 January 2011 at 11:34  
Anonymous Voyager said...

it is Warsi who is burying her head in the sand.

No she is more calculated than that. Cameron has finally unleashed the demons that will shape the future.....Thatcher was wise enough to keep them bottled

Endgame approaches

21 January 2011 at 12:47  
Blogger goethechosemercy said...

...Lord Carey has talked about the relationship between Islam and The West, and why the idea of a clash of civilisations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy...
end quote.

Lord Carey, the gulf between Islam and the West, and the conflict between West and East are historical facts that have guided present-day realities.
Self fulfilling prophecy?
Was Lepanto a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Constantinople 1435?
Battle of Tours/Portiers 732?
WTC 2001?
There is a genuine, verifiable historical dynamic at work, and if you compare the cultures of Islam and the West, you can see that cultures can be and are in conflict here.
Use the reason that the Baroness has done so much to attack.

21 January 2011 at 14:01  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Despite the content of Baroness Warsi's speech, there is a tumult of Ialamic voices & radical demands from demonstrations in Islamic countries throughout the World for the death of 'Apostates' & all 'unbelievers', that give the lie to & drown out completely the Baroness's reasoned portrayal of 'moderate' Islam.
While I believe in freedom of choice for all people, this is not the case in Q'uoranic teaching. This is I believe one main issue that will continue to divide Islam & Christianity.

21 January 2011 at 14:37  
Blogger peggy38 said...


You said, "Religion is always looking back, never forward, it is craves certainty and absolutes, it is full of rules, many of which run counter to human nature, it is in a word obsolete."

On the contrary, many people believe that the great Christian project is to people more human and less like animals. The idea is that we are being refined, purified on our way to fulfilling our highest potential, moving toward the divine, becoming more God-like in the sense of being more loving and more faithful etc.

It is said that Jesus is humanity fulfilled, the best of us without the worst of us.

I won't even try to claim that Christians as a body have succeeded in this grand project to become human, to grow into the promise that Christ represents (on one level. I don't believe Christ is merely a good example) but I can't think of a more forward looking purpose for religion than what I have just described.

Above all, we need to learn and practice always the faithfullness of Christ. He was perfect in his faithfullness to those he loved particularly those who were un-loveable in return. To live up to that goal alone is enough to keep humanity occupied and facing foward until the sun burns out.

BTW, I love Pat Condell too. He is hilarious and very sharp. But he is a curmudgeon, and angry soul. In a lot of respects he has good cause to be but because of this, I have to take his opinions of religion with a grain of salt. He can believe what he wants, but I won't be taking it as Gospel ;-)anytime soon.

21 January 2011 at 15:48  
Blogger DP111 said...

In related news

ISLAMIC preacher Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon points heavenwards to emphasise his message for the governments of Australia -- there is no God but Allah and only his laws should be obeyed.
His other objectives are to advise elected governments they have no authority to rule, and to educate non-Muslims on the benefits of sharia, including punishments such as stoning adulterers and severing the hands of thieves.

"If chopping off the hands is the punishment given by the sharia court then we say glad tidings, because chopping off the hands -- when you understand what is sharia -- is a mercy to that person.

"My attack is on the Prime Minister of Australia," he said yesterday. "I hate the parliament in Canberra. I want to go straight for the jugular vein and advise the parliament that they have no right to legislate. They should immediately step down and let the Muslims take over."

An Australian-born convert to Islam, Siddiq-Conlon is the self-anointed leader of a group called Sharia4Australia, which is pushing for the introduction of sharia courts as a first step towards achieving Islamic law.

"One day Australia will live under sharia; it's inevitable," he said. "If they (Australians) don't accept it, that's not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There's always been a fight.

Been saying so for decades. It does not matter what Warsi thinks. Once the Muslim population in Britain is large enough, sharia will be imposed by the ballot box or violence. The distinction between radical or moderate Muslims is thus meaningless.

The only solution is for a separation from Islam and Muslims, if for no other reason then to avoid a civil that will make Bosnia look like a garden party.

21 January 2011 at 16:44  
Anonymous Oswin said...

LibertyPhile @ 05:40

Quite so!

21 January 2011 at 17:36  
Anonymous Voyager said...

why the idea of a clash of civilisations

Best to read the late-Sam Huntingdon.....a seminal work well worth reading

21 January 2011 at 19:32  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

peggy38 said

many people believe that the great Christian project is to people more human and less like animals. The idea is that we are being refined, purified on our way to fulfilling our highest potential, moving toward the divine, becoming more God-like in the sense of being more loving and more faithful etc

I get uneasy when I hear believers use a word like purify, it is common to many belief systems, as if we are born dirty. The truth is that we are animals and as our DNA reveals only small evolutionary deviations separate us from rats or pigs and other “lowly” species. But we have developed characteristics that give us some advantages over our fellow creatures and one of them is imagination.

Imagination has enabled us to create any number of myths to soothe the tribulations of the human condition. Death can be neutralised by an afterlife and behaviour can be judged by an extraterrestrial arbiter. Communities can bond to a common belief that is orchestrated by a shaman who has special insight into mind of the creator. The problem is that to do so that you have to abandon the one thing that separates us most from other animals and that is reason. Despite all the protestations from those here, belief in your god or any god for that matter demands that you do not subject your beliefs to the cold light of reason; if you did they would melt away.

I share your aspirations for humanity but you don’t need religion to achieve them and just look at the track record of religion, even your own; fairly benign now but don’t forget past atrocities perpetrated in its name. Believers in each religion claim that they have the “truth”, and that their god is the true one. As they cannot all be true the likelihood that your’s is but the others aren’t is just not intellectually sustainable.

22 January 2011 at 11:21  
Anonymous len said...

Graham Davis,
"We are only animals" This is pure evolutionary brainwashing.

Without the Spirit of God we can BEHAVE as animals and if we are taught that we are only animals why not behave as one?

You have stated the problem of Humanity without God!

22 January 2011 at 21:47  
Blogger peggy38 said...


You use the word dirty but that is your perception. In Christian theology the Creation is good, making animals something good.

But animals are not conscious or rational. I don't call this a small difference. Qualitatively, there is little difference between us. Quantatively there is a yawning chasm separating us.

Did you know that Christians value the human body? Do you know that we believe that our bodies will be with us in heaven? The concept is that the flesh is a good, not something to be purified away. That means that there should be nothing shameful to a Christian that we are animals.

But we are so much more than that.

However, the baser part of our nature and the higher part of our nature war with one another. By this I don't mean the flesh itself in toto but our baser instincts ie those qualities found in animals that we are fully capable of transcending. It being a good for us to live up to our potential and a loss for us to fail to do so.

When we are purified, Christians believe that we will be perfectly human with physical bodies and purified spirits and minds which only want to do good, to be human in the sense that God meant us to be.

As for the history of the Church, well you might as well condemn all of history and every culture in the world because they have checkered past's also. And while you are at it, you will have to condemn yourself also for all the hurt you have caused in your life.

I hardly know where to begin with your imagination comment. Where in the hell to we get the capacity to be imaginative? Every animal species on earth has thrived without it. And what is wrong with imagination? It gives us a capacity to grasp concepts that animals never could, including being able to grasp things which are unseen and yet quite real. Why should our having an imagination rule out God?

Now I am not going to try to argue you out of your dogmatic atheism. I can see that you are perfectly convinced and nothing anyone can say can move you. I was only trying to at least get you to conside the ideas at the heart of Christianity. The Christian project is forward looking to a future of man fulfilled, a humanity that resembles Christ.

Christ by the way was God Incarnate. He came to dwell in the flesh and to redeem it, in other words because it was good to begin with and so good that it was worth a gobsmacking act of Divine Love to save it from itself.

If you really considered Christian ideas you would see that it is unique in its beliefs about the goodness of the material world. I think your reaction to it is very emotional and judgemental and also uninformed. Its like you got your ideas from maybe the media or some celebrity. Its much deeper than what you think.

23 January 2011 at 04:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello I'm not really anonymous.It's Mrs. Josephine Hyde-Hartley here!

23 January 2011 at 23:05  
Blogger DP111 said...

According to Warsi, Islamophobia has passed the "dinner table test", that apparently being the test where people dare to express an opinion around their own dinner table without being shipped off to stand trial before the European Court of Justice. But is it really the dinner tables of England that we ought to be concerned with, rather than its army of prayer rugs.

In an environment where 40 percent of UK Muslims want Sharia law, 10 percent support the 7/7 bombers and 13 percent admire Al Qaeda, 40 percent believe that 9/11 was a Jewish/American conspiracy, 62 percent do not believe in protecting free speech, 68 support the arrest and prosecution of writers and cartoonists who insult Islam and 36 percent support the death penalty for Muslims who leave Islam-- -- is it really time for another lecture on Islamophobia?

24 January 2011 at 15:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where in the Bible does Jesus promote interfaith? He doesn't and it's a dangerous road to even begin to wander down and yet so many Christians are doing just that in the name of peace and unity, the so desired peace and unity will only be when Jesus returns and reigns and I pray that it is soon for spiritually we are entering dark days......

2 February 2011 at 17:31  

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