Baroness Warsi's sharia priorities
On 25th March, Government Minister for Faith and Communities Baroness Warsi chaired the inaugural meeting of the Foreign Office group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, "to discuss vision and strategy". Commenting on the first meeting of the new group, the Baroness said:
Freedom of religion or belief is a personal priority for me. Across the world, people are being singled out and hounded out simply for the faith they follow or the beliefs they hold. The persecution of people because of their faith or belief has, I believe, become a global crisis. I want to make sure we have the best advice available. This is why we have set up this new Advisory Group, made up of real experts in the field, and of those who are working every day in practical ways to defend the right to freedom of religion or belief. I look forward to working with them as we seek to move towards a world where no-one is persecuted for what they believe.And she tweeted:
You will see that she found it "Thought provoking".
The following day, on 26th March, Government Minister for Faith and Communities Baroness Warsi chaired the inaugural meeting of the Global Islamic Finance and Investment Group, "to help Islamic finance grow globally, as well as developing London as one of the world’s leading Islamic finance centres". The Baroness said:
We expect the global market for Islamic financial services to experience significant growth over the coming years, but feedback from decision makers in the Middle East and South East Asia suggests there is a lack of awareness of the UK industry and that we should be doing more to promote the sector. There are also major opportunities to attract investment into the UK as demand for Islamic finance increases from private investors and Sovereign Wealth Funds.And she tweeted:
The Baroness re-tweeted the hope that "in 20 years we will look back at today's GIFIG as a major tipping point inshallah". She was palpably excited about "Huge opportunities for growth in #Islamicfinance asset management and the insurance sector", and "Identifying ways of bringing together public+private sectors to develop a mature #Islamicfinance market". She felt "we must find commonality between ethical finance and #Islamicfinance", and thought David Cameron's speech "was a huge boost to the future of #Islamicfinance". But the challenge remains: "How do you communicate #Islamicfinance to a global audience?" Because "Global industry looking to the #UK as a standard setter in #islamicfinance" so "@bankofengland the race is on! Will South Africa beat the UK in issuing a #Sukuk first?"
That's clearly a very important question.
You see, "@bankofengland have determined that the Islamic Development Bank's Sukuk could be accepted as eligible re. Liquidity"; "The UK's planned issue of a Sukuk will be immensely helpful re. Liquidity #islamicfinance". Importantly, "This month the @bankofengland + the PRA, has published a consultation paper consistent w/ Basel Committee re. Liquidity". But we can be happy that "#UK the only major #EU jurisdiction to have authorised wholly or standalone sharia compliant banks", and the Baroness was clearly happy that "Many are here today".
But the challenges are profound: "What are the key regulatory challenges for #Islamicfinance institutions and how can we jointly overcome them?" You see, there are "Major opportunity for #Islamicfinance markets to join up with #UN principles of responsible investing", so thank Allah that we're "Discussing how world finance centres can work together more closely to develop global #Islamicfinance market", because "#Islamicfinance is part of a wider movement; a new more responsible, more inclusive capitalism". Apparently, this is "#thoughtleadership".
His Grace can't help feeling that if Baroness Warsi exuded as much fervour and zeal about the persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East as she manages to conjure for sharia finance, HM Government might just begin to identify ways of alleviating the suffering, trauma and bloodshed that is occurring, as the Baroness observed last year, "on a biblical scale". It is utterly unacceptable that the only statement issued following the meeting of the Foreign Office group on Freedom of Religion or Belief was "Thought provoking". What are they going to do? When are they going to do it? How will foreign policy be geared toward the objective?
It is good that we have this group, but its brief is vast, abstruse and discursive. There may very well be a pressing problem for Bahá'ís in Iran or the Serers in Senegal, and their suffering is no doubt profound. But until the Government establishes a group dedicated solely to the appalling plight of Christians across the Middle East, and acknowledges that this is invariably being meted out by Muslims, there is no hope of evangelic deliverance appearing anything like a political priority.
And so the Baroness's Twitter feed becomes a metaphor for her real priorities: the pursuit of religious liberty is worth a photo-tweet and is "thought provoking"; sharia finance is worth a photo-tweet and a stream of tweets, with identifiable plans, opportunities, determination, tipping points, communications and a prime-ministerial speech. This, apparently, is #thoughtleadership, and in that Foreign-Office realm of faith, the suffering God is subject to Mohammed's Mammon.