Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.
In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government.
In a series of stinging judgments, Warsi, a former chairwoman of the Tory party and the first Muslim to serve in the cabinet, claims that:
■ The government in which she served has come “to view ever-increasing numbers of Muslim organisations or individual Muslim activists with suspicion”.
■ David Cameron rejected requests for other faiths, including Muslims, to be given an equivalent to the annual meeting he has with the Jewish leadership – a meeting of Jewish groups and figures that the prime minister hosts.
■ Former colleagues in government have failed to show proper concern for the “worries and fear” felt by Britain’s 3 million-strong Muslim community in the current febrile atmosphere.
The government’s response to the dangers of extremists was reduced, she writes, to a “dangerously narrow engagement… a dozen people for a community of over 3 million”.
Warsi decided to speak out after communities secretary Eric Pickles wrote last Monday to more than 1,000 Islamic leaders calling on British Muslims to “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.
Pickles also said that he was proud of the way British Muslims had responded to the Paris terror attacks, but the letter was condemned by sections of the Muslim community. Pickles was accused of treating Muslims as in some way “apart” from the rest of British society. Warsi says this reaction graphically illustrated the gulf that has grown between the coalition government and Muslims.
She says: “The reality is if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then a letter out of the blue to a mosque… with whom government has refused to engage creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic.”
Warsi says: “We will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are all in the same team.”