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Sayeeda's Warsi's right about Muslims but wrong about extremism

by Paul Goodman

WARSI-BARONESS The Daily Telegraph splashes today on Sayeeda Warsi's speech on Muslims and religion.  We'll have to read the speech to see the details in full, but what's reported conveys the Party Chairman's long-standing views.  I worked with her, and know them well.

In brief, she's right about Muslims and wrong about extremism.

She's right about Muslims because some of what's broadcast and written about them and their religion is dangerous.  Try swapping the word "Muslim", when you see it in a newspaper headline with the word "Jewish".  The parallel isn't exact, but it's close enough to give pause for thought.  One would have to be a Muslim oneself to know how it feels, but I've talked to enough to leave me in no doubt.

She's wrong about extremism, in the sense that her instinct is that politicians and the media shouldn't use such labels as "moderate" or "extremist" to differentiate between one Muslim and other, or different forms of the religion.  This is an mistaken view, for obvious reasons: a minority of Muslims, drawing on particular Wahabi/Salafist teachings, commit terrorist acts or advance extremist doctrines.

When serving with Warsi, I got the feeling that she believes that a new generation of leaders who happen to be Muslims should be left to sort these problems out - the same sense that I obtained from Adeela Shafi's recent article on this site.  This idea is a form of multiculturalism.  But the events of the last decade or so have proved beyond doubt that it doesn't work.  To coin a phrase, "we're all in it together".

Downing Street, which admires Warsi's robust style, but has reservations about her views on extremism, will be watching the speech closely.  However, it will back her wider approach towards faith - namely, that this, in the particular form of Christianity (especially the Church of England), was once near the centre of our public culture, but risks being driven to the margins, with bad consequences.  On this point, how right she is.

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