24 January 2011

Rebutting the Baroness

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s University of Leicester Sir Sigmund Sternberg lecture has drawn trenchant criticism from intellectuals and commentators. In her speech, Warsi accused the British public of Islamophobia and suggested that the government should do more to support religious believers and their leaders. Here is a small sampling of rebuttals to her arguments.

  • Andrew Anthony comments on the contradictions of Baroness Warsi; a woman who once bemoaned the media's preoccupation with cultural identity yet now asserts her Muslimness, who wants “to give greater voice to religion in the political arena, yet […] also wishes there to be less criticism of religion, in other words, power without scrutiny.”

  • Edmund Standing calls Warsi out on her misrepresentation of secular atheists like Polly Toynbee, her dubious endorsement of ‘faith leaders’, and her hypocrisy in denouncing critics of Islam while being a less than devout Muslim herself.

  • Charles Moore believes Warsi’s comments were selfish and wrong. Selfish, because she had unilaterally set herself up as the spokesperson of British Muslims without consulting her party colleagues. Wrong, because her speech “helped nurture Muslim grievance instead of prompting Muslim self-examination.”

  • Andrew Brown attempts to clarify the definition of ‘extremism’ in the context of Warsi’s rejection of the term ‘moderate/extremist Muslim’. Brown argues that there is such a thing as an extremist Muslim, just not the type that Warsi has in mind.


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