Baroness Warsi's legacy of work should not be overshadowed by the drip drip of reports, writes Fiyaz Mughal OBE, director of Faith Matters.
We have all been infuriated by stories of parliamentarians who made exorbitant claims and who simply did not care as though it was their right to simply get paid for services that they had not provided. The legacy of the expenses scandal has meant that we simply have no tolerance for any parliamentarian who is accused of taking public monies without accountability and rightly so. Add into this the chairperson of the Conservative Party who it is alleged to have made claims for overnight accommodation whilst living at the home of a friend and we can all understand the clamour for moral purpose that has ignited in the press and the public sphere.
Yet, it is important to let due process take place regarding parliamentary investigations and in doing so, it is important to reflect on what politicians have provided to us as people and communities in their desire to represent our views and opinions in Westminster. It seems that when an expenses scandal breaks, the only thing the suspected politician has ever achieved in the public's eyes, will have been to allegedly be on the take with little or no value to the public purse.
Whatever the future holds, there are a few facts that should not be forgotten in all of the melee and the dust has that been thrown up by the press on Baroness Warsi. The first fact is that Baroness Warsi made a speech in January 2011 suggesting that Islamophobia had passed the dinner test, something that many within Muslim communities had experienced and worse still, that many visibly Muslim women were predominantly the victims of.
Over the last 15 years, our work with Muslim communities in the UKshowed that time and time again, fear of crime, anti-Muslim attacks and the daily drip drip of bizarre stories on Muslims, as well as extremism and bomb plots had developed a sense within Muslim communities of being under siege. We cannot underscore this enough and it is hardly healthy for the long term development of any community to live within these conflicting and corrosive set of parameters.
We listened as to how some Muslim women socially withdrew and used the symbolism of the Hijab (and smaller in numbers still- the Niqab) as a way of entrenching their identity. Others became campaigners and others simply did not want their religion to be a part of any discussion and never engaged in conversations at work or beyond the home on issues of faith. The latter became the silent part of Muslim communities as the epidemic of fear grew. They were also tired of having to answer questions on Muslims in the UKas though they were representative of all Muslims by default of being a Muslim.
Nobody can deny that over the last decade and since 9/11 and 7/7, a day rarely goes by without another story referencing Islam or Muslims and this has re-enforced feelings in some that Muslims are somehow dysfunctional and unable to integrate. Nobody was willing to raise and challenge this seemingly 'acceptable' and widespread form of hate, yet it was Baroness Warsi who mentioned this in a ground-breaking speech knowing that some within the Conservative Party would round against her to protect the conservative hinterland voting base, many of whom believe in suspect communities and in the simplistic Bush like analogy of 'good guys' against the 'bad' seemingly unstable, ethnic and exotic Muslims. Not only that, she has spoken up against all forms of hate, having previously spoken against the Taleban's attacks against women and minority faiths as well as against those who find it acceptable to caricature, marginalise and malign all Muslims in this country.
Furthermore, the recent media frenzy on Baroness Warsi by press sources which have suggested that she keeps extremist company are simply vindictive. The impression given is that her judgement is poor and that she may possibly have some affiliation with the views of alleged extremists that she travels with and who are related by marriage to her.
Since 2005, Baroness Warsi has been a staunch foe against those who promote hate, whether Far Right or Al Qaeda inspired and was even assaulted by Al Muhajiroun followers when she campaigned for women's rights and against the extremism promoted by this group; hardly someone who deserves the kind of headlines that she has received recently.
Some commentators have mentioned that internal divisions within the Conservative Party may be behind some of the briefings against Baroness Warsi since she is not seen by grassroots Tory members as a chair that rallies the core activist base of the party. Others have suggested that Mr Wafiq Mustafa, the landlord who provided lodging to Baroness Warsi for six weeks in 2007, has an axe to grind since he could not get his Arab Association to be accredited as a campaigning entity within the Conservative Party. According to the Westminstergrapevine, guess who got involved to stop that accreditation taking place since it was felt that Mr Mustafa was developing foreign policy positions for the Conservatives on the Arab Spring on various television shows without verifying actual Conservative foreign policy positions. Well, whatever the truth, the achievements of a young politician like Baroness Warsi are being lost. They should not be since real positive changes in countering hate crimes in communities is one change that is being realized by her actions.