Interview: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

By Jessica Elgot, November 17, 2011
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Baroness Warsi - firm line

Baroness Warsi - firm line

Conservative Party co-chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has called on communities to "drain the poison of antisemitism from our country."

Lady Warsi gave the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism annual lecture at the House of Commons this week, and the keynote address at the Buncher Interfaith Conference on Social Action at Lambeth Palace.

At both sessions, she stressed the importance of a partnership between Jews and Muslims to combat racism and promote social cohesion. "As a Muslim, for me, Islamophobia is personal. But for me, antisemitism is just as important," she said at the EISCA lecture.

At the Buncher Conference, Lady Warsi said interfaith dialogue had to inspire communities: "Interfaith can be quite dry, if it's just 'let's get in a room and talk'. That's why social action is so good because it's about doing something for the community together: 'let's get together and clean up that park.' Then interfaith happens naturally."

She said she had always been impressed by the commitment of the strictly Orthodox and the observant Muslim communities. "I've spent a lot of time in Stamford Hill, and worked with very observant Muslims and very Orthodox Jewish communities. Sometimes, because they are so driven by their faith, they aren't clouded by the other political issues that seem to come between the communities. When you sit down with Orthodox rabbis, they seem to be able to cut right through, and have a much clearer understanding."

But she stressed that government would take a firm line with extremist groups like Muslims Against Crusades. "My colleague, the Home Secretary, banned them last week. My response is even less sympathetic. If you can't live by our values, get off our island."

She said the ban sent out "a very strong message about the values this nation represents, no matter what religious background you come from. And people who don't subscribe to those values and go out of their way to harm those values, need a message from government that this is unacceptable."

More than 100 delegates of all faiths came to the Buncher Conference from across Europe, the US and Israel. It was organised by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Cedar Muslim Professionals Network and the Faiths Forum for London.

Baroness Warsi will visit JHub and the Jewish Social Action forum in West Hampstead next week.

Last updated: 12:47pm, November 17 2011