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Sayeeda Warsi, Iraq and the conflict in Gaza: A weekly round up

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“Morally Indefensible”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi at a Hindu temple


There she was, the first Pakistani, Muslim woman to become the chairman of the Conservative party and also the first Muslim woman to sit on the front bench of a British party.

An outspoken woman, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi could certainly have been seen as an inspiration to many women who thought that their gender and skin colour were factors that would prevent them from becoming involved in politics or any other industry/sector so heavily dominated by white men.

I think it is so ironic that only now Lady Warsi has resigned that she has gained respect from Muslims in the UK – where were they all before? Too busy calling her a sell-out, I suppose. In 2009, she was pelted with eggs by a group of Muslims during a walkabout in Luton. The protesters accused her of not being a “proper Muslim” (what is one of those?) and of supporting the death of Muslims in Afghanistan. Warsi told the BBC that these men were “idiots who did not represent the majority of British Muslims”. Only now that she has resigned over Gaza has Warsi gained respect from her own people.

However, while I can appreciate the symbolism of it all, just what legacy has she left behind? She spoke out against the Asian grooming gangs, stating: “There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game. And we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first.” When other commentators were in complete denial she spoke out and for that she must be applauded.

Douglas Murray said she could have done more for Gaza by remaining in her position, but in her resignation letter Lady Warsi hinted at the change in the government’s direction, which suggests that she felt as though she was not being taken seriously. Her party could have used her ideas and background to their advantage in order to to try to reach out to more voters. A former solicitor with her own law firm, there is no doubt that she is an intelligent woman and she was once named the most powerful Muslim woman in Britain.  I doubt that many in her party were very supportive of her –  an Asian woman will always find it more difficult to fit in a white man’s world.

Let us for one moment take her resignation at face value. Let us believe she resigned solely over the government’s “morally indefensible” stance on Israel. Yes, our government could, and should, be doing more to end the violence in that region and stop the killing on both sides. But do you know what I find “morally indefensible” Lady Warsi? I find it morally indefensible that only Palestinian lives seemed so important to you that you felt you had to resign. What was your position on the Syrians being either slaughtered or fleeing their country to live as refugees, not knowing when the conflict is going to end? What was your position on ISIS slaughtering thousands of people in Iraq? What was your position on the Ahmadis who were murdered in the Punjabi city of Lahore, the country from which your parents came to England?

My own view is rather cynical. She was never really popular with many Muslims, or other ethnic minorities, so resigning over Gaza could prove to be a huge PR boost for her. Nor was she very popular within her own party and instead of progressing in her political career, she seemed to be fading in the background. Her hint at Cameron’s leadership might be a revelation of her providing support to another prospective candidate who will listen to her concerns. She has since criticised her party for not attracting enough ethnic minority voters,  which is a bit rich coming from her seeing as she stood for as a candidate in the 2005 elections and lost. Whatever her reasons for resigning, I do not doubt that she will do well from this and it is certainly not the last we will hear from Lady Warsi.


Israel and Gaza

Pro-Palestinian march

If there’s anything that unites Muslims around the world it is the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

I vowed not to write about this issue, as it is very divisive and guaranteed to piss off one group of people or another. But I cannot remain silent. My analysis will not be on the conflict itself but rather the reporting of it and the reaction of some communities on this particular issue.

In my area, there was a protest outside a Tesco Express store, at which demonstrators were holding up signs calling for a boycott of Israeli goods and chanting “shame on Tesco”. I believe the protest was largely peaceful although some shoppers did claim to feel “intimidated”.

I believe an arms embargo should be imposed on Israel, as Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell said this week. But what will boycotting Israeli goods achieve – to me, that  is a form of collective punishment and we must not punish people for the actions of their governments or armies? Nick Cohen wrote a brilliant piece on London’s Tricycle Theatre banning the annual Jewish Film Festival this week because they received a small sum of money from the Israeli embassy. Do we boycott goods from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or India? After all, their countries routinely violate the human rights of their citizens, yet we hold Israel to a different standard.

Reports have suggested that anti-Semitism has increased in the UK and in Europe. I don’t think this conflict has made more people anti-Semitic, but rather it brings out the anti-Semites, reaffirming their dislike and hatred of Jews. I rarely agree with Mehdi Hasan but he was spot on when he said that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Muslim communities. That is not to say that being pro-Palestinian equates to being anti-Semitic – to suggest that is untrue and outrageous. But it shames me to admit that it has certainly “passed the dinner table test” (thanks Baroness Warsi) in the conversations in some of the homes at which I have been present and even on a radio discussion earlier this week. And unfortunately, some of those people do use certain Qur’anic verses to justify their dislike or mistrust of the Jews, claiming that Muslims can never trust the Jews. I understand not all Muslims engage in these discussions, I am simply recalling what I have seen and heard – I do appreciate that many Muslims have nothing but respect for Jewish people.

We don’t like it when Muslims are expected to denounce the extremist behaviour of Muslims or distance ourselves from the barbaric Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so why do we expect Jews to condemn the behaviour of the Israeli army and government, as though being Jewish=Israel.  And people constantly point out that many Jews are against the actions of the state of Israel, as though that should matter, as though the only “good” Jews are those who go on marches alongside pro Palestinian protesters, unlike those “bad Jews” who do support Israeli policies.


The ongoing crisis in Iraq


Kurdish fighters

US air strikes have successfully carried out four air strikes to defend those of the Yazidi faith from being indiscriminately attacked near Sinjar, in northern Iraq.

On Newsnight, Sindus Abbas of the Iraqi Turkmen High Representative welcomed the US air strikes in northern Iraq and said this should have happened “months ago”.

But who cares what the Iraqi people want when left-wing commentators here in the UK think we should not intervene. In a Twitter exchange with journalist David Aaronovitch, Owen Jones said that ISIS “will only be stopped when it is eradicated”. Not a vague statement at all. How exactly must ISIS be stopped? Simple – by “dealing with Sunni resentment” and, most importantly, NOT intervening militarily. Yes, there needs to be a long-term solution and there I will agree with Jones, but right now we can do something to help.

The Iraq war may have caused resentment within some Muslims around the world –  that is debatable – and I, too, was against the 2003 invasion, but sitting idly by while people are being slaughtered – the same people who are asking for our help – will surely cause more resentment.

It is easy to solely blame the West for the ills in the Middle East today. Yes, colonialism left a terrible legacy but for how long can we all continue to blame others? I think it is easy for people to blame the US or Britain because if they have no one else to blame they will have to accept the reality that the blame lies within themselves. And that is too uncomfortable for them to contemplate.


10 Responses

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  1. Awesome article Iram, it takes real courage and heart to write something as controversial as this and to take a stand which looks at both sides of the debate. I know I lack the courage and bravery to do so and shirk from such a responsibility but you have bravely penned something that hopefully others read, ponder and respond in a positive considered manner. Well done!


    August 10, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    • Thank you Imran – you should definitely consider writing something though, even if under a pseudonym

      Iram Ramzan

      August 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      • Perhaps one day when I feel braver but in the meantime do not stop doing your splendid job of providing a vital critique of an opposite view in Muslim quarters.


        August 13, 2014 at 8:52 am

  2. “Do we boycott goods from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or India? After all, their countries routinely violate the human rights of their citizens, yet we hold Israel to a different standard.” Yes they routinely violate the human rights of their own citizens but here’s a quote from David Cameron “Gaza is the largest open air prison in the world”. That situation on a neighbouring country was created by Israel with the help of the US. They then bombed that open air prison. This is EXTERNAL AGRESSION. You’d find the facts if you bother to check. not like facts form anything in your line of work. I just selected one line but this could’ve been done for the entire piece. You’re a terrible journalist and deep down you know it.

    You’re not the first to carve out of a career for yourself through demonizing your own community and being a brown spokesman for imperialism. You couldn’t care less about lost lives. You don’t give a damn about anybody but yourself and you’re prophets; David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen and Douglas Murray. They are forever benevolent and worthy of great praise. Orwell referred to unworthy victims as ‘unpeople’ for someone like you this is muslims everywhere. I doubt your blood soaked keyboard will construct a coherent reply.

    Mohammed Kamran

    August 14, 2014 at 6:12 am

    • “You’re a terrible journalist and deep down you know it” – I am just a journalist and I hope to improve and become better one day. For now I can find comfort in the thought that, unlike you, I am not a keyboard warrior who leaves snide remarks on other people’s blogs/articles.
      “You’re not the first to carve out of a career for yourself through demonizing your own community” – you believe that if you want to. Some people can’t handle putting their own people under the spotlight because, as I pointed out above, if they do that they’ll realise that sometime the problems lie within.
      “you’re prophets” – it’s YOUR but anyway…
      “being a brown spokesman for imperialism” – this is so funny I don’t even know where to start. I’m hardly an advocate of imperialism considering that I did not agree with intervention in Syria and I opposed the Iraq war in 2003 and the invasion on Afghanistan in 2001 but hey, why allow facts to get in the way of your point?
      “You couldn’t care less about lost lives” – that’s funny I could say the same about you. While Iraqi people are either dying or asking for help, people like you are too busy criticising the West for helping. When Iraqi people themselves are asking for help, who are you to deny them that right. You’d rather see them die than receive any help from Britain and America. Let’s hear your solution – wait, you don’t have one.

      I hope that was sufficient, the blood on my keyboard can get in the way at times

      Iram Ramzan

      August 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    • What a sad little man you are! Sitting there, furiously typing away with your puny little sense of indignation – and lo and behold the question needs to be asked WHY, why oh why? Because simply someone expressed an opinion which happens to shatter your little preconceived parochial narrow view as to how things are in the world.

      And so in your infantile wrathful manner you seek to silence that person, that person who has had the temerity to challenge the same old tired view, and what better way to silence them by calling them names, labelling them, shaming them into submission! I quote “Your a terrible journalist and deep down you know it.” The only reason you want to say that is because you don’t like what she wrote! And she has published numerous articles with various publications which is testimony to her writing skill but because you have no robust argument which to come up with – well why not go for the easy solution – attack her capability to write for her profession.

      “You’re not the first to carve out of a career for yourself through demonizing your own community and being a brown spokesman for imperialism.” Hang on, because someone chooses to write contrary to what you believe, you believe in silencing them by name calling, labelling them? I’m surprised you didn’t add Islamophobe in there because for your kind devoid of any proper argument routinely end up using that to silence any opposition to your indoctrinated narrative because it’s so simple to see everything in black and white isn’t it? But of course you had to use the brown slur, eh? Imply that they are a coconut, that should suffice.

      It is people such as yourself that cause so much disservice to our community that attempt to muzzle any view which happens to run contrary to your bigoted narrative through intimidation of their identity and being a turncoat. The irony is we live in a democracy, yet you fall far short of that standard. You take it’s freedoms and use them as weapons to stifle any opposition with your intimidatory tactics using that intimidation as a hammer blow to dismantle any voice contrary to your narrative. People like you sicken and revolt me because left to you people would have no voice except the tyranny of people like you who have no standard of decency to interact at a human level except the blunt instrument of silencing them at all cost.

      Iram Ramzan you should not let people such as Mohammed Kamran ever silence you, if anything it just shows how precious and important your journalism is and not to mention your voice too.

      Imran Ahmed

      August 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      • calm down people, lets be accepting of each others views. You’re doing exactly the same with your words, you’re not accepting views that differ from yours, and responding with further hate. Mohammed Kamran was excessively aggressive but had some valid points. You’re doing exactly that which you accuse him of doing, shouting down different views with aggression and hatred. I disagree with MK and think the author writes honestly.

        Lesley Maud

        August 31, 2014 at 5:52 am

  3. I have to say I do think the Palestine/Israel situation is oppression and injustice on a level that seems to be unparalleled in the other countries you mention in your article. We’re talking about one peope being robbed of their land and it kindy given to someone else – and Britain was very responsible for that injustice. 3 generations of Palestinians have lived in refugee camps, their water supply controlled by Israelis, what charity reaches Palestinians is controlled by Israelis, and Palestinian women have died in labour at checkpoints. And the list goes on. The really shocking thing is that Palestinians as a people have been forced to live in a way that Israelis themselves would never find acceptable for themselves, but for some reason Palestinians are supposed to live with it. Now that is blatant racism to me and the height of arrogance. And Western powers that be cry the treatment of minorities at the hands of ISIS strangely don’t ever seem to feel spurred to act against the wanton bloodshed by the terrorist Israeli state. Of course people are going to feel particularly outraged by the outrageous passivity governments demonstrate when it comes to decades of Palestinian suffering

    Nafisa Salaam

    August 18, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    • totally agree.

      Lesley Maud

      August 31, 2014 at 5:56 am

      • I disagree with your assessment of the comments made in response to Kamran. His comment is not about democratically discussing a particular topic, its about shutting it down. If my comment seems similar to his in response then sadly you have not bothered understanding anything I wrote. More to the contrary it’s about defending a persons right to express with conviction what they believe and having the ability to articulate that. What I don’t condone is someone attempting to shut another person down by calling into question their validity as a writer and name calling and labelling them horrendous names so dare not utter anything which runs counter to their prejudiced narrative.

        I think you would do well to read the comments and reflect on that rather than attacking those who seek to defend others right to exist and hold views. if my response seems similar in hate to Kamran’s, I assure you it is not motivated by hate but rather to defend dissenting views and not shutting the debate down.

        Imran Ahmed

        August 31, 2014 at 9:57 pm

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