December 2007 - January 2008
Warsi takes seat in Lords
Today Sayeeda Warsi takes her seat in the House of Lords as Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury. Baroness Warsi is the first Muslim to sit at Cabinet level and the first female Muslim to sit for the Conservatives in the Houses of Parliament. At 36 years old Sayeeda will be the youngest member of the Lords.
In June David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, appointed Sayeeda to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion. The creation of this position in Shadow Cabinet demonstrates the Conservative Party’s commitment to tackling the challenges faced by modern Britain. Setting out the Conservative vision for Community Cohesion Baroness Warsi said:
“Community cohesion is how we all live together with ease, how we feel comfortable in our communities and the way in which we bind together as a nation. We will engage with individuals as individuals, as equal members of our society on the issues that impact on their lives and, not on the basis of their colour or religion.
“We will reject that creed of multiculturalism that is peddled by the Government, where the focus is on what divides us rather than what unites us. And we will ensure that priorities on cohesion are not dictated at the centre but will trust communities to develop their own local approach to social cohesion. Where funding is not earmarked and siloed from the centre and not distributed on the basis of race or religion but on the basis of need and equality.”
On taking her seat in the Lords, Sayeeda said:
“It was a great honour to be asked by David Cameron to join his Shadow Cabinet. I am delighted to take up my seat in the House of Lords and look forward to the hard work ahead and contributing to the excellent debates the House of Lords is renowned for.”
Congratulating Sayeeda on her place in the Lords, Conservative Party Chairman, Caroline Spelman, said:
“Sayeeda will be a tremendous attribute to the Conservative Party. She has already demonstrated her dedication to the work needed in tackling the issues that face Britain today. As the first Muslim woman to represent the Conservatives in the House of Lords she is creating a path for others to follow. The Conservative Party is focussed on making the changes Britain needs to give people more opportunity, make families stronger and Britain a safer place. I have no doubt that Sayeeda’s energy and determination will play a large part in delivering these changes.”
During his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron, said: “If we are really the One Nation Party, the Party for opportunity for everybody, it’s not enough to just open the door and say ‘please come in’ we have to get out amongst Britain’s ethnic minority communities and find the brightest, the best and the most talented and get them in. And that’s why I am proud that I can stand here with the first Muslim woman of a Shadow Cabinet or Cabinet in Sayeeda Warsi who will be a great talent for our Party and our Country.”
British MPs to ask Foreign Secretary to intervene against harassment of Kazakh Hindus
British MPs from the three major parties will be requesting the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband to speak to the Kazakhstan President to stop the harassment and human rights abuse against minority Hindu communities in that country. They made this promise at an event organized by the Hindu Forum of Europe at the House of Commons on 22nd October where two Kazakh human rights activists, Yevgeniy Zhovtis and Ninel Fokina made a presentation on how Hindu houses have been selectively targeted for demolition and a Hindu temple confiscated by a Kazakh Government that they claim is ‘increasingly modeled on the totalitarian style of the older Soviet Union’.
Despite international pressure, the local Government in Kazakhstan has decided to demolish houses belonging to 100 Hindus without following any procedure, protocol or observance of human rights. Riot police moved into Hindu properties and demolished them on 21 November 2006 and again on 15 June 2007 to render Kazakh citizens homeless simply because they were Hindu, while people of other faiths living in the same area have no problems and continue to live without any form of discrimination. This was followed by an official order of the government to demolish the Hindu Temple and the dairy farm of the community. The Temple continues to be under threat and the authorities could come at any time to demolish it. Despite flagrant disregard for minority faith communities and blatant violation of human rights, Kazakhstan is seeking to Chair the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a body that safeguards human rights in Europe.
British MPs have now promised to take up this issue with the Foreign Secretary as well as the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. They plan to table an Early Day Motion to seek support from other MPs.
“The human rights abuse against Kazakh Hindus is shocking,” said Virendra Sharma MP, who was one of the hosts of the event. “It is important that international institutions and world governments begin to understand the scale of abuse against minorities like Hindus and Baptists that is taking place in this country.”
“Freedom to practise one’s religion is an absolute right,” said James Clappison MP who was also hosting the event. “We cannot just stand back and do nothing when women and children are being rudely thrown out of their homes into the streets during freezing winter conditions.”
Referring to the Kazakh Government’s official stand that the dispute was a legal matter, Sarah Teather MP, another Parliamentary host for the event commented, “Laws are made to uphold human dignity. If they allow minority communities to be persecuted, then it is clear that they need to be changed.”
Faith leaders form the Sikh, Buddhist and Christian communities responded to the presentations made on the abuse in Kazakhstan.
Anne Noonan from the Catholic Bishop’s conference said, “Catholics have also faced plenty of problems in Kazakhstan. UK has made a huge progress in dialogue between faith communities and we have a real model here which we can present.”
“How can Kazakhstan bid to Chair the OCSE when its human rights record is so appalling?” asked Sudarshan Bhatia, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe. “The judicial system of the Republic of Kazakhstan has passed rulings which do not reflect the constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and severely affects the lives of the Kazakh Hindu community. These rulings allow the government to evacuate the Hindus from their home, destroy their homes, and confiscate their properties.”
“We want the world to wake up and hear what is happening to the Hindu community in Kazakhstan,” declared Hari Halai, Vice President of the Hindu Forum of Europe. “ The Kazakh government is determined to grab the land belonging to the temple because of the property is now worth twenty
times more than it originally was. Human rights activist have pointed to a growing nexus between the mafia and the government in which the vulnerable Hindu community has been made a victim.”
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain said that the Kazakh Government had set up a Commission to enquire into these issues. “But it reached no conclusion, had no representation of Hindus and collapsed without any just discussion,” he added. “The Supreme Court heard cases about Kazakh Hindus in their absence without serving them notice or allowing their lawyers to argue their case in complete viloation of their human rights. We hope that this discussion in the House of Commons will focus attention on the women and children who were dragged out of their lawful homes and left out in the cold winter for the simple reason that they were Hindus.”
“We do need to do something more proactive,” said Raj Joshi from the Society of Black Lawyers. “An Early Day Motion is not going to achieve much. We need to ask the Foreign Secretary to consider imposing economic sanctions and political isolation on rogue nations like Kazakhstan. They will only listen if it hurts.”
C B Patel, Chair of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Patrons Council requested the Members of Parliament to take up this issue in earnest. “We have seen what can be done when Hindus come together as they did for the Hare Krishna Temple Defence Movement. We must gather our forces in a similar way for this event is just the beginning of this fight.”
Muslim attitudes - The Real Story
A new survey released today by the Greater London Authority confirms that London’s Muslim communities shares common values and concerns with the wider community, repudiating the image of conflicting values portrayed by certain sections of the media. This shows the importance of working with the Muslim community and its leadership in the struggle against criminality – including terrorism.
IPSOS-MORI carried out a poll of attitudes among Muslims in London compared to the views of all Londoners.
Nearly all Muslim Londoners surveyed - 96 per cent - think that everyone should respect the law in Britain, virtually the same as the number of Londoners as a whole at 97 per cent.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims polled, 89 per cent, believe that everyone in Britain should be free to live their lives as they want so long as they do not prevent others from doing the same – again virtually identical to Londoners as a whole, where the figure was 88 per cent.
The overwhelming majority of Muslim respondents – 94 per cent – also believe that everyone in Britain should have equal opportunities, as does 92 per cent of Londoners as a whole.
Almost nine out of ten Londoners and Muslims, 90 per cent and 88 per cent respectively, agree that people should have a voice in politics through democracy, which is being realised as Muslims are having an increased involvement in the political process in London.
86 per cent of Muslims also think it is important that the Metropolitan Police work closely with communities such as the Muslim community to deter terrorist attacks, compared to 91 per cent of all Londoners.
The survey also reveals that Muslims have similar concerns to other Londoners regarding crime, clean streets and public transport and it indicates clear commitment to life in the capital. Strong identification with respondents’ local area is high across all groups. Nearly three quarters, 74 per cent of Muslims and are proud of their local area compared to 70 per cent of Londoners as whole.
The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: ‘There has been much discussion about how to engage politically and socially with the Muslim community, but this survey shows that the vast majority of Muslims hold views in common with the rest of London about respect for the law, the value of democracy, the importance of mutual respect and equal opportunites, and debunking myths that are so readily perpetuated by some commentators and in certain sections of the media. The view that the Muslim community as a whole holds fundamentally different views to the rest of Londoners is shown by these figures to be totally untrue. That is why those who attempt to demonise the Muslim community do great damage It is, on the contrary, necessary to work with the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community to isolate the small number of dangerous people. Co-operation with the Muslim community is vital for the intelligence the police need to safeguard terrorists who kille Muslims just as much as other Londoners.’
The survey shows that Muslims in London want a society based on mutual respect for different beliefs as much as other Londoners. More than three fifths of Muslims believe it is important to have the freedom to say what they believe is true (84 per cent of Muslims and 88 per cent of Londoners as a whole). Furthermore, 95 per cent of Muslims think everyone should be free to practise their religion openly, compared to 86 per cent of the public.
The Mayor added: ‘One in twelve Londoners is Muslim and London’s Muslim communities, in all their diversity, play an essential part in the life of our city, contributing to its success as a global city. These findings show that Muslim Londoners whilst valuing their faith, share the same values as other Londoners. I will continue to work to increase understanding combat some of the ignorance, prejudice and Islamaphobia stirred up by some sections of the media which is deeply dangerous to Londoners.’
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