Sayeeda Warsi should long ago have been ejected from the British Cabinet. It is to David Cameron’s eternal shame that he has allowed Ms. Warsi to pick the timing of this, announcing her resignation this morning over the government’s stand on the Israel-HAMAS war.
Let us not mince words here: Ms. Warsi’s rise in the Conservative Party was part of the detoxification process; completely unrelated to talent, it was an exercise in marketing. A woman and a Muslim and of immigrant descent with a Yorkshire accent and a folksy manner—it was too good to be true. In one stroke the Tories got to showcase their anti-racialism, anti-sexism, and try to show they weren’t just a party of toffs.
Ms. Warsi’s actual record, however, is very disturbing. In her only attempt at electoral politics in 2005 she relied on the most base and hysterical anti-homosexual propaganda, saying the Labour government was “allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.” Spared the need for further irritations like Elections after being made a Baroness, she was then allowed to attend Cabinet by a special dispensation after the 2010 Election, from where she has continued to preach the virtues of reactionaryism.
She has famously said that “Islamophobia” has “passed the dinner-table test“. “Islamophobia” is a nasty propaganda word that has been put into circulation that is the supposed equal of racialism and is dispensed freely to shut down those who try to point out flaws in the Islamic religion or its adherents. Those who use it are either naïfs, unwittingly aiding a totalitarian campaign, or something altogether more sinister. To see it given a stamp of approval by a Cabinet Minister at a time when more debate, not less, is needed on this subject was disturbing. But the most important part of that speech was Warsi’s attack on the moderate/extremist distinction. This well-meaning effort to distinguish adherents of the faith who read the religion peacefully and those who do not was declared in itself a form of racialism, at the same time that Islam was resolutely freed from any connection with terrorism. If you wanted to protect religion at the expense of free inquiry this was just about perfect.
Ms. Warsi’s views and actions in the realm of foreign affairs are probably the most disturbing thing about her, especially as they concern Pakistan. Of Pakistani background, she had become an unofficial cultural mediator between London and Islamabad, made more official after she was appointed Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in late 2012. She has gotten just a little too close for comfort with the extremists in Pakistan whose representatives in Britain operate almost without hindrance. The problem of Ahmadi persecution, for example, is exported wholesale—heresy-hunters and all—to Britain’s shores. But that never seems to be the issue of the day for Ms. Warsi: it’s drones or some other Western iniquity. She referred to herself as the “Minister for Pakistan,” and what she did was effectively lobbying. Asked, for instance, about the notorious radicalism of Pakistan’s population, Ms. Warsi dismissed the polling (“I can’t predict what happened during those polls”) and said: “I know the real Pakistan … I hear real views”. Special facts are the realm of the apologist—and not a very good one. To have had near the helm of British foreign policy a woman who is consciously trying to deceive people about the nature of Pakistan—its people and the intentions of the State—is of no help to anybody. She should have joined the “Friends of Pakistan” group in her party, not been given influence at the Foreign Office, then at least people would understand—as they do about the “Conservative Friends of Russia,” for instance—that she was an advocate, not an objective observer with this country’s interests at heart. It would also have cleared up the discrepancy of a senior FCO official opposed to Britain’s major foreign policy engagement, namely the war in Afghanistan, advocating NATO withdrawal, which will allow Pakistan to recolonise Afghanistan, a long-term strategic intention of the country’s military caste.
Warsi has a habit of siding with the Islamic reactionaries. It’s not just supporting a course that gives the Islamist security agencies in Pakistan back their dependency or agreeing with the Islamists that there is only Islam—not moderate or extreme. For those who imagine that Britain is overrun by a “militant secularisation,” as Warsi has put it, I refer you to the visit to these shores by the Bishop of Rome in September 2010. No sooner had Joseph Ratzinger stepped off the plane in Britain than he declared that atheists were Nazis—a line Ms. Warsi has picked up, though in her own furtive way, saying that secularism is “deeply intolerant” and similar to “totalitarian regimes”. But Ratzinger was not challenged on this. On the contrary, the BBC and virtually every other station was turned over to adoration for the Pontiff is this famously non-Catholic country. Ms. Warsi was invited on innumerable programs with one relentless message: a dose of theocracy is just what the British people need, to break down a hard-won—and by-no-means fully realised—wall of separation between religion and politics. In her follow-up visit to Rome in February 2012 and the aftermath she has been even worse.
This morning she has given her first post-resignation interview to Mehdi Hasan at the Huffington Post. Mr. Hasan is another of those figures who has gained the vaunted title of “moderate” while believing non-Muslims are of “no intelligence,” no better than “cattle,” and making elaborate excuses for the dictatorships in Iran and Syria. A look at his oleaginous method allows one to suspect that beneath the veneer of Leftist anti-Westernism lurks a rather stern Khomeini’ism. The duo last got together in March so Ms. Warsi could rage about the dangers of the “secular fundamentalists“. (As we all know so well, the next time a Shi’a mosque gets blown up in Pakistan, atheists will be the first suspects.) Today it was an even happier subject than the flaws of non-believers: now it was the flaws of Israel. Ms. Warsi wants Israel referred to the International Criminal Court and Britain to ban arms sales to the Jewish State. With “long-standing … Friends of Israel” like this, Jerusalem has no need of enemies. Ms. Warsi does at least concede that HAMAS is a “terrorist organisation”.
In her period in office, Ms. Warsi has amassed a record for two-facedness that makes it difficult to pin down what her actual views are. Take the issue of multiculturalism. She has been critical of “State multiculturalism” and wants Britain to be “clear about what people are joining here”. She has been particularly insistent that immigrants learn English. But at the same time she’s “absolute believer in multiculturalism per se, where people have the right in their private lives to do what they want—as long as when it comes to the public sphere there is an acceptance of what the mainstream culture is”. It seems wilfully obfuscatory. She’s against dealing with the Islamic community through “self-appointed religious leaders—men, you know, in beards”. Good. I’ve noted how catastrophic this is, especially since this “leadership” is so disproportionately radical. But the rest of the time she sounds like somebody not seeking to abolish Muslim “leaders” so much as seeking to be one. She sternly objects to being “identified on the grounds of my race or religion,” but “[y]our race, your ethnicity, your origin, your background—they all bring additional value.”
There is something at once cynical and naïve about Ms. Warsi, something shady and altogether too innocent. She always winds up siding with the reactionaries of her religion, but always presents the argument in the language of tolerance and diversity—in supporting the burka, for example. Perhaps she is simply a useful idiot for the Islamic zealots, but the flashes of ruthlessness whenever she is directly threatened—on her expenses ethics, say, or her career as window-dressing for this wretched Tory Party—make one wonder if there is not a more solid and dangerous core. Thanks then that this ambiguity is no further danger to British interests, and good riddance to one of the worst examples of reverse discrimination in this young century.
Update: Ms. Warsi went on to say in another post-resignation interview that her problem with the Cameron government was that it did not treat Israel in the same way it is treating Vladimir Putin, Iran, Bashar al-Assad, and the Islamic State. This is the dangerously misguided view of foreign affairs that was put in a senior position at the Foreign Office.