A foreign office minister warned today of the need to fight Islamophobia, describing it as a “new form of hate crime”. Baroness Warsi said she had personally championed the campaign to combat anti-Muslim hatred.
“It is important we fight this new form of hate crime,” she told the Lords at question time. “But we have been here before. There have been moments in our history when we haven’t been entirely comfortable with a faith community, when we have questioned the loyalty of faith communities whether that’s been the Jewish community or the Catholic community.
“But it’s been our trust in our institutions and our values that has got us through it and we will get through it again.”
Lady Warsi’s comments came amid growing concern over young British Muslims travelling to Syria to take part in the fighting there.
She was replying to Baroness Uddin who offered condolences to the family of Nahid Almanea, a Saudi Arabian student who was murdered in Colchester, Essex, last month. Police said although there was no evidence of the killing being a hate crime, it was “one of the main lines” of inquiry being pursued.
Lady Uddin said such “brutal” attacks and the rise of Islamophobia were reasons why some young people were “resistant to working across different faith groups”. England had a record that was “second to none” of undertaking multi-faith work “in this arena,” she added.
Tory Lord Carrington of Fulham said that with some young British Muslims being “radicalised” it was important they were taught to understand the similarities and shared values between religions.
Lady Warsi said it was important for all people to have an understanding of he diverse communities in which they lived.
Labour’s Lord Patel of Blackburn urged the media to stop publishing “demonising articles” blaming whole communities for the actions of a “handful of terrorists”.
Independent crossbencher Lord Harries of Pentregarth said in many parts of the country relationships between Muslims and other faith communities were “extremely good” and this had helped to “dissipate signs of trouble”.
Former lord justice of appeal and independent crossbencher Lord Scott of Foscote, pointing to the “close” relationships in his own family with a Muslim son-in-law and a Muslim daughter-in-law, suggested that ministers could encourage inter-faith marriages.
Lady Warsi replied: “First of all it is important we allow people to marry somebody of their choosing whatever faith they belong to.”