By Joseph Willits
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In an address to the European Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Tory party Chairman Baroness Warsi spoke of the ever increasing need to tackle antisemitism. Jewish people, she said, "are at once targeted by the far left and the far right. And they are at once branded superior and inferior by those who seek to attack them".
Perhaps the most crucial point to be made from Warsi's speech, is that prejudice and discrimination is only truly overcome, when it is fought by communities together, rather than simply from within a community. Warsi said:
“If we really want to defeat racism and bigotry, if we’re serious about social harmony and if we’re actually going to destroy the scourge of antisemitism in this country, then we need all faiths and none to stand up against it, united."
Warsi crucially cast her speech as a Muslim woman, saying that "we must drain the poison of antisemitism from our country. As a Muslim, for me, Islamophobia is personal. But for me, antisemitism is just as important."
The Tory party chairman praised the Jewish community's "ongoing fight against bigotry", saying that "no community has had to fight the battle as strongly and for as long as the Jewish community has". On the issue of Islamic-Jewish relations, Warsi said there was nothing "in our history which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable".
For a piece on ConservativeHome last week, I argued that Peter Tatchell (a gay man) should be commended for his efforts to defend Christian free speech. Inevitably, there will be contradictory belief systems and lifestyles prompting clashes and division, but discrimination and bullying is one and the same. I wrote:
"It seems ever more poignant when the battle is fought by those outside of the effected community. This could mean Muslims tackling anti-semitism, Jews demanding an end to Islamaphobia".
There should be nothing remarkable about different minority groups battling the end to prejudices which all in turn face, albeit slightly differently. Yet a form of "reverse persecution" often comes with complacency, and the persecution one group has to endure, is thus forgotten by the others.
In her lecture, Warsi cited the example of Finchley and Golders Green MP, Mike Freer, who was threatened and labelled a "Jewish homosexual pig" by members of Muslims Against Crusades during a constituency surgery at North Finchley mosque last month. Warsi also recalled her own experience in Luton, being pelted with eggs by members of the same group in 2009, and on Newsnight, where Muslims Against Crusades leader Anjem Choudary tried to shout her down for not wearing a face veil.
With herself being a victim of their hatred, Baroness Warsi has proved in the past that she is unafraid to confront groups such as Muslims Against Crusades. In an interview with John Harris of the Guardian yesterday, Warsi said that Anjem Choudary had "forfeited" the right to call himself a Muslim, and that "if you detach reason from religion, then you are no longer a follower of that faith". Whilst discussing Muslims Against Crusades more generally, and their planned 'Hell for Heroes' demonstration on Armistice Day, Warsi said:
"They follow a religion, and the prophet who bought religion to earth, and yet nothing about the way they conduct themselves is in accordance with the teachings".
Asked about her positioning politically, unpopular with certain elements of the Tory party, and Islamic groups, "shot by both sides" in John Harris' words, Warsi said that it gave her "the confidence to say, I'm probably in the right place".
You can read Baroness Warsi's speech to he European Institute for the Study of Antisemitism in full here.