LONDON (Reuters) - Prejudice against Muslims has “passed the dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable in Britain, the Conservative Party’s chairwoman will say on Thursday.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Pakistan-born minister without portfolio, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester that dividing Muslims into “moderate” and “extremist” fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph.
“It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of ‘moderate’ Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: ‘Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim,'” the first Muslim woman in a British cabinet will say.
”In the school, the kids say: ‘The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad’.
“And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: ‘That woman’s either oppressed or is making a political statement.'”
There are 2.9 million Muslims in Britain, almost 5 percent of the population, according to an estimate last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Britain has regularly been a focus of Islamist militant plots. In the worst attack in the country, suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport network in July 2005.
“Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law,” Warsi was due to say.
“They also should face social rejection and alienation across society and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims.”
Warsi’s comments follow those made by Prime Minister David Cameron in his New Year message when he said Britain still faced a serious threat from international terrorism.
“We must ask ourselves as a country how we are allowing the radicalisation and poisoning of the minds of some young British Muslims who then contemplate and sometimes carry out acts of sickening barbarity,” Cameron said.
Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by Steve Addison