'Leicester raises the standard of faith-based debate' - Baroness Warsi

Posted by pt91 at Jan 24, 2011 02:55 PM |
Sayeeda Warsi, Co-chairman of the Conservative Party, delivered this year’s Sir Sigmund Sternberg Lecture at the University of Leicester focusing on combating religious intolerance in Britain.

She joins a number of distinguished speakers who have delivered the Sternberg lecture. Sir Sigmund is an honorary graduate of the University and he delivered the inaugural Sternberg lecture in 1998. Other speakers in the series include: HE Dr LM Singhvi, Sheikh Dr MA Zaki Badawi, Professor Dr Hans Kung, Dr Jack Templeton, Lord Janner of Braunston, Lord Carey of Clifton, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Dr Kevin McDonald and World Ambassador Mohammed Belmahi.

Baroness Warsi paid tribute to the work of Sir Sigmund: “Sir Sigmund has shown just how much one person can do to promote a richer, more tolerant, and a more integrated society.”

And she praised the University for hosting the debate: “Your University is helping to raise the whole standard of faith-based debate in this country. And I know that some fantastic people have given the Sternberg lecture before me.” Baroness Warsi also congratulated Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Bob Burgess on being conferred with a knighthood.

In her much publicised address, which received considerable media coverage, Baroness Warsi said: “There is a large, untapped appetite for a more mature discussion of faith in this country.

“I sensed that people were fed up of the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media, and that sadly there has been a rise in a sloppy kind of religious illiteracy. So it was important to take stock of where Britain is with faith.”

She lamented the treatment of faith in the media: “Controversial stories are inflated by the media, detracting from serious faith-based debate and leaving us with a situation where instead of philosophy, we’re fed anti-faith phobias.”

Focusing on her own faith, Baroness Warsi said: “Let me say right away to British Muslims that I acknowledge that there is a minority of people that try to justify their criminal conduct and activity by suggesting that it is sanctioned by their faith.

“It is a problem that we must confront and defeat. But that problem should not lead to unfounded suspicions of all Muslims. Indeed, it seems to me that Islamophobia has now crossed the threshold of middle class respectability.”

Speaking about how people could tackle extremism, Baroness Warsi added: “Muslim communities must speak out against those who promote violence.

“Muslim men and women must make clear that any hatred towards others is wrong. And above all, not stand on the sidelines, but step forward and help to lead a progressive, united fight.”

Her message to people was to follow the eternally relevant command of “Love thy Neighbour” .

She said:” Ultimately, that’s the test for everyone in society:

  • Do I do enough to make my neighbour feel part of the wider community?
  • Would I be comfortable if my neighbour heard what I said about him?
  • Do I treat my neighbour the way I want to be treated myself?”

You can read a full transcript of Baroness Warsi’s speech on the Press Office website.

Below are a selection of images from the lecture:

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