LONDON: Conservative peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has expressed concern for the safety of her family, due to fears of a backlash against British Muslims following what she described as “racist rhetoric” from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the Guardian reported on Thursday.
Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants who was the first Muslim appointed to the UK Cabinet and the first Asian person to serve as chairperson of the Conservative Party, slammed Braverman for her race-based comments about child abuse grooming gangs.
The home secretary recently said groups of “vulnerable, white English girls” were being “pursued and raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse networks.”
On another occasion, Braverman said the main perpetrators of gang-based sexual exploitation were British-Pakistani men “who hold cultural values totally at odds with British values, who see women in a demeaned and illegitimate way and pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach in terms of the way they behave.”
Warsi, who was appointed to the House of Lords by the Conservative Party in 2007, told The Guardian she had urged her father not to walk home alone from the mosque, amid her concerns about the potential consequences of Braverman’s comments.
“I’ve had to warn my son that if people start swearing and shouting, to just remove himself from the situation to avoid it escalating into an attack,” she added. “Why should I be having these conversations with my son?
“If you look at the interviews she did, she gave no caveats; Ms. Braverman basically said group sexual exploitation is a British Pakistani problem. At no point in those interviews did she say it was a small minority of British Pakistanis committing these crimes.
“Suella Braverman needs to understand that when she opens her mouth she’s speaking as a home secretary. She can’t use loose language. This kind of ‘shock jock’ language is becoming a pattern with her. It feels like she is more interested in the rhetoric and the noise of creating a culture war than the actual job.”
Warsi called on Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose family is of Punjabi descent, to discourage such race-based comments.
“I do not believe Sunak shares Braverman’s extreme views,” she told the Guardian. “In his own statement on government plans to tackle child sexual exploitation, he did not use the same language as Braverman and looked uncomfortable when questioned about it.
“But as head of the party, the responsibility stops with him. As the first prime minister from an ethnic minority background, he should not want to be remembered for presiding over a government that engaged in racist rhetoric.”
A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: “The home secretary has been clear that all despicable child abusers must be brought to justice. And she will not shy away from telling hard truths, particularly when it comes to the grooming of young women and girls in Britain’s towns, who have been failed by authorities over decades.
“As the home secretary has said, the vast majority of British Pakistanis are law-abiding, upstanding citizens but independent reports were unequivocal that in towns like Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford, cultural sensitivities have meant thousands of young girls were abused under the noses of councils and police.
“That’s why we have announced a raft of measures, including a new police task force and mandatory reporting, to ensure this horrific scandal can never happen again, and bring members of grooming gangs to justice for the victims.”