Mutual respect and tolerance fundamental to all religions, says British politician

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014

PETALING JAYA: Respect and tolerance is fundamental to all religions, and Muslims have a duty to protect that right, said a prominent British politician.

"Muslims have a duty to recognise and protect the basic human rights of freedom of religion or belief, a freedom that we ourselves benefit from," said Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

"Prophet Muhammad himself respected the diversity of different faiths and ethnicity, and enshrined it in the constitution of Madinah," said the British senior minister of state at the foreign and commonwealth office, during her talk at an interfaith dialogue organised by The Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMM) and the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur.

Warsi, who is also the minister for faith and communities, said that in a modern, globalised world, the respect for dignity and diversity of difference faith and ethnicity was very important.

"When I had the honour to be appointed as the first Asian and Muslim cabinet minister in my country's history, I was determined to use that position to change things and make the case for faith," she said.

Warsi added that her agenda was not to promote any particular faith, but to make it clear that the Government supported the right of all faith groups to worship freely and to be protected from intolerance and hate crimes.

"An attack on a gurdwara should be viewed as an attack on a mosque, a church, a temple or a synagogue," she said.

Warsi envisioned an ideal world where unity between all races was strong, "where Muslims condemn anti-semitism, that Jews fight Islamaphobia".

Warsi explained that although she was Muslim, she was also shaped by British and Christian values.

"That only makes my faith and identity stronger," said Warsi, adding that freedom of religion was also important for social harmony.

"When religious freedom works, economic prosperity follows," said Warsi.

"Creating freedom, openness, and respect for different thoughts and ideas allows you to make the most of people's differences and harness their full potential," she said.

Warsi explained that the strength of society correlated to economic strength of the country.

"I see similar ideas at work here in Malaysia," she said, adding she had seen the economic success the country enjoyed.

Warsi urged Malaysians to "work faster, harder and deeper to build a global momentum of religious freedom", which she believed could transcend racial divides.

"Religious freedom is one of the most difficult human rights to defend, but also one of the most transformational.

"Let us reaffirm our commitment and reinvigorate the movement for religious freedom and together, create a new golden era - not just of Islam but also of religion," said Warsi.

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