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Thursday, May 13, 2010
Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi
Baroness Warsi was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire in 1971 to Pakistani parents who emigrated from (Bawal) Gujar Khan, Pakistan. She was educated at Birkdale High School, Dewsbury College, and the University of Leeds where she read Law (LLB). She attended the York College of Law to complete her Legal Practice Course and trained with both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office Immigration Department.
After qualifying as a Solicitor, she worked for John Whitfield, the last Conservative Member of Parliament for Dewsbury at Whitfield Hallam Goodall Solicitors and then set up her own specialist practice George Warsi Solicitors in Dewsbury. She has also worked overseas for the Ministry of Law in Pakistan and in Kashmir as Chairman of the Savayra Foundation, a women's empowerment charity.
Baroness Warsi was the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Dewsbury at the 2005 General Election, becoming the first Muslim woman to be selected by the Conservatives. She lost that election by nearly 5000 votes. She has served as a special adviser to Michael Howard on Community Relations and was appointed by David Cameron as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with specific responsibility for cities.
In its December edition, the New Statesman 'revealed' that the Baroness received support for her general election campaign from Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer. According to the New Statesman's report, Warsi "welcomed Lord Ahmed's support".
On 2 July 2007 Baroness Warsi was appointed Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and a working peer. Her peerage was conferred as Baroness Warsi, of Dewsbury in the County of West Yorkshire on 11 October 2007 and gazetted on 26 October 2007. She is, by October 2007, the youngest member of the House of Lords.
On 1 December 2007, Baroness Warsi travelled with Lord Ahmed to meet for talks with Sudanese officials and Ministers, in response to the jailing of an English teacher, Gillian Gibbons. Gibbons had been found guilty of insulting Islam, after allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed. This had resulted in her prosecution and a 15 day jail sentence. Although Baroness Warsi's and Lord Ahmed's meeting with the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir did not lead directly to Mrs Gibbons being pardoned, it is acknowledged that, along with the enormous efforts made by Gillian Gibbons's family, friends, and others, it may have indirectly contributed to her release.
The Gay rights organisation Stonewall, as well as several Labour politicians, questioned her suitability for a high-profile Conservative party role owing to leaflets issued during her 2005 election campaign which contained views which they claimed were homophobic. Some of her 2005 campaign leaflets claimed that Labour's lowering of the homosexual age of consent from 18 to 16 was "allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships", and that homosexuality was being peddled to children as young as seven in schools. On the subject, Baroness Warsi said that "I look back at lots of my election leaflets and think, 'God - why did I phrase it like that? What was I on?" adding "There was a whole team that was involved in my election leaflets. Looking back on it, maybe I could have used much better language than that", while adding her belief that sex education should be "out of the school system, initially".
Other comments have also provoked anger, when she went on record saying that people who back the British National Party (BNP), may even have a point. "They have some very legitimate views. People who say 'we are concerned about crime and justice in our communities – we are concerned about immigration in our communities'". On 22 October 2009 Baroness Warsi represented the Conservatives on a controversial edition of Question Time marking the first ever appearance of Nick Griffin leader of the BNP. During that broadcast she strongly criticised the BNP, and when directly asked whether she was in favour of civil partnerships, replied "I think that people who want to be in a relationship together, in the form of a civil partnership, absolutely have the right to do that."
On 30 November 2009 she was pelted with eggs by a group of 'Extremist Wahabis' whilst on a walkabout of Luton; the protesters accused her of not being a proper Muslim and supporting the death of Muslims in Afghanistan. She was said to have debated with the protesters and was taken to a shop for protection. Baroness Warsi told the BBC that the men were "idiots who did not represent the majority of British Muslims". She later continued her walkabout with police protection.
Miss Sayeeda Warsi (1971–2007)
The Baroness Warsi (2007–2010)
The Rt Hon the Baroness Warsi PC (2010–)