Pioneering Muslim Minister Resigns Over U.K. Government Stance on Gaza

2014-08-05 23:03:10 | Al Muslim News
Pioneering Muslim Minister Resigns Over U.K. Government Stance on Gaza

 

Sayeeda Warsi speaks to delegates at the Conservative Party Conference on Oct. 3, 2010, in Birmingham, England. The minister resigned on Tuesday, saying she could no longer support government policy on Gaza. Getty Images LONDON—Britain's first female Muslim cabinet minister resigned on Tuesday saying the government's recent approach and language with regard to the situation in Gaza was morally indefensible, not in the national interest and could damage Britain's reputation. The resignation, which appeared to take senior ministers by surprise, is a fresh blow to Prime Minister David Cameron's stance on the latest surge in violence in the Middle East after the opposition Labour Party criticized what it said was his failure to sufficiently condemn Israel's killing of civilians in Gaza. The prime minister, who is on holiday in Portugal, said he very much regretted that he and Sayeeda Warsi were unable to speak before she resigned from her dual post as a Foreign Office minister and Minister for Faith and Communities. Treasury chief George Osborne went further, saying the move, which was notably less orchestrated than other resignations, was an "unnecessary decision." In a letter to Ms. Warsi several hours after her announcement on Twitter, Mr. Cameron said the situation in Gaza was "intolerable" and the government had been consistent in its support for a negotiated two-state solution as the only way to resolve the conflict. "Of course, we believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end," he said. Although the U.K. has repeatedly called for a cease-fire, the prime minister has been less critical of Israel's actions than some other world leaders and even his own coalition government partners. On Monday he said it was right for the U.N. Secretary-General to say a fatal blast by Israel on Sunday at a U.N. shelter was "a moral outrage and a criminal act" but he declined to say whether the U.K. felt the same way. He has also said that Hamas stopping rocket attacks on Israel would probably be the fastest way to stop the conflict. In a message on her usual twitter feed, Ms. Warsi said she could no longer support government policy on Gaza. The approach wasn't consistent with Britain's values, its commitment to the rule of law and long history of support for international justice, she said in a resignation letter also posted on Twitter. The potential for the conflict and the U.K.'s response to become a basis for radicalization could have long-term consequences for Britain, she said. The loss of Ms. Warsi, who became the U.K.'s first female Muslim cabinet minister in 2010 but was demoted two years later, is also a blow to Mr. Cameron's attempts to broaden the appeal of his center-right Conservative Party with the general election looming in May next year. As the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, a working mother, and hailing from the north of England, Ms. Warsi was the poster-girl for the new diverse image the Conservative party wanted to project. Although she failed to win a parliamentary seat, she was made vice chairman of the party in 2005. When Mr. Cameron made a bid for party leader at a conference that year it was Ms. Warsi who introduced him. She lost her job as party co-chairman in 2012 but remained a minister. In her resignation letter, Ms. Warsi also took a swipe at Mr. Cameron's large ministerial shuffle in July, saying the absence of the expertise of two ministers who had lost their jobs had become very apparent in the past few weeks. Since William Hague had left as Foreign Secretary last month there was "great unease" in the department in the way decisions were being made, she said. Ms. Warsi, who holds the title of Baroness and is a member of the House of Lords, the unelected second chamber of parliament, wasn't immediately available for further comment..

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