Muslim official stands up for persecuted Christians


The United Kingdom's highest-ranking Muslim spoke out against the religious persecution of Christians minorities around the world earlier this month.

Minister of Faith Baroness Sayeeda Warsi addressed the violence against religious minorities—especially Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians—in the Middle East in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

"A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale," Warsi warned in her speech. "In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct." She previously called the persecution in the region a global crisis.

Persecution of Christians is widespread in the Middle East: Blasphemy laws in many countries mean Muslim converts to Christianity risk arrest and death. In September, Islamic terrorists increased attacks against Christians across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Before Warsi was appointed to her ministry position in September 2012, she spoke out against Muslim veil bans and condemned Muslim vigilantes in London who were telling women how to dress, according to the BBC. She helped secure the release of a British teacher in Sudan who was jailed on blasphemy charges in 2007, CNN reported.

The U.K. government says her role is to promote faith and religious tolerance and to strengthen communities. A member of the Conservative Party, Warsi became part of the House of Lords in 2007. Prime Minister David Cameron appointed her to his cabinet in 2010. She became the  Minister of Faith after a cabinet reshuffle, according to the BBC.

Warsi intends to make religion a cornerstone of foreign policy for Britain and Western counties. "It shouldn't just be for Christians to speak for Christians, and Jews to speak for Jews, and Muslims to speak for Muslims," she said in her speech.

She believes the solution to violent extremism and religious persecution will be through the cooperation of Muslims from the West and Christians in the East. In her Georgetown speech, Warsi said religious leaders and Western governments can oppose the rise of sectarianism by encouraging leaders of major religions to defend other faiths, according to World Watch Monitor.

For Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants with a family composed of both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, the issue is personal. While campaigning, she's had expletives hurled at her because of her Muslim faith, according to The Hoya, the Georgetown University newspaper.

"For me, rejection of another faith just reveals a weakness in your own," Warsi said in her speech.