By Mark Hookham
A TOP West Yorkshire Tory has told the Conservative Party conference how she knew the family of 7/7 bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said the outrage undertaken by the Dewsbury suicide bomber could never have been predicted. The peer urged British Muslims to set up a voluntary support network to prevent young people being influenced by extremists.
The speech was her first high-profile appearance at the Blackpool conference after claiming earlier this week that people who vote for the British National Party had “some very legitimate views”.
Those comments sparked fierce criticism from anti-racist groups, although Conservative leader David Cameron defended her, saying she had made it clear that the BNP was “completely unacceptable”.
In a rebuff to her critics, Lady Warsi yesterday told party activists that political correctness must not be allowed to “stifle legitimate” debate.
She went on to draw on her own experiences of living in Dewsbury in what was her biggest speech since being unexpectedly appointed shadow cabinet minister for community cohesion earlier this year.
She said: “My home town, Dewsbury, was sadly also home to Siddique Khan, one of the 7/7 bombers.
“I knew the family; I knew the community and yet could never have predicted what happened.
“Indeed the wife of Siddique Khan was unaware of his deadly intentions.
“So to suggest, as some do, by simply pointing the finger at British Muslims and saying sort it out, cannot be the way forward.”
Lady Warsi issued the call for a “safety net for young minds that may be being influenced by extremist beliefs”.
She added: “By coming forward with a voluntary support network, a national foundation, a place for help, support and guidance to whom families and individuals can turn when they pick up on the signs of disenchantment with our country and its democratic ways and institutions.
“Something that comes from the community, with an understanding of its culture and beliefs but as professional and dedicated as any charity.”
Lady Warsi attacked Labour’s “appalling use of patronage politics” and a “patronising approach to our minority communities by treating them as faceless homogenous block”.
She also claimed Labour’s reliance upon “self appointed” community leaders, who are mainly men, was leaving other voices unheard.
“Like the Asian women in Dewsbury who I met in 2005, who told me I was the first politician to canvass their views,” she added.