Britain's Most Powerful Muslim Woman
By IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
"I think Islam is a hugely liberating religion for women," Baroness Warsi said.
CAIRO— Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative peer in the House of Lords, has been named Britain's most powerful Muslim woman, topping a list of 50 women who defy a prevailing stereotype that being a Muslim and a woman is barrier to success, The Times reported on Wednesday, March 25.
"I'm extremely proud to be named as the most powerful British Muslim woman," Baroness Warsi told a celebration dinner on Tuesday in which the list was unveiled.
"I'm sure my Pakistani origins, my strong faith, and my Yorkshire upbringing has played a huge part."
Warsi, the shadow minister for community cohesion and social action, the first Muslim to join the Conservatives shadow cabinet, topped a list of 50 women compiled by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Trevor Phillips, the commission chair, said the Muslim Women Power List is meant to pay tribute to the achievements of successful Muslim women from the business, arts, media, public and voluntary sectors.
The list, the first of its kind, also features BBC television news presenter Mishal Husain and Farmida Bi, a banking partner for law firm Norton Rose LLP.
Warsi, 38, has been Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Cities since 2005.
At the 2005 election, Warsi became the first Muslim woman selected by the Tories to contest a parliamentary seat.
A solicitor by profession, she has worked for the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Married with a daughter, Warsi has worked for the Ministry of Law in Pakistan on a forced marriage project in tandem with the Foreign Office, and in Kashmir as Chair of the Savayra Foundation, a women's empowerment charity.
Baroness Warsi notes she faced the very negative stereotypes about Muslim women.
"Of course I've encountered prejudice as a woman, and as a Muslim woman. One of the most specific forms of prejudice is journalists who ask, 'Are you a Muslim first or British first?', as if to say the two can't be reconciled."
Phillips agrees, adding that the list of high achievers is breaking many stereotypes about Muslim women.
"I can’t think of a group more stereotyped and less understood in wider society than Muslim women."
He described their effort as part of a wider project to dispel myths and raise the profile of Muslim women in the country.
"The list is really just the start of a more ambitious project to create a network of women defined by their professional capabilities and interests, where faith and their background may just be one part of who they are."
A new research conducted by pollsters Ipsos Mori to coincide with the list describes Muslim women as ambitious and wanting to play a full part in the economic future of Britain.
The survey of more than 400 working and non-working Muslim women found that a third of working Muslim women see themselves one day as chief executive or leader of their work organizations.
Three quarters of all Muslim women polled believe it is possible to balance a successful career with family commitments.
"This research shows they have the same hopes, concerns and ambitions as anyone else when it comes to work," said Phillips.
"It demonstrates that Muslim women believe that work and family life can exist in balance; that many want to lead their organizations and they can achieve prominence in public life."
Baroness Warsi maintains that being a Muslim woman should in no way be seen as a barrier but rather an asset to achievement.
"When Islam is interpreted properly, it is a religion that supports and reveres women. I think Islam is a hugely liberating religion for women."