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Pak-Origin Sayeeda Is UK's 1st Muslim Cabinet Minister

She's colourful and feisty, even a little controversial. But 39-year-old Sayeeda Hussain Warsi is, uniquely, Christian Britain's first Muslim cabinet minister. The youngest member of the House of Lords, she was, on the recommendation of
PTI May 14, 2010 9:34 IST
PTI
She's colourful and feisty, even a little controversial. But 39-year-old Sayeeda Hussain Warsi is, uniquely, Christian Britain's first Muslim cabinet minister. The youngest member of the House of Lords, she was, on the recommendation of now PM David Cameron, conferred the title of Baroness of Dewsbury in 2007.

Warsi has made a virtue of being a daughter of a Pakistani immigrant millworker. "Its terribly humbling,'' she said as this diminutive figure demurely walked through the British capital's government district of Whitehall to attend her first cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Thursday.

Warsi shot into British media limelight after she, among others, successfully secured the release of a British school teacher, Gillian Gibbons, in Sudan in 2007. The latter had been convicted and imprisoned for permitting her pupils name a teddy bear Mohammed. Warsi is, arguably, a beneficiary of a drive by British political parties to woo Britons of Islamic faith, mostly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, but of Middle Eastern and North African extraction, disaffected since the United Kingdom's 2001 intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Last year, she was pelted with eggs by militant Muslims in Luton. They accused her of not being a proper Muslim and supporting the death of Muslims in Afghanistan. Warsi called them "idiots who do not represent the majority of British Muslims.''

Warsi will doubtlessly have to tread carefully. But if skilful, she has the potential of becoming a powerful voice for Muslims within the British cabinet as well as influential of matters concerning Pakistan, not to mention Kashmir.