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Allegations of CSE cover up and misogyny within the Labour Party

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Shaista Gohir Source: Facebook

Shaista Gohir
Source: Facebook


Shaista Gohir is pulling no punches. The chair of the charity Muslim Women’s Network (MWN) UK is continuing to deal blows to the Labour party, accusing it of covering up misogyny and intimidation of Muslim women from the men in their own communnities.

Gohir has been gathering evidence from Muslim women across the country in order to get the party to address the allegations and make some serious changes.

But more revealing is the allegation made by a former Labour councillor, who  claims that abuse is being covered up within the Labour party. The Muslim woman told Newsnight that Pakistani councillors on the council where she served are regularly protecting men who may be exploiting white girls, simply because they are important business allies.

Zahara – not her real name – claims that the police presented councillors with a sexually explicit video as they ruled on whether to shut down a club where these alleged offences were taking place.

She said: “The decision ultimately should have been to close the establishment down because of inappropriate behaviours going on of a sexual nature between young white girls and Asian males that was being shown on the video.

“I was clearly told to stop questioning by a hand gesture and nudge by senior male councillors that were Asian who were sitting next to me… I was told: ‘Do you know who it is? It’s a very prominent Asian businessman that supports us’.”

This woman claims that, on this occasion and many others, she was deselected because she refused to do as these powerful councillors of Pakistani heritage demanded. When she arrived at the selection meeting, it was full of Asian people she had never seen before. “They’re in the pocket of influential male councillors,” she added.

This, in my opinion, is the angle on which Newsnight should have led. Instead, it was almost buried within the report. It is almost as though allegations of covering up CSE were an afterthought of this report.

It seems evident to me that Labour is doing anything to keep  the ‘minority’ vote, at the expense of leaving those groups effectively to be ruled by ‘their’ men.


“Systematic Misogyny”

Councillor Arooj Shah Source: Oldham Council

Councillor Arooj Shah
Source: Oldham Council


From about 2:50 in the Newsnight video, Oldham councillor Arooj Shah is seen leafleting in her neighbourhood, along with fellow councillor Shadab Qumer. Councillor Shah is doing the talking yet the Muslim man they visit only shakes hands, and speaks directly, only with the male councillor, instead of Councillor Shah.

She told the BBC: “There’s Labour Party members who will accept my two colleagues, Asian men, but support anyone but me. They’re members of the local Labour party. They are shameless about it… It’s because I’m a woman and anyone who sugar-coats it is lying.”

Councillor Shah also said that she has received disgusting letters where her head has been attached to images of Page 3 models, in an effort to silence and intimidate her.

MWN has been heard from many Muslim women across the country on the “blocking” of vocal, independent Muslim women by male members of the Labour Party who are of Pakistani heritage – or ‘biraderi’ (clan) politics. The charity has called for an inquiry by party leader Jeremy Corbyn into the “systematic misogyny” within Labour. If this is happening in the Labour party then I wonder – is this also happening in other parties?

Unfortunately this is no surprise to many women of Muslim heritage. We are all aware of the fact that most of the hostility faced is by those from within our own communities. We receive support when we toe a certain line, but as soon as we go beyond that we are quickly silenced.

Well done to the brave women who are continuing to speak out against the misogyny and campaigns of harassment they have faced. It takes a lot of courage to speak out.


Naz Shah – great story, but what about her politics?

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If you have not yet heard of Naz Shah, you must have been living in a cave for the last two weeks. Naz is Labour’s candidate for Bradford West, who will stand against Respect MP George Galloway in the general election in May.

Naz, the chair of mental health charity Sharing Voices Bradford and mother-of-three, was forced into marrying her cousin when she just aged 15. Her biological father ran away with their 16-year-old neighbour.  She spent 12 years campaigning, with the support of Southall Black Sisters, for the release of her mother – a woman imprisoned for murdering the man who beat, raped and pimped her for over ten years.

No doubt her inspiring story could not be further from the Westminster elite of professional politicians. But none of the interviews have revealed much about her political views. As interesting as her background story is, what does she want for Bradford? What can she do that George Galloway has not done for the city?

The word ‘biraderi’ (patrilineage) has become synonymous with Bradford politics. I worry that Naz may not be so dismissive of identity politics as her background might have initially suggested, judging by some of the comments she made in The Times this weekend (£) about the headscarf (“To a Muslim man you’re more respectable, it’s not because you’re a victim”) and integration (“People can live amongst each other with different identities and different languages because that’s the way the world is.”)

I guess we will have to wait until after the election to find out.

Do British Muslims have a problem with apostates

Nothing riles Muslims more than the presence of ex-Muslims.

On the Big Questions Abdullah al Andalusi, who describes himself as a ‘thinker’ (no, me neither) was very aggressive towards Amal Farah, an ex-Muslim of Somali origin, and constantly interrupted her while she was making her point. He claimed that Islam has no apostasy laws – try telling that to the Muslim countries who have blasphemy laws and punish those who speak out against Islam. He translates “irtida” as “sedition” or “treason”. Misinterpretation – that old chestnut eh? So then I ask, what is the punishment for treason?

Andalusi then took to writing a post-show blog, denouncing the entire thing as an “anti-Islam fest”. Of course it was. That is the problem with people like Andalusi. They want a debate, but on their own terms. They claim they will not compromise on their Islam but in certain public forums they will twist and turn so much so as to hide their real views.

The BBC also wheeled out Mohammed Shafiq who spoke about the importance of religious freedom. This is the same man who once described Quilliam Foundation’s Maajid Nawaz as ‘gustaakh-e rasool” (defamer of the prophet) when Nawaz tweeted a Jesus and Mo cartoon. Thankfully, he has now apologised though I am not sure if it is much of an apology if he still stands by his reasons for saying what he did.

Shafiq also said we cannot have a rational debate with ex Muslims – in other words, don’t bother talking about Islam unless you are a Muslim. Some Muslims do, however, discuss and and even denigrate other religions but get defensive when their own religion is attacked. Why the double standards?

I have met many ex Muslims and they are not anti Muslim at all. All they want is the right to leave Islam without being persecuted or disowned by their families.

If, as Muslims, we preach that Islam is peaceful and tolerant, and “there is no compulsion in Islam” then we need to accept people like Amal Farah and other ex Muslims who do not wish to follow Islam. We happily wave the Islam-is-the fastest-growing-religion” banner and talk with such pride when someone converts to Islam but silence those who are no longer Muslims. Some will say, leave Islam, fine, but why do you need to talk about it?

My response would be, why shouldn’t they talk about it? Do other Muslims ever consider the possibility that the reason why ex Muslims continue to talk about Islam once they have left is precisely because it is still such a taboo? Perhaps if they weren’t met with such hostility they would not need to do so. Let us not forget the fact that many ex Muslims are still “in the closet” – they still cannot openly talk about the fact that they no longer believe in Islam because they now the consequences.

Well done to Amal who stood her ground despite being shouted down by some Muslims on the panel and in the audience, and to Dr Usama Hasan, imam and a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, for preaching the message of peace and tolerance.

Integration: whose responsibility is it?

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Originally published for The Backbencher on 16/12/12


FOLLOWING the release of the 2011 census, it was inevitable that immigration and integration were going to be subjects of great debate.

Earlier this week, the Labour party leader Ed Miliband, speaking in south London, described his enthusiasm for ethnic diversity in the UK, while claiming that ‘too little’ has been done to integrate people within British society.

He said:

    “Some people say that what we should aim for is assimilation whereby people who have come here do so only on the condition that they abandon their culture. People can be proudly, patriotically British without abandoning their cultural roots and distinctiveness.

    But there is another idea we should also reject: the belief that people can simply live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives, protected from hatreds but never building a common bond – never learning to appreciate one another. We cannot be comfortable with separation. It blocks opportunities, leaving people at the margins. And it breeds ignorance, suspicion and prejudice. Instead, we must think of the home we build together in all its richness, variety, diversity.

    With an immigration system (under Labour) that allowed two million people to come to the UK over ten years, there is a degree of anxiety about Britain’s cultural identity and the levels of immigration.”

   The issue of identity becomes even more complex when one learns that up to two million people in the UK are mixed race. Is this important for integration? Certainly: US scholars consider intermarriage rates as the gold standard of integration due to the intimacy and social implications.”

Why is your dad brown and your uncle is white?

A friend of mine, Omar Mehtab, who lives in Ilford, grew up in a mixed and diverse background. His maternal grandfather, an Indian Muslim, married a Pakistani Hindu woman, while his paternal grandfather, a Pakistani Muslim, married a German-Polish Catholic woman. Furthermore, his Hindu uncle married a Seventh-day Adventist  Brazilian woman.

Growing up, he said, he never noticed the differences in the family – as he rightly pointed out, children aren’t born racist or prejudiced. “The only time I noticed the difference is when someone asked me, why is your dad brown and your uncle is white,” he said.  As well as this, he went to a school that had a mix of pupils from diverse backgrounds.  “I’m glad I’ve had this,” he said. “It’s given me different cultural and religious viewpoints. My generation is a product of a mixed environment – we love it.”

Many friends and acquaintances of mine have said something similar – that the reason they are so open-minded and well integrated is down to, a) – their own open-minded and diverse families, and b) – their own willingness to integrate and mix with a diverse group of people.

Which brings me  to my next point – to what extent are families to blame for this? As pointed out earlier, racism is taught; no one is born racist or prejudiced.

The 2001 UK Census showed that people from South Asian backgrounds were the least likely of the minority ethnic groups to be married to someone from a different ethnic group. Only 6 per cent of Indians, 4 per cent of Pakistanis, and 3 per cent of Bangladeshis had married someone outside the Asian group.

This could possibly change in the next few years, who knows, but I believe that there are certain prejudices and barriers there that have been long-held by the elders. Although some of them are no longer with us, the subsequent generation absorbed some of those views – you are a product of your environment.

As the study by Shamit Saggar and Will Somerville shows, there are several factors that drive successful immigrant outcomes:

“One of these is proximity to…buoyant local labour markets. In London, the professional service and corporate business sectors have been important in generating demand for highly educated and skilled employees. This signal has been received and reflected in middle-class Indian educational patterns… This has not been seen in the case of many Pakistani immigrants, whose settlement patterns were concentrated in declining heavy industrial areas of northern England.”

Poverty and deprivation lead to a lack of integration

  Poverty and deprivation are major factors which lead to a lack of integration, and in areas with high levels of deprivation, there will be high levels of tension between the different ethnic groups, and people will live in clusters and blocks, not really mixing with people of a different background to theirs.

The Pakistani immigrants who first came to the UK to work in the mills brought with them their culture and their way of life. Subsequently marrying off their British born children to their nieces and nephews from their village abroad has continued this mentality. This trickles down to the children. (Forgive me for discussing Pakistanis mainly, but this is my background and a group that I’m more familiar with)

Lejla Kuric, a 36-year-old businesswoman in Manchester, originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has faced racism from both English and Pakistani people alike, for being married to a British-born Pakistani man. Although his family accepted her without any objections, others have not been as tolerant.  She said: “On one occasion, a group of Asian lads had a go at my husband at the Trafford Centre, saying, ‘why, oh why is he with a white woman?’”

Of course there will be idiots, and downright vicious people everywhere. But there are people out there who will hold such views because of the way they have been brought up – certainly with some Asian children, they will pick up such prejudice from their parents, who will no doubt talk about the ‘shame’ and ‘dishonour’ of marrying someone from outside their ethnic group.

“We don’t like pakis, they smell”

  When I was in primary school, being the only Asian girl in school at the time was challenging at times but the overall experience was fine. The children did come out with racist terms, but I do not believe they were racist – I believe they were simply repeating what they had learned from their parents.  For example, in class one day, a boy sat next to me said, “We don’t like pakis, they smell…but we like you Iram, you’re okay!”

Of course I was okay (actually, no, I’m fabulous!), because they knew me, they were my friends. Which got me thinking, how many other ‘pakis’ would they think were ‘okay’ after they had bothered to get to know them?

Although Lejla was abused with terms such as “Eastern-European c*nt,” “immigrant,” “white paki,” and “guest in this country” that has “no right to comment on British politics”, her experience of Britain overall has been pleasant.

  She said: “In general I found British people open, friendly and tolerant and I found Britain multicultural and a very tolerant society. This meant it wasn’t difficult for me to accept the British identity, and preserve my Bosnian identity at the same time.

Again, we see this issue of identity cropping up again. How do immigrants preserve the identity of the homeland while maintaining their British identity too? If they are to live in the UK peacefully, tolerating other people, which aspects of their culture do they retain, and which do they abolish?  Additionally, whose responsibility is it to integrate – is it the role of the host community or the immigrants?

Language is a gateway to a culture

Omar believes that while it is the job of the immigrants, he also thinks that English people, in general, are not really aware of other people and cultures.  Part of this could be down to the school education system. Apart from Ireland, the United Kingdom is the only EU country where learning a language at school is not compulsory. As a result, only 44% of school pupils took a modern language GCSE in 2009. The figures are even more dire at A-level: fewer than 5% of all A-level entrants sat a language exam last year. After all, language is a gateway to a culture.

Education and awareness should begin at an early age. But if parents are prejudiced, is it then the school’s responsibility to tackle such prejudices and allow children to become more open minded?  There are certain schools where 90% of the pupils will be of one ethnic group – although schools are reflective of their areas (in a majority Asian district, the majority of the children in that school will be Asian), there should be a policy which should tackle this.

In Oldham, two schools were closed down to merge into one big academy school in order to tackle the issue of segregation between Asian and white children (though many politicians still do not acknowledge that Asians segregate themselves from other Asians too, e.g. Bangladeshis against Pakistanis).

It is difficult to say whether this project has been successful yet, but it might be a case of too little, too late. The damage may already have been done, which is why early intervention is necessary.

There is so much more that I could say, but time is of the essence (and my editor must be furious!), but please do share your thoughts and opinions on what we, as a nation, can do to integrate better and educate our young.

Written by Iram Ramzan

December 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Labour Party fringe meetings kick start conference in Manchester

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Originally published on Digital Journal on 30/09/2012
The UK Labour Party started its annual five-day conference on Sunday, under the theme ‘rebuilding Britain’, in the Northwest city of Manchester.

As well as party leader Ed Miliband addressing a Q&A session hosted by the Manchester Evening News, there were additional fringe meetings hosted by the Fabian Society, a political think tank.


Fringe meetings take place at a political party conference that are not part of the main proceedings and are usually small and address a particular special interest.


The main themes and questions throughout the meetings explored the party’s existing and future policies and how to re-connect with the British people.


One event, ‘Winning new voters – Does Labour lurch to the left or right?’, hosted by Sunny Hundal (editor of the Liberal Conspiracy) and Rowenna Davis (Labour Councillor and journalist) had a panel who were each asked to give a short response to a question posed to them.


Rachel Reeves, shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that “this government is making tax cuts for a privileged few. Labour will prioritize ordinary families.”


Baron Stewart Wood, a Labour life peer in the House of Lords, said that neo-liberalism is dead and we should not be afraid to say it.


He said: “The model doesn’t work any more. There’s no choice but to have a different economic model.”


The crowd-puller of the evening was the Question Time session late in the evening. The hall was packed out with members and non-party members alike who were eager to put their questions forward to the panel.


While journalist Dan Hodges believed that “there is not going to be an alternative”, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “We will repeal the NHS bill, no to top-down re-organisation,” a statement which received a huge round of applause.


He went on to stress the importance of early intervention and said: “Public services don’t prioritise prevention.”


Aside from health care, the majority of the questions being put forward to the panel were related to youth unemployment and how to engage voters once more.


Dan Hodges said: “Labour will have to develop an education policy. I don’t know what their policy is.”


Andy Burnham admitted to his party’s failings. He said: “We didn’t do enough to raise the aspirations of those not going to university. I don’t know how these kids are going to get on with life.”


He went on to say, with much agreement from the audience, that the government protects the benefits of older people as they are more likely to vote, whereas with the under-30s there has been a decline in turnout at elections, hence why they are ‘attacked’ more.


With so many topics and questions raised on day one of the conference, it is clear that there will be even more questions raised, which may shape future policies of the Labour Party.


The conference will come to an end on Thursday 4th October.

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