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WALSALL: Muslim councillors suffer hate

WALSALL: Muslim councillors suffer hate

Leader of Walsall Labour group Councillor Aftab Nawaz.

Emotional Muslim councillors in Walsall have opened up about sickening racist abuse they have suffered throughout their lives.

A motion calling for Walsall Council to adopt the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia was passed at a meeting on Monday (November 8) with a vow to combat incidents.

Walsall Labour Group leader Aftab Nawaz said it was important to stand in solidarity with victims of hate in the borough as people continue to suffer abuse.

Both he and his deputy Khizar Hussain revealed they have constantly been subjected to Islamophobia throughout their lives.

But the motion did encounter some opposition with Walsall Council leader Mike Bird quoting MP Eddie Hughes in saying it was premature and the definition was wrong and not fully supported by Muslims.

Councillor Bird said the authority should wait for the Government to come up with a more acceptable definition.

The definition states: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’.

Councillor Nawaz said: “At the last meeting there was a report IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and I’d like it to be noted our group supported that.

“Anti-Semitism is a horrid and horrific thing people display. Similarly, Islamophobia and Muslim hate is a disgusting thing we unfortunately see in parts of our society.

“Hate crime against Muslims is very real. I have many personal stories and I’m sure colleagues from across the chamber have had experiences.

“In some cases people ask you to apologise when a crime is committed by someone with your background, yet it has nothing to do with us.,

“Instances of head scarves being pulled off people’s heads because people don’t like them. Instances where people who wear turbans are discriminated against because people see them and in their ignorance will say they are Muslims.

“These are real things. In Walsall, these things go on as well. Many years ago, the EDL came to the town and unfortunately the council took a politically neutral stance which I thought was wrong at the time and think it is wrong now.

“They came to Walsall and they raised their voices against the Muslim community. We stood together, from this side and that side, and condemned them for coming here to stir up trouble.”

He added: “In 2011, the number of Muslims in this time was estimated to be 8.2 per cent of the population. By now, it will be at least 10 per cent or not more.

“Those are our citizens, our friends and they are looking towards us to support us and stand in solidarity with them in regards to anti-Muslim hate.

“I have no personal view of anyone in this chamber being Islamophobic.

“However, this chamber has an opportunity to send a clear message to all our communities. This is an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say we don’t accept Islamophobia and it’s a form of racism.

“Many people in this chamber have experiences. As a child growing up, people used to use to P word all the time and they still do in some areas.

“And they target you wearing a mosque outfit, at my daughter’s wedding people made comments at us as they went past.”

Councillor Hussain added: “We should all unite against hate and discrimination and show this borough is against prejudice and racism.

“I have personally experienced hate and Islamophobia all my life and suffered for it.”

Councillor Bird said: “I find it difficult to accept a definition that doesn’t exist.

“We all in this room would be at one to say any hate crime or any crime against anybody because of their religion, creed, race or colour is abhorrent and should be opposed at every occasion.

“But I think this is premature in so much the Government has said they will look at this issue and come back with what would be an internationally acceptable definition of Islamophobia.”

But Councillor Nawaz said the definition was “overwhelmingly backed” by Muslims in Walsall.

He added: “Boris Johnson was going to discuss Islamophobia and went back on his word.

“We know about what he has said about women in burqas, we know what he said about other minorities and therefore we don’t trust will bring forward a definition.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter


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