CAN WE HAVE our MP back please, Mr Starmer? That was the thought on many minds as Jeremy Corbyn joined members of the community at Iftar last week in his Islington constituency.
The Iftar was supported by the Finsbury Park Mosque. Islamic Relief UK and the Islington-based Muslim Welfare House. Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South, was present – standing alongside Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North. Both MPs spoke to the community, alongside Rabbi Herschel Gluck; Dr Joanne Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney, and Tufail Hussain, Director of Islamic Relief UK. Muslims present then broke their fast, and those present shared a meal and celebrated with a street party.
Corbyn seemed to have no trouble in talking about Muslims in the same breath as mentioning the need for peace and justice across the world. He said, “The Finsbury Park street iftar, hosted by Finsbury Park Mosque, marks a significant time for the Muslim community in my constituency and across the country, as well as those around the world. The holy month of Ramadan is a time of harmony, reflection, growth and helping those most in need, and I look forward to once again joining this wonderful occasion and renewing our commitment to bringing about a world of peace and justice.”
Starmer and Ramadan
Labour Leader Keir Starmer marked the start of Ramadan by posting a clip of himself visiting the London Central Mosque on Twitter and saying, “Today I’m here at the London Central Mosque and I’d like to send my warmest wishes to all those observing the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, devotion and renewed strength. It’s a time to celebrate the strong sense of community as people gather together in mosques and community spaces to share Iftar meals with their neighbours.” Is “people in mosques” the New-New Labour way of saying “Muslims?”
Starmer goes on to say, “With my leadership, a future Labour Government will stand up for the rights of Muslims and work to ensure Muslim communities feel safe, secure and respected. This is part of my contract with the British people, guided by the principles of security, prosperity and respect. On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to wish you all a Ramadan Kareem.”
There are three disappointing aspects to Starmer’s speech.
1. Get your own house in order
In November 2020, a report published by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) found a high incidence of Islamophobia in the Labour Party. It is not clear what, if anything, Starmer’s Party has done about this. Earlier this year, further LMN research found that 68% of Muslim Labour supporters do not trust the leadership to tackle Islamophobia effectively.
2. “Us and them”
Starmer says a Labour Government would stand up for the rights of Muslims – as if Muslims were separate from the Labour Party. He says he has a contract with the British people to stand up for Muslims – as if Muslims were separate from the British people. He speaks “on behalf of the Labour Party” to wish “you all” Ramadan Kareem. At no point does he say that Muslims are welcome members of the Labour Party or that the Party will end the practice of removing candidates if the Party believes local members have chosen the wrong Muslim.
3. What’s the deal with Corbyn?
Corbyn was suspended by the Labour Party while it investigated his comments on a report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. He was later reinstated as a Labour Party member after he had clarified his remarks. However, Starmer refused to allow Corbyn to be reinstated as a Labour MP. Many Muslims will wish to see Starmer back down before the next General Election comes along. There is talk that Boris may call a snap General Election any week now to see off the “partygate” issue, so Starmer needs to get a move on if he is to avoid a humiliating defeat at the polls to a well known figure standing as an independent candidate.
●Read the recent LMN research:
●Watch Starmer’s “people in mosques” video:
Starmer on Twitter
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