Former London borough mayor quits Labour over Islamophobia, racism

Former London borough mayor quits Labour over Islamophobia, racism
Rakhia Ismail, who was born in Somalia, left her post as mayor of the London Borough of Islington late last month, and on Sunday announced that she would resign from her position as a Labour Party councillor. (Islington Borough Council/islington.gov.uk)
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Updated 12 October 2020

Former London borough mayor quits Labour over Islamophobia, racism

Former London borough mayor quits Labour over Islamophobia, racism
  • Rakhia Ismail: ‘I’m saddened deeply that the party I thought was for justice and fairness and ‘for the many’ is the opposite’
  • ‘Sadly, this incident shows that no political party is totally immune from anti-Muslim sentiment,’ interfaith activist tells Arab News

LONDON: The resignation of the UK’s first hijab-wearing mayor, and her leaving the main opposition Labour Party on grounds of racism and Islamophobia, highlight the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment across all British political parties, an interfaith expert told Arab News on Monday.

Rakhia Ismail, who was born in Somalia, left her post as mayor of the London Borough of Islington late last month, and on Sunday announced that she would resign from her position as a Labour Party councillor after eight years in service.

She said she stepped down because she felt she was marginalized as a woman of color and was not taken seriously by some male colleagues. She also cited incidents of Islamophobia from some Labour Party colleagues.

“I’m saddened deeply that the party I thought was for justice and fairness and ‘for the many’ is the opposite, from my personal experience,” she said.

“Therefore, I find it hard to represent Holloway Ward as a Labour councillor because I was battling with a party system that simply allows white men to have what they want, when they want.”

In 2019, Ismail said she received a letter inviting her to Labour’s first national women’s conference which, beneath her address, was printed the word: “Somalia.” She said: “What has my birthplace got to do with this invite? I was shocked.”

She also cited Islington Council’s failure to organize an Eid festival in 2019, despite the borough’s significant Muslim population, as an example of anti-Muslim sentiment within the council.

Muddassar Ahmed, a patron of the Faiths Forum for London, a group dedicated to fostering interfaith dialogue and relations, said Ismail’s experience highlights the ongoing issue of Islamophobia in British politics.

“Sadly, this incident shows that no political party is totally immune from anti-Muslim sentiment,” he told Arab News.

“The Labour Party has come a very long way in appointing women of color to senior positions, but clearly there’s more work to be done,” he said.

“I hope the Labour Party learns from this incident and ensures that there’s a thorough investigation to understand why this happened.”

A Labour spokesperson said the party “takes any allegations of discrimination received extremely seriously, which are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.

Ismail’s decision to resign “is disappointing, especially coming so soon after her term as mayor of Islington, having served the borough admirably through an incredibly challenging time,” the spokesperson added.


Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait
Updated 16 January 2021

Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait
  • Abdullah was born prematurely Jan. 9 last year to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims
  • Parents say medical treatment was paid for entirely by Saudi government

ISLAMABAD: A baby born prematurely to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in Makkah last year was returned on Friday evening to his parents in Quetta, Pakistan — a full year after his birth and successful treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Bibi Hajra and her husband Ghulam Haider were forced to leave their baby behind after their Umrah visas expired following the birth of their son on Jan. 9 last year — a premature birth, with the baby weighing only 1 kg and suffering from severe medical complications at the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah.

The baby, named Abdullah, was placed on a ventilator and stayed on in the hospital for a period of 46 days under the observation of doctors and consultants specialized in neonatal intensive care.

After this, the child was transferred to special care under the supervision of the Social Service Department.

“We had to return to Pakistan and leave our baby in the hospital as our visas expired, and then could not go back due to coronavirus,” a tearful Hajra told Arab News on Saturday from Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city.

“Initially, I was very worried about my baby, but the hospital administration remained in touch with us. They used to show me Abdullah on video and also send us his pictures,” she said.

“We are thankful to the Saudi government, hospital authorities, doctors, nurses and Pakistani consulate in Jeddah for their cooperation,” she added.

On Thursday, the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah handed Abdullah over to a delegation from the Pakistani Consulate after taking care of him for a full year.

Abdullah’s father, Haider, who is a dispenser at a small clinic in Quetta, also expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government and the Pakistani mission for their support.

“Our child remained under treatment for one year but we have not even been charged a single penny,” Haider told Arab News.

“All the expenses were taken care of by the Saudi government,” he said.

The return of Abdullah to Quetta, he continued, had been arranged by the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah free of charge.

“The Pakistani Consulate was in contact with the hospital as well as with the parents of the child. They provided all the medical facilities and kept Abdullah in complete care. Now he is absolutely fine and one year old,” the community welfare attache of the Pakistani Consulate, Saqib Ali Khan, who received the boy from the hospital on Thursday, told Arab News.

“When the hospital administration assured us that the child is completely fine, we sent him back to Quetta through a delegation and he was received by the parents,” he said.

Khan thanked the Saudi government, the Saudi Ministry of Health and the medical team at the hospital for providing the child with special care, and for keeping in touch with the family in order to reassure them over the entire year of their separation.