Friday, 19 May 2017

Salma: "This is not a political game, it’s peoples’ lives."

The shenanigans at Wednesday’s event demonstrate how we need a sea of change that starts with hearts, minds and integrity.

Organised by the Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) in Bradford, this event was supposed to encourage aspiration, to shake off the shackles that prevent local residents from fulfilling their dreams and venture forth in the face of adversity. It was supposed to inspire local residents to become more engaged in civic participation and politics, to rouse their fellow citizens irrespective of gender, colour or creed, to work together for a more harmonious and prosperous society. The Board of MWC felt that inviting to the stage two women hailing from Bradford West to share their interesting journeys into politics, and engage in a discussion about their choices would be a stimulating and uplifting experience.

Instead, we witnessed a dramatic Bollywood scene, in which Naz Shah disrespectfully stormed out of the event on the pretext of ‘equality’. This had nothing to do with equality, but all to do with politics. It is her constituents who are vulnerable and need defending, not Conservative candidate George Grant, who actually stayed at the event and took to the stage when she left – so much for her claim the event was prejudiced against Christians and white males. It was a pre-planned exit designed to score political points at the expense of a hard working and respected local women's organisation, as well as constituents who had shown a genuine interest in hearing from both of us.

In the name of equality, Shah’s posturing promoted division in communities, through an unjustified slur. In storming out so dramatically, she damaged – maybe permanently – a hard working organization that, for instance, holds a weekly food bank to help the needy and homeless irrespective of race or religion. This is unfair and I call upon Naz Shah to issue a public apology to Muslim Women’s Council.

Throughout this campaign, I have met constituents of Bradford West from all walks of life, no matter their colour, gender or religious beliefs, if at all. I have sat and listened to concerns of students, employees, business owners, parents, and outlined the actions I will take to ensure opportunities for all.

My message is clear: I am a candidate for all Bradford West constituents. I am here to serve you all. I am at your service – let’s work through our problems together to create a better, fairer and more prosperous society.

This is what equality is. Equality is providing a level playing field where all to be able to engage in life and the opportunities it provides, whether it is in education, health or politics.

Despite Shah’s exit, both George Grant and I were able to discuss the challenges faced by the communities, and the solutions needed to overcome them and offer a political choice.

The election for Bradford West is for all people. It represents an opportunity for people to have a voice. Events hosted by local organisations should not be disrupted in a ploy to win political points. This is not a political game, it’s peoples’ lives that we’re dealing with.

Salma Yaqoob, Independent candidate for Bradford West