During my time on the national executive committee (NEC), I fought long and hard for the publication of the Forde Report. The truth needed to come out. So it was a relief when it was finally published.
It confirmed a lot of what we already knew: right-wing Labour staffers used their positions to obstruct and undermine the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, despite his democratic mandate from hundreds of thousands of party members. But the report also focused on the double standards on racism within the party and the way that anti-Black racism and Islamophobia is not taken seriously enough and that, at times, has been propagated by senior staff members.
As a Muslim man with years of experience within the party, I am not surprised by Forde’s findings. My time on the NEC has shown that the problem persists. In the last two years, we have seen the readmission of Trevor Phillips as a Labour member (a man who called Muslim communities a “nation within a nation”) and a horrendous campaign of harassment against the first hijab-wearing MP Apsana Begum, with multiple complaints being ignored by the party. Meanwhile, one in four Muslim Labour members say they have directly experienced Islamophobia. Worse still, one in three members have witnessed it. These are not signs of an anti-racist party.
It doesn’t look like we will be getting any recognition of the problem from the Labour leadership either. Instead, we’ve witnessed figures inside Labour’s head office spout Islamophobic talking points in the press. Is it any wonder that more than half of Muslim members say they do not feel represented by the party? Or that an even higher number do not trust the shadow cabinet or the leadership to take complaints of Islamophobia seriously?
But Muslims in Labour like myself aren’t taking this lying down. In the party, the Labour Muslim Network is applying for affiliation as it works to wipe out the stain of Islamophobia. And in parliament, trailblazers like Apsana Begum and Zarah Sultana have spoken eloquently of the bigotry they face while leading the fight against racism, authoritarianism and inequality.
On the NEC, I played a key role in pushing for a new Islamophobia code of conduct, which clearly sets out how to recognise and oppose anti-Muslim racism with the party, and I have consistently stood up to the leadership’s hypocrisy on this issue.
My anti-racist activism is not confined to the party, either. I was part of the campaign that fought the Tories’ despicable nationality and borders bill, presenting a video that got over two million views on social media, writing an op-ed in a national newspaper and doing a nationwide speaking tour galvanising opposition to the bill. While the bill did eventually pass, key amendments in the Lords – following widespread campaigning pressure – mitigated its impact.
As the Tories move even further to the right in their leadership contest, more than ever we need a bold and united Labour Party to take them on at the next general election. But despite his promise to bring the different wings of the party together in the 2020 leadership election, Keir Starmer’s actions have been an impediment to the unity our party so desperately needs. Withdrawing the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, unjustified suspensions and proscriptions, stitching-up selections in favour of right-wing candidates – these are all deeply damaging measures that I have opposed and will continue to do so if am re-elected.
As the cost-of-living crisis bites and energy bills soar, there is an appetite in the country for transformative change. Yet Keir has ditched his ten pledges, launched waves of factional attacks on the left and retreated to an outdated and unpopular Blairism. It didn’t have to be this way, and on the NEC I will do all I can to hold the leadership to account on the racism exposed in the Forde Report and his promise to the membership that he would unite the party.
If you want a bold, socialist Labour Party, vote for the Grassroots Voice four candidates. Vote for myself, Yasmine Dar, Jess Barnard and Gemma Bolton in the Constituency Labour Party section; Lara McNeill for Youth rep, Ellen Morrison for Disabled rep, Ankunda Matsiko for BAME rep and Lynne Jones for Welsh rep. For more on the Grassroots Voice candidates, their website can be found here.