New Statesman- Q&A with Shabana Mahmood MP
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday August 17 2011
The New Statesman this week publishes an interview with Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham, Ladywood, and one of the first female Muslim MPs to be elected in the May 2010 general elections. In the interview she reflects on the recent riots which hit her city culminating in the tragic deaths of three young Muslim men, her reasons for running for Parliament, and Islamophobia.
A few excerpts are reproduced below:
What’s the mood like now in Birmingham?
People want to send a clear signal that they’re proud of their home city. They want to draw a line under what happened. Obviously in the Winson Green area, where the three deaths occurred, people are still shocked — it’s going to take time for it to sink in, once the media and everybody else have gone away.
Were you worried about a violent retaliation after the deaths?
There was a very real concern. I am clear that the intervention of Tariq Jahan was instrumental in preventing any further trouble. When he said, “I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home” — that was really powerful, particularly because he was able to talk directly to some of the young men who were angry and distraught. Obviously they had enough respect for his message and his loss to listen and behave in a responsible way. He is an absolute hero.
Is part of that dignity something which is implicit in Islam?
He’s behaved in a way that is an example not just to Muslims but to all of us. It is in keeping with the respectful, dignified spirit of Ramadan, a peaceful month for people to reflect and to foster their connection with God. I can’t pay enough tribute to him.
Have you ever experienced Islamophobia?
Unsurprisingly for someone who is both Asian and Muslim, I have suffered racism and Islamophobia, name-calling and that kind of stuff. But equally, putting myself up for election, I might have expected more. Over the entire the campaign I received only one abusive email and one abusive text message. On the campaign trail, no matter who I was talking to, I was given a good reception. For the most part, our communities in Birmingham are strong and live together peacefully, but we could focus on doing more to let our different communities get to know one other. That’s how you understand that people’s fundamental concerns are the same — they want to get on in life, they want access to good education, good health. Those are the things that unite pretty much all of my constituents.
Read the interview in full here.