EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dems standing behind the Muslim community, says Farron

26th May 2017
EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dems standing behind the Muslim community, says Farron

Lib-Dem leader Tim Farron tells Editor of The Muslim News Ahmed J Versi his party is standing behind Muslim communities facing insidious Islamophobia in the UK (Photo: Muslim News)

Ahmed J Versi

The Liberal Democrats are seeking to become much more diverse themselves at a time when leader Tim Farron is insisting the party is standing behind Muslim communities facing insidious Islamophobia in Britain.

In an exclusive interview with The Muslim News Editor, Ahmed J Versi, he also said that the Government’s so-called Prevent extremism strategy needs to be redrawn and moved away from the Home Office. In particular, he savaged the Conservatives for allowing Zac Goldsmith to play the racist card during last year’s London mayor elections against Sadiq Khan.

“Since I became leader one of the things that we’ve attempted to do is in quite a frankly muscular way to address the issue of diversity,” Farron said while highlighting that Muslim candidates for the first time have realistic opportunities of winning seats for the Liberal Democrats.

“Ade Adeyemo in Solihull, Shaffaq Mohammed in Sheffield Central, Amna Ahmad in Sutton and Cheam are all eminently winnable constituencies,” he said, emphasising that one of his concerns has been the “lack of representation” in particular from the UK Muslim community.

Since becoming the leader in 2015, he said he had reached out to the Muslim community, visiting such places as London’s Regents Park mosque more than once as well as holding meetings with leaders in Manchester among other places. But he admitted he has yet to have any talks with the mainstream the Muslim Council of Britain organisation, which is also being boycotted by the Conservatives.

If the general election had not come so early, Farron implied that he could have done much more on diversity though he did concede his party did not have the breadth others had. It did not stop him being especially condemnatory of the behaviour of some politicians, including the UKIP’s recent attack on religious dress that was targeted against Muslims.

“It is a symptom of the fact that people on the right and that includes many of them in the Conservative Party these days will use a person’s faith as a proxy for their race and indeed their culture as a whole,” he claimed. “Basically, we’re nakedly racist by association with the person’s faith. Islamophobia is insidious and it’s real and I think it’s calculated.”

Although some of it may be kneejerk and had no doubted spiked in the aftermath of the EU referendum, the Lib Dem leader said “we’re still seeing of hate crimes predominantly, race hate crimes” against Islamic communities across the United Kingdom. “I think the police in many areas are aware of it, they’re under-resourced and perhaps not directed sufficiently by Government to take Islamophobia and Islamophobic incidents seriously enough.”

“I worry very much that what that does is it sends out a message to people who feel anxious about Muslim communities who got anti-Islamic sentiments that somehow by dealing with the Islamic community in that kind of way, you’re ticking a box of people who are just waiting to hear kind of racist messages.”

Farron has faced his own issues with regard to the sacking of former Bradford MP David Ward as an election candidate following allegations of anti-Semitism. They were a “bit more than an allegation,” he said. “He’s worked very hard as a good local MP but attacking the Israeli Government for its actions is legitimate and I do it myself, the way in which Israeli Government has treated Palestinian people is so often been outrageous.”

“The problem is when one – in words that it meant to imply – meant to say that you disagree with the Israeli Government, you then imply guilt to and I use the phrase the Jews and do it repeatedly, you can’t turn a blind eye to that. And if you are serious about tackling racism you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and do something about it.”

The Lib Dem Leader used Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) himself to go on the offensive and defend Muslims with regard to the Islamophobic behaviour of Zac Goldsmith, which he believed was one of the reasons his party regained Richmond Park in last December’s by-election. “We went out to a predominantly white community and attacked in a principled way a Conservative candidate for being racist and Islamophobic and that is something we will let’s be honest, in the coming weeks do again.”

So why did Farron not ask the Prime Minister, who had asked him to sack Ward for anti-Semitic remarks at one of the PMQs, to sack Conservative candidate Goldsmith for his Islamophobic attacks Sadiq Khan?

Farron responded by saying that the Conservatives, “who try to show themselves as being high and mighty need to get their own house in order. Zac Goldsmith is not fit for that very reason.”

Apart from calling for an overhaul of Prevent, Farron was also particularly critical of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 under which passengers can be held at ports for up to nine hours without the need for any grounds of suspecting any crime has been committed. People need to be offered hope instead to be able to get along with each other and respect one another “not make each other feel safer by somehow by restricting the liberties and freedoms and identity of others.”

“So S7 comes out that same place that the Prevent strategy comes out of. It’s not about tackling the problem. It’s about kind of dealing with people’s fears. Well, let’s deal with people’s fears by getting to know each other better rather than demonising one community over another and absolutely, as you say, it should be evidence-led.”

On the eternal desperate plight of the Palestinians living under occupation, the Lib Dem Leader insisted that it could prove “counter-productive” when challenged why the international community does not impose sanctions on Israel for continually defying international law, though he suggested “something needed to be done about its building of more and more illegal settlements.”

“I’ve always tended to view a two-state solution is the goal to aim for respect on both sides; the most likely way of achieving that in a lasting way is for no side to feel that they’ve lost and that mean it should be dealt with – it should be arrived at through consensus that’s the ideal.” But the more Israel seeks to proceed with illegal settlements, the “more two-state solution does become impossible.”

“One of the reasons why I’ve always been nervous about saying that we should unilaterally or externally recognise the state of Palestine irrespective of what Israel wants is because I think you just replaced one problem with another, but Netanyahu in particular, the Israeli Government, in general, are making it increasingly difficult for people like me who want that consensus solution to believe it’s possible.”

With regard to the new House of Lords committee report recommending that Britain forgets the US and recognises a state of Palestine itself, Farron admitted it was becoming close to such a situation. “I want that to be the end goal and my sense – I mean, at the moment we are dealing with it. I know it’s a completely different situation, but there are some lessons we can learn.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to understand, he is drinking in the last chance salon. Those of us who believe that the best way to get a lasting peace is for all sides to agree to the same deal at the same time are running out of time because if you continue to illegally occupy land which is Palestine land, if you continue to abuse Palestinian families and communities, you get to the stage where the international community will do exactly what the House of Lord recommended,” he warned.

Asked why Muslims should vote for the Lib Dems, the leaders insisted his party reflected the “values of tolerance of internationalism, of caring, of respect, of freedom, of religious freedom, of defending the culture liberties of being the party that’s gone out of its way and fought the corner of refugees fleeing from Syria, from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan and so on.”

The “dilemma with regard to Syrian refugees is to expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 people over the lifetime of the next parliament. We would also reinstate the Dubs initiative so the young people from the camps, unaccompanied minors in the camps in Europe principally, but not entirely from Syria.”

“Liberal Democrats have consistently taken risks, electoral risks to do what it morally right and we need this particular time as our country becomes meaner and more narrow and more extreme, we need Muslim communities to stand behind the one party that stands behind them.”

UK: No place for Islamophobia in British society, says Prime Minister May in exclusive interview

One Response to “EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dems standing behind the Muslim community, says Farron”

Sabir Rahman JonesMay 27, 2017

I agree that Liberal Democrats are much the best choice for Muslims. Don’t forget to vote on June 8!

Reply

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