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Muslim MP forced to flee Labour conference following abuse regarding Palestine support

27th Oct 2023

Nadine Osman

Apsana Begum, the UK’s first hijab-wearing MP, has denounced those seeking to “capitalise on current events” to spread hatred after she was forced to flee the Labour Party conference on October 9 over “credible” safety concerns.

The torrent of Islamophobic abuse of Begum was sparked by misinformation spread by Conservative Party Chair Greg Hands, over her support for Palestine.

Greg Hands demanded Begum’s whip be withdrawn in a letter to his Labour counterpart, Anneliese Dodds. He wrongfully claimed that the MP for Labour and Limehouse had “tweeted her ‘solidarity’ with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).”

Begum had not tweeted anything; instead, the PSC thanked Begum via its own X account for her pre-arranged visit to the stand on October 7. Citing the controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism,

Hands claimed that the PSC is anti-Semitic and urged Labour not only to remove the pro-Palestine organisation from the conference but also to discipline Begum.

Hands’ letter has been shared on the social media platform X.

“You have said you will clean up your party, yet reports are that you will not take action to suspend the Labour Whip against Apsana Begum or remove the PSC from your conference,” Hands said in his letter pressuring Labour to take action.

“To have a Labour MP publicly associating with such an organisation raises questions about the Party’s commitment to maintaining ethical standards and responsible conduct within its ranks.”

The PSC stall was visited by several parliamentarians, including former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Alf Dubs, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and refugee rights advocate who was also pictured visiting the stall.

However, Hands’ letter, which singled out Begum, unleashed a torrent of misogynistic and Islamophobic abuse at Begum, which is currently being investigated by the police. Some of it describes Begum as a “bitch”, “female slave,” and “part of the caliphate” and demands she “take off her hijab and burn it to the ground.”

While several Labour MPs have expressed solidarity with Begum, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and members of his shadow cabinet have yet to voice any support for the beleaguered MP.

Following a week of relentless Islamophobic abuse, Begum released a statement on October 12, criticising those “trying to capitalise on current events by spreading hate and division, of which I’ve been a target myself.”

“I stand in solidarity with all those facing similar threats. We must always stand together against the rising torrent of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

Begum also voiced solidarity with “Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including large numbers of children, during this time of great human suffering and escalating violence.”

“I am appalled by Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians and the ongoing Israeli military assault on the civilian population in Gaza.”

Begum also broke away from her leader’s stance on Israel’s siege of Gaza, insisting the Israeli Defence Force was “targeting civilians, homes, and civilian infrastructure, and the policy of collective punishment or war crimes under international law.”

“I want to see lasting peace in the region. Based on human rights for the Israeli and Palestinian people, this must include an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, the illegal settlement building and forced evictions, and the ongoing siege and bombardment of civilians, as called for by the United Nations and human rights organisations around the world. I believe in human rights, equality, and dignity for all.”

This is not the first time the Labour MP has faced harassment; in June of last year, she was forced to take time off work owing to the pressure created by what she described as “misogynistic abuse and harassment” related to efforts to force her to seek reselection for her seat.

Photo: Apsana Begum MP was subjected to a torrent of Islamophobic abuse sparked by misinformation spread by Conservative Party Chair Greg Hands (Credit: David Woolfall/UK Parliament)


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