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Muslim MP “racially profiled” by police twice on same day at Westminster

29th Apr 2022
Muslim MP “racially profiled” by police twice on same day at Westminster

 Anum Qaisar, Scottish National Party MP for Airdrie and Shotts (Credit: UK Parliament)

Hamed Chapman

Scotland’s only Muslim and non-white MP says that she felt “so alienated” after being stopped by police officers on Westminster’s Parliamentary estate twice in one day while wearing a traditional Pakistani dress.

“When I’m wearing ‘western’ — in inverted commas — clothes, I don’t get stopped,” said Anum Qaisar, who has been a Member of Parliament for Airdrie and Shotts since retaining the seat for the SNP in a by-election in May last year.

“But on this one day, whilst I [was wearing] a shalwar kameez, twice in one day by two different sets of Metropolitan Police, I was stopped and asked to show my ID,” Qaisar, a former teacher, told a special series of the New Statesman’s Westminster Reimagined podcast in which how politics could be improved in discussions with the satirist Armando Iannucci.

“I’m very strong, I would like to think. I’ve dealt with a number of different racial abuse cases throughout my life. But at that point, I just felt so alienated because I do look a little bit different to most MPs out there,” the 29-year-old MP revealed.

“And that in itself is alienating. But to be stopped by the police twice, in one day, and asked to show my ID just further perpetuates that stereotype of, ‘I don’t look like a politician and I don’t belong there’,” she said.

She was understood to have been walking, as she did every day, between the Central Lobby and the Chamber inside Parliament, when she felt she was being racially profiled for wearing an obviously different kind of stereotyped outfit than the accepted norms.

Discussions focussed on the so-called “old boys’ club” culture within Westminster, and whether it could and should change when the SNP’s second female Muslim MP felt a duty to call the incident out.

“I am a young woman of colour. In fact, from Scotland, I’m the only MP of colour. And, you know, I am there to represent my constituents, of Airdree and Shotts but I do feel this slight pressure that I’m there, also, to represent the different demographics that look or talk like me.”

She went as far as telling the BBC’s Scotland on Sunday that she felt she had “impostor syndrome” a lot of the time. “Despite the fact that I won selection, in fact, I was elected, but because I am a young woman of colour, I feel like I have to very often prove my worth.”

There was no less than a record of 10 Muslim women and 8 Muslim men elected at the general election in December 2019. These included Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, the first to wear a hijab in the Parliamentary chamber.

In 2015, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh became Scotland’s first Muslim female MP when she was elected also for the SNP for Ochil and South Perthshire constituency but she lost her seat in the 2017 general election.

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