#UnseatChuka

On Saturday 16 March 2019, I spoke at the #UnseatChuka event on Streatham Common along with the iconic Diane Abbott MP and Owen Jones calling for a by-election in Streatham after Chuka Umunna MP left to form the Independent Group. Later, I joined activists to knock on the doors of local residents collecting signatures for a petition to have a by-election in Streatham to elect a Labour MP. Below is the speech I delivered.

Comrades, I bring you greetings from Haringey Labour Party where we have the first Corbyn Council in the country and I am a proud member of that administration.

We achieved something quite amazing with our grassroots Labour Party members in Haringey.

We took on the Haringey Development Vehicle – the biggest privatisation of council homes – and defeated it.

We stood up to demolition of people’s homes, social cleansing and gentrification.

Instead, we articulated a radical vision for Haringey. We said we will build council homes on council land and protect existing communities against demolition, destruction and displacement. We have recently announced a £1billion investment in building council homes. That is the radical vision in Labour’s 2017 manifesto – to build one million council homes.

Comrades, why am I telling you this? Because my experience in Haringey has a direct relevance to Streatham where the Cressingham Gardens – a beautiful estate with 306 council homes is facing demolition. It is something that Chuka Umunna enthusiastically supported.

Now that Chuka has left the Labour Party in which he had never felt comfortable and got elected on the backs of grassroots Labour members, we have an opportunity to change the discourse. And we must seize this opportunity.

Last time, I gave a speech at your democracy roadshow in August, I met Helen Carr, a resident on Cressingham Gardens who has been campaigning against the demolition of her home and destruction of her community.

Like we did in Haringey, Streatham Labour Party members need to take on this fight to support Helen and the other residents on Cressingham Gardens.

And the fight needs to be part of a radical shift in our political direction.

We need to own our 2017 election manifesto – a radical vision for Britain which attracted an extra 3.5 million voters, the biggest increase in vote share since 1945.

We need to go to the people of Streatham and talk to them about ending auterity, renationalisation of our railways and utilities, free tuition fees and a foreign policy based on diplomany and dialogue.

As opposed to austerity supporting, war mongering and privatisation agenda of Chuka Umunna’s Independent Group.

I will end by saying this to Chuka Umunna:

You got elected on the backs of handworking grassroots Labour members, but they deserve to have a Labour MP. Since 1992, Streatham has always had a Labour MP.

And you are always banging on about a second referendum. Well, people of Streatham deserve to have a referendum on your manifesto.

I read the ideas in Chuka’s Manifesto. Amongst a whole swathe of discredited neoliberal policies, he advocates a national service. Let’s have a national service for Chuka Umunna, for Mike Gapes, for Gavin Shuker, for Angela “Funny Tinge” Smith and the rest of the Incoherent Group, and the Irrelevant Group. Thank you.”

Vigil for Christchurch victims of terrorist attack

On Friday 15 March 2019, the world woke up to the news of terrorist attack by a white supremacist on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. 49 people were brutally murdered with the death toll later rising to 50. This was the biggest terrorist attack on Muslims in the West. Rampant Islamophobic rhetoric by politicians such as Donald Trump and the demonisation of Muslims in the media have contributed to such an attack on ordinary Muslims offering their Friday prayer.

Shock and grief has been felt by Muslims across the world especially in the West. I was touched by words of solidarity from my non-Muslim friends and colleagues. Along with activists from Haringey Stand Up to Racism, I organised a vigil outside Wightman Road Mosque at 6.15pm. Despite such short notice, the vigil was well attended by hundreds of people from Haringey’s diverse community.

The leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Joe Ejiofor underlined that Haringey is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith borough and that its people will never be divided. The Borough Commander, Helen Millichap reassured the local Muslim community that the police were doing everything to provide safety and security. Faith leaders from Grace Baptist Church, Muswell Hill Synagogue, Masjid Ayesha Tottenham and Wightman Road Mosque also spoke in a show of solidarity and unity. Messages from local MPs were read out.

I am proud to be a resident and a Councillor of Haringey, which has shown once again that it is a truly cosmopolitan borough that respects and values its diversity.

Haringey councillors oppose racism and fascism

“We are proud of Haringey as an ethnically mixed borough with a proud history of anti-racism. We want it to stay that way.

Yet racism, fascism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise across the world, inspired by the election of President Trump. From Bolsonaro in Brazil and Le Pen in France to government ministers in Hungary, Austria and Italy – racists and fascists are moving off the political margins to centre stage.

In Britain, a new far-right street movement is attempting to take advantage of the political crisis by scapegoating migrants, refugees, the Muslim and Jewish communities. A wave of Islamophobic hate crime is continuing to grow, with Muslim women at the sharp end. There has been a resurgence of antisemitism. Even in Haringey, we have seen examples of hate crime and racist graffiti.

The Windrush scandal has shown the inhumanity of the government’s ‘hostile environment’. Detention and deportations are blighting the lives of people who are part of the fabric of our society, and thousands of refugees remain stranded in northern France. Some Haringey Labour Councillors have been on refugee solidarity trips to Calais.

Our EU residents and colleagues have become pawns in the Brexit negotiations.

The threat is real and growing but together we can turn the tide, as we have done before. In Haringey, we have a long tradition of welcoming migrants and of challenging racism. We gain strength from our diversity.
On UN anti-racism day on 16 March, there will be marches and demonstrations in cities around the world, including London. We urge residents and workers across Haringey to join the national demonstration against racism and fascism, called by Stand Up To Racism and supported by the Trade Union Congress.

Assemble: 16 March, 12 noon at Park Lane, London W1 – nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner.
Haringey meeting points: 11.15am at both Seven Sisters and Turnpike Lane tube stations.

Celebrate our diversity. Say no to racism and fascism.”

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor
Cllr Emine Ibrahim
Cllr Seema Chandwani
Cllr Khaled Moyeed
Cllr Kirsten Hearn
Cllr Mike Hakata
Cllr James Chiriyankandath
Cllr Sheila Peacock
Cllr Barbara Blake
Cllr Yvonne Say
Cllr Eldridge Culverwell
Cllr Daniel Stone
Cllr Makbule Gunes
Cllr Zena Brabazon
Cllr Peter Mitchell
Cllr Mahir Demir
Cllr Ruth Gordon
Cllr Sarah James
Cllr Mark Blake
Cllr Anne Stennett

Haringey Stand Up to Racism mobilises for the UN anti-racism march

Haringey SUTR Event

On Tuesday 5 March 2019, there was a meeting at the Sandbunker Community Centre on the Sandlings Estate in Noel Park to mobilise for the UN anti-racism day march on 16 March 2019. The meeting was chaired by Lotte Collett, vice chair of Noel Park Branch Labour Party. There will be two meeting points for Haringey Labour Party members to join the march on 16 March 2019: outside Turnpike Lane station at 11.15am and outside Seven Sisters station at 11.15am. Given the rise in racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments, it is important that Labour Party members mobilise and make the march a major success.

Below is my speech at the meeting.

Good evening!

Last week, Donald Trump’s ex lawyer, Michael Cohen confirmed what we have always known. That is, the world’s number one racist currently occupies the White House. And he has emboldened Britain’s number one racist, Tommy Robinson and his neo Nazi supporters.  

 In Haringey, we have a proud tradition of standing up to fascists. 42 years ago at the Battle of Wood Green, Haringey Councillors including a certain Jeremy Corbyn and the wider community came together and resisted the National Front who had threatened to march in our area. I am proud to be sharing a platform this evening with one of the organisers of that resistance, Paul Holborrow.

The people of Haringey said to the fascists, “these are our streets and you do not belong here”. Up and down the country, that is how communities organised and defeated the National Front. 

Not just just the National Front, we defeated their successors, the BNP. It’s extraordinary to think that only in 2006, Barking and Dagenham had elected 12 BNP Councillor. 12 years later in 2018, not only did the community in Barking and Dagenham get rid of the BNP, they elected 12 Muslim Councillors in the local elections. That is what the racists do not like! They also hate that Londoners elected a Muslim Mayor of London. 

Sadly, it’s not just the fascists that give out vile, islamophobic abuse to Sadiq Khan almost on a daily basis. At the last mayoral election in 2016, Zac Goldsmith and the Conservative Party ran the most hateful, racist election campaign in living memory against Sadiq Khan. Islamophobia is rampant in the Conservative Party. Today, the Tories suspended 14 of their members for Islamophobic messages online.

I back Muslim Council of Britain’s call for an enquiry into islamophobia in the Conservative Party. I say this to the Conservative Party, when you turn a blind eye to islamophobia and make it mainstream, the fascists take it as carte blanche to murder Muslims on our streets. 

 In 2017, a fascist killed Makram Ali, an elderly man outside Finsbury Park Mosque. And a few years ago, fascists killed Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham. Never again do we want to see the killing of Muslims on our streets. Never again do we want to see the fascists marching on our streets and giving Nazi salutes. 

Of course, “never again” is what Europe said after the second world war following the genocide of six million European Jews.  

But, we had the genocide of European Muslims in Bosnia in our lifetime. It is 23 years since the massacre in Srebrenica when more than 8 thousand Muslim men and boys were massacred.

I am afraid with the rise of far right groups and racists across Europe, we might see another genocide. We see the demonisation of migrants and refugees every day in Europe. 

Theresa May masterminded the hostile environment policy against immigrants. And Sajid Javid is implementing Enoch Powell’s Ministry of Repatriation by stripping citizenship off British citizens and deporting them.

Donald Trump sitting in the White House has emboldened and inspired racists all across Europe and the Western world. If we want to avert another genocide on European soil, we must stay united and organise because there are more of us than them. I invite you all to join in the march on 16 March.

Murder on Vincent Road, Noel Park

Vincent Road Picture with Catherine West MPOn Saturday 2 March 2019, I joined Catherine West MP, Cllr Peray Ahmet, Cllr Mark Blake, cabinet member for communities, safety and engagement and local police officers to speak to residents on Vincent Road and Vincent Square following the gang related murder on Vincent Road on 22 February 2019.

Below is the text of the letter that we gave out to residents of Vincent Road and Vincent Square.

Dear Resident,

On Friday 22 February 2019, a young man was stabbed to death on Vincent Road due to gang related violence. We were shocked by this latest incident and remain concerned about the violent crime taking place in and around Wood Green.

Gang activity should not be normal on our streets – we wanted to let you know that it is not right that residents feel afraid in their own community.

We have been in regular contact with your local police and continue to receive regular updates about the investigation.

 If you have any concerns, please contact the local police on 101. We believe that youth crime and gang violence has been made worse by cuts to our police. Since 2010, the Conservative Government has taken 20,000 police officers off our street. This makes us all less safe.

To tackle violent crime, we must also address the root causes. Your Haringey Labour Council will be spending an extra £250,000 on youth services to give young people opportunities so they do not become involved in gangs and crime. Please get in touch with us if you have any further concerns.

Progressive measures in Haringey Council’s Budget 2019/20

On Monday 25 February 2019, there was a Full Council Meeting in which the budget for 2019/20 was approved. Despite the deep austerity cuts, I am pleased that we agreed a budget with many progressive measures such as an extension of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme so that the poorest in our society do not pay any council tax at all. I spoke during the budget making session. Below is my speech.

Madam Mayor, I am pleased to support the first budget of this Labour administration.

 Haringey has seen its funding cut by over 60% in real terms since 2010 as the Conservatives and the Lib Dems – the Con Dem alliance – condemned us to years of austerity by wielding the axe on local government funding.

This evening, I want to talk about some of the progressive measures we are taking in this budget.

I am really pleased that we are announcing a pilot scheme to provide free school meals to primary school children.

When I first got elected as a Cllr for Noel Park, I received a number of post cards from children at Noel Park Primary School. On the post cards, they drew beautiful little pictures of different types of food that they would like to feed their friends, those from families with no recourse to public funds. As you know, children from families with no recourse to public funds are not entitled to free school meals. So, the children from Noel Park Primary School were appealing to me and my Cllr colleagues to provide free school meals to all their friends. This was probably the first time that these young citizens were lobbying politicians.

And I am really pleased to say that I can go back to those children and tell them that we are putting in place steps through our pilot scheme to provide free school meals to all children including those from families with no recourse to public funds.This demonstrates this Council’s commitment to achieving a fairer Haringey.

The second measure that I am particularly pleased about is the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which will help 6,000 of the poorest families in Haringey of those 3,000 families will have to pay no council tax whatsoever.

This will be welcome by constituents in my ward, Noel Park at a time when the very poorest in our society are feeling the pinch with deep benefit cuts, introduction of universal credit and rising levels of child poverty and in-work poverty.This measure will also go some way to make Haringey a fairer place for all our residents.

I am delighted that we are investing in our youth services, building new council houses and putting in place measures to support the poorest and the most disadvantaged in our borough.

“If the climate was a bank, it would have been saved by now”

“We only have one planet. When it’s gone, it’s gone”

“Drown our voices = Drown our futures”

“If climate was a bank, it would have been saved by now”

“Save our planet”

“We missed our lessons, so we could teach you one.”

These were some of the inspiring messages on home made plackards carried by school children in Parliament square as they went on a strike over our government’s lack of action on climate change on Friday 15 February.

This reminded of my campaigning activities as a British Council’s international climate champion 10 years ago. I was part of an international network of climate activists working on projects to raise awareness of and tackle climate change. I went to an international climate change camp in the Nilgiri mountains in Tamil Nadu, India where I studied the impact of climate change manifested through landslides and deforestation.

I also spoke at UK’s first climate hearing organised by Oxfam at City Hall. I talked about my experience of cyclone Gorky which hit Bangladesh in 1991 killing almost 140,000 people and rendering 10 million people homeless. Severe weather patterns such as cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis have become more common in recent years because of climate change.

Theresa May began her term in office by scrapping the Department for Energy and Climate Change which had been set up by the last Labour Government. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement which had been agreed by every other nation in 2015.

Actions of our governments in the UK and US are putting our planet at risk. School children have much to be angry as it is their future that is at risk from our governments’ inaction. I call on the UK Government to wake up and listen to these kids’ voices. As they said in one of their plackards: “Drown out our voices = Drown out our future”.

Winning Labour’s NCC election with 327,292 votes

I am absolutely privileged to have been elected onto Labour’s National Constitutional Committee. I topped the poll with 327,292 votes and my fellow candidates on the Left slate all got elected too. This is a proud moment for me to be elected by Party members and to win in such style is very pleasing too.

I ran on a manifesto to democratise the NCC and make it fit for our mass membership. Far too many members had hitherto been suspended when a lesser sanction might have been more appropriate. I shall apply principles of natural justice and due process to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly.

As a Bangldeshi Muslim who grew up in a council house, this is a particularly noteworthy achievement, because internal party structures have not always reflected the diversity of our wide membership. I hope to set a good example for other ethnic minority members to come through the ranks and make a contribution to our Party.

Islamophobia Awareness Event: 18 November 2018

November is Islamophobia Awareness Month (#IAM2018). I organised an Islamophobia awareness event at my local mosque, which had been the subject of four separate Islamophobic incidents in the past 18 months. A number of distinguished speakers shed light on this important topic.

Maz Saleem spoke about the impact of islamophobia on a Muslim family – her father was brutally murdered as he was walking home from the mosque

Mohammed Kozbar, the chair of Finsbury Park Mosque shared his experience of how the community responded to the islamophobic attack following the murder of Makram Ali outside Finsbury Park Mosque last year.

Ibrahim Khan, a solicitor at an international law firm and a superviser at Islamophobia Response Unit explained the gap in current legislation on incitement to religious hatred and how Islamophobic cases are dealt with at Islamophobia Response Unit.

Neil Jameson, founder of Citizens UK gave an insight into the intra-community work that is happening to challenge Islamophobia.

There was a presentation on Islamophobia from MEND which they recently gave at Google.

Rise up against Racism: 3 November 2018

 

Haringey Labour Party comrades organised ‘Rise Up Against Racism’, a festival for anti racist campaigners to meet, discuss and debate the sharp rise in racism and far right groups in the West. I was part of a panel of speakers invited to discuss Islamophobia.

I met co-panellist, Maz Saleem at this event whose father, Mohammed Saleem was brutally murdered in Birmingham five years ago. Makram Ali, another elderly Muslim man was murdered last year outside Finsbury Park Mosque. Islamophobia is a lived experience. The demonisation of Muslims by the media and targeting the community through government schemes such as Prevent means that Islamophobia has become mainstream.

Challenging Islamophobia wherever we see is not just a task of Muslims, decent people with progressive values must also speak up against it. Unfortunately, the demonisation of Muslims will not abate under this morally bankrupt Tory government led by Theresa May who is the architect of the hostile environment. Fighting for a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn will ensure that Islamophobia is taken seriously and government policy is introduced to stamp it out for good.