A report on a discussion inspired by Ali Milani from the Labour Muslim Network with Hitchin & Harpenden Constituency Labour Party on Wednesday 13th January 2021.
On a cold, dark, damp, and rather dismal Wednesday evening in January – while Donald Trump’s impeachment was being debated in the United States – around 30 members of our CLP joined a Zoom to hear Ali Milani from the Labour Muslim Network give a talk on the recently published report into Islamophobia within the Labour Party. The meeting was expertly chaired, as always, by David Josephs while Ali gave a brief talk highlighting the key findings from the report before taking questions.
Ali began by reinforcing the lengths that were taken to ensure that the report was representative of the views of Muslim members of the Party. Data from the on-line survey/questionnaire was quality-checked with absolute rigour. All entries were subjected to a number of validity checks, including how long was taken to complete the survey (a lighting quick response probably meant that too little thought had gone into the answers), and the data was anonymized and balanced for age and gender.
A total of 626 responses were received. Filtering out duplicate entries, incomplete entries, and entries that were too rapid, left 422 valid responses, which is statistically valid. Indeed, given the steps taken, we can be supremely confident that the data accurately reflects the views of Muslim members.
So what did these 422 members think? Warning – it makes uncomfortable and distressing reading. Of those Muslim members:
- More than a quarter have experienced Islamophobia
- More than a third have witnessed Islamophobia
- More than half don’t think that the Party takes Islamophobia seriously
- More than half don’t trust the Party to take effective action to tackle Islamophobia
These statistics should make all of us question what we can do to solve this problem, and take appropriate action. ALL PREJUDICE IS PLAIN WRONG, whether it’s against those of a different religion, skin colour, nationality, sexual orientation, or anything else.
Ali went on to discuss some of the underlying reasons for these terrible statistics, including of course direct experience, but also institutional problems (such as the Complaints Procedure) and perception. And perception – being unquantifiable – is hard to change. But change we must!
Ali cited the example of an identical Facebook post by a Muslim member and a non Muslim member: the Muslim member was heavily censured, while the non Muslim member was not. Shameful.
We discussed what can be done, and as with many problems the solution begins with education – sessions like this, with CLPs up and down the country, are so valuable. In addition, initiatives including:
- Policy assessment
- Code of Conduct
- New Complaints Procedure
will all help. But it’s not a quick fix. Tragically, racism has always been amongst us, in all societies. As a Party we are still tackling anti-semitism. Ali made the very wise observation that ALL RACISM IS EQUALLY BAD, and that it would be helpful if all groups that are subjected to racism acted together in co-operation.
It won’t be easy. Ali mentioned the “thorniness” of Labour foreign policy, and societal factors including policing, educational attainment, and health differentials. But we must – and here in our constituency we WILL – try. We all need to COMMIT to take action.
The Q&A session was very interesting, and Ali gave eloquent and measured answers to a wide range of questions. One member was sufficiently impressed to encourage Ali to find a safe seat in the next election, an observation which leads nicely onto my last point. Ali had the dubious privilege of standing against Boris Johnson in the last General Election. During the post-count discussion of what to do with all the spoiled ballot papers, it transpires that someone had written something about the PM on his ballot paper that caused him (the PM that is) to get the giggles. While decorum prohibits me from revealing what it was, it’s fair to say that all members on the Zoom wholeheartedly agreed with the anonymous voter.
Our CLP thanks Ali for his time and energy, wishes him the very best in his future career and for his forthcoming book, and commits to doing everything we can to tackle the horror that is Islamophobia.
You can find Ali’s Twitter profile here: https://twitter.com/ARMilani_
You can find the full report here: https://www.labourmuslims.org
Report kindly submitted by Symon Vegro.