Wakefield councillor Nadeem Ahmed speaks candidly about racism and scale of Islamophobia in politics

Wakefield's most senior Conservative has suggested he's re-evaluated his view of alleged Islamophobia within the party.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 10:50 am
Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed.
Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed.

Councillor Nadeem Ahmed said in May last year he felt there was no need for an internal inquiry about the matter, which the Muslim Council of Britain and former Tory minister Sayeeda Warsi had called for.

But Coun Ahmed, who was interviewed by the BBC about the issue of racism in politics on Thursday, said that Dewsbury-born Baroness Warsi had contacted him following his comments last year.

And he says that having spoken to victims of Islamophobia, and seen racist comments online, he has become "more aware" of the problem.

Baroness Warsi called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory party last year.

"Sayeeda Warsi called me, and told me that my experience in Wakefield was a very small one," Coun Ahmed told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"She showed me some articles and I spoke to some people living in Wakefield elsewhere, and I have to be honest, it shocked me.

"A lot of this stuff I just wasn't aware of.

"The reality is if you talk to people on the streets of Eastmoor, they perceive political parties to be closet racists. That has to change."

Coun Ahmed said he believed part of the issue was that, although he is a practising Muslim, "if you hung around with me for a day, you probably wouldn't know that I was".

And he said he would be challenging Wakefield Council over the coming weeks to show that they are representative of the community they're serving, in every respect.

He added: "My experience was different to, for example, a woman who wears a hijab, because visually people can she's a Muslim.

"I do pray, but I pray at home, and although I fast, I've got a thyroid problem which limits that. Therefore, you might not know that I'm a Muslim.

Coun Ahmed, a deputy head teacher, added that in his work with the Holocaust Educational Trust he'd also seen anti-Semitism.

A motion he put forward at a full council meeting last month about the importance of Holocaust education in schools was backed by councillors from all parties.

He added: "The online world's become a shield for people to say what they wouldn't say face-to-face.

"It's something that I'm going to be challenging now, because if I don't, who will."

Local Democracy Reporting Service