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Dangerous rhetoric’ about Labour Muslim MP slammed as ‘dog whistle’ racism

November 12, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse Apsana Begum addresses an audience in Brighton, UK on September 28, 2021 [Leon Neal/Getty Images]

An article published in Jewish News has been slammed for its “dog whistle” racism, “dangerous rhetoric surrounding Muslims” and peddling Islamophobic tropes following its representation of female Muslim Labour MPs.

The article, titled “Purge of the Corbynites” took aim at Coventry South MP Zara Sultana and Poplar Limehouse MP Apsana Begum, over their views including strong solidarity with Palestine and their position on the controversial Prevent programme which critics say disproportionately targets Muslims.

Alarmed by the article’s representation of the two women MPs from a monitory community, Labour Muslim Network (LMN) blasted the piece over its racist message. “The dangerous rhetoric surrounding Muslim public officials is one which has become normalised in British politics,” said the group in a series of tweets.

The Network argued that the piece had twisted valid concerns about Prevent, policing and foreign policy to paint a picture of Muslim politicians as “extreme & obsessive.” It pointed out that where other MPs might have “strongly held convictions” informed by their “personal experiences”, Muslims don’t get that luxury.

The underlying racist undertone, argued Muslim Labour Network, is that certain Muslim concerns are “beyond the pale, misaligned to the general population (as if Muslims are a fifth column) and something to be afraid of.”

This, it argued, is “textbook ‘othering’” and “dog whistle” “Islamophobia”.

Two days following the article’s publication, Sultana shared an example of the barrage of racist attacks she faces from the public. “You are not British” was the message of an email she shared on Twitter.

LMN also took aim at Labour sources that used their anonymity to talk about Muslim MPs in a derisive manner and pointed to the recent by-election in Batley and Spen where a Labour candidate won by only 323 votes in what was meant to be a safe seat for Labour. “Unprecedented discontent” amongst Muslims with Labour is said to have been the reason why the party had won only by a whisker.

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Labour sources negatively commenting on their colleagues were accused of “delegitimise[ing] Muslim politicians” while seemingly facing “no accountability for this kind of hounding”.

“If the Labour Party can’t distance itself from Islamophobia during Islamophobia Awareness Month, when can it?” said LMN, slamming Labour for fuelling anti-Muslim rhetoric.