Shabina Asad Qayyum

Suspension from Labour led me on a path of self-reflection

Shabina Asad Qayyum with Labour MP John Ashworth
Shabina Asad Qayyum with Labour MP John Ashworth

I am a Labour Party councillor reinstated to the party in September following allegations of antisemitism against me. I want to reach out to Jewish News readers to share my story and give an insight into who I am.

I am relieved to have been reinstated into the party that I love and have devoted much of my adult life to. The process has led me onto a path of self-learning and reflection. I have reflected on the events of the past few months and I feel it is only right to offer a transparent and open account about matters to the communities I am privileged to represent. Being a Labour councillor is a trusted position that involves a significant level of responsibility. I don’t ever wish to compromise that element of trust, and so I feel compelled to write this blog as a result of the hurt and anger that may remain towards me, that I wish to address.

For many years I have liked all the comments made underneath my Facebook posts, largely out of impulse. As a result, this has involved me liking comments underneath posts of mine in recent years that may have been seen to be antisemitic and caused offence to others. One Facebook post I liked referred to people ‘playing the antisemitism card’ and claiming it was all a ‘slur’ against the Labour Party.

I apologise profusely for any hurt or upset that my actions have caused. It is absolutely my responsibility to give greater care to my actions on social media. I have deleted all content that was seen to cause hurt and will endeavour to always do so.

I grew up in central London and later married and lived in Hampstead. I gave birth to my son at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and remember a Jewish mother I befriended in the bed opposite me. We shared experiences of pregnancy and cuddled our babies together as they were born on the same day. We remain friends 14 years later and I’m proud to have so many I hold close from all faiths, not least from the Jewish community.  I don’t have an ounce of anger within me towards anyone.

Last year’s EHRC’s report’s findings exposed a culture whereby antisemitism wasn’t treated with the same levels of seriousness, in our party, as other forms of racism. This was a harrowing finding. I am somewhat comforted that Jewish MPs previously driven out of our party, such as Louise Ellman, now feel able to return to their political home. However, I appreciate that there is much more to be done to root out antisemitism entirely from our party’s ranks and I wish to play my full part in that.

I recently attended my Regional Labour Party Conference and was privileged to attend the antisemitism training, hosted by Rebecca Filer, Mike Katz and members of the JLM. I found it to be a very informative and thought-provoking experience. It has reaffirmed my resolve to be the strongest possible advocate for our Jewish communities that I can be.

I am part of and have done work with Nisa-Nashim; the Jewish Muslim sisterhood organisation, and want to build on fostering relations between our two great faiths. As someone who has a proud heritage of ancestors who fought in the British Army during the world wars and whose grandfather escaped a concentration camp in Germany, and literally walked back to his homeland over two years, I have some knowledge of the pain and distress that the Jewish community has suffered historically. Everyone has a duty to stamp out antisemitism, wherever it rears it ugly head.

As a BAME female working in the frontline of medicine as a GP and in Local Govt, I have experienced racism and prejudicial attitudes. I have always endeavoured to promote a more inclusive and tolerant kind of politics. I deplore antisemitism. I was proud to play a role in Peterborough City Council’s adoption of the IHRA. I now have greater understanding about how integral Israel is to so many people’s Jewish faith. I believe in peace in Israel as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

Over the coming weeks I will reach out to representatives in the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish Labour Movement to explore what more I can do as an elected representative in Peterborough to fight antisemitism and all forms of prejudice. I have already decided to complete the Yad Vashem online course that was spoken of at our training by the JLM and I hope to share my learning with others.

Thank you for reading about the journey I’ve gone on. I send sentiments of peace and kindness.

About the Author
Shabina Asad Qayyum is a Labour councillor in Peterborough
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