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‘We are British citizens and we are Muslims, and we are here to stay’

Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood talked Islam’s achievements and contributions to the world, as Parliament discussed how to fight Islamophobia.

Mr Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr), the first Muslim ever to represent an English constituency, called on politicians to present a “positive” image of Islam, adding: “We are British citizens and we are Muslims, and we are here to stay.”

He took part in a debate where some other MPs highlighted examples of discrimination they have suffered. There was also disagreement between Labour and Conservative MPs, with some Labour politicians accusing Tories of having “an institutional problem” with Islamophobia.

Mr Mahmood said: “A huge number of people, identities, cultures and heritages celebrate their day, week, month or whatever – in particular, the black community celebrates Black History Month – which is about the achievements they have made in communities and society.

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“I want Islam to be recognised as a positive religion. I want us to look at the holy Prophet, peace be upon him, whose message had a profound effect and changed the entire Arabian society from warring tribes into people in the worship of God. He preached moderation and social reform. He advocated social reform on many levels, including gender and racial equality, religious freedom and education for all. His efforts to this day have allowed Islam to prosper.

“A huge number of people were the best medical advisers. For many years, Europe used the scriptures from Islamic scholars to base modern medicine on, so there was a huge advantage in what has gone on in terms of what Islam does.

“In my local community, we have fantastic mosques that have provided food banks and events to support the local community. Also in my constituency, a very good friend of mine, Raja Khan, has delivered more than 250 tonnes of food to communities. This is about promoting positive Islam.

“If we are to get away from people who are anti-Muslim, we must show them what is positive about us and the positive things that we do. That is really what this debate should be about. We are not here to promote negative issues or go into victimisation mode. We need to be positive. We are no lesser than anybody else. We are British citizens and we are Muslims, and we are here to stay.”

Speaking in the same debate Labour MP Afzal Khan attacked what he described as “the Conservative Party’s Islamophobia crisis”, and said “what concerns me is that the Tory Party has an institutional problem and frankly does not care about Islamophobia”.

He said the Government refuses to accept the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia, and criticised “the Prime Minister’s shocking comment about Muslim women and letterboxes”.

Mr Khan said the Singh review revealed “institutional failings within the Conservative Party in how it handled Islamophobia complaints”, adding “once again it did not even acknowledge or mention the term Islamophobia”.

He said: “The theme of this year’s Islamophobia Awareness Month is time for change. And it is time for change. It is time this Government changed its approach towards Islamophobia and tackles it head on.”

Conservative MP James Daly said he was “disappointed” the debate had turned into “the normal political attack”.

He referred to the Labour Party’s record on antisemitism, saying: “The sanctimony of an organisation that was investigated by the Human Rights Commission for prejudice and antisemitism, investigated, to lecture this party regarding prejudice is something.”

Mr Daly mentioned two people who work for him, one he said was his “best friend”, saying: “Those two people who have given years of service to my area and to the community in my area. And to be tarred with what has just been said. To actually suggest, that I do not, which the member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) knows is not correct, I fight every day in my constituency to ensure that my Muslim constituents have the best possible representation.”

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