'I stand in full solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community': Mayoral candidate hits back after homophobia claims
Salma Yaqoob has hit back over claims that she has a dubious record on LGBT rights, claiming: "I stand in full solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community."
The former Respect Party leader is one of three candidates shortlisted in the race to be Labour's candidate for next year's mayoral elections in the West Midlands.
But Labour moderates in Parliament and LGBT+ activists have called for the party to remove her from the shortlist, which was compiled by a panel including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.
A series of allegations have been made against Ms Yaqoob, questioning her record on LGBT+ rights and opposing her selection on the grounds that she has repeatedly stood against Labour in the past.
It comes amid reports that Labour MP Naz Shah is set to launch legal action against the Labour Party over Ms Yaqoob's selection.
Ms Shah has alleged that Ms Yaqoob ran a "despicable" campaign against her in the 2017 general election, claiming she gave a platform for her to be "hijab-shamed", leading her to contemplate suicide.
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It is believed that Ms Shah raised the issues with Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting last week and was expected to launch a legal challenge today.
The MP claims Ms Yaqoob only joined the party four months ago, meaning Labour broke its own rules stating candidates have to be members for two years before being selected to run for office.
Meanwhile Ms Yaqoob has issued a statement responding to allegations made against her by three Labour groups: the LGBT Group in Parliament, the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, and LGBT+ Labour West Midlands.
She said the allegations were "either false or seriously misleading", adding: "I want to be clear that I stand in full solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and I am absolutely committed to confronting all forms of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our society."
Here's a breakdown of Ms Yaqoob's responses:
– Claim: She is against LGBTQ+ inclusive education in schools.
Response: "This is completely untrue. I 100 per cent support LGBTQ+ inclusive education in schools and condemn anybody who wants to exclude LGBTQ+ issues from the syllabus.
"As the transcript of the clip makes clear, I stressed that protected characteristics, which includes LGBTQ+ rights, must be taught in schools and that this is non-negotiable.
"I also said that Muslims should be anti-discrimination. Islamophobia and homophobia are part of the same hateful effort to divide communities and pit working class people against each other."
– Claim: She served as a spokeswoman for Dr Mohammad Naseem, who called for the death penalty for members of the LGBT+ community.
Response: "I have never served as the late Dr Mohammed Naseem’s spokesperson or been employed by him in any capacity.
"I am not aware of him proposing a policy of death penalty for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and he certainly did not do so in my presence, which I would have completely condemned."
– Claim: She employed Adam Yosef as a press officer, after he called for violence against LGBT+ activists.
Response: "I have not employed Adam Yosef, who has volunteered on campaigns I have been involved in.
"Adam is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and is an active campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights, who was pivotal in promoting Muslim groups’ involvement in Birmingham Pride."
– Claim: She shared a stage with Yasir Qadhi, who said "killing homosexuals and stoning adulterers" is part of Islam.
Response: "Throughout my political activism I have been invited to appear on platforms with different people, many of whom I strongly disagree with, including Katie Hopkins and Iain Duncan Smith, and sought to win the arguments against them."
"I was not aware of offensive comments made by Yasir Qadhi and I utterly condemn in the strongest terms any despicable calls to harm or kill people for being LGBTQ+."
– Claim: She referred to being LGBT as a lifestyle choice on national television.
Response: "In an interview I referred to religious communities and used the word ‘lifestyles’ to refer to this, as clearly faith is a choice.
"I was not referring to being LGBTQ+ as this is absolutely not a choice and I would never describe it as such."
– Claim: She demanded that LGBTQ+ rights be dropped from a Respect Party manifesto.
Response: "I did not ask for LGBTQ+ rights to be removed from the European manifesto I campaigned for. This is a completely baseless claim and there is no evidence to substantiate it.
"I have always acknowledged that homophobia exists within the Muslim community. I have been attacked by conservative religious groups for advocating support for, and opposing discrimination against, the LGBTQ+ community.
"It is also the case that some have wrongly tried to paint all Muslims as homophobes, and have suggested that I and other Muslims are responsible for the homophobic views of some Muslim individuals.
"We saw the Conservatives peddling such Islamophobic rhetoric against Sadiq Khan in 2016 and there are some who don't believe I should be in public life because I am Muslim.
"I'm proud to have the support of many LGBTQ+ Labour members, and if I'm elected as the West Midlands’ first woman of colour mayor I will work hard to represent and bring together all communities that face discrimination."
Labour members in the West Midlands are due to vote for a candidate to take on Tory incumbent Andy Street in the mayoral campaign. The others shortlisted are Dudley councillor Pete Lowe and Birmingham MP Liam Byrne.
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