Labour faces a sexism row after it defended the decision to segregate Muslim men and women at a party rally at an Islamic centre. Senior Labour party figures spoke at the event, even though men and women had to sit on opposite sides of the room.
UK Daily Mail Critics called the decision ‘sickening’ and claimed that the party was ‘selling values for votes’ in order to get Ed Miliband into Downing Street.
Among the Labour grandees at the event was Khalid Mahmood, who is standing to be MP for Perry Bar on Thursday. Mr Mahmood previously spoke out against the alleged Trojan Horse plot in 12 of Birmingham’s schools, including allegations of gender segregation, but was centre stage at Saturday’s event – where the sexes were indeed separated on opposite sides of the room.
One senior party figure has said the seating arrangements ensured that women from the city’s Muslim communities were able to take part – ensuring all were ‘treated equally and respectfully’.
Tory candidate Julian Smith said: ‘Labour are completely desperate. They are selling their values in exchange for a few votes.’ Former MP Louise Mensch tweeted: ‘Freedom of religion allows churches and others to segregate, a secular political event is not religious.’
Andrew Bridgen, the Tory candidate in North West Leicestershire, said: ‘On the one hand, Labour is preaching about feminism and equality for women, and on the other hand they are happy with a segregated audience.
‘It shows how desperate they have become at the fag end of this campaign that they will do anything for a few votes. This shows Labour talking out of both sides of its mouth – as usual.
Peter Walker tweeted: ‘This is a Labour Party political event. Yes, the women have had to sit apart from the men. It is disgraceful’.
And this comes right on the heels of Labour candidate for Prime Minister, Ed Miliband, promising, if elected, to make criticism of Islam a criminal offense punishable by a fine and/or jail time. Miliband said:
“We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” he said, adding: “We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country.”
The event, primarily for a Muslim audience, was organised by Birmingham Labour councillor Ansar Ali Khan,and had as the guest of honor, Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry – the former prime minister of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan – who once bragged he told people in the Pakistani community ‘who to vote for’.
Critics said it was hypocritical for Labour candidates to take part in a segregated political event even though they stand on a platform of equality for the sexes.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: ‘It was a political Labour Party meeting – men sat on the right hand side and women sat on the left hand side. ‘I believe that’s got no place in modern civilised Britain. I want to know from the Labour Party, how in the name of your party can you have allowed that to have happened?’
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, seen as a leadership rival to Ed Miliband, said that although he was uncomfortable with segregation by sex, it was important to respect the rules of religious organisations. But Labour has refused to condemn the organisers of the event for the gender segregation.