“I feel that if it was a male Asian councillor then he would be treated as a hero. Because I am a woman I get the opposite treatment. ”
“Muslim councillor Hasina Khan: I will not let male bigots win,” by Marcus Leroux for the Times Online, July 3:
A female Muslim councillor has been subjected to a hate campaign by Muslim men in her ward, leaving her unable to visit some of the streets that she represents.
Hasina Khan, 38, the only Muslim councillor in Chorley, Lancashire, said that she had suffered a barrage of threatening phone calls, verbal abuse and insulting graffiti because the men objected her public role.
Mrs Khan, a mother of three, said: “I’ve had to totally change the way I go about my job. I used to do ward walks all the time, but now there are some streets I can’t even walk down.”
The hate campaign began when she put herself forward as a Labour candidate three years ago. “It is just a few members of the community who think I should be at home with a veil over my face, although if other people choose to do that, then I respect their choice,” she said.
However, I feel that if it was a male Asian councillor then he would be treated as a hero. Because I am a woman I get the opposite treatment. They can’t understand my mainstream views and those of “˜live and let live’ and how the British culture should be respected … It has been extremely hard for me and my family and if it wasn’t for my British constituents, I don’t think I would have been able to get through it.”
Terry Brown, the Mayor of Chorley, who represents the same ward as Mrs Khan, said: “Because she’s a female Asian woman their view is that she should be at home producing babies.
“It’s a shame. She’s a well-respected member of the community and … an exceptionally talented woman.”
Despite the campaign, Mr Brown insisted that there were no ethnic tensions in the area.
Mrs Khan, who blames the smear campaign on a small minority of Muslim men, said that she would not give into the threats. “This has gone on for too long and I will not sit back and let it happen any more … Nobody should have to go through this, especially an Asian Muslim woman, as Islam is very protective and fair with women. It isn’t just about me any more – it is about thousands of other women who are being held down by people who refuse to wake up to the reality that it is the 21st century.”
The problem is, the men sending the hateful messages also believe in Islam’s “protection” and “fairness” for women, and believe Khan is transgressing its limits.
Dukandar Idris, the imam of Chorley’s Dawat ul Islam mosque, said that Mrs Khan should have taken her grievances to the mosque’s elders, rather than speaking out. He also questioned some of her claims: “Which streets can’t she walk down?”
He said that, as imam, he could not forbid Muslim women from standing for election, but he would be entitled to forbid his wife. “Because this is Britain, you cannot tell anyone what to do. I can tell my wife, but cannot tell other women, “˜You cannot do this and that’,” he said.
There is little participation by Muslim women in local government. Of the 19,400 councillors in England in 2006, 75 were women of Asian origin and 20 were from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds. There are nearly six male Asian councillors for every female Asian councillor.
Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, urged Mrs Khan to go to the police. “It is unacceptable for anyone to be treated in this way. We want more Muslim men and women playing an active role in … politics.”