They should lose votes across the board for that. “MPs too scared to talk about forced marriage ‘in case they lose Muslim votes’,” by Martin Beckford for the Telegraph, September 2:
Ann Cryer said politicians in areas with high Muslim populations, many of which are Labour heartlands, should be at the forefront of the campaign to stop young couples being made to wed against their will by their families.
But she claimed that some politicians are afraid to speak out on the issue in case they alienate Muslim voters. The forced marriage unit at the Foreign Office deals with an estimated 300 cases every year, most of them involving teenage girls from Pakistani or Bangladeshi families.
Mrs Cryer, who is stepping down as MP for Keighley in West Yorkshire at the next general election, added that local Muslim leaders are not doing enough to encourage integration and accused them of trying to keep immigrants who move to Britain “in the backwoods”.
It comes just days after Gordon Brown praised her “brave” campaign against forced marriage, and said her understanding of her constituency was “second to none”.
Mrs Cryer, 68, said: “There still is a nervousness to talk about this, especially those MPs in constituencies affected by these issues.
“They should be fighting on the front line, but they are the ones keeping quiet on the issue because they don’t want to lose votes.
“Some of the Muslim leaders in my area are doing their communities a disservice and trying to keep them in the backwoods. They don’t seem to have any understanding about the importance of having integration and cohesion, or to promote women to leadership roles in the community.”
Mrs Cryer has been at the forefront of efforts to ban forced marriages and honour killings. A law that she backed, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, which will come into effect this month, will help by giving women the right to apply for an injunction in court and prevent a ceremony going ahead. Her campaigning has also led to the Government raising the minimum age for a marriage visa from 18 to 21.
When Mrs Cryer announced her retirement last week, the Prime Minister said: “She knows every inch of her constituency and her understanding of its communities is second to none.
“After encountering a number of forced marriages among her constituents, she mounted a brave campaign to highlight the sometimes appalling mistreatment of women forced to be brides.”
However Mrs Cryer’s claims have been dismissed by Khalid Mahmood, the Muslim Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr.
He claimed that MPs would not be so easily swayed by the perceived opinions of their constituents, and pointed out that many politicians supported the war in Iraq despite opposition from Muslim voters.
Mr Mahmood said: “In terms of being scared, I think that’s complete nonsense. Most MPs will speak their minds because that’s what they’re there for and most of them are strong enough characters.
“People do things because they believe in them, not because of this cynical reason. If that was the case, MPs would have stood up against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.”
Anyway, it’s really not a problem, except when it is, which is isn’t… really:
He added: “I’ve been adamantly against forced marriage and people have supported me in that. We’ve also got a rigid system with the embassy in Islamabad now and although it is an issue, it’s not an epidemic as Ann sometimes makes it out to be.”