It is extremely troubling if doors are deliberately closed to Muslims at the top. Nusrat Ghani should be praised for her courage
Being an MP is a privilege and honour. I love all the tradition but change towards Parliament reflecting society can be glacially slow. In a building dating to the year 1090, it took until 1987 for ethnic minority MPs to be elected. The role almost inevitably invites abuse. It’s even worse if you’re a woman, a person of colour or Muslim. I happen to be all three.
I’ve experienced negativity online – yesterday someone on Twitter demanded to know how I could sit in a secular parliament where men and women make laws when I was follower of Sharia. Offline, my office has received hate mail – the worst being a suspicious package, the legacy of which means all my post is super-screened offsite before reaching me. All my Christmas cards, for example, had corners missing because they’d been snipped off and shaken to check for possible anthrax/noxious substances.
Parliament continually adapts. Additional female loos were necessitated by the “Blair’s Babes” landslide. Being more Muslim-friendly is evidenced in the fact that my office includes a multifaith prayer room. But then again, of the many thousands of folk who work in Parliament, you are most likely to encounter brown faces in its multiple canteens; they diminish the further up the foodchain you go. I’ve repeatedly been told “that’s for MPs only” or challenged by security for being in MP-only-areas.
For me, the Nusrat Ghani allegations were shocking but unsurprising. It is extremely troubling if doors are deliberately closed to Muslims at the top. To be denied promotion for “Muslimness” would be downright illegal given Labour’s 2010 Equalities Act outlawed religious discrimination.