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Speech by Wes Streeting MP

Launch of Islamophobia Awareness Month

Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster

1st November 2017

 

Among the various roles I hold in Parliament, I am proud to co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Muslims, so I’d like to join my good friend Stephen Kinnock in welcoming you to Parliament this evening to mark the launch of Islamophobia Awareness Month.

I’ve chosen to attend this evening alongside parliamentary colleagues, the Metropolitan Police, the Football Association and all of you, because of the pernicious, and sadly increasing, levels of physical and verbal abuse experienced by Muslims in my constituency and across the country.

Across London, recorded Islamophobic hate crime has risen by nearly a quarter.

In my own borough, the London Borough of Redbridge, the Metropolitan Police record an even higher rise in hate crime against Muslims of over 30 per cent.

And we know that in the wake of terrorist attacks like those carried out in London and Manchester by people who pervert the Islamic faith for their own evil ends, the majority of law-abiding Muslims often fear a backlash – exemplified in the worst possible way by the appalling attack on worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque in June this year – the same month that the Met recorded the highest number of hate crime incidents against Muslims across London.     

Behind every hate crime statistic is a human being. Human beings like my constituent, Sophia Dar: on her way to work in the morning rush hour, walking along Oxford Street minding her own business, and set upon by a man trying to forcibly remove her headscarf asking “why are you wearing that?”

Listening to Sophia Dar speak in the aftermath of that attack I was struck by three things:

  • Firstly, the fact a mum of four on her way to work could be physically assaulted, in broad daylight, because she is a Muslim. And in this: one of the most open and diverse cities in the world.
  • Secondly, that as she stood there sobbing on one of the busiest shopping precincts in London, that no one stopped to help. Not to question why a woman was being manhandled in this way. Not even to ask someone stood crying in the middle of the street if she was OK.
  • And thirdly, her determination not to let her attacker win and to speak out because, in Sophia’s words: “if you let things go, people’s mindsets will not change”

Islamophobia Awareness Month isn’t simply a moment to raise awareness of rising hate crime against Muslims, it is an urgent call to action to ask ourselves - and each other – what we are prepared to do to stamp out anti-Muslim hatred in our communities.

I’m conscious of our responsibility as legislators to pass laws that guarantee the rights, freedoms and liberties to which all human beings are entitled; and of our responsibility to make sure that those laws are enforced, whether on the streets, in schools, in workplaces or in the courts.

But as I know from my work with Stonewall – one of the country’s leading LGBT rights organisations, in fact one of the country’s most successful agencies for social change full stop – changing the law isn’t enough. The battle for equality is a battle for hearts and minds.

That battle that must be joined by all those in positions of power and responsibility: employers, educators, police officers, judges and juries, companies and public services and, of course, newspaper editors.

But it’s not just those in positions of authority who possess agency. All of us have a responsibility to act: to choose to use the agency that each of us has to bring about a just society.

Look at the example of Mohammed Mahmoud, the Imam of Finsbury Park mosque, who even a moment of terror and chaos leapt to defend a man who might have killed him, because in that split second he saw the possibility that the heat of anger might have seen another human life lost and preventing his attacker from being brought to justice. He refused to be a bystander.

Or take Julie Simpson, my constituent who saw what happened on television and made the long journey from Ilford to Finsbury Park in her mobility scooter to show solidarity with the Imam and his congregation and to make it clear that the man who sought to harm Muslims did not speak for her. She refused to be a bystander.

But let’s also remember all those passers-by on Oxford Street on the morning that Sophia Dar was attacked, who didn’t stop to intervene, or to offer help or comfort. They were bystanders to hatred.

You see, it isn’t just the perpetrators of hate crime we should worry about - it’s also the bystanders.

And that’s why I can’t attend this evening’s event without saying something about the controversy surrounding it.

Like Stephen, I chose to attend in the face of fierce criticism and, to be as equally blunt as Stephen, if I had chosen not to attend I might have enjoyed a more quiet life in recent days.

Some of the criticism that Mend has received from certain quarters has been both unsurprising and unfair. That Mend encourages participation in politics is a good thing, particularly when hate preachers waste so much oxygen telling Muslims that voting is un-Islamic. The criticism that Mend has been ‘seeking to influence electoral politics’ by ‘running fringe events at party conferences as well as arranging hustings at election times’ is just bizarre. As far as I am concerned, this not only legitimate, it is good practice followed by other major faith groups and civil society organisations.

As Stephen said last week, Mend’s work on tackling Islamophobia has been recognised internationally as ‘best practice’ by the World Economic Forum and in my community has brought hundreds of people together to directly inform the hate crime strategies of the local Council, Police and other agencies.

But that work is fatally undermined if the organisation tolerates, or is perceived to tolerate, individuals expressing attitudes that fall far short of Mend’s stated commitment to creating a more “inclusive and tolerant Britain” and – to quote again from Mend’s mission statement - “a Britain in which all members of society are valued and respected whatever their religious, racial or ethnic background, gender or sexual orientation”. From reported remarks about gay people and the use of antisemitic tropes to criticise the State of Israel to appearing to justify the attacks on British troops – such behaviour cannot be excused or tolerated.

I believe that Mend has both an opportunity and a responsibility to address the criticisms the organisation has received in recent days and to set out how Mend plans to live up to its own laudable aims.

Looking in the mirror and asking ourselves if we truly live up to our own values and expectations can be an uncomfortable experience. But, and I say this with humility given events in Parliament this week and the Labour Party’s recent problems with antisemitism and complaints about our handling of rape and sexual assault, it is a necessary exercise if we are serious about delivering the kind of society that I hope we all want to see: a society that is open and inclusive and that genuinely values the dignity and worth of every human being.

I could have chosen not to attend this evening and to have opted for the quiet life. But as my constituent said: “if you let things go, people’s mindsets will not change”.

And for Muslims across the country, experiencing abuse and violence because of their faith, it is vital that they do.

I want to conclude with one final reflection.

Not long after I was first elected, a brick was thrown through the window of a local Muslim community centre and bacon stuck to its doors. When I condemned the attack, I was criticised in the comments section of the website of my local newspaper for defending people who would throw me from the top of a building for being gay.

What bigots like these fail to realise is that I know that once they’re done with the Muslims they’re coming for gay people, too. And history shows us that if it’s not Muslims or gay people first in the line, it will be Jewish, black, Asian or disabled people instead.

Those of us who know what it is to experience prejudice because we are perceived to be different have a special responsibility to combat all forms of prejudice. To stand together and to work together. Let us commit to that spirit as we join together for Islamophobia Awareness Month.

Thank you.

Islamophobia Awareness Month Speech

Speech by Wes Streeting MP Launch of Islamophobia Awareness Month Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster 1st November 2017   Among the various roles I hold in Parliament, I am proud...

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Today I quizzed the Chancellor about transitional arrangements as we leave the EU.

This is a really important issue for British businesses, and could have a huge impact on jobs and the economy going forward.

The time to get this right and provide certainty is now. Businesses are likely to make decisions in the coming months about where they place jobs and assets, so it's important that the government provides clarity sooner rather than later.

You can read the Guardian's write up of the questioning here

Wes Quizzes Chancellor on Transitional Arrangements

Today I quizzed the Chancellor about transitional arrangements as we leave the EU. This is a really important issue for British businesses, and could have a huge impact on jobs...

21761489_1399282360121329_6674244831944927811_n.jpgI've lost count of the number of times I've driven past The Guide Dogs Training School on Manor Road. Today I actually got to visit for a briefing on key issues facing guide dog owners, a tour of the kennels and an experience of what it's like to walk around the area entirely reliant on a guide dog.

Initially I was disorientated and very nervous about being reliant on a person and then an assistance dog to guide me around.

Once I got over my initial discombobulation, a few things struck me (not literally thankfully!). The first was that the surfacing and layouts of pavements really mattered to me. Every lump and bump on the road was a challenge. Where pavement crossings weren't clearly marked out I wasn't always sure whether I was back on the pavement or in the road. Crossing the road was already a challenge as the guide dogs can't make judgements about when it's safe to cross. I had to rely entirely on my own hearing. Having well designed pavements with small bumps by crossings really helps work out where to cross - especially if the pavement doesn't have a clear kerb.

The second thing I noticed was that everything that brushed past my hand came as a shock - and an unpleasant one at that.

The final thing I noticed was how reliant I was on hearing. This might seem like an obvious point, but it does mean that I felt particularly vulnerable to risks I couldn't hear - like a passer by walking softly or a bicycle going past on the road. It made me think more about how we could all be more considerate if we see someone blind or partially sighted. It definitely shows how important things like audio announcements are on public transport.

I was really grateful to the whole team for their time. Following hot on the heels of my meeting with Transport for All last week, I definitely have a great deal of expert advice and some first hand experience to feed into Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's transport strategy for Transport for London.

 

Guide Dogs Training School Visit

I've lost count of the number of times I've driven past The Guide Dogs Training School on Manor Road. Today I actually got to visit for a briefing on key issues...

oakfield.jpg

I'm so pleased for Oakfield campaigners who've mounted one of the most professional and effective campaigns I have ever seen. With patience, persistence and determination they put forward a well-argued and well-evidenced case to save a much-loved community space. They deserve all of the credit for this outcome.

I am also relieved that the Local Plan will now go ahead without the inclusion of the proposed Oakfield development. Labour's commitment to build new homes and regenerate our town centres is just what this borough needs after years of Tory inaction and neglect.

You can read more here

Victory for Oakfield Campaigners

I'm so pleased for Oakfield campaigners who've mounted one of the most professional and effective campaigns I have ever seen. With patience, persistence and determination they put forward a well-argued...

Wes Streeting has been re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Ilford North. You can watch his victory speech here.

The results were as follows:

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A massive thank you to everyone who voted for and supported Wes!

 

Wes Streeting re-elected in Ilford North

Wes Streeting has been re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Ilford North. You can watch his victory speech here. The results were as follows:          ...

image.jpgTHE FUTURE OF KING GEORGE A&E IS ON THE BALLOT PAPER THIS THURSDAY 8th JUNE

That was the warning given by London Mayor Sadiq Khan on his final visit to Ilford North before Thursday's general election. You can read more via the link to the Recorder below.

 Speaking to the Ilford Recorder, the Mayor of London said: 

“On the ballot paper this Thursday is the future of King George A&E, it’s as simple as that.

“The Tories are serial promise breakers and they have shown that they don’t believe in the NHS by their actions over the last seven years.

 “Frankly speaking, if you use King George Hospital and if you care about the A&E, the maternity department and the NHS in general then to me it’s a no brainer.”

It has become clear during this election that the Conservatives would rather mislead people about the future of our A&E, rather than fight to save it.

The facts are simple. The closure decision was taken by the Government in 2011, while Lee Scott was our MP. The maternity unit was closed and the only reason our A&E is still there is because both of our local NHS trusts have been in special measures.

There is no room for complacency. Independent NHS officials confirm that the closure decision still stands. That's why I've been leading the fight to stop it happening.

This is just one of many reasons why I hope you'll re-elect me as your local MP this Thursday. This race will be close and every vote will count.

You can read coverage in the Ilford Recorder here

Photo by Ellie Hoskins

The future of King George A&E is on the ballot paper on Thursday

THE FUTURE OF KING GEORGE A&E IS ON THE BALLOT PAPER THIS THURSDAY 8th JUNE That was the warning given by London Mayor Sadiq Khan on his final visit to Ilford North...

DM.JPGYou can watch the video on Facebook here or Twitter here.

I greatly admire David Miliband for the international leadership he has shown on some of the biggest challenges facing our world, so I'm proud to have his support in this video message to Ilford North residents ahead of June 8th.

This is a time of unprecedented peace and global prosperity, yet also great anxiety and social upheaval.

The benefits of globalisation and economic growth are being unevenly distributed. There is a growing risk of inequality within and between nations. Our natural resources are under pressure. Climate change poses the single biggest threat to humanity. We saw only last week the danger that domestic terrorism poses to our way of life, with roots in a global ideological movement that has twisted and abused the teachings of one of the world's great religions for its own evil ends.

Because of my upbringing, I've grown up with an almost unshakeable belief in the onward march of social progress. I was born in a multi-cultural community in a global city. Thanks to a good education I was the kid from a Stepney council estate who got to Cambridge and later to Parliament. I’ve seen great advances in areas like race relations, disability rights, LGBT equality and the role of women in our society.

Martin Luther King famously said “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice” and I have always believed that to be true. But the last couple of years have shaken that conviction and I worry for the future of our country and our world. I have come to the realisation that Dr King's vision will only be realised if we work hard for it.

During my short time in Parliament, I've been a strong voice for human rights and democracy around the world, for action to tackle climate change and for a stronger humanitarian response to the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen.

I've voted in favour of measures to keep our country safe, from renewing our nuclear deterrent to giving our security services the powers they need to tackle the rapidly changing risks posed by organised crime and global terrorism.

If re-elected to Parliament on June 8th, I will continue to provide a strong internationalist voice for Ilford North as our country charts its course through this turbulent and uncertain century.

David Miliband backs Wes Streeting for Ilford North

You can watch the video on Facebook here or Twitter here. I greatly admire David Miliband for the international leadership he has shown on some of the biggest challenges facing our world,...

Ilford North’s Labour candidate, Wes Streeting, has hit out at the Conservative Party’s manifesto for unfairly targeting pensioners for cuts to their support.

The Conservative Party manifesto has promised three major new burdens will be placed on older people:

1.       Scrapping the ‘triple lock’ on state pensions meaning incomes are no longer fully protected.

2.       Means testing Winter Fuel Payments – removing support for heating homes of millions of pensioners.

3.       Forcing those who need social care to pay for it with their homes and savings.

Pensioners would be at least £330 worse off under the new proposed Double Lock had it been in place between 2013/14 and 2017/18 compared to the uprating from the triple lock.

Nationally over 10 million people, or five out of six pensioners, are set to lose Winter Fuel Payments worth up to £300. In Ilford North 15, 970 pensioners receive Winter Fuel payments and 13,040 of these, or 82%, will lose them.

And under the Tory plans for social care, the Tories’ previous pledge to cap the cost of residential social care has been abandoned, so people will be expected to use the value of their homes and savings to pay for their social care - including care at home for the first time. 

This is on top of a £4.6 billion cut in government funding for social care in England since 2011, leaving councils struggling to cope.

Wes Streeting, Labour Candidate for Ilford North, said:

“The Tory manifesto unfairly targets pensioners by removing the triple lock, means testing winter fuel payments and forcing them to pay for care with their homes. This shows huge disrespect to people who have worked hard all their lives and played by the rules. It is a terrible attack on pensioners and shouldn’t be supported. 

“It is clear from his recent comments to the Recorder that Lee Scott, the Conservative candidate, will support these policies if he is elected on June 8th. I will never be a ‘yes man’ for Tory policies which will reduce living standards and unfairly target pensioners in this way.”

Tory Dementia Tax 'an Attack on Pensioners'

Ilford North’s Labour candidate, Wes Streeting, has hit out at the Conservative Party’s manifesto for unfairly targeting pensioners for cuts to their support. The Conservative Party manifesto has promised three major new...

I'm absolutely thrilled that Hollywood legend Sir Ian McKellen has thrown his support behind my campaign to be re-elected as Ilford North's Member of Parliament on June 8th.

In a special message for voters in Ilford North, Ian explains why he's taking the unusual step of endorsing a candidate in a general election. Please do share the video!

I'm proud to have Ian's support. Not just because he's a friend and one of the world's most celebrated actors, but because I really admire Ian for the causes he's taken up throughout his life, like tackling homelessness, childhood literacy and equality. We share a commitment to making our world a more equal place and a passion for making sure that every child gets the best start in life.

More than anything, I hope Ian's message inspires people to use their vote at this election - particularly young people. Young voters don't tend to use their votes and, as a result, get ignored or let down by government.I'm proud of the impact I've made since I was elected just two years ago, but I'm just getting started. I hope you'll put your trust in me again to carry on with the job I was elected to do: standing up for Ilford North.

** N.B. Because Parliament has been dissolved, there are no MPs until after the general election. I'm now Labour's parliamentary candidate for Ilford North **

Ian McKellen Backs Wes Streeting for Ilford North

I'm absolutely thrilled that Hollywood legend Sir Ian McKellen has thrown his support behind my campaign to be re-elected as Ilford North's Member of Parliament on June 8th. In a...

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I'm proud to live in - and to represent - our diverse community in Redbridge.

On Sunday, I attended an open day at New North Road Community Centre, organised by the Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association. The centre hosts a range of activities throughout the week - from extra tuition classes for young people to Friday prayers for the Muslim community. The centre is available to hire for the local community to use. I've hosted a Saturday morning drop-in there in the past. This is a vast improvement on where the centre was just a few years ago, when it was a derelict eye sore with no one able to use it. Thanks very much to Dr Hameed and the team for inviting me along (not to mention for the samosas, tea and cake!). We also discussed community cohesion, measures the centre are taking to be good neighbours and discourage people from bringing their cars to the centre and what we can do to promote community cohesion.

Last night, I had the pleasure of addressing the Wanstead and Woodford branch of AJEX - the Jewish ex-serviceman's group. I gave a talk about politics and took a wide range of questions on Brexit, housing, the NHS, immigration and the Labour Party. In a week where a fascist was defeated in the French presidential election, it was a real honour to meet a 97 year old veteran of the Second World War, who fought in France to push back the tide of fascism in Europe. Thanks to his service and the sacrifice of others, we enjoy the democracy we're taking part in today.

Last week, I attended Vaisakhi at the Panjabi Centre in Ilford and the following night the Sikh Welfare Society dinner, both of which served as a way to celebrate the enormous contribution of Sikhs to our community in Redbridge - and the service that Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus gave to the British forces during the First and Second World Wars, a story that isn't told often enough.

Last week I also attended the Avanti Court Hindu primary school in Barkingside. I've been there a lot during the past two years and joined in their celebrations of Hindu festivals (including the particularly memorable chariot festival in Barkingside) as well as a range of other school events like their Superheroes Big Pedal Action Day!

Woodbridge High School has played host to the Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre for many years now and a couple of weeks ago I attended their new year celebrations.

The Girl Guides have a Christian ethos and I enjoyed talking to them a few weeks ago at Holy Trinity Church in Barkingside.18403355_1281180138598219_5225653405199274581_n.jpg

This is just a glimpse into one of the great things about representing a community as diverse as ours: the opportunity to learn from different cultures and faiths.

During my first two years in Parliament, I've been proud to stand up for people from all backgrounds: speaking up against Islamophobia and antisemitism as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Islamophobia and vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against antisemitism, calling for an inquiry into the British involvement in the 1984 Amritsar massacre, seeking justice for the Tamil community following the Sri Lankan civil war, demanding government do more to tackle the persecution of Christians abroad and supporting the expansion of Hindu schools in Redbridge.

I hope on June 8th, people will lend their support to me again as someone who will champion the interests of people from all backgrounds, not just a few.

Pride in the Diversity of Redbridge

I'm proud to live in - and to represent - our diverse community in Redbridge. On Sunday, I attended an open day at New North Road Community Centre, organised by...

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