Calls to reprimand race row MP

Calls to reprimand race row MP

By Vikram Dodd

Guardian, 14 July 2001

A member of Labour’s ruling body yesterday called for the withdrawal of the whip from an MP who called for a curb on Muslim immigrants who cannot speak English. Shahid Malik accused Ann Cryer of “doing the BNP’s work” after she yesterday repeated remarks that Asian immigrants who could not speak English were “importing poverty”.

Mrs Cryer is Labour MP for Keighley, near Bradford, which was hit by riots last weekend.

Mr Malik, the only ethnic minority member of Labour’s national executive committee, said there was outrage among the Asian community at Mrs Cryer’s demand. His call for her suspension from the parliamentary Labour party was backed by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Labour’s leadership yesterday refused to be drawn on the controversy.

Mr Malik, also a commission for racial equality commissioner, said the party should take decisive action against Mrs Cryer. He said:

“If this were an MP of an opposing party then many of us would expect the whip to be withdrawn from them or at the very least some public chastisement. Without doubt there are racist undertones in what she is saying and it will be viewed as Islamaphobic. If she isn’t reprimanded then it will set a very dangerous precedent for other people within the party and give them a passport to make equally unacceptable comments at a time when this country needs that least of all.”

Mrs Cryer, who has campaigned against forced marriages which occur in sections of the Muslim communities, claimed 50% of partners from the Indian sub-continent who come to Britain to marry cannot speak English. She said:

“A great deal of poverty in the Asian communities in Bradford and Keighley is down to the fact that many of our Asian communities do not speak English or very little. It just happens that the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities are Muslim and they happen to be the people who persist in the practice of bringing in husbands and wives from the subcontinent.”

Privately there is dismay among some Labour MPs at her remarks.

Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, backed Mr Malik’s call for Mrs Cryer to be suspended from the PLP until she withdraws her remarks. He said: “We aren’t living in a communist era where the state controls marriages. She’s trying to find fault with the victims, the very people being marginalised.”