|The Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Star today drew the public’s attention to the acts of councillors Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq (both members of the Respect party) at a meeting held yesterday to pay tribute to Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher for his “outstanding bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.” |
From the DE:
“Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq drew fierce criticism after ‘sitting with their arms crossed’ and failing to join a standing ovation in honour of Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher.”
“He became the most highly-decorated serving Royal Marine when he received the George Cross for ‘outstanding bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy’.
The DE headline refers to this act as “shameful”, while a Conservative councillor who was also present, referred to Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq as “traitors.” He said:
“Not so long ago, these two would have been locked up as traitors. Sadly, we can’t do that any more – but these two deserve it.”
In her blog, Councillor Yaqoob defended her and her colleague’s actions:
“Almost ten years of war in Afghanistan has produced nothing but death and destruction on all sides. Any talk of democracy and progress is long forgotten. And the war has plunged neighbouring Pakistan into a hell of daily car bombs and suicide attacks. This disastrous and interminable war is driving more and more people into the arms of the religious extremists.
“This disaster is not the fault of the individual soldiers. It is entirely the fault of our hypocritical politicians who cry crocodile tears over the plight of our troops, and do nothing to bring this war to an end.
“Of course it is easier to mask the dereliction of their duty to interrogate the flawed premise of the war by awarding medals and platitudes instead. And it is easier to stifle any dissent by portraying it as a lack of respect for troops and patriotic duty.
“I have every sympathy with Lance Corporal Croucher and all his comrades serving in Afghanistan. Indeed, I have spoken out before now on the disgraceful lack of support that returning soldiers receive from the very governments that sent them to war (including on BBC's Question Time). But I refuse to stand with those politicians who lack the moral courage to question sending our soldiers to lose lives and limbs in a war that they know cannot be won.”
“If our politicians really want to demonstrate their support for our troops, they should abandon substituting medal pinning and phoney patriotism for rigorous and honest debate. And they could also try reflecting the will of the majority of British people who are opposed to our military presence in Afghanistan, and put their efforts into getting these soldiers home and safe where they belong.”
It is relevant at this point to ask whether, if these two councillors had not been Muslim, their religious identity would have been splashed all over the headlines as it was in the DM, DE and DS?
If a councillor of Jewish faith or Christian faith had highlighted the ‘false patriotism’ of politicians in the same way as Councillors Yaqoob and Ishtiaq, would the headline have read “Jews snub war hero”? It’s highly doubtful. Questions would rightly be asked on what their religious identity has to do with their political act here.
Today’s story has been picked up by the far-right extremist group, the English Defence League, who will no doubt draw on the words ‘Muslims’ and ‘traitors’ used in this story and use it as fuel for their Islamophobic sentiments and actions.
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