Labour MP Paula Sherriff pulls out of fundraiser over seating segregation

The MP for Dewsbury 'made clear' to the event's organisers 'she will not share a platform with extremists'

A Labour MP has pulled out of a fundraising event in her constituency after learning that men and women were to be seated apart. 

Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury, said she did not know the nature of the meeting, a fundraiser in aid of Palestine, when she agreed to speak.

A leaflet for the meeting said there would be “segregated facilities for sisters”, who were invited to call a separate telephone number to order tickets, at £15 each. Ms Sheriff was billed as guest speaker. The master of ceremonies was a radical cleric.

A spokesperson said :  “Paula Sherriff withdrew from attending this event as soon as she became aware of the details, and has made clear to its organisers that she will not share a platform with extremists. She is strongly of the view that there is no place for extremism or segregation of any kind.”

Publicity for the event, posted on the Guido Fawkes website, showed it was not a religious meeting, but a fundraiser held in a commercially rented banquet hall, in aid of an orphanage and medical centre in Palestine.

Shaikh Sulaiman Ghani, billed as the MC, has described homosexuality as “unnatural” and claimed that women are “subservient”. Appearing on a Channel 4 talk show in 2007, he warned that “any countries that entrust their affairs [into] the hands of women will not be successful”.

He also declared his opposition to organ transplants, arguing that the organs on a dead body belong to God.

On a different occasion, he appeared on Channel 4 and remarked: “I always, maybe joking, say, God Almighty created Adam and Eve, and not Adam and Steve.”

Afzal Patel, one of the organisers of the event, told The Independent that the event will not be segregated, but that "some women prefer to sit separately" and that they were simply providing them with the "facility" for them to do so.

David Cameron called on Labour MPs this week to boycott political meetings where there is segregated seating. During Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, he said: “Let us end the process of having people with bigoted religious views treating women as second-class citizens.”