North’s first female Muslim council leader, Arooj Shah, targeted in firebomb attack on car

‘Cowardly’ attack in Oldham condemned by politicians across Greater Manchester

Colin Drury
North of England Correspondent
Wednesday 14 July 2021 13:52 BST
Arooj Shah
Arooj Shah (Oldham Labour)

Police are investigating after the Labour leader of Oldham Council was targeted in a firebomb attack on her car.

The vehicle, belonging to Arooj Shah – the first female Muslim to lead a northern authority – was set ablaze at 1.30am on Tuesday morning.

No one was hurt in the incident, but so intense were the flames that a neighbouring property was damaged.

The “cowardly” attack was immediately condemned by politicians across the Greater Manchester area.

“My solidarity with Councillor Arooj Shah, who has been targeted in such a cowardly way,” said Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton. “The full weight of the law must be seen to bring those accountable to book.

“As this is an ongoing investigation I am limited to what I can say publicly, other than to offer my support and thoughts to Arooj and her family.”

Ms Shah has lived in Glodwick, one of England’s poorest wards, her whole life, after her parents moved to the UK from Pakistan to work in the local textile industry in the late 1960s.

After being elected leader of the council in May, she spoke of her struggles battling racism and misogyny, as well as the opposition she had faced from traditionalists within her community.

“I do feel like I have a huge duty to get it right, because I want any Asian woman who’s looking at me and watched the bulls**t that I’ve gone through to feel like they can do it too,” she said at the time.

Speaking about Tuesday’s attack, Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, called the incident “appalling”.

He said: “It is a frightening attack on an individual, but it also demonstrates the threat to people in public life and stops decent people from being involved in it.

“This cannot be allowed to continue, and not only must we stop this criminal attack, but also the abusive approach that has been too much of the politics in Oldham recently, and the UK, in recent years.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, with respect, and with fairness. Abuse and ‘dog-whistle’ politics can have no part in our society.

“This is a time when we must stand together. If you are a decent, fair-minded person, you must stand up against this appalling attack, and defend the values of our country – honesty, decency and fairness.”

Greater Manchester Police confirmed they were investigating the incident.

A spokesperson for the force said: “Police were called just before 1:30am on Tuesday 13 July to reports of a vehicle on fire on Greengate Street in Oldham.

“Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service attended along with police, and it was established that the vehicle was deliberately ignited, also causing slight damage to a neighbouring property.

“The fire was extinguished, no one was injured, and officers are investigating the circumstances.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in