UK’s first hijab-wearing mayor resigns from Labour citing racism

Rakhia Ismail left the post of Islington mayor in September attacking system that ‘allows white men to have what they want, when they want’

Emily Goddard
Sunday 11 October 2020 17:30
A Labour spokesperson said the party takes any allegations of discrimination received extremely seriously
A Labour spokesperson said the party takes any allegations of discrimination received extremely seriously

The UK’s first hijab-wearing mayor has resigned from the Labour Party saying she felt “as a BME woman that I had no voice”.

Rakhia Ismail accused the local leadership in her north London council of “discrimination” when she stepped down as mayor of Islington in September and has now resigned as a councillor after eight years.

“I’m saddened deeply that the party I thought was for justice and fairness and ‘for the many’ is the opposite, from my personal experience,” she told The Guardian.

“Therefore, I find it hard to represent Holloway Ward as a Labour councillor because I was battling with a party system that simply allows white men to have what they want, when they want.”

Ms Ismail alleged Islamophobia among some colleagues was behind the decision by the council not to organise an event to mark the Muslim festival of Eid in 2019 and highlighted an incident in which a letter inviting her to Labour’s first national women’s conference had the word “Somalia” printed beneath her address.

“What has my birthplace got to do with this invite? I was shocked,” she said.

She also alleged a Labour colleague shouted at her for damaging the reputation of the area after she raised the issue of knife crime in the media.

“It felt like me as a BME woman that I had no voice. In the end, I thought what’s the point?” she said.

Rakhia-Ismail, who was a councillor in north London for eight years

A Labour spokesperson told The Guardian: “Cllr Ismail’s decision to resign is disappointing especially coming so soon after her term as mayor of Islington, having served the borough admirably through an incredibly challenging time.

“Islington Labour has a diverse and talented group of councillors serving their community.

“The Labour Party takes any allegations of discrimination received extremely seriously, which are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”

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