Glasgow councillor had hijab ripped off after 7/7 bombings

A Glasgow councillor had her hijab ripped from her head, was spat on and was told to ‘go home’ in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, she has revealed.

Councillor Fyeza Ikhlaq shared her experience with members of the city council as they debated a motion to tackle hate crime in the city.

And her colleague SNP councillor Zen Ghani, revealed he had once been asked if he was carrying a bomb in his bag by a group of men as he made his way home from his mosque.

Councillor Zen Ghani brought forward the motion highlighted the importance of listening to victims of these hate crimes, and said: “Many Muslim citizens across Glasgow will be able to give their own experiences of Islamophobia.

Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.
Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.

“It is important that we listen to their experiences so we can learn from them as being subject to Islamophobic abuse can be one of the most horrendeous things a person can experience in their life.

“One of my own experiences, which I remember so vividly to this day, was when I was coming out of a mosque in Pollokshields. A group of older men, who were intoxicated, began calling me a terrorist, asking me if I was carrying a bomb in my bag and began pulling me by my shirt.

“I made no eye contact and said nothing to them but by just coming out of a mosque late at night, I was being subject to awful, racist abuse.

“The colour of my skin and the clothes that I wear should never define who I am. By adopting this definition we will be able to more effectively tackle and stop racist and islamophic abuse in Glasgow.”

During the meeting councillor Ikhlaq shared her experience following the 7/7 bomings when he had her hijab “ripped” from her head on Argyle Street.

Speaking about the attack, councillor Ikhlaq, said: “After 7/7 I was attacked on Argyle Street. I had my hijab ripped off by a man twice my age. Many women wear a hijab which is tied around our necks so you can imagine the pain and the fear when this gets ripped off you.

“I was then spat on and told to go back to my own country. These are just two incidences of Islamophobia that I went through, there are many many more.

“It’s these offences that lead to me removing my hijab. Wearing this piece of cloth should be a woman’s choice to make.”

Councillor Ikhalaq also said that while she was pleased the issue was being discussed by councillors, it saddened her that Muslims are still fighting these prejudices.

She continued: “I would say Glasgow is one of the most welcoming and friendly cities in the world and we have proven that but we do have the problem of islamophobia which I am hoping we can all tackle together.

“Muslims even have to fear travelling on a plane because we know we will get stopped for a random search. I myself wore a hijab for nine years and was randomly selected at an airport by an officer who kept smirking at me and kept asking me what I had hidden under my scarf.

“My cabin luggage was gone through and I was asked to remove my shoes which were also examined. I was moved to the side, asked to remove my hijab and then I was told I was okay to go.

“This is intimidation and racism and something Muslims face on a daily basis.

“I’ve always known what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Islamophobia. It cannot be defeated in isolation; we have to come together. We have to educate ourselves and others around us, we have to speak up.”

The Labour party also agreed that this sort of discrimination should not be tolerated in any walk of life.

Depute Labour Leader, councillor Soriya Siddique said: “The everyday bias that many muslims experience is totally unacceptable. We live in the 21st century – Glasgow is increasing in diversity which brings a richness of language, culture, thought and contribution to all aspects of our life.

“Sadly data showing islamophobia is increasing in Glasgow does not surprise me. Islamophobia cannot be tolerated in any walk or life.

“It is well known that Muslim women are disproportionately affected by Islamophobia and they can face discrimination on multiple grounds. This can be islamophobia, sexism and racism.

“I have had to deal with being told I was not westernised enough during the May election. When I questioned this, I was made to feel that I was the one in the wrong – how dare I questions someone’s actions against me.

“Which indirectly told me not to question my place. These are just some of my lived experiences as an elected member. Glasgow City Council has the opportunity to lead on removing inequality and contributing to a fairer society. I look forward to seeing action.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to adopt the All party-parliamentary group (APPG) definition on Islamophobia, which includes instigating or justifying the killing or harming of Muslims in the name of a racist/ fascist ideology as well as making dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Muslims and accusing them as a group of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing.

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