Sunday, July 19, 2015

Former councillor to quit Labour party following disagreement over Blasphemy Law

A former councillor from Slough says he is planning to resign from the Labour Party following a clash with the parliamentary candidate Fiona Mactaggart.

Mohammed Arif, who was a councillor for the Central Ward in the 1990s, was unhappy with Ms Mactaggart’s refusal to publicly back the Blasphemy Law which limits the freedom of expression relating to blasphemy.
“I am not happy about resigning but I had no choice, I am not being listened to,” said the 70-year old who has been a member of the Labour Party for more than 25 years.
“She is not listening to us.
“This has really hurt me.”
Mr Arif is the president of the Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA).
Following the shootings at the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in France in January, Mr Arif wrote to Ms Mactaggart in February, on behalf of the PWA, and asked her to back a Parliamentary bill which would support the law.
He received a response from Ms Mactaggart in April in which she said she would pass a petition on to the correct government minister if the feelings were widespread across Slough.
However, this was not enough for Mr Arif and has led to his decision to resign from the Labour Party.
He said he has no plans to join another party.
“I have no difficulty with the Labour Party itself. It is the people who run the local party, they do not bother to listen,” he said.
“I am now 70, I have been a councillor, I have done enough.
“I am not against freedom of expression, everybody has the right to their own views.
“However, respect is more important.”
Mr Arif has pledged support to the Conservative parliamentary candidate, Gurcharan Singh and says he is in favour of David Cameron’s commitment to tackling ‘Islamophobia’.
When contacted for a comment, Christine Hulme, chairman of Slough Labour Party, said Mr Arif’s ‘breach of Labour Party rules ends his membership...with immediate effect’.
“Mr Arif claims to be resigning from the Labour Party,” she said.
“This is because he knows he has breached Labour Party rules with his recent support of the campaign of an opposition candidate.”

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