I congratulate my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband on securing this timely debate. I have listened to it, and I now feel rather emotional, speaking as a Muslim Member of Parliament. People have talked about refugees, but I will talk, as a Muslim woman, about Islamophobia. As my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper asked earlier, how do Muslims feel? The words of the President of America go to the heart of every Muslim in the country.
I will start by sharing an experience from this weekend, when I hosted the Jewish Board of Deputies in my office in Bradford. I shared with them a publication from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, “Path to Genocide”, which sets out the stages along that path. In stage 1, “classification”:
“The differences between people are not respected. There’s a division of ‘us’
and ‘them’. This can be carried out through the use of stereotypes, or excluding people who are perceived to be different.”
Stage 2 is
“a visual manifestation of hatred. Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were forced to wear yellow stars to show that they were ‘different’.”
In stage 4, “dehumanisation”:
“Those who are perceived as ‘different’
are treated with no form of human right or personal dignity. During the Genocide in Rwanda, Tutsis were referred to as ‘cockroaches’;
the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin’.”
This weekend, I went to the Holocaust memorial service at Bradford cathedral. Rudi Leavor, who leads the Bradford synagogue, shared his story of how he fled Nazi Germany. His father, who was a dentist, took the family away and they fled persecution. As they left on the train, they saw a family on the platform who were the last to wave them off; that family did not survive.
For me, the matter is very personal. It is personal because if my daughter decides to wear a hijab, what are the chances of her not being persecuted? We have seen videos and read news reports of hijabs being ripped off and of women being thrown down steps just because of what they are wearing, and here is the so-called leader of the free world telling us that it is okay to ban Muslims. Donald John Trump says that he is tackling terrorism with his Executive order, but the fact is that the chance of being murdered in the US in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion each year. More people have been killed in America by gun crime than by people from the countries that have been banned. If the President really wants to save Americans from death, he needs to look at gun crime.
How do American Muslims feel right now? They are as entitled as anyone else to representation by their President, but they are being singled out and victimised by him. What about the 700,000 asylum seekers and 3.25 million refugees who have sought refuge in America since 1975? Having contributed and been accepted, how do they feel about now facing the blame for everything that is wrong? America, the self-proclaimed land of immigrants—proudly and rightly so—now turns its back on those who do not fit the President’s accepted mould, not because they are a threat but because they are deemed to be less worthy than others.
My skin colour is a few shades darker. That does not make me a terrorist, and it does not make me a threat. The colour of their skin does not make the Muslims in this world a threat to America or to western democracy. The thing that poses a threat is the Executive orders issued by the so-called leader of the free world, who incites hatred, demonises Muslims, sees women and others as second-class citizens and courts organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan. That is what creates terrorism—what threatens democracy, the world we live in and our children’s future—not Muslims, and not refugees.
We do not differentiate refugees on the basis of their religion; we support them because they are fleeing persecution and war. They do not choose to leave their homeland or to leave their surroundings. Bradford is a city of sanctuary—I am proud to come from a city of sanctuary—that hosts Syrian refugees. Can hon. Members imagine what they would feel like if we in this House ordered that we would not take any more refugees or any more Syrian refugees? That would fly in the face of what this House stands for.
I am a Muslim from Bradford West, and I have the privilege to stand here today and contribute, as many hon. Members have, but what do we really stand for? Before I get rather emotional, I will finish with the words—the famous words—of Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First…they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
I do not want to be on the wrong side of history when there is another genocide; Srebrenica happened in my lifetime.
Where does the slippery slope really lead when we demonise Muslims and those seeking refuge on our shores? Offering refuge is what being British stands for, and this House cannot abdicate its responsibility and stand silent about what is happening with our closest ally. We must engage with it, and try to stop and reverse this Executive order. We cannot stand by silently: to do so would be the greatest shame of our nation.