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“I wish you had thought about the consequences of your threats on my young family” – Naz Shah MP

by Naz Shah, Member of Parliament for Bradford West

57-year-old Stewart Hanson, a man with no previous convictions, who sent me an email saying he would ‘do time for me’ is doing exactly that. He is now serving a jail term for sending me a threatening email having seen something on social media.

In August 2017, I retweeted something by accident, an accident that lasted a whole 8 minutes. When it was highlighted to me, I immediately removed it. It was a genuine mistake.

Despite my statement clarifying this mistake, I have continued to receive racist, sexist and Islamophobic abuse daily.

The re-tweet suggested I was saying that the victims of the Rotherham abuse scandal should shut up for the sake of diversity.

Had Stewart cared to question what he saw, he would have come to realise that before Rotherham and indeed since Rotherham, I have continued to advocate for the victims of sexual abuse as a survivor of abuse.

As someone who’s life has been defined by the experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse, I said in my statement at the time and will reiterate, to suggest this retweet was anything other than a mistake is ridiculous.

It was not like I took time out to write a comment piece to suggest Muslim women in Burkas look like letter boxes and bank robbers and despite being called out for it, I continued to ignore or apologise for such statements. Statements that not only offended but according to the Government’s Anti-Muslim hate crime reporting centre, it led to an increase in attacks on Muslim women.

It was far from such blissful ignorance and denialism.

Indeed, only days before that retweet I had openly supported an adult to have her historic conviction of ‘prostitution’ to be quashed as she was, in fact, a victim of sexual exploitation when she was only a child herself.

Around that time, I had also written two articles, again in support of the victims who had spoken out and I have continued to raise the issue of support for victims since this retweet was removed.

But Stewart wasn’t interested in the details as he clearly believed what he read.

And the truth remains that for those with far-right and Islamophobic tendencies, no matter what the context, no matter what I say or do or what the truth of the matter actually is, that screenshot of that retweet serves a purpose, “Here look a Muslim MP supporting Muslim Grooming gangs”!

Forget the far-right, even two Conservative members of Parliament used the same tweet to attack me, but then Zac Goldsmith and Nadine Dorris have form when it comes to Islamophobia, so no surprises there, I’m afraid!

The sad truth is, though we have the internet, social media platforms, access to information through the touch of a button, there is a section in society who refuse to look into the details, the context or the truth and instead are prepared to believe a narrative filled on emotions, boiled up by the far-right propagandist that want to see society tear minorities apart. In fact, social media has little to no requirements to provide balance or context, thus often being a base for much of this hate.

The Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring’s latest report, emphasises that even the mainstream media, especially print media, rarely gives that balance when it comes to Muslims and is often guilty of fanning the flames of prejudice towards Muslims.

In the end, I made a mistake which was immediately corrected. That does not give anyone the right to make threats against my life or that of my family. Neither does it give anyone the right to abuse me and nor will I tolerate it.

My message to Stuart is, I wish you had read the complete context, I wish you had thought about the consequences of your threats on my young family and the effects that your jail time may now have on your own family.

Nevertheless, you have your sentence to serve and if you are truly ‘ashamed’ for your actions as you stated in court and are ready to change, then having recently returned from my holy pilgrimage of Hajj, there is something from my God, Allah, that echo’s in my inner soul- that the door to forgiveness is better than one of hostility and hatred.

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