Rotherham Council leader’s fitness to lead questioned after refusing to meet Muslim activist

Councillor Chris Read

The founder of the British Muslim Youth organisation has questioned whether the leader of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is fit to discharge his duties.

Muhbeen Hussain’s comments came after Chris Read refused to meet him to discuss the situation of the Muslim community in Rotherham.

Community relations in Rotherham have been tense for several years.

In August 2014 a report revealed that at least 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, and that the perpetrators were mainly Asians.

In subsequent years an elderly Muslim man was murdered in the town by two racists, and a group of Muslim men were acquitted of violent disorder after fighting right-wing extremists.

Meanwhile, at one point Rotherham’s Muslim community even decided to boycott South Yorkshire Police.

In response to Mr Hussain’s request to meet, Mr Read called British Muslim Youth’s efforts to boycott South Yorkshire Police “a serious error” and “divisive recklessness.” He defended the council’s policy of non-interference in the Rotherham 12 case. And he defended his record of opposing far-right extremism.

Muhbeen Hussain

However, in an open letter to Read, Mr Hussain accused him of callousness and immaturity.

He wrote: “The responsible authorities deserted the Muslim community; allowed over fourteen marches to take place and allowed Islamophobia to go unchallenged. This was evidenced with the increasing attacks on Muslims, taxi drivers left fighting for their lives, probable firearms being used to attack Muslim females, photos being taken outside schools of Muslim children, Mosques and Muslim owned businesses attacked, Muslim women threatened with rape as retribution and on a whole, a community living in fear. Then almost a year after the publication of the Jay report, we had the brutal and extremist murder of Mushin Ahmed. It came as no surprise as each attack became more ferocious.

“As the leader you have not uttered a single, published, public statement condemning this murder, nor have you challenged the extremism that caused this murder. Not a single policy has been devised to tackle this ideology. An act of extremism, from the very same venomous doctrine that murdered Jo Cox MP, murdered Mushin Ahmed; yet the Rotherham Establishment remained mute.”

Hussain also defended British Muslim Youth’s decision to boycott South Yorkshire Police.

“After a great deal of thought and conversations and having our pleas ignored, the Muslim community decided to boycott political engagement with SYP. It was not a decision taken lightly or for personal gain. It was a cry for help to draw attention to the fear the Muslims were living in.”

And he concluded: “If this response is genuinely reflective of your character, then I have to say with a heavy heart that you are most ill-suited to be leader, which brings your position and your council into disrepute. However, as I do not know you, nor have I ever met you, I am willing to believe this response was most out of character for you. With that in mind, I hope we can put personal opinions aside for the betterment of our town. Therefore, my original offer to meet, discuss and engage still stands.”

You can read the full letter here.

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