Salma Yaqoob threatens to sue Naz Shah over “defamatory claims”

Former Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob has threatened Naz Shah MP with legal action if she continues to make what Yaqoob calls “defamatory claims.”

In a public statement Yaqoob, who is standing to be West Midlands mayor, said that a string of accusations Shah made against her in an attempt to block her mayoral bid are false.

Last week Shah said on Twitter that Yaqoob had run a campaign against her for the Bradford parliamentary seat in 2017 that had left her feeling suicidal.

She said Yaqoob’s campaign incited hatred towards her and played into patriarchal and misogynistic stereotypes which targeted her personally. She said Yaqoob’s campaign questioned her “Muslimness,” “slut shamed” her, and even insulted her mother.

Shah also said that Yaqoob had stood against Labour in elections six times in the past and Labour had broken its own rules by fast-tracking her as a candidate. Yaqoob only joined Labour four months ago whereas potential candidates usually have to be members for at least two years.

Here is Salma Yaqoob’s statement in full:

Naz Shah MP

“I stood against Naz Shah in 2017 because as a Labour MP she had chosen not to vote against Tory cuts and had campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. She has since taken other political positions I disagree with, including recent praise for the Saudi Prince who is imprisoning women‘s rights activists.

“My campaign was about her political record; it was not about Naz as a person. It was a misjudgement on my part to stand and I am sorry for the upset it caused her. I have apologised publicly to Naz and I have also privately reached out to her.

“As a psychotherapist and as someone who suffers from depression, I know the toll that being a public figure can take on mental health and I would never want to exacerbate that for anyone. I always showed respect to her as a woman.

“And I am hurt and disappointed that a series of appalling allegations ranging from linking me to an honour killing and exploiting clan politics, to falsely claiming I endorsed an abhorrent comment about Naz, were made by Naz Shah’s supporters in the 2017 campaign. Naz has recently repeated these false and defamatory claims in an attempt to block my Mayoral candidacy.

“Baseless and slanderous allegations to tarnish a political opponent is wrong and it undermines the democratic process.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that I have not done or condoned any of the appalling things that Naz Shah has alleged. And if these defamatory claims continue to be made I will be forced to take legal action.

“My own mental health has been affected by Islamophobic attacks on me over many years, being painted as an extremist because I wear a hijab, and subjected to Islamophobic stereotypes and conspiracy theories. Some people do not want me to be in public life because I am Muslim.

“We need more women in politics, not less. I apologise again to Naz for standing in her seat. I hope we can now work together to encourage more individuals from all backgrounds to become Labour candidates across the country, work together to confront Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and all forms of racism in politics; and work together to fight the Tories who are destroying our communities.”

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