Sahar Al-Faifi reinstated by Plaid Cymru following anti-semitism allegations

Sahar al-Faifi

The Plaid Cymru activist Sahar Al-Faifi, who was suspended over allegations of anti-semitism, has been reinstated by the party.

Al-Faifi was suspended following a campaign of Islamophobic abuse and accusations of anti-semitism for some of her past comments regarding Israel and Palestine.

She admitted that some tweets she sent in 2014 “crossed the boundary into anti-semitism” and was suspended from Plaid Cymru in November 2019.

However, the party has since confirmed that she has been reinstated as party member, but declined to comment further.

Al-Faifi posted on Twitter: “Evidence in response to anti-semitism allegations against me was submitted to a panel. The panel decided in January 2020 there was no need for sanctions and my Plaid Cymru membership was reinstated in full. I am more committed than ever before to creating a more just, inclusive and welcoming Wales.”

In a Facebook post she elaborated: “This was the toughest year of my life. The far right abuse, the smear campaigns, the death threats, the racism, the hate – it was enough to put me to tears so many nights. Why do these people hate me for being me? Can you not be a Muslim woman of colour and also be confident in your identity?

“Everyone makes a choice at some point in their lives. I choose to be confident in who I am and in my identity. I choose to rise up against those who hate, and spread love and hope. I choose to work tirelessly until I see a better world, a world that we can all be proud of creating together.

“Well, it seems the far-right messed with the wrong person. Their attacks have proved something to me. If these are the people who are looking to spread hate, then I am going to do everything I can to be the opposite. So thank you, for motivating me towards working for a much stronger, more just and more inclusive Wales.”

Last November, Al-Faifi, from Cardiff, appeared in Plaid Cymru’s party political broadcast for the General Election. And it was after this video that screenshots of tweets from 2014 were circulated on social media.

The image of Al-Faifi in her face veil, accompanied with a slogan about an inclusive Wales, prompted a vicious backlash on Twitter with many users being openly racist and Islamophobic.

Analysis by voice.wales found that 105 hostile or abusive comments had been directed towards Al-Faifi in less than 72 hours under just one tweet. Some users altered the image so it read “Taly-y-Ban” under the image of her face, others claimed Muslim women were all lazy. The right wing website Guido Fawkes ran a story titled “Plaid’s Taffy Jihadi.”

At the time, she said: “Several years ago I made a handful of social media posts that I regret deeply as they crossed the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism.

“I deleted the tweets more than five years ago, and issued an apology to Jewish organisations and others. I have also undertaken anti-semitism training, both formally through the Board of Deputies and informally with Jewish colleagues in order to ensure I never repeat the same mistakes.

“I am committed to working for a Wales safe and open to all, and free from any kind of discrimination or abuse. I would like to add that I have always been prepared to be open about my activities as an activist and campaigner, and I am willing to be held accountable for my past mistakes.”

Islamophobia “weaponised” 

Al Faifi is also a regional manager for the Muslim lobbying organisation MEND. Following her reinstatement MEND said it welcomed her “vindication.”

“Sahar’s treatment indicates a wider trend whereby Islamophobia is being used to shut down debate on Palestine and its weaponisation as a tool to silence Muslim political engagement more broadly,” MEND said.

“The experience of being the target of such tactics is particularly acute for politically active Muslims, who often find themselves to be subjected to ‘dog-whistle’ Islamophobia, often fuelled by stereotypes and generalisations.

“Muslims who are visibly active in the political sphere often find themselves being publicly questioned about issues surrounding their religious identities and, as a consequence, spend a lot of time having to deflect, counter, or account for these identities; subsequently reducing their ability to address wider political issues and demonstrate their political aptitudes as agents for political change.

“It seems that there are frequently targeted efforts by neo-conservative organisations and movements to stifle the political engagement of Muslims. For example, in the university context, Student Rights (a project of the Henry Jackson Society) frequently directs concerted efforts to demonise students who are vocal about their support for the Palestinian cause.

“In fact, pro-Palestinian activists across the UK have often been the target of silencing tactics used by organisations such as Student Rights, which are deployed solely to close down opposing debate and exclude voices who may disrupt their neo-conservative narrative. A common phenomenon is for activists to be labelled either as ‘extremist’ or anti-semitic in their opposition to the human rights abuses of the Israeli government.

“While anti-Semitism must never be tolerated and should be challenged wherever it is found, the use of the term as a political tool for shutting down criticism of the Israeli government devalues the experiences of those who face anti-semitic abuse on a daily basis. The Palestinian cause is an issue that is of great importance to large swathes of British communities, and there must be a recognition that Palestinian activism is a legitimate and necessary form of political dialogue.”

Following her reinstatement Al-Faifi has launched a bid to be the Plaid Cymru candidate for South Wales Central in the Assembly elections in 2021. If successful, she will make history as the first Muslim woman to enter The Senedd.

In a campaign video released on Wednesday, Al-Faifi said that she was “running for the most vulnerable and disenfranchised” people in Wales.

“I’ve seen our politicians lie to us. I’ve seen the rise of people going to foodbanks… people not being paid the living wage” she said.

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