Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood, who is of Kashmiri origin, has criticised a Kashmir rally outside the city’s council building last week which he said may have increased COVID-19 risks.
Mr Mahmood said the council should not have allowed the demonstration, which was attended by around 200 people to mark the anniversary of India revoking Kashmir’s autonomous status, to take place.
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, he said: “The (Kashmir) issue is extremely important and extremely important to me and I have been fighting this cause for a long time. I have explained my views.
“I did not think it would be necessary to attend a rally because I felt it would be putting the people of Kashmiri origin at risk. With the infection increasing again, I’d be putting myself at risk.”
He added: “This is a difficult period for all of us – a lot of people have made huge sacrifices to ensure they do not infect people and get the infection. The council has certain regulations it must follow, there must be people from the council there to ensure things are going on satisfactorily.
“The guidelines say there should be no more than 30 people at a rally. If there are, there has to be markings. There was none of that. This could cause significant infection and, if it does, how do you track the people who were there?…
“There were a lot of failings, failings at a time when we are facing the possibility of another total lockdown. This has happened with other authorities and they have apologised for it. They have said they were wrong.”
The Birmingham Mail said 600 people were present at the rally while Mr Mahmood said the number was closer to 1,000. But this video shot by 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih suggests no more than 200 people were there.
Birmingham City Council said it does not have the power to pull the plug on rallies – that is a matter for the police. “Ultimately, they are the ones with the power to disperse gatherings under Covid-19,” explained a spokesperson.
Meanwhile, around 650 people (at the time of writing) have signed a petition expressing “frustration and deep hurt” at Mahmood’s “longstanding record of attacking Muslims and the Muslim community.”
The petition reads: “In recent days, you attacked the peaceful demonstration in support of Kashmir outside Birmingham City Council House. You also attacked the local council for not banning the demonstration. This is a direct attack on the suffering Kashmiris and those standing in solidarity with Kashmiris in Indian Administered Kashmir.
“We note that there have been several peaceful demonstrations in Birmingham City Centre during the COVID pandemic supporting the good causes of Black Lives Matter, Palestine, Yemen and the NHS. You have failed to criticise any of them, yet you felt it necessary to run to the media to ‘slam’ the Kashmir demonstration.
“However, it must be noted that this criticism is not an outlier. You have spent your 19 years in office as a Member of Parliament attacking the Muslim community.”
The petition goes on to list examples of Mahmood’s “unjustified attacks on Muslims, Islamic Institutions and the Muslim Community,” including:
- Supporting military strikes against Afghanistan.
- Failing to vote against the Iraq War.
- Defending the alleged Islamophobe Trevor Phillips and criticising the Labour Party for suspending him.
- Leading the Trojan Horse (Hoax) campaign in Birmingham.
- Continuing to campaign for spy cameras in Birmingham targeting the Muslim community.
- Serving as a Political Council member of the Henry Jackson Society whose founding member Douglas Murray has criticised Islam and the Prophet (PBUH).
- Accusing M&S of “sexualising” young girls by stocking hijabs.