A Muslim lawmaker in the United Kingdom burst into tears during a speech Thursday while speaking of the abuse she has suffered since she became a politician during a parliamentary debate on the definition of Islamophobia.
Zarah Sultana, the Labour Party member of parliament for Coventry South, said she received various abusive messages. Speaking in tears, she said: "One person, for example, wrote to me, and I quote, 'Sultana, you and your Muslim mob are a real danger to humanity,' another wrote I am a 'cancer everywhere I go' and soon, they said, 'Europe will vomit you out.' A third called me a 'terrorist sympathizer and scum of the earth,' and that is sanitized of their unparliamentary language."
"Before being elected, I was nervous about being a Muslim woman in the public eye," Sultana said in Westminster Hall. "Growing up, I had seen the abuse prominent British Muslims were subjected to. I knew I wouldn't be in for an easy ride," she added.
"And when young girls ask me what it's like, I'd like to say I was wrong to be worried, that they would face the same challenges as their non-Muslim friends and colleagues. But in my short time in Parliament, that's not my experience.
"I have discovered that to be a Muslim woman, to be outspoken and left-wing, is to be subject to this barrage of racism and hate.
"It's to be treated by some as if I were an enemy of the country I was born in, as if I don't belong," she said.
Sultana also said the abuse she received worsened when she criticized former Prime Minister Tony Blair for launching an "illegal war" in Afghanistan. She underlined that "this Islamophobia doesn't come from a vacuum. It's not natural or ingrained. It's taught from the top."
She also said in the emotional speech that "when a far-right online account targeted me with racist abuse, suggesting that Muslims were an invading army, a Conservative MP replied, not calling them (out) for their racism, but by insulting me."
Sultana said this Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and that the "horrific act of mass murder cast a long shadow." She said that when the war on terror was launched by former U.S. President George Bush and Blair, it "set a narrative that too many readily embraced: Muslims, wherever we are, were portrayed as a security threat, in need of discipline and suppression."
Sultana underlined that "this was the background of disastrous wars in the Middle East, where false links were drawn between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, providing false legitimacy to a war that had more to do with oil than the safety of British citizens." She said she hoped things could get better in the future while she was "keeping her head down," but things got worse. Referring to an article penned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sultana said, "Today, our prime minister mocks Muslims as ‘letterboxes' and ‘bank robbers.'"
"Islamophobia is very real in Britain today," the Muslim MP continued. "That's something I know all too well. But it cannot be defeated in isolation.
"The people spreading this hate don't just target Muslims. They target black people, they target Jewish people, they target Gypsy, Roma and Traveler communities, they target migrants and refugees," she said.
"There is safety in solidarity, and it is only in uniting our struggles that we will defeat racism," she added.
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