Attacking Tulip is counterproductive

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Muhammad Ahmedullah

If some British Bangladeshi Muslims want to discredit Tulip in the eyes of local voters, then they will first have to educate the British public about what is going on in Bangladesh

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Tulip Siddiq, who has been a Camden local councillor for a number of years, is currently a Labour Party candidate for the Hampstead and Kilburn seat in the 2015 general election. She has been attacked by a section of the British Bangladeshi Muslim community, primarily on two grounds.

First, that she must have played an important role in concluding an arms deal between Bangladesh and Russia. A 2013 picture in Moscow with her family, Putin and her aunt Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister of Bangladesh, is presented as a proof that she must have had some dodgy influence, as a British politician, to secure the arms deal. This dodgy role, which they believe she played, is considered totally inappropriate for a British politician to have undertaken.

Second, it is said that during the dodgy Bangladesh national election in January 2014, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties, Tulip visited Bangladesh and campaigned for her aunt’s party, the Awami League.

This was quite inappropriate as a British national and as a British politician aspiring to be a member of the British parliament. Her campaigning for her aunt was said to be even more inappropriate since Sheikh Hasina was accused of state killings in 2013. It is said that she has never distanced herself from her aunt’s politics, and also deleted Facebook images of her campaigning in order to hide her breach of conduct.

These are the two main reasons given by a strong British Bangladeshi opposition to Tulip’s candidacy in the 2015 British national election. Why do I think it is futile and counterproductive for a section of the British Bangladeshi Muslim community to use the above two reasons to try and damage her prospects for winning the seat?

First, she provided an explanation on why she visited Moscow at that time with her family. She said that her aunt Sheikh Hasina, had not seen her and the family for a while and invited them to go to Moscow.

Think about what possible role she could have played in securing the Bangladesh-Russia Arms deal. She was a Camden councillor of Bangladeshi descent. She was not a big shot politician or a business woman in the UK. What role could she have played by that short visit to Moscow? Securing the arms deal would have required top level meetings between officials of the two countries for quite a long time, including the involvement of people with technical, military and financial expertise.

I think in the absence of good journalism and without solid evidence, we have to accept what Tulip says. Perhaps, for Hasina, Tulip and her family joining her in Moscow was a good photo opportunity, in addition to sentimentality.

The British public, particularly residents of Hampstead and Kilburn, probably know very little about what is going on in Bangladesh and unlikely to be interested in getting involved in Bangladesh politics or let Bangladesh politics determine their voting decisions. If some British Bangladeshi Muslims want to discredit Tulip in the eyes of local voters, then they will first have to educate the British public about what is going on in Bangladesh and get them to view things in Bangladesh according to their perspectives.

If British voters in Hampstead and Kilburn have very little knowledge of what is going on in Bangladesh and do not share the perspectives of any particular Bangladeshi group, then how will the attack on Tulip for going to Bangladesh to participate in the national election in January 2015 produce any positive results?

It is unlikely to produce any benefits to the people who oppose or fear Tulip becoming a British MP.

Tulip must have dual nationality, just like most other British Bangladeshis. This means that as a national of Bangladesh she must be free to support and campaign for any groups or parties in the country’s political process. Is there any legal ban or ethical agreement within Britain that prevents or strongly discourages any British national or politician from participating in any foreign political process? I do not know for sure but I have not yet come across anything in this regard.

The above are weak grounds used to try to discredit and damage Tulip’s chances of winning the parliamentary seat and becoming a Labour MP in the 2015 national election.

Further, the use of these weak arguments is likely to also be counterproductive, because the British public may perceive that a bunch of Muslims are trying to prevent a strong and intelligent woman from their community from becoming a prominent politician in Britain.

In addition, the introduction of Bangladesh politics into the British elections may not only be unwelcome, but also be subject to resentment by the local voters. The actual result is likely to be the opposite of what is intended by those who have been attacking her and in reality have helped generate more sympathy for Tulip.

The total population of the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency, according to 2011 census, was 117,046. There were 1,015 Bangladeshi people recorded as living in the constituency in 2011. This constitutes 0.9% of the total. The number of voters is 78,225 and as the Bangladeshi population tends to be younger, the voter percentage is likely to be less than 0.9%

The size of the Bangladeshi vote in the parliamentary constituency is insignificant, so voters in Hampstead and Kilburn cannot be influenced significantly by what is going on in Bangladesh.

Source: Dhaka Tribune