Jeremy Corbyn is expected to consider complaints made by women’s rights activists that female Muslim Labour councillors have allegedly been blocked from seeking election by male councillors from their own communities.
The party was accused on Saturday of a weak response to a letter to the Labour leader by Shaista Gohir of the Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK), who asked Corbyn to investigate “systematic misogyny displayed by significant numbers of Muslim male local councillors”.
The letter also alleged party officials were “complicit at the highest levels”. It claimed Muslim men within Labour had been allowed to operate under the “patriarchal biradari system”, through which women were deliberately not chosen to stand.
Gohir’s claims of discrimination were backed by the Labour MP for Luton South, Gavin Shuker, who claimed he had raised concerns about bullying and intimidation of Muslim female councillors with various senior Labour officials within the last three years.
Those claims have been rejected by the party but on Sunday, a Labour source told the Guardian Corbyn would now look at the letter sent by MWNUK and respond in due course.
It comes after Labour was criticised for its original response 48 hours earlier, in which it gave no indication the issue would be looked at any further, saying only that the party had “selection procedures [that] include strong positive action procedures such as all-women shortlists and rules to ensure women are selected in winnable council seats”.
Gohir said she had been disappointed by the initial response, but was hopeful Corbyn would take the concerns seriously.
She now plans to petition MPs individually to ask them to pledge support, and press for an independent inquiry which will consider the experiences of all ethnic minority women across all parties, adding that she had been contacted by women from both Hindu and Sikh communities who said they had encountered a similar issue.
On Friday, Fozia Parveen, once an aspiring Labour councillor, told BBC Newsnight her election bid in Birmingham in 2007-08 was subject to a smear campaign and men turned up at her family home attempting to intimidate her mother.
Another woman, Shazia Bashir, was contesting a seat in Peterborough in 2007 but claimed she was pressured to step down “because I didn’t have my father’s consent and support”.
MWNUK, which has also written to David Cameron, said the issue affected all parties but Labour was the most significant because of the high numbers of Muslim male Labour councillors in some towns and cities.
This article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Sunday 7th February 2016 14.32 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010