THE deputy chairman of Bradford’s Conservative Association has been suspended after allegedly gaving a speech “endorsing misogyny and anti-Semitism.”
Abdul Zaman is accused of speaking about “clan politics” during a speech to support Conservative candidate Sajid Akhtar’s campaign for election to the city Council.
Bradford West Labour MP Naz Shah has now written to David Cameron complaining about Mr Zaman’s speech which she says he made in Mirpuri dialect.
Ms Shah told the Prime Minister she had “grave concerns” regarding Mr Zaman’s speech.
She said in her letter: “Mr Zaman was speaking very passionately about clan politics, women, Jews and Christians and defying equality values whilst endorsing misogyny and anti-Semitism.”
Referring to the Biradari system of elders and deference which has dominated many wards in Bradford for decades, she added: “The inference of this message is clearly that at local level the ‘biradari’ gatekeepers do as they see fit for their own purposes in defiance of Conservative policy and have a green light to endorse, and indeed, brazenly promote discriminatory views which smack against our values of tolerance, inclusion, diversity and cohesion.”
The Biradari system has its origins in the Kashmiri villages where many families were originally rooted. Community elders expect their instructions to be carried out, but younger voters have sometimes rebelled against the principle.
Ms Shah’s predecessor, Respect MP George Galloway, called for an abandonment of the system.
Barry Whitaker, chairman of the Bradford Conservative Association, insisted Mr Zaman had said nothing wrong but confirmed the party had suspended him while an investigation was carried out.
Mr Whitaker said he was at the campaign event and heard Mr Zaman’s speech, which, he said, was translated for him at the time.
He said Mr Zaman was talking about uniting Muslims, Jews and Christians to “work together for the common good”.
“I did not hear a single word of complaint about anything that was said,” said Mr Whitaker.
“She (Naz Shah) is accusing Abdul Zaman of misogyny and anti-Semitism. He did use the word Jews.
“He was talking about Jews and Christians joining with us, unifying with us and being as one, rather than as separate entities. Unification is good.”
Mr Whitaker said he had notified Conservative Central Office of what was going on, and added: “Because I do take these allegations seriously, I have suspended Abdul Zaman pending an inquiry into what he said and what he meant by what he said.
“I am under the impression it is a political move rather than any effort on Naz Shah’s part to get to the truth.
“I have known Zaman a long time and I have never heard him express any opinions that fit in with what Naz Shah is saying.”
He added: “I am standing by him in spite of having suspended him. I am conducting a thorough investigation.”
Councillor Simon Cooke, leader of the Conservative group on Bradford Council, said: “We take allegations of this sort very seriously. I can confirm that Mr Zaman has been suspended from the party, subject to an investigation into the matter.”