Head Of Women’s Group Complaints Regarding Birmingham Lord Mayor

The new Lord Mayor of Birmingham, and former chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, has been widely criticised by campaigners for dismissing concerns regarding domestic violence and forced marriages.

Shaista Gohir, the head of the Muslim Women’s Network (MWN), has stated, along with another witness, that Labour councillor, Muhammed Afzal, who was selected to fill the role of Lord Mayor, had dismissed forced marriages as no longer a problem.

Afzal was also quoted as saying that domestic violence ‘only affected Christian communities because they got drunk and claimed that more men than women were the victims of domestic violence.’

Afzal had previously turned down the role of Lord Mayor in 2016 due to the claims made by Gohir, saying that the decision to withdraw had been made due to “recent publicity in the local media has given rise to unfair and indeed untrue comments being ascribed to me” and that he “completely and totally” denied the claims, stating that Gohir instead had a vendetta against him.

The comments that Gohir claimed he made, were during a meeting between her group and senior figures from the mosque in December 2015. Gohir stated, in a letter of complaint to the mosque, the claims that Afzal had made in regard to domestic violence and forced marriage. The complaints in the letter were completely refuted by Birmingham Central Mosque.

Gohir stated:

“Those who seek such leadership positions of being the ‘first citizen of the city’ should have an impeccable character, be inclusive and promote equality.

“It is concerning that Muhammad Afzal does not recognise the abuse that women face. It is important that women in Birmingham feel that their interests and concerns are shared and respected. Allowing him to be the next ceremonial mayor will erode trust and confidence in Birmingham city council.”

Following his recent selection to the position of Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Afzal released a statement to colleagues, outlining how he wished to spend his year in the position:

“I want to increase awareness of the issues faced by women in all communities of the city and the tackle issues that we find in all communities, including the Muslim community. These issues include domestic abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Such abuse of women is completely unacceptable and I absolutely condemn it.”

It is not the first time that Afzal has faced criticism for his views. In 2016, he had called for a boycott of Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism programme, claiming Muslims were unfairly targeted by it. It was also reported in the Birmingham Mail that Afzal had described David Cameron as an Islamophobe, a claim he denied despite an audio recording later posed by the publication.

Do you think claims of domestic abuse and forced marriage are being taken seriously enough in religious communities?

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.