Political debate for Bradford West Muslim women candidates is shunned by Naz Shah who brands the meeting ‘undemocratic’ (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)

A POLITICAL platform for Muslim women which was dubbed a “hustings in all but name” was spectacularly shunned by Bradford West Labour candidate Naz Shah earlier this evening after she walked out before the debate had started in a show of defiant democracy.

Prior to the meeting starting, Ms Shah asked that because the constituency’s Conservative candidate George Grant was in the audience, that he be given a chance to speak.

Her request was refused because she was told “it’s not a hustings” and she walked out of the room to a mixture of applause and boos.

Event organisers, The Bradford Muslim Women’s Council, said Ms Shah’s actions had been “unexpected”.

But in an equally spectacular turn of events, no sooner had she departed from the hall that Mr Grant was invited to take to the stage.

Muslim Women’s Council chief executive Bana Gora said: “Now that Naz has left we have an extra 10 minutes. Should we ask George Grant to come up?”

He took Ms Shah’s vacated seat to shouts and applause.

Ms Shah said in a statement issued soon afterwards: “I have not and will not ever compromise my values.

“Today I felt no option but to walk out of a packed event being held in Bradford West.

“I was originally invited to a Muslim Women’s Council event, having being offered a platform to speak to Muslim women to encourage participation in the democratic process amongst a group of traditionally under represented and disengaged voters, with the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob.

“What I attended tonight was not the above rather a hustings in all but name. The event was opened up to men and women and the wider community. It was not a Muslim women’s event, the audience being predominantly male.

“I felt very uneasy at the exclusion of my fellow candidates and urged the organisers to open the platform prior to the event.

“At the risk of being “empty chaired” I attended.

“The Conservative candidate George Grant was present at the ‘hustings’ so in the interest of fairness and democracy, having respectfully requested that George Grant be given the equal platform and my request being flatly denied by the organisation I could not continue partaking in an event which was discriminatory on the grounds of both religion and gender.

“As I stand on a platform of fairness and equality as a proud Labour party candidate, these are our values which I refuse to comprise.

“I have already committed to 4 other hustings and I look forward to engage the voters of Bradford West and my fellow candidates in a free, fair and open debate.”

After the meeting Ms Gora said the reason they invited Mr Grant to speak after refusing Ms Shah’s request was because there was a space and extra time.

“It was about efficiency and that’s why we asked Mr Grant if he wanted to speak. He was given the opportunity to join us and he did.

“I think the way Naz has behaved has been highly unprofessional and there was no need for public outbursts, particularly when she knew she was coming to a Muslim Women’s Council meeting. It was not a hustings.”

The chair of the meeting Selina Ullah added: “She (Naz) was grandstanding. It was unexpected.”