Respect Party candidate Salma Yaqoob spearheads quiet revolution to get Muslim women involved in politics

Salma Yaqoob is one of the most prominent Muslim woman in British public life. She wears a headscarf, a powerful symbol of a faith she has accommodated with her passionate left-wing politics. She is standing as a candidate for the tiny and fractured Respect Party.

In some streets around the new constituency of Hall Green in Birmingham, her poster is on every window. Since her narrow defeat for Westminster in 2005, she has built up support through her work as a local councilor, as well as building a national profile through her appearances on BBC’s Question Time.

Yaqoob was wooed by Labour after 2005. She acknowledges that “My values are traditional Labour, but New Labour has gone to the right”. She was even courted by the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, a tribute to her rare capacity for fair-minded plain speaking, most evident in her Question Time appearance earlier this year, at Wootton Bassett, when she earned respect for her handling of questions about British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, a war she opposes.

Yaqoob is well aware that she is a challenge to traditional Muslim political culture – not just because she is a woman, but because she is not afraid to speak her mind.

BBC apologises to UK Muslim Council over TV debate BBC

The BBC has offered to apologise to the Muslim Council of Britain after airing claims the organisation encouraged the killing of British troops. The comments were made by the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore on Question Time on 12 March. Moore spoke about the Islamic protests which disrupted a UK soldiers’ homecoming parade in March. Moore said the Muslim Council of Britain had been reluctant to condemn the killing and kidnapping of Britain soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and claimed the organisation thought such activities were “a good thing”.

The Muslim Council of Britain strongly criticised the remarks and demanded an apology. “These kinds of statements are very damaging, and we received many complaints from our Muslim supporters,” the group’s secretary general Muhammad Abdul Bari said. No final settlement has been reached but the BBC has accepted that the comments were unfair.