Fiyaz Mughal

Al Faifi’s grudging compliance with Board raises questions about her fitness for political office

Until the Plaid Cymru candidate can demonstrate true understanding, she should not be legitimised by any political party

March 17, 2020 11:53

The Jewish Chronicle recently highlighted the reinstatement of former Mend South Wales regional manager, Sahar Al-Faifi, into Plaid Cymru after an investigation.

Setting her previous questionable comments to one side for a moment, there is no doubt that Al-Faifi has been on the receiving end of hatred because of her visibility as a Niqab-wearing Muslim woman.

I know that she will have repeatedly suffered from racist abuse and I have no doubt that such intolerance will have had a deep impact on her confidence and sense of identity and place in society -  a situation which we must all abhor.

But I have never understood how some people from black and minority ethnic communities - who should stand in solidarity with other minority groups – come to make overt or covert comments against those groups over international conflicts that no-one in this country has any control over.

Al-Faifi, sadly, has form in this area, even though she says she regretted making questionable comments and apologised.

Beyond that apology, she claimed to have received “formal” antisemitism training from the Board of Deputies. The Board’s response was stinging. It stated: “We met Sahar Al-Faifi to confront her over concerns we had over antisemitic social media postings. (She) apologised to us and made some amendments to her social media output. However, we were clear that the situation still remained unsatisfactory”.

It seems there was no ground-breaking change or lightbulb moment for Al-Faifi then, even after the Board had met her and advised her.

So let’s look at the posts Al-Faifi put out. They included a tweet in 2013 that brought the topic of the ‘Rothschilds’ into a Twitter conversation which had nothing to do with it.

The tweet by Al-Faifi stated: “What about the Rothschild Jews and their branches in Palestine, would such genetic research effect [sic] their banking empire…”

In a separate Facebook post in 2012, she posted a picture of Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh giving jubilant ‘victory’ signs in Gaza. Next to the picture she posted an Islamic text which said, “Indeed, we have given you a clear conquest that Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favour upon you and guide you to a straight path. And that Allah may aid you with a mighty victory.”

Given the murderous intent of Hamas, the statement did not bode well.

In 2012, Al-Faifi posted the following tweet; “Zionists ran away since the first rocket fell (from Gaza). YOU KNOW WHY? Because it is not their land! They do not know HOW to die for it. #Gaza”

In another tweet in 2014, she said, “The reality of #ISIS! A picture is worth a thousand words”. That picture showed Muslims prostrating in prayer at Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, with one person in a different coloured thobe (an ankle length one-piece male garment), carrying an M16 and prostrating the opposite way with a US flag as his turban. The implication was that Isis was a creation of or supported by the United States. Her actions amplified a bizarre and twisted anti-American conspiracy theory.

I can go on with other comments that are peppered with the term ‘Zionist’. In 2017 she stated that “pro-Zionists” were linked to the London Bridge attack, missing out the basic fact that Islamist extremism and terrorism was the primary murderous driver for that attack.

After all this, Plaid Cymru have decided to let her stand as a candidate in the Welsh Assembly elections and WhatsApp messages are now being sent to local Muslims in Wales to join Plaid to support her.

There are numerous competing issues here. The first is that all of us must applaud capable candidates from BAME communities wanting to be elected and make a positive change to social policies. Politicians must always reflect the communities they serve.

Secondly, seeing a British Muslim female who wears the Niqab standing as a candidate for a political party is inclusive and shows how far we have collectively progressed as a country from the myopic, monocultural political times of the 80’s and 90’s.

Thirdly, can we honestly say that given the Board’s continued public unhappiness around the comments of Al-Faifi - and her resistance to change some of them - that she is in a position to stand for public office?  I would categorically say, no.

There is something troubling happening in our society if groups such as Plaid are willing to rehabilitate the political career of someone who has promoted such views, and do so after a recognised and long-established representative body for British Jews has said that it was not satisfied that that individual had changed their views.

When I was a councillor for six years from 2002-2010, such comments would have meant the end of any political career. Today, it seems that ‘meeting the Board’ can be used to absolve a person of their actions, even when they are not willing to make all of the changes needed to show goodwill and that they had learnt something.

In a meeting with the Board in February 2018, Al Faifi apologised and agreed to make some amendments to her social media output. Eighteen months later, in November 2019, two of the offending posts were still live. They appear to have been deleted since then.

There is a real concern that the statement “I met the Board of Deputies” is in danger of becoming a ‘get out of jail’ card for some, as though waving it means that they can carry on as normal. Let’s be blunt and honest: they can’t and should not be allowed to carry on as though it is ‘business as usual’.

Unless Al-Faifi can demonstrate true understanding, she should not be legitimised by any political party. Redemption means real change, not apparently hollow words in order to climb the greasy political pole.

March 17, 2020 11:53

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