Birmingham Central Mosque Chairman — also a Labour city Councillor and Lord Mayor elect of Britain’s second city — has said that domestic abuse is primarily a Christian problem, because they drink, and claimed that Muslim forced marriage is not a problem. Muhammad Afzal made the comments at a meeting with the Muslim Women’s Network UK, the organisation’s chairwoman, Shaista Gohir MBE, has alleged in a letter of complaint regarding his election.
She slammed him as “dismissive on the issues of forced marriage and domestic violence” and claimed he said that, “domestic violence was happening mainly in the Christian community because they get drunk”.
Adding: “His attitude towards women’s issues make him unfit for positions of authority in which he should be serving all communities”.
Last week it was reported that he had labeled the Prime Minister an “Islamophobe” and called on Muslims to “resist” the government’s “disgraceful” new anti extremism laws, as well as claiming that there was no evidence that British Muslim are going to fight with Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
He subsequently denied making the comments, but a recording released by the Birmingham Mail confirmed he was lying.
In her complaint letter, Ms. Gohir said that she had told Mr. Afzal how her organisation was “regularly receiving calls on forced marriages and that a high percentage of these concerned Muslim women and girls, particularly from Pakistani background.”
However, “Mr. Afzal responded by saying forced marriage was no longer a problem”, she said.
Continuing: “When we pointed out that UK Government Forced Marriage Unit statistics indicated that significant numbers of victims were from the West Midlands, Mr. Afzal responded that the government figures were exaggerated.
“We felt that Mr. Afzal was dismissive as he went on to say that many marriages took place at the mosque, that the couples who got married were happy and that the mosque would know if forced marriages were taking place”.
Later, she said: “He then went on to state that ‘domestic violence was happening mainly in the Christian community because they get drunk’.
“I explained that the problem was also significant in Muslim communities and that women have been murdered as a result. However, Mr. Afzal questioned why he had not heard about these murders in the media if they had taken place.”
“By the end of the conversation it was clear that the trustees, and especially Mr. Afzal, were not interested in women’s issues and had little, if any, intention of working with us on any women’s rights and issues,” she concluded.
As well as making the complaint to the Central Mosque about Mr. Afzal, the group is complaining to the Charities Commission pointing out the mosque has 39 male trustees, but not a single woman.
It was just three weeks ago that Councillor Afzal was selected by Labour Party colleagues to become the next Lord Mayor of Birmingham, a city which is was around 22 per cent Muslim and 27 per cent Asian at the point of the 2011 census.
He notably lost his seat during the fall out from a 2004 postal vote fraud court case, but was later cleared of personal involvement and re-elected to the Council.
After exposing Mr. Afzal as a liar, the Birmingham Mail said that he had “proven himself unfit to be the first citizen of Birmingham”. The latest revelations are only likely to increase calls across the city for Mr. Afzal to stand down.