Author Archives: Rabina Khan

The Earth is not ours to abuse, we need to protect it for future generations

On 22 April 2021, The Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day will bring together leaders of major economies, including some of the world’s main polluters. Hosted by Joe Biden, the two-day conference aims to “galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis”.

In this month of Ramadan, Muslims globally should think deeply about climate change and steps they can take to address the issue.

Ramadan is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate and help each other. Muslims deliver food packages to the needy and recognise the importance of never wasting food, which in turn benefits the environment. Islamic teachings relate to the earth; planting a tree, for example, is like giving to charity, yet many Muslim’s awareness of this is staggeringly narrow. India, for example, has the world’s second highest Muslim population (as of 2018), yet is the world’s 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is therefore countries like these where education and everyday changes to lifestyle habits are fundamental in helping to address climate change. It is not just the responsibility of a few countries, but of every country and every individual.

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Global Vaccine Equity

Vaccines Without Borders
Vaccines are the most effective way out of the pandemic. However, there won’t be enough supply to vaccinate the world’s population until 2023 or 2024. That’s why I joined NOW! (@NOW4humanity) to pressure vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer to allow other companies to develop its COVID-19 vaccine and have #VaccinesWithoutBorders.

But this is not enough. All companies must follow suit.

Oxford, Valneva, Novavax and CureVac, are now working with the Government to produce the vaccines in the UK. Johnson & Johnson have applied to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use listing to deliver doses to poor and middle-income countries. A Sussex-based company has begun developing a coronavirus vaccine in pill form, and trials have already started.

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The danger of anti-vaccine propaganda

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I recently had Covid-19 myself and although it was not a serious case compared to many others, it knocked me for six and I was unable to do anything for several weeks. The first symptom I noticed was losing my sense of smell. Over the following 48 hours, I became very unwell. I suffered from severe headaches, which made me feel nauseous and every time I stood up, I had terrible vertigo. I could barely walk, so all I could do was to take painkillers, drink hot water with ginger, honey and lemon, and stay in bed. I requested an NHS home-test kit, which arrived within 48 hours and the results arrived within another 48 hours. An amazing NHS 111 staff member rang me 3 times on the fifth day of my illness to check on me as I had become so poorly and she was concerned.

Thankfully, by the 7th day I began to feel a little better. Even though I am no longer in quarantine, I am still suffering from the after-effects. I’m easing myself back into work as I still get tired and my sense of taste and smell have not returned fully. I have spoken to many people who say that the long-term effects of having COVDI-19 can be debilitating.

My experience, and that of many other people have reinforced my belief that it is absolutely crucial for everyone to have the vaccine as soon as it is offered to them. The medical professionals do not gain anything by endorsing the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines; they do it for our wellbeing and for the benefit of the country as a whole. The COVID-19 conspiracy theories are not initiated by medical professionals. For whatever reason, these myths are often invented by people with hidden agendas, or those who simply enjoy creating controversy. Some of these myths gain traction through social media, preying on the gullibility of some and others’ mistrust of government and the media.  These myths are far more dangerous than not having the vaccine.

In order to protect our communities and the economy, it is the responsibility of every individual in the borough take up the vaccine. Only by adhering to this collective responsibility can we hope to tackle this problem effectively.

Recent research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health has shown that people on lower incomes appear to be less confident about a vaccine, with a wealth gap in take-up.  84% of high earners are planning to get vaccinated, compared with 70% of low earners. Ethnicity also appears to influence take up. 57% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethic people said they would take the vaccine compared with 79% of white people. The highest region for rejections was in London (14%). Several different surveys have also revealed that women are less likely to take the vaccine than men.

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Racism in football still hasn’t been kicked out

It’s been 27 years since the establishment of Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, which works with the football, education and community sectors to challenge discrimination and encourage inclusive practices.

Sadly, racism, abuse and discrimination are still rife in society, but the very nature of chanting in football stadiums makes some believe it is a licence to hurl insults at team players.

On Saturday 5 December 2020, at a Millwall home match against Derby County, some of the 2,000 fans booed players who “took the knee” before the start of the game. Although players, officials and staff at Premier League and English Football League games have been taking the knee before games since June, Saturday’s match was the first to host fans since the second lockdown was lifted. Boos were also heard amongst the 1,000 fans in the JobServe Community Stadium, Colchester, prior to the match between Colchester United and Grimsby Town.

Although Millwall’s supporters’ club claimed that the motives behind the booing were not racist, no other explanation was given as to what the motive was. As Kick It Out Chairman, Sanjay Bhandari said, “Racists rarely admit they are racists — they try to hide their backlash under a seemingly respectable cloak.”

On Monday 30 November, BBC One aired the documentary Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me, in which the now retired Queens Park Rangers’ footballer spoke about the constant racial abuse that he suffered, including an on-pitch incident in 2011 in which Chelsea player, John Terry, used racially abusive language. Terry was eventually found guilty, fined £220,0000 and banned for just four matches by the FA. Ferdinand also received bullets in the post and missiles were thrown at this mothers’ house.

A House of Lords’ Library Briefing earlier this year (Racism in Football: Tackling Abusive Behaviour) showed that there has been an increase in the number of racist incidents reported in professional and grassroots football in recent years.

According to the Public Order Act 1986, a person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

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If we want to win again, we have to build trust and connect with BAME communities

On Thursday, Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality chair Roderick Lynch wrote an article challenging the party to follow Keir Starmer’s demand for all BAME shortlists for Labour. He also invited us to join the race equality hustings on Wednesday.

Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan posted a long comment to that article that I felt deserved a wider audience as a separate post. 

Political Parties and Representation Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a cross-party discussion with Professor Tim Bale in podcast called Political Parties and Ethnic Minority Representation as part of Queen Mary University’s Mile …

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How the pandemic exposed the stark inequalities of our society

High deaths within BME communities – CLICK TO SEE THE VIDEO

COVID-19 has devastated the lives of people of all faiths and nationalities. Yet, there are increasing indications that the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community in the UK has been disproportionately affected. This bias towards those of BAME origin suffering most, and more acutely, is also reflected in the US Afro-American population.

Since the government’s delay in imposing lockdown, I have seen the tragic loss of people from BAME communities in London and across the UK, and how COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated the respective families’ grief.  

Mohammed Rakib, who lost his aunt to COVID-19, said: “My aunt, a lifelong asthma sufferer, was admitted to hospital a few weeks ago where she was kept in for observation. Within hours of being sent home, she started displaying symptoms of COVID-19. On readmittance to hospital, she was diagnosed with COVID-19. We were not permitted to see her, so she died alone just four days later. Friends and neighbours have also lost relatives, and I now have another aunt in a hospital with COVID-19.”

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The name COVID-19 was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatisation

On 11th March 2020, I delivered a speech at Tower Hamlets Council as part of my amendment to an emergency cross-party briefing to ensure that the way in which the council communicates does not marginalise people.

In preparation for this Roderick Lynch – Chair of Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality – and I had a meeting about how an “infodemic” of misinformation and rumours spreading about the outbreak of (the then new) coronavirus could potentially stoke fear and panic.

Facts, not fear, can stop the spread of COVID-19, so the way in which we talk about the virus and fact-check can shape how we engage and protect all our communities.

There has been a spike in bias and hate towards certain groups including Chinese, Italians, Spanish and the homeless, so it is crucial to challenge xenophobic speech, finger-pointing speech, and bigoted attitudes. The EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reported a rise in racist attacks on people judged to be of Chinese or Asian descent and also stated that these demographics in Europe have faced discrimination when trying to access health services.

The reporting forum, Stop AAPI Hate, has been recording instances of anti-Asian harassment since it was set up in late March. These reports include anti-Asian racism on the streets of the UK, Australia and India. An analysis by Al Jazeera found more than 10,000 posts on Twitter that included the term “kung-flu” during March alone, along with offensive terms such as “chop fluey” and “rice rabies”.

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Celebrating Ramadan during the pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges, including the question about how Muslims can still join together, observe Ramadan, and break the fast (Iftar) whilst still exercising social distancing. Being apart at this time – especially from family and loved ones – seems alien to our values, but it gives us the opportunity to celebrate together in a different way.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims do not eat or drink during the hours of daylight. It is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, undertaking good deeds and spending time with family and friends. This year Ramadan will begin on the evening of Thursday 23rd April.

Just like other churches, mosques will no longer be holding gatherings. A month ago, the Muslim Council of Britain called for the suspension of all congregational activities at UK mosques and Islamic centres. In a press release, Secretary GeneralHarun Khan said: “We all have a public duty to protect one another from harm, and it is evident the most effective way to do this now is to avoid social contact as much as possible. This includes all walks of life, whether social, work or the mosque.”

April is one of the holiest months of the year on many religious calendars, including the Passover, Easter and Vaishaki. This year, however, traditional gatherings have been pushed online with observers participating in services and celebrations remotely. One of my challenges as a councillor and community leader is making sure that residents can break their fast together whilst being apart. For the younger generation and those who are fortunate enough to have access to mobile phones and the internet, they can communicate with friends and family via FaceTime or WhatsApp video. For those who are not digitally inclusive, I have been teaching them how to use Zoom, ensuring that they are not left out. It is also essential to make sure that people are safe when they fast during COVID-19 and to direct them to appropriate health professionals for advice and assistance.

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