UK: Arson attack targets Oldham’s first female Muslim council leader
LONDON (AA & The Muslim News): The first female Muslim council leader in Oldham was targeted in a “deliberate” attack when her car was firebombed.
Police said a 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. He remains in custody, and is assisting police with their inquiries.
Arooj Shah, who was elected earlier this year, saw her car burning after an arson attack early Tuesday.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said officers, fire and rescue services, responded to the fire at about 1:30 a.m.
“It was established that the vehicle was deliberately ignited, also causing slight damage to a neighboring property,” said a police spokesman.
“This fire destroyed a vehicle and caused damage to a neighboring property. It was a reckless, abhorrent act, and it’s fortunate that no-one got hurt,” said Detective Chief Inspector Wesley Knights of GMP’s Oldham division in a statement.
“We will not rest until the circumstances around this incident are fully understood, and those responsible brought to justice,” he said, adding one person has been arrested but “our investigation remains very much on-going.”
The attack coincided with a nationwide condemnation of racism after three Black players from the national football team were racially abused online following a loss to Italy in the EURO 2020 final.
Politicians offered full support to Shah after the incident.
“This is absolutely appalling and I send my full support to @shah_arooj. It will be fully investigated,” Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said on Twitter.
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi said: “Sending my best and solidarity to Arooj Shah – no one in politics should ever face this. Hope you are as well as can be.”
“She has the full support of everyone within the Labour family, from her colleagues at Oldham council to MPs across the country,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said in a statement. “Arooj has faced disgusting abuse throughout her career as a councillor and she has always handled it with grace and dignity, but she shouldn’t have to.”
Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrats at the Oldham council, in a statement issued on behalf of the party, said: “This attack is appalling. It is a frightening attack on an individual, but it is also demonstrates the threat to people in public life and stops decent people from being involved in it.
“This cannot be allowed to continue, and not only must we stop this criminal attack, but also the abusive approach that has been too much of the politics in Oldham recently, and the UK, in recent years.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, with respect, and with fairness. Abuse and “dog-whistle” politics can have no part in our society.”
Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, said: “My solidarity with Coun Arooj Shah who has been targeted in such a cowardly way.
“The full weight of the law must be seen to bring those accountable to book.
“As this is an ongoing investigation I am limited to what I can say publicly, other than to offer my support and thoughts to Arooj and her family.”
Oldham Council Spokesperson told The Muslim News: “We’re unable to make any comment at this point in time, as this is a live police investigation.”
[Photo: Councillor Arooj Shah. Photo courtesy of Oldham Council]
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