Salma Yaqoob (born 1971) is the former leader, and former vice-chair, of the Respect Party and a former Birmingham City Councillor. She is also the head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and a spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque. On 11 September 2012, Yaqoob confirmed in a statement that she had left Respect.
Yaqoob's parents, Mohammad and Gulzarda Yaqoob, emigrated to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s, and her father worked in a mill before joining the Royal Mail. They had 7 children - 3 daughters and 4 sons. Yaqoob was born in Bradford in 1971, but the family later moved to Birmingham, where she was raised. She describes herself during her formative years as being a "tomboyish girl" who played football on the streets of "Alum Rock".
Yaqoob had to challenge her father's "cultural fears" in order to be allowed to enrol at university and eventually attended Aston University where she studied biochemistry and psychology and became a qualified psychotherapist. At the age of 24, she met her husband, Aqil Chaudary, a general practitioner, and together they have 3 boys, all of whom live next door to Salma's parents in Birmingham. Yaqoob has revealed her family are supporters of Aston Villa F.C.
Yaqoob became politically active after the September 11 attacks. Yaqoob asserts that she was spat at in the streets of Birmingham in the days following the attacks.
2005 general election
In the 2005 general election, she stood as the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency against Labour's Roger Godsiff MP, with the backing of the Muslim Association of Britain. She finished in second place, ahead of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates, and with 27.5% of the total vote.
During the campaign, Yaqoob faced harassment and death threats from al Ghurabaa, an extremist-Islamist group later banned under the Terrorism Act 2006. Al-Ghurabaa claimed that it is an act of apostasy for Muslims to participate in Western democratic elections, and its members defaced her election posters with the word "Kafir". Yaqoob believed she was being targeted for being a Muslim woman in the public eye and for working with churches and synagogues.
2006 UK local election
Yaqoob was elected with 49.4% of the vote in the Sparkbrook ward of Birmingham City Council in the 2006 local elections. She claimed that her election "challenged the traditional conservatism that denies leading public positions to women, and challenged the old order, which treats our communities as silent voting fodder. And it was only possible because we united people around a progressive message of anti-racism and social justice". She was re-elected to the post in May 2010.
2010 general election
Yaqoob stood in the 2010 general election for the Respect Party in the Birmingham Hall Green constituency, and came second to Roger Godsiff of the Labour Party, trailing by 3,799 votes. Yaqoob's 12,240 votes was an increase of 13.9%, with an 11.7% vote swing from Labour to Respect. The Green Party had stood down its candidate in favour of Yaqoob after a members vote. The Green Party leader Caroline Lucas stated she believed "that Salma will make a very good MP". The retiring Labour MP Lynne Jones had also backed Yaqoob's candidacy ahead of Labour's Godsiff, saying "Salma Yaqoob is an excellent candidate of great ability who, as a councillor, has shown that she works hard for her constituents. I have a lot of time for her." and "In the Hall Green constituency ... I am not happy with the endorsement of the Labour candidate". During the campaign, Yaqoob was offered a choice of two 'safe seats' by the Labour Party, one in Birmingham and one in the Black Country. She declined both, stating, "If it was just about my career it would have been a nice move, but it is not all about me".
Council ceremony in 2011
At a Birmingham City Council meeting in early February 2011, Yaqoob and another Respect party councillor, Mohammed Ishtiaq, sat with their arms folded and refused to participate in a standing ovation at a meeting at which Britain's most highly decorated serving marine and Afghanistan veteran Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, GC, RMR was a guest. This led to widespread criticism from other councillors, including allegations that it was a disrespectful act. The two councillors argued that they were protesting against "false patriotism" by politicians, while defending their own history of support of individual troops.
Lloyd Mullaney, a Liberal Democrat councillor, alleged afterwards that Yaqoob would have applauded if it were the 21 July failed bombers who were being honoured, for which he later apologised.
Resignation as councillor and leaving Respect
On 7 July 2011, Yaqoob announced her intention to stand down as a Birmingham City councillor, citing health reasons.
On the 11 September 2012, Yaqoob announced her resignation from the Respect party after what she described as a difficult few weeks and a breakdown in relations. Yaqoob had distanced herself from comments made by George Galloway about rape and allegations against Julian Assange. In her statement, Yaqoob said "I remain committed to the principles and values that led me to help found Respect. The policies we have fought for need to be voiced as loud as ever in opposition to a political establishment that remains out of touch with working people." Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas offered immediate support to Yaqoob, saying “Really hope Salma Yaqoob’s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her clarity and vision.” Labour MP, Richard Burden said Yaqoob could possibly have a future with the Labour Party, saying “If right for her and us and differences resolved, Salma Yaqoob would be asset".
In August 2009, Birmingham man Stuart Collins appeared in court charged with threatening to kill Yaqoob. He was also charged with racially and religiously aggravated harassment, and as of June 2011 sentencing is pending.
In 2006, Yaqoob received the Lloyds TSB Asian Jewel Award for Public Service Excellence while Harper's Bazaar magazine named her in the top thirty list of British women, alongside Kate Winslet, all of whom they considered to be 'women shaping Britain'.
In 2008, she was voted to eleventh place in the Birmingham Post's Power 50 list of the most influential people in the city. She was included in the newspaper’s list again in 2009. During this year, she was also included in The Daily Telegraph's annual list of 'Top 100 left wingers'.
In 2009, Yaqoob was included in the Muslim Women Power List run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in association with The Times and Emel magazine.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Yaqoob is "the most prominent Muslim woman in British public life".
Notable media appearances
Yaqoob has made six appearances on the panel of BBC One's Question Time programme. Her first appearance was in Skegness, 19 January 2006, shortly before her election as a councillor. She returned in Preston (October 2006), followed by her home town of Birmingham on the of 8 February 2007 and Bath on 12 February 2009.
On 10 December 2009, Question Time was held in Wootton Bassett, a town where the bodies of UK troops killed in Afghanistan pass through and are informally mourned. Salma Yaqoob stated that she "would be proud to have my sons defend this country" and argued for better support for UK troops and their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
She made her sixth appearance on the show on Thursday 10 June 2010, when it was broadcast from Plymouth. She was joined on the panel by Ben Bradshaw, Jeremy Hunt, Katie Hopkins and Toby Young.
Yaqoob has also made appearances on The Politics Show, This Week, Daily Politics, 10 O'Clock Live, and Frost Over The World.
Birmingham schools controversy
Salma Yaqoob leads the "Hands off Birmingham schools" group which was set up in response to the Operation Trojan Horse controversy.
Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia