I was incredibly proud that so many MPs spoke in opposition to the state visit by President Trump. I’m even more proud of the community that I represent in Blackburn. We are fortunate to live in a diverse community and I am fortunate to represent that community. As a representative of the people of Blackburn, I have a duty to make my views known to constituents on this issue. While 2,837 constituents of mine, 2.69% of the constituency have signed the petition, it is clear that the Muslim ban is an attack on all diverse communities and all who are resident in them.
While the government has negotiated an exemption for British citizens, many of my constituents, and I am sure, many British Muslims across the country, will be outraged at their failure to demonstrate solidarity with the innocent people fleeing terror who have been worst affected.
That the President of the United States uses his position to demonise an entire religion, aided by his cheerleaders on this side of the Atlantic, has the potential to damage community cohesion and to create a generation brought up in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust.
Over a third of my constituents identify as Muslim. They play a huge role in common institutions, acting as councillors of all political persuasions and as pillars of our community.
Blackburn has a proud history of rejecting intolerance and racism. In 2004, the only sitting BNP councillor left Blackburn with Darwen Council. Having been involved in local politics during the high tide of support for the BNP, I know the damage that hate and intolerance can cause to community relations and how vital it is that racist myths and falsehoods are challenged as soon as they are heard.
The hatred that Trump is perpetuating with this ban, which will be publicised by those who wish to pit religion against religion as an attack on Muslims, is not only wrong. It is dangerous. Dangerous because it fuels distrust among communities when the role of leaders is to bring communities together.
I do not believe that this President is worthy of the trappings of a state visit. We hold our allies to a high standard, we expect the United States to live up to its own billing as a beacon of freedom and democracy.
A man who has displayed such blatant disregard for the welfare of women, describing pregnancy as an ‘inconvenience’ and who has so crassly demeaned women in the public sphere for decades is not worthy of the red carpet treatment.
To invite this President so quickly and to refuse to withdraw the invitation after he has proved himself manifestly unsuited to the task of leading the international community demeans Britain. It will diminish the Queen’s stature and will cause irreparable damage to our national image.
Sharing the spotlight with Trump, a man who called for a gross invasion of the privacy of the Duchess of Cambridge, would be an insult to the dignity of the Royal Family and to that of Britain itself.
Ultimately the government had the opportunity to build relationships across the globe by joining in condemning the Muslim ban. They could have sent a strong message to Muslims in Britain and around the world that Britain does not endorse Trump’s view of their religion and that we work for tolerance in our communities and in the international community. They could have sent a message to women around the world that a man who boasts so graphically about ‘grabbing’ women has no place in Westminster Hall or in our politics. They could have sent a message against sexism and racism, misogyny and islamophobia. They opted not to.
I, and I am sure many other people across the country opposed to Trump, do not believe the trappings of a state visit and the allure of our royalty should be used to buy the favour of this President. As a country, we are better than this.