Jim Fitzpatrick’s Wedding Gaffe
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st August, 2009
My local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, is in the doghouse in the eyes of many of my Muslim neighbours, having walked out of a wedding reception at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel Road, because he was told that the event was segregated by gender, which meant that his wife would have to go to the women’s room. Doubtless he just left in a huff, without thinking through the consequences, but when questioned later he said he did not think that gender segregation was appropriate in the modern age and that it damages community cohesion in Britain. But the affair has blown up into a major scandal. The bridegroom, Bodrul Islam, who had invited the Fitzpatricks, has reportedly demanded that the MP apologise for ‘politically hijacking’ his wedding, and Hanif Osmani of the Council of Mosques in Tower Hamlets told the East London Advertiser, ‘Mr Fitzpatrick’s own actions have undoubtedly caused more harm to local and national community cohesion than any such wedding ever could.’ The Advertiser is having a field day, of course; right in the middle of the summer silly season, here is a really meaty local issue!
George Galloway, Respect MP for neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow, who is planning to hop over into Poplar and Limehouse constituency to challenge Jim Fitzpatrick at the next general election, has gone typically overboard, calling on Gordon Brown to sack Fitzpatrick as Minister of Food and Farming. That would of course be quite absurd, as the MP’s gaffe has no bearing on his abilities as a government Minister. However, the affair does reflect badly on his ability to represent half of a borough in which there are an estimated 70,000 Muslims, many of whom are outraged at what they see as a slur on their cultural practices. Some of the readers’ letters in this week’s Advertiser are vitriolic about the MP and the Labour Party is taking flak as a consequence. ‘The local Labour ship is sinking and it is sinking fast,’ one correspondent writes. ‘His ignorance and rudeness are symptomatic of the desperate state of the Labour party, which is haemorrhaging past supporters to the extremes of politics,’ says another. A third notes pertinently that Orthodox Jews have gender-segregated religious events, too.
Meanwhile around the taxi rank and newstand at Mile End station, some of the old East End white working class is mutttering loudly about how ‘these Muslims are not like us’ and making similar disparaging remarks. Jim Fitzpatrick might be encouraged to know that he has some local supporters for his stance, but the whole affair has dealt a blow to multiculturalism in Tower Hamlets. Coming on the eve of Ramadan, it could hardly have been worse-timed.