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Labour criticised for picking by-election candidate who can’t campaign for ‘cultural and religious reasons’

12 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Labour campaigners in Grangetown, including First Minister Vaughan Gething:

Martin Shipton

The Labour Party has been criticised for fielding a candidate in a crucial by-election who is unable to campaign because she is following Islamic mourning rules.

A by-election will take place in Cardiff’s multicultural Grangetown ward on April 25 following the sudden death in February of popular Labour councillor Abdul Sattar at the age of 52.

His widow Waheeda Sattar is standing as the party’s candidate to replace him. But some Labour members have raised their eyebrows at her absence from photographs posted to social media by party activists delivering leaflets and canvassing for support in the by-election.

A Labour member raised the issue with Nation.Cymru, saying: “It’s highly unusual for an election candidate not to participate in their own campaign. It must be virtually unprecedented.

“The party is constantly posting pictures of canvassers, but the candidate is never present. It’s an important part of the democratic process for candidates to interact with voters, but it’s simply not happening in Grangetown.”

We contacted Ms Sattar’s election agent, Cllr Ash Lister, to ask him to explain why she was not campaigning.

Cllr Lister said: “Waheeda is unable to participate in the campaign for cultural and religious reasons.”

We asked whether Ms Sattar was available for interview and he said: “A face-to-face interview won’t be possible.” We asked Cllr Lister whether Ms Sattar could be interviewed over Zoom. He said he would check and come back to us. We have heard nothing further from him.

Iddah

We sought advice from the Welsh Muslim community about the rules relating to mourning as they affected widows, known as Iddah. We were sent a Q&A on the issue, compiled by the Islamic scholar Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid. It included the following answer: “She should stay in her house where she was living when her husband died; this is the place where she should stay until the end of her Iddah, which lasts for four months and ten days … She should not leave the house except in case of need or necessity, such as going to the hospital if she is sick or to buy things she needs from the marketplace such as food etc if she does not have someone with her who can do that.”

A source in the Welsh Muslim community told us: “This lady has very sadly lost her husband and it would be wholly wrong to criticise her. Instead, the focus of criticism should be the Labour Party. What was the party doing in selecting a candidate who is unable to campaign because of Iddah? It seems that it’s trying to take advantage of her late husband’s legacy.

“Labour is not very popular in the Muslim community at the moment because of the leadership’s delay in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which was effectively condoning genocide by Israel. They may have changed their position now, but the damage has been done.

“The result of the Rochdale by-election [where left-winger George Galloway won the seat from Labour on an anti-Israel platform] showed how angry the Muslim community was.

“The Grangetown by-election is a challenge for Labour in a Welsh ward where a significant proportion of the electorate is Muslim. It will be an interesting pointer in the run-up to the general election.”

Rule book

The Labour Party rule book specifies how local government candidates should be selected: “Individual paid-up members of the Party, resident in the electoral area where the selection is taking place and a member for at least six months at a date determined by the Local Government Committees, will be invited to participate in the process of shortlisting and selection of their local government candidate(s).

“The shortlisting and selection of candidates shall consist of a vote, by eliminating ballot, of all eligible individual members of the electoral ward/ division on the basis of one member one vote.”

We sent Cllr Lister, in his capacity as election agent, a series of questions:

* Did Waheeda go through a competitive selection process to be chosen as the by-election candidate?

* If so, was there a face-to-face hustings meeting at which the would-be candidates addressed party members and were questioned?

* Were the party members who selected Waheeda aware that she would not be participating in the campaign?

* Does the Labour Party consider it appropriate to select a candidate who cannot participate in the election campaign?

* If elected, when will the period of mourning be over and when will Waheeda be able to participate in council business?

* If elected, will Waheeda be able to meet male constituents?

* Are you able to facilitate an interview with Waheeda or not?

Cllr Lister did not respond.


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

Ridiculous. Very sad she lost her husband but surely her religious needs should exclude her from standing as an election

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
1 month ago

It is very sad to hear that someone is in mourning after the death of a loved one. However, this feels like the Labour Party manipulating the voters of Grangetown ward. If that’s the case then this is wrong.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Owain Glyndŵr

Too much posturing leads to political own goals.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
1 month ago

She wouldn’t be the first Labour politician in Wales to inherit their seat from a family member.

Mart P
Mart P
1 month ago

Typical Welsh Labour, the arrogance continues.

Fct
Fct
1 month ago
Reply to  Mart P

Correct, god help the Welsh if labour wins the elecy

A Evans
A Evans
1 month ago

If the candidate cannot attend the hustings for religious reasons, how can he “fully” represent all voters with differing beliefs?

Fct
Fct
1 month ago

This is Labour for you, Wales in a mess, help us please if labour wins the election 😞

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Don’t feel sorry for the candidate, feel sorry if Labour win.

Sean K
Sean K
27 days ago

Though I’m not a Labour supporter, it seems a bit disingenuous to prevent a mourning widow from standing for election. I remember numerous examples of political candidates standing for election despite being unable to campaign, for example being ill, disabled or even in prison. Surely it would be discrimination to prevent a candidate from being put forward because of their religious beliefs?

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