U.K. Labour MP Naz Shah: I Was Ignorant About Judaism

In first public appearance at Jewish venue since suspension from party over anti-Semitic remarks, Lawmaker visits Leeds synagogue, vows to talk to fellow Muslims about anti-Semitism.

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Labour MP Naz Shah as photographed on her Facebook page.
Labour MP Naz Shah as photographed on her Facebook page.Credit: Facebook

British Labour party MP Naseem “Naz” Shah, who was suspended from the party for making anti-Semitic remarks,  spoke at the Sinai Synagogue in Leeds on Sunday night, and admitted she had been "ignorant about Jews" when she called to "relocate" Israel to the United States. She also said she would take personal responsibility to talk to fellow Muslims about anti-Semitism, reported Britain's Jewish News on Monday.  

Shah told the 130 people in the synagogue that her opinions had changed since the post in 2014: "When I engaged with the synagogue and had conversations, that's when I changed. Until we have those conversations we won’t achieve change,” she told the audience, said the Jewish News.  This was her first public appearance at a Jewish event since the controversy erupted.

Shah told an audience at a synagogue in Leeds she wanted to make a “real apology” rather than a “politician’s apology”, reported the Mirror. “I looked at myself and asked whether I had prejudice against Jewish people. But I realized I was ignorant and I want to learn about the Jewish faith and culture. I do not have hatred for Jewish people."

“It is my job in the Muslim Community to highlight the issues of anti-Semitism. Going to Auschwitz is a fantastic idea but it won’t fix the problem. We need to educate the community. It’s up to me to own the narrative. To have conversations with the Muslim community [about anti-Semitism] and that’s my responsibility,” she said.

Shah is the member of parliament for Bradford West and was suspended after sharing a  2014 Facebook post in which she shared a graphic that showed the outline of Israel superimposed on a map of the U.S. under the headline "Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict - Relocate Israel into United States." She had also compared Israel to Nazism.

Shah "wholeheartedly" apologized last month when the scandal broke for comments that "caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community." She also apologized to the House of Commons and resigned as an aide to Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell. Shah apologized for the posts saying: "I deeply regret the hurt I have caused."

“I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offense I have given, for which I unreservedly apologize."

Shah won her constituency in the last election by a landslide majority of 11,420 votes, and was international news due to the notoriety of the losing incumbent. George Galloway, a veteran far-left politician, who had been kicked out of Labour for expressing support for Iraqi Islamists fighting British troops in Iraq. Galloway, who had previously won in a London constituency where an anti-Semitic whisper-campaign had been employed against his Labour rival, used the same tactics against Shah. 

Asked at the event if she understood boycotts are largely aimed at Jewish people, the politician told the gathering: “Since I had these conversations I understand that but before I didn’t understand that.” And she said “hell no, Bradford is open to everyone” when asked if she agreed with Galloway’s call for Bradford to be an Israel-free zone.