Tributes paid to ‘amazing’ jo cox
Friends and colleagues remember a politician who tried to make a difference
by Reena Kumar
MURDERED politician Jo Cox was a passionate “voice for the voiceless” who celebrated diversity and was set to unveil a report intoanti-Muslim
hate crime, the director of an Islamaphobia watchdog has said.
Fiyaz Mughal, from Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim
At- tacks), paid tribute to the mother of two who was killed last Thursday (16) in her constituency of Batley and Spen in Yorkshire.
Mughal had been working with the MP on a study about a surge in Islamaphobic incidents, particularly aimed at women.
Cox, 41, was brutally stabbed and shot to death outside a library on her way to a constituency surgery.
She was set to present in parliament the findings which was expected to conclude that there were about 80 per cent more at- tacks on Muslims in Britain in 2015 than the year before.
Mughal said: “When we met Jo Cox, we remember the energy, vibrancy and determination that she had to make small changes which could give people hope in the political processes of this country. She was passionate about speaking for the voiceless and in causes that would be considered unpopular, but right to campaign for.
“When we stated this to her, that tackling anti-Muslim
hatred was not popular and was fraught with risk, she said, ‘We are all people who deserve a better future’, and with that she backed the Tell MAMA campaign. That was the type of person she was.”
Cox, who would have celebrated her 42nd birthday on Wednesday (22), had previously worked for Oxfam in a variety of roles, and was elected into parliament last May.
The campaigner for human rights, international development and refugees, paid tribute to her constituents from a range of ethnic backgrounds in her maiden speech in parliament last year.
“Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigra tion, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir.
“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each oth er than things that divide us,” she said.
Politicians gathered to remember Cox in a tearful special parliament session on Monday (20).
Naz Shah became a new Labour MP at the same time as Cox last year. The Bradford West MP said the atmosphere in parliament was sombre during the emotionally charged sitting.
“When her husband and her children arrived, that was when the atmosphere really shifted. It really, really did bring home the sorrow and the loss. We all miss her. She can never be replaced.”
Shah told Eastern Eye that Jo was an “amazing woman” who would leave a lasting legacy with the message of hope not hate.
“She stood for unity across races. What Jo epitomised was that you don’t have to be black to understand racism, just as you don’t have to be a refugee to get the issue. She had worked inwartorn
areas and had such compassion and levels of empathy and understanding.”
Commenting on the issue of politicians and their security, Shah said the attack on Cox had made her “think differently.”
“We need to measure risks, but I don’t want it to drive a wedge between MPs and our constituents. That’s not what Jo would have wanted and it’s not what democracy is about,” she said.
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, said politicians were summoned to a security briefing earlier this week with the Metropolitan Police com missioner and home secretary Theresa May.
He said: “God forbid that we should ever have to feel afraid of our constituents. As MPs we should have no other purpose than to serve and help the people we are elected to represent.
“It is our role to be their champions and advocates, and represent them to the offices and bureaucracies who they feel are blocking their lives. But we do need to foster a kindlier style of political debate that does not always seek to denigrate those in public office.”
The shadow minister for energy and climate change and chair of the Labour Friends of India added that Cox was a “wonderful person and a great colleague, who devoted her life to helping people. She was somebody who was full of good humour, always positive, bright and focused.”
“Anyone who takes a look at the speech she gave to parliament on Syrian refugee children will understand the things that inspired her – she believed we had a moral responsibility to step up and help them. That was all she wanted to do: help people,” Gardiner added.
Cox’s husband Brendan told reporters this week that Jo had been concerned about the conduct of the debate on EU mem bership. He added he believed his wife was killed because of her strong political views.
“She completely respected that people could disagree for very good reason. But more about the tone of whipping up fears and whipping up hatred potentially,” he said.
Speaking about the tone of the political debate leading up to Cox’s murder, Gardiner told Eastern Eye: “Perhaps we all need to take a step back and wonder what state our politics has descended to that such a person could be murdered for her views.
“We should reflect on the confrontational and unkind nature of political debate and question whether it might not be better to disagree with some one’s politics while still respecting them as a person, rather than always vilifying public figures as wicked, corrupt or evil.”
Naz Shah said politicians had a huge responsibility in terms of the language they used. “It’s brought home the consequenc es that our language can have.”
A memorial fund set up to raise funds for charities sup ported by Cox passed £1 million after being launched online three days ago.
Over 30,000 people from around the world have contributed after it was set up by friends of the Labour MP, in collabora tion with her family and her husband. Money is being raised for causes which were close to her heart, including for volun teers helping to combat lone liness, and the antiracism group Hope Not Hate.
Thomas Mair, 52, who has been charged with Cox’s murder, was remanded in custody after appearing by videolink at the Old Bailey on Monday (20).
He is also charged with griev ous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and pos session of an offensive weapon.
Mair was due to appear at the same court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday (23).
At an initial hearing at West minster magistrates’ court last Saturday (18), he refused to give his name, instead saying he was called “Death to traitors, free dom for Britain”.