British jets flew bombing raids in Syria last week as MPs voted to join US-led coalition air strikes against so-called Islamic State (IS/ISIL) militants in Syria following a 10-hour debate.
Several Asian Labour MPs and politicians who represent populations with large numbers of south Asians voted against taking action, while Khalid Mahmood and Virendra Sharma abstained.
The government motion was passed 397 to 223 after David Cameron led a debate on how to keep British people safe from the threat posed by IS.
Among the Asian MPs voicing strong opinions were:
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire: “As well as thinking about our own security, we have thought about the security of the people of Syria. Although much of today’s discussion has been about the government’s motion, and the efficacy or otherwise of military action, there is another important perspective on this catastrophic situation – that of the people of Syria and those in the Middle East who have been so deeply and tragically affected by this conflict, and whether adding to the multiple countries already bombing Syria will help them, or indeed our security.”
Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden: “As a Muslim woman, I stand with people of all faiths who abhor Daesh’s ideology, rhetoric and actions. We are justified in taking action to destroy them: they are a threat and they will not rest until they have destroyed us and everything we stand for. For that reason, I will vote in favour of the government’s motion this evening.”
Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East: “Ninety-nine per cent of the people killed by Daesh (IS) and Assad are actually Muslims. The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Muslims is taking place, so I as a Muslim have no truck with Daesh. I would happily support today’s motion if I genuinely believed that it was going to make a dent in Daesh and make the United Kingdom safer, which is an important point.
“With all due respect to the prime minister and the government, what I think is going on here is basically a symbolic gesture to show that we are in the international community and siding with France. Of course, we were all devastated by what happened in Paris, but using that as the main reason to extend our involvement is wrong.”
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham: “I find myself in a very different place at the moment. That is because of some of the things that have been said by the prime minister. He and the foreign secretary have said that under no circumstances will we have any people on the ground. The only way we will defeat this horrid group is by having people on the ground. That means not just us, America, France or others from the EU; we need a coalition of the nations, including the Muslim countries in the area, to deal with this problem. We must not think we can deal with it by airstrikes, no matter how accurate our Brimstone missiles are, and no matter how many strikes and sorties we can carry out. If we are able to wage that war from the air and defeat Daesh, there is a bigger issue – on the issue of terrorism and radicalisation, we have managed to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Ladywood, Birmingham: “Although there is a wide variety of opinion and practice within Sunni Islam, we can all agree that ISIL is not representative of our faith and not representative of Sunni Muslims. They are Nazi-esque totalitarians who are outlaws from Islam, who engage in indiscriminate slaughter and who murder any Muslim who does not agree with them. If you are different or if you disagree, you die. I am well aware that under ISIL, a Muslim like myself would be killed, so please believe me when I say that I do not simply want to see ISIL defeated; I want to see it eradicated.
However, I believe that the proposed action will not work. That is why I cannot vote for it. I fear, primarily, the chaos that might come from a vacuum or ungoverned space. Many members have said that airstrikes alone will not work, and I agree. We cannot simply bomb the ground; we need a strategy to hold it as well.”
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North: “Airstrikes can create a temporary opportunity for territorial gain, but in default of a competent ground force, that opportunity is squandered and at what cost?
The population of Raqqa, who are subjugated under Daesh, will not be allowed into the tunnels. They will not be whisked out of the city in armoured jeeps with Daesh commanders. They will remain in the city and wait for British bombs. All military action comes with the risk that innocent lives will be lost, I understand that. Sometimes that risk must be accepted, but only when the military and diplomatic strategy that is put forward is coherent and comprehensive and has a reasonable chance of achieving its objective. The government’s motion does not.”
Asian MPs who voted for the motion:
Alok Sharma (Reading West)
Priti Patel (Witham)
Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire)
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)
Rishi Sunak (Richmond, Yorkshire )
Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove)
Seema Kennedy (South Ribble)
Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire)
Suella Fernandes (Fareham)
Nusrat Ghani (Wealden)
Asian MPs who voted against:
Barry Gardiner (Brent North)
Imran Hussain (Bradford East)
Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South)
Naz Shah (Bradford West)
Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton)
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow)
Sadiq Khan (Tooting)
Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston)
Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Stephen Pound (Ealing North)
Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn)
Valerie Vaz (Walsall South)
Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East)
Keith Vaz (Leicester East)
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire)
Asian MPs who abstained:
Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall)