Labour MP becomes the first hijab-wearing woman to make a speech in the House of Commons

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Apsana Begum made her maiden speech in the House of Commons, becoming the first hijab-wearing MP to do so. (ParliamentTV)
Apsana Begum made her maiden speech in the House of Commons, becoming the first hijab-wearing MP to do so. (ParliamentTV)

A Labour MP has become the first woman to address the House of Commons wearing a hijab.

Apsana Begum was elected as MP for Poplar and Limehouse in the 2019 general election.

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She made her first speech on parliament on Thursday, taking part in an International Women’s Day debate.

Begum paid tribute to her predecessor, MP Jim Fitzpatrick, before describing some of the “rich history of women’s struggles for social justice” in her constituency.

She said: “It is in this tradition of socialism, community solidarity and action that I now address the chamber today having been the first British Bangladeshi woman elected as secretary of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party, and now the first hijab-wearing member of parliament.”

Apsana Begum spoke out against racism, and thanked her constituents in Poplar and Limehouse (ParliamentTV)
Apsana Begum spoke out against racism, and thanked her constituents in Poplar and Limehouse (ParliamentTV)

Begum went on: “As someone who has first-hand experience of the rise of islamophobia over the past decades, it is alarming that racism, islamophobia and antisemitism in particular, are growing. 

“While the government continues to use hostile politics, which has resulted in the hostile environment for migrants that led to the Windrush scandal, we know that the fight for justice and change is not over.”

Read more: MPs to get £2,500 pay rise from April

In February, Begum said she had experienced racism as an MP, after an ITV News poll revealed that more than half of Black, Asian and minority ethnic MPs have experienced racism or prejudice from fellow MPs.

She tweeted: “I’m glad to have participated in this survey and I’ve had it despite being here only a few weeks so far.

“Doorkeepers are really the best among House of Commons staff - they are absolute gems & perhaps they don’t receive the recognition publicly that they deserve.”

Read more: Jacob Rees-Mogg responds to claims parliament ‘could shut for five months’

Begum is backing Rebecca Long-Bailey as the next leader of the Labour Party, and Richard Burgon as deputy leader.

Long-Bailey and Burgon have been dubbed the “continuity Corbyn” candidates in the leadership elections, and have both been vocal in their support for the leader on the campaign trial.


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