Open Letter to Chris Read (Leader RMBC)


(Please firstly see images of the original email by Muhbeen Hussain to Chris Read and his reply, which led to this response)

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Open Letter to Chris Read (Leader RMBC)

Dear Chris,

RE: Response to your refusal to meet.

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email and I also apologise for the delay in responding to you.

I want to begin by saying that one of the reasons it has taken me a while to get back to you is due to the fact that I wanted to make sure the contents of this letter are factually true and accurate. If I have in any way fell short in this endeavour, I am profoundly sorry and I am more than willing to retract such counts if I am shown to be wrong.

I have read your email and must express my disappointment at your position and stance, which regrettably is based very much on hearsay and not on reality. I could not fathom if the response was from the leader of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, or someone impersonating you; such was the callous and immature nature of the response.

A sincere gesture has been turned into a personal attack on my person and sincerity, whereas the request for the meeting was from a member of the Muslim community with the leader of the council; nothing from which a personal attack should have been necessary, which begs the question why? Only you can answer that.

I also want to make it clear that I have never met you. I have never spoken to you. I have never been present at the same place at the same time with you. I have never ever spoken about you. I have never ever criticised you or your leadership in public, until today.

There were many concerns that I had with your leadership, your statements and your approach, but throughout my email I didn’t make judgements on any of these factors; for the simple reason that I have never met you or raised these concerns with you in person. I don’t take hearsay or unsubstantiated half truths to represent you. Sadly, anyone who will read your email will see that the same cannot be said for you, based on your response.

Perhaps if we are to examine the actual facts, starting with the publication of the Jay report, we learn that the main culprits for failing to protecting the children of Rotherham were the local council and South Yorkshire Police (SYP). After the publication it was I, along with a few individuals, who faced the hostile media and defended our town. No one from the council came forward to put the matter into context and instead, allowed my community to be targeted and vilified.

Following the publication of the report the people of Rotherham, from all ethnic groups, male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim, led by the British Muslim Youth, held a rally demanding action against the perpetrators and accountability for the failures. This was one of only two times the Muslim community on the whole has come out (the second time being on 5th September 2015 when we gathered to pay our respects to Mushin Ahmed, following which the Rotherham 12 were arrested). I am proud to have played a role in trying to unite our town through this rally. This was despite personal hostility towards me and my organisation. We could not bury our heads in the sand, nor hide inside the town hall; we stood for our town, we stood for the victims and we faced the storm. I can assure you vanity was not in my mind, but a sense of responsibility in the absence of leadership spurred me to take on this role. My aim has and will always be to unite our town against any divisive forces be they local or external.

On the other hand, as was feared, the responsible authorities deserted the Muslim community; allowed over fourteen marches to take place and allowed Islamophobia to go unchallenged. This was evidenced with the increasing attacks on Muslims, taxi drivers left fighting for their lives, probable firearms being used to attack Muslim females, photos being taken outside schools of Muslim children, Mosques and Muslim owned businesses attacked, Muslim women threatened with rape as retribution and on a whole, a community living in fear. Then almost a year after the publication of the Jay report, we had the brutal and extremist murder of Mushin Ahmed. It came as no surprise as each attack became more ferocious.

As the leader you have not uttered a single, published, public statement condemning this murder, nor have you challenged the extremism that caused this murder. Not a single policy has been devised to tackle this ideology. An act of extremism, from the very same venomous doctrine that murdered Jo Cox MP, murdered Mushin Ahmed; yet the Rotherham Establishment remained mute.

In your email you refer to the ‘Enough is Enough’ petition which called for marches to be banned. You have used this as a trump card to challenge any assertion that suggests you haven’t done enough to challenge the far-right menace in Rotherham. However, this in itself demonstrates your complete lack of comprehension when it comes to understanding the enormity of the task before you. Now considering everything that the Muslim community have gone through (as briefly set out above), this petition is the most cowardice response to deal with an issue of this magnitude. A community ravaged with violence, intimidation and murder is given sanctuary and security in the form of an almighty petition, signed by a mammoth 686 people out of a populous of 250,000, and you call this an adequate response?

Furthermore, when one examines the petition, coupled with your many statements on the issue of marches, it is predicated on the basis of economics. In the petition, the words Muslim/anti-Muslim hatred/Islamophobia are nowhere to be seen. The mentioning of Mushin Ahmed’s murder is non-existent. Yet, in the measly two lines which do speak about racial attacks, it is prefaced as “apparently racially motivated”. When under your leadership, the local authority does not have the audacity to call a spade a spade in the petition (which seems to be your only defence), it shows your inability to quell the legitimate concerns and fears of a large segment of the community that you lead.

As acts of extremism were being perpetuated, I used the limited means I had at my disposal to raise concerns with SYP. One such example being that I offered to act as a conduit between SYP and the London Met, to help bring the Met’s best practices in dealing with hate crimes to SYP. This fell on deaf ears, despite the Met’s willingness to help.

After a great deal of thought and conversations and having our pleas ignored, the Muslim community decided to boycott political engagement with SYP. It was not a decision taken lightly or for personal gain. It was a cry for help to draw attention to the fear the Muslims were living in. This was recognised; sincere efforts were made to address the issues and actually listen to our concerns by some individuals. Even in those troubled times, sir a failure for you to understand the community and it’s fears were overpowered by an ignorant statement, whereby you labelled it as a bunch of young people seeking attention. Just to clarify a few points, it was not just young people. The boycott was endorsed by all sections of the Muslim community. Secondly, in no way, shape or form was there any threat of a boycott made towards Asian businesses, if they didn’t support our stance, as you claim. I’m sure you are well aware, but just in case you are not; not all Asians are Muslim and not all Muslims are Asian. In any event, if you had taken time to read paragraph seven of the boycott statement, you would see the boycott was limited to a small group of Muslim representative organisations that claim to speak on behalf of Muslims in Rotherham.

As far as Councillor Fenwick-Green’s assertion that the Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign spoke to her and sought an apology from the council goes, it is simply untrue and incorrect. Whilst it is right that the Rotherham 12 campaign does feel like it was being treated in a deeply dismissive manner by the council and in particular, the local Labour Party, it has never asked for, nor expected an apology. Various councillors have totally rebuffed attempts made by individuals to speak to them about the campaign (much like you have done with me). Let it be made crystal clear; never has it been our intention for the council to involve itself in the criminal justice process on our behalf. All we have ever wanted was a fair hearing; so we could explain to the people we have voted for exactly what happened on the day. We wanted to set out in private the catalogue of failures by the police on the day, as well as the attitude of the police both before and after the protest. That is all.

Instead, the Rotherham 12 campaign were treated just like the far-right fascists. You and your colleagues are elected officials. Your job, amongst others, is to hold the police to account. I have spent many hours reading the Jay report and the thing that is clear as day to me is that one of the reasons the council failed the victims of CSE was because they failed in their duty to hold the police to account. I’m sure you know this for yourself and don’t need me to lecture you on it. This was your chance to put it right. Listen to the campaign, then go to the police with the issues raised and make sure those mistakes were never made again; that’s leadership. That is all the Rotherham 12 were seeking from the council. Just a fair hearing. Yet, you and your colleagues were not even prepared to do that.

Let’s just imagine for a minute; if, when the young girls were being abused, you stood up as an elected official and campaigned with the victims back then (hypothetically speaking as I know you were not a councillor at the time), by calling for prosecutions etc, you would have been holding the police to account. No one would have accused you of involving yourself in the judicial process, rather your courage and valour would have been justly rewarded. That is the sort of leadership that is needed to make sure Rotherham never fails its citizens again.

To conclude, from your email the public will glean far more about your leadership (or lack off?) than any of the charges you level at me. Real leadership is having the ability to engage with different people that you don’t always agree with or may not even necessarily like, to find solutions to real problems. Personally, I have been extremely critical of the Conservative Government at times. Nevertheless I have always accepted invitations towards dialogue, where I believe positive outcomes can be achieved. For example, in recent weeks I have met directly with Amber Rudd (Home Secretary), Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) as well as several other Ministers. Whether anything positive comes from this remains to be seen, but I wasn’t prepared to shut the door in the face of what might be an opportunity to put past wrongs right.

Finally, If this response is genuinely reflective of your character, then I have to say with a heavy heart that you are most ill-suited to be leader, which brings your position and your council into disrepute. However, as I do not know you, nor have I ever met you, I am willing to believe this response was most out of character for you. With that in mind, I hope we can put personal opinions aside for the betterment of our town. Therefore, my original offer to meet, discuss and engage still stands.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

Muhbeen Hussain, Founder,
British Muslim Youth