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Yaqoob, Salma

By:
Eren Tatari
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women What is This? A single source for accurate overview articles covering the major topics of scholarly interest within the study of women and Islam.

Yaqoob, Salma

is a British Muslim of Pakistani descent, antiwar campaigner, national commentator on race issues, and founder of the Respect Party. She was born in 1971 in Bradford and raised in Alum Rock, Birmingham, with her six siblings. Her parents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s, and her father worked for some time in a mill before he joined the Royal Mail.

She studied biochemistry and psychology at Aston University and continued to do postgraduate work in psychotherapy, becoming a trained psychotherapist. While at Aston, she experimented with different religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism) before eventually returning to Islam. Her move into politics was triggered by one particular incident: two weeks after September 11, 2011, she was spat at while shopping with her three-year-old son in Birmingham city center. In the post-9/11 climate of Britain, after becoming pessimistic about all political parties as they followed “Blair philosophy” and voted for the Iraqi war, she spearheaded many antiwar movements. She temporarily suspended her doctorate to spend more time with her extended family and focus on her political career.

Yaqoob soon established herself as a powerful and outspoken political candidate on many social topics and was described as a “doughty fighter for Birmingham inner city communities.” She first gained political renown in 2003 as chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, which formed in response to the invasion of Iraq. She would further cement her status as a noteworthy political adversary when she represented the Respect Party in Birmingham, Sparkbrook, and Small Heath during the 2005 general elections, in which she took second place (with one-third of the vote), beating both the Liberal Democratic and Conservative candidates. The next year she got nearly half the vote and was elected as city councilor for Sparkbrook Ward on Birmingham City Council. She was subsequently solicited by the Tories, Liberal Democrats, and Labour party, yet she decided to stay with the Respect Party, eventually becoming the party leader after its split. She would maintain her position as city councilor and party leader until July 7, 2011, when she announced her resignation as councilor for Sparkbrook for health reasons.

She was acknowledged for her work in 2006 when she received the Asian Jewel Award for Public Service Excellence for her achievements for social schemes for the prosperity of Britain's South Asian communities. She also ranked number 24 on Birmingham Post's 2009 Power 50 and number 18 on the 2009 Muslim Women Power List.

Her short political career is characterized by her views on local and national social issues. While she remains adamant in her views against the war, she also gained recognition for her outspoken opinions about many other topics, such as housing improvement, inner-city deprivation, current affairs (as discussed on her Politics and Media show, which aired on the Islam Channel), the role of Muslims and Muslim women as well as other race issues, overcoming traditional beliefs of proper behavior for Muslim women, Muslim and non-Muslim unity, and pro-Palestinian stance (as evidenced by the boycott of Israeli goods she called for in response to Israel's actions in Gaza). Throughout her political and social works, she has upheld the common principles of peace, social justice, and equality and continues to work toward creating a world that is free from “war, racism, and poverty.” Her career pursuits, as well as those of the Respect Party, are documented on her web site, www.salmayaqoob.com.

Bibliography

  • BBC. “Profile: Respect Party Leader Salma Yaqoob.” BBC, April 8 2010. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8609297.stm.
  • Birmingham Post. “In the Frame—Andrew Mitchell, Paul Tilsley, Paul Bassi, Salma Yaqoob, Clive Dutton, and Jon Bounds.” Birmingham Post, June 9, 2009. www.birminghampost.net/news/power-50/2009/06/09/ in-the-frame-andrew-mitchell-paul-tilsley-paul-bassi-salma-yaqoob-clive-dutton-and-jon-bounds-65233-23831663/.
  • Birmingham Post. “Power 50 Profiles: No. 24, Salma Yaqoob.” Birmingham Post, 2009. www.birminghampost.net/news/power-50/power50-profiles09/2009/07/30/ no-24-salma-yaqoob-65233-24276952/.
  • Bunting, Madeleine. “Respect Candidate Spearheads Quiet Revolution to Get Muslim Women Involved in Politics.” Guardian, April 23, 2010. www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/23/respect-candidate-muslim-women-politics
  • Guardian. “Muslim Women Power List.” Guardian, March 25, 2009. www.guardian.co.uk/society/gallery/2009/mar/25/muslim-women-power-list
  • Lutz, Richard. “The Lutz Report: On Salma Yaqoob.” Stirrer, March 9, 2010. thestirrer.thebirminghampress.com/March_10/ the-lutz-report-on-salma-yaqoob-090310.html
  • McFerran, Ann. “Relative Values: Salma Yaqoob and Her Father Mohammad.” Times of London, July 22, 2007. women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/ article2062769.ece.
  • Yaqoob, Salma. “Biography: Salma Yaqoob.” SalmaYaqoob.com, January 1, 2010. www.salmayaqoob.com/2010/01/salma-yaqoob_31.html
  • Yaqoob, Salma. “Time to Take a Step Back.” SalmaYaqoob.com, July 7, 2011. www.salmayaqoob.com/2011/07/time-to-take-step-back.html.
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