Peterborough Conservative candidate accused of ‘abhorrent’ antisemitism over Facebook posts apologises

A Conservative candidate for the upcoming Peterborough City Council elections accused of “abhorrent” antisemitism by a leading Jewish group has apologised.

By Joel Lamy
Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 3:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 4:03 pm

Ishfaq Hussain, the party’s candidate for Dogsthorpe on May 6, has been criticised for Facebook posts which said Jewish people living in Israel are not “true Jews” and that Israel is part of a “Zionist trilogy” alongside America and Saudi Arabia which “breed terrorists”.

He has also previously turned his profile picture into an image with the caption: “This person does not recognise the State of Israel,” while claiming that “Zionism is one of the worst afflictions on the world” and that “the Zionists with the help of the UK and America have already occupied 85 per cent of Palestine”.

Moreover, he has called for Jerusalem to be made the capital of Palestine to “stop more bloodshed, genocide by the Zionists and to uphold basic human rights,” adding that “under Zionist rule... freedom of practising ones faith is under threat”.

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Ishfaq Hussain

Mr Hussain, who runs city car dealership More Cars, has also posted a series of further anti-Israel posts which have been shared with the Peterborough Telegraph.

He told the PT when approached for comment: “I recognise Israel’s right to exist and wholeheartedly support a two-state solution. I deeply regret that my frustration at events in Israel and Palestine led me to suggest otherwise.

“At times in the past I reacted irresponsibly on social media. My comments at those moments do not reflect my settled view.

“Some of my previous language was ill-judged and offensive. It also echoed antisemitic tropes in ways I had not fully understood. I apologise unreservedly for the hurt this will have caused.

A Facebook post from Ishfaq Hussain

“However strongly we feel, we should never let our emotions get the better of us. By doing so, I allowed myself to become part of the problem. I am truly sorry.

“I was proud to be part of the work to bring Peterborough’s communities together during the pandemic. I hope and pray that this work has not been undermined.”

The PT understands that Mr Hussain has been suspended by the Conservatives.

The party has yet to comment after being approached by the PT.

A Facebook post from Ishfaq Hussain

A spokesperson for the Jewish Leadership Council - an umbrella network for dozens of Jewish organisations - said: “These posts are antisemitic and abhorrent. It is clearly too late to remove this candidate from the ballot but the Conservatives need to make it clear immediately that, should this candidate be elected, he will not hold the Conservative whip or form part of the administration should the Conservatives be successful.

“There seems to be a specific and identifiable problem of anti-Jewish racism in both main political parties in Peterborough – this needs to be stamped out.”

Mr Hussain was recognised as a ‘Covid hero’ for his charity work during the pandemic where he was praised by Conservative MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow for his efforts.

Mr Bristow said: “As Peterborough’s MP, I take the suspensions of councillors and candidates very seriously.

A Facebook profile picture from Ishfaq Hussain

“The Jewish Leadership Council is right to say that ‘there is a specific and identifiable problem’ of antisemitism in our city’s politics.

“I have invited JLC representatives to come to Peterborough to meet me and address this problem directly. I hope that faith groups (including representatives from the Peterborough Liberal Jewish Community), councillors and the local political parties will participate in the meeting.

“We must lift this shadow over politics in our city. It is incumbent on all parties to improve understanding and tackle unacceptable actions, comments and behaviour.”

The posts from Mr Hussain follow revelations from this paper that a sitting Conservative councillor in Peterborough, and two former electoral candidates for the party, posted alleged antisemitic material on their Facebook pages.

Cllr Mohammed Nadeem, member for North ward on Peterborough City Council, who is not seeking re-election in May’s local elections, promoted a speech from Zakir Naik who was banned from entering the UK in 2010 and was described as a hate preacher by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Naik has caused controversy for refusing to condemn Bin Laden and for declaring the September 11 terrorist attacks were an “inside job”.

A Facebook post from Ishfaq Hussain

Cllr Nadeem shared a speech from Mr Naik on the Islamic preacher’s TV station Peace TV, calling it “eye-opening” and asking people to “watch and listen carefully”.

A screenshot of the post shows the speech referred to “259 terrorist attacks conducted by Jewish terrorists” from 1941 to 1948.

The Conservatives said Cllr Nadeem “neither promotes nor endorses such views”.

Muhammad Ikram, who contested the vacant East ward seat in 2019, shared an article which accused Israel of promoting a ‘Final Solution’ for Gaza while describing its politicians as being “worse than animals”.

He added: “Can you really support Zionism after this?”

The Conservatives said Mr Ikram was not a member of the party when he shared the article and “no longer holds or agrees with comments he made at that time”.

Haq Nawaz also stood for the party in 2019 when he contested a seat in North ward.

He has made comments in recent years about Labour leader Keir Starmer whose wife and children are Jewish.

In one comment he used the phrase “after he’s done his deed and served his masters,” while in another he referred to Sir Trevor Chinn (a vice-president of the Jewish Leadership Council) where he appeared to question whether he has “bought off” Mr Starmer and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.

Both comments were followed by emojis.

Peterborough Conservatives said Mr Nawaz was not one of its members, however, the PT has since established that he is a member of Whittlesey Conservatives and is standing in the town council elections for the vacant Stonald ward seat.

Labour has also previously selected a council election candidate - Alan Bull - despite allegedly knowing he had been accused of denying the Holocaust.

Mr Bull has always denied being antisemitic and has called on the Labour Party to “correct the record and apologise for misrepresenting my character and causing considerable distress to my family and me”.

Moreover, former Labour MP Lisa Forbes, who is standing in Fletton & Woodston in next week’s elections, apologised after she liked a post on Facebook which described Theresa May keeping her “Zionist Slave Masters agenda alive”.

Ms Forbes said at the time she had liked the video accompanying the post, which was of children playing, and had not read the text.