By Paul Hutcheon
A LABOUR councillor in Glasgow is facing calls to be stripped of his MBE after he made “crass and insensitive” claims about Sikhs and Indians.
Hanif Raja, who received his honour for services to “inter-faith relations”, accused both communities of trying to block his election over his support for Kashmir.
The remarks have been condemned by the ‘Sikhs in Scotland’ organisation and have triggered a complaint to the UK Government’s honours committee.
Immediately after his election this month, Raja gave an interview at the count to Pakistan television network Geo TV on his victorious campaign.The Kashmiri-born politician, comfortably returned on the Labour slate in Pollokshields, told the broadcaster that his success had come in spite of problems from Sikhs and Indians.
Raja backs a referendum on Kashmir’s future and has been critical of Indian involvement in the region.
He once raised a Holyrood petition criticising “occupation forces in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir”.
Wallia said that the group had written to the Cabinet Office’s ‘honours and appointments secretariat’, calling for the MBE Raja was awarded last year to be revoked.
David Meikle, a Tory councillor who was elected in the same ward as Raja, said Kashmir had not come up once on the doorsteps:
|Councillor Hanif Raja: "crass and insensitve"|
The former bankrupt was also appointed to the council’s regeneration and economic policy development committee.This was in spite of him signing a personal bond in January to repay an £18,000 debt to the council.
After being read one of the translations, Raja denied making the comments.
“It’s a wrong statement, I think you’ve got the wrong translation,” he said.
However, after Scottish Labour was contacted about the row, Raja’s position changed.
“I would like to apologise for any offence caused. What I said was clumsily worded, and I should have phrased it much better,” he said.
An SNP spokesperson said: “Scotland is blessed with diverse communities and a shared Scottish identity, and Mr Raja’s comments about people based on their faith and nationality are insensitive and unhelpful.”