Mother-of-four bids to become first Tory councillor to wear a niqab: Muslim woman standing for election in Blackburn wants to ‘bring about change’ as she brands Boris’ ‘letterbox’ comments ‘indefensible’
- Fajila Patel, 36, is standing in local elections for Blackburn Borough Council
- Could become first Conservative councillor to wear the Muslim niqab garment
- She called Boris Johnson’s comments on veiled Muslim women ‘indefensible’
- Patel is supported by councillor husband Tiger Patel, who dubbed himself the ‘Bojo of Blackburn’ and posted viral videos
A Muslim mother-of-four standing for election in the Red Wall next month is hoping to become the first Conservative councillor to wear a niqab.
Fajila Patel, 36, says she wants to ‘inspire’ more women to get into politics – including those who adopt the full veil – by seeking election in Blackburn Borough Council.
If successful, it is believed she will be the first Tory councillor to wear the Muslim modesty garment, which covers the whole body except for the area around the eyes.
She is being supported by her husband Tiger Patel, a councillor who dubbed himself the ‘Bojo of Blackburn’ after his viral video helped him secure an unlikely victory in the Labour heartland last year.
Fajila said she had ‘no concerns’ about Islamophobia in the Tory Party, despite a May 2021 report stating that anti-Muslim sentiment ‘remains a problem’ among members.
Fajila Patel, 36, says she wants to ‘inspire’ more women to get into politics by seeking election in Blackburn Borough Council
If successful, it is believed Patel will be the first Tory councillor to wear the niqab, a Muslim modesty garment which covers the whole body except for the area around the eyes
But she branded comments made by party leader Boris Johnson, comparing women wearing the full veil to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, as ‘indefensible’ even though the article in which the comments appeared defended the right of Muslim women to wear the veil.
She said: ‘I do not agree with everything a Conservative Party politician says or does.
‘Some comments are indefensible. I am not trying to make a statement I am just trying to show that as a woman I can make a difference.’
Fajila will stand as a councillor in the Bastwell and Daisyfield ward of Blackburn on May 5, where nearly 84 per cent of people are of Muslim faith.
She is being supported by her husband Tiger Patel (right), a councillor who dubbed himself the ‘Bojo of Blackburn’ after his viral video helped him secure an unlikely victory in the Labour heartland last year
Even if she is successful in May’s election, Fajila Patel will not be to most high-profile politician in her own home.
For her husband, Tiger Patel, already has a significant following after securing an unlikely victory in last year’s local elections.
Tiger, real name Altaf, amassed a legion of fans during his campaign for the Audley and Queen’s Park ward seat on Blackburn Council thanks to his seemingly unintentionally funny campaign videos.
Mr Patel unknowingly posed in front of a slide that was daubed in X-rated graffiti
A viral clip posted in the run-up to the May 2021 poll showed the taxi driver walking nonchalantly through a children’s playground daubed in ‘fruity’ graffiti, in time to music, as he looks directly into the camera.
At one point he stands atop a slide and raises his arms while looking at the camera – unaware that he is standing behind graffiti which shows a doodle of male genitalia.
He beat the Labour incumbent by 113 votes a few days later.
He has become something of a celebrity in the area with similar videos highlighting issues including fly-tipping, potholes and the state of local facilities including parks.
He describes himself as ‘a well known and charismatic community campaigner’ and said he joined the Conservative Party, ‘because he believes they can deliver far more for residents than what Labour have done.’
More recently he posted a video of himself fixing a bollard that had been knocked over.
Mr Patel, who has run previously as an independent, said he was moved to run as a Conservative this time after seeing Boris Johnson make speeches on TV – and he says he has even been compared with the Prime Minister.
She explained she wanted ‘break down barriers’ and inspire more women in the community to actively pursue politics.
The council has a two-thirds Labour majority with 35 members to the Conservatives’ 14.
Fajila said: ‘The main reason [I’m standing for election] is I want to break down barriers. I wanted to help inspire other women to come forward and be confident enough a stand as a councillor.
‘We all know that local politics in our community continues to be male-dominated.
‘There are far too few women involved in local politics and this needs to change as I know women can make a huge contribution.’
Fajila added that there had been a ‘great misconception about females who wear the full veil’, saying women who follow their requirement are ‘completely independent’.
Julian Arnold, who is chairman of Blackburn Conservative Association and a parish councillor, said Fajila’s candidacy in the upcoming local elections was a ‘breakthrough’.
He said: ‘Fajila is a wonderful person, supporting her large family and Tiger, but wants to make a difference to break down boundaries and help her community.
‘Fajila chooses to wear the Niqab, which is her right and a right that we would always defend. Conversely we would always defend somebody who didn’t wish to wear any other religious insignia.
‘We continue to make groundbreaking moves to advance the Conservative Party in Blackburn.’
Julian, 51, confirmed that after taking over the local association roughly four years ago, he had removed some members following issues with ‘islamophobia’.
He said: ‘I will say this as well, we had issues with Islamophobia. There is no room for any type of racism in a party that I head up, and I will be quite straight with you, we’ve had to remove people.’
But he said that he was enormously ‘proud’ to support Fajila’s election bid – even if it caused ‘upset’ among others in the community.
‘It’s not a gimmick. It’s what she wears, and it’s what she’s about. She has a niqab. It’s what she feels comfortable in with her faith.’
‘Michael Gove wants to meet Tiger and Fajila when she gets in, fingers crossed. It’s what the Conservative party is about – and we are ground-breaking.’
Tiger Patel, 52, said he believed his wife might be the first sitting councillor of any party to wear the niqab if she is elected on May 5.
He said: ‘This is the first woman in the UK standing in the Conservative party, in any party, who wears the niqab.’
‘The local Conservative Party has been supportive, and she wanted to help break down barriers. I am supporting her much as I can.’
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