While a lot of talk after Britain’s General Election last week has been on the Conservatives special friendship with the DUP, or the Labour Party making big increases in the number of MPs they have in Parliament, there has also been some quiet appreciation of how diverse Parliament is finally becoming.
45 out of the 650 MPs openly define themselves as being LGBT
In 2015 there were 41 MPs from ethnic minorities and now there are 52
In 2015 there were 191 female MPs and now there are 208 women MPs who’ll sit in the House of Commons
There are no specific figures on MPs with disability
In 2015 only 43% of MPs were educated in the comprehensive system (i.e. not private and not selective) but that has increased in 2017 to 51% (this is compared to 88% of the UK population who received comprehensive education!)
Notable firsts are the first female Sikh MP, a blind MP and an MP with a richly diverse international heritage
The British Prime Minister Theresa May today agreed with an MP who’d requested the PM’s agreement that woman are free to wear the hijab if they so desire.“On the issue that she raises about the wearing of the hijab, I’m absolutely in line with her: I believe that what a woman wears is a woman’s choice,” May told the House of Commons.”
The difference between niqab, hijab and burka is important as different countries in Europe have laws about the different headwear worn by Muslim women. In France the hijab is banned in public buildings like schools.
It’s hard to believe that in 2016 when gender equality has been celebrated and supported in the West since the 1970s that some religious groups still have a problem with female imagery. Ultra-orthodox Jewish newspapers which won’t publics photographs of women are currently struggling to cover the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and one does wonder how they’re going to cope if she make it to US President in November!
In Britain the last four decades have witnessed an enormous religious renaissance of orthodox Judaism with several organisations like Lubavitch, Aish, The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) and Project SEED spearheading the change. Aish runs packed weekly lectures in its centres in North London and annually takes up to 500 young people for three week study programmes to Israel, Australia or New York. They recently had the success of their programmes endorsed by MORI which reported, ‘Of those participants who have married or have become engaged since participating in the program, 97% have chosen a Jewish partner. Of those who remain single, 92% are committed to marrying someone Jewish who shares a commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people.’
Being an orthodox Jew is difficult if you are gay, as homosexuality is not seen as acceptable. A BBC article about being a gay Orthodox Jew describes the difficulty a woman faced living in a society which wouldn’t accept her.
You may never have even heard of the Yemen which is just south of Saudi Arabia. So it is therefore highly unlikely you’ve ever heard of the war which has been taking place in the Yemen since September 2014. When rebel troops took over the capital city and ousted the President, Saudi Arabia tried to set up a coalition of countries to fight back and re-instate the old Present because they were fearful that Iran and Shia Islam would rise to dominance.
In March 2016 the BBC published a report which clearly explains who is involved in the war, and showed that the British were selling weapons to the Saudi troops. When those weapons are used like they were this weekend, killing a funeral party of 140 people, questions should be asked on whether a trade embargo should be put in place against the Saudi kingdom. Amnesty International provide a thorough analysis of the conflict so far.
UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned Saturday’s strikes on the funeral gathering as a “horrific attack”. He said that aid workers who arrived at the scene had been “shocked and outraged”.