SNP MP Anum Qaisar stopped by police in ‘racial profiling’ incident at Westminster

SNP’s Anum Qaisar revealed she had been racially profiled in parliament

Anum Qaisar revealed she was stopped twice by police in Westminster dressed in a shalwar kameez, something that had never happened where she wore clothes considered more western.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, the Airdrie and Shotts MP also called for improved accessibility in Parliament, pointing to a lack of options for those that cannot use stairs.

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She said: “I was racially profiled on the parliamentary estate a couple of weeks ago, and when I spoke to my SNP group about that it was overwhelming because they wanted to be there to support me. They identified the fact that I am the only person of color representing a Scottish constitution.

Anum Qaisar won the Airdrie and Shotts by-election in May 2021

“I was walking between the central lobby and the chamber, I go there all the time, but usually in my ‘western’ clothes, but that day I wore my shalwar kameez, which is a traditional Pakistani dress.

“I was stopped twice on one day by two different sets of police, and we can say that it is not racial profiling but the fact that it happened twice in one day, in an obviously different kind of outfit, it feels like it was racial profiling .

“It goes back to what do we expect our MPs to look like? And if they do, look a little bit different, is that accepted in parliament?

“The reality is if you were to go out and speak to people of colour, I would say mostly everyone would be able to tell you of an incident where it felt like they did not belong.

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“The fact that I was in my place of work, it was quite unnerving.”

Ms Qaisar said the Speaker’s Office was very helpful, and police were now investigating.

Scotland’s second ever female Muslim MP, the 29-year-old explained she also felt pressure to be the hardest worker due to “imposter syndrome”.

She explained: “I feel like I have imposter syndrome a lot of the time and despite the fact that I won selection, in fact, I was elected, but because I am a young woman of color I feel like I have to very often prove my worth.

“If someone was to go to Hansard and take a look at my speaking record, they can see it’s pretty high up there. But still I constantly feel the need, because I look that little bit different, to show I belong just as much as anyone else.

“I’ve got a really good network of SNP colleagues that are supportive, and so that’s helped me through it.”

The former teacher also criticized the lack of accessibility options in Westminster for those who were not able bodied.

She said: “If you’re someone who is not able bodied, I imagine it’s going to be very challenging for you to get from one part to another and obviously everything happens at different places.

“You could be in the chamber, Westminster Hall or in committee rooms, your office or elsewhere, and just from a disability perspective I’m not convinced Parliament is as welcoming as it can be.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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