By Charlotte Green- Local Democracy Reporter
OLDHAM’s first female Asian deputy council leader has revealed online abusers claimed she ‘slept her way’ to the top and is ‘likely to have STDs’ as she condemned harassment and attacks on politicians.
Speaking at Oldham Council’s January meeting, Councillor Arooj Shah slammed a series of personal attacks on her as ‘textbook misogyny’.
Cllr Shah also addressed long standing rumours about her interactions with Mohammed Imran Ali, or ‘Irish Immy’, getaway driver for double police killer Dale Cregan.
Ali was convicted in 2013 for assisting the killer by driving him to Leeds after his murder of gangland rival David Short in 2012.
The town hall meeting on January 8 was told that Cllr Shah and Irish Immy had been friends since the age of 11 and she also referenced her brother, who has also served time in prison.
Cllr Shah said she knew her friendships and relationships would be ‘difficult for some people to accept’, but added she ‘can’t pretend they don’t exist and certainly I cannot turn my back on people I have known since childhood’.
“I would never condone any acts, not that my brother did and not that friend did,” said Cllr Shah, who is also the cabinet member for social justice and communities.
“I do not disown people for political convenience or to advance my political career.”
Cllr Shah said she had been personally targeted by an individual online after challenging their behaviour, which led to a campaign of abuse.
Fighting back tears, she said: “The individual deliberately sought out to bring shame to me in my community and impact my family.
“He inferred that women in my profession must have sexually transmitted diseases and the only reason I hold the position I hold is because I slept my way to it.
“We are too aware that if you were to even counter every single accusation, you know that something more ridiculous and outrageous will follow. They are not about truth but intimidation.”
She told members she had always acted appropriately in her political and professional life and had never abused her position.
“I have worked 50 times harder than my peers to hold this position. I don’t pretend to be somebody I am not,” she added.
She was moving a council motion on harassment and abuse in public life, which called for a letter to be written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office to seek a cross-government response in tackling the issue.
It was backed by Shaw Liberal Democrat, Cllr Louie Hamblett, who said the aim of the motion was not about preventing scrutiny of elected officials.
“Each individual human being should be able to go about their daily lives in peace, without having malicious intent towards each other,” he said.
“Only in the last few days I have been tagged in posts with generic threats and warnings about silencing free speech, including accusations of covering up misconduct simply by being a seconder to this very motion.”
Fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani also revealed he could no longer publish his personal address when he stood for election after receiving ‘death threats’ for being part of a mixed-race family.
“In the 2017 general election I had rape threats online,” he said.