ACTION is to be taken to address fears that sections of Portsmouth’s Muslim community are depressed and do not feel welcome in the city.
Labour Muslim councillor Yahiya Chowdhury has come under fire after he made claims that followers of the faith weren’t happy and the council hadn’t done enough to show support.
I have been surprised they have been reported in the press the way they have been, because I understood they were going to go through the council.Councillor John Ferrett, Portsmouth Labour group leader
Labour group leader John Ferrett says he was aware of Cllr Chowdhury’s concerns before he revealed them to The News – and was surprised he never raised them with the council first.
But he said he wants to help address the issues raised by working with council officials who support ethnic community groups.
Yet more critics have accused Cllr Chowdhury of making things up and trying to make trouble.
Cllr Ferrett said: ‘Cllr Chowdhury has raised concerns with me on some of these issues, and I had advised him to try and take them up with the council and the relevant parts of the council to address them.
‘I have been surprised they have been reported in the press the way they have been, because I understood they were going to go through the council.
‘However, Cllr Chowdhury is a new councillor, and I would hope in future we can make sure we have a joined up approach with these issues from the Labour group.
‘I will work with Cllr Chowdhury and the council to address all of these issues and concerns he has raised, and see what can be done to resolve them.’
But Portsmouth Ukip group leader, Cllr Colin Galloway, questioned Cllr Chowdhury’s motives – and believes the city must stand united.
He said: ‘I don’t know where he has got all of this from.
‘I have got Muslim friends, yet I don’t regard them as Muslims. I regard them as just my friends.
‘We need to stop breaking this city into little segments – saying this part is Pakistani and this part is Muslim. If we are working and living in this city, we are Portsmouth people.
‘If you are depressed, it’s not a whole community which is depressed, it means you are and there are ways to sort that out.
‘Has this come from Cllr Chowdhury’s imagination?
‘I do suspect this.
‘You’ll find the Muslim community are just as surprised about his statements as the rest of us are. You would think that if there was a serious problem, an Imam would have spoken to the administration leader or spoken to the police.’
As reported, Syed Aminul Haque, chair of Bangladesh Welfare Association Portsmouth, said the council could do more to help the whole community, but said there were no major problems and praised links between the council and general public.
Cllr Chowdhury declined to comment when approached by The News.