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Woman Muslim councillor defies death threat calls

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 March 2010 | UPDATED: 15:41 05 October 2010

Shiria Khatun, cllr in east london, is been threatened with phone calls about her dressing with tight clothes, Weaver Fields, Bethnal Green, East London, UK March 2 2010

Shiria Khatun, cllr in east london, is been threatened with phone calls about her dressing with tight clothes, Weaver Fields, Bethnal Green, East London, UK March 2 2010

Carmen Valino

A WOMAM Muslim councillor says death threats and sexual harassment calls has made her change the way she dresses and reconsider being in politics.

By Else Kvist

A WOMAM Muslim councillor says death threats and sexual harassment calls has made her change the way she dresses and reconsider being in politics.

But Shiria Khatun, 38, said she is "feeling more confident and determined not to give in" to people targeting her after detectives this week began investigating her case.

The Labour councillor has received calls of a "sexual nature" over a year but felt too "embarrassed" to report it. But after a caller targeted her family, she went to the police.

The mother of four said: "It's really horrible. A male voice said 'We are going to get your parents out of their grave and put you there' and 'We know where you and your kids live and we are going to show you!"

The Tower Hamlets councillor said the sexual calls came from different men, sometimes speaking in fluent Sylheti and either fluent or broken English.

"One talked about how he liked my western clothes, my tight jeans, my body parts and sexual acts he would like to do to me."

When her husband came to the phone a caller told him he would like to have sexual intercourse with his wife.

Shiria said it made her job as a councillor difficult as she needs to be available when "vulnerable" people in her ward calls to ask for assistance with a case.

But she said she is determined not to give in to those targeting her.

"I don't like people exploiting religion to tell me I'm not a proper Muslim. We live in a democratic society and I have the right to dress how I like."

But Shiria admits wearing more lose fitting trousers and tops than she used, and glasses instead of contact lenses to be "taken more seriously".

She said there is not enough women in politics and urged other women facing similar threats to come forward

Last year Rania Khan, another of Tower Hamlets' women Muslim councillors, received hate mail after photos were taken of her without headscarf at an Eid party.

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