Categories: News

Morriam Jan – An Inspiring Political Journey

Politics is not for the faint hearted. To survive, you need a very strong personality – even more so if you are an Asian Muslim female.  

Morriam Jan is exactly that.  Determined to make a difference, she has fought her way through the Birmingham city political arena to become the first Pakistani Female Deputy Leader for the Liberal Democrats, as well as co-ordinating the education, children & young people overview & scrutiny committee.

As she told British Muslim, her involvement in politics came about by chance. “As a young person growing up in Perry Barr, I was bit hyper and didn’t stick to the rules.  In Education, I could have received more support.  I went to university and then came back to Perry Barr to work in teaching and youth work. I felt I could provide that help and support for others since I understood the barriers and wanted to make an impact.  Kids were coming to school with no breakfast and I took on projects to help them, giving them different experiences through my youth and community work.”

“I was at a meeting where I was asked to speak in support of a liberal candidate.  I made a speech in front of around 500 people.  I didn’t expect the result.  I was told it was an amazing speech and that I had the potential to enter politics, and that they would like to help me do so. They trained me and gave me an opportunity to stand in a ward purely for experience.”

Morriam Jan was hooked.  She was really keen, possessing the passion and ability needed for a political career. 

She continues, “I had the opportunity to stand in Perry Barr where I had lived and worked for most of my life. I grew up her and came back to work here.  Liberal policies suit me as a female, and as someone from an ethnic minority background. I’ve achieved a lot. I have become the first Pakistani deputy leader of the liberal party on Birmingham City Council – the first such in the UK.  I have set up systems for children leaving care so that they have support for transport to enable them to go to the college of their choice and pay for medication if they fall ill.  Children leaving care don’t have much money or backing, and they can find it hard to pay bills just for travel making it a barrier to their education and future.”

She regularly talks to women’s groups, acting as a role model and encouraging them to have their say in politics.  ‘ I know how difficult it is to get on that platform as an Asian woman  – men come and say why her? They believe they can do better because they are male. People like to block you, you do get held back.  I’m a strong person. I show that as a Muslim woman you need to push back. There is a need to overcome barriers.’

Being in politics is certainly not an easy option as she acknowledges. “It does take over your life. You need support from your family.  For Muslim women it can be very hard due to family attitudes and restrictions. You get husbands and dads saying ‘no it is not for you’, ‘Don’t want you out and about meeting unknown men at meetings and events in public’.  I always leave my door open to people to come and talk to me. I don’t want to pressurise people, but if you want support there are avenues you can take.’

“I am completely honest at community events with women explaining what it is like in politics. I don’t sugar coat it. You could be dealing with financial crises, people may not like me because of decisions that have been made. You have to be prepared to make painful decisions. There is never a dull moment. It is hard work. You have to deal with case work, be on the ball with what is happening in your community, get involved with events.  I take youth groups around the council house and talk about my work. I have earned the trust and respect of my community.”

It can also be very unpleasant on a personal basis. Abuse is all too common as Morriam knows all too well. She says, “People think that as an Asian Muslim woman I am weak. They discover the hard way that I am not. Any woman involved in politics experiences it. You have to be prepared to deal with it. I get abuse when canvassing and knocking on doors. I have verbal attacks and threatening phone calls. It happens at every election – I dread that.  Last year I had two bodyguards every day.  There were people who got very aggressive, someone was paid £40 to punch in the face in 2017, and a helper was told they would smash her car. The police have a rapid response system to my home if I ring them.  They know about the abuse.”

In  2023, Morriam became the focus of abusive, racist and homophobic emails. She had no idea who had sent them and it was extremely distressing making her feel very unsafe. 

Morriam says, “it came from nowhere. I asked all the elected council members if they had such emails. I was the only one.  I pushed back and my colleagues were very supportive. The police investigated and prosecuted Terry Cheshire. He pleaded not guilty until the very day of the trial when he changed the plea to guilty.  It was on that day that I discovered what he looked like as photos were placed on social media.  He was named and shamed after the court hearing. There is now a two year restriction order, he has to go for mental health treatment and pay me compensation.” 

Having made a major impact at Birmingham City Council, Morriam is aiming to develop her political career still further saying, “I want to go to Parliament. I am ready. I am going for the kill. I have grown a lot politically and am dedicated. I believer there is more I can do to bring about change in Perry Barr. Parliament is calling and I am going to step up.” 

British Muslim Magazine

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