Who is Faiza Shaheen, the former Labour pro-Palestine candidate standing as an independent?

Who is Faiza Shaheen, the former Labour pro-Palestine candidate standing as an independent?
The New Arab takes a look at why Faiza Shaheen decided to stand as an independent and the issues she has vowed to fight for.
4 min read
08 June, 2024
Faiza Shaheen will be standing as an independent in the UK general elections [Getty]

Faiza Shaheen made headlines last week after the Labour Party abruptly stripped her of her chance to be one of its MPs, before she decided to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming UK general election.

The decision garnered a great deal of attention and interest in the left-winger who grew up in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency.

Earlier this month, Shaheen was summoned to an interview with three members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) over a series of posts on her social media dating back to 2014, which they say damaged the party’s electoral chances.

Shaheen was out canvassing when she realised she had lost access to the Labour Party’s campaigning app. She later found out she was blocked, and the news had reached journalists before she had even seen the email from the NEC asking her to appear before a panel five hours later.

The old posts of hers that were deemed problematic included one where she congratulated an old colleague who had decided to stand as a Green councillor, and another where she liked a post on X that called for a boycott of Israeli goods during Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza.

Other posts include a video she posted of a pro-Palestine march in London in November, as a passerby, with the caption: "Happening right now." Labour candidates were barred from attending Gaza marches.

Shaheen said she decided to stand as an independent following hundreds of messages from people in her community who say there are "no options left for them".

"They are tired of the Tories but now feel they can't trust Labour," she said in a statement, adding, "They feel disenfranchised by Labour's decision to remove me."

Here, The New Arab takes a deeper look at who Shaheen is.

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'Difficult home life'

Shaheen was born in 1982 in Leytonstone and has described living in a "difficult family situation".

Her father was a car mechanic from Fiji who left when she was in her 20s and her mother was a lab technician from Pakistan who died in 2017 after developing heart problems, living only on disability benefits.

She says her difficult home life is what motivated her to seek election in her home constituency.

Shaheen later went on to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Oxford, followed by undertaking an MSc and PhD at Manchester before working for several different thinktanks and charities.

She was elected as a Labour candidate after working for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies think tank.

In 2022, she won the candidacy and began working as a lecturer at the London School of Economics.

What does she stand for?

After announcing that she will be standing as an independent, Shaheen made it clear that her focus will be her community.

She reiterated that her community needs an MP who "understands peoples’ struggles to make ends meet amid the rising cost of living." She also said that she will fight for underfunded public services, investment in the NHS, and offer support for local businesses, as well as focus on issues relating to the environment.

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I never wanted to be an MP just for the sake of being part of the Westminster world," she told The Guardian. "This is a chance to show people a different type of politics, to show what grassroots politics could look like – exciting and empowering," she added.

Islamophobia and Palestine

Shaheen has raised awareness about issues relating to Muslims, particularly during her time campaigning locally.

In November, Shaheen asked the UK Labour Party's shadow secretary David Lammy, "Do you understand what this issue means to the Muslim community? We were brought up supporting Palestinians" after Keir Starmer told LBC in an interview that Israel "has the right" to withhold water from Gaza.

After announcing her decision to resign from Labour, she said she was "penalised for describing my experiences of Islamophobia" and "prevented from speaking out on issues that really matter to me, including on public sector wages and Palestine".

After resigning from the Labour Party, Shama Tatler was announced as the candidate replacing Shaheen in the London seat of Chingford and Woodford Green.

Tatler is a councillor in the London Borough of Brent and a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel organisation affiliated with the World Zionist Organization.

Shaheen slammed the decision, stating that the party "would rather lose than have a left pro-Palestine candidate", while highlighting Tatler's lack of history with the constituency.

Speaking to the The Guardian, she also claimed she has faced "a systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia and bullying".