First-time MP Zarah Sultana has been making waves since winning from Coventry on a Labour ticket in the December UK general election.
The 26-year-old, whose grandfather migrated to the UK from Kashmir, has made headlines for her fiery speeches against rising rents, “colossal” student debts, and diminishing opportunities for her generation.
Earlier this week, Sultana brandished her student loan statement in the House of Commons while accusing the Tory government of forcing working class students to “take on this crushing debt” when the government is led “by a man who went from the playing fields of Eton to a free education at Oxford.”
Sultana said: “In 2010, like thousands of other young people, I argued against the tripling of tuition fees.
“But the government ignored us. And now I am in nearly £50,000 of debt.
“This is my latest student loan statement. As it says, in the last year alone the interest added was £2,022.65.
Sultana grew up in Lozells in Birmingham. Her grandfather, a Kashmiri Muslim, moved to Birmingham in the 60s. She graduated from Holte Visual & Performing Arts College and went on to study International Relations at the University of Birmingham.
Replying to a question on whether she is religious, Sultana, in an interview with the Coventry Telegraph ahead of the December election, said: “I’m Muslim and my faith informs my politics and teaches me that we have an obligation to speak truth to power and leave no one behind – as the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said “the greatest struggle is speaking the word of truth to an oppressor.”
In November last year, after being announced as Labour party’s candidate, she apologised for her social media post saying she would “celebrate” the deaths of former British prime minister Tony Blair, former US president George Bush, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sultana wrote on Twitter in 2015: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die.”
According to a Jewish Chronicle report, Sultana had in 2015 also expressed her support for “violent resistance” by Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.
She told the BBC the tweets were from a “deleted account dating back several years from when I was a student”.
“This was written out of frustration rather than any malice,” she said in a statement, explaining that her anger had arisen “from decisions by political leaders, from the Iraq War to the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations”.
She added: “I do not support violence and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologise.”
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