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My ‘Trial by Labour’: Suspended, investigated & vindicated

Puru Miah
Puru Miah

Recently the Labour Party NEC found that I, Puru Miah, did not breach any Labour Party rules, restored my full membership of the Party, without any conditions. Following the recent press report of this ruling, below is a full explanation for setting the record straight.

Details I could not make public so as not to prejudice the investigation.

On the 27th of November 2020, a report first appeared in the press. It stated that I was suspended by the Labour Party pending investigation of a complaint, that I breached its Anti-Semitism code of conduct. The complaint was based on an edited screenshot of a social media post I made in 2014. At the time I rigorously denied the allegation, and as a proponent of the MacPherson principles, I apologised for the hurt caused, welcomed the investigation and was confident of being cleared. 

Four months later, on the 25th of Match 2021, the NEC of the Labour Party met and found that I did not breach any party rules, subsequently restored by full membership without any conditions or restrictions.

Context Behind the Post: International Academic Book Business

At the time of the social media post, 2014, I ran a small successful international academic book business. The business, specialised in selling published works to universities and government institutes in the Middle East. The main medium of selling these books was during the annual book fair in each country. Due to strict censorship laws, the only opportunity people had to purchase books without restrictions was during these events. I am proud of the role of the business in facilitating academic international discourse, in particular the pivotal role it played with the authorities and the Frankfurt Book Fair in establishing the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.

The nature of the business meant that I had to keep abreast of the latest trends in academic works related to the region, as well as maintaining regular correspondences with academics from and interested in the region.

Above is a post on Facebook, dated 8th November 2014. By Saeed Saeed culture writer at The National, the national broadsheet of the United Arab Emirates. Picture was taken at the Sharjah International Book Fair (then the largest book fair in the Gulf Region)

The 2014 social media post was around a book by Israeli professor of history, Shlomo Sands. The post was part of a series of academic discussions I had with fellow academics around Professor Sands and his works. He was attending a public lecture at SOAS in October 2014.

The post was related to a series of discussion with academics, around how theories which are commonplace in scholarly circles cause indignation and are politicized when they enter the general discourse. In particular, the thesis espoused by Benedict Anderson in his work, ‘Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism’. A summary of the thesis being, that nations and peoples are socially constructed, a phenomenon occurring with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

A post that formed a part of the discussion was edited and submitted to the Labour Party in a complaint, alleging that I breached its anti-Semitism code of conduct. After I submitted the full context of the post with verification from academics, the NEC found that I have not breached any Labour Party rules.

Support during trying times

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.”― Franz Kafka, ‘The Trial

As the Sufi mystics say, life is a set of trials, the essence being not the outcome but yours and others conduct in humanity during such trials. In the four months of my suspension, while being investigated, I had the solitary observance and collective experience with others, of small acts of heroism and generosity, making a reality of the truism in humanism, that we are not responsible for what befalls us, but we can be responsible in the way we respond to it. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who stood by me in this difficult time. In particular, the academics who issued statements publicly and to the Labour Party in my support, a special thanks to Professor Shlomo Sands who issued a message of support from Israel. I would also like to thank faith leaders who in recognition of my long-standing private interfaith work rallied to my support. In particular, local faith leaders, who issued an open letter to the Labour Party. And finally the friends from my school days, through university, work, to my role as an activist and local councillor. Individuals, who railed to my support not on the basis of a political ideology or a transactional relationship but on the basis of their knowledge of me as an individual. Demonstrating that humanity always trumps bureaucracy. 

“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.” ― Albert Camus, ‘The Plague

Albert Camus, French author, philosopher and resistance fighter. (1913 – 1960)

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Written by Cllr Puru Miah

I am the Councillor for Mile End ward in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

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