London: MP walks out of segregated wedding

London: MP walks out of segregated wedding

Jim Fitzpatrick, food, farming and environment minister, was invited to a wedding at the London Muslim Centre (LMC). When he and his wife got there he discovered it was segregated. He turned around and left. After he left, he was called up and told there was a table where non-Muslims could sit without segregation.

Fitzpatrick: "This is a very exceptional occasion, it's a new occurrence. It perhaps demonstrates that there is a degree of intolerance - certainly exclusion rather than inclusion, which we are trying to build in the East End. Certainly the vast number of my Muslim constituents who've contacted me have expressed sympathy that I was placed in this predicament."

"The segregation of men and women didn't used to be as much of a strong feature. We've been attending Muslim weddings together for years but only recently has this strict line been taken. It is an indication of the stricter application of rules that is taking place."

He said he believed the centre was being influenced by the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), seen as a backer of Sharia law. "I think the stranglehold influence of the IFE is present more than ever. We are trying to build social cohesion in a community but this is not the way forward."


A reader sent me the following response by the IFE:

Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) is mystified with Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick’s unwarranted allegations and attack against it, following his attendance at a constituent’s wedding at the London Muslim Centre (LMC).

At the wedding reception Mr. Fitzpatrick was reportedly asked to sit separately from his wife, a choice and arrangement made by the Bride and Groom. Rather than taking it up with his hosts or even the LMC who formulated their letting policy, Mr Fitzpatrick decided to throw wild and fictitious allegations against IFE and its influence on the LMC as well as Muslim wedding customs. This is not only disrespectful to his host’s choice of how they chose to celebrate their ‘Big Day’, but utter ignorance and insensitivity of the community he serves.

Muhammad Habibur Rahman, President of IFE said: “Mr. Fitzpatrick’s unfounded allegations have outraged the community and has done nothing but tarnish his image and the good name of IFE whose work and engagement in social cohesion is well known and appreciated”.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who has been representing the local community in Poplar and Canning Town for a number of years should have better knowledge and understanding of his constituents' religious and cultural values, as many weddings organised on religious grounds have separate seating arrangements, this includes Muslim and Jewish weddings.

We have contacted Mr. Fitzpatrick for an explanation of his unwarranted outburst.


This was a private affair, and so it was within the families' rights to do the wedding as they pleased. However, it was also Fitzpatrick's right to decide not to stay. The groom and his family are upset that Fitzpatrick hijacked their wedding in order to make a political point. I think that if the hosts wanted to save themselves the embarrassment, they should have warned their guests in advance that it was a segregated wedding.

The IFE claims separate seating was a choice of the bridge and groom. It took me time to make sense of what seemed like conflicting claims, but, if I understand correctly, what they mean is that separate seating for NON-MUSLIMS was up to the bridge and groom. According to the Daily Mail, the LMC only allows Islamic weddings according to Sharia law, with no free mixing between the sexes. From Fitzpatrick's point of view, it wasn't an issue of whether he himself could sit with his wife, but whether the entire wedding was segregated.

The IFE does have a point. Religious Jewish weddings also have separate seating arrangements. But on that point I agree with Fitzpatrick - it's a recent strict line. Another point is that I've never seen a Jewish wedding with separate seating for non-Jews. If the hosts allow for mixed seating, then it is not reserved only for non-Jews.

Sources: BBC, Telegraph, This is London, Daily Mail

No comments: