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Sir Keir Starmer Accused of Misrepresenting Cardiff Mosque

A Cardiff mosque which was visited by Sir Keir Starmer has accused him of “gravely” misrepresenting the nature of the event.

The UK Labour leader, who is under pressure over his stance on Gaza, attended the South Wales Islamic Centre last weekend.

The centre said it was dismayed at a social media post about the event and apologised for “hurt and confusion”.

A Labour frontbencher said Sir Keir had been “there to listen”.

On Wednesday afternoon Sir Keir said the amount of aid going into Gaza was insufficient.

Sources close to the mosque also say that the visit was sprung on them at the last minute.

Sir Keir is facing criticism since seeming to say Israel had the “right” to cut off water and energy to Gaza.

He later clarified his position, saying he meant only that the country had a right to self-defence.

Merthyr resignation

At least 19 Labour councillors have quit, while a letter signed by more than 150 Muslim Labour councillors have called for the leadership to back an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to protect civilians and allow access to humanitarian aid.

It has emerged that Merthyr Tydfil councillor Jamie Scriven resigned from the Labour Party over Middle East policy, prior to the visit in Butetown.

Sir Keir, along with Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford, Cardiff South and Penarth Senedd member Vaughan Gething, the area’s MP Stephen Doughty, and shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens, visited the mosque in Alice Street on Sunday.

The anger felt by the mosque and the Muslim Council of Wales stemmed from a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from Sir Keir after the visit.

They felt the words and especially the pictures attached portrayed too rosy an impression of what went on.

Both sides agreed there was a robust and frank exchange of views.

But sources close to the mosque said the visit arranged at the last minute. They had been expecting local politicians, and Sir Keir was a late addition.

It also clear that Sir Keir’s very appearance at a mosque at a time when Labour’s stance on Israel and Gaza is subject to fierce scrutiny has caused anger amongst Muslims across Wales.

In the post on X, Sir Keir said: “I was grateful to hear from the Muslim community of the South Wales Islamic Centre.

“I repeated our calls for all hostages to be released, more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, for the water and power to be switched back on, and a renewed focus on the two state solution.”

Later, he added: “I was questioned by members and I was deeply moved to hear their pain and horror at the suffering of civilians in Gaza.

“I made clear it is not and has never been my view that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines. International law must be followed.”

In a quote tweet, First Minister Mark Drakeford also said on X: “I’m proud of our Muslim community in Cardiff for the direct and respectful way they expressed their concerns about the situation in Gaza. There is pain and anger which must be heard.

“Good to hear Keir reiterate Labour’s position that humanitarian aid must reach Gaza.”

‘Serious concerns’

In a statement issued via Muslim Council of Wales, late on Tuesday night, the centre said it acknowledged “serious concerns raised by our communities”.

“We apologise for the hurt and confusion that our hosting of this visit has caused.

“There was a robust and frank conversation which reflected the sentiments Muslims communities are feeling at this time.”

“Members of the community directly challenged Keir on his statements made on the Israeli government’s right to cut food, electricity and water to Gaza,” the statement said.

It said the visit put the centre into “disrepute” and and expressed “dismay” at the post on X.

They said the post and images attached “gravely misrepresented our congregants and the nature of the visit”.

BBC Wales had not been invited to the event.

‘He did go to listen’

Talking to the BBC’s Politics Live programme, shadow cabinet office minister and Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds said Sir Keir had, after the tweet that was issued, “put out further tweets beneath it setting out very clearly that he was there to listen, to listen to the stories of the humanitarian catastrophe that’s happening”.

“So that’s already been done by Keir, and I think it’s just very important to understand that the devastation that is going on, the lives that are being lost, Keir was there to listen, and I think it was important that he did go to listen, and that’s what he’s made clear in the subsequent tweets to that.”

On Wednesday Sir Keir said in a new statement: “It’s clear that the amount of aid and essential utilities getting into Gaza is completely insufficient to meet the humanitarian emergency on the ground.

“That’s why we have repeatedly said that aid, fuel, water, electricity and medicines must be urgently ramped up both through what can come in through the Rafah crossing and through Israel turning back on the supplies it controls.”

Meanwhile Plaid Cymru has tabled a motion in the Senedd calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru’s leader, said: “As the crisis deepens, the international community must do everything within its power to create safe and meaningful aid corridors into the Gaza Strip and enable safe passage out of the region for those that want to, and are able to leave as well as the right to return once the conflict is over.”

Source : BBC