A Muslim mother of four who will run for election to the Red Wall next month hopes to become the first conservative councilor to wear a niqab.
Fajila Patel, 36, says she wants to “inspire” more women to enter politics – including those wearing the full veil – by seeking elections to Blackburn Borough Council.
If she succeeds, she will be the first Tory councilor to wear the Muslim modest garment, which covers the entire body except the eye area.
She is backed by her husband Tiger Patel, a councilor who called himself the ‘Bojo of Blackburn’ after his viral video helped him land an unlikely victory at the heart of Labour last year.
Fajila said she had “no worries” about Islamophobia in the Tory party, despite a May 2021 report saying that anti-Muslim sentiment “remains a problem” among members.
Fajila Patel, 36, says she wants to ‘inspire’ more women to enter politics by seeking elections to Blackburn Borough Council
If successful, it is believed that Patel will be the first Tory councilor to wear the niqab, a Muslim modest garment that covers the entire body except the eye area
But she labeled comments by party leader Boris Johnson comparing women wearing the full veil to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” as “indefensible,” although the article in which the comments appeared defended Muslim women’s right to wear the veil.
She said: ‘I don’t agree with anything a Conservative Party politician says or does.
“Some comments are indefensible. I’m not trying to make a statement, I’m just trying to show that as a woman I can make a difference.’
Fajila will serve as a councilor on May 5 in the Bastwell and Daisyfield borough of Blackburn, where nearly 84 percent of the population is Muslim.
She is supported by her husband Tiger Patel (right), a councilor who called himself the ‘Bojo of Blackburn’ after his viral video helped him land an unlikely victory at the heart of Labor last year.
Fajila said she had “no worries” about Islamophobia in the Tory party, but labeled comments by party leader Boris Johnson comparing women wearing the full veil to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” as “indefensible,” though it article in which the comments appeared defended the right of Muslim women to wear the veil
Who is Tiger Patel, the self-proclaimed ‘Bojo of Blackburn’?
Even if she is successful in the May elections, Fajila Patel will not be the most prominent politician in her own house.
For her husband, Tiger Patel, she already has a significant following after taking an unlikely victory in last year’s local elections.
Tiger, real name Altaf, amassed a legion of fans during his campaign for the Audley and Queen’s Park ward seat at Blackburn Council thanks to his seemingly unintentionally funny campaign videos.
Mr Patel unknowingly posed in front of a slide defaced with X-rated graffiti
A viral clip posted ahead of the May 2021 poll showed the taxi driver casually defaced a children’s playground with ‘fruity’ graffiti, to the beat of music, while looking straight into the camera.
At one point, he stands on top of a slide and raises his arms as he faces the camera – unaware that he is behind graffiti showing a doodle of male genitalia.
A few days later, he defeated the incumbent Labor party by 113 votes.
He has become something of a celebrity in the area with similar videos highlighting issues such as roof pours, potholes and the condition of local amenities including parks.
He describes himself as “a well-known and charismatic community activist” and said he was a member of the Conservative Party “because he believes they can bring much more to residents than what Labor has done.”
More recently, he posted a video of him repairing a fallen pole.
Patel, who previously ran as an independent, said he was elected Conservative this time after watching Boris Johnson deliver speeches on TV — and he says he has even been compared to the prime minister.
She explained that she wanted to “break down barriers” and inspire more women in the community to become active in politics.
The council has a two-thirds Labor majority with 35 members out of 14 Conservatives.
Fajila said: ‘The main reason [I’m standing for election] is that I want to break down barriers. I wanted to inspire other women to come forward and be confident enough as a councillor.
“We all know that local politics in our community is still male-dominated.
‘There are far too few women involved in local politics and that needs to change, because I know that women can make an enormous contribution.’
Fajila added that there was a “big misconception about women who wear the full veil,” saying that women who follow their requirement are “completely independent.”
Julian Arnold, Blackburn Conservative Association president and parish councillor, said Fajila’s candidacy in the upcoming local elections was a “breakthrough”.
He said: ‘Fajila is a wonderful person, she supports her large family and Tiger, but wants to make a difference by breaking boundaries and helping her community.
Fajila chooses to wear the Niqab, which is her right and a right we would always defend. Conversely, we would always defend someone who didn’t want to wear other religious insignia.
“We continue to take groundbreaking steps to advance the Conservative Party in Blackburn.”
Julian, 51, confirmed that after taking over the local association about four years ago, he had removed some members due to “Islamophobia” issues.
He said, ‘I will also say this, we had problems with Islamophobia. There is no room for racism in a party I lead, and I will be very honest with you, we have had to remove people.”
But he said he was immensely “proud” to support Fajila’s election shot – even though it caused “concern” among others in the community.
“It’s not a gimmick. It’s what she wears, and that’s what matters. She has a niqab. She is comfortable with that with her faith.’
“Michael Gove wants to meet Tiger and Fajila when she comes in, fingers crossed. That’s what the Conservative party is about – and we are pioneering.”
Tiger Patel, 52, said he thought his wife might be the first sitting councilor of a party to wear the niqab if elected on May 5.
He said: ‘This is the first woman in the UK to be in the Conservative party, in any party, to wear the niqab.’
“The local Conservative Party supported her and she wanted to help break down barriers. I support her as much as I can.’