Muslim women make British parliament breakthrough

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Britain's first female Muslim members of parliament celebrated Friday after winning seats in the general election.

Rushanara Ali, the first person of Bangladeshi origin to be elected to the British parliament, stood for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party. She won the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow with a comfortable majority.

"To millions of Bangladeshis around the world, it will mean so much to them that somebody of their background has been elected to the mother of all parliaments," said the 35-year-old, who was born in Sylhet and moved to east London when she was seven.

East London is the heart of the Bangladeshi community in Britain. Some street signs around the Brick Lane area are written in English and Bengali.

Labour's Shabana Mahmood and Yasmin Qureshi also feted being among the first wave of Muslim women ever elected to the House of Commons.

Mahmood won the seat of Birmingham Ladywood in Britain's second city. The constituency has the highest percentage claiming unemployment benefits in Britain.

Mahmood was born and bred in Birmingham. She studied at Oxford University, then became a lawyer.

She described her victory as "a real breakthrough".

"I think it sends a powerful message... Parliament should reflect the people it represents."

Qureshi, 46, a Pakistani-born lawyer, moved to Britain when she was nine. She was elected in Bolton, northwest England.

"I'm absolutely delighted. Obviously, I am very pleased the voters of Bolton South East chose a Labour candidate and elected a Labour MP.

"It is a truly humbling experience and I promise to work very hard for the constituents."

© 2010 AFP

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