‘I thought she wanted to shake my hand but she stabbed me twice’ - MP Stephen Timms tells of how he was stabbed by a constituent
- Credit: Archant � 2005
A Christian Labour MP has told of how he was stabbed by a Muslim constituent in 2010 - and how he believes the shared values of all faith groups are important in politics and society.
Newham MP Stephen Timms was in Norwich as part of the Keswick Hall lecture series at the University of East Anglia (UEA) on faith and politics on Thursday, March 23 and was interviewed by former Labour Party colleague Prof Charles Clarke.
On the day after a terrorist attack and fatal knifing of PC Keith Palmer outside Parliament, Mr Timms spoke of the day, seven years ago, when 21-year-old Muslim student Roshonara Choudhry stabbed him twice in the stomach at a constituency surgery at Beckton Library, Newham.
Mr Timms had just secured the biggest majority in the country in the May 2010 general election and his assailant said she wanted to punish him for supporting the Iraq war.
Mr Timms said: 'I was at a surgery in Beckton library when a woman came round the side of the desk in heavy Islamic dress.
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'I thought she wanted to shake my hand but she stabbed me twice.
'It felt like I had been punched. My assistant restrained her and when I went to the bathroom and pulled my jumper up, there was rather a lot of blood.'
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Mr Timms ended up in hospital where they feared for his life at one point. The assailant was later imprisoned for attempted murder.
'I was inundated with messages of good will,' he said.
'A lot of Muslims contacted me afterwards and said they were praying for me, as did a lot of Christians – and it meant a lot to me. My reflection looking back was that one person acted in one way but a lot of Muslims supported me.'
Mr Timms told the audience that his interest in politics came before any religious faith.
'I was not from a faith family - my parents were cynical, particularly my father,' he said.
'As a teenager I went along to a Crusader class and there I heard about the claims of the Christian faith and decided I wanted to sign up.
'It was a big commitment. I joined the Christian Union at Cambridge University – and it became by far the biggest commitment at college besides my studies.'
He took an IT job in London after graduating and went to live in Newham, where he had enjoyed a two-week CU mission while at university.
He joined the Labour Party, becoming a local councillor and then leader of Newham Council and was selected as a parliamentary candidate, ahead of Charles Clarke.
'In Newham I felt I might be seen as a Holy Joe,' said Mr Timms. 'But it was not a problem and in fact the reverse. The chair of Newham Muslim Association was first person to tell me to run as a candidate for MP.'
Mr Timms said that his thinking about faith and politics were closely linked. 'In the end it is all about fairness – how can we build a society which is fair,' he said.
He also spoke about the previous day's terrorist attack in Westminster, which he was caught up in.
'It happened as we were voting in the House and the sitting was suspended,' he said.
'Around 1,000 of us ended up in Westminster Abbey for four hours - the Dean was very hospitable. I think the police thought somebody else might be on the loose.'
Mr Timms chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, which publishes a Faith Covenant – a basis for faith groups and local councils to work together.
'Local councils are looking for groups to work with and often faith groups are the only ones there - with Foodbanks for example, which are remarkable.
'The churches uniquely have the capacity and motivation for taking on food poverty and doing something about it. There is nothing comparable to what churches are doing on this issue.'
Asked about different faith groups working together, Mr Timms said: 'The beliefs of various faith groups are clearly different but the shared values are held in common and enable people to work together.
'There is a high level of faith commitment in Newham and of belonging to a church or synagogue or temple and therefore feeling part of the community. Faith groups provide an opportunity to belong - which many people in this country do not have – which itself brings cohesion.'
Article courtesy of Network Norfolk.