Birmingham election candidate apologises for ‘deeply disturbing’ remarks about women

<span>Akhmed Yakoob said he was ‘mortified’ when he listened back to the recording of the podcast.</span><span>Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian</span>
Akhmed Yakoob said he was ‘mortified’ when he listened back to the recording of the podcast.Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

An independent candidate standing in Birmingham has apologised and pledged to “fight misogyny” after widespread outcry over comments he made on a podcast earlier this year, such as “70% of hell is going to be women”.

Akhmed Yakoob, standing in Birmingham Ladywood after coming third in the West Midlands mayoral election in May, also made inappropriate comments about domestic violence.

In response to a fellow podcast guest saying he would give his wife a “backhander” if she made money dancing on TikTok, Yakoob – a criminal defence lawyer – replied: “Brother, are you saying if she comes up in your personal space, you will defend yourself?”

The comments were condemned as “deeply disturbing” by the Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWN), which said they “raise serious questions about his judgment and values”.

Yakoob said: “I am mortified to listen back to this recording. While banter in an informal setting can often be crude, I should have refused to take part, since the tone of that discussion represents everything I stand against.”

He added: “Voters in Ladywood will not fall for attempts to distract them from the tens of thousands of civilian women who have been killed in Gaza.

“But I have learned lessons from this and wish to wholeheartedly apologise. My promise to the women of Ladywood is that, in fighting misogyny, they will always have an ally in me.”

Yakoob’s campaign is largely centred on support for Palestine, with his posters calling on people to “lend Gaza your vote”.

The Minted Minds podcast he appeared on earlier this year was advertised as an “emergency meeting” to talk about Palestine, but the topic of conversation turned to women and masculinity.

His comments included saying that “70% of hell will be women”, when another guest talked about how “empowered” women were followers of Dajjaal (a false Messiah or liar in Islam).

In a discussion about how men would act around women, he said: “How much can you lower your gaze? […] It’s natural for men to be attracted to females, so keep our queens at home.”

The MWN said Yakoob’s comments, as well as his support for Andrew Tate – who is awaiting trial in Romania on charges of human trafficking and rape – was concerning.

“We strongly encourage all women to closely examine candidates’ positions on crucial issues such as violence against women and girls and equality,” they said.

• In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. Other international helplines may be found via