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Open letter demands ‘zero-tolerance policy’ after Tory candidate’s antisemitic comments

Students are inviting Houghton ‘to address the concerns raised by signatories in an online meeting’ after the 2019 Conservative candidate’s homophobic, antisemitic and Islamophobic remarks came to light

By: Jeevan Bains and Anttoni Numminen

Caption: Ryan Houghton / Twitter

An open letter to Councillor Ryan Houghton and the Scottish Conservatives has been written by a group of students and activists in order to challenge the discriminatory remarks made by Cllr Ryan Houghton as well as making calls for him to make further, substantial, reparations. The letter explains its aim as sending “a strong message that we expect those in public office to uphold a zero-tolerance policy towards prejudiced and harmful language”.

Houghton’s comments were made through a series of comments in online forums, aged 20. Some of the comments made included him asking “how homosexuality was good for the human race” as well as his statement that there was “no credible evidence to suggest the Holocaust did not happen” and that “[he finds] some of the events fabricated” and that “Islam’s core teachings had the goal of world domination” with large Muslim families having the goal of creating “Eurabia."

"There are people who really think in those terms, and they’re not necessarily just the people in the center of the bull’s-eye of Islamic infatuation", he continued.

"It was incredibly disappointing to see Ryan Houghton’s comments that surfaced during the 2019 election" - Kirsty Blackman MP

The Gaudie reached out to Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North, who explained that “it was incredibly disappointing to see Ryan Houghton’s comments that surfaced during the 2019 election campaign.” Blackman continued to assure constituents in Aberdeen North that through her time in office she has “worked hard to challenge all forms of discrimination” as well as recognizing “the importance of working with all groups within our diverse communities to ensure their concerns are addressed.”

Signatories of the open letter commented that Houghton's "onetime apology is not enough to repair the damage that has been done" while the authors of the letter encouraged him to “use this as an opportunity to reach out to the communities in Aberdeen to build bridges and show that he wants to support us”.

In an email to one of the activists involved with the letter and seen by the Gaudie, Houghton says he is “wholeheartedly sorry” and clarifies that when he wrote the posts in 2013 he “wasn’t involved in politics at any level" and he had "no ambition of doing so".

He also condemned the suggestion that his apology had been "perfunctory or insincere", adding that not only was the suggestion "untrue" but it had had an "enormous impact" on him both "professionally and personally."

Further responding to the open letter, Houghton gives examples of what he has done “in a personal and professional capacity since 2013.” Examples include attending Pride and working with the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, as well as working “for the only openly LGBT member of the Scottish Conservative MP group”, Ross Thomson.

Thomson, the former MP for Aberdeen South resigned last year after being accused of sexually assaulting the then Labour MP Paul Sweeney.

Politics and International Relations student Olivia McKay condemned the comments made by Houghton explaining that, being from a Jewish background herself, the comments “undermine the suffering of the victims of the genocide perpetrated” and that “Holocaust distortion is a form of hate speech used to dehumanize and dismiss the victims and survivors and to question and justify the murder and torture of millions of Jews.”

Similarly, a Muslim Third Year Biochemist, also studying at The University of Aberdeen, responded to Houghton's comments highlighting that they represent a clear “lack of education and ignorance”.

She urged Houghton to immerse in educational resources online explaining that “there is so much information out there to make informed choices, better statements and opinions” while encouraging Houghton to “self-reflect” on his historical comments “to see how his comments have Muslim and minority communities” before he begins to make active amends for his behaviour presently.

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