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Sunday, January 23, 2022

New accusations reawaken claims of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party

Claims by the Wealden MP, Nusrat Ghani, in an interview with the Sunday Times, that, when she lost her job as a transport minister, she was told, at a meeting in Downing Street, that “Muslimness” had been raised as an problem  has reopened a deep wound within the Conservative Party, who had hoped to have put claims it was institutionally Islamophobic behind it.

The Guardian reports that Mark Spencer, the chief whip, has said the MP was referring to him when she accused a member of government of telling her she had been sacked from her ministerial post because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”, tweeting a few hours after the story was published: 

“To ensure other whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about. These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”

Ms Ghani has a different version:

“It was like being punched in the stomach,” said the MP for Wealden, who was sacked in a mini-reshuffle in February 2020 after the resignation of Sajid Javid as chancellor. “I felt humiliated and powerless. I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable and that there were concerns that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.

“When I challenged whether this was in any way acceptable and made clear there was little I could do about my identity, I had to listen to a monologue on how hard it was to define when people are being racist and that the party doesn’t have a problem and I needed to do more to defend it.

“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.”

The Guardian reported back in May 2021 that the long-awaited review into Islamophobia within the Conservatives was condemned as a whitewash by Muslim Tories despite it including criticism of the language used by Boris Johnson and the mayoral campaign run by Zac Goldsmith for insensitivity.

At that time Lady Warsi, the party’s former chair who first demanded an inquiry into anti-Muslim sentiment within its ranks, disagreed with the review’s conclusion that there was no evidence of institutional racism, saying there were issues “from the top ... to the bottom” of the party:

The prime minister’s comments, in which he compared women wearing the burqa to letterboxes, were singled out for criticism in the inquiry headed by Prof Swaran Singh.

The report found that anti-Muslim sentiment was still present at local association and individual levels, but claims of “institutional racism” were not borne out by evidence.

Warsi said that the party’s “processes, attitudes and behaviour” were at fault from its leadership to its grassroots. “The report concludes that from the top – from the prime minister at one level – to local associations at the bottom, there is an attitude issue and a problem and a behaviour issue in terms of Islamophobia,” she told Sky News.

“So on each of those counts it satisfies the definition of institutional racism ... the way I see it, if it looks like institutional racism, feels like institutional racism, fits the definition of institutional racism, then I’m afraid it is institutional racism.”

These latest allegations, whether true or not, will blow this issue wide open once more. The fact is that the Tories never satisfactorily dealt with the allegations, and now it has come back to bite them.

So the Conservative party are in trouble again.Buried problems rather than being dealt with raise there ugly heads again
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