• Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Equalities watchdog to act on allegations of Islamophobia

MP Nusrat Ghani (Reuters/File Photo)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE UK’s equalities watchdog may launch an investigation into allegations of Islamophobia made by the former Tory minister Nusrat Ghani, the Guardian reported. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is under pressure to launch a probe, the report added.

In a recent interview, Ghani alleged that her “Muslimness” was raised when she was removed from a ministerial job in 2020 and she was told it was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

The Cabinet Office was launching an inquiry into Ghani’s allegations. However, the watchdog has not ruled out ‘the use of our legal powers’, if progress is not made.

An inquiry by the Conservatives published in May 2021 was condemned as a whitewash by Muslim Tories and anti-racist groups. While many welcomed the conclusion of the review, chaired by Prof Swaran Singh, that anti-Muslim sentiment “remains a problem” in the party. But they disagreed with the finding that there was no evidence of institutional racism.

“We have been monitoring the progress of the action plan from Prof Swaran Singh’s independent investigation into alleged discrimination within the Conservative and Unionist party, which was published in May 2021. We have received regular updates from the party and have liaised with them on their progress,” an EHRC spokesperson told the Guardian.

The Muslim Council of Britain said a “truly independent” inquiry into the “state of institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative party” was needed.

“I do believe the EHRC needs to investigate the Conservative party for its handling of discrimination against Muslim members and mostly elected Muslim officials, parliamentarians etc. In the same way that it investigated the Labour party about its handling of antisemitism,” Mohammed Amin, a former chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Amina Shareef, an advisory panel member of Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), said: “With the continued inability of the Conservative party to tackle Islamophobia in its ranks, including at the highest levels, it is high time for the EHRC to heed calls from the Muslim community to finally launch its own investigation.

Ghani has demanded specific terms of reference to be published for the Cabinet Office inquiry that included “all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip” alleged to have made the comments.

According to the Guardian, the matter would be investigated through the standard process used by the propriety and ethics team, though it kept open the possibility that the prime minister’s ethics adviser, Christopher Geidt, could get involved if there was a suggestion the ministerial code had been broken.

Meanwhile, Qari Asim, the deputy chair of the government’s anti-Muslim hate working group and an independent adviser appointed in 2019 to lead government work to define Islamophobia, criticised the government for failing to meaningfully engage.

He said there had not “been any engagement from the government” on coming up with a definition for Islamophobia for several years.

“The Cabinet Office will investigate the facts of this case. The Independent Adviser will be available to provide advice as required,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.

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