• Tuesday, May 24, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Imam Qari Asim says has been ignored by Johnson, Gove

Imam Qari Asim

By: Pramod Thomas

AN imam, who was appointed as an adviser on Islamophobia by the government, has alleged that he has been ignored by Number 10 and Michael Gove, The Times reported. 

Imam Qari Asim has revealed that letters and emails have gone unanswered in the more than two years since the government appointed him.

Appointed in July 2019, he was asked to help draw up a definition of Islamophobia, the report added.

Asim told The Times that he subsequently tried to contact Gove to discuss the project but received no reply.

The government rejected a definition of Islamophobia drawn up by the all-party group for British Muslims in early 2019 and said it would appoint two advisers to create a new one.

Campaigners wanted a widely accepted definition of anti-Muslim prejudice akin to the definition of antisemitism drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Asim is a senior imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds and is regularly invited to represent Muslims alongside other faith leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi.

Asim has alleged that the government regularly failed to engage with or respond to his efforts to keep the project alive.

Michael Gove (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Currently, the Conservative Party is under pressure over allegations that Nusrat Ghani was sacked as a minister because of her “Muslimness”.

After the pandemic began, Asim told the newspaper that he focused on helping the government to encourage people to get vaccinated and did not contact Number 10 again about work on the definition.

“There is an anti-Muslim hatred working group in my department and, indeed, an independent adviser on Islamophobia,” Gove said in the Commons soon after his appointment as minister. 

Asim then wrote to the minister in November suggesting to work on the issue, but never got any response. He then followed up with an email on December 20, but no reply came, the report said.

Asim is deputy chairman of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group mentioned by Gove. He said the group had written “three or four” letters to the levelling up department, but said they “haven’t had any substantial meaningful response”.

“You could say that, since the new government came into power, nothing’s really happened,” Asim told The Times.

“I’m glad the prime minister has intervened. I hope that the same political willingness is carried across to the work that I was appointed to do, which was to define Islamophobia. As I believe that in order to tackle Islamophobia you need to know what it is and what it isn’t,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper of the row over Ghani’s sacking.

Naz Shah, vice-chairwoman of the all-party group on British Muslims, has said that the government’s neglect on working to accept a definition of Islamophobia highlights its approach towards tackling racism. 

“We take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Muslim hatred in any form and will continue to combat discrimination and intolerance,” a spokesman for Gove’s departments told The Times.

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