Calls Pour in for Islamophobia Probe Into Tories Amid Nusrat Ghani 'Muslimness' Claims

© REUTERS / UK Parliament/Jessica TaylorFILE PHOTO: MP Nusrat Ghani speaks during a session in Parliament in London, Britain May 12, 2021
FILE PHOTO: MP Nusrat Ghani speaks during a session in Parliament in London, Britain May 12, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.01.2022
On Sunday, Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer identified himself as the person ex-Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani made claims about when she argued that she was sacked from her post in 2020 because of her Muslim faith. Spencer rejected Ghani's claims as "completely false".
The UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been urged by the country's Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to open a comprehensive probe into possible Islamophobia within the Conservative Party after former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Nusrat Ghani asserted it was her "Muslimness" that resulted in her being fired.

MCB Secretary General Zara Mohammed said that "Nusrat Ghani's testimony of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is shocking but not surprising", adding, "that she is experiencing this as a Muslim woman at the top of the party only reinforces the deep-rooted nature of the problem. Institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has gone on with impunity for far too long".

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She was echoed by Shockat Patel, a board member from the UK non-governmental organisation Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), who said that Ghani's story "touched a raw nerve" in the Muslim community.
Patel underscored that "an independent review" is needed "to specifically address the issue of Islamophobia".
The same tone was struck by a number of senior Tory backbenchers, including Tom Tugendhat and Steve Baker, who signalled their support for Ghani.

Chair of parliament's Women and Equalities Committee Caroline Nokes described Ghani's purported treatment as "appalling", insisting that the former transport minister's faith "has never made" her or any other colleague "uncomfortable".

Nokes stressed that ministers need to announce a probe into the matter and that "at the very least EHRC should have a look at this".
An EHRC spokesperson responded by saying that they were still "monitoring" the Conservative Party's response to last year's independent Singh inquiry into their handling of Islamophobia complaints and that the EHRC asks the party to submit "regular updates on progress".

"If we are not satisfied with progress, we will review our decision [not to begin an immediate review] and do not rule out the use of our legal powers", the spokesperson said, warning that the ERCH may open a full-blown inquiry.

The Telegraph has, meanwhile, quoted an unnamed Tory MP as suggesting that police may start investigating Ghani's claims and that Conservatives' immediate reaction to reading Ghani's allegations was "that's racial discrimination/abuse".
An independent inquiry chaired by Professor Swaran Singh asserted in May 2021 that there was "clear evidence of a party complaints system in need of overhaul". The probe also pointed to a "lack of transparency in the complaints process, with no clear decision-making process as to how complaints should progress, and no specified timeframes for resolution".

The current calls for a full-fledged probe come after Ghani, the former UK transport minister, said in an interview with The Times on Sunday that she was told at a 2020 reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that "Muslimness" was raised as an "issue", and that her "Muslim woman minister" status was making colleagues "uncomfortable".

She also alleged that she was told "there were concerns" that she "wasn't loyal to the party" as she "didn't do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations". According to Ghani, all this "was like being punched in the stomach".
This was followed by UK Chief Whip Mark Spencer tweeting that he was "identifying himself" as the person Ghani "has made claims about", but that "these accusations are completely false" and he considers them "to be defamatory". According to Spencer, he "never used those words attributed" to him.
A No 10 spokesperson, in turn, said on Sunday that "the Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind", while Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi touted Ghani as "a brilliant parliamentarian", adding that "this [her claims] has to be investigated properly and racism rooted out".

Boris Johnson, Tories in Hot Water

The fresh accusations come as the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular are under pressure over a host of scandals.
The most recent struck the Tories last week with a Conservative MP, the chairman of parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, William Wragg, claiming that the Tory party's whips have used "intimidation" and "blackmailing" tactics against Conservatives seeking to oust the PM amid the "partygate" scandal.
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Accounts by several Tories suggested that they were threatened with withholding financing for their constituencies on several occasions. The prime minister's office has since argued that there is no proof that the alleged "intimidation" methods were used.
The claims about the whips' purported pressure tactics arose amid an ongoing probe into alleged COVID rule-breaking "parties" held at No 10 between 2020 and 2021. The probe, which is being conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray, is expected to wrap up this week.
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