Boris Johnson orders inquiry into Nusrat Ghani Islamophobia claims

Nusrat Ghani MP. Pic: Parliament official portrait

The Prime Minister has ordered a formal Cabinet Office inquiry into claims made by Nusrat Ghani MP who said that she was sacked from her ministerial post because of her “Muslimness.”

Ms Ghani’s claims come as Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to resign due to a serious of scandals about parties in Downing St which broke lockdown rules.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP. At the time these allegations were first made, the Prime Minister recommended to her that she make a formal complaint to Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ). She did not take up this offer…

“The Prime Minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened. As he said at the time, the Prime Minister takes these claims very seriously.”

Reacting to the decision by the PM, Ms Ghani tweeted: “As I said to the Prime Minister last night all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate. I welcome his decision to do that now. The terms of reference of the inquiry must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the Whip. I look forward to seeing the terms of reference.”

Under the former PM Theresa May, Ms Ghani, 49, was appointed as a junior transport minister. She lost her job in a reshuffle by Boris Johnson in February 2020. She told The Sunday Times that she was sacked for being a Muslim.

She said: “At the post-reshuffle meeting with the whips I asked what the thinking was behind the decision to fire me… I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim woman 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’.

Boris Johnson. Editorial credit: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

“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 the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith…

“It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless,”

However, the Conservative backbencher MP Michael Fabricant said it was unlikely that Ms Ghani was discriminated against because “she’s hardly someone who’s obviously a Muslim.”

He told LBC radio: “I think the whole thing actually stinks, the accusation being made by Nus Ghani. Prejudice of any kind in modern Britain is pretty pathetic … but you know, ministers they come and they go.

“She’s hardly someone who’s obviously a Muslim. I mean I had no idea what religion she is. The Labour MP Keith Vaz, who was of South Asian origin, I do know because we discussed it, he’s a Goan Christian; others are Hindus, others are Muslims or whatever. But with her, it wasn’t apparent. So it does seem rather a lame excuse to me that she claims she was sacked because of that.”

Nusrat Ghani, who was born in Kashmir, has been Member of Parliament for Wealden in East Sussex since 2015.

Her voting record shows consistent support for Britain’s wars in the Muslim world as well as  gay marriage. She is also known as a supporter of the Prevent counter extremism strategy.

A 2020 poll of Conservative Party members found that they continue to have widespread suspicion, prejudice and hostility towards Muslims.

The poll by YouGov for HOPE not hate found that 57% of party members had a negative attitude towards Muslims, with 21% registering a very negative attitude.

Half of Conservative Party members (47%) believed that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life,” while 58% believed that “there are no go areas in Britain where Sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter.” This figure rose to 66% of those who backed Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election.

Over a third of Tory members thought that “Islamist terrorists” reflect a widespread hostility to Britain amongst the Muslim community, compared to 53% who thought it was wrong to blame all Muslims for the actions of a violent minority.

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