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UK PM orders inquiry into Islamophobia allegations by ex-minister

British Conservative Party MPs Nusrat Ghani (C) and Iain Duncan Smith (R) join members of the Uyghur community as they demonstrate to call on the British parliament to vote to recognise alleged persecution of China's Muslim minority Uyghur people as genocide and crimes against humanity in London on 22 April 2021. [JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images]
British Conservative Party MPs Nusrat Ghani (C) and Iain Duncan Smith (R) join members of the Uyghur community as they demonstrate to call on the British parliament to vote to recognise alleged persecution of China's Muslim minority Uyghur people as genocide and crimes against humanity in London on 22 April 2021. [JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a formal inquiry into Conservative lawmaker and former minister Nusrat Ghani's allegations that she was dismissed as minister because of her Islamic faith.

"The prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP," a statement from Downing Street said this morning.

"At the time these allegations were first made, the prime minister recommended to her that she make a formal complaint to CCHQ [Conservative campaign headquarters]. She did not take up this offer," the statement from a spokesperson said.

"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."

Following the statement, Ghani wrote on Twitter that she welcomed the decision and the inquiry "must include all that was said in Downing Street and by the whip."

"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."

READ: Islamophobia is a billion-dollar industry in the US; it's time to uproot it

Ghani claimed on Saturday that she was sacked from her ministerial position because of her Muslim faith. The 49-year-old MP was sacked as transport minister in February 2020 in a reshuffle after the resignation of Sajid Javid as chancellor of the exchequer.

She claimed that she was told by a party whip that her "Muslimness was raised as an issue" at a meeting in Downing Street and that her "Muslim women minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable."

She also said she was told "there were concerns 'that I wasn't loyal to the party as I didn't do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.'"

"It was like being punched in the stomach," Ghani told the Sunday Times. "I felt humiliated and powerless."

She said: "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," she said.

Ghani, who is vice chairwoman of the party's decision making 1922 Committee of backbenchers, said she kept quiet about the issue as she was warned that she would be "ostracised by colleagues" and her "career and reputation would be destroyed" otherwise.

"I will not pretend that this hasn't shaken my faith in the party," she said.

Islamophobia

The widespread Islamophobia allegations within the Conservative Party have been an issue pointed by many Muslim organisations, including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The MCB repeatedly accused the Conservative leadership of "denial, deflection and discounting" after the party announced it would be holding a broader investigation into "all types of prejudice," backpedalling on a previous pledge for an independent investigation into the matter.

The council said in 2019 that Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is "endemic."

The biggest Muslim umbrella group in Britain also said the "lack of transparency and attempt to cover up the problem only heightens the mistrust of the party."

A 2020 inquiry by Swaran Singh, a former equality and human rights commissioner, found no evidence of "institutional Islamophobia" within the Conservative Party but concluded that anti-Muslim sentiment "remains a problem" within the party. The report was condemned by Muslim groups in the UK.

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