A British lawmaker has said she was fired from a ministerial job because her Muslim faith was making her Conservative colleagues “uncomfortable,” according to a report.
Nusrat Ghani, 49, Britain's first female Muslim minister, was sacked as transport minister in a reshuffle in 2020 in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government, The Sunday Times reported.
Ghani told the newspaper she was told by a whip - an enforcer of parliamentary discipline - that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at a meeting in 10 Downing Street, the headquarters of the government in London.
"I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable," the paper quoted Ghani as saying.
"I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party and I have at times seriously considered whether to continue as an MP (Member of Parliament),” she added.
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,” said Ghani. “I felt humiliated and powerless.”
“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," she said.
“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,” said Ghani, who is vice chairwoman of the party’s decision-making 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
She 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.
Ghani said the feeling of “isolation and powerlessness after this episode would not leave me and I raised it several more times through official party channels and with some colleagues.”
“I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party,” she said.
Islamophobia within the Conservative Party
The Conservative Party has previously been accused of blatant Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. A report in May 2021 condemned the party over how it dealt with complaints of discrimination against Muslims.
In a newspaper column, Prime Minister Johnson referred to Muslim women wearing burqas as "going around looking like letterboxes.” Johnson, later on, was forced to apologize for his remarks and any offense caused by his past slurs about Islam.
An exclusive story by the Guardian newspaper revealed that 15 sitting and 10 former councilors sent messages to the Conservative Party’s headquarters.
The messages included “calls for mosques to be banned, claims the faith wants to “turn the world Muslim” and refer to its followers as “barbarians” and “the enemy within.”
Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative Muslim member of the House of Lords, said that she was “appalled” by some of the comments in the dossier sent to the party headquarters.
“These further divisive and racist comments by elected Conservative councilors are a further indication of the issue of Islamophobia in the party,” she said.
“The constant argument made by the party [is] that there isn’t the evidence, yet dossier after dossier has been presented to the party. Now this one exposes a sizeable number of sitting Conservative councilors. These individuals seek to represent the party, and if the party truly believes in rooting out racism, it should start from rooting out those with racist views from the party. Sadly, the party has been trying to downgrade, dilute and deflect the issue of Islamophobia,” she said.
"Nus (Nusrat Ghani) is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience," William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said on Twitter on Saturday.
The British government has failed for years to adopt any definition of Islamophobia, with MPs and critics all condemning the lack of action amid rising Islamophobia across the country.
An all-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, created their own definition of Islamophobia in 2018, describing it as a form of racism: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness."
Regardless which political group makes the definition grassroots British Muslim groups are concerned over what they see as an “establishment pushed” definition.
Some have already begun to adopt the definition. Including the opposition Labour Party, however, accusations of Islamophobia within Labour remain despite its implementation.
A lot of skepticism surrounds this definition with many fears that it will not serve the community effectively if at all but while MPs continue to procrastinate, Islamophobia remains a persistent threat.
Prominent Islamophobes have dominated the Conservative Party, according to a senior political analyst from London.
“The Conservative Party is very dominantly Islamophobic; it is very openly Islamophobic, to the extent that even some Muslim-background individuals like Sajid Javid who is Home Secretary, he has also behaved extremely discriminatory towards Muslims,” Massoud Shadjareh once commented to Press TV.