British lawmaker claims she was removed as minister over 'Muslimness'

09:32 PM | 23 Jan, 2022
British lawmaker claims she was removed as minister over 'Muslimness'

The claims by a British lawmaker that she was removed from a ministry in 2020 due to her Muslim identity have triggered calls for a probe into the allegations.

Nusrat Ghani, 49, was sacked as a transport minister in 2020. She told Sunday Times later that a whip said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at a meeting in Downing Street.

She was also told her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”, she claimed.

On Sunday, British Minister Nadhim Zahawi urged a probe into claims by the fellow Conservative MP that she lost her ministerial role because of her "Muslimness". The issue has built further pressure on the British government.

Chief whip Mark Spencer, whose role it is to keep MPs on board with the government's agenda, took the unusual step of identifying himself as the person at the centre of the claims, and denied the allegations.

“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I have never used those words attributed to me. It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before, Ghani declined to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation,” he added.

The government whips are in the spotlight at the moment after they were accused by Tory MP William Wragg of “blackmailing” critics of under-fire Prime Minister Boris Johnson in order to prevent them from trying to oust him.

Johnson's office said that the prime minister was aware of the claims at the time, and that he had invited her to make a formal complaint.

“After being made aware of these extremely serious claims, the prime minister met with Nusrat Ghani to discuss them,” said a Downing Street spokesperson.

“He then wrote to her expressing his serious concern and inviting her to begin a formal complaint process. She did not subsequently do so. The Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”

Ghani, vice chairwoman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, told the paper that “it was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless.”

She said she remained quiet for fear of being “ostracised by colleagues”.

Vaccine minister Zahawi demanded an investigation. “There is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our @Conservatives party,” he tweeted, calling Ghani a “friend, a colleague and a brilliant parliamentarian.”