NEW DELHI — Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, who became the first Muslim woman to be a UK government minister when she was appointed to a post at the Department for Transport, has said that her faith was raised as a reason for her sacking in 2020, the BBC reported.
According to the Sunday Times, Ghani has said when she asked for an explanation, a Conservative government whip said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” during discussions about the reshuffle and her status as a “Muslim woman… was making colleagues uncomfortable”.
The Wealden MP is quoted as saying she dropped the matter after being told that if she “persisted” in asking about it she “would be ostracised and her career and reputation would be destroyed”.
On Saturday night, UK Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer identified himself as the person Ghani’s claims were made about, the BBC reported.
He said the accusations were “completely false and defamatory” and denied ever using the words Ghani had alleged.
To ensure other Whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about this evening.
These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me
— Mark Spencer (@Mark_Spencer) January 22, 2022
Spencer went on to say it was “disappointing” that at the time she had declined to refer the matter for a formal Conservative Party investigation.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday urged a probe into claims by the fellow Conservative MP that she lost her ministerial role because of her “Muslimness”, piling further pressure on the government.
In a tweet late Saturday night, he said there was “no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism” in the Conservative Party, adding that the allegations had to be “investigated properly and racism routed out”.
There is no place for islamophobia or any form of racism in our @Conservatives party. @Nus_Ghani is a friend, a colleague & a brilliant parliamentarian. This has to be investigated properly & racism routed out. #standwithNus
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) January 22, 2022
Ghani was sacked in a mini-reshuffle of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in February 2020.
AFP adds: 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”.
— IANS with inputs from AFP