A British lawmaker Nusrat Ghani has said she was fired from a ministerial job in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government partly because her Muslim faith was making colleagues uncomfortable.
Ghani, 49, who is the MP for Wealden in East Sussex made the claim in an interview published by Sunday Times.
She lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020.
She said she was told by a “whip” – an enforcer of parliamentary discipline – that her “Muslimness” had been raised as an issue in her sacking.
There was no immediate response to her comments from Johnson’s Downing Street office.
But Mark Spencer, the government’s chief whip, said he was the person at the centre of Ghani’s allegations.
“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory,” he said on Twitter.
“I have never used those words attributed to me.”
Ghani’s remarks come after one of her Conservative colleagues said he would meet police to discuss accusations that government whips had attempted to “blackmail” lawmakers suspected of trying to force Johnson from office over public anger about parties held at his Downing Street office during COVID lockdowns.
The scandals have drained public support from both Johnson personally and his party, presenting him with the most serious crisis of his premiership. read more
“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, Britain’s first female Muslim minister, 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).”
In his response, Spencer said Ghani had declined to put the matter to a formal internal investigation when she first raised the issue last March.
The Conservative Party has previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, and a report in May last year criticised it over how it dealt with complaints of discrimination against Muslims.
The report also led Johnson to issue a qualified apology for any offence caused by his past remarks about Islam, including a newspaper column in which he referred to women wearing burqas as “going around looking like letterboxes”. read more
The main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Conservatives must investigate Ghani’s account immediately.
“This is shocking to read,” he said on Twitter.