British minister Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday demanded a probe after a fellow Conservative MP said that she was removed as minister because of her “Muslimness”, putting further pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
Nusrat Ghani, who was sacked as a transport minister in 2020, told the Sunday Times that a party 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”, the 49-year-old politician claimed.
Ghani had not shared the identity of the whip. However, Chief whip Mark Spencer took the unusual step of identifying himself as the person at the centre of the Ghani’s 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.
Pto be included in the report.
These claims relate to a meeting in March 2020. When Ms Ghani raised them she was invited to use the formal CCHQ complaints procedure. She declined to do so.
— Mark Spencer (@Mark_Spencer) January 22, 2022
Meanwhile, the UK Prime Minister’s office also issued a statement, stating that the premier was aware of the claims at the time, and that he had invited her to file 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 in a couple of tweet said, “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.”
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
“This has to be investigated properly & racism rooted out.”
Justice minister Dominic Raab also termed it a “very serious claim”. He said that a prove into the matter will be launched if Ghani submit a formal complaint.