UK lawmaker says she was sacked from ministerial post because she is a Muslim

Nusrat Ghani of Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party says she lost job in 2020 because her faith made other MPs ‘uncomfortable,’ adding to premier’s mounting woes

British lawmaker Nusrat Ghani speaks in parliament in 2020. (Screenshot/YouTube)
British lawmaker Nusrat Ghani speaks in parliament in 2020. (Screenshot/YouTube)

A British lawmaker said Saturday she was fired from her post as a government minister because she is a Muslim.

Nusrat Ghani, a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, was sacked from her role as Transport Minister during a cabinet reshuffle in February 2020.

She told The Sunday Times that she had been sacked after a party official said her religion was making other lawmakers “uncomfortable.”

She said she had been told at a meeting that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue.”

Ghani said she was told “that my Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues uncomfortable and that there were concerns 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. I felt humiliated and powerless,” she added.

“It was very clear to me that the whips and No. 10 [the prime minister’s office] were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith,” she said.

Chief whip Mark Spencer later said he was the official Ghani had alluded to, but called the claims untrue.

“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words,” Spencer said.

Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi called for an investigation.

Ghani was the first Muslim woman to be appointed as a British government minister, according to The BBC. She was a public critic of former opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism in his party.

An independent investigation said in 2021 that Islamophobia in the Conservative Party was a problem, but fell short of “institutional racism.”

The center-right party had been dogged for years by accusations of anti-Muslim sentiment that had been leveled against members, including Johnson.

Ghani’s accusation adds to mounting problems for Johnson. The prime minister is facing a political crisis over allegations that he and staff held lockdown-flouting parties while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions, and he faces other fresh accusations of bullying in his party by its whips.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament, in London, June 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Conservative lawmaker William Wragg on Saturday accused the government of blackmailing Johnson’s opponents and said he will take his allegations to the police.

Wragg said legislators calling for a challenge to Johnson’s leadership have faced “intimidation” that amounted to “blackmail.”

Wragg alleged that rebellious lawmakers were threatened with a loss of public funding for their constituencies and having embarrassing stories about them leaked to the press.

Johnson has said he’s “seen no evidence” to support those claims.

Wragg’s allegations have cast a light on the shadowy world of whips — lawmakers tasked with maintaining party discipline and ensuring their colleagues back the government in key votes.

They use subtle and not-so-subtle pressure, and have been accused of sometimes crossing a line and using threats to get members of Parliament to fall into line.

A handful of Conservative lawmakers, including Wragg, have called for Johnson to resign.

Others are awaiting a report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant appointed to investigate claims that government staff held late-night soirees, “bring your own booze” parties and “wine time Fridays” while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

This undated photo issued on Jan. 13, 2022 by GOV.UK shows Sue Gray (GOV.UK via AP)

Gray’s findings are expected to be published next week.

Johnson has apologized for attending a party in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020 but said he had considered it a work gathering that fell within the social distancing rules in place at the time.

If Gray casts doubt on his explanation, more Conservative lawmakers may be emboldened to call for a no-confidence vote in Johnson that could result in his ouster.

Removal from leadership would be a stunning downfall for a politician who has shrugged off previous scandals over offensive comments, falsehoods and financial irregularities.

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