Warsi resigned from hr Cabinet position yesterday

Former Conservative Party chair urges Rishi Sunak to ‘call out’ Islamophobia

A former Conservative cabinet minister has called on the prime minister to speak out against Islamophobia amid a row over Lee Anderson’s comments referencing Islamists and Sadiq Khan. 

Lee Anderson, the Ashfield MP who was the Conservative Party deputy chairman until last month, was suspended after claiming that “Islamists” have “got control” of Mayor of London Khan.

His comments to GB News on Friday evening caused widespread controversy, with Khan calling them “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist”.

Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative peer who served as the party’s co-chair under David Cameron, said the prime minister needed to “find the language” to “call Islamophobia Islamophobia”.

In comments to the Guardian newspaper, Baroness Warsi said: “What is it about the prime minister that he can’t even call out anti-Muslim racism and anti-Muslim bigotry? Why can’t he just use those words?”.

Asked whether the PM should explicitly condemn Anderson’s remarks as Islamophobia, she added: “Of course he should. If you can’t call racism racism, if you can’t call antisemitism antisemitism, and if you can’t call Islamophobia Islamophobia, then how are we going to fix it?”

“There will always be people who hide behind the word Zionist, people with a long history of antisemitism who use the term Zionist when they actually mean Jews. It’s a very disingenuous form of antisemitism. And there are always people with a long history of anti-Muslim racism who will hide behind the word Islamist when they actually mean Muslims.”

In an appearance on GB News on Friday evening, Lee Anderson said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London…

“He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Lee Anderson loses Conservative whip after ‘refusal to apologise’ for Islamist claim

Speaking on BBC Radio York on Monday morning, the prime minister said Lee Anderson’s comments about the London mayor “weren’t acceptable” and “were wrong”.

However, Rishi Sunak has denied that the party has “Islamophobic tendencies”, adding: “I think it’s incumbent on all of us, especially those elected to parliament, not to inflame our debates in a way that’s harmful to others.”

On the case of Anderson specifically, the PM said: “Lee’s comments weren’t acceptable, they were wrong. That’s why he’s had the whip suspended”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said it was right that Anderson was suspended from the party over the “appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst”. 

Like Warsi, Starmer also challenged the PM over wider Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

“What does it say about the prime minister’s judgment that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?”, he asked.

He added: “Whether it is Liz Truss staying silent on Tommy Robinson or Suella Braverman’s extreme rhetoric, Rishi Sunak’s weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity.”

On X/Twitter over the weekend, Conservative MP and former minister Rehman Chishti blasted the prime minister’s “failure” to tackle Islamophobia. 

He said: “I note recent data [showing] 2000 anti muslim hatred incidents in 4 months. I warned [Rishi Sunak] urgent action was needed to stop this. Yet he has FAILED to take action.

“PM you need to urgently take action not just words, in tackling anti religious hatred against all faith communities”.

Conservative MP suggests Rishi Sunak not ‘honouring his word’ on tackling Islamophobia

Josh Self is Editor of Politics.co.uk, follow him on Twitter here.

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