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Nusrat Ghani: UK to investigate ex-minister's claims she was sacked over her 'Muslimness'

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By Euronews  with Reuters
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UK Conservative Party MP Nusrat Ghani (C) at a pro-Uighur protest over alleged persecution of China's Muslim minority before a vote in parliament, London, April 22, 2021.
UK Conservative Party MP Nusrat Ghani (C) at a pro-Uighur protest over alleged persecution of China's Muslim minority before a vote in parliament, London, April 22, 2021.   -   Copyright  JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation after a member of his Conservative Party claimed she was sacked from a ministerial position because of her Muslim faith.

Nusrat Ghani lost her job as junior transport minister in February 2020 during a government reshuffle.

The 49-year-old told the Sunday Times (paywall) that at a subsequent meeting, she was informed that her "Muslimness" had been raised as an "issue".

Ghani also claimed she was told her "Muslim woman minister" status had made "colleagues uncomfortable". The MP had been urged to make a formal complaint.

"The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office "to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP", a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

The prime minister has asked for "the facts about what happened," the spokesman continued, saying that "as he said at the time, the Prime Minister takes these accusations very seriously".

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab described her allegations as "incredibly serious", telling Sky News that the ruling Conservative Party had "absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination and any Islamophobia".

"As I told the prime minister yesterday, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate," Ghani said, welcoming the prime minister's decision in a statement on Twitter.

The investigation must encompass "everything that was said in Downing Street" and by the party's leadership, she added.

Ghani said that at a second meeting with a government whip — an enforcer of parliamentary discipline — she was "told that I was in fact fired for apparently saying to the PM that we had a ‘women problem’" in terms of attracting female voters.

"In the following weeks I was informed that if I persisted in raising this I would be ostracised by colleagues and my career and reputation would be destroyed," she added.

"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)."

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."

Spencer said Ghani had declined to put the matter to a formal internal investigation when she first raised the issue.

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 MP's complaints follow a series of scandals that have drained public support from both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his party, presenting him with the most serious crisis of his premiership.

Another Tory MP says he is to meet police next week over his accusations of intimidation and blackmail at the hands of government whips. William Wragg has claimed that some Conservatives have been targeted because of their calls for the prime minister's removal.

"Nus is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience," Wragg said on Twitter on Saturday.

The main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Conservatives must investigate Ghani's account immediately. "This is shocking to read," he tweeted.

The prime minister, who in 2019 won his party's biggest majority in more than 30 years, is fighting to shore up his authority after a series of revelations about parties in his Downing Street residence during pandemic lockdowns.

Nusrat Ghani has been outspoken on violent extremism and is one of five MPs sanctioned by China for highlighting the persecution of the country's predominantly Muslim Uighur minority.