A former Conservative minister has accused the UK government of “favouring one faith community and not the other” in a Commons debate on Islamophobia.
Ex-foreign office minister Rehman Chishti MP told MPs antisemitism and Islamophobia are “both unacceptable” but he suggested Rishi Sunak was failing to tackle anti-Muslim hatred in the same way he was attempting to combat that against UK Jews.
Speaking in a Commons backbench business debate Chishti MP said that in last month’s Autumn Statement chancellor Jeremy Hunt had been “absolutely right” to announce a further £7million to tackle antisemitic hate, in response to the October 7th terror attack by Hamas in Israel.
But Chishti then asked:”Why in that Autumn Statement was there no funding to tackle anti-Muslim hatred?”
The ex-vice chairman of the Conservative party suggested that the Prime Minister’s No.10 Twitter feed also raised further concerns about the PM’s alleged lack of engagement with the British Muslim community.
He said:”If you look at the UK Prime Minister Twitter handle, on that handle it says with regards to the Muslim community Eid event with the prime minister on the 3rd of May, an engagement on Eid Mubarak with the Muslim community.
“There is nothing else on the prime minister’s page about tackling anti-Muslim hatted, although on 21 occasions about tackling antisemitism.”
Chishti repeatedly stressed to MPs that “both antisemitism and Islampohobia are unacceptable” but “perceptions” of the UK government would be of “favouring one community over another.”
He claimed also that money given to the group Tell Mama, set up to monitor anti-Muslim hate in this country, was £6 million from their “inception”, which Chishti reminded MPs was in 2012.
The MP also noted that the government had yet to appoint another independent adviser on Islamophobia, following the dismissal of Imam Qari Asim in 2022 after he was accused of supporting “a campaign to limit free expression” over a controversial film depicting the life of the prophet Muhammad’s daughter.
In further comments Chishti told MPs that the government’s own approach to foreign policy was to advocate for freedom of religious belief around the globe.
But he argued that on “foreign policy issues” such as the Middle East, the government’s approach to anti-Muslim hate at home would not reflect well.
In an intervention at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Chishti had urged Sunak to do more to tackle Islamophobia and told the PM “enough is enough”.
On Thursday he said he had received no response or spoken with the PM since then.
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