UK to probe lawmaker’s claim she was fired over Muslim faith

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered an investigation into a Conservative lawmaker’s claim that she was fired from a government job in part because of her Muslim faith — the latest allegation of wrongdoing that is shaking the Conservative government and Johnson’s grip on power.

Former Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani says that when she was demoted in 2020, a government whip said her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable.” She told the Sunday Times that she was told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.’”

Chief Whip Mark Spencer identified himself as the person who spoke to Ghani in 2020, but called her allegation “completely false.”

Johnson’s office said Monday that the prime minister had asked government officials “to establish the facts about what happened.” It said Johnson “takes these claims very seriously.”

Ghani was elected to Parliament in 2015 — the Conservatives’ first female Muslim lawmaker — and was made a junior minister in 2018. At the time her boss, then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, said it was proof the Conservatives “were a party of opportunity.” But some have accused the party of failing to stamp out anti-Muslim prejudice under Johnson, who in 2018 compared women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”

The scope for making challenges through the Count Question Resolution program is narrow, and few local governments got their numbers changed after the 2010 census. But the bureau has made adjustments when past errors were revealed.

Unprecedented hurdles in 2020 may heighten the need for tweaks this time around. Many leaders worry that inaccurate figures could cost their jurisdictions their share of the $1.5 trillion the federal government distributes annually based on census numbers.

Along with concerns about undercounted racial and ethnic groups and college students, some small towns believe a new privacy method the Census Bureau used for the first time skewed their numbers. And officials in areas with large institutions like prisons or military barracks worry that pandemic lockdowns left out many inmates or service members.

The census challenges won’t change the number of congressional seats each state gets, or the numbers used for redrawing political districts. Those were released in August so the redrawing of district lines could be completed in time for upcoming elections.

At this point, it’s hard to say how many governments will appeal through the program, which has been around since 1990. As of this week, the Census Bureau hadn’t made public any applications. But states, cities, counties and tribal nations have through June 2023 to submit them.

Two senior Cabinet ministers, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, spoke in support of Ghani and said her claims must be investigated.

“It takes a lot of bravery for someone to stand up and say: ‘My religion was taken into consideration when I was being assessed for what I do as a job,’” Zahawi said. “That should never happen and there is no room for it.”

Ghani’s claim has deepened the rifts roiling Johnson’s governing party, which is being wracked by allegations about lockdown-breaching parties in the prime minister’s office while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.

The “partygate” allegations have infuriated many in Britain, who were barred from meeting up with friends and family for months in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19. They are being investigated by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, whose report, expected this week, will be a pivotal moment for the prime minister.

Ghani’s allegation comes after another Conservative legislator, William Wragg, accused party whips of intimidating and blackmailing members of Parliament to ensure they supported the government. Wragg says he is meeting with police this week to discuss his claims.

Ghani’s allegation comes after another Conservative legislator, William Wragg, accused party whips of intimidating and blackmailing members of Parliament to ensure they supported the government. Wragg says he is meeting with police this week to discuss his claims.

A handful of Conservative lawmakers have called for Johnson to resign. If Gray’s report is highly critical, more may be emboldened to call for a no-confidence vote in Johnson that could result in his ouster.

Even if he makes it through the week, many Conservatives have decided Johnson’s days in office are numbered, and weakness at the top is letting party divisions spill into the open.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday along with more than 20 other people as part of a protest over voting rights.

The Democratic congressman from New York was released from police custody Thursday night, his office said in a statement.

Marcus Frias, a spokesman for Bowman, said the congressman was proud to stand alongside activists and “will continue doing everything he can to amplify the urgent need to protect our democracy.”

U.S. Capitol Police said in statements on Twitter that the protesters were blocking a barricade and were given three warnings but were arrested after refusing to move from a driveway. The department said 27 people were arrested for obstructing and one person was arrested for violating a traffic regulation.

Bowman’s arrest came the same day that voting rights legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders have said is essential to preserving democracy failed in the U.S. Senate.

Bowman is a former middle school principal who in 2020 defeated 16-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel in a primary contest before winning election to New York’s 16th Congressional District, representing the Bronx and suburban Westchester County.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.