U.K. to Probe Conservative Lawmaker's Claim She Was Fired Over Muslim Faith

Nusrat Ghani’s claim has deepened the rifts roiling Johnson’s governing party, which is being wracked by allegations of lockdown-breaching parties in the prime minister’s office

Nusrat Ghani at a demonstration calling on the British parliament to vote to recognize persecution of China's Uighur people as genocide, last year in London.
Nusrat Ghani at a demonstration calling on the British parliament to vote to recognize persecution of China's Uighur people as genocide, last year in London.Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Monday an investigation into a Conservative lawmaker’s allegation that she was fired from a government job because of her Muslim faith.

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, and was made a junior minister in 2018. Her boss at the time, 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 Islamophobia under Johnson, who in 2018 compared women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”

Two senior Cabinet ministers, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, spoke in support of Ghani and demanded her claims 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 of lockdown-breaching parties in the prime minister’s office while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.

The “partygate” allegations are being investigated by a senior civil servant, who is expected to report this week.

Ghani’s allegations follow another Conservative legislator, William Wragg, who 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.

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