UK premier said 'could not get involved' over Islamophobia claims: Muslim MP
PM's spokesperson says Boris Johnson met with Conservative Party MP who had made complaint
A Muslim MP from the UK ruling Conservative Party said on Sunday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson told her he "could not get involved" when she claimed she was fired as minister over her "Muslimness".
Johnson's spokesperson said on Sunday morning that the prime minister met with Tory MP Nusrat Ghani in 2020 after her claim.
The spokesperson said: "After being made aware of these extremely serious claims, the prime minister met with Nusrat Ghani to discuss them.
"He then wrote to her expressing his serious concern and inviting her to begin a formal complaint process. She did not subsequently do so. The Conservative Party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind."
Ghani made her initial allegations public in an interview with The Sunday Times on Saturday, saying: "It was like being punched in the stomach."
"I felt humiliated and powerless," she continued. "I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that 'Muslimness' was raised as an 'issue', that my 'Muslim women minister' status was making colleagues uncomfortable and that there were concerns that I wasn't loyal to the party as I didn't do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations."
Ghani, who was transport minister before being sacked in a reshuffle in February 2020, said she considered of quitting as an MP due to the allegations.
Following Downing Street's comments on Sunday morning, Ghani released a statement, saying: "When I told the PM in June 2020 what had been said to me in the government Whips' office, I urged him to take it seriously as a government matter and instigate an inquiry.
"He wrote to me that he could not get involved and suggested I use the internal Conservative Party complaint process. This, as I had already pointed out, was very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on government business."
She added: "All I have ever wanted was for his government to take this seriously, investigate properly and ensure no other colleague has to endure this.
"I have many things that I want to achieve in politics, not least my campaigns on human rights and genocide, and I am deeply disappointed that it has come to this."
On Saturday, Chief Whip Mark Spencer publicly identified himself as the whip in question, and vehemently denied the allegations.
He said in a statement: "These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me."
Speaking to Sky News, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: "It is incredibly serious, let me be clear at the outset, we have absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination, any Islamophobia in the Conservative Party."
Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry told Times Radio: "I would like to see an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party in the same way that we quite rightly held an independent inquiry into the poison that is anti-Semitism in the Labour Party."
Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
"Nusrat Ghani's testimony of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is shocking, but not surprising," Mohammed said.
"That she is experiencing this as a Muslim woman at the top of the party only reinforces the deep-rooted nature of the problem. Institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has gone on with impunity for far too long."
Steve Baker, an influential backbench Conservative MP, tweeted: "That Nus could be treated like this is completely intolerable. I value Nus Ghani as a great colleague and I'm appalled. We must get to the bottom of it."