Andrea Leadsom under fire for suggesting Foreign Office should help define Islamophobia in Britain

Leader of House of Commons has implied 'British Muslims are foreigners', Labour MP says 

Thursday 07 March 2019 17:02
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Andrea Leadsom encourages debate on Islamophobia to be run past foreign office

A senior government minister has been criticised after she suggested it was the Foreign Office's responsibility to help define Islamophobia in Britain.

After a spate of suspensions from the Conservative Party for offensive posts online, Labour MP Naz Shah called on Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, to hold a debate in parliament on the issue.

When addressing Ms Leadsom, the MP for Bradford West also mentioned the calls made by more than 50 cross-party parliamentarians to adopt an official definition of Islamophobia.

In her response, Ms Leadsom suggested to Ms Shah that the Foreign Office should play a role in adopting a definition.

"She raises a very important point about whether we should seek a definition of Islamophobia and I would encourage her to perhaps seek an adjournment debate in the first instance so she can discuss with Foreign Office officials," Ms Leadsom said.

Ms Shah said she was "shocked" by the response and that Ms Leadsom's response had implied that "British Muslims are foreigners".

"To say that British Muslims facing Islamophobia here in the UK is a 'foreign office' issue is truly baffling and horrifically alludes to British Muslims as foreigners," she told The Independent.

"It just goes to show how out of touch the Tories are with a problem that their politicians and councillors are exacerbating. Perhaps she doesn't want a debate as it will expose her Party's failing on the problem? The Tories have been skirting around the big issue for a long time and have not addressed the elephant in the room.

"Every day Muslims face appalling abuse on the streets and online, and it's time things changed. Islamophobia has become normalised and we need our politicians and society to understand how and why it so wrong, and that we need to eradicate in all its forms," she added.

Baroness Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, responded to her former colleague's comments and said "British Muslims are errrr British".

The latest gaffe came moments after Amber Rudd issued an apology for referring to Labour's Diane Abbott as a "coloured woman" during a BBC radio interview.

Referring to abuse suffered by politicians, the work and pensions secretary, said: "It's worst of all if you are a coloured woman. I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse, and I think that's something we need to continue to call out."

The remarks immediately triggered a backlash, and Ms Abbott said the term was "outdated, offensive and revealing choice" in a response published on social media.

A Leader's Office spokesperson said: "Islamophobia is unacceptable wherever it takes place. It was thought that the MP for Bradford West was referring to a global definition of Islamophobia.

"International efforts to combat Islamophobia (and all forms of religious persecution and prejudice) are led by the PM's special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, Lord Ahmad, at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

"Of course, any form of Islamophobia in the UK would be dealt with swiftly by Home Office or MHCLG as appropriate."

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