Why is Lee Anderson being accused of Islamophobia?

The Ashfield MP has been suspended from the Conservative party following his comments on GB News

Albert Toth
Tuesday 27 February 2024 11:25 GMT
Lee Anderson insists he won't apologise to Sadiq Khan 'while I've got a breath in my body'

MP Lee Anderson has been suspended from the Conservative Party following controversial comments on GB News which have been branded Islamophobic and racist.

Mr Anderson, who is paid £100,000 a year to be host on the TV channel, said on Friday: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London, and they’ve got control of Starmer as well.”

“People are just turning up in their thousands, and doing anything they want, and they are laughing at our police. This stems with Khan, he’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

The comments were made during a discussion about pro-Palestine protests that have been taking place in central London since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

What has the criticism against Lee Anderson been?

In response to Mr Anderson’s comments, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called the comments “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim, and racist,” adding that “these comments pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) likewise slammed Mr Anderson’s comments for “endorsing common talking points that peddle conspiracy theories and Islamophobic tropes of alleged Muslim takeovers of our country.”

“Former Deputy Chair, Lee Anderson’s claim that the Islamists have taken charge of London and of the Mayor is a disgusting slur that has no place in our public life.”

Lee Anderson arrives at the official launch event for the 'Popular Conservatism' movement (REUTERS)

Rishi Sunak, after sustained criticism for inaction, suspended Mr Anderson from the Conservative Party on 25 February, two days after his comments were made.

The prime minister later criticised Mr Anderson’s comments, but stopped short of calling them Islamophobic or racist: “Lee’s comments weren’t acceptable, they were wrong. That’s why he’s had the whip suspended.”

“Words matter, especially in the current environment where tensions are running high,” he added. “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to choose them carefully”.

The MCB welcomed Mr Anderson’s suspension, but argued that more needs to be done: “The Conservative Party has an Islamophobia problem. They need to own up to it.”

Speaking on Monday, Keir Starmer said that the PM “lacks the backbone to call this out for what it is”.

“I think this is straightforward. It’s Islamophobia and the Prime Minister should call it out for what it is,” the Labour leader added. “The reason he won’t is because he is so weak”.

In his own defence, now-independent MP Lee Anderson shared a statement via GB News: “When you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness. My words may have been clumsy but my words were borne out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city.”

Mr Anderson has indicated that he intends to run again in his seat of Ashfield whether a Conservative party member or not. He has also refused to rule out whether he could now join right-wing Reform UK party, saying that he’s “been on a political journey”.

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