Tory minister accused of ‘whitesplaining’ Islamophobia to senior Muslim Conservative Sayeeda Warsi

Matt Hancock sparks row for claiming other Conservatives took ‘more balanced approach’ than Tory peer

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Saturday 09 November 2019 10:43 GMT
Matt Hancock says Sayeeda Warsi 'takes a particular view' on Islamophobia

A cabinet minister has been accused of “whitesplaining” Islamophobia by a senior Muslim Tory peer after suggesting she failed to take a “more balanced” approach on the issue.

Matt Hancock sparked a row when he claimed other Conservatives took a “balanced” view on the issue of anti-Muslim hate in Tory ranks, compared with former chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Lady Warsi, who was the first female Muslim to attend cabinet, has been campaigning for a full independent inquiry into Islamophobia.

However, the prime minister said the Conservatives would be conducting a “general investigation into prejudice” – stopping short of Lady Warsi’s calls for an independent probe.

Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well look, I like Sayeeda, she has a particular view on this. There are others who take a more balanced approach.”

Asked if he was saying she was “unbalanced”, the health secretary said: “No, I’m certainly not saying that. I have an enormous amount of respect for Sayeeda but she does take a particular view.”

He added: “There needs to be an inquiry of course, but of course you should look into all kinds of prejudice.

“I think that this is something that any responsible party always needs to be on the look-out for.”

Baroness Warsi has been campaigning for a full independent inquiry into Islamophobia (PA)

Lady Warsi posted on Twitter: “Oh @MattHancock Thank you for ‘whitesplaining’ this to me.

“I’m so glad I have colleagues like you who can educate me even after my 30 years of experience of work in race relations. Thousand apologies sir”.

Miqdaad Versi, from the Muslim Council of Britain, accused Mr Hancock of trying to present Lady Warsi as “isolated” in her view.

And shadow Home Office minister Afzal Khan said: “Racism is not a ‘view’, it is the reality for many black and brown people.

“This gaslighting of Baroness Warsi’s experience and expertise within the Tory party is a clear example of that racism in action.

“The Tory party has betrayed Muslim communities once again by breaking its promise to begin an inquiry into Islamophobia in the party by the end of the year.”

The prime minister has come under pressure to implement an inquiry into anti-Muslim hate in his party, after committing to a probe during the Tory leadership contest.

Mr Johnson has also attracted controversy for comparing Muslim women wearing the niqab to “letterboxes” in a newspaper column.

In an interview on Friday, with BBC Radio Nottinghamshire, Mr Johnson said: “Saj [Javid] and I are totally in agreement with this, we are doing a general investigation into prejudice of all kinds.”

Asked about comments he made in the past about Muslim women wearing the niqab looking like letterboxes, he added: “I’m very proud of my own Muslim heritage, my great-grandfather could recite the Quran off by heart ... it’s absolutely true.

“When I was running London, and indeed in all my time as a politician, I have campaigned for equalities, for inclusiveness, of all kinds.”

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