Prominent Labour Party anti-racism campaigner suspended over Islamophobia allegations

Prominent Labour Party anti-racism campaigner suspended over Islamophobia allegations
In the aftermath of a child sexual abuse scandal in involving male grooming gangs, Labour Party campaigner, Trevor Phillips claimed that what united them was their 'proclaimed faith'.
2 min read
10 March, 2020
Phillips will now face an investigation led by Labour [Getty]
The former UK equality watchdog chief was suspended from the Labour Party on Monday regarding a history of alleged Islamophobic statements and remarks, according to a report in The Times newspaper.

Trevor Phillips, an anti-racism campaigner and ex-founding chair of the UK's equality watchdog, will now face an investigation led by Labour.

None of the Labour leadership candidates have commented on the suspension or investigation, the details of which have not been made public by the party.

According to The Times, they concern past remarks made by Philllips about a grooming gang in northern England - men mostly of Muslim Pakistani backgrounds - who were convicted of raping children.

Read also: Riz Ahmed's Islamophobia film is a call to action 

Comments he made about Muslims who choose not to wear poppies on Remembrance Sunday also form the complaint, the report adds.

In a letter, also published in The Times, Phillips refuted accusations that he had broken any rules, declaring that Labour was at risk of "collapsing into a brutish, authoritarian cult".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's program, Phillips expressed his dismay at the move and defended his comments.

He told the radio programme that it was "nonsense" to define being anti-Islam as racist, arguing Muslims were not part of a race. 

Yet Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative peer and former party co-chair, characterised Phillip's understanding of race and racism as "deeply flawed". 

Writing in The Guardian, she responded to his suspension. 

"Anti-racism campaigners have over the years become increasingly bemused at his pronouncements, given he was once chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission."

"But one thing is clear: Phillips cannot treat Muslims as a homogenised group when it suits him, then later deny they are racialised. Whatever the outcome of Labour's inquiry into his Islamophobia, there's no denying he has a case to answer," she added.

The Muslim Council of Britain described the dangerous impact "incendiary statements" had on the UK's Muslim community.

"The impact of Mr Phillips' claims from a privileged vantage point is dangerous, providing licence to far-right ideologues such as Tommy Robinson who have seized upon these remarks," a spokesman for the organisation said.

Last year, Phillips said he would not vote for Labour because of alleged anti-Semitism within the party.

The UK's two main political parties have both been accused of failing to act on racism within their ranks.

Labour has faced repeated claims of anti-Semitism under outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn, while the Conservatives under Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his predecessors have been accused of allowing Islamophobia to fester.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab