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Andrea Leadsom condemned for telling MP to take up UK Islamophobia debate with the Foreign Office

3 min read

Andrea Leadsom has been criticised for suggesting that an MP seeking a debate on Islamophobia in the UK should speak to Foreign Office ministers.

Labour MP Naz Shah had called for MPs to be given the chance to discuss the rise of Islamophobia in the UK in the wake of a “crisis” in the Conservative Party on the issue.

This week, several councillors and more than a dozen members have been suspended from the party for making offensive comments towards Muslims.

But responding to the Bradford West MP's request, the Commons leader suggested the Muslim MP should take up the issue with ministers in the Foreign Office.

She told MPs during the Business Statement: “I’m sure she will be pleased to see the Conservative Party taking very strong action in any cases we identify of Islamophobia. We have been extremely robust and urgent in response to that.

“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 that she can discuss with Foreign Office ministers whether that would be a useful way forward.”

Responding to the answer on Twitter, Ms Shah tweeted: “She said to speak to Foreign Office ministers about Islamophobia. When did attacks on BRITISH Muslims become a foreign issue?”

She added: “When the leader of the house Andrea Leadsom thinks Islamophobia is clearly an issue for the Foreign Office it's time for an inquiry into Islamophobia in [the] Conservatives.”

Former Tory co-chair Baroness Warsi, who this week accused her party of having an “institutional” Islamophobia problem, also hit out at Ms Leadsom's remarks, tweeting: “Wwwwwhhhhhhaaaaaatttttt? British Muslims are errrrr British. What is wrong with some of my colleagues?

“We are in a hole……stop digging!”

A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said: "We hope it was an honest mistake and a slip of the tongue when Andrea Leadsom suggested that the Foreign Office be tasked with the responsibility to help define Islamophobia in Britain.

"If not, it would imply that British Muslims are to be regarded as foreigners and once again appears to play to the racist trope that Muslims can never be British enough that our concerns are treated equally."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Leader's Office 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 and Commonwealth Office. Of course, any form of Islamophobia in the UK would be dealt with swiftly by Home Office or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as appropriate."

Earlier this week, the Conservatives became embroiled in a race row after PoliticsHome revealed the party had allowed an activist previously suspended for making Islamophobic comments to stand in two council elections.

On Wednesday, the party were also forced to suspend 14 of their members for making Islamophobic comments in a pro-Jacob Rees-Mogg Facebook group.

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