The former head of Britain’s equality watchdog has been suspended from Labour over claims of alleged Islamophobia and could be expelled from the main opposition party, The Times newspaper reported.
Trevor Phillips is being investigated for statements, many of which are years old, regarding Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern towns such as Rotherham, the newspaper said on Monday.
“Comments by Mr Phillips about the failure by some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by a substantial proportion in an opinion poll towards the ‘motives’ of the Charlie-Hebdo killers also form part of the complaint,” the report said.
Phillips, the 66-year-old ex-chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has previously said Muslims should accept that freedom of speech is central to Britishness and we should “allow people to offend each other”.
The details of Labour’s investigation were not made public.
In the wake of a child sexual abuse scandal involving male grooming gangs in 2017, Phillips wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “What the perpetrators have in common is their proclaimed faith. They are Muslims, and many of them would claim to be practising.
“It is not Islamophobic to point this out, any more than it would be racist to point out that the most active persecutors of LGBT people come from countries where most people are, like me, black.”
Rejecting Labour’s move, Phillips suggested that the party was struggling to unite as it searches for a new leader after losing the December general election, writing in The Times on Monday: “It would be a tragedy if, at the very moment we most need a robust and effective opposition, our nation had to endure the spectacle of a great party collapsing into a brutish, authoritarian cult.”
Last year, ahead of the vote, Phillips was among 24 high-profile figures, who said they would not vote for Labour because of alleged anti-Semitism within the party.
In recent years, both Labour and the ruling Conservatives have been accused of failing to act on racism within their ranks.
While Labour under outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn faced repeated claims of anti-Semitism, the Conservatives under current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his predecessors have been accused of allowing Islamophobia to fester.
Phillips’s suspension stirred debate in the UK.
Zubaida Haque, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think-tank, tweeted: “There are now over 300 cases of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, which is in government, and yet all we’re hearing about is Trevor Phillips’ suspension from the Labour Party for his anti-Muslim views. And just to be clear: Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.”
Matthew Goodwin, an author, said: “This is nuts. Labour is in the fast lane to total irrelevance. Had they listened to Trevor the Red Wall might still be standing.”