Trevor Phillips: Anti-racism campaigner suspended by Labour over Islamophobia allegations

Former head of Britain’s equalities watchdog Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour party over allegations of Islamophobia.

The veteran anti-racism campaigner, who previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said he was informed that he was being investigated over a string of past comments, including remarks about abuse of young girls by Pakistani Muslim men in towns such as Rotherham.
Other complaints include comments he previously made about the failure of some Muslims to wear poppies on Remembrance Sunday.
Mr Phillips, who has been outspoken over Labour’s antisemitism row, said there was no evidence he had broken any rules and warned that the party was in danger of “collapsing into a brutish, authoritarian cult”.

But Labour said it takes all complaints of Islamophobia “extremely seriously” and appropriate disciplinary action would always be taken if necessary.
The row comes as Labour itself was facing a probe by the EHRC over the handling of antisemitism complaints in its own ranks. Mr Phillips was among 24 public figures who last year vowed they would not vote Labour over its association with antisemitism.
Mr Phillips could be expelled from Labour over his statements, many of which are historic, according to The Times, which first reported the claims.
But the 66-year-old campaigner was defiant over his past comments and accused Labour of trying to stifle debate.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m surprised that what is and always has been an open and democratic party decides that its members cannot have healthy debate about how we address differences of values and outlooks.
“Let us be clear about this. They say I’m accusing Muslims of being different

“Well, actually, that’s true. Muslims are different and, in many ways, I think that’s admirable.”

Mr Phillips said it was “nonsense” to define being anti-Islam as racist, arguing Muslims were not part of a race.

He said: “My objection is very simple. That definition said, to words of the effect, that Islamophobia is rooted in a kind of racism – expressions of hostility towards Muslimness.
“First of all, Muslims are not a race. My personal hero was Muhammad Ali, before that Malcolm X.
“They became Muslims largely because it is a pan-racial faith. This is not a racial grouping, so describing hostility to them as racial is nonsense.”
Asked about his assertion that British Muslims were “becoming a nation within a nation” being adopted by far-right campaigner Tommy Robinson, Mr Phillips replied: “As my grandmother says, just because the devil picks up a tune doesn’t mean it is a bad tune.”
Writing in The Times, Mr Phillips said: “If this is how Labour treats its own family, how might it treat its real opponents if it ever gains power again?
“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.”

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, argued the move was at odds with sluggish action by the party leadership in tackling antisemitism.
He said: “This swift action against Trevor Phillips is in stark contrast to the complete lack of action against antisemites I and many other Labour MPs have reported repeatedly to [Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary] and who remain Labour members.”
Miqdaad Versi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the organisation had not submitted the complaint but he expressed concern at a “really vitriolic attitude” towards Muslims from Mr Phillips.
He said: “The statements that Trevor Phillips has said over a period of time are seriously problematic and many Muslims across the country ... will not shed a tear that he has been suspended from the party.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints about Islamophobia extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trevor-phillips-labour-islamophobia-racism-rotherham-abuse-ehrc-a9385832.html

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