Activists Protest Trevor Phillips’s Role in Ethnic Minority Deaths Review over His ‘Islamophobia’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Trevor Phillips, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, speaks at the British Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference held at the headquarters of BAFTA on March 18, 2010 in London, England. The annual conference entitled 'Preparing for Change - Setting the Business Agenda' …
Oli Scarff/Getty

Activists are pressuring the government to expel Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, from an inquiry into the high proportion of black and minority ethnic (BAME) deaths due to coronavirus, due to allegations he is “Islamophobic”.

The Conservative Peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and cross-bench peer Lord Simon Woolley wrote in The Guardian on Tuesday that “a growing number of BAME groups and individuals are struggling to find the trust and confidence” in Mr Phillips. Philips was suspended from the Labour Party last month over allegations he had made racist statements about Muslims.

Warsi and Woolley went on to quote BAME organisations demanding the former equalities chief be fired. Notably, a letter sent by 16 associations representing tens of thousands of black and ethnic minority medics said that Public Health England (PHE) should “withdraw the participation” of the anti-racism campaigner and instead find “a suitable candidate who would be trusted by healthcare professionals from a BAME background”.

Another letter signed by 100 members of InfluenceHer, a group of professional black British women, claimed Mr Philips has “a recent history of discarding the very real issues and consequences of structural racism in the UK”.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which a government report found had links with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, has also objected to Mr Phillips’ involvement. While Labour MP Naz Shah claimed his appointment was “an insult to the memory of the numerous Muslims who have lost their lives, and also an insult to those Muslims who continue to serve on the frontline” at NHS hospitals.

Mr Phillips is known for having popularised the term “Islamophobia” after commissioning the Runnymede report into anti-Muslim prejudice in the UK in 1997. However, in 2016, the former EHRC chief admitted that Muslims had failed to integrate into British society after a poll revealed widespread opinions amongst the country’s adherents of Islam which are incompatible with a liberal, democratic society.

The commentator also acknowledged the “deeply ingrained sexism that runs through Britain’s Muslim communities” that resulted in grooming gangs in towns like Rotherham and Rochdale. Later, he condemned a proposed new definition of Islamophobia as a “bully’s charter” used to censor criticism of Islam and criticised the BBC for its “whitewashing” of black-on-black stabbings.

It was after his recent attacks on Labour that his own party branded him an “Islamophobe”. Phillips, a Labour member for 40 years, was a vocal critic of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism scandal in Labour, writing in July 2019 that the party’s inaction on institutional anti-Jewish hatred in Labour was “shameful”.

In early March 2020, Labour suspended Mr Phillips, alleging that he had use of language “which targets or intimidates members of ethnic or religious communities, or incites racism, including Islamophobia”, specifically related to statements he had made about Muslim Pakistani grooming gangs.  The remarks were not recent, however, but had come from a pamphlet he had written for civil society think tank Civitas in 2016.

In his defence this week, founder of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, Maajid Nawaz, said: “I’m used to being hounded by factional loudmouths who claim to speak ‘for the people’ but instead monopolise discourse for their sectarian far-left, pro-Islamist agenda. [Her Majesty’s Government] must resist efforts to marginalise Trevor Phillips, the first black president of the [UK’s National Union of Students].”

“These organised and ideological anger merchants seek to discredit every independent thinking liberal BAME voice (no matter how seasoned and experienced) who dares to even question their divisive identitarianism, through a combination of slander, boycott & intimidation. Resist, always,” he added.

While educational reformer and headmistress of a London free school Katharine Birbalsingh said, the demands were “shocking but predictable.”

“Black man doesn’t say what a good black boy should say (he doesn’t normally wallow in victimhood), and they want to kick him out just for being who he is. Deeply offensive,” Ms Birbalsingh added.


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