Tory MP Andrea Leadsom has come under fire for implying British Muslims are “foreign” amid an ongoing row about Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
Asked by Labour’s Naz Shah whether there should be a debate in the Commons on Islamophobia given “the crisis” in the Tory Party, Leadsom said she should speak to “foreign office ministers” about the issue.
“She [Shah] raises a very important point about whether we should seek a definition of Islamophobia,” the leader of the house said.
“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.”
Criticising Leadsom’s comments on Twitter, Bradford West MP Shah – who is vice-chair of parliament’s all-party group on British Muslims – asked: “When did attacks on BRITISH Muslims become a foreign issue?”
But a spokesperson for the leaders’ office said that the South Northamptonshire MP thought Shah 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,” they said.
“Of course, any form of Islamophobia in the UK would be dealt with swiftly by the Home Office or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as appropriate.”
The Tories have been embroiled in a row about anti-Muslim feeling in the party in recent months.
On Tuesday, 14 people were suspended from the Conservative Party amid reports that scores of members were part of an Islamophobic Facebook group.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Leadsom said the party had taken “very strong action” against reported cases of Islamophobia, calling the response “extremely robust and urgent”.
But following Leadsom’s comments in the house, Tory peer Baroness Warsi – who served as party chairwoman between 2010 and 2012 – asked: “What is wrong with some of my colleagues?
“We are in a hole... stop digging!”
In an interview with HuffPost UK this week, Warsi branded the Conservatives “Islamophobic”, saying she could not “in all conscience” ask young Muslims to join the party.
Meanwhile, Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, wrote on Twitter: “This is really poor from @andrealeadsom – the idea that British Muslims are seen as foreign, is a serious party of the problem.”
Leadsom’s comments just hours after work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd sparked outrage by describing Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman” during an interview about online abuse.
Discussing the trolling that politicians now face on social media, Rudd: “It definitely is worse if you’re a woman and it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman.
“I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse and I think that’s something we need to continue to call out.”
The former home secretary later apologised to Abbott, saying she was “mortified at my clumsy language”.