April 22, 2024

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The Deputy Prime Minister is silent on whether Lee Anderson's comments were Islamophobic

The Deputy Prime Minister is silent on whether Lee Anderson's comments were Islamophobic

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Lee Anderson would have kept his job if he had apologized – Dowden

The Deputy Prime Minister refused to say whether Lee Anderson's comments were anti-Islamic, and said the MP would have kept his job if he had apologised.

On Saturday, Mr Anderson was suspended as a Conservative MP after he refused to apologize for saying that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was being controlled by “Islamists”.

Oliver Dowden told BBC One's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg program that Anderson “did not intend to be Islamophobic”.

Mr Anderson's comments were widely condemned.

Speaking to GB News on Friday, Mr Anderson, who presents programs on the channel, said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have taken over our country, but what I do think is that they have taken over Khan and that they have taken over London… He has In fact, he handed over our capital to his comrades.”

Speaking before Anderson's suspension, Khan said the comments were “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist” and that they “add fuel to the fire of hatred against Muslims”.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said he welcomed the comment but that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak needed to “control and defeat the extremists in his own party”.

Anderson said he agreed the party had “no choice” but to suspend him, given the “difficult position” it had put the government in. But he did not apologize for what he said.

Asked repeatedly on Sunday whether he would say the comments were anti-Islamic, Dowden declined to respond, but added: “I share the concerns about how it was handled in that way.”

He went on to say: “The fact that it can be taken that way is why [Conservative] The chief whip asked for an apology.”

He added that he understood Mr Anderson's comments had “caused offence”.

But he defended the way the party handled the situation, adding that asking him to apologize for his comments was “the appropriate step to take.”

'Deafening silence'

Dowden said Anderson's comments were “in a different category” to recent comments made by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who said in The Telegraph that “Islamists” were in charge of the country.

“I don't think what Suella said crossed the line in the way that Lee Anderson's comments did,” he said.

Dowden said on Sky News that the comments were “wrong”. He refused to reveal whether they were racist.

Former Conservative government minister Sir Robert Buckland described Anderson's comments as “racist”.

“His comment about the Islamists taking over the mayor of London is, I'm afraid, racist. It crosses the line. It was abhorrent,” he told Radio 4's Broadcast House programme.

He added: “While it is legitimate to talk about ugly elements of extremism in this country, it is wrong to conflate entire groups of people, whether based on faith or race, with extremists – and to confuse Islamism in Islam with Muslims, is just wrong.” He said.

However, former government minister Therese Coffey denied there was a “hierarchy of racism” within the Conservative Party, when asked by Andy Burnham, the Labor mayor of Greater Manchester, on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Ms Coffey added that “swift action” had been taken against Mr Anderson, and that the party had taken steps in this area following a review published in 2021.

On Saturday, after the MP's comment, Khan said it remained “unclear why Rishi Sunak and members of his government did not condemn” the comments.

Mr Sunak has not yet commented directly on these statements. But on Saturday evening, he issued a statement condemning the “explosion in prejudice and anti-Semitism” since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, adding that the protests in recent weeks had been “hijacked by extremists to promote and glorify terrorism.”

Mr Anderson, who has been the MP for Ashfield since 2019, will now sit as an independent MP in the House of Commons.

Dowden said the question of whether he would be re-elected as a Conservative Party candidate at the next election would be addressed “in the future”.

After being appointed deputy leader of the Conservative Party by Sunak, he resigned from the position last month to rebel against government legislation to revive the deportation plan in Rwanda.

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