'Silenced!' Muslim MP shut down in Parliament while asking about 'government's disgusting racism'

A Muslim MP was cut off in the House of Commons while asking why a senior Conservative MP was promoted amid allegations of Islamophobia.

Mark Spencer was made Commons Leader earlier this month despite an investigation being carried out into allegations made by Tory MP Nusrat Ghani.

Spencer identified himself as the whip at the centre of a row over whether Ms Ghani was told her “Muslimness” was a factor in losing a ministerial role in 2020.

Spencer has strongly denied the claims, calling them "completely false" and "defamatory".

Addressing Boris Johnson during prime minister's questions on Wednesday, Labour MP Imran Hussain referenced the situation, and remarked on Johnson's own controversial comments - in which he has previously compared Muslim women to "letterboxes and "bankrobbers".

"The member for Sherwood [Mark Spencer] is currently under investigation for Islamophobia following accusations he told a fellow MP that her being a Muslim MP was making colleagues uncomfortable," Hussain said.

Labour MP Imran Hussain was shut down by speaker Lindsay Hoyle for asking about accusations of Islamaphobia on the part of Commons Leader Mark Spencer (Parliament.TV)
Labour MP Imran Hussain was shut down by speaker Lindsay Hoyle for asking about accusations of Islamaphobia on the part of Commons Leader Mark Spencer (Parliament.TV)

"How did the government punish this behaviour? With a promotion that puts the accused member in charge of the complaints procedure.

"And, of course, Mr Speaker - we know the prime minister himself is no stranger to derogatory comments remarks about Muslim women."

However, as Hussain began to ask a question, Hoyle stopped him, saying: "This is not the appropriate place to be raising that".

The Speaker then moved on to another MP amid jeers of approval from Tory MPs. The prime minister did not have to respond to the question.

An outraged Hussain said after the incident: "Today I raised the serious issue of Islamophobia at the top of the Conservative Party.

"I was silenced in Parliament, but they can't stop me speaking out against this Government's disgusting racism - so I ask here: If you can't call out Islamophobia at #PMQs then where can you?"

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 22: Conservative Party MP Nusrat Ghani joins members of the Uighur community and human rights activists demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament in London, United Kingdom on April 22, 2021. Members of Parliament today debate and are expected to vote on a motion calling on the House of Commons to declare that Uighur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in China's Xinjiang province are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide. (Photo by David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani in January claimed she was sacked from a role in the cabinet in 2020 because of her 'Muslimness'. (Getty Images)

Ghani made the initial allegations in January, telling the Sunday Times: "At the post-reshuffle meeting with the whips I asked what the thinking was behind the decision to fire me... I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’."

A spokesperson for the prime minister at the time said Ghani had flagged the issue and had not subsequently begun a formal complaints process. Shortly after, Number 10 announced they would investigate the allegation.

Spencer, who was chief Conservative whip during the time Ghani claimed the incident happened, has fiercely denied the claims, saying: "I have never used those words attributed to me."

In February the prime minister promoted Spencer to Leader of the House of Commons.

The exchange follows an investigation into the Conservative Party on Islamophobia after reports of multiple incidents in the party, as as well as Johnson's own comments about Muslim women.

Senior Muslim Conservative politician Sayeeda Warsi said in May last year after the report was published: "The findings of this report show clearly that the Conservative Party is institutionally racist".

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 21:   Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer arrives on Downing Street as Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened his cabinet before announcing his plan for
Conservative MP Mark Spencer was promoted to Leader of the House of Commons by Boris Johnson despite allegations of Islamophobia. (Getty Images)

Johnson has previously said he is "sorry for offence taken" for his own remarks, but stopped short of apologising claiming they were a feature of journalism.

"I do know that offence has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely," he said.

"I am obviously sorry for any offence taken."

Tell Mama, which tracks anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK, say incidents jumped by 375% following the prime minister's remarks.

When asked whether Hoyle's decision to cut Hussain off was appropriate, and whether Muslim MPs have the right to challenge the prime minister on the issue in the House of Commons, a spokesperson for Labour said: "It is legitimate question to ask about Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Whether the Prime Minister’s question time was the right place to do it… that’s a matter for the Speaker to put on what’s appropriate in the House of Commons.”

A House of Commons spokesperson said: "Members should not make accusations about the conduct of other Members as a ‘sideswipe’ as part of a question. In other words, any accusation about a Member’s conduct should only be done in the form of a substantive motion, and not just in passing’."