The Muslim Council of Britain has called on Boris Johnson to take disciplinary action against a Conservative MP who took part via video in a panel discussion involving far-right controversialist Katie Hopkins.
Harrow East MP Bob Blackman did not attend the meeting in Geneva and told The Independent that he did not know Hopkins and controversial blogger David Vance would be taking part. He said he rejected their politics which “has no place in our society”.
But the MCB said it was the latest in a string of incidents involving Mr Blackman which it regarded as Islamophobic, including the sharing of a tweet by English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – and hosting a meeting in parliament with Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh, who has called for controls on the birth rate of Muslims.
A spokesperson said that the Conservative Party had taken no action against the MP despite complaints that he was “tacitly if not actively endorsing those who fuel toxic hate against minority communities”.
Mr Blackman sent his video message to a meeting held by an organisation called Association Panafrica on the fringe of a United Nations Human Rights Council conference in September last year. His name was listed as a speaker alongside those of Ms Hopkins and Mr Vance, who have both been the subject of repeated allegations – which they reject – of Islamophobia.
In the message, he discussed the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, saying he stood “full square” behind the government of India in its quarrel with Pakistan, and concluded his remarks by saying: “I end by apologising for the fact I can’t be with you in person today. But I’m with you in spirit and in solidarity.”
A spokesperson for the MCB said: “Bob Blackman has been found have been a virtual panellist alongside well-known Islamophobes like Katie Hopkins and David Vance, individuals who regularly spout hate against Muslims.
“This in and of itself is totally unacceptable. This merits immediate disciplinary action by the Conservative Party.
“However, Blackman also has a history: he previously retweeted posts by the former leader of the EDL, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, shared Islamophobic stories on Facebook and was part of closed Facebook groups which have been found to be full of Islamophobic and racist content. He even hosted the anti-Muslim extremist Tapan Ghosh in parliament, despite him having called for the UN to control the birthrate of Muslims across the world.
“If the Conservative Party do not request a resignation, it will provide yet further evidence that claims of taking the issue of racism seriously, are nothing more than meaningless words.”
In response, Mr Blackman said: “I frequently receive a large amount of requests to speak at events both in the UK and abroad. On this occasion I was invited by Jammu Kashmir Study Centre UK to attend a conference in Geneva which was being hosted by a Pan-African NGO in September last year.
“I was unable to attend in person due to prior engagements. I agreed to record a message which would be broadcast at the event. The focus of my message was Jammu and Kashmir and my speech was to purely about my views on Jammu and Kashmir without agreeing or disagreeing with other speakers.
“I regularly place a lot of faith in organisations when agreeing to participate in such events and on this occasion I was not informed that the meeting was being held with certain other speakers. Once I had discovered the details on social media I made clear my views on those speakers to the organisers of the event. Unfortunately I found out about the speakers after the video had been recorded and the meeting had taken place.
“I distance myself totally from David Vance and Katie Hopkins, I reject them and their breed of politics which has no place in our society.”
However, the MCB spokesperson said: “His name was alongside that of Katie Hopkins and David Vance in the public conference agenda. He had the opportunity to make a public statement at the time when he apparently found out but did not do so.
“Even now, when given yet another opportunity, he has not apologised for his actions.
”This is unacceptable. We await the Conservative Party’s response.”
There was no immediate response from the Conservatives to The Independent’s request for comment.