Updated Jan 24, 2022 - World

U.K. PM orders inquiry into Muslim lawmaker's discrimination claim

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he visits Finchley Memorial Hospital in North London on January 18.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London last week. Photo: Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office announced Monday that he's ordered an inquiry into allegations from a Conservative member of Parliament that she was fired from a ministerial job due to her Muslim faith.

Driving the news: Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times she was informed by a government whip that she was fired from her position as a junior transport minister in February 2020 after her "Muslimness was raised as an issue" and that her faith made colleagues feel "uncomfortable."

  • The government's chief whip, Mark Spencer, tweeted that Ghani was referring to him, but added the allegations were "false" and "defamatory."

What they're saying: "The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP ... the Prime Minister takes these claims very seriously," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Flashback: Johnson has faced criticism for his past writings in a newspaper column that compared veiled Muslim women to "letterboxes" and was pressured during a leadership debate that year to agree to an independent investigation into widespread Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

  • He apologized then for any "hurt and offense" caused by Islamophobia within his party. The inquiry reported in 2021 that anti-Muslim sentiment was "a problem" in the Conservative Party, but it found no evidence of institutional racism.

The big picture: The Cabinet Office inquiry into Ghani's allegations comes as senior civil servant Sue Gray prepares to release her findings into allegations of lockdown-defying parties at the prime minister's official residence, 10 Downing Street — which has prompted dozens of Conservative MPs to call for Johnson to resign.

  • Roughly a dozen Conservative MPs allege Conservative whips have "engaged in blackmail" with MPs they believe are trying to oust Johnson, but Downing Street has said there would be no inquiry into this as there's "no evidence" to support the claims, per the Guardian.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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