UK Conservatives suspend MP who said ‘Islamists’ control London’s mayor

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Lee Anderson's comments have been criticised across the British political spectrum [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Lee Anderson will now sit as an independent lawmaker in parliament after his remarks prompted a flood of criticism.

The UK’s Conservative Party has suspended one of its lawmakers, Lee Anderson, after he said the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was under the control of “Islamists”.

Khan, the first Muslim to be mayor of London and a member of the opposition Labour Party, is a frequent target of Conservative criticism for his handling of policing in the UK’s capital, including regular pro-Palestinian marches.

On Wednesday hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside parliament, during a chaotic vote over whether to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the exact language to use.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Lindsay Hoyle, said he broke with the usual parliamentary procedure for the vote because of previous threats of violence some lawmakers had received due to their views on the conflict. Pro-Israeli voices in the UK, such as Anderson, have attempted to portray the pro-Palestinian movement as dangerous, despite the majority of British respondents in several polls supporting an end to Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Speaking on Friday to the television channel GB News, Anderson said, “I don’t actually believe these Islamists have got control of our country. But what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London. He’s actually given our capital city to his mates.”

His remarks prompted a flood of criticism from across the political spectrum, with Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds calling them “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic”.

Conservative business minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Tory peer Gavin Barwell were among senior Tory figures to join the complaints, with Barwell calling the comments a “despicable slur”.

The Muslim Council of Britain said they were “disgusting” and extremist.

Khan – who regularly speaks of the importance of fighting anti-Semitism, misogyny and homophobia – told reporters that he regarded Anderson’s comments as racist and Islamophobic and that they would “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

Amid growing criticism of Anderson’s remarks on Saturday, the Conservative Party said it had decided he could no longer represent them in Parliament.

“Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP,” a spokesperson for Simon Hart, the government minister in charge of party discipline, said.

Anderson, a former Conservative Party vice chairman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He will now sit as an independent lawmaker in parliament.

A survey conducted from February 16-18 by Savanta showed that 29 percent of Britons believed the Conservatives had a problem with Islamophobia, the most of any major political party.

Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and a former co-chairwoman of the party, has previously said that the Tories were “institutionally Islamophobic“.

Anderson’s comments come as incidents of Islamophobia have spiked dramatically across the UK. A monitoring group said Thursday that anti-Muslim hate incidents in the UK more than tripled following the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in October.

Since then Tell MAMA recorded 2,010 such cases, the largest recorded number of cases in a four-month period, a statement from the organisation said, which was set up to monitor and report such incidents.

The latest figures were up from 600 incidents over the same period in 2022-2023, a rise of 335 percent.

“We are deeply concerned about the impacts that the Israel and Gaza war are having on hate crimes and on social cohesion in the UK,” Tell MAMA director Iman Atta said.

“This rise in anti-Muslim hate is unacceptable and we hope that political leaders speak out to send a clear message that anti-Muslim hate, like anti-Semitism, is unacceptable in our country.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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