Sunday, March 3, 2024

MP known for Islamophobic remarks appointed by UK govt as reviewer into Leicester unrest

The British government on Friday announced an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Ian Austin into tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Leicester last year.

Austin is a former minister for housing and planning as well former minister for the West Midlands. UK Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Micheal Gov said “the review will build a thorough understanding of the specific events that took place in Leicester and what can be learned from them.”

The appointment of Lord Ian Austin has faced criticism due to his history of making Islamophobic remarks. Previously, he was compelled to issue an apology by a UK court following a libel lawsuit related to his comment referring to Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA), a UK-based NGO advocating against Israel’s illegal occupation in Palestine, as “Holocaust deniers.

One of the Labour Councillors in Leicester Sharman Rahman criticised his appointment by saying it “ends any hope that this review will be conducted in a fair and balanced manner.”

She wrote on Facebook: “The appointment should have been a legal one rather than a political one to insulate against any accusations of bias. A shame this opportunity wasn’t taken up.”

MP Austin faced further criticism for making racist and bigoted remarks on multiple occasions. One instance involved him sharing a manipulated image of TOM&JERRY ice cream with the label “HAMAS TERRORISM” on it. Additionally, he tweeted, “Ben and Jerry’s have stopped selling ice cream in the West Bank, but they’ve introduced new flavors for Gaza.”

The Labour Muslim Network had reacted to his tweet as “this is pure Islamophobia by a former Labour MP and should be condemned by every public figure with a conscience. Islamophobia is not only rife in our society, it’s mainstream in our politics.”

Ian Austin, a former Member of the House of Commons and Minister for the West Midlands, departed from the Labour Party in 2019 and subsequently became an independent. He also made anti-worker comments on his social media platforms.

Following a persistent online hate campaign by Hindu supremacist organizations, Dr. Chris Allen, an expert in hate crimes and Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, was forced to resign from his role as the leader of a panel appointed by Leicester city council Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby to examine the unrest. It was subsequent to this incident that the appointment of Lord Ian Austin took place.

The city council no longer conducting independent review by its own. Sir Soulsby who came out in support of the appointment of Ian Austin said: “I welcome the government’s announcement.”

In September of last year, Leicester witnessed a clash between Hindus and Muslims in the Green Lane area, predominantly inhabited by Muslims. The unrest occurred when a large group of Hindu men took to the streets with weapons and arson, resulting in the arrest of several individuals by the Leicestershire police.

P P Jaseem
P P Jaseem
PP Jaseem is a freelance journalist covering law, human rights, and Indian minorities.
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