Nadhim Zahawi appeared on Sky News and was grilled by presenter Kay Burley over whether the Conservative Party was Islamophobic following the allegation from Nusrat Ghani she was sacked due to her Muslim faith. Ms Burley pressured Mr Zahawi to answer for the claim and why it took two years to come to light following the news Boris Johnson had been involved. Mr Zahawi was then reminded how Mr Johnson compared Muslim women to “letterboxes” but the minister deflected any suggestion of racism or intolerance because he and other ethnic minority MPs have been promoted to positions of power by the Prime Minister.
Speaking on Sky News, Mr Zahawi discussed the allegations made by Ms Ghani over the weekend.
He told Ms Burley: “I don’t have all the details, she’s made an allegation, which was in the Sunday papers, and then of course followed up with the statement.
“The important thing is that what she’s asked for is what the Prime Minister has now spoken to is delivering through the Cabinet Office inquiry.”
Ms Burley wonder why it had taken two years to “get to this position” as the sacking was done in 2020.
The Sky News presenter said: “She was a vulnerable woman, she went to the Prime Minister, she said this is what’s happened to me.
“I’ve been sacked because I’m too Muslim, basically, and it’s taken two years for it to come to light.”
Mr Zahawi said Mr Johnson took it “very seriously” with Ms Burley pointing out the Prime Minister had once compared Muslim women to “letterboxes” in his Telegraph column.
The Education Minister retorted: “Well, it’s also the Prime Minister who promoted Nadhim Zahawi to Education Minister, Sajid Javid to Health Secretary, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Kwasi Kwarteng…”
Ms Burley interrupted and said that did “not negate” the use of the language to which Mr Zahawi agreed but said it was evidence that the Prime Minister put people in positions of power due to their competency.
Mr Zahawi also told Sky News: “[Ghani] put out a statement last night saying actually, to be fair to her, this could be people who weren’t even members of the Conservative Party, which is why we need to get to the bottom of this very quickly.
“And of course, the chief whip has come out and named himself as the individual and I work with both colleagues, and I think it is important that someone like a Cabinet Office senior civil servant should look at this properly because the chief whip has also categorically denied this.”
Ms Ghani alleges that she was sacked as a government minister due to her faith and claims a Government whip explicitly told her that was the reason.
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She was sacked as Transport Minister in a February 2020 reshuffle.
She claimed she was told that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable” and “that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations”.
Despite not naming anyone specifically, Conservative whip Mark Spencer believed Ms Ghani was referring to him and branded the allegations defamatory and false.
Ms Ghani said she had approached Mr Johnson over the matter and was told he could “not get involved” and should use the internal Conservative Party complaint process.