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Top Tories share platform with anti-Muslim Hindu extremist

24th Nov 2017
Top Tories share platform with anti-Muslim Hindu extremist

Bob Blackman hosted the Hindu Forum of Britain who invited anti-Muslim Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh.  Also present (top) Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Paul Scully, Damian Green,  Amber Rudd  and Theresa Villiers (Photo: Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and Cabinet Minister, Damian Green, were among other senior Conservative politicians to have rubbed shoulders with an anti-Muslim extremist during an event in the British parliament timed to celebrate Diwali last month.

Tapan Ghosh was an invited guest at the event despite previously advocating there should be forced birth control and conversion for Muslims. He boasted that he had created a “Hindu Defence Force” in West Bengal, where he was a founding member of Hindu Samhati, a far-right nationalist group.

Notably, Ghosh also praised the recent ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  In other outrageous comments, he has also called for the United Nations to control the birth rate of Muslims and been boastful of his relationship with the English far-right leader Tommy Robinson.

The event in the House of Commons was hosted by Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, on behalf of the Hindu Forum of Britain. Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers, Minister for International Development, Priti Patel, and Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, as well as Labour backbench MP, Paul Scully, were also understood to have attended the meeting.

Blackman, who is a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, invited Ghosh as a keynote speaker for a separate event titled ‘Tolerating the Intolerant’ on the same day. “Had a good discussion on demography and global resistance against Islamic violence and aggression,” he later wrote when tweeting photographs clasping hands with the former leader of the far-right English Defence League.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was “astounding” that a Conservative MP seems to have welcomed to Parliament with open arms a man who trades in propagating hatred against Muslims in India. “If we are to tackle extremism as the Government has stated it wants to, then we should not see it emanating on its own doorstep and apparently condoned by its own MPs.”

Others condemning senior Government ministers rubbing shoulders with such an obnoxious character included Labour MP Wes Streeting. “We don’t always know the background of everyone we meet or appear alongside as MPs, but I hope colleagues will clear this up by roundly condemning his remarks and ensuring that he isn’t welcomed to Parliament again,” he told Middle East Eye.

“People should be in no doubt about how painful this invitation [to Parliament] will be to Muslims who are sadly on the receiving end of everyday abuse as a result of the remarks expressed by the likes of Tapan Ghosh. We need to send a message from across the political divide that we will never be bystanders to Islamophobia in Parliament or in our communities,” Streeting warned.

Labour MP Naz Shah raised a point of order in the House of Commons to criticise Ghosh’s attendance at the two events. Shah said that “Ghosh holds abhorrent views, is on record for calling upon the United Nations to control the birth rate of Muslims, praising the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and also said Muslims should be forced to leave their religion if they come to a western country.”

“Only this Monday Mr Ghosh was pictured with UK far-right extremist leader Tommy Robinson.

“It seems incredible to me that any member would think it would be acceptable to host a meeting with this individual, let alone invite him to our House of Commons.”

A Home Office spokesman for Amber Rudd said: “The Home Secretary fundamentally disagrees with Mr Ghosh’s views on Islam.

“The Home Secretary accepted an invitation from the Hindu Forum of Britain to attend an event in Parliament last week to celebrate Diwali.

“She did not speak to Mr Ghosh and was not present when he spoke.”

The Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Muslim Community in Blackman’s constituency said that they were dismayed to hear that their MP had associated himself with someone renowned for his “venom and hatred against Muslims.” They expressed their “unreserved exception” about the visit at a time when Islamophobia was already at record levels.

“Our community is at the forefront of interfaith dialogue. Yet this week, you have shown disregard for the fears and sentiments of thousands of your constituents,” KSIMC President, Mustafa Mohamed, told the Tory politician. Five issues raised here to be addressed including what due diligence was carried out about Ghosh, whether he agreed with legislation to reduce the Muslim birthrate, if he shared aspiration for an anti-Muslim defence force, that Blackman condemned praise for attacks on Rohingya Muslims and he would apologise for sharing a platform with such a character and insinuating Muslims were second-class citizens.

Blackman said: “In our commitment as a nation to fight extremism and radicalisation it is important to hear the voices of suppressed minorities.”

Blackman added: “Let me be clear, I did not invite Tapan Ghosh to this House of Commons. I hosted, in my capacity as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus, two functions on [October 18], at which Tapan Ghosh attended.”

Satish Sharma, General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples, who organised the event, defending the decision to inviting Ghosh said the event was “specifically focused on the plight of girls in the Hindu and Sikh traditions”.

“[Ghosh] has been working in the particular space in Bengal for a long period of time. Controversy is something that an awful lot of people court and we couldn’t find somebody [else] who had his decades of grassroots experience,” he said.

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