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Gove responsible for unethical dismissal of imam

8th Jul 2022
Gove responsible for unethical dismissal of imam

Ultimately, the blame for the shambolic dismissal of government advisor Imam Qari Asim largely rests on Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove

The employment of advisors is a common occurrence for the use of their expertise in particular spheres. If their tenure is no longer required for whatever reason, it would be a courtesy to at least have some communication before ending a contract. This would apply even if an appointment was more of a public relations exercise to pretend ministers were tackling rampant Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, none of the above seemed to have applied in the unique case of Imam Qari Asim. It is also ironic that, despite the Islamophobic attitude of the Tory Party and their shunning of representative organisations, the Imam of Leeds Makkah Mosque had willingly worked with them for more than a decade, including on several state-funded initiatives voluntarily as Deputy Chair of the Cross-Government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, which he has also been sacked from, as well as Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and senior editor of ImamsOnline.

Asim was appointed as an independent government advisor to establish a formal definition of Islamophobia on the same day Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019. It was a process started under Theresa May and after other parties, including Labour and the Lib Dems, as well as many academics, had adopted a working definition agreed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. The unwillingness of the Tories was more of a cynical ploy to delay growing demands for the party to investigate the extent of anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice within its rank and file.

From his account, the appointment was in name only, revealing that the government had not even bothered to engage with him at all on a definition nor had kept its commitment to add a second advisor to help with the process. To make the façade even worse, his sudden dismissal came with no forewarning or discussion.

Asim said he found out about it only from the media and the odd behaviour of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) publishing an undated and unsigned letter addressed to him on their website

. So, what is to be made of such bizarre conduct by the government? Given the contents of the letter, it would seem to be more of a matter for an employment tribunal to investigate. It is unethical, certainly unprofessional, and perhaps a breach of regulations, if not the law. Some of the extraordinary accusations made could also be libellous. It makes one question whether any legal advice was taken to make such sweeping charges against the highly respected imam and interfaith advocate. It must even raise questions about the integrity of the minister responsible for ordering such a document to be officially published.

The DLUHC letter professes that the UK is “proud of its democratic values and freedoms, which include tolerance, freedom of expression, and community.” Yet, the main issue against Asim appears to be concerning the protests around the country against the airing of the controversial movie,

The Lady of Heaven. His support for the campaign was somehow supposed to be limiting free expression rather than allowing him to express his own opinion. The imam clarified that his concerns were directed at its use of “sectarian and racist narratives” and that it could “fuel hatred, sectarianism and extremism.” The government ought to look at the composition and role of the British Board of Film Classification, which hardly seems to reflect the diversity of the country.

The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, is among those who have accused the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, who must be responsible, for discourtesy over the sacking. If anything, it simply confirms the government’s contempt for Muslims. What is particularly disturbing is the whole way the scourge of Islamophobia is being handled, or rather, seemingly deliberately ignored, other than in soundbites at best. Why, after more than three years, has there been no attempt to come up with a definition that captures the extent of Muslim prejudice that is so endemic within British society?


Islamophobia advisor sacked by Government without warning

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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