London: A British former government minister has been urged to make a formal complaint after reportedly claiming that she was sacked from her job in Boris Johnson's government partly because of her Muslim faith.
Nusrat Ghani, 49, lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020. She told the Sunday Times (paywall) that at a subsequent meeting, she was told that her "Muslimness" had been raised as an "issue", and that her "Muslim woman minister" status had made "colleagues uncomfortable".
The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab described her allegations as "incredibly serious", telling Sky News that the ruling Conservative Party had "absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination and any Islamophobia".
But he said that as Nusrat Ghani had not made a formal complaint despite being urged to do so, there would be no specific investigation into the affair.
The former minister said that at a second meeting with a government whip — an enforcer of parliamentary discipline — she was "told that I was in fact fired for apparently saying to the PM that we had a ‘women problem’" in terms of attracting female voters.
"In the following weeks I was informed that if I persisted in raising this I would be ostracised by colleagues and my career and reputation would be destroyed," she added.
"I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party and I have at times seriously considered whether to continue as an MP (member of parliament)."
Mark Spencer, the government's chief whip, said he was the person at the centre of Ghani's allegations.
"These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory," he said on Twitter. "I have never used those words attributed to me."
Spencer said Ghani had declined to put the matter to a formal internal investigation when she first raised the issue.
The Conservative Party has previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, and a report in May last year criticised it over how it dealt with complaints of discrimination against Muslims.
The MP's complaints follow a series of scandals that have drained public support from both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his party, presenting him with the most serious crisis of his premiership.
Another Tory MP says he is to meet police next week over his accusations of intimidation and blackmail at the hands of government whips. William Wragg has claimed that some Conservatives have been targeted because of their calls for the prime minister's removal.
"Nus is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience," Wragg said on Twitter on Saturday.
The main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Conservatives must investigate Ghani's account immediately. "This is shocking to read," he tweeted.
The prime minister, who in 2019 won his party's biggest majority in more than 30 years, is fighting to shore up his authority after a series of revelations about parties in his Downing Street residence during pandemic lockdowns.
Nusrat Ghani has been outspoken on violent extremism and is one of five MPs sanctioned by China for highlighting the persecution of the country's predominantly Muslim Uighur minority.