Tackling Islamophobia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 7 December 2023.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 1:36, 7 December 2023

I have been a Member of Parliament for 13 years, and I resigned from Government when Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was not given sanctuary in the UK as she should have been. Our Government did not offer it. I was the British trade envoy to Pakistan and I advocated for justice for her there, which she got, but she needed a country to step up and take her in. Canada did; we did not, and I resigned from the Government because we did not do the right thing. I come from a Muslim background; my father and grandfather were imams. It was the right thing to do to stand up for someone being persecuted.

Afzal Khan asked whether the Government really intended for Qari Asim to do some work. For 13 years I have tried to engage with the Government, and with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who make the decisions. The Prime Minister says that it is about action, not words. He needs to explain why action has not been taken; otherwise, people may infer, as the hon. Member said, that the Prime Minister is not genuinely engaged on this matter, nor does he want to engage, because what he says is not followed by substance. If the Government were committed to engaging with the independent adviser Qari Asim, why did they not give him terms of reference for two years? I pay tribute to his work and to that of John Mann in the other place, who does a terrific job on antisemitism.

Ours is a great country because we have people from all faiths and backgrounds coming together to make it so, and contributing at every level. My hon. Friend Paul Bristow does a fantastic job championing his constituents and engaging with the Muslim community. He highlighted their economic contribution of more than £31 billion to our way of life—is that right?