In light of the allegation by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani that she was demoted from a ministerial position on account of her “Muslimness”, CAGE Research Director Asim Qureshi considers the importance of taking into account Ghani’s own role in fostering the very climate in which Islamophobia thrives in Britain.
This is an adapted version of Asim’s Twitter thread on the topic.
While it is important to pay attention to the reason why Nusrat Ghani was removed from her position, it is equally important to remind ourselves of who she is and the views she subscribes to.
Almost a year ago to the day of her expose, she wrote this piece for the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange. Ostensibly, the piece is a defence of the government’s appointment of William Shawcross as the independent reviewer of the Prevent strategy – but the comment piece tells us much more about Ghani’s understanding of Islamophobia, beyond her particular experience.
To begin with, the fact that she is ok with being published by Policy Exchange Exchange – of which she is a Senior Fellow – is in itself a problem, as the think tank regularly spews racist and Islamophobic content. It’s not the platform any decent person should be using to air their views, let alone a Muslim.
Ghani praises Shawcross for his time at the Charity Commission, despite there being a wealth of information about how his tenure there resulted in the specific targeting of Muslim charities.
Presenting a defence of Shawcross cannot simply be ignored, because as detailed by Peter Oborne, Shawcross has been deployed to defend all manner of unconscionable programmes that target Muslims, including indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay and torture.
Ghani cites a CREST Advisory report on Prevent while failing to mention that CREST Advisory is the go-to research body for the security agencies. As CAGE has detailed, the questionnaire was rigged from the start to provide cover for the strategy.
Ghani’s position in criticising China on their oppression of the Uyghur population entirely obfuscates the extent to which Prevent in the UK was exported to the Chinese state as a ready-made product that they could build on.
In the Policy Exchange piece, Ghani also attempts to shift the boundaries of who is dangerous to the UK by presenting caricatures of Muslims. According to her, the new ‘dangerous type’ is the one who wears a suit and talks about human rights/social justice.
“Thus, if the archetypal radicaliser in the first decade after 9/11 was the almost pantomime figure of Abu Hamza with his eye-patch, hook hands and wild rhetoric; his counterpart in the last ten years was likely to be smartly dressed, soft-spoken and to mouth platitudes about social justice and human rights.”
One can only imagine whom she has in mind.
The focus on ideology is so outdated and so well deconstructed that there is almost no point in doing so further. There is literally no useful science that supports this proposition, but she reiterated it because that’s the easiest way to criminalise large proportions of Muslim activism.
Eventually we get to the point of Ghani’s article, which is to target FOSIS, MEND, MCB and CAGE as being somehow subversive. It’s worth noting here how she deploys her own Muslimness in order to Other-ise these groups.
“Just as the Prevent Review in 2011 called out the student group FOSIS, we should be prepared to name groups like Cage, MEND, or the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), and say that such organisations should not be misconstrued as representatives of all Muslims (we aren’t one monolithic group – controversial I know) or “critical friends”, or offered a seat at the table.”
This should also be seen in light of her statements in 2018, where she used the fact of being Muslim to deflect then-mounting accusations of Islamophobia in her party, and calls for an inquiry.
In her words
“[It’s] not the experiences that I have. I mentor dozens of candidates, whether they’re council or parliamentarian. I’m always keen to try and get people involved in politics – and for me it’s not about their faith or their heritage.”
So there is a quandary here.
On the one hand is the fact that Ghani is someone who was willing to deploy her Muslimness while a serving MP to harm other Muslims. At the same time, regardless of what one might feel about her as a person, it is the essential “Muslimness” she holds that led to her being sacked.
As Dr Khadijah Elshayyal has written on this very subject, regardless of how obnoxious one may find someone, justice dictates that we understand this moment in a wider context of Islamophobia that Muslims face:
Ultimately, we all lose when we accept the oppression of one person. You don’t have to express any form of sympathy and solidarity for the person, but all moments of injustice have to be reckoned with.
Image used courtesy of Nus Ghani
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)