The appointment of Trevor Phillips to the BAME coronavirus inquiry is an insult not only to British Muslims but to the Black community, the Lewisham Islamic Centre has said.
In an open letter to local MPs, Janet Daby and Vicky Foxcroft, the Lewisham Islamic Centre call for support in criticising the appointment of Phillips – currently being investigated for alleged Islamophobic comments – into the inquiry which will look into reasons for the disproportionate rates of Covid-19 deaths within BAME communities.
In the letter they write that they support the calls by BAME organisations and Members of Parliament to replace the former chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who was appointed a prominent role alongside his company, Webber Phillips, by Public Health England (PHE).
The centre, which prides itself on its work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, said: “We find the decision of PHE to garner expertise for this review from a divisive figure as Mr Phillips truly troubling given his history of making controversial remarks about Muslims.”
At present, the veteran anti-racism campaigner is suspended pending investigation by the Labour Party for allegations of Islamophobia, including expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns such as Rotherham, according to The Times.
It says the complaint also covers comments about the failure of some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday.
Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE’s regional director, London, said: “Trevor Phillips and Professor Richard Webber have been asked to support this critical work as their specialist consultancy has the right skills and experience. We need to move fast to understand why and what can be done about this.”
In a recent report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), findings revealed that people from Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are between 3.5 and 4 times as likely to die from Covid-19 than people from white communities in England.
“Public Health England should not dismiss these concerns by proceeding with Mr Phillips and alienating BAME communities” said the Lewisham Islamic Centre.
The centre also urged PHE to approach this urgent and important matter with the sincerity and credibility that will earn the confidence and engagement of the very communities that the inquiry seeks to aid and “avoid the similar pitfalls that so marred the Grenfell Tragedy review.”