The Islamic cleric invited to appear on a BBC-hosted Tory leadership debate to grill Boris Johnson is an anti-Semitic Jeremy Corbyn supporter, reports have claimed.
Imam Abdullah Patel, who is also deputy headmaster at a failing primary school in Gloucester, was brought on to ask the panel “if words have consequences” — a question some observers regarded as faintly sinister, in the current climate — as a vehicle for host Emily Maitlis to raise leading candidate Boris Johnson’s past remarks comparing the appearance of women veiled in the Islamic niqab to “letter boxes” or “bank robbers”.
A majority of Britons support banning the burqa and niqab, as many other European governments and even some Muslim-majority countries do, viewing it as oppressive, detrimental to social cohesion, and a threat to national security and public safety more generally — and it has indeed been used as a disguise by murderous armed robbers in the United Kingdom.
Johnson, however, was quick to apologise to the imam for any offence caused, proferring his status as the great-grandson of a Muslim refugee and assuring him there would be “openness and a willingness to welcome people around the world” under a Johnson premiership.
Breaking: Abdullah Patel, the Imam from last night's TV debate, has been suspended from the school where he is deputy head pic.twitter.com/oPcmEiFXuW
— Henry Zeffman (@hzeffman) June 19, 2019
Describing the answers to his question, supposedly prompted by “numerous reports of blatant racism against members of my community”, as “disappointing and deluded”, the imam was initially lauded by the mainstream media — but journalists and commentators have been forced into an abrupt about-face by revelations of the imam’s anti-Semitic social media output.
“How long are the Zionists going to hide behind the Holocaust cry?” he complained in one post revealed on Wednesday.
“Every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn,” he said in another. “They don’t like him. He seems best suited to tackle them!”
The imam also shared an image of showing Israel relocated to a position within the United States — presumaby along with its millions-strong Jewish population.
It is the same image once shared by Labour’s Naz Shah, a Muslim MP who also infamously “liked” and retweeted a post suggesting rape gang victims should “shut their mouths for the good of diversity”.
This saw her briefly suspended from the party, although she has since been brought back into the fold and promoted to Shadow Minister of State for Women and Equalities.
I would like to apologise. We had the Imam from the BBC Tory leadership debate on our programme this morning. His social media comments have been extremely disturbing. We should have checked. We didn’t. I’m sorry.
— Nicky Campbell (@NickyAACampbell) June 19, 2019
The BBC has been under fire for its failure to adequately vet the imam before allowing him to appear, although they claim he deactivated his Twitter account before routine background checks could be conducted. Westminster blog Guido Fawkes has made the counter-claim that the account was active until the weekend, presumably giving the BBC time to investigate whether their chosen imam held extreme views if true.
The imam has been suspended from the primary school where he teaches pending an investigation.