By GRAHAME ANDERSON
An imam from Gloucester has been suspended from his job as a primary school deputy head following his appearance on the BBC’s Conservative leadership debate. Abdullah Patel was allowed to question the Tory candidates during last Tuesdays now controversial live debate, asking Boris Johnson if his remarks on Islam “had consequences.”
Social Media Controversy
A Twitter account previously de-activated belonging to the 25-year-old however, revealed a series of allegedly anti-Semitic tweets. They include a post claiming the abuse of Jews was being “abused by the Right” to further a political agenda. In another, he made the suggestion the state of Israel should be moved to the USA, called Gaza, the modern day Auschwitz, claiming some women assaulted by men are partially to blame.
Mr Patel had earlier also posted: “Every Political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn. They don’t like him. He seems best suited to tackle them!”
Asian Sunday has learned the imam does not dispute he posted the tweets a few years ago. It’s believed he’s also previously worked closely with Jewish organisations. During this time he visited several synagogues, and posted other messages supporting Jewish communities.
He accepts his comments are controversial but believes there is a distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, which he has reportedly condemned on Twitter. He was unavailable for comment.
After the televised debate he wrote: “As an imam, I’m exposed to many incidents which happen in my community, and of course, as a visible Muslim, I also witness it first hand. I have received numerous incident reports of blatant racism against members of my community, from spitting and swearing at Muslim women … to asking students coming to my mosque if they had bombs in their bags.”
He added: “What I got as a response was nothing short of disappointing and deluded. Boris Johnson forgot my name, spoke about his Great grandfather and about Iran.”
Mr Johnson had of course previously compared veiled Muslim women to “letter boxes. Mr Patel’s question prompted a response from candidates around allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
In a statement posted on the Al-Ashraf Primary school’s website the following day, Yakub Patel, chair of the Al-Madani Educational Trust, said: “Following some of the comments attributed to Mr Patel in the media this morning, the trust has decided to suspend him from all school duties with immediate effect until a full investigation is carried out. The school and trust do not share the views attributed to him.”
In the BBC’s defence The Live Political Programmes Editor, Rob Burley took to social media posting: “1) For those wondering how, given his tweets, Abudullah Patel made it onto the debate last night. The answer: his Twitter account had been deactivated, his tweets could not be read and his account did not exist when searched for. . .
“2) It was AFTER the show that Mr Patel reactivated his account revealing his tweets. We wouldn’t have put him on the programme if these were public before broadcast but they were not. We also carried out a number of other routine checks which didn’t uncover anything untoward. Had we been aware of the views he expressed there, he would not have been selected.”
BBC presenter Nicky Campbell, who had Patel on his Radio 5 Live breakfast show the following morning said the imam had made “extremely disturbing” remarks on Twitter. Mr Campbell added he was “sorry” the broadcaster had not checked beforehand.
As an organisation the BBC has claimed they carried out background research into the online and social media profiles of all the questioners. Mr Patel’s tweets weren’t visible during this period.
Home Secretary Mr Javid later added: “Mr Patel should “practise what he preaches” and that words “do indeed have consequences”.
Adding To The Furore
To make matters worse another questioner, employment solicitor Aman Thackar, the Labour Party Southwark council candidate in 2018, has also been suspended by his employers law firm Leigh Day, following controversial historic social media comments.
On the programme Mr Thakar questioned if the candidates had a democratic mandate to become Prime Minister. Afterwards, a post the former Labour HQ legal assistant made on Twitter back in February was discovered. It said: ‘Hitler’s abuse of the term nationalism is, to me, a nationalist, the most harmful part of his legacy.’ It sparked an outrage at the time from many claiming the biggest outrage was the killing of more than six million Jews.
The BBC has revealed it knew Mr Thakar had worked for the Labour Party but didn’t offer an explanation as to why viewers weren’t told.
Julian Knight, a Conservative member of the culture select committee, said: ‘People look up to the BBC but the format and editorial failings were such that they actually produced a much worse debate than Channel 4.”
A request to replace high stools with lecterns on set was turned down by producers. On leaving the studio a campaign source revealed the discovery of a line of lecterns that could have been used.
The leadership hopefuls complained the stools made them look like an ageing boy band, and weren’t altogether happy with presenter Emily Maitliss who waded into exchanges during the hour long programme.
Another proposed debate in the style of Question Time, between the final two candidates supervised by Fiona Bruce is in doubt.