Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi drew applause in the Commons yesterday after calling Boris Johnson out on past comments in which he likened women wearing burqas to letter boxes.
He really wasn’t impressed with Johnson’s reaction and said his Sikh and Muslim ancestry doesn’t give him ‘carte blanche’ to say what he likes.
The Labour MP has renewed his calls for the Conservative Party to begin its review into Islamophobia, as promised by Johnson during his leadership campaign.
He accused Johnson of sidestepping his question about holding a review into Islamophobia as promised before becoming party leader.
Instead Johnson deflected with a remark about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The Prime Minister added: ‘If the right honourable gentleman took the trouble to read the article in question, he would see it was a strong liberal defence of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country.
“And I speak as somebody who is not only proud to have Muslim ancestors but to be related to Sikhs such as himself. I’m also proud to say this government has the most diverse cabinet in the history of this country,” Deshi said.
Reflecting on yesterday’s exchange, he said: ‘He started to describe his family tree to me. I don’t really need to know about Boris Johnson’s family tree. ‘I myself have a white Scottish aunt, I’ve got Polish relatives, but that doesn’t give me a carte blanche to say anything I like or anything disparaging against Scottish or Polish people.’
Dhesi says politicians, figures in the media and other people with a lot of sway must choose their words carefully, as the impact of them can be serious.
He added: ‘He knew full well the effect that his words would have. At that point in time he was pandering to an incredibly right wing Conservative Party membership. He pointed out a survey of party members which revealed 56 per cent saw Islam as ‘generally a threat’ to the British way of life. Singling out ‘vulnerable’ Muslim women led to a ‘significant spike in hate crime’ which saw people having their hijabs ripped off and being pelted with eggs and tomatoes, said Dhesi.
‘He helped to normalise such disgraceful behaviour. He shouldn’t be trying to mimic Donald Trump –we in the UK have higher standards,’ he added.
‘We’ve made such great advances in the past few decades as a democratic society which is a beacon for those around the world.’
The MP for Slough says he and colleagues ‘are still waiting’ for evidence of an independent review on Islamophobia in the Tory party being underway.
However last month Party Chairman, James Cleverly, confirmed a review would be carried out. Dhesi made history when he became Britain’s first turban wearing Sikh MP following the 2017 general election. He and fellow Labour member Preet Kaur Gill are the only two Sikh MPs in the Commons.