4 May 2020
Letter to The Times following leading article in defence of Trevor Phillips
On Friday 1 May, The Times wrote in defence of Trevor Phillips and his controversial appointment to the review by Public Health England into the disproportionate deaths in the BAME community from Coronavirus. The leading article made erroneous assertions about the charges Mr Phillips’ stands accused of.
The Muslim Council of Britain wrote to the paper to challenge their claims. The paper has refused to publish the MCB’s response, but instead has chosen to feature a letter parroting it’s own line.
We present our letter in full below:
You dismiss concerns (1 May) about Mr Trevor Phillips as ones emanating from “previously obscure doctors’ groups and from the Muslim Council of Britain”. Yet his appointment is also criticised by the Runnymede Trust, Operation Black Vote and senior ethnic minority voices including Afua Hirsch and Baroness Warsi.
You state that he has the requisite expertise. Yet his analysis in your paper that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims were not at greater risk from the coronavirus is suspect because he has neglected the fundamentally basic age profile differential of those communities, which – when incorporated – undermines his summation entirely.
You claim that Mr Phillips is accused of Islamophobia because of his comments on sex-grooming scandals on Rotherham. Again untrue. None of the many statements cited by the Muslim Council of Britain were related to Rotherham.
As you rightly state, lives are at stake when it comes to understanding why ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by coronavirus.
That is why widespread and legitimate criticism of Mr Phillips should be judged on its merits and not on these misleading grounds. To dismiss them as attempts by the Leader of the Opposition to ‘shore up Labour’s traditionally loyal Muslim constituency’ is divisive and risible.
Harun Khan, Secretary General
Muslim Council of Britain
- Mr Trevor Phillips has made a number of offensive, unfounded and divisive claims about Muslims that are used by the far-right to in their hateful targeting against Muslims. These claims include:
- Publicly stating that the placing of a Christian girl into Muslim foster care is “akin to child abuse” and not apologising for this statement. (The Sun, 31 Aug 2017)
- In 2016 he presented a Channel 4 documentary titled ‘What do British Muslims really think?’ in which he misrepresented a number of statistics from his polling to claim Muslims are set apart from the rest of society. (ICM, 2016)
- In this, he claimed Muslims do not report terrorism, when this poll actually showed that Muslims reported terrorism more than the general public.
- He also claimed that Muslims have sympathy with terrorists, despite evidence showing there were notably higher levels of condemnation among Muslim communities for terrorism than for the population as a whole. (Ipsos, February 2018)
- He extrapolated assertions from the raw numbers of survey responses (which were not representative of the population or the Muslim population as a whole) to claim 100,000 Muslims had sympathy for suicide bombing, though using the same survey this would mean more than 600,000 non-Muslim people would also feel the same, though this was not communicated. (Manchester Policy Blogs: Ethnicity, April 2018)
- He repeatedly uses divisive language to claim “Muslims are not like us” which feeds into far-right, Islamophobic tropes. (The Times, 27 January 2016), claiming Muslims “see the world differently from the rest of us”. (Daily Mail, 26 January 2016). He has claimed Muslims are “resistant to the traditional process of integration”. (Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, Civitas)
- Whilst no data is collected on COVID-19 deaths by faith, there is overwhelming evidence which shows ethnic minorities are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than other groups for a number of reasons. (Institute for Fiscal Studies, 1 May 2020)