25 April 2020
MCB issues statement on appointment of Trevor Phillips to COVID-19 ethnicity review
On Friday 24th April, Public Health England announced the appointment of Trevor Phillips to provide expert support to the review into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME people.
Whilst there is no public data on the impact of the pandemic by faith group, there appears to be a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, of which many British Muslims are. Evidence has also shown that 72% of all NHS and carer COVID-19 deaths have been BAME individuals.
This review is urgently needed to understand the reasons behind the huge impact on BAME communities, but the appointment of Trevor Phillips is controversial. Phillips was recently suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia, and has a history of making controversial remarks about Muslims.
Commenting, Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB said:
“While we appreciate Public Health England’s desire to examine the over-representation of BAME deaths caused by COVID-19, it is wholly inappropriate to give that responsibility to someone being investigated for racism. The decision is particularly insensitive given that British Muslims overwhelmingly come from BAME communities and so many Muslim doctors have died at the front line of this pandemic.
“Mr Phillips has a consistent record in pushing the divisive narrative of Muslims being apart from the rest of British society. Only this week, Mr Phillips opted to make an ill-informed and bizarre assertion that Muslims are less likely to develop COVID-19 because of “ritual washing”. While Mr Phillips may claim that he was in fact praising Muslims and their practices, the subtext yet again is one that posits Muslim religious practise as alien to mainstream culture.
“The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on BAME communities is a serious issue which has seen many Muslims lose loved ones. Appointing an individual who has boasted about being labelled an “Islamophobe” sends a clear signal to British Muslims that Public Health England is not taking this matter seriously.”