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Leadership debate: Imam who questioned Boris Johnson suspended over antisemitic tweets | UK News



An imam who questioned the Tory leadership candidates during a TV debate has been suspended from his role as deputy head at a primary school over antisemitic tweets.

Abdullah Patel asked the contenders about Islamophobia and if “words have consequences” during a BBC debate on Tuesday evening, prompting Boris Johnson to apologise for his past remarks likening burka-wearing women to letterboxes.

However he has been criticised for past tweets in which he said “every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn”.

He also shared an image endorsing the relocation of Israel to the US as a way of solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The BBC said Mr Patel would not have been chosen for the programme if it had been aware of his previous comments, adding that his Twitter account had been deactivated ahead of his appearance and that old tweets were not visible.

Mr Patel has been criticised for past tweets on Israel
Mr Patel has been criticised for past tweets on Israel. Pic: BBC

Another member of the public who questioned the candidates – Aman Thakar – has also been suspended by law firm Leigh Day, where he works as an employment solicitor.

He is being investigated over a tweet.

Mr Thakar, who was the Labour Party candidate in Borough and Bankside in the Southwark local elections last year, made his Twitter account private after the debate.

A Leigh Day spokesman said: “We can confirm that Aman Thakar is currently a solicitor at Leigh Day in our employment department. We have been made aware of a tweet which we are taking very seriously.

“Mr Thakar has been suspended with immediate effect from the firm whilst we carry out an internal investigation into these matters.”

A second person, Aman Thakar, has also been suspended by a law firm. Pic: BBC
A second person, Aman Thakar, has also been suspended by a law firm. Pic: BBC

Tory leadership contender Sajid Javid said Mr Patel should “practise what he preaches” and that words “do indeed have consequences”.

“All of us in public life have a duty to be vigilant for antisemitism & anti-Muslim prejudice. I never imagined we would see it rising in 21st century UK. Unlike the Labour leadership, which is itself part of the problem, my party takes that duty seriously,” the home secretary tweeted.

Following Mr Patel’s TV appearance, Al-Ashraf Primary School in Gloucester said it had suspended him from all school duties.

Yakub Patel, chairman of 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.”

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart appear on BBC TV's debate
Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart appear on BBC TV’s debate

Mr Patel has also been suspended from mosque duties.

A statement from the Masjid e Umar mosque said: “We are fully aware of the allegations made against our Imam Maulana Abdullah Patel regarding the contents of historic tweets.

“We have decided to act immediately and have chosen to give him some time away to allow us the opportunity to conduct a detailed investigation into this matter.”

Mr Patel told the BBC Asian Network the school was “within its right” to conduct an investigation, adding: “I don’t wish to comment on their decision.”

Rob Burley, who edited the BBC programme, tweeted: “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.”

Boris Johnson 'sorry' for offence of past comments

Johnson’s apology for past ‘offensive’ remarks

Mr Patel has since taken down his Twitter account again.

In the debate, he said he had witnessed first-hand the impact of Islamophobic rhetoric on his community.

While responding to Mr Patel, Mr Johnson apologised for previously saying that veiled Muslim women looked like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London for a Live TV debate with Tory leadership hopefuls
Boris Johnson apologised for past comments about veiled Muslim women

Michael Gove meanwhile condemned Islamophobia as “repugnant” and attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for comments he claimed were “disgusting” and antisemitic in his response to Mr Patel.

Writing on Twitter after the debate, Mr Patel described the candidates’ answers as “nothing short of disappointing and deluded”.

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