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Calls grow for Sunak to appoint independent Islamophobia adviser amid Anderson row

Calls are growing for the prime minister to appoint a new independent Islamophobia adviser amid the ongoing row over Lee Anderson.

The Ashfield MP was suspended from the Conservative Party last weekend after he refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had taken “control” of London and that Labour mayor Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

There has been wide condemnation of the remarks from ministers, but they – and Rishi Sunak – have repeatedly refuse to classify them as Islamophobic.

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Former Tory minister Rehman Chishti told Sky News Politics Hub W]]]]ith Sophy Ridge that the decision to categorise the comments should be taken by an independent adviser, rather than politicians, and criticised the prime minister for failing to appoint one since coming into office.

Now the Liberal Democrats have written to the government, calling on them to take “a vital first step towards taking the type of action the British Muslim community deserves” by appointing someone to the role.

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In her letter to Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, the Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine said: “The events of recent weeks have unfortunately reiterated how vital it is that this post be filled as a matter of urgency.”

She added: “Religious hatred in all its forms must be stamped out, and the government has a critical role to play in facilitating that.”

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Theresa May appointed Imam Qari Asim as independent adviser, tasked with providing “expert advice on a definition of Islamophobia to the government”, as well as appointing former Labour MP John Mann to advise on antisemitism.

However, after Boris Johnson took over Number 10, no progress was made on the definition, and come June 2022, Mr Asim was fired for supporting calls to ban a film about the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter – something he denied.

After being sacked, the former adviser claimed there had been a “lack of political will at the very top level of government” to tackle the issue and he was not given “any resources”, which “fuelled perceptions that the current government was not serious in tackling anti-Muslim prejudice”.

Sky News has contacted the government for a response.

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