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Appointment of Trevor Phillips to the COVID-19 BAME Deaths Inquiry Is Criticised By Leading Muslims

Appointment of Trevor Phillips to the COVID-19 BAME Deaths Inquiry Is Criticised By Leading Muslims

The United Kingdom’s leading Muslim voices have criticised the appointment of former Labour MP, Trevor Phillips, to the commission that will investigate why people of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are seeing higher-than-average deaths due to the on-going coronavirus outbreak. Phillips was asked by Public Health England to provide expert support to the inquiry.

However, leading Muslim voices, including the Muslim Council of Britain, have criticised Phillips’ appointment because he was recently suspended from the Labour Party on accusations of Islamophobia. Phillips was also frequently criticised for making controversial remarks about Muslims.

The inquiry will investigate why people of BAME backgrounds were affected by the coronavirus

The official inquiry to understand why people of BAME backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus outbreak was first announced mid-April. The announcement came after early figures showed that almost %35 of almost 2,000 patients in intensive care units were of BAME backgrounds despite BAME people making up only 14% of the population.

Although official data has yet to be broken down by ethnicity, concerns were raised especially after the BAME doctors were among the first to die of the virus. BAME NHS staff also made for the majority of those who died due to COVID-19 infections.

Experts offered many different explanations to explain the discrepancy. These include biological factors (such as the claim that Vitamin D deficiency could be a factor) and socioeconomic factors (such as the claim that many BAME people live in overcrowded or multigenerational households and that they have a large portion of employment in the NHS).

The inquiry, led by NHS England and Public Health England, would aim to find answers to these questions and explain the discrepancy. Phillips, the former chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, was requested to take part in the inquiry to provide expert support.

Phillips has been a controversial figure among UK Muslims

The decision to appoint Phillips, however, was criticised by some of UK’s leading Muslim voices. Harun Khan, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, described the decision as “wholly inappropriate”. Khan pointed out to Phillips having been suspended from the Labour Party due to Islamophobia, accusing him of consistently pushing a narrative that Muslims are apart from the rest of the British society. Khan warned that his appointment sends a signal to British Muslims that the matter is not being taken seriously.

A similar comment was made by Labour Party MP, Yasmin Qureshi, who, on Twitter, welcomed the inquiry but warned that Phillips’ appointment threatens its integrity. Her tweet received support from a number of other Muslim MPs.

Phillips Responded to the Criticisms

On Saturday, Phillips responded to the criticisms about his appointment. Phillips said that everyone should be contributing in any ways they can to tackle the crisis and explained that he has already done significant work about the outbreak alongside Professor Richard Webber who was also asked by Public Health England to provide expert support, adding that the work he has done so far is why he was chosen to support the inquiry. However, although he acknowledged the criticism, he has not given any rebuttals to the criticisms surrounding his alleged Islamophobia.

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