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War on Gaza: Rishi Sunak accused of endangering safety of Muslim MP

The British prime minister called on Labour MP Zarah Sultana to condemn Hamas and the Houthis during a debate on the Gaza war
Zarah Sultana MP speaks at a rally in London in 2021 (Facebook)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of using an Islamophobic trope that endangers "the safety" of a Labour MP after he called on her to condemn Hamas and the Houthis during a heated debate on the Gaza war. 

Late on Monday, Zarah Sultana, the MP for Coventry South, asked Sunak whether his government would condemn the continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip and push for an immediate ceasefire.

"Rather than giving Israel the green light to continue its brutal bombardment on Gaza and risking a wider conflict, will the prime minister seek to deescalate the situation and call for an immediate ceasefire?” said Sultana.

Sunak responded to Sultana by saying: "Perhaps the honourable lady would do well to call on Hamas and the Houthis to deescalate the situation."

Following Sunak's response, Conservative MP Andrew Percy said: “Too many people give a free pass to the terrorists who perpetrated the worst murder of Jews and we’ve just seen an example of that, just as we saw examples of that on our streets this weekend where people screamed ‘Yemen, Yemen turn another ship around’ – completely unacceptable.”

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Sultana then raised a point of order and said Percy's accusations against her had been "grotesquely untrue" and noted that his claims played to a "racist trope, implying that because I am a Muslim I support Hamas".

Percy denied these claims.

Later on in the session, Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, criticised Sunak's response and called on him to apologise. 

"It really has been a new painful blow today for the prime minister to have said to a British Muslim in this House, the member for Coventry South, that she should tell Hamas and Houthis to stop doing what they’re doing," said Shah. 

“That is an Islamophobic trope, maybe the prime minister will reflect, withdraw and take the opportunity to show leadership and apologise.”

Death threats

Following the exchange, the Labour Muslim Network condemned Sunak and said it would be formally writing to party leaders to urge him to urgently apologise.

"The Prime Minister demanding a Muslim member of Parliament 'call on Hamas' to de-escalate in Gaza is clear Islamophobia," the LMN said in a statement.

"This form of rhetoric is dangerous to the safety of Muslim public officials and our communities at large."

Sultana has spoken previously about the level of online Islamophobic hatred and death threats she has received since being an MP.

British MP Zarah Sultana recounts ‘Islamophobic hate’
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Sunak doubled down on his comments further, urging "all members consistently not to conflate these conflicts, and when they are calling on the UK to deescalate tensions, to recognise the people who are causing these situations in the first place is the Hamas terrorist organisation and the Houthis.

“And it’s got nothing to do with anything else other than to recognise the instigators of this violence and illegality and make sure that is upper most in everybody’s minds when we have these conversations about the best way to respond.”

Sultana's intervention came after Britain joined US forces and bombed areas controlled by the Yemeni Houthi group, which controls most of Yemen and the capital Sanaa.

Last week, officials inside the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office told the Times that it was "incredibly nervous" about bombing Yemen. 

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