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Rishi Sunak accused of using ‘Islamophobic trope’ against Labour MP

A view of the Palace of Westminster (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)
A view of the Palace of Westminster (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak has been accused of using an “Islamophobic trope” after he asked Labour’s Zarah Sultana to “call on Hamas and the Houthis to de-escalate the situation”.

Labour MP Naz Shah said it was a “painful blow” by the Prime Minister and called on him to apologise.

Later in the debate, Conservative former minister Andrew Percy was also accused of “playing to a racist trope” by Ms Sultana.

The MP for Coventry South claimed Mr Percy was implying that, because she is a Muslim, she supports Hamas.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Sultana said: “Past mistakes in the Middle East should have taught this House that military interventions starting out as limited can quickly escalate, risking a sequence of events far larger and more terrible and risk even dragging us into war.

“It is for this reason, according to reports in The Times, that Foreign Office officials were, and I quote, incredibly nervous about last week’s military assault in Yemen.

“Driving the region’s instability is Israel’s horrifying assault on Gaza, which has now lasted more than 100 days.

“So 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 de-escalate the situation and call for an immediate ceasefire?”

In response to this, Mr Sunak said: “Perhaps the honourable lady would do well to call on Hamas and the Houthis to de-escalate the situation.”

Ms Sultana could be heard shouting: “Shame on you.”

Mr Percy, who was the next MP to ask Mr Sunak a question, then 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.”

Later in the session, Ms Shah criticised the Prime Minister for his response to Ms Sultana.

The MP for Bradford West said: “It really has been a new low, and 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.

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

Mr Sunak replied: “I have said to 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.”

Ms Sultana later raised a point of order to say Mr Percy’s “free pass” accusation was “grotesquely untrue”.

She added: “The member’s gross accusation is playing to a racist trope, implying that because I am a Muslim I support Hamas.”

Mr Percy said he was not referencing Ms Sultana, adding: “I’m not going to stop saying that I think people have given a free pass on occasions to behaviour.”