The appointment of Trevor Phillips to provide support to an inquiry into why victims of the coronavirus are disproportionately from BAME backgrounds has been criticised by British Muslim groups and individuals, as well as other minority groups.
According to NHS England data, the first 12,600 deaths in hospitals in England has shown that they make up 6.4% of the deaths so far, though they account for 3.4% of the population. The majority of of healthcare workers dying are also from a BAME background, with first four UK doctors who have died were Muslim.
The Muslim Council of Britain, the national representative Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, and mosques, said that though the review was necessary, it was inappropriate that someone recently suspended from the Labour Party for allegations of Islamophobia and who has history of making controversial remarks about Muslims, should form part of the team leading the inquiry.
Phillips has previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights commission, but has hit headlines often for his comments on Muslims living in the UK including describing Muslims as being a “nation within a nation”.
MP Naz Shah, also suggested on Twitter that the appointment of Phillips would not command the confidence that was necessary for such an inquiry.
Any inquiry must command confidence, that’s not something that #TrevorPhilips affords 🤷🏽♀️ @PHE_uk @yvonnecoghill1 @NHSEnglandEvent @NHSEnglandMedia @SayeedaWarsi @OpBlackVote https://t.co/8jsdVIWv52
— Naz Shah MP (@NazShahBfd) April 28, 2020
However, it is not only British Muslims who have suggested the involvement of Phillips in such an inquiry would make it lose its credibility, In an op-ed with Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who has campaigned these past few years against Islamophobia in the Conservative party, Simon Woolley, the director of Operation Black Vote states stress the importance of this credibility, and that Phillp’s involvement means many are “struggling to find the trust and confidence in him that is needed for this review to be taken seriously.” There is evidence to illustrate this distrust already, with an open letter signed by 100 black women in response to Phillip’s appointment describing him as famous for “discarding the very real issues and consequences of structural racism.” With a noted prospensity to deny the institutional racism, the inevitable concern is that inequalities in health, employment, housing and other socio-economic measures would be disregarded or dismissed.
Another letter from representatives of thousands of BAME healthcare workers have also called for his removal from the inquiry:
BREAKING: A letter seen by @SkyNews to @PHE_uk on behalf of tens of thousands of UK doctors calls for Trevor Phillips to be “withdrawn” from the review into why BAME people are dying from #COVID19 disproportionately. 16 organisations are involved. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/L9zJH8dc1g
— Inzamam Rashid (@inzyrashid) April 27, 2020