Tory MP Craig Whittaker has claimed ‘Muslim and BAME’ communities are not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously following the announcement of new local lockdowns across England.
The Conservative MP, whose Calder Valley constituency is included in the latest local lockdown, has accused Muslim communities living in his area of failing to follow social distancing guidelines.
New restrictions were imposed late last night banning seperate households from meeting indoors in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move was in response to a spike in infections driven by a “lack of social distancing”.
But speaking to LBC, Mr Whittaker said: “What I have seen in my constituency is we have areas in our community and sections of our community that are not taking the pandemic seriously.”
Its a blame game
Asked if he was referring to the Muslim community, he replied: “Of course”.
“If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority – not by any stretch of the imagination all areas – but it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.”
He added: “I’ve been challenging our local leaders for… three weeks, asking what we are doing to target these areas to let people know that this is a very serious problem.
“Until people take it seriously, we’re not going to get rid of this pandemic.
“We have areas of high multiple occupancy who are in the same boat… and it doesn’t specifically have to be in the Asian community, but that is the largest proportion.
“Look at the areas. You’ve got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford, in particular, and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire.”
Pressed on whether he was talking about immigrant communities in those areas, he responded: “Yeah, well, immigrant and Asian population”.
Conservative Peer, Baroness Warsi tweeted “There are some folk who aren’t taking lockdown seriously eg beach lovers, pub goers, illegal ravers, anti face mask protestors, football cup win celebrators etc Do we now categorise all by race? So white tan seekers vs BAME folk in Craig’s world ? This divisive nonsense must
There are some folk who aren’t taking lockdown seriously eg beach lovers, pub goers, illegal ravers, anti face mask protestors, football cup win celebrators etc— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) July 31, 2020
Do we now categorise all by race?
So white tan seekers vs BAME folk in Craig’s world ?
This divisive nonsense must ? https://t.co/pQMgJU6ZUY
The Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker is not new to controversy over his remarks, he was once criticised for sharing a joke comparing Labour to Jimmy Savile. Unfortunately, his Tweet backfired and more knowledgeable twitter users related connections to the paedophile Jimmy Savile and the conservative government including Thatcher.
Trust Labour? I'd rather trust Jimmy Savile to babysit http://t.co/UCmlUEE0Pe via @MailOnline— Craig Whittaker MP (@CWhittaker_MP) May 5, 2015
Anger over ‘failure to communicate’ after rule change disrupts Eid celebrations
This comes when the government has been attacked over its “failure to communicate” after its move to tighten coronavirus restrictions in parts of the north-west of England on the eve of Eid celebrations for Muslims.
New measures brought in for several north-west towns have outlawed meetings between different households indoors.
Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray said it was “like waking up on Christmas Day and realising that you cannot go to your family’s Christmas dinner”.
‘It’s like waking up on Christmas Day and realising that you cannot go to your family’s Christmas dinner’ – @adilray— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) July 31, 2020
Many Muslims in northern England will not be able to celebrate Eid with their family due to lockdown restrictions announced overnight. pic.twitter.com/rZH7a5yEtf
Health secretary Matt Hancock defended the swift new measures, saying it was “important to move fast” late on Thursday evening.
“With no action at all, the virus doubles every three days so it is is important to move fast and sometimes that means communicating very rapidly,” he said.
But the Muslim Council of Britain has criticised the government for its lack of communication – which has caused disruption for Muslims around the country who had been hoping to meet with family this weekend.
The group’s secretary general Harun Khan, said: “For Muslims in the affected areas, it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself.
“Failure to communicate makes it difficult for communities across the country to continue working together to minimise the spread of the virus, whilst eroding trust in the ability of authorities to steer our course as we tackle the Covid-19 crisis.”
He added: “The UK government has failed to provide clarity on the shockingly short notice and the reasoning behind the new rules that British Muslims deserve – any such clarification would be most welcome.”
Mr Hancock confirmed the new restrictions “sadly” mean that “people won’t be able to have that household engagement – people going to meet in each other’s houses, or gardens – because we’ve seen that’s how the disease spreads”.
But he said Muslims “will be able to go to mosques” to celebrate.
ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener asked whether it made any sense for mosque celebrations to be allowed, given the possibility that several households could all be inside one at the same time.
Mr Hancock said it does make sense, “because the Imams have worked so hard to find socially distanced, Covid-secure ways of having Eid celebrations”.
He added: “We’ve been clear all along that we’re willing to take action where that’s needed, and its a very difficult balance, it’s difficult judgements, these are not easy decisions.”
Mr Hancock defended the government communication, saying the message of a rule change was spread “in all ways possible, as soon as practical”.
“I explained the decision in an interview last night, also on social media, making sure that we get the message out as far and as fast as we can,” he said.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also criticised the government’s communication.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “Despite poor communication from the Government, it’s crucial that we all follow the advice to help prevent another outbreak.”
The stricter measures, announced via Mr Hancock’s Twitter feed at around 9 pm and later posted online, mean members of different households are not able to meet indoors.
The restrictions, which came into force at midnight, cover the whole of Greater Manchester, as well as the east Lancashire boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale and Hyndburn.
It means many Muslims in northern England will not be able to celebrate Eid with their family which began just hours after the announcement.
Saima Afzal, a community inclusion activist and Blackburn councillor, said the Government “left it too late” to impose the restrictions.
She said people in the Lancashire town had already been warned against visiting households when it became clear to the council that infection rates were on the rise.
“The issue for me is the timing, it’s really unfortunate,” Ms Afzal said.
“Doesn’t Matt Hancock see the potential impact two hours before Eid?
“I’m not saying he’s intended it, but why weren’t areas told in advance? They knew where the data was going.
“The lack of clarity for every community, not just Muslims, it’s so last minute.
“It’s going to be hard, with any celebration where people are coming together and share food, we will miss our loved ones more.
The health secretary said test and trace data has shown “most of the transmission is happening between households” and between people visiting family and friends.”
“One of the terrible things about this virus is it thrives on the sort of social contact that makes life worth living and that is a serious problem with the virus,” he said on Friday.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted: “Following the announcement on new local restrictions, I want to reassure British Muslims in impacted areas that Mosques are still allowed to open for congregational prayer, however worshippers should avoid large gatherings.
“Worshippers are free to attend the mosque if they wish, but in a socially distanced and COVID-19 secure way. Mosques have guidance as to how to do this and were doing so prior to these restrictions.
“I know that for many this will come as a big blow during a special celebration, but please do protect your neighbours and loved ones from catching coronavirus.”
Eid al-Adha, also called Eid Qurban or Bakra-Eid, is the second of two Islamic holidays, and considered to be the holiest.
The celebrations last for four days and the dates, based on the Islamic lunar calendar, shift every year. This year Eid (which means feast or festival) began on Thursday and ends on Monday.
Eid is a time when many Muslims go to special prayers at their local mosque and celebrate with family and friends.
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