Dear Vicky and Janet,
We pray you are well.
The Lewisham Islamic Centre (“the Centre”) has always found you both supportive of concerns we have raised, and we are grateful to you for that. Part of our objects as a charity is to work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of race and religion and it is for this reason that we are bringing this matter to your attention.
As you will be aware, an enquiry is to take place to determine the reasons why BAME communities have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Trevor Phillips has been appointed to chair this enquiry which has faced criticisms from the BAME community. The Centre supports valid calls by BAME organisations and Members of Parliament to replace Mr Phillips’ appointment by Public Health England (PHE).
We find the decision of PHE to garner expertise for this review from a divisive figure as Mr Phillips truly troubling given his history of making controversial remarks about Muslims. He is, of course, at present suspended and being investigated by the Labour Party for allegations of Islamophobia. His appointment would be an insult not only to British Muslims, the Muslim healthcare professionals and key workers at the frontline of the NHS, a significant number of whom have succumbed to Coronavirus, including the first four UK doctors to have died from the disease, but also to the Black community who constitute the vast proportion of NHS employees and those impacted by Covid-19. It should not be forgotten that Mr Phillips has in the past also caused hurt to the black community by his comments on the topic of race, particularly around structural racism.
PHE should not dismiss these concerns by proceeding with Mr Phillips and alienating BAME communities. The determined focus should be the rigour of the review rather than creating controversy where there should be none. We urge PHE to approach this incredibly urgent and important matter from the outset with the sincerity and credibility that earns the implicit trust, confidence and engagement of the very communities it seeks to aid, and to avoid the similar pitfalls that so marred the Grenfell Tragedy review.
There are countless BAME healthcare professionals suitably overqualified in place of Mr Phillips who will have the backing of BAME communities to lay bare the underlying reasons for the increased BAME deaths being sought. To do otherwise would only show PHE to be out of touch, insensitive and grossly insular in its concerns vis-à-vis BAME.
We would be grateful if you would raise these matters on behalf of the BAME community of Lewisham.
Lewisham Islamic Centre