Appointment of chair to review Leicester unrest slammed

Muslim organisations and community leaders have slammed the decision to make the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Israel the chair of a review examining last year’s civil unrest in Leicester.

Leicester hit the headlines last September over the tensions among the city’s Hindu and Muslim populations.  

UK security sources recently revealed that troubles in the region were escalated by Indian political activists associated with Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Lord Ian Austin, who was chosen to lead a review of the disorder in Leicester by Communities Secretary Michael Gove, has said he wants to earn the public’s trust.

But Labour councillors in Leicester said they will not participate in the Government-led review because of the appointment. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also expressed “deep concern.”

“The appointment of Lord Austin, given his divisive record and the serious allegations of Islamophobia against him, has created deep apprehension among Muslims and other communities in Leicester,” said the MCB.

“This casts doubts on his suitability to oversee a review aimed at building trust and harmony within our communities. Any such review led by Lord Austin will face questions about its credibility and legitimacy.

“We call upon the Secretary of State for Communities, Michael Gove, to reconsider the appointment of Lord Austin and select an independent reviewer who can command the confidence and support of the diverse communities in Leicester.”

Lord Austin sparked controversy in 2021 with a tweet featuring a fictitious ice cream flavour for people in Gaza called “Hamas Terror Misu.” It was in response to Ben and Jerry’s decision to cease sales in Israeli settlements in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

He was forced to publicly apologise and compensate an ex-aide of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for making false accusations of anti-Semitism.  

Meanwhile, his affiliations with the controversial right-wing group Henry Jackson Society (HJS) have also raised concerns. HJS has downplayed the role of right-wing Hindutva activists in stoking community tensions in Leicester.  

Government urged to reconsider appointment

Eight Leicester city councillors signed an official council letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, expressing concerns that Lord Austin “has been publicly accused of racism.” The letter urges the government to reconsider the appointment.

“Failure to do so would severely hamper the integrity of the review, and in turn, its recommendations will have no value. Regrettably, as elected members answerable to our constituents and in the best interest of our city and communities, we will not participate in the inquiry if the appointment of Lord Austin remains,” the letter read.

In another open letter to the Prime Minister, the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO), which has 150 affiliates, also expressed “grave concern” at Austin’s appointment. FMO cited a list of Austin’s polarising comments.

In a statement, Lord Austin said he had spent a lifetime fighting prejudice and asked to meet communities in the city.

“I come to this with a completely open mind and want to listen to everyone in Leicester to find out what caused last year’s disturbances and how communities in the city can work together to prevent problems in future.”

“I have spent my life working against racism, prejudice and extremism and in trying to bring people together and build stronger and more united communities.”

“I want to listen to people’s concerns, answer any questions they have and earn their confidence and trust.”


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