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BBC debate imam in Israel controversy suspended from mosque and school

Platform: Patel puts his question to the Tory leadership contenders PICTURE: BBC/PA

AN IMAM who questioned the Tory leadership candidates during a televised debate has been suspended from his mosque and duties at the school where he works amid controversy about his past comments on Israel.

Abdullah Patel, who asked the contenders about Islamophobia during a BBC debate yesterday evening, has been criticised for past tweets in which he said ‘every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn’.

He also shared an image endorsing the relocation of Israel to the US as a way of solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

In the debate, Mr Patel asked the five candidates whether they believed words had consequences, and said he had seen first-hand the impact of Islamophobic rhetoric on his community.

Boris Johnson said he was ‘sorry for the offence’ his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ had caused, while Michael Gove condemned Islamophobia as ‘repugnant’ and attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for comments he claimed were ‘disgusting’ and anti-Semitic.

The BBC said Mr Patel would not have been selected for the programme if it had been aware of his previous comments, and said his Twitter account had been deactivated ahead of his appearance — meaning the old tweets could not be read.

Suspended: The independent Al-Ashraf Primary School in Gloucester, where imam Abdullah Patel is deputy head PICTURE: PA

The executive members of the Masjid e Umar mosque in Gloucester said: ‘We have decided to act immediately and have chosen to give him some time away to allow us the opportunity to conduct a detailed investigation into this matter.

‘This is the official stance of the mosque’s executive committee and we hope you respect our right to privacy as we conduct this deeply sensitive investigation.’

Al-Ashraf Primary School in Gloucester said in a statement posted on its website that it had suspended Mr Patel, who is the deputy headteacher, from all school duties.

Quizzed: From left, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart during the live televised debate PICTURE: EPA

Yakub Patel, chairman of Al-Madani Educational Trust, said: ‘Following some of the comments attributed to Mr Patel in the media this morning, the Trust has decided to suspend him from all school duties with immediate effect until a full investigation is carried out.

‘The school and Trust do not share the views attributed to him.’

Home secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Patel should ‘practise what he preaches’ and that words ‘do indeed have consequences’.

‘All of us in public life have a duty to be vigilant for antisemitism & anti-Muslim prejudice. I never imagined we would see it rising in 21st century UK. Unlike the Labour leadership, which is itself part of the problem, my party takes that duty seriously,’ he tweeted.

‘Time away’: The Masjid e Umar mosque in Gloucester, where Patel is imam PICTURE: PA

Rob Burley, who edited the programme, tweeted: ‘It was AFTER the show that Mr Patel reactivated his account revealing his tweets.

‘We wouldn’t have put him on the programme if these were public before broadcast, but they were not. We also carried out a number of other routine checks which didn’t uncover anything untoward.’

Mr Patel has taken down his Twitter account again after the past tweets came to light.

The BBC has also faced criticism after it emerged that another person to appear on the show has become the second member of the public to be suspended from their job over controversial historic social media comments.

Employment solicitor Aman Thakar, who was the Labour Party candidate in Borough and Bankside in the Southwark local election last year, has been suspended with immediate effect by Leigh Day while the law firm investigates one of his previous tweets.

Screenshots taken before Mr Thakar made his Twitter account private showed he once suggested ‘Hitler’s abuse of the term nationalism is, to me a nationalist, the most harmful part of his legacy’.

Leigh Day said it was taking the tweet ‘very seriously’.

Mr Thakar, who did not declare his previous Labour affiliation on screen, asked the candidates when they would call a General Election after saying they would have ‘no mandate from the people’.