A Labour councillor who said that “Tories are Islamophobic, antisemitic & plain racist” has dismissed a complaint from his local Conservative group.
Councillor Tahir Rafiq, who represents Unsworth on Bury Council, made the remark in a tweet backing Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bury South Lucy Burke, who is standing to replace incumbent MP Ivan Lewis.
“The Tory Party is Islamophobic, antisemitic & plain racist. Tory win means fascism wins,” he wrote on 31 October.
“Now it’s your chance, kick them out.Never forget Windrush project,Muslim women dress insults &Tory disgusting behaviour to Grenfell Victims! Vote Labours @Lucy4S Lucy Burke for #BurySouth #GE2019.”
The tweet came under criticism from the deputy leader of Bury Conservative Group who said it was “vile and abusive” in an open letter at the weekend.
“Unsworth is home to large Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. There is a synagogue in the Ward, the most northly [sic] synagogue in Manchester along with a number of churches from Christian denominations,” councillor Nicholas Jones wrote.
“For many years communities have cohabited in harmony thus the above posting does not represent the community he is elected to serve,” he added.
Bury Council’s monitoring officer is investigating the complaint.
But Rafiq, who described himself as a “strong supporter” of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), said he had an “excellent relationship with Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents as well as residents of all other faiths in my ward.”
He added that he had supported motions condemning alleged antisemitism within the Labour Party, and expressing solidarity with the JLM.
— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) March 11, 2018
Rafiq, who was endorsed by the JLM when running in May 2018, received the backing of Ruth Smeeth, the MP for Stoke North, who campaigned alongside him.
“This is Islamophobia awareness month. I have always spoken against Islamophobia, antisemitism and racism wherever and whenever and will continue to do so on behalf of all communities and residents of my ward and wider,” he told Jewish News.
The Leader of Bury Council, councillor David Jones, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.