CAIRO - A British anti-discrimination rights groups has been accused of discriminating against the country's Muslims and black after the non-departmental public body excluded members representing both minorities from its employees.
"There is a credibility gap opening up between the commission and black and minority ethnic communities," David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and chair of the parliamentary group on race and community, told The Guardian.
"Simon Woolley and Lady Meral Hussein-Ece represent senior mainstream campaigners who have had cross-party respect.
It is unfathomable that they were not called for interview and confirms deep fears â¦ that the commission is turning its back on race issues," he added.
Ministers have been facing criticism after the removal of Woolley and Hussein-Ece from their posts in the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
Both Hussein-Ece, the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on race and community and Wolley, the director and one of the founders of the organization Operation Black Vote, have outstanding efforts in the commission.
Woolley has championed issues such as police stop-and-search and disability.
Being the only black and Muslim members in the British rights group, their removal has heightened fears that the coalition will place less emphasis on fighting discrimination.
The abrupt decision was revealed after Woolley and Hussein-Ece discovered that their contracts as commissioners will not be renewed when they expire in December.
Though both figures, appointed commissioners three years ago on two-day-a-week contracts, were invited to reapply for further terms by Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, before the reshuffle, neither has been shortlisted or called for interview.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
The EHRC was established by the Equality Act 2006 and came into being on 1 October 2007.
It is classed as a non-departmental public body, meaning that it is separate and independent from Government but still accountable for its public funds.
The sudden decision drew fierce criticism, with different politicians calling for reversing it.
It's very worrying. Simon has a wonderful record working with all political parties and had a great reference, Diane Abbott, the shadow public health spokeswoman, told The Guardian.
The fact that they wouldn't even interview him was a calculated insult. It seems to me that race is slipping off the agenda at the commission.
Lester Holloway, an executive member of the grouping Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats; once chaired by Hussein-Ece, said they would be pursuing the matter.
A commission without Meral and Simon is like a train without a track, Holloway said.
Looks like another nail in the EHRC's coffin from the undertakers in the coalition.
The move is also being opposed by the unions.
"It is interesting that Simon Woolley has opposed the frontloading of cuts that would see many disabled and minority staff losing their jobs," said Sue Bond, vice-chair of the Public and Commercial Services Union and trades union chair at the commission.
"We have no assurance that a new board will itself have the diversity it needs to champion equality.
We urge the government to think again."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net