Leadership debate: BBC defends vetting process after imam’s tweets

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Media captionAbdullah Patel asked the Tory leadership candidates if they agreed that “words had consequences”

The BBC has defended its vetting process after it emerged a guest on its leadership debate show had shared allegedly anti-Semitic tweets.

Imam Abdullah Patel said he was sure he had not criticised his Jewish “brothers”, but stood by criticism of Israeli policy.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Had we been aware of the views he expressed he would not have been selected.”

Mr Patel has also been suspended as deputy head of a girls’ school.

The BBC said the tweets had come to light after he re-activated a previously inactive Twitter profile in the aftermath of Tuesday’s debate, and had not been visible to its researchers before then.

Al-Ashraf primary school in Gloucester released a statement saying Mr Patel had been suspended “from all school duties” while it investigated comments attributed to him in the media.

Mr Patel told the BBC Asian Network the school was “within its right” to conduct an investigation.

“I don’t wish to comment on their decision,” he added.

Speaking to BBC Radio Gloucestershire earlier, Mr Patel said he had a very good relationship with the Jewish community.

“The criticism was not of the Jewish community because if you go through my tweets, you’d see support for the Jewish community,” he said.

“They’re our brothers and sisters, and the Jewish community and I – especially in Gloucester – work very closely together. We actually visited a synagogue just a while ago.”

However, he said he stood by any criticism of “Israel’s policy”.

Islamophobia question

During the programme, Mr Patel asked MPs about the Islamophobic rhetoric faced by members of the Muslim community, and whether they agreed if “words had consequences”.

BBC presenter Emily Maitlis took responses from the Conservative leader candidates, with Sajid Javid taking the opportunity to ask all the candidates to agree to commit to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, which they appeared to do.

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