A leading British Asian businessman has furiously lashed out at claims that Tory MP Bob Stewart, a decorated former Army colonel, is racist. Police have said they are looking into the allegations after the MP was involved in an altercation with human rights activists outside the Bahrainian embassy.
Az Chowdhury, the owner of political and communications consultancy Nudge Factory and, like Colonel Bob, a former soldier, has reacted with outrage at the allegations made against his friend who he says is “no racist”.
Mr Chowdhury said: “I’ve known Bob personally for well over a decade and I am proud to count him one of my dearest friends.
“In the time I’ve known him, I’ve seen Bob the military commander in Bosnia who earned the adoration of a nation: a decorated soldier who is revered by every member of the forces who had the honour of serving with him; and Bob the friend who would do anything to support his friends and family.
“I can’t pass judgement on what he is alleged to have said, but if you’re going to insinuate wrongdoing to a man who has honour at his very core, an angered response cannot come as a suprise.
“As his friend who happens to be a first generation Muslim Bengali immigrant, I can personally vouch for the fact that The Rt. Hon. Col. Bob Stewart DSO MP may be many things, but a racist he is not.”
The Beckenham MP first became famous in Britain when he led the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in the 1990s to protect Muslim Bosnians from ethnic cleansing a mass murder by Bosnian Serbs.
But last night the veteran MP, who is expected to retire at the next election, was confronted by Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, who says he is a victim of torture.
In a statement to the media, Mr Alwadaei said: “I don’t believe I would have been told to ‘go back’ to the country that violently tortured me if it weren’t for the colour of my skin.”
“No-one should be subjected to racial abuse, particularly for holding an MP to account for accepting lavish gifts from one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
“Stewart is acting as a mouthpiece by publicly denying its notorious and extensively documented human rights abuses – abuses which have been condemned by the United Nations.”
Colonel Stewart has apologised to the activist and said his comments were not intended to be racist.
He says that his intention was to suggest the activist should be campaigning in Bahrain.
The two had clashed on the street where Mr Alwadaei accused him of taking money from the Bahrain regime.
Mr Stewart responded: “I didn’t, now you shut up you stupid man.”
Then, with a dismissive wave of his hand, he added: “You’re taking money off my country, go away.”