A Conservative Party peer has blamed Britain’s Muslim community for the decline of the pub industry.
Speaking during a House of Lords debate, Lord Hodgson said that the increase in the teetotal Muslim population in areas such as Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester and Nottingham, has led to “many” pub closures.
“It is exceptionally hard for a publican who has put 10 years of his life into trying to build up a business to accept the inevitability of these tides of history”, he said.
Lord Hodgson, who is a former director of the brewer Marston’s, was speaking during a debate on whether to allow pub landlords more freedom from large brewery firms, a factor that many industry experts say has led to a decline in stand-alone pubs that are not part of bigger chains.
Muslim activists were quick to condemn Lord Hodgson’s remarks.
Nasima Begum from the Muslim Council of Britain said she was “surprised and disappointed” by the comments.
“What next? Muslims to be blamed for a fall in pork scratchings sales?”, Ms Begum queried.
“We have come to a stage where it is easy for those in prominent positions to make their points at the expense of Muslims. This will only reinforce a perception of bias and disconnect with the wider society of politicians generally, and his party in particular”, she added.
Lord Hodgson however, hit back at what he described as his “over-sensitive” critics.
He told the Independent that he had cited other issues for the decline in pubs, like the “de-industrialization of Britain”, stricter licensing laws and cheap supermarket alcohol.
“This is not a criticism of Muslims. I thought nearly all Muslims don’t drink, but maybe some do.
“And my speech referred to many serious problems for pubs,” he added.