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Conservative Enfield councillor Chris Joannides suspended over Facebook posts branded anti-Islamic
A Conservative councillor has been suspended by his party after comments posted on his Facebook page were branded anti-Islamic.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Councillor Chris Joannides’ social network page contained material comparing Muslim burqas to dustbin bags and complaints that his job was getting in the way of his social life.
However, the Grange Park politician firmly denies he is Islamophobic and has launched a legal battle against the newspaper to clear his name.
By a picture of a woman and child dressed in burqas with a black binbag either side of them, he is said to have written: “I saw her standing there and I told her she had three beautiful children. She didn't have to get all p***** off and threaten me … an honest mistake."
Cllr Joannides is also accused of posting after a residents' meeting that he expects to be rewarded at the ballot box for his service to the community which is "eating" his social life.
The politician, who can attend council meetings but is not considered a member of the Conservative group, also appears to have admitted that he intended to surf on Facebook during a residents' meeting.
However, the Greek Cypriot councillor - who was elected in 2006 – insists the comments were taken out of context and he has launched a libel case against the Guardian newspaper.
He said he is prepared to fight the “smear campaign” in the courts if necessary and claims he will take legal action against the people who made the complaints once they are exposed by Enfield Borough Council.
Cllr Joannides, who is also the vice-chair of the Older People and Vulnerable Adults Scrutiny Panel, told the Enfield Independent: “I am not, never have been and never will be Islamophobic.
"I am from an ethnic minority myself and I fully appreciate the prejudices people can get exposed to.
“The comments I made was outspoken against Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism including demeaning attitudes towards women, something the whole world is concerned about in the light of terrorist attacks on the West since September 11.
“We suffered the same terrorist attacks in London on July 7 and some people from the area I represent died in that terrorist attack.
“These comments have been taken out of context and out of order and stitched together to make a new story and paint me as Islamophobic. In addition I spoke out against anti-Semitism.”
He said his comments regarding residents’ meetings were “tongue in the cheek” and “bloke-ish banter” with friends and he intended no disrespect.
As the only Greek Conservative councillor in Enfield, he said many people contact him as they find it “difficult” to express their problems in a second language.
The Facebook page now appears to have been removed.
The Enfield representative insisted: “I always do my best for all residents of Enfield irrespective of their political leanings, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or cultural background.
“I became a councillor not because I need the money or because I have aspirations to become a MP, I became a councillor because I want to serve the people of Enfield.
“There are many hundreds of residents out there who I have served to the best of my ability over the years.”
The leader of the Conservative group, Michael Lavender, said the party is making arrangements to fix a date for the next meeting in response to the claims.
He said: "On January 15 I was made aware of the details of a complaint regarding material on Cllr Joannides' Facebook page.
"Copies of the materials were sought and obtained and a meeting took place on January 17 with Cllr Joannides. At that meeting Cllr Joannides was suspended from the group with immediate effect.
"The next full meeting of the group was on January 28. At that meeting a decision was taken to reaffirm the suspension, pending full consideration of the matter at an emergency meeting of the group.
"The group is currently making arrangements to fix the date for that group meeting."
The council remained tight-lipped about the situation and said in a statement: "Enfield council has received a complaint, which it is currently investigating.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."