Grime star Wiley loses MBE over antisemitic comments

Wiley has been stripped of his MBE, after he shared abusive social posts aimed at his Jewish critics and others.

The rapper, known as the “Godfather of Grime”, was appointed MBE for his services to music in 2017.

At the time, he shared his approval on social media, writing “Big up the Queen”.

But in 2020, his accounts were flooded with antisemitic comments, including a statement that likened Jews to the Ku Klux Klan.

He also wrote “Israel is ours”, apparently referring to the black community, and advanced the antisemitic trope that Jewish people are in control of global business interests, as well as the entertainment industry.

The musician, whose real name is Richard Cowie, was subsequently suspended from Twitter (now X) and Instagram.

However, many critics said the companies did not act quickly enough, leading to a 48-hour Twitter boycott by prominent organisations and celebrities, including Lord Sugar, Greenpeace UK, the pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor, sports broadcaster Gary Lineker and MPs from both sides of the House of Commons.

Wiley was also dropped by his manager, John Woolf, who said: “I do not support or condone what Wiley has said today online in any way shape or form.

“I am a proud Jewish man and I am deeply shocked and saddened but what he has chosen to say,” he continued. “This behaviour and hateful speech is not acceptable to me.”

Amid the backlash, some of Wiley’s tweets were reported to the Metropolitan Police, and there were calls from the public for the musician to be stripped of his MBE.

In an interview with Sky News, Wiley later apologised for “generalising”, telling the network: “My comments should not have been directed to all Jews or Jewish people.

“I want to apologise for generalising, and I want to apologise for comments that were looked at as antisemitic.”

He characterised his comments as the result of a dispute “between me and my manager”.

Asked whether he thought his posts could incite violence towards Jewish people, he replied: “Well, you’ve never seen me commit a violent act towards Jewish people or the Jewish community.”

The 45-year-old, from Bow in East London, later established a new Twitter account, which the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) said was used to “spout racist hate towards Jews”.

On that account, he posted a photograph of himself wearing Hasidic clothing; as well as a video titled: “The Jewish Faces that Control Hip-hop and Mainstream Black Music.”

He caused further anger when he gave an interview to The Voice newspaper in which he claimed his Jewish associates in the music industry “still see us [black musicians] as slaves”.

After pressure from the CAA and others, the Cabinet Office confirmed his honour was “under review” in August 2020.

On Friday afternoon, he was formally stripped of the title for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”.

Stephen Silverman, director of investigations for the CAA, welcomed the decision.

In a statement, he said: “Antisemites like Wiley must understand that we will work tirelessly to hold them to account.

“For four years, we have worked to ensure that Wiley faces ruinous consequences for his unhinged antisemitic tirade, for which he has shown no remorse. Today’s decision is a vindication of that effort.”

The announcement was made on the Cabinet Office website, where it was also confirmed that former Post Office chief Paula Vennells would lose her CBE, amid the fallout from the Post Office scandal.

The BBC has attempted to contact Wiley for comment but all emails have bounced back, and his social media accounts on X and Instagram appear to have been deleted.

Recommendations for forfeiture are submitted through the prime minister to the King.

Other high profile names to have been stripped of their honours include Rolf Harris and Robert Mugabe.


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