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Conservatives under fire for failing to tackle party's Islamophobia



The Conservatives have been accused of failing to take the issue of Islamophobia seriously by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which is calling for an independent inquiry into a problem it said had “poisoned” sections of the party.

Conservative party officials insisted they were treating the issue seriously, but the MCB cited nine cases of anti-Islam sentiment from Tory politicians and candidates since April, calling it “the tip of the iceberg”.

Sayeeda Warsi, the party’s former chair, said she had spent more than two years trying and failing to get her successors and Theresa May to engage with the problem, and warned that the Tories faced a wider institutional problem of Islamophobia.

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Labour, which has faced its own recent controversy over antisemitism, said the Conservatives had shown a “systematic leadership failure” on the issue.

A letter to the Tory party chair, Brandon Lewis, from the head of the MCB, Harun Khan, called for a “genuinely independent inquiry”.

He listed two months of incidents involving members, including one who shared a message which called Muslims “parasites” and another who posted a photo of bacon hanging from a door handle with the caption “protect your house from terrorism”.

Khan questioned why no action had been taken against Bob Blackman, the Harrow East MP, after he re-tweeted an anti-Islam message from the hard-right activist Tommy Robinson, and hosted a hardline Hindu nationalist, Tapan Ghosh, in parliament.

Blackman said he accidentally re-tweeted the Robinson post and had not known in advance that Ghosh was being invited to last October’s event.

We are calling for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party following more than weekly occurrences of Islamophobia in the party last month pic.twitter.com/ymkFRDs5sF

May 30, 2018

Warsi, now a Tory peer, said she backed the MCB’s call, adding that it was “a shame” that it could potentially require such a public rebuke for the Conservatives to start treating the subject with proper seriousness.

“What I would like to see is, first of all, people within the party stopping denying this is an issue and then starting to acknowledge the extent of the issue, and then setting out a clear pathway of how we’re going to deal with it,” she told Sky News.

Warsi said she had raised the problem with “successive chairmen” and had written personally to May to seek action.

She said: “Each time it kind of seems we’ve said, ‘Yes, we take these issues very seriously’ and then shrugged our shoulders and moved on.”

She said the problem went beyond the actions of a few candidates, saying the party must also look at the “terrible Islamophobic, anti-Muslim campaign” run in 2016 when Zac Goldsmith stood for London mayor against Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

The MCB letter also cited Goldsmith’s campaign as evidence of a wider problem in the Conservatives with “dog whistle anti-Muslim racism”.

Labour MP Rupa Huq said the cumulative record of the Conservatives pointed to “the very definition of institutional racism - not merely bad apples, but a systematic leadership failure to address both personal prejudice and systemic unfairness”.

She said: “The Tories’ failure on Islamophobia is desperately disappointing. But for Britain’s Muslims it’s worse than that. If the people who claim to be leading this country are shirking their responsibility to protect all the communities living here, it sends an appalling message. It makes racists inside and outside their party think they can get away with it.”

Huq said she felt there had been “a glaring difference between how Labour is responding to antisemitism and how the Tories have reacted to this”, saying Jeremy Corbyn and Labour officials had taken notably more action.

A number of Muslim Conservative party members told the Guardian that they felt the issue had been marginalised, with one saying his reaction to the MCB letter was: “How refreshing - this is something that all Muslim Conservatives are feeling.”

Khan’s letter to Lewis called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia among not just Tory members but also the party’s structures and campaigns. The MCB is pushing for the publication of a list of incidents where action has been taken, the launch of an education programme and a public commitment to tackle bigotry.

In response to the letter, a Conservative spokesman said: “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”

Source : The Guardian 

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