It is time to address the deep-seated Islamophobia in the Conservative Party
Categories: Latest News
Friday June 01 2018
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is attempting, yet again, to take action against the rampant Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, calling for an independent inquiry and a full audit into the racism and bigotry of its party members.
On 30 May 2018, MCB sent a letter to Brandon Lewis, Chairman of the Conservative Party, providing a detailed explanation of the issues at hand, and asking why, despite Lewis’s Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament (which among other things includes the requirement to “encourage and foster respect and tolerance”), Conservative MPs are still able to get away with public displays of Islamophobia.
That was the case with Bob Blackman, the Tory MP for Harrow East, who has repeatedly sparked outrage with his anti-Muslim views. In October 2016 he hosted in the House of Commons the renowned anti-Islamic extremist Tapan Ghosh, an Indian Hindu-nationalist who praised the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma. In October 2017, he was strongly criticised for flagging a tweet from Tommy Robinson, the far-right, Islamophobic activist who co-founded English Defence League. And In March 2018, he shared an article from the website HardcoreNews US, a far-right, counter–jihad website features primarily anti-Muslim, scaremongering stories through which it spreads conspiracies about an Islamic takeover of the Western world.
Yet, despite Blackman’s blatant bigotry, the Conservative party leadership opted for silence on all three occasions, choosing instead to ramp up accusations against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn alleged anti-Semitism.
MCB’s letter, however, shows that the problem spreads far beyond the actions of a biased and ignorant MP. A list of nine public examples of Islamophobia accompanies the letter, including Mike Payne MP sharing “Muslim Parasites” article; Alexander van Terheyden calling Islam a “violent political ideology”; Darren Harrison supporting Generation Identity, a racist group that wants to repatriate migrants; and a number of other MPs whose Islamophobic posts are too vile to be reproduced here.
Now it is fair to note that all of the above were suspended (with the exception of Blackman) and await investigations, which is a welcome news. However, keeping in mind that MCB’s shocking lists focuses on incidents occurred in just the last month, it is time to ask questions about the deep-seated Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
Sayeeda Warsi reasonably contended that with “more than weekly incidents” within the party, it is time for the leadership to stop “denying this is an issue, and then starting to acknowledge the extent of the issue”.
When she previously raised the issue in a letter to Theresa May, 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.” Unhelpfully, the official party response to MCB’s letter was “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”
However, these issues are rarely fully addressed by the Tory leadership. When in 2016 Zac Goldsmith launched an “appalling campaign” against his mayoral adversary Sadiq Khan, attempting to link him to Islamist extremists and spreading Islamophobic theories in an effort to win City Hall, he received nothing more than a slap on the wrist. In fact, in 2017 he was reselected as the Conservative Party candidate for Richmond Park by Theresa May.
That is why MCB’s call for a broader inquiry into the Conservative Party’s Islamophobia is so timely and important
Without it, neither we nor the Conservative leadership will be able to investigate and tackle the underlying culture that fosters these type of incidents. This is important to restore confidence that the Conservative Party is serious in tackling all forms of discrimination and racism.
It is a pity that it does not seem to be as interested in resolving this problem as it was in highlighting anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.