Britain has an Islamophobia problem

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The stain of Islamophobia goes right to the core of the British establishment. Curtis Daly explains how widespread this is.


Britain has an Islamophobia problem. After former cabinet minister Nusrat Ghani accused the Tories of sacking her over her faith, it’s clear that the stain of Islamophobia goes right to the core of the British establishment.

In a Cabinet reshuffle in February 2020, Nusrat Ghani lost her job as transport minister.

According to Ghani, she was dismissed because ministers felt uncomfortable about her “Muslimess”.

Unfortunately, none of this feels particularly surprising; after all this scandal is just one example among many of Tory Islamophobia.

56% percent of Conservatives voters say that Islam is a threat to the British way of life, a report by former equalities and human rights commissioner Swaran Singh found that anti-Muslim sentiment ‘remains a problem.’

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It’s actually not hard to understand why voters and grassroots members of the Conservative Party hold such views, when Islamophobia comes directly from the top.

Remember when Boris Johnson wrote a deeply offensive article in the Telegraph back in 2018, describing Muslim women as ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’?

Those comments fanned the flames which contributed to a 375% spike in hate crimes against Muslim women.

Just two years prior to that we witnessed one of the most heinous dog-whistle campaigns in British politics in recent years.

Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign included offensive material against opponent Sadiq Khan.

Goldsmith tried to sow doubt and fear by linking Khan to extremists, claiming that he gave cover to them.

It was a desperate attempt to recover a dud campaign in which Khan was leading the race, and despite Goldsmith losing, the damage was done.

Boris Johnson has called for an investigation into Tory Islamophobia, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that he supports Ghani, but rather he had no choice. The integrity of this report will be questionable if it doesn’t acknowledge his personal comments against Muslims, and the fact that Johnson was a big supporter of Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign.

Islamophobia is rife at all levels of the Conservative Party. A dossier containing vulgar social media posts from 25 former and current councilors has been uncovered. These posts include texts in which followers of the faith are referred to as “barbarians”.

One councillor, Paul Marks, called Sadiq Khan a “vile creature” and liked a post claiming Khan “will always lobby against anybody or anything which finds itself in direct conflict with Islam”.

Under the surface of Muslim bigotry lies the true, ugly face of Islamophobia. It runs much deeper than comments made in articles or social media posts. It is a fundamental policy of neo-conservatism and imperialism. After 9/11 the West embarked on a reactionary yet vague fight against terrorism. How do you fight against terror?

The answer is to use Muslims as scapegoats for justifications of war and repression. It was easy to use religion as the West’s enemy. It allowed complex geopolitical narratives to be pushed aside in favor of weaponizing a faith in order to attack Muslim communites of colour around the world. Little has changed, even though the debate around foreign policy and its effects have moved into the mainstream. Islamophobic policies have become commonplace in many countries, and here in the UK the policies of the two big political parties continue to enable an Islamophobic status quo.

From the hostile environment, to Prevent – neither political party has seriously tackled the structures which make life difficult for British Muslims.

The increased surveillance, illegal rendition and the treatment of refugees, is at odds with what ministers say about Muslims.

Despite the promises to investigate Islamophobia and take it seriously, all we hear is rhetoric. Behind the veneer, the structure of racist policies that have led to millions of Muslims bombed, displaced, and targeted by dodgy surveillance practises, are very much still in tact.

With Islamophobia present across the whole political establishment, Labour is in no way innocent, with one in four Muslims experiencing Islamophobia in the party. The Labour Muslim network has briefed MPs over the last two years with concern about anti-Muslim rhetoric, but its warnings seem to have been ignored.

Kay Burley: Survey done by the Labour Muslim Network back in 2020, 60 percent there abouts of Muslim members and supporters didnt feel well represented by the party and 25 percent felt that they had directly experienced Islamophobia in the party.

Chris Bryant: The Labour party has been investigated over anti-Semitism, I know more about that Kay, I’m afraid I wasn’t uh um, expecting to be asked questions about this so I’m not very well briefed on what you’re asking about this at the moment.

It looks like Islamophobia hasn’t been taken very seriously by Labour at all. The silence from Keir Starmer was noted when Zarah Sultana expressed that she received a barrage of abuse because of her faith. For the leader of the Labour Party to not say a single thing in support of one of his own MPs is disgraceful.

Instead of sending solidarity to his MPs, Starmer thought it was appropriate to quietly reinstate Trevor Phillips – a man who was suspended for…. You guessed it, Islamophobia.

The biggest spotlight shone on Labour Islamophobia came during the Batley & Spen by-election. Despite the seat having a high Muslim population, many in the party thought it was wise to blame Muslims for Labour’s poor performance.

Rather than acknowledge that Muslim support has been deteriorating due to the party’s complete abandonment of the Muslim community, instead it seemed campaigners decided to double down.

Labour strategists were claiming that the pro LGBTQ stance of the Labour Party, put off the Muslim vote, essentially tarnishing them as homophobic. They’ve also pitted ethnic minority groups against each other, claiming that fewer Muslims are likely to vote Labour because of Keir Starmer’s perceived strength on antisemitism.

It’s not just Keir Starmer causing the problems, although they do seem to have been exacerbated under his watch. Labour has had a long history with Islamophobia. The Henry Jackson society is a deeply problematic think tank that historically have been associated with some Labour MPs.

The Muslim Council of Britain decided to publish it’s findings into Islamophobia in the media. Over 10,000 articles were assessed, and it was revealed that a review found that “59% of articles covering Muslims published by mainstream British outlets were negative in nature”.

‘A study from 2016 found that just 0.4 percent of British journalists are Muslim showing that representation is a huge issue’

It’s not surprising then that the most established journos at the top hold some vile views towards Muslims. Melanie Phillips claimed that Islamophobia is a bogus label. Rod Liddle famously wrote that his choice of an election date would be a day “when universities are closed and Muslims are forbidden to do anything… that there must be at least one day like that in the Muslim calendar, surely would deliver at least 40 seats to the Tories.’’

What an extremely normal man.

Islamophobia is everywhere, from the two major parties, to our media. This is not a partisan issue. Labour may use the recent scandal to attack the Tories, but they have plenty of skeletons in their closet.

The media may call out the Tories on Islamophobia, but they’ve played a major role in peoples negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims.

These are not isolated cases, and the story of Nusrat Ghani is no different. These are institutional problems, and if they are not addressed, then the stain of Islamophobia and all forms of racism will remain in our society.

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