Conservative Party to start ‘long-awaited’ investigation into Islamophobia crisis

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Ed Sykes

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly has said there will finally be an independent inquiry into the party’s Islamophobia crisis.

“Long-awaited”

A spokesperson from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told the Metro:

An inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has been long-awaited and will be welcomed if it is sufficiently independent and robust.

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But they stressed:

Words must be followed by action. The record of the Party has thus far been found wanting…

We hope this process does not sidestep the over 100 incidences of Islamophobia identified by the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim members of the Conservative party themselves.

Cleverly had appeared on Sky on 4 August. And discussing whether there would be an Islamophobia inquiry, he saidthere will be”. But he added:

One of the things we need to do is get a definition of that.

The definition which English Conservatives have so far refused to accept…

According to iNews:

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservative Party in Scotland have all adopted the definition [of Islamophobia] proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG), but the Conservative Party in England has so far refused.

And the MCB spokesperson said Conservative acceptance of this definition would be a “litmus test” for the party’s commitment to dealing with Islamophobia among its members.

Former Conservative chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, meanwhile, claimed the party’s delay in adopting this definition showed “hypocrisy“. She welcomed her party “finally recognising the need for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia” but stressed:

I would suggest the APPG on British Muslims definitions of Islamophobia is an appropriate definition to guide this process.

Nevertheless, I hope this process is independent, transparent and retains the confidence of British Muslim communities across the UK.

The APPG definition says Islamophobia is “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. And having benefited from “widespread consultation“, it gives a number of examples of such racism.

The Conservative Party’s Islamophobia crisis

As The Canary reported in July, a Channel 4 documentary revealed statistics suggesting endemic Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. As the outlet’s Dispatches account tweeted:

56% of party members agreed that Islam is a threat to the British way of life.

This figure is reportedly around 35% in the general population, and 22% among Labour voters.

Dispatches also reported finding numerous Islamophobic posts online from apparent members of the Conservative Party.

In June 2019, meanwhile, a poll from anti-racism group HOPE not hate revealed similar results. It showed that:

Just 8% of members agreed that “I would be proud of Britain if we were to elect a Muslim as our Prime Minister”, while 43% agreed that “I would prefer to not have the country led by a Muslim

The group also reported that “only 15% of members think the Conservative Party should be doing more to combat any Islamophobia or other racism within the party”.

Conservative Central Office told Dispatches that “discrimination or abuse of any kind is wrong and will not be tolerated”.

In 2001, however, Andrew Lansley (who later became a Conservative secretary of state for health) said: “there is endemic racism in the Tory party”. And it seems little has changed. Because the Conservative Muslim Forum (officially affiliated to the governing party), over 350 mosques, and the MCB have consistently called for an official inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Current Tory leader Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has previously been in the spotlight for his own Islamophobic comments. And members of his new team have faced accusations of links with anti-Muslim organisations.

Well overdue

If the upcoming investigation is indeed ‘independent and transparent’, as Warsi hopes, then it will be very welcome. Because far-right groups are on the rise, and Islamophobia is right at the centre of their hateful agenda. And Britain’s current party of government must take proper action to tackle its own role in this situation.

Featured image via YouTube – Conservatives

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