Islamophobia in the Labour Party

It’s no surprise that Keir Starmer neglected to mention Islamophobia in the Labour Party, it’s an issue that’s been ignored for far too long. 

Ammar Kazmi speaks with Pablo Navarrete.

Video transcript

Islamophobia in the Labour Party has been deeply entrenched for years. It didn’t start under Keir Starmer and it unfortunately wasn’t cured under Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour Party has been actually responsible for promulgating Islamophobia in the UK, I think really at a mainstream level ever since the beginning of the so-called war on terror under Tony Blair and New Labour. 

We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441. That is our legal base. But it is the reason why I say frankly that if we do act, we should do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart.  

And of course, in order to justify that war Muslims were demonised, and US State Department talking points were proliferated across the UK. We had the securitisation of Muslim communities, the othering, the demonisation of Muslims as terrorists, as people who want to oppress women, who hate gay people, all that kind of thing. 

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So these are sort of narratives that the Labour Party has historically over the last sort of 20 years been responsible for. Under Jeremy Corbyn, unfortunately, it wasn’t cured. We had a sort of different change of position in that we had an anti-imperialist leader of the Labour Party, and in Jeremy Corbyn we had someone who made it very clear that he personally was opposed to Islamophobia. But we didn’t have the expulsion of the Henry Jackson society from the parliamentary Labour Party, which is a right-wing, Neo-conservative Islamophobic group. We still have many Labour MPs who are a member of that group. We didn’t have tackling of these narratives around grooming gangs and Muslims sort of being out to sexually abuse white women. So we didn’t have any of these sort of things being tackled under Jeremy Corbyn unfortunately.

And now we’re in a position with Keir Starmer, where we’ve had a sort of an extreme pivot back to the days of New Labour. And actually, I think it’s probably even worse than that now, because he’s been indulging narratives around so-called Muslim antisemitism, and has been allying himself with a very extreme Zionist, right-wing, pro-Israel groups who are also, of course, dedicated to demonising Muslims, because it’s also in their interest. And it’s in the state of Israel’s interest to promote the idea that Palestinians are terrorists, and that they want to create a sort of a radical Islamic State. 

OK, and I believe that we are live now so thank you very much everyone and welcome. 

Of course, we had a report in November 2020 from the Labour Muslim network, who conducted the largest survey of Muslim political opinion in the Labour Party that has ever been conducted in history. And they found in that survey that one in four Muslims in the Labour Party have directly experienced Islamophobia, that one in three Muslims in Labour party have witnessed Islamophobia, and that almost half of Muslims in the Labour Party didn’t trust the Labour Party’s complaints procedures, nor do they think that the Labour Party actually takes Islamophobia seriously. 

And I think that was really vindicated when Keir Starmer refused to even acknowledge that report existed until two weeks after it was released. This was a bombshell report from a major Muslim group inside the Labour Party documenting some very serious things about Islamophobia. And Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the party, didn’t even acknowledge it until two weeks later. So I don’t think Islamophobia is taken seriously in the Labour Party. And I think it has a very long history in the party.

I think there is a hierarchy of racism in the Labour Party. In fact, I don’t even know if it’s worth describing as a hierarchy. We have a situation in which any accusation of antisemitism, whether it’s made in good faith or not, and most of these accusations are not made in good faith. They are designed to smear and target not only Muslim political activists, but Jewish, anti-Zionist, and other people who support the Palestinian Liberation cause. That’s a very cynical operation going on, and just to basically defend the State of Israel. It has nothing to do really with tackling Judeophobia, anti-Jewish prejudice. And then, on the other hand, we have Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, many other prejudices and bigotries that exists inside the Labour Party (I think Islamophobia is one of the foremost of those) not being tackled at all. Not being given any sort of seriousness. So I wouldn’t describe it as a hierarchy, I would just describe it as essentially racism isn’t taken seriously in the Labour Party. There aren’t procedures, really there, that deal with them. I don’t think the staff of the Labour Party who deal with complaints are really concerned about Islamophobia. And I think it goes right to the top. I think that the Labour Party manages to sort of coast on the idea that it’s an anti-racist party that historically has been anti-racist. Historically, it’s been a party that supported imperialism, supported colonialism, that hasn’t really been all that progressive on race issues. 

And I think people are waking up to the fact, particularly those from Muslim and other ethnic minority backgrounds, that the Labour Party is not on their side, and that it’s not a party that’s dedicated to anti-racism.

The Muslim vote accounts for a very large percentage of the Labour Party’s vote in many marginal seats. And I think that the Labour Party doesn’t really value Muslim votes; it does take them for granted. And I think that was demonstrated in the Batley & Spen by-election. Of course, Labour managed to just slip over the line there. But I mean, in a general election setting, we’re talking about, you know, 10s of seats potentially, in which Muslims will effectively decide the fate of that seat. 

And I think that if the Labour Party doesn’t begin to take Islamophobia seriously and carries on not just not taking Islamophobia seriously, but actually showing active contempt towards Muslims. If it carries on in that way, then I think that it’s very, very likely that the Labour Party will end up losing many seats in the next general election on account of Muslims deciding that either they’re going to stay home, or they’re just going to vote for another party, that’s not the Labour Party.

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