There is no hiding from the fact that Islamophobia runs deep in the Conservative Party, from the membership base right to the very top.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former Chair of the Conservative Party, believes there is a ‘simmering underbelly’ of Islamophobia in the party, raising concerns on numerous occasions, informally and formally, including a letter to the Prime Minister. Despite this, the party has simply ‘shrugged its shoulders’ and done nothing.
Now is the time more than ever, for the Conservatives and its senior politicians, to take decisive action in order to root out this deeply worrying form of racism. The starting point should be an independent inquiry which would highlight the problems in the party and find ways to solve it.
In recent weeks, though, Brandon Lewis (Chairman of the Conservative Party) and James Cleverly (Deputy) have dismissed the need to tackle the issue and failed to acknowledge Baroness Warsi’s honest and stern assessment.
From Zac Goldsmith’s Mayoral campaign to Bob Blackman inviting an extremist to Parliament, senior figures in the Tory party fail to take a strong stance in dealing with Islamophobia. The current Prime Minister and the then Home Secretary Theresa May, labelled Sadiq Khan as unfit to run for office because of his alleged connections to extremists. Quite simply ludicrous and offensive for anyone to make these remarks, let alone the Prime Minister!
Whilst I commend the efforts of social media firms in stepping up and doing their bit to tackle extremism and racism, Islamophobia and other forms of racism are still widespread on a number of platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.
Take, for example, Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, who shared an anti-Muslim tweet from Tommy Robinson, which he claims to have done so ‘in error’. Further, he invited a Hindu extremist to Parliament and was found to be a member of a number of Islamophobic Facebook groups. I contacted Bob Blackman on a number of occasions but he refuses to answer me, simply because I’m not his constituent.
Whilst I do not reside in his constituency, I have every right to know whether Bob Blackman genuinely and sincerely wants to apologize or whether he appeases those who spread anti-Muslim hatred. The opportunity for him to comment and clarify his actions was there but he failed to do so.
Furthermore, Mike Payne (Calderdale councillor) shared an article saying France had reduced benefits for ‘Muslim parasites’ and many French Muslims ‘are content to live off the state and breed like rabbits’. To add to the sheer ignorance and absurdity, Payne said his posts ‘stated nothing of a racist nature.’
Nick Sundin (Newcastle council candidate) was suspended in April for tweeting repeatedly Islamophobic remarks in which he called Mohammed ‘a f***ing paedophile.’
Karen Sunderland (Lewisham council candidate) was suspended after a number of Islamophobic tweets came to light including one that said, ‘religion is totalitarian. Islam has become the new Nazism.’
The above are some examples of weekly occurrences of Islamophobia in the Tory party. Over 350 mosques and Muslim organisations have written to the Conservative Party expressing their disappointment at the lack of decisive action taken when it comes to dealing with Islamophobia.
It has come to a point where even the Conservative Muslim Forum, an ‘integral part of the Conservative Party’, published a letter which stated that ‘the Executive Committee unanimously concluded that it is essential that the party should hold such an inquiry and resolved to send you this open letter.’
The Muslim Council for Britain released an open letter to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Brandon Lewis, urging the need for an immediate inquiry. The letter stated that recent cases are ‘just the tip of the iceberg and what is in the public domain. Whilst they were thankfully dealt with once brought to public light, these cases suggest a wider problem.’
The letter goes on to say that ‘the Conservative Party prides itself in being against any form of bigotry and racism yet there are serious concerns that Islamophobia has poisoned elements of the party.’
I wholeheartedly agree with the MCB and over 350+ Muslim mosques and organisations. It is time for an independent and immediate inquiry from the top to the bottom, and for decisive action to be taken when dealing with Islamophobia.