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Tories cannot escape Islamophobia charges

30th Oct 2020

There have been repeated denials, delays and unremitting prevarications, yet, wherever the Tories have tried to stealthily evade the charges and evidence of institutional Islamophobia continues to persist.

While the party has yet to admit that there is a deep underlying problem within its ranks, the very scale of the overwhelming accusations is underlined by the latest finding that practically half of its members believe Islam to be a threat to the British way of life. It has been more than 16 months since Sajid Javid — then Home Secretary — gained a commitment from Boris Johnson, to commission an independent investigation into the extent of Islamophobia within his party.

Quickly the backsliding started as the terms were diluted into a much more generalised probe into ‘all forms of racism including Islamophobia.’ As a further detraction, Professor Swaran Singh was chosen to lead the investigation seemingly limited to how the Tory party handles complaints and try to clamp down on the problem, compartmentalised as just discrimination. More dithering has been caused by the government refusing to accept a formal definition of Islamophobia.

The discovery of the bigoted belief about the alleged incompatibility of Islam by 47 % of Tory members was unearthed in a YouGov poll commissioned by Hope not Hate as part of its submission to the party inquiry more than nine months after it was due to have begun.

The extent of anti-Muslim sentiment among grassroots supporters is far from new. Islamophobia is so entrenched in current discourse that it has become part of fake news and conspiracy theories about the pandemic, the latest being that Muslims are behind restrictions to close pubs early.

Warnings about the false claim have been raised by Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council Leader and the leader of the Local Government Association, who blamed confusing and contradictory statements by the government that has allowed such conspiracies to breed as though it was “part of a grand plan by the council to abolish alcohol to appease Muslims.”

In Parliament, Labour Health Spokesperson, Baroness Thornton, expressed alarm that the way restrictions were introduced had, “left space for dangerous conspiracy theories to fill the void.”

Just last month an Employment Tribunal found Tory Councillor Kamaljit Chana had made Islamophobic remarks to fellow engineer Zeinab Alipourbabaie. The Harrow Councillor said, “Pakistani men are grooming our girls” and called Muslims “violent”, it took heavy campaigning by local Muslims for the Tories to suspend him.

The failure of the Tory hierarchy to root out bigotry within the party give Islamophobes a green light, case in point is Johnson’s refusal to reprimand backbencher Craig Whittaker for crudely scapegoating Muslims for spreading the virus. Sections of the media have similar issues like the most recent malicious example led by the Daily Telegraph which falsely singled out Pakistan as being the “origin of half of Britain’s imported virus cases.”

Hope not Hate’s submission includes an analysis of the Tories’ failed disciplinary process with case studies of 40 Conservative councillors, MPs and activists who have been subject to complaints but either faced no action or were allowed back in after a short suspension. Johnson’s ambiguous views on Muslims have not helped, including repeatedly refusing to apologise for smears he made including likening Muslim women to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes.” The endless delays in carrying out any meaningful inquiry only add to fears that it will end up in yet another whitewash.

With the Equality and Human Rights Commission waiting on the sidelines ready to launch its formal inquiry of the type instigated against allegations of Labour anti-Semitism, the ruling party cannot continue to brush the issue under the carpet forever, dithering on even agreeing a definition of Islamophobia may be used to try to camouflage its failure in dealing with the pandemic.

It comes to no surprise for Muslims, to being routinely scapegoated for many social ills, that they are now being blamed for a pandemic, however,Tories cannot escape Islamophobia charges

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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