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Conservative Party must end denial of Islamophobia within its ranks

29th Jun 2018


Since the creation of Israel, its leaders have for decades pretended that Palestinians did not exist. The presentation of what White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway coins as “alternative facts” was a guilt-free way of erasing the ownership rights of natives whose land was usurped and occupied. And it is this denial of the undeniable combined with hate-filled but potent populist pandering which elevated Donald Trump to the oval office.

For more than two years, the British Government has similarly run roughshod over the magnitude of Islamophobia within its party ranks. The magnitude of the problem was exposed no clearer than when the Conservative leadership declined to even denounce Zac Goldsmith when he deviously and unashamedly attempted to tap into anti-Muslim prejudices against Sadiq Khan during the 2016 London Mayoral Election.

The Tories’ notorious indifference to attracting far-right figures has never been investigated. In May alone an astonishing 18 Conservative Councillors and Council candidates were suspended from the party for alleged racism and abuse in the run-up to the local elections.

And this month two Conservative councillors were suspended following allegations that they posted Islamophobic comments on social media. Linda Freedman, a councillor in Barnet, expressed support for the detention of Muslims. She tweeted in response to a Washington Post article by actor George Takei warning against the internment of Muslims in the United States.

“They interned my German ones for one year during WW2. It was the right thing to do for the sake of security,” Freedman said.
Councillor Ian Hibberd from Southampton commented on a picture posted by fellow councillor Harmeet Singh Brar asking: “Why are you dressed like a p***.”

The template for how the party deals with racist populists in its ranks was marked 50 years ago. Enoch Powell was not suspended let alone expelled from the party following his infamously racist ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Party leader at the time, Ted Heath, decided only to drop him as Shadow Defence Secretary from his cabinet. It was not until 1974 he defected to the Ulster Unionists.

The most recent Conservative MP suspended from the party for racist comments was Anne Marie Morris who openly used the N-word in July last year. Rather ironically the whip restored her on the day before a crucial Brexit vote in December, which the Government still lost.

Over the years several Tories have also left to cross the floor to join more extremist parties like UKIP, Reform or to become independent.

Dog-whistle politics is not unusual often involving coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is only ever used as a pejorative, because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently themselves distasteful, often empathising with racist attitudes.

As part of official policy, the Conservatives have refused to not only have any relationship or meetings with the Muslim Council of Britain but also not to recognise the umbrella group as the mainstream representatives of the communities.

It was no surprise that Tory Chair Brandon Lewis did not work with the MCB to launch an inquiry into the extent of Islamophobia.

“Britain would be a poorer place without British Muslims,” he said instead, patronising the community. “We are lucky to have a rich tapestry of faiths and different communities in the United Kingdom. It is one of the things that makes this nation strong. As a Party, we are strongest when we reflect the diversity of backgrounds and experience of wider society in our membership.”

His pledge was worded to avoid the consideration of launching an independent investigation into the scourge of Islamophobia among Tories despite the need to really investigate the scale of the issue in the Party. “I will make diversity training available to all members and association officers to improve awareness of discrimination and promote inclusion. I will be writing to local associations to remind them of the standards of behaviour expected from representatives of the Party and to stress the importance of promoting tolerance and inclusivity. Finally, I will ask all local associations to report back to CCHQ about how they have dealt with locally reported complaints.”

As is often the case, most appear to be just sound bites with no acknowledgement of the real harm caused by Islamophobia, for example, in the Party’s London Mayoral Campaign. The Tory Chair did add however that his party “should always be looking to do more to stamp out anti-Muslim abuse or discrimination of any kind” – a statement that unfortunately appears to be lacking even the semblance of truth given the lack of action against MP Bob Blackman or Vice Chair Ben Bradley who appear to have been given a green light to their Islamophobia or apparent tolerance for Islamophobia.

The former immigration minister will be held to his word but essentially if the Government is sincere in addressing Muslim concerns and issues, it needs to belatedly to start building a relationship and dealing with the community’s representatives.

Clamour grows for Tories to root out Islamophobia in own ranks

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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.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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