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Tories suspend two candidates over anti-Muslim language, amid deluge of Islamophobia cases in party

27th Dec 2019

Elham Asaad Buaras

The Tories suspended a second candidate in Scotland two weeks before the general election after she was accused of using “anti-Muslim language.”

The party withdrew support for Glasgow Central candidate Flora Scarabello while it investigates a complaint. It is the second suspension of a Scottish Tory candidate in less than a fortnight.

Ryan Houghton, the party’s candidate in Aberdeen North, was suspended on November 19 over alleged anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic tweets from seven years ago. Scarabello follows criticism of the Conservatives by the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the party of “denial, dismissal and deceit” regarding Islamophobia.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said, “We take allegations like this extremely seriously. There is no place in the Scottish Conservatives for anti-Muslim language or any other form of racial or religious discrimination.”

However, the Scottish National Party said the back-to-back suspensions raised doubts about the Tories’ candidate vetting procedure and said the party must permanently expel any members found to be bigoted.

SNP Glasgow Central candidate Alison Thewliss said, “This once again raises very serious questions not just about the Scottish Tories’ vetting procedures but also about the type of views that are circulating in the party. The Tories must permanently expel these members and take firm action to make sure that they do not consider these views appropriate in public life.”

The party suspended several members last month after the Guardian had supplied it with a dossier produced by an anonymous Twitter user containing examples of allegedly Islamophobic social media posts.

Several members were also suspended in September after the BBC presented 20 cases to the party of members posting or endorsing Islamophobic material online.

In March a Guardian investigation found that more than a dozen Tory councillors who were suspended over posting Islamophobic or racist content online – with some describing Saudis as ‘sand peasants’ and comparing Asian people to dogs – have had their membership quietly reinstated.

And only last month Tories were found to ‘quietly reinstating’ a Houghton Regis Town Council councillor who made a series of Islamophobic posts, including the claim that Muslims are ‘breeding for Islam.’

Councillor David Abbott was suspended in April for his anti-Muslim statements on Facebook groups, in which he referred to British Muslims as ‘Mohammedans.’ In another Facebook post written by Abbott, he wrote, ‘Moslems [sic] are commanded to do everything in their power, including killing, to rid the world of every person who does not follow Islam.’

The comments at the time were uncovered by ‘MatesJacob’, a Twitter account dedicated to calling out Islamophobia and racism in the Conservative Party.

In a Jacob Rees-Mogg Supporters Group page, which is not officially affiliated with Rees-Mogg, Abbott posted, ‘The philosophy seems to be, “breed for Islam”, thus the percentage of the population who follow the “religion of peace” will significantly increase.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for incidents of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party on the day news of Scarabello’s suspension was announced as he reiterated a Tory pledge to have an independent inquiry into “every manner of prejudice.”

The Prime Minister described Islamophobia as “intolerable” after his party faced fresh calls to deal with allegations of hatred against Muslims.

In an exclusive interview with The Muslim News Johnson, who has been embroiled in his own Islamophobia row insisted that his party has “zero tolerance of prejudice of any kind, also Islamophobia. We are doing an inquiry into the prejudice of all types which will start this year.”

“We want to protect everybody, particularly minority groups of all kind, particularly Muslims who are vulnerable. We want everybody to feel safe,” he stressed. In 2018, the MCB issued numerous calls for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party.

These calls have been backed by Baroness Warsi, Baron Mohamed Sheikh and Mohammed Amin, a former member of the Conservative Muslim Forum, 350 mosques and 11 umbrella organisations across the UK, as well as former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

In the run-up the elections The Muslim News challenged the Prime Minister that he was diluting the promised Islamophobia inquiry by broadening it into all forms of prejudice, Johnson insisted it was “more useful to look into the general (prejudices)”.

A 2019 poll of Conservative party members found 69 per cent believed “there are areas in Britain that operate under Sharia Law”, 45 per cent believed “there are areas in Britain in which non-Muslims are not able to enter” and that 39 per cent believed “Islamist terrorists reflect a widespread hostility to Britain amongst the Muslim community.”

76 per cent thought the party was already doing everything it needed to combat Islamophobia, with only 15 per cent thinking more action was required.

Another poll found 56 per cent of members surveyed said Islam was “generally a threat” to the British way of life, and that 42 per cent thought having people from a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds has damaged British society.

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