NUS president withdraws from Tory conference over claims of ‘disturbing’ Islamophobia

‘With hate crimes against Muslims soaring globally, such dangerous rhetoric being disseminated at the annual national conference of our governing party is simply abhorrent, and must be roundly condemned’

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Monday 30 September 2019 15:19
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Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the National Union of Students
Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the National Union of Students

The president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has withdrawn from events at the Conservative Party Conference over claims of “deeply disturbing” Islamophobia.

Zamzam Ibrahim will no longer attend her engagements at the party conference after a fringe event on anti-Muslim sentiment sparked criticism online.

She described the rhetoric at the event on Sunday, hosted by thinktank Policy Exchange, as “dangerous” and “abhorrent”.

LGBT+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, one of the panellists, allegedly made a joke about the fact fellow panellist Trevor Phillips had been previously nominated "Islamophobe of the Year".

Baroness Warsi, the former Tory chairwoman who was the UK’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, said on Twitter that she was “truly ashamed” of the Conservative party after the event.

Ms Ibrahim said she was “horrified” by the fringe discussion – which, she claimed, prompted a Muslim Conservative Party member to question whether the panel was organised to “promote Islamophobia rather than challenge it”.

She said: “I cannot in good conscience participate in a conference that openly and willingly denies my own lived experiences, and the bigotry faced by Muslims from the far right, from elements of our media and in communities across our country on a daily basis.

“With hate crimes against Muslims soaring globally, such dangerous rhetoric being disseminated at the annual national conference of our governing party is simply abhorrent, and must be roundly condemned.”

A Policy Exchange spokesman told The Independent: “It is completely wrong to suggest that any panellist at our event denied the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry.

“The panellists, including two practising Muslims, Dr Qanta Ahmed and the Tory MP Nusrat Ghani, were clear that such bigotry exists and must be rooted out wherever it is found.”

He added: “Some panellists argued that the term anti-Muslim hatred or prejudice would be more useful than Islamophobia but at no point did anyone either on the panel or in the audience argue that such hatred is not a feature of our society, including the Conservative Party itself.”

Mr Phillips, the former equalities chief, was nominated for the Islamophobe of the Year award in 2017 by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

In 2015, the IHRC gave the international award to Charlie Hebdo two months after 12 members of staff were shot dead in a terror attack.

On the organisation, Peter Tatchell said: “Some of its key figures support the anti-human rights Iranian regime. In my opinion, they are a joke ‘human rights’ group. Hence the ironic joke I made.”

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He added: “I went to the Tory conference fringe meeting to challenge the Conservatives. I criticised Tory anti-Muslim prejudice and called on the Tories to hold an inquiry into it.

“I also defended Muslim communities and made concrete proposals to protect Muslim people against discrimination and hate crime.”

The Conservative Party has been approached for comment.

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