The Conservative Party has been accused of “institutional” Islamophobia after it emerged one of their council candidates had previously been suspended for comments on social media.
Peter Lamb was suspended by the party in 2015 after series of posts online about Muslims.
He was later readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and “apologised for his comments”, the Conservatives said.
Mr Lamb went on to stand in the 2017 council by-election in Harlow and was selected to be a Conservative council candidate in 2019.
In 2015 Mr Lamb tweeted: “Islam [is] like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem."
In the same year he also posted: “Do they want us to call ISIS Daesh now so that we don’t associate them with Islam?”
Mr Lamb, who has now quit the party, was challenged about the posts during his 2017 election run.
“There is a whole issue around extreme Islam and radical terrorism which is being debated at a national level and at a global level and that is something that is being address,” he said during an interview.
“What I am focused on is helping the residents of Toddbrook and Harlow and my personal twitter account is my personal Twitter account.”
On 2 March he tweeted an apology about his previous comments.
“Some time ago I tweeted a comment about Islam, the tweet was aimed at the extremists that have hijacked Islam and are cowardly hiding behind the religion,” he said.
“I would like to apologise to those who follow the religion peacefully and are contributing to the diversity of the UK.”
Baroness Warsi, the former co-chair of the Conservative Party, said the local party had given Mr Lamb, a “slap on the wrist” and that the issue of Islamophobia had “gripped” the party.
“It is appalling that a man suspended for Islamophobic comments just two years ago has been re-admitted and allowed to stand as a candidate," she told PoliticsHome.
“…This rot is institutional and it’s why I have been urging the prime minister and others to hold an independent inquiry,” the Tory peer added.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, said there were “serious questions to answer”.
“Do the local processes need to change or does the Party have no problem given this person's return from suspension? Is a temporary suspension just a way to give the pretence of taking action?,” a spokesperson for the MCB told The Independent.
“How wide does this problem go - have many other suspended members returned to the Party? It is clear that without some independent oversight, we cannot have trust the Party is taking Islamophobia seriously."
A Conservative spokesperson said: “Mr Lamb was investigated by his local association two years ago and served a suspension at the time, and has apologised for his comments.”
The Independent has contacted Mr Lamb for a comment.
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