Conservative Party accused of being in ‘denial’ about ‘Islamophobia’ within its own ranks

Exclusive: Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has written to Nadhim Zahawi setting out her concerns

Matt Mathers
Monday 07 November 2022 21:53 GMT
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds is calling for more action to tackle Islamophobia
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds is calling for more action to tackle Islamophobia (PA)

The Conservative Party is facing renewed accusations it is failing to tackle Islamophobia – both in society and within its own ranks.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to her opposite number Nadhim Zahawi during Islamophobia Awareness Month, demanding action.

It comes as recent figures show anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise in the UK, and an investigation into alleged Islamophobia by a Tory MP continues.

“It is deeply concerning that I must again raise the issue of Islamophobia directly with the chair of the Conservative Party,” Ms Dodds wrote.

“As Islamophobic hate crime is on the rise, the Conservatives need to show they are serious about tackling this insidious hatred, both in society and within their party. Denial of the issue simply isn’t good enough.”

In her letter, Ms Dodds goes on to call for Mr Zahawi to implement the recommendations of the Singh Investigation into Islamaphobia within the party in full, confirm whether the government will adopt the APPG’s definition of it and end the party’s “bizarre practice of refusing to use the term”.

Government figures show religious hate crimes targeting Muslims in the UK rose by 28 per cent in the last year, accounting for 42 per cent of all recorded religious hate crimes in 2021/22.

Nadhim Zahawi has said he ‘does not recognise institutional racism in the party’ (Reuters)

Muslims have also formed the highest proportion of victims of religiously motivated hate crimes for each of the past five years.

Last week The Independent revealed the government has dropped work on an official definition of Islamophobia that was promised more than three years ago.

An adviser was appointed but work stopped after Boris Johnson became prime minister, and current communities secretary Michael Gove opposes the establishment of a definition.

Mr Gove, reappointed as the levelling-up secretary by Mr Sunak, previously said he wanted to target “political Islam”, which he called a “virus”.

He denied being an Islamophobe and said there was “resistance” in Whitehall because of a “desire not to cause offence”.

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani claimed she was treated poorly because of her faith (AFP via Getty Images)

An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims defined Islamophobia in 2018 as a “type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness”, which was accepted by Labour and other opposition parties but rejected by the Conservative government.

Imam Qari Asim, appointed to draw up the wording, said earlier this year the government “had not engaged with him at all and had completely failed to undertake any steps to facilitate the work of establishing a new definition in the last three years”.

In February an investigation was launched into Mark Spencer, Tory MP for Sherwood, following a complaint from a member of his own party.

Tory MP for Wealden, Nusrat Ghani, claims she was told she was sacked from her ministerial post because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

While Mr Spencer, appointed as a farming minister by the prime minister in September, admits he spoke to her, he strongly denied using the words and described Ms Ghani’s claims as “defamatory”.

Last month cabinet secretary Simon Case said the probe remains “outstanding”.

The Conservative Party and Mr Zahawi were contacted for comment.

Previously Mr Zahawi said that while claims of Islamophobia within the Tories were “very serious” it was “not widespread” and he “did not recognise institutional racism in the party”.

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