Conservative Party Islamophobia must be investigated by equality watchdog, Britain’s largest Muslim group demands

Boris Johnson named in dossier of evidence sent to Equality and Human Rights Commission

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 28 May 2019 17:59 BST
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Sayeeda Warsi on the Islamophobia claims in the Conservative Party: 'I wanted this matter to be dealt with internally, that’s why for two years this did not become public'

Britain’s largest Muslim organisation has called for a formal investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) sent more than 20 pages of evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the wake of the government’s refusal to adopt a proposed definition on Islamophobia.

Its complaint accused the Tories of “ignoring” calls for an independent inquiry on anti-Muslim hatred and failing to take action against Islamophobes in its ranks.

Boris Johnson, who could be the next prime minister, and MPs including Bob Blackman, Zac Goldsmith, Michael Fabricant and Philip Hollobone were named in the dossier.

Harun Rashid Khan, secretary general of the MCB, said: “The concerns of Muslims at large about Islamophobia within the Conservative Party have fallen on deaf ears.

“We have taken this step after an unprecedented number of cases have been brought to our attention, suggesting a culture within the Conservative Party where Islamophobia is not only widespread, but institutional. We now request the EHRC to look at all the evidence and investigate this matter with great urgency.”

The complaint includes allegations of Islamophobia among MPs, an “atmosphere of hostility” against Muslim Conservatives, failed complaints processes and an overall denial that Islamophobia is a major issue for the party.

Miqdaad Versi, of the MCB, questioned whether any of the contenders in the Tory leadership race would “prioritise dealing with the sheer scale of Islamophobia that has consumed the Conservative Party”.

Mr Johnson was criticised over remarks comparing veiled Muslim women to letter boxes and bank robbers, but he was cleared of breaching the Conservative Party’s code of conduct.

An independent panel found that the former foreign secretary was “respectful and tolerant” in his newspaper column.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), requested more information from the Conservatives on Islamophobia earlier this month.

The watchdog, which enforces equality laws, has the power to take action in court.

“We have received complaints regarding the Conservative Party and are considering them in line with our usual processes,” an EHRC spokesperson said.

“As part of our standard process, we have written to the Conservative Party to ask for information in order to help assess the complaints.”

Labour MP Afzal Khan raises Islamophobia complaints within Tory party and asks when it will adopt the internationally recognised definition of anti-Muslim hate

The call for an Islamophobia probe came as the EHRC announced a formal investigation over antisemitism in Labour on Tuesday.

It will determine whether the party “has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”.

The MCB said the timing of its complaint was coincidental and pointed out that it alerted media outlets, including The Independent, before the EHRC’s announcement on Labour.

The government was accused of disregarding the “safety and security of British Muslims” after rejecting a definition of Islamophobia put forward following a parliamentary inquiry.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire pledged to “arrive swiftly at a collective position” earlier this month, after senior police officers raised concern about the potential impact on counterterror powers.

Labour MP Wes Streeting, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, said the government had “no more credibility to define Islamophobia than the Labour Party had to redefine antisemitism”.

“I have watched, with some amazement and even greater despair, the Conservative Party making exactly the same mistakes over Islamophobia as my party has with antisemitism,” he told the House of Commons.

The decision came days before research found that more than 100 people claiming to be Conservative Party members had posted Islamophobic or racist comments online.

The MCB has repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into prejudice and the handling of complaints within the party.

Boris Johnson was among the MPs named in the complaint 

Dozens of members have been suspended for posting Islamophobic comments on social media, including many directed at leadership contender Sajid Javid.

The Conservatives were condemned after reinstating some councillors who had been suspended over racist or prejudiced social media posts.​

The government’s commitment to combating anti-Muslim hatred was questioned in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, when mosques revealed they had been refused security funding.

While the government doubled the pot open for bids from different places of worship, it did not bring the funding up to the £14m awarded specifically to Jewish institutions.

Muslim worshippers outside a mosque were targeted in the Finsbury Park terror attack and a man who planned to bomb another mosque in south London was jailed in April.

Other incidents have seen women wearing headscarves run over in “revenge” for Islamist atrocities, and a man plough a car into an Indian restaurant because he wanted to “kill a Muslim”.

Since the Westminster attack in March 2017, 14 Islamist and five far-right terror plots have been foiled in the UK.

Last week, the Home Affairs Committee was told that more than half of rising hate crime offences recorded by police in England and Wales are committed against Muslims.

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