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Islamophobia 'very widespread' in Conservative Party, says Baroness Warsi

Former Tory co-chair says anti-Muslim abuse a problem 'from top to bottom' in the party

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 11 June 2018 19:30 BST
The Conservatives have been told to launch an urgent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party

The "poison" of Islamophobia is "very widespread" in the Conservative Party but is being “ignored” by Tory leaders, a former co-chair of the party has said.

Baroness Warsi said the problem was present at all levels of her party and claimed some of the Tories’ own campaigns had included anti-Muslim messages.

It follows calls for an investigation into Islamophobia in the party after a series of Conservative politicians were found to have made or shared offensive comments about Muslims.

The Independent has previously revealed that the Muslim Council of Britain has demanded an inquiry into the incidents - a call that was backed by groups representing 350 mosques and Muslim organisations.

Baroness Warsi, who co-chaired the party under David Cameron and then became a Foreign Office minister, is the latest Conservative figure to voice concerns about the issue.

She told Business Insider: "It's very widespread. It exists right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top.

"I don't think it's something that Theresa [May] is a part of, but I do believe it is something the leadership feels can be easily ignored."

She claimed Tory leaders are not taking the problem seriously because "they don't think it is going to damage them because that community doesn't vote for them in any great numbers."

She added: "I think that there is a general sense in the country that Muslims are fair game and it is not the kind of community where you can treat really badly and have many consequences. You can get any with it".

Baroness Warsi said some of her party’s own campaigning had relied on promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric.

She highlighted the 2016 London mayoral campaign, during which the Conservatives were criticised for portraying Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, as “extremist”.

She said: "We specifically went out for Hindu voters saying Sadiq's after your jewellery and I love [Indian prime minister Narendra] Modi and by the way, Sadiq is an extremist. It was really amateur dog whistle politics..

"I just feel that somebody in the campaign took a decision that if we throw enough dirt at him tied to the fact that he's a Muslim, then people will say this man can't be trusted and he won't vote for him. [It was a] terrible, terrible campaign which I think still has an effect."

Her comments come after another Conservative peer, Lord Sheikh, wrote to Theresa May to demand an investigation into Islamophobia in the party.

In a letter seen by The Independent, he wrote: “I call on you as the prime minister to take the following two steps immediately. Firstly, set up an independent inquiry – we must investigate instances of Islamophobic conduct and isolate them swiftly.

“Secondly the prime minister should reach out to all outreach groups of the Conservative Party such as the Conservative Muslim Forum and actively engage in dialogue.”

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