Over one in three Muslims report seeing Islamophobia in Labour Party

Abuse within party has gone ‘unnoticed’ and deserves ‘immediate attention,' parliamentary chair of Labour Muslim Network says

Samuel Osborne
Friday 13 November 2020 22:06 GMT
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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says: ‘Islamophobia has no place in our party or society and we are committed to rooting it out’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says: ‘Islamophobia has no place in our party or society and we are committed to rooting it out’

More than a third of Muslim Labour Party members and supporters have witnessed Islamophobia within the party, a report has found.

Meanwhile, 44 per cent said they do not believe the party takes Islamophobia seriously and 48 per cent have lost confidence in the party’s complaints structures, according to the Labour Muslim Network investigation reported by ITV News.

Some 59 per cent of Muslims surveyed said they did not feel well represented by the party.

Ali Milani, who stood against Boris Johnson in Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the last general election, claims a fellow party member told him Muslims could not be MPs because of “their propensity to violence” and asked if he was a terrorist, ITV News reported.

“It hurts to feel like I experienced that sort of abuse from a party member and it not only took a year for them to get back to me, but the complaint was lost," Mr Milani said."It’s just hurtful.”

The parliamentary chair of the Labour Muslim Network, Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, said Islamophobia within the party had had gone “unnoticed” and “deserved immediate attention.”  

“Whilst the Labour Party has enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Muslim community for decades, we cannot take their support for granted," Mr Khan wrote. “The Labour Party must commit to a zero tolerance of Islamophobia and rebuild confidence with its Muslim members.”

Labour MP Apsana Begum said she had faced similar issues and claimed the party “has been in denial” about the problem.

She told ITV News: “It’s quite regular to be asked questions and to constantly be asked to reaffirm my commitment towards British society as if in some way my identity and politics are not compatible."

One anonymous party member said:  "During 2020 Ramadan, I and another member asked the chair and the secretary of the councillors Labour Group to adjust the group’s meeting’s times to allow Muslim members to have a short beak for Iftar.

"This was refused and when I argued I was told ‘you are weaponising your religion’. I have complained to the Labour Party complaints but have not heard back."

The Muslim Council of Britain said the report was shocking and urged the party to act immediately.

A spokesperson said: "Islamophobia is prevalent across British society but when it is within political parties who are our representatives and who decide on policy, it is all the more dangerous.  

"That is why this new report is deeply concerning. It shows shocking levels of Islamophobia within the Labour Party, and a distrust amongst Muslim members of the leadership's willingness to take this type of racism seriously.  

"Now that the problem has been clearly exposed, we hope to see the leadership demonstrating no tolerance for any form of racism by listening to the party's members, and acting immediately, decisively and effectively, starting by adopting the report's recommendations.  

"We have seen what happens when a political party lets Islamophobia go unchecked. The Conservative Party’s problem with Islamophobia is deep-rooted across every part of the party as it has engaged in denial, dismissal and deceit. We urge the Labour Party to avoid making the same mistakes as the Conservative Party has made, and look at how racism should be tackled, so that it can more fully represent its members and supporters.”

Responding to the report, Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “We thank Labour Muslim Network for this important report, as well as their work to ensure our Muslim members are represented, included and heard.

“Islamophobia has no place in our party or society and we are committed to rooting it out.

“We look forward to working with LMN to implement their recommendations and will be meeting with them to discuss the next steps in tackling the scourge of Islamophobia.”  

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