Tories must launch urgent inquiry into Islamophobia in party, Muslim Council of Britain says

The Tories risk becoming embroiled in an Islamophobia row in light of their campaign against Sadiq Khan

Jon Stone
Thursday 12 May 2016 14:25 BST
David Cameron apologised for what the MCB branded a 'smear' against an Imam
David Cameron apologised for what the MCB branded a 'smear' against an Imam

The Conservative party must conduct an urgent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia in its ranks, Britain’s largest Muslim representative organisation has said.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the party’s recent campaign for Mayor of London was punctuated by “Islamophobic” smears against both the now Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and other Muslims.

David Cameron last night apologised for having falsely claimed that south London imam Sulaiman Ghani supported the terrorist group Isis – a claim he used to attack Labour’s candidate, who had appeared on platforms with him.

The Tories were also accused of “dog whilstle racism” after describing Mr Khan as “radical”, that London would not be safe under his watch, and suggesting he had associated with extremists.

Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the MCB, welcomed the PM’s apology, but said the Tories needed to conduct a full inquiry into “the extent of Islamophobia in its own ranks”.

Such a probe would run parallel to an inquiry conducted in the Labour party, which has appointed campaigner Shami Chakrabati to examine the extent of alleged antisemitism in the party.

“I welcome the Prime Minister’s long overdue apology to Imam Sulaiman Ghani, a London imam who has thus far been unable to challenge claims made in Parliament that he supports Daesh or terrorism. As a result of these smears, we understand that Imam Ghani has been subject to abuse and threats on his life,” Mr Shafi said.

Zac Goldsmith (far left) was criticised for his campaign against Sadiq Khan (right) 

“I call on both the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary to make that apology in Parliament as well. Imam Ghani became the innocent casualty of a wider Islamophobic attack on the now Mayor of London and the Conservative Party needs to apologise for this too.

“Such smear-by-association has become all too common for Muslims and Muslim organisations. It is a cancer blighting sections of our political and media class and has infected the solemn business of government.

“For the real extremists we are all opposed to, such tactics will only provide fresh new examples of a society not willing to accept Muslims for who they are.

“I also call for an urgent review of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Just as the Labour Party is rightly conducting an inquiry into antisemitism, it is important for the Conservative Party to reflect upon the extent of Islamophobia in its own ranks. We should have zero tolerance for both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Corbyn reminds Cameron that "racism was endemic" in his Conservative party

“We urge the Conservative Party to reflect and learn from this disreputable period of campaigning so that we can all draw a line and move on.”

The call comes days after former Tory cabinet minister Baroness Warsi herself warned that her party had lost in London because it had run an “appalling dog-whistle campaign” in the capital.

She said it had "lost us the election, our reputation and credibility on issues of race and religion".

A Downing Street spokesperson last night said Mr Cameron “apologises to him for any misunderstanding” with regards to Mr Ghani, who in fact previously supported the Conservatives.

But at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday he dodged answering a question about whether he would apologise for the nature of his party's campaign against Mr Khan.

The Independent has contacted the Conservative party for comment on this developing story.

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