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Tory Islamophobia: Equality watchdog gives party one month to respond to complaints

Equality and Human Rights Commission will then decide whether to take any further action

Alessio Perrone
Friday 17 May 2019 17:32 BST
A general view of two Muslim women and a child in London
A general view of two Muslim women and a child in London (PA)

The equality watchdog has written to the Conservative Party asking for more information following complaints about Islamophobia in the party.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has given the Tories one month to respond to the request for information about the complaints, ITV News first reported on Thursday, before it decides whether to take the case further.

The EHRC said in a statement that the letter was part of their “standard process” to assess complaints.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “The Conservative Party will always be happy to work with organisations who support equality, tolerance and human rights.”

The letter comes amid a recent Islamophobia row within the party.

In March this year, the Tories were accused of trying to “sweep Islamophobia under the carpet” after quietly reinstating 15 councillors who had been suspended over racist or prejudiced social media posts.

Racist comments were posted on a pro-Jacob Rees-Mogg Facebook group, including calls for Muslims to be “turfed out of public office”, for the government to get rid of all mosques and calling home secretary Sajid Javid a “Trojan horse”.

Last year, more than 350 mosques and Muslim organisations urged the Conservatives to launch an internal inquiry into Islamophobia claims. Former Conservative chairperson Baroness Warsi also called the Conservatives to launch an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party.

The Conservatives recently faced criticism for refusing to adopt a definition of Islamophobia that classifies discrimination against Muslims as a form of racism.

The definition was put forward by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims and has been described as a necessity to root out far-right racism.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour’s Naz Shah, a Muslim MP, accused Conservatives of being a “party in denial” that is “not serious about the safety and security of British Muslims”.

“If it is down to women to define the experience of feminism, the experiences of people of colour to define racism, the experience of Jews to define antisemitism, the experience of the LGBTQ+ communities to define homophobia, I ask the minister how dare he tell the British Muslims that our experiences cannot define Islamophobia,” she said.

“If that isn’t a pernicious form of racism then what is it?”

Ms Shah also read a series of abusive messages she had received online and revealed she feared for her life.

“I ask, which Muslim’s life must go next for us to simply recognise and understand Islamophobia?” she said.

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, told the House of Commons the APPG definition needed “more consideration”, was not in line with the Equality Act 2010, had “potential consequences for freedom of speech” and that the combination of race and religion would cause “legal and practical issues”.

The APPG definition has been accepted by a number of parties, including Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservatives, and backed by 750 Muslim organisations and institutions.

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