Two-thirds of Tory members believe UK areas ‘under sharia law’, as poll reveals scale of Islamophobia in party

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt urged to combat ‘Islamophobia crisis’ in party 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 24 June 2019 09:46 BST
Miqdaad Versi on the fundamental failures in Conservative Party over Islamophobia

Two-thirds of Conservative Party members believe parts of Britain operate under sharia law, a new poll has shown amid a mounting Islamophobia scandal.

A YouGov poll found almost half of Tories believed in the myth of no-go zones where “non-Muslims are not able to enter” and 39 per cent thought Islamist terror attacks “reflected widespread hostility to Britain among the Muslim community”.

Counter-extremism group Hope Not Hate called on leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to address the “Islamophobia crisis” in their party.

“From the grassroots to the great offices of state, Conservative members buy into racist myths, with almost half unwilling to have a Muslim prime minister – and only 8 per cent being proud to have one – and most denying that there’s even an issue to confront,” said campaigns director Matthew McGregor.

“No mainstream political party should accept racism and racists within its ranks. The Conservatives have paid lip service by saying they have zero tolerance to Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice, but this new poll confirms they face a real crisis.”

In a poll carried out shortly before Sajid Javid was knocked out of the leadership contest, 43 per cent of members agreed with the statement that: “I would prefer to not have the country led by a Muslim.”

Mr Javid had tried to make his fellow leadership candidates commit to an independent investigation into Conservative Party Islamophobia during a live television debate.

The research suggested Tories are more opposed to Muslim immigration than that from other faiths, with 40 per cent wanting the number of Muslims entering Britain lowered.

Fewer than one in 10 members thought Islamophobia was an issue in the party, while almost 80 per cent denied there was a problem.

Previous research found that only a third of the wider British public believed in “no-go zones” but that attitudes towards Muslims were changing in the wake of Isis-inspired terror attacks and grooming scandals where the majority of suspects have been of Pakistani heritage.

YouGov polled almost 900 party members between 14 and 18 June for the latest research, which comes after heavy criticism about the handling of Islamophobia complaints against Conservative activists and councillors.

Last month the Muslim Council of Britain sent 20 pages of evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission accusing the Conservatives of failing to take action against racism.

Mr Johnson, who is tipped to become the next prime minister, was among MPs named in the dossier following remarks comparing veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

Baroness Warsi on the Tory islamophobia inquiry: 'It has been a long and lonely and bruising battle and I'm just relieved we finally seem to be turning a corner'

In the days following his comments, there were reports of his words being used to abuse women in public, as monitors recorded an uptick in Islamophobic hate crime.

The Conservatives were also criticised for refusing to draw up a definition of Islamophobia, and then refusing to adopt one that resulted from a parliamentary inquiry.

The government has pledged to appoint two advisers to “arrive swiftly at a collective position”. Hope Not Hate called on the two leadership contenders to “publicly and unambiguously” commit to tackle the issue, including by establishing an independent body to investigate Islamophobia in the party and increasing transparency in disciplinary procedures.

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