Amid Concern and Accusations, This Is How the Conservative Party Reneged on Its Promises to UK Muslims

Murad Jandali | a year ago

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In conjunction with the fact that November (the current month) of every year, Islamophobia awareness month in Britain, the British government stopped a work it had started more than three years ago related to establishing an official definition of Islamophobia, which sparked condemnation from Islamic organizations and protests from British opponents.

Britain is witnessing a political and intellectual debate about the political position that should be taken towards protecting Muslims in Britain from religious hate crimes, and this matter has turned into an arena of political battle between the left and the right, i.e., between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.

Political figures, some of whom are of Asian Muslim origin, from the Labour Party and others, accuse the Conservatives of failing to resolve this matter legally and politically forever, as an adviser had been appointed for this purpose, but his work stopped after the arrival of Boris Johnson as prime minister.

In addition, the current Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, had previously emphasized that he wanted to confront political Islam, noting that there was resistance in the corridors of government to a specific definition of Islamophobia.

The Conservative Party has been criticized for its lack of seriousness in addressing anti-Muslim behavior and prejudice against Muslims.

Official figures indicate that hate crimes targeting Muslims increased by 28% over the past year to record 42% of all religious hate crimes, which made Muslims the largest target group for hate crimes during the past five years.

 

Procrastination and Fail

The Conservative Party retreated from pursuing efforts to promote Islamophobia after the harsh criticism against the ruling party in Britain due to its lack of seriousness in combating anti-Islam movements within the party and the British government, according to what was published by Middle East Eye on November 1, 2022.

Whereas Communities Secretary Michael Gove opposes an official definition of Islamophobia and strives to get the current government to abandon any effort to have the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) embrace the definition of who British Muslims are.

The definition adopted by all parliamentary parties in Britain in 2019 was proposed by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, but the Conservative Party has still rejected it so far.

The definition states that Islamophobia is a deep-rooted racist phenomenon that targets all forms of expression of Islam or everything that may be related to Islam.

In May 2019, Communities Secretary Jason Brokenshire said that “the Conservative Party and government would refrain from adopting the definition, in order to put another definition that enables the government to tighten its grip on the nature of intolerance and the division around the concept of Islamophobia.”

In July 2019, the British government appointed Islamic Imam Qari Asim as an adviser to propose an appropriate definition of Islamophobia, but it ignored the suggestions he had emailed to the government’s official website and Downing Street.

The adviser was then dismissed from his post in June 2022 without warning after the British government claimed he supported the protests against the release of the controversial film depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter (PBUT).

The British government considers this to be a restriction on freedom of opinion, noting that the adviser had denied his participation in those protests.

At an event organized by the Counter Extremism Group on September 6, 2022, Gove explained before taking up his current position that adopting the definition set by the parliamentary parties constitutes a threat to the freedom of discussion about Islam, whether in universities or other institutions and imposes a kind of censorship on people and justifies punishment.

Gove, along with one of the other guests of the episode, pointed out that the definition of Islamophobia developed by the parliamentary parties is complete nonsense, confirming that he wanted to target political Islam, which he described as the virus.

He denied the accusations that he supported Islamophobia, stressing that the British government rejected the definition adopted by the parliamentary parties because it might offend some people.

However, a spokesperson for UK’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We remain committed to stamping out anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of religious prejudice, and we will outline our next steps in due course.”

 

Condemnations and Complaints

The Labour Party expressed its concern about the state of denial followed by the Conservative Party in dealing with Islamophobia, which prompted party leader Anneliese Dodds to send a letter to the minister in the Cabinet Office, Nadhim Zahawi, expressing her condemnation of the continued effort by conservatives not to address the issue of Islamophobia in a positive way, according to what The Independent reported on October 30, 2022.

In her message, which coincided with Islamophobia Awareness month, Dodds said that “as Islamophobic hate crime is on the rise, the Conservatives need to show they are serious about tackling this insidious hatred, both in society and within their party.”

She also called on the Conservative Party to fully implement the recommendations of the Singh Investigation on Islamophobia, and to ensure that it would adopt the definition of Islamophobia that had been adopted by an all-party parliamentary committee.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Swaran Singh to investigate racism in general within the Conservative Party.

Although Singh’s report denied the existence of institutional racism within the party, it indicated that there were complaints of racism and anti-Muslims by Muslim members of the party.

In turn, Sarah Owen, the British Labour MP, wrote on Twitter: “Hate crimes against Muslims increased during the pandemic and continue to hurt communities today.”

“It is not possible to confront something that has no definition. The government should stop dithering and adopt the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia.,” she added.

In another reaction, the British Labour MP, Yasmin Qureshi, called on, in an opinion piece published in The Independent newspaper on November 7, 2022, the Conservative Party to treat the Islamophobia crisis that British society is going through, accusing it of breaking all its promises to treat Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia awareness month is an opportunity to reflect on the distance we have come to confront the calamity of Islamophobia in our society. What worries a lot of Muslims is that they feel like we’re going backward for reasons that are relatively tolerable to the Conservative Party,” Qureshi said.

She inquired about the steps taken by the government to confront Islamophobia, replying that Conservative mismanagement of the judiciary and courts and policies to reduce police budgets had led to an increase in hate crimes in all groups since they took power.

She continued her criticism: “The Conservative Party has not set an example for public opinion to follow. In recent years, two investigations have been opened into Islamophobia within the party.”

Qureshi believes that the list of failures left a lot of repercussions, as she said, “We can directly link the failure of the Conservative Party to the violations suffered by Muslims in Britain. After Boris Johnson referred to veiled women as mailboxes and bank robbers, violations increased by 375%.”

She concluded by saying, “Conservative ministers must know that their words and actions are having a real impact on the lives of British Muslims and potentially endangering them.”

During the questioning of Conservative government ministers in Parliament on November 1, 2022, the British Labour MP Afzal Khan raised a point of order about the failure of successive ministers to respond to any of the messages related to the matter over two years ago.

“The absence of action since 2018, coupled with the damning accusations of conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, all reveal their failure to take the issue seriously,” MP Khan said.

“Year after year, Muslims have been the most frequent victims of hate-motivated crimes. There is no indication that this wave has abated under the Conservative government,” he said.

“Given the ongoing chaos, Conservative ministers have failed to deal with Islamophobia and deliver on their promises,” he said.

On the other hand, there were also some condemnations of the Conservative government’s abandonment of defining Islamophobia within the party itself.

Former Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said: “This comes at a time when attacks against Muslims have exceeded their counterparts against all other religious groups. Therefore the government is as if it is fanning the fire with this decision, as it is increasing discrimination by refusing to protect Muslims in Britain.”

 

Continuous Failure

Many researchers emphasize that the anti-Islam culture within the Conservative Party is deeply rooted.

In recent years, the ruling Conservative Party has faced criticism over the involvement of an increasing number of its officials in incidents related to the phenomenon of Islamophobia.

On May 25, 2021, a report prepared by Conservative member Swaran Singh found that the party had registered 1,400 complaints about 727 incidents of discrimination between 2015 and 2020, two-thirds of which were discrimination against Muslims (Islamophobia), according to The Independent.

Nadhim Zahawi has previously described accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party as very serious, but said that they are not widespread, and that he did not notice the existence of institutional racism in the party.

In August 2022, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) announced that it had monitored more than 300 cases of anti-Muslim violence committed by members of the same Conservative Party since 2019.

Before he became prime minister, Johnson mocked Muslim women, which caused an uptick in anti-Islam attacks.

Nevertheless, the Conservative Party chose him as a leader, which confirmed the spread of Islamophobia within the party and in British politics in general.

During the Johnson era, the British Muslim minister, Nusrat Ghani, complained that the government had removed her from her post as Minister of State for Transport because her Muslim identity had created unease among her colleagues, as one Conservative party member told her; although the party announced the opening of an investigation, the case is still on hold.

On July 27, 2022, The National News reported that opinion polls have shown that more than half of Conservative Party members believe Islam is a threat to British values.

Numerous reports and statistics over recent years have indicated that Johnson and his party have greatly contributed to making Islamophobia a socially acceptable phenomenon, as it has become more widespread than anti-Semitism.

He had also called for the Conservative Muslim Forum over the past years to conduct an independent investigation into the manifestations of Islamophobia and intolerance against Muslims in the Conservative Party, but to no avail.