Ingrained Culture: Rising Islamophobia Within the Conservative Party Worries British Muslims

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




The UK's largest Muslim organization has called on the two candidates to lead the ruling Conservative Party—former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and former Foreign Secretary Liz Truss -- to address Islamophobia within the party and across the country.

The demands of Britain's Muslim community for the Conservative Party come in the wake of Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani's accusation that the party is institutionally Islamophobic; the party's anti-Muslim issue was raised after Ghani was expelled from her post as Minister of State for Transport.

Recently, questions and doubts began to loom on the horizon; will the next Conservative British Prime Minister, to be announced on September 5, 2022, do more to tackle the issue of Islamophobia than the silent Johnson?


Intractable Phenomenon

The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Zara Mohammed, has criticized the candidates of the Conservative Party and the UK government for ignoring ways to tackle hate crimes against Muslims.

Ms. Mohammad called on the candidates to take this issue seriously, pointing to the silence of the outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about it throughout his reign.

He said that Johnson should have apologized in his resignation letter to the Muslim community, noting that he had not taken any concrete steps to address this issue.

Ms. Mohammad revealed that the MCB had monitored more than 300 cases of anti-Muslim committed by members of the same Conservative Party since 2019.

During his political battle, Rishi Sunak, the candidate for leadership of the British Conservative Party and Prime Minister, threatened what he called Islamic extremists, stressing that he would refocus the anti-terror plan on Islamists.

On the other hand, Sunak did not refer to the escalation of the threat of far-right terrorism in his announcement and also ignored the response to a letter presented by civil activists and MPs about his plan to combat Islamophobia, which afflicts the lives of the country's Muslims; while his rival Liz Truss said she would take an intolerant approach to Islamophobia.

The Independent revealed on August 4, 2022, MPs sent to both Conservative Party candidates questioning their plans to counter Islamophobia, writing in their letter: "We hope that if you become Prime Minister, you will take concrete steps to root out this pernicious hatred that threatens our British values."

The letter urged the candidates, in the event that either of them becomes Prime Minister, to reveal the contents of the investigation into the case of MP Nusrat Ghani, who was dismissed from her post because she was a Muslim.

"When a Muslim woman brings up direct experience of discrimination against Islam at the heart of the government and her party, these allegations must be treated with the seriousness they deserve. It is a frustrating fact that Islamophobia has permeated mainstream politics," the letter added.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani revealed that the government removed her from her position as Minister of State for Transport in the 2020 cabinet reshuffle after her religion was brought up as a topic of discussion at a Downing Street meeting, Mark Spencer, the Conservative Party's discipline officer, told her.


Targeting Muslims

According to a report published by Anadolu Agency on August 9, 2022, political writer Peter Oborne revealed in his book The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam that he wrote a lot about the problem of Islamophobia and intolerance against Muslims in the Conservative Party.

He added: "The culture of anti-Muslim hatred is evident among Conservative MPs, advisors, and ordinary members who often believe in conspiracy theories about Muslims, which is very foreign to the advanced Western society that claims to be tolerant."

Mr. Oborne also explained how the conservative British think tank had contributed to the dismantling of the UK's traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism with Muslims as primary targets.

In September 2021, The Independent reported that the British government was facing accusations of total neglect of Islamophobia after failing for more than two years to come up with a definition that could be used to combat anti-Muslim hatred.

The newspaper pointed out that a group of MPs had called for the adoption of a working definition that they proposed for the phenomenon of hatred against Muslims, which they reached after a 6-month investigation in 2018, warning that the lack of an approved definition of the phenomenon has led to the growth of Islamophobia in society and its reach to a catastrophic level.

However, the UK government rejected the proposal in May 2019 and announced that it would assign independent experts to come up with a different definition, but it has appointed only one adviser, and no proposals have been published since then.

In 2019, the UK government appointed an independent adviser, Qari Asim, but he was recently removed from the position.

Commenting on this, Asim said, "I cannot answer the reason for the government's decision to remove me from the office. However, most likely, the government did not want to address the issue of defining Islamophobia."

On his part, the General Secretary of the Finsbury Park Mosque, Mr. Mohammed Kozbar, said in a statement to Al-Estiklal: "Unfortunately, it is not a priority for any of the candidates to lead the UK to address the phenomenon of Islamophobia within the party and across the country."

"On the contrary, the competition between them is based on who imposes more restrictions on Muslims and their institutions. This is in line with the far-right policy pursued by the Conservative Party in an attempt to win votes from the right within the party," he added.

"The Conservative Party is a right party, and it has become more extremist over the past years, especially after Britain's exit from the European Union. This led to an increase in hostility to foreigners, especially Muslims, who consider them immigrants and refugees who want to take over the jobs of the British. Unfortunately, the media and conservative politicians are promoting such misinformation," he continued.

"The Conservative government has not done anything to address the phenomenon of Islamophobia and protect Muslims from hate crimes. On the contrary, some ministers and MPs spread Islamophobia within British society because of their hostile statements against Islam and Muslims. As happened with the highest government figure, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when he compared Muslim women to bank robbers," Mr. Kozbar pointed out.

"British Muslims are now convinced that the current leadership of both parties, the Conservatives and Labor, is not in the process of combating Islamophobia. The current Labor leadership is targeting many members within the party who support the Palestinian cause, for example," he noted.

"Also, there were several cases in which Muslims inside and outside the Labor Party were attacked and harassed, and they objected to the party leadership, which did not move a finger. There has been a recent report talking about such abuses within the Labor Party," he said.

Mr. Kozbar concluded by saying: "As a result of the above, Muslims in Britain began to think about the options available to amplify their voice, explain their suffering, and put pressure on both parties to deal with Muslims as citizens like everyone else. The upcoming elections will be an opportunity to prove their presence in the political equation."


Ingrained Islamophobia

On May 23, 2020, Newsweek revealed a letter signed by 106 mosques and 40 high-ranking Islamic organizations in Britain, calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate the ruling Conservative Party over Islamophobia against the background of what they said was neglecting responsibilities towards Muslims in the country.

The signatories expressed grave concern about the failure of the commission to fulfill its responsibilities to open an investigation into allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

Newsweek reported that a file of more than 300 allegations of Islamophobia among the Conservative Party was submitted to the EHRC in March 2020 by the MCB, including complaints against Boris Johnson.

This is the second attempt by the Muslim community in Britain to appeal to the Watchdog (EHRC) for an investigation into the ruling party, but it was also to no avail.

A report by the UK anti-racism group Hope Not Hate showed anti-Muslim comments online made by members of the Conservative Party, including six councilors.

In April 2019, Buzzfeed News published a list of 20 party members who made comments calling Muslims false rats and non-human scum.

A June 2019 poll of Conservative Party members, conducted by YouGov for Hope Not Hate, found that nearly half would prefer not to have a Muslim prime minister and believe Islam is a threat to the British way of life.

In response, the Labor Party said that "the poll's results show that Islamophobia and racism are ingrained among some members of the Conservative Party."

In September 2019, a number of Conservative Party members were suspended for posting or endorsing anti-Islam material online after the BBC highlighted more than 20 new cases.

In November 2019, another group of party members was suspended due to allegations of anti-Islam posts on social media.

A report issued in late 2019 by the Muslim engagement and development (MEND) counted more than 120 cases of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, and these cases included Johnson himself, as well as other members of his government.


Anti-Muslim Bigotry Party

The Conservative Party has long been accused of failing to tackle Islamophobia within its ranks, especially since the run-up to the 2019 general election.

In 2018, the then-president of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin, accused the British government of not doing enough to tackle Islamophobia, stressing that the Conservative Party gives priority only to re-election.

Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim minister in the Conservative government, also denounced her party's response to the issue, accusing it of turning a blind eye and becoming institutionally Islamophobic.

During the 2019 Conservative leadership race, then-home secretary Sajid Javid challenged all of his fellow contenders - including eventual winner Johnson - to an outside investigation into the allegations.

This prompted Boris Johnson to pledge an investigation into how Islamophobia was treated among members of the Conservative Party, but then he opened an investigation into all forms of hatred, which Muslims criticized, accusing him of refusing to acknowledge the existence of intolerance and prejudice directed against Muslims in particular.

On May 25, 2020, a BBC report found that two-thirds of the discriminatory incidents reported to the party's headquarters over a six-year period were anti-Muslim hatred.

In turn, a British Labour Party politician serving as the Member of Parliament, Afzal Khan, said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is accused of supporting Islamophobia in Britain in word and deed and that he bears responsibility for the consequences of the spread of racism against Islam and Muslims, according to what he told The Independent on October 29, 2021.

He added that "the Muslim community in Britain is facing an unprecedented situation in terms of the spread of hatred and fear of Islam and Muslims."

Mr. Khan revealed that in November 2020, he sent a message to the Prime Minister during the month of awareness of Islamophobia in Britain, urging him to participate in the awareness campaign and that he did not respond to his request.

The British MPs indicated that the largest percentage of crimes against Muslims in Britain, who number about 3 million, was during the Johnson government era, in addition to the fact that the rate of attacks against British Muslims reached record numbers.