UK Muslim body condemns Islamophobic attacks from senior ruling Conservative leaders

Body writes to party after Conservative Party whip Lee Anderson claimed Sadiq Khan was controlled by “Islamists” and extremists

A person holds the Holy Quran and a protest sign mentioning unite against Islamophobia during a demonstration in this undated image. — Reuters
A person holds the Holy Quran and a protest sign mentioning ‘unite against Islamophobia’ during a demonstration in this undated image. — Reuters

LONDON: The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Monday wrote to the ruling Conservative Party chair Richard Holden after a week of inflammatory statements and Islamophobia from senior figures in the party, inciting hatred of Islam and Muslims.

The MCB wrote to the government party after the Conservative Party whip Lee Anderson MP claimed the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was controlled by “Islamists” and extremists.

The Tory Party has since then withdrawn the whip of Anderson but the Muslim council insisted that the Conservative Party must investigate the structural Islamophobia that persists in the party for many years.

On Anderson, the MCB wrote: “We note that he was only censured for refusing to apologise, not for making the racist remarks in the first place. We also note that the whip was withdrawn only after there was widespread condemnation across the board, while the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet remained silent.”

The request for an investigation into structural Islamophobia in the Conservative Party follows a previous dossier of 300 cases of Islamophobia in the party submitted by the MCB.

Despite a poorly framed investigation to look into discrimination in 2022, this week of extremism in the Conservative Party demonstrates that discrimination against Muslims remains strong.

Writing to Holden, Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Our view is that the Islamophobia in the Party is institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership.”

She wrote: “Leaders – especially those in politics – have the ability to shape the agenda and a narrative, and play a role in Islamophobic hate crime, which has recently trebled according to Tell Mama. These issues cannot – and must not – be ignored.”

The letter pointed to a week of extremism that includes former Home Secretary Suella Braverman stating in an article in The Daily Telegraph that “Islamists…are in charge” of Britain (a common conspiracy theory peddled by the far-right), and also expressed by Robert Jendrick in the House of Commons; former deputy chairman Anderson who said of Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan, and they’ve got control of London; Conservative Party donor Sir Paul Marshall endorsing incendiary tweets, including one stating: “Civil war is coming. There has never been a country that has remained peaceful with a sizeable Islamic presence”; former Prime Minister Liz Truss sharing a platform with infamous far-right activist Steve Bannon and agreeing with Bannon’s assertion that convicted far-right activist and Islamophobe Tommy Robinson was a ‘hero’.

Zara said: “These actions are not only reserved to this week. In recent months, we have had prospective Conservative Party parliamentary candidate and newspaper columnist Nick Timothy openly advocating discrimination against Muslims by demanding punitive measures that curtail religious rights and respond to far-right tropes about Muslims.

The MCB said that in the week it was reported that there had been a staggering 335% surge in Islamophobic hate crimes, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman fuelled hatred in her latest incendiary column in The Telegraph.

The MCB secretary general said: “On the front page of a national newspaper, a former Home Secretary has shamelessly peddled extremist tropes about so-called ‘Islamist’ takeovers. That this comes on the day we learn of a stark rise of Islamophobic hate crime with over 2000 cases in the last 4 months is no less shameful.

Braverman’s disgraceful article is Exhibit A for those investigating why there is an Islamophobia surge in the UK. Her incendiary messages were articulated on the floor of the House of Commons as well.

“With a track record of demonising Muslim communities and peaceful Palestinian protesters, this is more dog whistle politics to distract from the actual issues of the day. This is a time where communities need to come together, her sinister attempts to divide us will not succeed.”

She said: “Influential MPs and a donor to the Conservative Party are endorsing common talking points that peddle conspiracy theories and Islamophobic tropes of alleged Muslim takeovers of our country.

“The silence of the Party in the face of such extremism as we approach the Mayoral election, echoes the racist Zac Goldsmith campaign and shows that the institutional Islamophobia in the Conservative Party continues unabated. The Goldsmith campaign failed then and we are confident this approach will fail again. We urge the Party to act immediately and withdraw the whip from Mr Anderson.”

Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative peer who was a cabinet minister in David Cameron’s government, told the Guardian on Sunday that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak needed to “find the language” to “call Islamophobia Islamophobia”.

“What is it about the prime minister that he can’t even call out anti-Muslim racism and anti-Muslim bigotry? Why can’t he just use those words?” she said.

Warsi said: “There will always be people who hide behind the word Zionist, people with a long history of antisemitism who use the term Zionist when they actually mean Jews. It’s a very disingenuous form of antisemitism. And there are always people with a long history of anti-Muslim racism who will hide behind the word Islamist when they actually mean Muslims.”

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