by LAUREN CODLING
ISLAMOPHOBIA is “deeply embedded” in the Conservative party, a Muslim MP has said, following a new poll that revealed almost 50 per cent of members believe Islam is a threat to the British way of life.
Data compiled by anti-racism organisation Hope Not Hate found that 57 per cent of Tory party members reported negative attitudes to Muslims.
Among those polled, 58 per cent thought it was true that there were ‘no-go’ areas in Britain where Sharia law dominated and non-Muslims could not enter. The research, commissioned as part of Hope Not Hate’s submission to the Conservative party inquiry on all forms of racism including Islamophobia, follows years of alleged anti-Muslim bias in the party.
Last year, prime minister Boris Johnson issued an apology for the hurt and offence caused by Islamophobia within the party, while former Tory co-chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has consistently called for a full-fledged inquiry on the claims.
Muslim Labour MP Afzal Khan, who represents Manchester Gorton, said the findings showed “just how deeply embedded Islamophobia is within the party”. He urged “immediate” action.
“This is a party whose members refuse to take unconscious bias training, ran a disgustingly racist mayoral campaign against (London mayor) Sadiq Khan and refuse to adopt the APPG British Muslims definition of Islamophobia, which has the support of all the major parties,” Khan told Eastern Eye last Friday (2). “They need to take immediate action and tackle the very serious issue of Islamophobia and that starts with the prime minister”.
Fellow Labour MP Shabana Mahmood echoed his sentiments, calling the report “shocking, but not surprising”. She also highlighted the behaviour of Johnson, who was once criticised for referring to Muslim women as “letterboxes” in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph in 2018.
“There does seem to be a particular problem in Johnson’s Tory party,” Mahmood, the representative for Birmingham, Ladywood, told Eastern Eye on Monday (5). “And while all parties have shortcomings in respecting and welcoming certain faiths, (Labour leader) Keir Starmer has admitted Labour’s failings and looked to confront them head-on.
“Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has reneged on a pledge to hold an independent inquiry into anti-Muslim sentiment in his party, and repeatedly used language and behaviour that shows an appalling disregard for British Muslims. The Conservative’s Muslim problem starts at the top – plain and simple.”
Baroness Warsi said the poll had shown the party has a “real and serious” issue with racism directed at Muslims, adding that the issue had been raised consistently since 2015.
Sunder Katwala, director of think-tank British Future, said the research provided “compelling” evidence that a proactive strategy to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice was needed by the Conservative party. “So far, the party has been reactive, throwing out members if vile comments are exposed by others, without acknowledging a broader challenge for the party culture,” he told Eastern Eye. “The current review needs to change that. The party can’t make progress while it does not yet have any agreed definition of anti-Muslim prejudice – and what crosses the line.”
Nick Treloar, research analyst at the equality think-tank Runnymede Trust, agreed that an urgent investigation into anti- Muslim attitudes was needed. He warned more harm could be done to Muslim communities if this was not carried out. “Until we have an honest and frank appraisal of the very real Islamophobia that blights British political institutions, we are likely to see a continual rise in the number
of Islamophobic attacks and the general public holding negative views towards Islam in general,” he told Eastern Eye.
The Conservative party did not respond to a request for comment from Eastern Eye.
Other key findings from the report included 41 per cent of respondents feeling ‘Muslims did not want to integrate’; 41 per cent agreeing that ‘Islam promoted discrimination of and the physical abuse of women’; and 56 per cent of members believing that multiculturalism has had a negative effect on British culture.