by LAUREN CODLING
THE Conservative party has a “proud history of promoting fairness and equality”, a party MP accused of Islamophobia said, while an Asian Labour MP has written to home secretary Sajid Javid alleging the Tories have “an issue with anti-Muslim bigotry”.
Bob Blackman, who represents Harrow East, was last week accused of hosting a radical Hindu extremist in parliament.
Blackman has denied the allegations, saying he did not agree with the views of Tapan Ghosh, who has been jailed at least five times in India for fuelling religious tension.
Ghosh was reportedly invited to events organised by the Hindu Forum of Britain and the National Council of Hindu Temples in parliament, which Blackman attended.
The Tory MP has denied any wrongdoing, but Labour politician Naz Shah has highlighted the incident in an open letter to Javid last Sunday (3).
“The reality is the Tory party have an issue with anti-Muslim bigotry,” Shah said.
“In their call for an enquiry, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has provided a long list of incidents with evidence [including] the hosting of known anti-Muslim extremist Ghosh in parliament by Blackman,” she added.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show last Sunday, Javid defended the party using his own appointment as evidence.
“For a start, let’s look at who the home secretary is in this country,” he said. “As you described me, my name is Sajid Javid. I am the home secretary in this country.”
He also claimed the MCB did not represent Muslims, stating he would be “suspicious of anything they’ve got to say”.
“We don’t deal with the MCB because too many of their members have had favourable comments on extremists and that’s not acceptable,” Javid said.
However, Shah, who represents Bradford West, slammed Javid’s “misleading” comments and noted that his Muslim heritage should not allow him to dismiss any evidence put forward concerning Islamophobia.
In her view, the MCB was an organisation which a large number of Muslims “appear to believe represents their views well”.
When contacted by Eastern Eye on Monday (4) regarding the home secretary’s remarks, Blackman said: “Sajid Javid’s position, outlined during his appearance on national television over the weekend, is most welcome and one which I agree with. The Conservative party has a proud history of promoting fairness and equality.”
Recent claims of Islamophobia initially came to light when Tory peers and Muslim groups highlighted the “simmering anti-Muslim underbelly of Islamophobia within the party”.
Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said the party needs to “stop denying the problem does not exist”.
“What for me is deeply disappointing is that I raised this issue with my party long before the ugly head of anti-Semitism raised itself within the Labour party,” she said. “And we were quite right to challenge the Labour party on its issue of anti-Semitism, but it now disappoints me and concerns me why we’re not prepared to deal with bigotry when it finds itself in our own backyard.”
The MCB has also said that there are “more than weekly incidents” of Islamophobia involving Tory candidates and representatives, ranging from offensive tweets to accusations of links to far-right figures.
Last Thursday (31), the MCB urged the prime minister Theresa May to launch an independent inquiry into claims of racism as “racists and bigots have no place in the party”.
In an open letter, it addressed several incidents in which it claimed councillors in the party
referred to Islam as the “new Nazism” and shared articles which called Muslims “parasites”.
The group also pointed to Conservative candidate David Boston, who was suspended before
the local elections for posting a photograph of bacon hanging from a door handle, warning
people to protect themselves from terrorists.
In response to the MCB claims, a Conservative spokesman said: “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”