Persistence key to tackling Islamophobia, says Rory Stewart


by LAUREN CODLING 

A SENIOR minister in the running for Tory leadership has urged politicians to “call out Islamophobia and racism” as he continues his campaign this week.

Rory Stewart, who is currently the secretary of state for international development, is among six candidates to be the next prime minister, as of Monday (17).

Addressing supporters at Battersea Park’s Peace Pagoda in south London last Friday (14), Stewart answered questions from reporters on an array of topics including racism, the NHS and Brexit.

Responding to a question from Eastern Eye on how he would propose a more equal society, Stewart said politicians should actively engage with diverse communities and speak out on issues regarding racism.

Rory Stewart addresses the crowd at Battersea Park

“I think one of the roles of politicians is to find ways to demonstrate (our values) and call out Islamophobia and racism when it happens,” said Stewart. “You should demonstrate in your daily life that these are not our values.

“It is not the kind of society we are and that takes persistence – you have to do it in every minute or every hour of every day to push that back… a lot of this is about our behaviour and how we engage with other human beings.”

He recalled a recent visit to the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking in north west Surrey, during his campaign trail, when he spoke to the local community there.

The 46-year-old is up against fellow MPs Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab – after Theresa May resigned last month.

According to reports on Monday (17), Stewart has become the bookies’ second favourite to become the next prime minister after a televised debate last Sunday evening (16).

Rory Stewart (right) with fellow Tory candidates Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab during the Channel 4 televised debate on Sunday

Last week, he received 11 votes in the first ballot of the contest. As Eastern Eye went to press, additional ballots to eliminate candidates were due to take place throughout the week.

On Brexit, Stewart spoke of the potential repercussions of a second referendum.

His view is that if voters were allowed a second referendum and voted to stay in the EU, the relationship would be “poisoned from the beginning”.

“A much more respectful, healthy relationship is to think about Europe in terms of inner and outer circles and think about the opportunities we could find there, but not try to resolve it split down the middle,” said Stewart, who voted remain during the 2016 referendum.

During a debate broadcast by Channel 4 last Sunday, Stewart said he thought the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was “complete nonsense,” adding “it would be deeply damaging for our economy.”