The Muslim Council of Britain demand inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has written to the Conservative Party Chair, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, requesting an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. This is the second such request that has been made. The request had occurred after it was revealed that no action was going to be taken against Bob Blackman MP which the MCB believes “sends a signal that Islamophobia is to be tolerated in the Conservative party.”

Blackman was a member of the Facebook page ‘Britain for the British’ run by a BNP member before he removed himself. The page produced stories including praise of Hitler and wishing violence against Sadiq Khan. Blackman has also retweeted former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, and held ultra- nationalist and extreme anti-Muslim Tapan Ghosh at Westminster who has praised the cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. As well as this, in March, Blackman shared an article from a US anti-Muslim website called Hardcore News USA titled: “Muslim Somali sex gang say raping white British children ‘part of their culture’.”

A Conservative Party spokesman has said that the other nine incidents mentioned in the letter have led to suspensions of individuals, but the MCB, although recognising this, also believes it to be “just the tip of the iceberg” and that it highlights an ongoing issue that is rooted in the party. This is despite a code of conduct for Conservatives holding public office that was published as recently as December 2017, which specifically states that leaders of public office should: “lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance”, “not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others.” In their own appendix, the Tories define discrimination as to include “victimising or harassing any other person because of race.”

Baroness Warsi claimed she has been raising concerns over Islamophobia for over two years, both formally and informally, including writing to the Prime Minister. Warsi has commented in an interview that “The party has been aware of the issue at the highest level and has failed to take the issue seriously and at times even denied its very existence.” On Good Morning Britain today, Warsi accepted that many voters who would have voted Conservative in the 2016 London Mayoral Election did not vote for Zac Goldsmith due to the smear campaign that was run. Thus, Warsi is clearly appearing to agree with comments made by the MCB regarding the “shocking Islamophobia” that Muslim communities saw in the election.

Naturally this demonstrates the deep divisions that are still at play within society that are only growing deeper and wider thanks to Brexit and austerity Britain, not helped by a frequently incompetent national media. This event is even more striking coming a day after the custodial sentence for Tommy Robinson. Both headlines have seen the far right continue their abhorrent language towards Muslims across social media in their longing for what they see as their freedom of speech. Yet what has appeared just as striking thus far is the minimal coverage that appears to have been picked across the media compared to anti-Semitism row within Labour. Despite a large and influential body that represents a significant part of the population, and one that could be used to dilute tensions, writing to the party in government, it was only the sixth story on The Today Programme and at the time of writing has been removed from the main BBC News website despite originally being published.

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Peter Budd

Peter is currently studying an MA in History at Cardiff University. He focuses on social and labour history of the 19th century, up to the First World War. He is a current member of the Labour Party. He also writes for Gair Rhydd, the Cardiff University student newspaper, and does some rugby related writing.

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