Month upon month new cases of bigotry and racism crop up among the Conservative ranks. Saqlain Choudry asks why nobody is brought to account.
There is no hiding from the fact that Islamophobia runs deep in the Conservative Party, from the membership base right to the very top.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former co-chair of the Conservative Party, believes there is a “simmering underbelly” of Islamophobia in the party. She has raised concerns on numerous occasions, informally and formally including a letter to the Prime Minister. But the party has simply “shrugged its shoulders” and did nothing.
Now is the time for the Conservatives and its senior politicians to take decisive action in order to root out this deeply worrying form of racism.
The starting point should be an independent inquiry which would highlight the problems in the Party and find ways to solve it.
In recent weeks, Brandon Lewis (chairman of the Conservative Party) and James Cleverly (deputy chairman) have dismissed the need to tackle the issue and failed to acknowledge Baroness Warsi’s honest and stern assessment.
From Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign to Bob Blackman inviting Hindu extremist Tapan Ghosh to Parliament, senior figures in the Tory party have failed to take a strong stance in dealing with Islamophobia.
Even our Prime Minister (then home secretary) Theresa May made some unacceptably offensive allegations when she labelled Sadiq Khan unfit for office because of his alleged connections to members of terrorist groups.
Harrow East MP Blackman is possibly the worst offender of them all, sharing an anti-Muslim tweet from Tommy Robinson – which he later claimed to have done “in error”. He was also found to be a member of a number of Islamophobic Facebook groups. Yet he remains a full-fledged member of the party and the executive secretary of the Tory backbenchers’ lobby, the 1922 Committee.
Other individual examples abound.
Calderdale councillor Mike Payne shared an article on social media while referring to “Muslim parasites”. Payne, who defended his post arguing it “stated nothing of a racist nature”, was at least suspended from the party in April.
Another member suspended that month was Newcastle Council candidate Nick Sundin, who tweeted repeatedly Islamophobic remarks in which he called Mohammed “a f***ing paedophile.”
Fellow aspiring councillor Karen Sunderland (Lewisham) was also suspended after a number of Islamophobic tweets came to light including one that said: “Religion is totalitarian. Islam has become the new Nazism.”
The above are some examples of weekly occurrences of Islamophobia in the Tory party.
Over 350 mosques and Muslim organisations have written to the Conservative Party expressing their disappointment at the lack of decisive action taken when it comes to dealing with Islamophobia.
It has come to a point where even the Conservative Muslim Forum – an “integral part of the Conservative Party” – published a letter which stated that “the Executive Committee unanimously concluded that it is essential that the Party should hold such an inquiry.”
The Muslim Council for Britain (MCB) also released an open letter to the Chairman Brandon Lewis, urging the need for an immediate inquiry.
The letter stated that recent cases are “just the tip of the iceberg and what is in the public domain. Whilst they were thankfully dealt with once brought to public light, these cases suggest a wider problem.”
I wholeheartedly agree with the MCB and over 350+ Muslim mosques and organisations, calling for an independent and immediate inquiry from the top to the bottom.
And above all, I support decisive action to be taken when dealing with Islamophobia inside our very own governing party.
Saqlain Choudry is the chair of British Pakistani Youth 4 Labour.
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