UK Conservatives not doing enough to tackle Islamophobia: Report

An annual report into the “State of Hate 2019 report by the British HOPE not hate charity criticized Britain’s most powerful political party on the issue of Islamophobia.
Monday 18/02/2019
In this file photo, protesters stand with anti-war posters ahead of a vigil, close to the scene of a van attack in Finsbury Park, north London on June 19, 2017. (AFP)
In this file photo, protesters stand with anti-war posters ahead of a vigil, close to the scene of a van attack in Finsbury Park, north London on June 19, 2017. (AFP)

LONDON - The UK’s governing Conservative party is failing to do enough to tackle Islamophobia within its own ranks, a leading anti-racism charity said, warning that this could lead to rising anti-Muslim sentiment across society.

An annual report into the “State of Hate 2019 report by the British HOPE not hate charity criticized Britain’s most powerful political party on the issue of Islamophobia.

“While Labour has its problems with antisemitism, the Conservatives have their own issues with anti-Muslim prejudice,” the report said. “The negative attitudes of Tory voters towards Muslims and Islam has increased in recent years as many of the four million voters who backed UKIP in 2015 switching allegiance to the Tories. And with it they brought their hostile attitudes to Muslims and immigration more generally.”

“While the government has spoken out against Islamophobia, and overseen a more robust reporting system within the police and Government departments, it needs to do more to better educate their own members and challenge their negative views,” the report added.

The report revealed that 49% of 2017 Conservative voters think that Islam is incompatible to the British way of life and 47% think there are no go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter.

HOPE not hate outlined a series of Islamophobic incidents involving Conservative Party politicians, including Zac Goldsmith’s 2017 London mayoral campaign, various media posts by MP Bob Blackman and even several Conservative MPs and councillors being members of a pro-Tory group on Facebook which often displayed anti-Muslim comments.

A Conservative Party spokesperson denied the report’s conclusions.

“When cases have been reported centrally, the Conservative Party has consistently acted decisively, suspending or expelling those involved and launching an immediate investigation,” the spokesperson said.

“The swift action we take on not just anti-Muslim discrimination, but discrimination of any kind, is testament to the seriousness with which we take such issues.”

The latest furore over how the Tories deals with Islamophobia comes after the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest Muslim umbrella group in the country, called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party last May.

Most recently, the group criticized former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for comparing British women wearing the Burka to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” and an internal Conservative Party inquiry which exonerated him on grounds of freedom of expression.

“Mr. Johnson is not a satirist – he is a Member of Parliament, and as such has a responsibility to set the tone for the rest of the UK to follow. In this case, it is far right Islamophobes who have been empowered to follow his rhetoric,” an MCB statement said in December.

“The MCB further fails to see how Mr Johnson’s remarks were ‘respectful’ and ‘tolerant’ as the panel has concluded. In a year where over half of all Home Office recorded hate crimes targeted Muslims, over a hundred women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa wrote to the Conservative Party Chair to express the daily threat they face as a result of the prejudice whipped up by Mr Johnson.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former co-chairman of the Conservative party and one of the senior-most Muslims in British political life, has publicly backed calls for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party.

“For years I’ve argued that an internal inquiry was the solution to this mess,” she wrote in the Guardian in July last year. “Unfortunately the time for that has now long passed. As a plethora of people and organisations have now said, only with a full, independent inquiry can we truly become the party we claim to be: one that deplores prejudice in all its forms and stamps it out wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

Commenting on the latest report, HOPE Not Hate chief executive Nick Lowles acknowledged that the Conservatives could be making a purely political calculation in their decision not to address the issue. “There remains a stark political issue here for the Conservatives,” he told HuffPost UK. 

“Unless the Conservatives have chosen to cynically abandon the Muslim vote in upcoming elections to solidify their hold on anti-Muslim supporters, they must stop signalling to voters they find Islamophobia acceptable within its ranks and visibly address the growing problem.”