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The Islamists are Coming – How the Labour and Conservative Parties Joined Forces to Spread Islamophobic Fear on the Back of Pro-Palestine Support

The Islamists are Coming – How the Labour and Conservative Parties Joined Forces to Spread Islamophobic Fear on the Back of Pro-Palestine Support

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday March 12 2024

On 21 February 2024, Labour tabled a watered-down amendment to the SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. On what was supposed to be SNP’s opposition day, the speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, broke with convention to allow the Labour amendment, after which the House descended into chaos.

After four months of opposition and insistence on Israel’s right to defend itself, Starmer’s amendment contained no critique of Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians and was pushed through to deflect Labour MPs voting for a ceasefire. Sir Chris Bryant was encouraged by Labour figures to stall parliamentary proceedings which gave Starmer time to convince Hoyle to allow MPs to vote on Labour’s amendment to the SNP motion. Not only did he derail an important debate but manipulated the speaker to allow the amendment in order to avoid another Labour revolt.

While it has been alleged that Hoyle was bullied into this decision by Keir Starmer, Hoyle claimed he was guided by the “absolutely frightening” threats against Labour MPs if their position was not debated. Without mentioning what this threat was, it was clear to the House that he was referring to Muslims, particularly those who had been protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Starmer and Hoyle are responsible for unleashing an unprecedented level of Islamophobic comments in both the media and the Tory party. The chaos in the House of Commons along with Hoyles comments and Starmer’s claims of MPs in danger, led several Tory MPs to assert that Islamists are now in charge of Britain, taking attention away from the declining situation in Gaza and suggesting a more pressing issue in the spread of Islamic extremism in the UK. By centring the attention on the security of MPs and pro-Palestine protests, both Labour and the Conservatives have fuelled a narrative which equates Muslims and their support for Palestine with Islamists and encourages Islamophobia.

A number of Tory MPs took advantage of the situation to wade in by indulging in Islamophobic conspiracy theories to raise anxieties of a Muslim threat. In line with her previous comments demonising peaceful protest, former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, seized the opportunity to attack pro-Palestine supporters. In an article for The Telegraph she wrote, “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are in charge now … they have bullied our country into submission”. Braverman erases the distinction between Muslims/Palestine supporters and Islamists to portray them as a dangerous threat to Britain and its democracy, as she writes, “Sharia law, the Islamist mob and anti-Semites take over communities”. In encouraging others not fear being labelled “Islamophobic”, Braverman excuses Islamophobia under the guise of free speech.

Alongside Braverman, numerous Tory MPs have been emboldened in their confidence to spew Islamophobic rhetoric and far-fetched conspiracy theories. Robert Jenrick said our streets are “dominated by Islamist extremists” while Liz Truss warned of a “radical Islamic party” winning the Rochdale byelection.

In response to Braverman’s article, Lee Anderson claimed that London had been “taken over” by Islamists in his reference to pro-Palestine marches. In an interview with GB News, Anderson said, “they’ve got control of [Sadiq] Khan, they’ve got control of London” and “He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates”, implying Khan’s Islamist association because of his religion. Khan responded by calling out Anderson’s comments as “Islamophobic”, “anti-Muslim” and “racist”. He said the Prime Minister’s silence on the matter confirms there is a “hierarchy when it comes to racism” and sends the message that “Muslims are fair game when it comes to racism”. Sunak himself has refused to call Anderson’s comments Islamophobic. This is nothing new as Sadiq Khan has long been a target of Islamophobia. During his mayoral campaign his rival, Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, accused Khan of “giving platform, oxygen and cover to extremists” and branded him as “radical”. Again, the implication is that Khan is associated with terrorists on account of his religious identity.

The timing of these comments is no mere coincidence. The Conservatives have seized the opportunity to attack pro-Palestine supporters and depict them as a dangerous threat to politicians and British democracy. James Cleverly has told pro-Palestine demonstrators to stop their regular protests and said no MP should feel “bullied” into changing their position on Gaza by protestors. This follows a proposed tightening of laws to restrict protests and increase police powers in direct response to Pro-Palestine demonstrations.

The use of Islamophobic tropes by politicians has reinforced the equation of Muslims with Islamists. Both the media and politicians have been complicit in this characterisation whereby Islamist, Muslim, Islamic extremist, and terrorist are all deliberately conflated to raise people’s fears. In Braverman’s article, pro-Palestine “mobs”, as she calls them, are essentialised as extremist antisemitic Muslims who are bent on the takeover of Britain and the destruction of its democracy. Likewise, Anderson’s comments against Sadiq Khan propagate this conflation and works to raise fears against Muslim politicians who through their religious identity are framed as being aligned with their extremist “mates”. Zarah Sultana, another Muslim politician, was recently targeted by the Prime Minster himself who implied her association with terrorists and some personal proximity to them.

Labour and the Conservatives, both supportive of Israel’s conduct in Gaza, have used pro-Palestinian support to raise Islamophobic anxieties and criminalise political dissent and peaceful protest. Both parties have joined forces to side-line a pressing matter in which the lives of thousands of Palestinians are at stake in order to tie Palestinian supporters and British Muslims to extremism. The House of Commons debate is no longer about a ceasefire nor the 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, but rather an Islamist threat to Britain seen in the growing support for an end to the brutalities and sustained protest. The term Islamist is now pejoratively used to loosely describe Muslims with political views that don’t align with mainstream politics. By peddling a narrative in which Hamas is synonymous with Palestinian, pro-Palestinian protestors with Muslim, and Muslim with Islamist, the plight of the Palestinians is being used as a political football by both main political parties to create a sense of ‘moral panic’ about a non-existent existential threat to British democracy from ‘Islamist’ pro-Palestinian supporters. Inflammatory rhetoric that was once the preserve of the far right has now become mainstream, and these are dangerous times for those who cherish our diverse multi-ethnic society.


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