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The New PM Must Take Islamophobia Seriously

The New PM Must Take Islamophobia Seriously

Categories: Latest News

Thursday July 28 2022

The resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to many seemed to be a matter of inevitability, a question of when rather than if. Despite the standing ovation by Conservative MPs on his final Prime Minister’s Questions session, the legacy he leaves behind is one immersed in controversy. From Partygate to sleaze, his cabinet has been tainted with corruption and immoral leadership, but what British Muslims will regard as one of Boris Johnson’s most significant failures, is his inaction over Islamophobia.

It was during the 2019 leadership election,  that leadership hopeful Sajid Javid on live television highlighted the issue of Islamophobia, putting all candidates on the spot in committing to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative party. After being elected Prime Minister, Mr Johnson rejected the idea of an independent review into Islamophobia specifically but insisted on commissioning a review into all forms of discrimination, resulting in the Singh Report. The report, though highly critiqued for being whitewashed, concluded that anti-Muslim sentiment remained an issue. Only a year after its release, Islamophobia remains rife in the Conservative party, and the new leader must address the failures of their predecessor.

British Muslims’ scepticism of the Government stems from the handling of Islamophobia, even from within the party. A MEND report from November 2019 recorded over 120 cases of Islamophobia affiliated with either Conservative MPs, councillors or candidates. Furthermore, the Muslim Council of Britain has recorded over 300 cases of Islamophobia within the party since 2019, including cases against senior Tories such as Baroness Warsi, and more recently, Nus Ghani who claimed that ​​claimed that she was dismissed from her role in Government due to her Muslimness. The extent to which Islamophobia is tolerated within the Conservative party could be seen through the Singh report, which has been accused of attempting to gaslight the issue. The report not only questioned the term Islamophobia, but it mainly concerned itself with investigating the complaints process whilst refusing to recognise Islamophobia and racism on a structural level, and failing to reach out to Muslim Conservative MPs. Rather concerningly, this indicates the culture within the party, where Islamophobia is accepted, Muslims feel marginalised regardless of seniority, with Baroness Warsi commenting on how Islamophobia had passed the ‘dinner table’ test.

In 2018, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims proposed a definition for Islamophobia in conjunction with various community groups, grassroots organisations, and think tanks, which has been accepted by numerous local authorities as well as political parties. Almost four years later, despite the increase in Islamophobic attacks, the Government has yet to define Islamophobia, leaving British Muslim communities perplexed about the Conservative party’s commitment to tackling Islamophobia. Still to this day, the Prime Minister has not taken responsibility for furthering distrust between Muslim communities. The new Prime Minister must address this issue and make an active commitment to combating Islamophobia within the party, as well as outside of it.

To tackle Islamophobia, the engagement of Muslim communities is critical to understanding how Islamophobia manifests in the daily lives of British Muslims. It is therefore concerning when the Government has an active policy of disengaging with mainstream Muslim organisations, such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), MEND, or the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). The Government’s boycott policy was reaffirmed by Downing Street earlier this month as it called ministers to continue disengaging after revelations that Penny Mordaunt, an eliminated candidate for this year’s Tory leadership election, had met with Zara Mohammed of the MCB last year. While many see the attacks on Ms Mordaunt as fresh evidence of Islamophobia within the party, by actively disengaging with such mainstream organisations that represent Muslim voices, not only are the Government failing in understanding the issues faced by British Muslims, it demonstrates the marginalisation of Muslim voices from public debate, quite concerningly when the matter at hand is Islamophobia.
The legacy Boris Johnson leaves is one of comparing Muslim women to letterboxes, as the Conservative party has become a hotbed for Islamophobia. Despite the Islamophobia plaguing the Conservative party, neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak, have mentioned how they plan on tackling Islamophobia, suggesting it is low in their priorities. The new Prime Minister must show intolerance toward Islamophobia to make amends for the failure of the previous government. Islamophobia must be taken seriously through a meaningful commitment to working alongside mainstream Muslim organisations. MEND calls for the new Prime Minister to actively engage with MEND including understanding how our manifesto includes policies that seek to tackle Islamophobia, while also engaging with other mainstream Muslim organisations.

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